Skip to product information
1 of 1

The Letters of Gustave Flaubert

The Letters of Gustave Flaubert

by Gustave Flaubert, edited and translated from the French by Francis Steegmuller

Regular price $24.95
Regular price Sale price $24.95
Sale Sold out

Flaubert was not only a great novelist, one of the inventors of of the modern novel, but a great letter writer, writing letters that are among other things a remarkable exploration of the art of the novel. The Letters of Gustave Flaubert: 1830–1880 is Francis Steegmuller's extensive selection from the writer's correspondence, to which he adds deft biographical bridgework and agile annotation.

“If there is one article of faith that dominates the Credo of Gustave Flaubert's correspondence,” Steegmuller's introduction begins, “it is that the function of art is not to provide ‘answers,’” and The Letters of Gustave Flaubert is above all a record of the intransigent questions, personal, political, artistic, with which Flaubert struggled throughout his life.

Here we have Flaubert's youthful, sensual outpourings to his mistress, the poet Louise Colet, and, as he advances, still unknown, into his thirties, his wrestle to write Madame Bovary. (Looking back on his early work, he writes, “How I congratulate myself on the prescience I had not to publish!”) 

Here we have Flaubert's correspondence with family and friends describing his life-changing trip to Egypt, exchanges with Baudelaire, the influential critic Sainte-Beuve, and Guy de Maupassant, his young protege, as well as the letters that went back and forth between him and the great confidante of his later life, George Sand.

Steegmuller’s book, recognized as a classic in its own right, is both a splendid life story of Flaubert in his own words and the ars poetica of a master. Originally issued in two volumes, the book appears here for the first time under a single cover.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681377162
Pages: 720
Publication Date:


That Flaubert, as a writer and as the kind of writer he was, was born rather than made is plainly indicated by the first few letters in Francis Steegmuller’s excellent new selection. . . . All Flaubert is in these first five pages of letters, in embryo.
—D.J. Enright, London Review of Books

Steegmuller . . . is again a deft, witty and indefatigable commentator, stitching Flaubert’s correspondence together with all the background information we need in order to appreciate it. Among his many fine asides, Mr. Steegmuller tells us that Proust disliked the style of Flaubert’s letters even more than that of his novels; that Gide kept his volumes of them beside his bed like a bible.
—Anatole Broyard, The New York Times

These letters have the same fascination and compelling narrative drive as those in the first volume. . . . We have, in the guise of letters, what comes close to being a full-fledged biography.
—Howard Moss, The Washington Post Book World

Steegmuller’s connecting narrative and his annotations make this second volume as rich and attaching as the first. And, for once, Flaubert is seen alive and enacting himself.
—V