We must ask pardon of the public for offering it this  book, and give it due warning of what it will find therein. It loves books which make a pretence of introducing their readers to fashionable society: this book deals with the life of the street. It loves little indecent books, memoirs of courtesans, alcove confessions, erotic obscenity, the scandal tucked away in pictures in a bookseller's shop window: that which is contained in the following pages is rigidly clean and pure. Again, the public loves to read pleasant, soothing stories, adventures that end happily, imaginative works that disturb neither its digestion nor its peace of mind: this book furnishes entertainment of a melancholy, violent sort calculated to disarrange the habits and injure the health of the public. Why then have we written it? For no other purpose than to annoy the public and offend its tastes?
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We must ask pardon of the public for offering it this  book, and give it due warning of what it will find therein. It loves books which make a pretence of introducing their readers to fashionable society: this book deals with the life of the street.
It loves little indecent books, memoirs of courtesans, alcove confessions, erotic obscenity, the scandal tucked away in pictures in a bookseller's shop window: that which is contained in the following pages is rigidly clean and pure. Again, the public loves to read pleasant, soothing stories, adventures that end happily, imaginative works that disturb neither its digestion nor its peace of mind: this book furnishes entertainment of a melancholy, violent sort calculated to disarrange the habits and injure the health of the public.
Why then have we written it? For no other purpose than to annoy the public and offend its tastes? Living as we do in the nineteenth century, in an age of universal suffrage, of democracy, of liberalism, we asked ourselves the question whether what are called "the lower classes" had no rights in the novel; if that world beneath a world, the common people, must needs remain subject to the literary interdict, and helpless against the contempt of authors who have hitherto said no word to imply that the common people possess a heart and soul.
We asked ourselves whether, in these days of equality in which we live, there are classes unworthy the notice of the author and the reader, misfortunes too lowly, dramas too foul-mouthed, catastrophes too commonplace in the terror they inspire.
We were curious to know if that conventional symbol of a forgotten literature, of a vanished society, Tragedy, is definitely dead; if, in a country where castes no longer exist and aristocracy has no legal status, the miseries of the lowly and the poor would appeal to public interest, emotion, compassion, as forcibly as the miseries of the great and the rich; if, in a word, the tears that are shed in low life have the same power to cause tears to flow as the tears shed in high life.
Now, let the book be spoken slightingly of; it matters little. At this day, when the sphere of the Novel is broadening and expanding, when it is beginning to be the serious, impassioned, living form of literary study and social investigation, when it is becoming, by virtue of analysis and psychological research, the true History of contemporary morals, when the novel has taken its place among the necessary elements of knowledge, it may properly demand its liberty and freedom of speech.
And to encourage it in the search for Art and Truth, to authorize it to disclose misery and suffering which it is not well for the fortunate people of Paris to forget, and to show to people of fashion what the Sisters of Charity have the courage to see for themselves, what the queens of old compelled their children to touch with their eyes in the hospitals: the visible, palpitating human suffering that teaches charity; to confirm the novel in the practice of that religion which the last century called by the vast and far-reaching name, Humanity :—it needs no other warrant than the consciousness that that is its right.
July 22, It is as if the immaterial manifestations of life that formerly emanated from her body were dying one by one. Her face is entirely changed. Her expression is not the same, her gestures are not the same; and she seems to me as if she were putting off every day more and more of that something, humanly speaking indefinable, which makes the personality of a living being. Disease, before making an end of its victim, introduces into his body something strange, unfamiliar, something that is not he , makes of him a new being, so to speak, in whom we must seek to find the former being—he, whose joyous, affectionate features have already ceased to exist.
July I am waiting to hear his ring, which to me, is equivalent to that  of a jury at the assizes, announcing their return to the court room with their verdict. The disease has progressed very rapidly.
One lung is entirely gone and the other substantially. Then we feel an unconquerable longing to rush from the room and from the poor creature. We mechanically take up a copy of L'Illustration and our eyes fall at once upon the solution of its last riddle: Against death, there is no appeal!
Monday, August She has terrible pains in the bowels, she cannot move without assistance, she cannot lie on her back or her left side.
In God's name, is not death enough? And she suffers thus, poor wretch! We struggled to the last to keep her, but finally we had to make up our minds to let her go away. She was unwilling to go to Maison Dubois, where we proposed to  take her; it seems that twenty-five years ago, when she first came to us, she went there to see the nurse in charge of Edmond, who died there, and so that particular hospital represents to her the place where people die.
She passed almost a good night. She is all ready, in high spirits, in fact. We have covered everything up from her as well as we could. She longs to be gone. She is in a great hurry. She feels that she is going to get well there.
At two o'clock Simon arrives: "Here it is, all right. She is dressed. As soon as she leaves her bed, all the signs of life to be seen upon her face disappear. It is as if the earth had risen under her skin.
She comes down into our apartments. Sitting in the dining-room, with a trembling hand, the knuckles of which knock against one another, she draws her stockings on over a pair of legs like broomsticks, consumptive legs. Then, for a long moment, she looks about at the familiar objects with dying eyes that seem desirous to take away with them the memory of the places they are leaving—and the door of the apartment closes upon her with a noise as of farewell.
She reaches the foot of the stairs, where she rests for an instant on a chair. The concierge, in a bantering tone, assures her that she will be well in six weeks. She bows and says "yes," an inaudible "yes. She  rests her hand on the concierge's wife. I hold her against the pillow she has behind her back. With wide open, vacant eyes she vaguely watches the houses pass, but she does not speak. At the door of the hospital she tries to alight without assistance.
She makes an affirmative gesture and walks on. Really I cannot imagine where she procured the strength to walk as she does. Here we are at last in the great hall, a high, cold, bare, clean place with a litter standing, all ready for use, in the centre. I seat her in a straw armchair by a door with a glazed wicket. A young man opens the wicket, asks my name and age and writes busily for quarter of an hour, covering ten or more sheets of paper with a religious figure at the head.
At last, everything is ready, and I embrace her. A boy takes one arm, the housekeeper the other. Thursday, August We found Rose quiet, hopeful, talking of her approaching discharge—in three weeks at most,—and so free from all thought of death that she told us of a furious love scene that took place yesterday between a woman in the bed next hers and a brother of the Christian schools, who was there again to-day. Poor Rose is death, but death engrossed with life. Near her bed was a young woman, whose husband, a mechanic, had come to see her.
And the mother in her added: "Does the child ask for me sometimes? Saturday, August I hear a colloquy at the door between the housekeeper and the concierge. The door opens, the concierge enters with a letter. Rose died this morning at seven o'clock. Poor girl!
So it is all over! I knew that she was doomed; but she was so animated, so cheerful, almost happy, when we saw her Thursday! And here we are both walking up and down the salon, filled with the thought that a fellow-creature's death inspires: We shall never see her again!
What a void! A habit, an attachment of twenty-five years growth, a girl who knew our whole lives and opened our letters in our absence, and to whom we told all our business.
When I was a bit of a boy I trundled my hoop with her, and she bought me apple-tarts with her own money, when we went to walk. She was the woman, the excellent nurse, whose hands mother placed in ours when she was dying. She had the keys to everything, she managed everything,  she did everything for our comfort. For twenty-five years she tucked us up in bed every night, and every night there were the same never-ending jokes about her ugliness and her disgraceful physique.
Sorrows and joys alike she shared with us. She was one of those devoted creatures upon whose solicitude you rely to close your eyes. Our bodies, when we were ill or indisposed, were accustomed to her attentions. She was familiar with all our hobbies. She had known all our mistresses. She was a piece of our life, part of the furniture of our apartment, a stray memory of our youth, at once loving and scolding and care-taking, like a watchdog whom we were accustomed to having always beside us and about us, and who ought to last as long as ourselves.
And we shall never see her again! It is not she moving about the rooms; she will never again come to our rooms to bid us good-morning! It is a great wrench, a great change in our lives, which seems to us, I cannot say why, like one of those solemn breaks in one's existence, when, as Byron says, destiny changes horses. Sunday, August We must return to the hospital, enter once more the reception hall, where I seem to see again, in the armchair against the wicket, the ghost of the emaciated creature I seated there less than a week ago.
We go to the further end of the hospital, to a high yellow door, upon  which is written in great black letters: Amphitheatre. The attendant knocks.
After some moments the door is partly opened, and a head like a butcher's boy's appears, with a short pipe in its mouth: a head which suggests the gladiator and the grave-digger.
I fancied that I was at the circus, and that he was the slave who received the gladiators' bodies; and he does receive the slain in that great circus, society. They made us wait a long while before opening another door, and during those moments of suspense, all our courage oozed away, as the blood of a wounded man who is forced to remain standing oozes away, drop by drop.
The mystery of what we were about to see, the horror of a sight that rends your heart, the search for the one body amid other bodies, the scrutiny and recognition of that poor face, disfigured doubtless—the thought of all this made us as timid as children.
We were at the end of our strength, at the end of our will-power, at the end of our nervous tension, and, when the door opened, we said: "We will send some one," and fled. From there we went to the mayor's office, riding in a cab that jolted us and shook our heads about like empty things. And an indefinable horror seized upon us of death in a hospital, which seems to be only an administrative formality.
One would say that in that abode of agony, everything is so well administered, regulated, reduced to system, that death opens it as if it were an administrative bureau. While we were having the death registered,— Mon Dieu! As he passed, the skirt of the happy father's coat swept the sheet on which the death was registered from the desk to the floor. When we returned home, we must look through her papers, get her clothes together, sort out the clutter of phials, bandages and innumerable things that sickness collects—jostle death about, in short.
Germinie Lacerteux is a grim, anti-Romantic novel by Edmond and Jules de Goncourt in which the authors aim to present, as they say, a "clinic of love. The story is that of a poor country girl who comes to Paris, where her temperament renders her peculiarly liable to temptation. She succumbs to nymphomania , which finally brings her to death on a hospital cot. The study is based on actual observation by the authors of their own maidservant, Rose Malingre, whose double life they had never suspected. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Categories : French romance novels French novels s novel stubs.
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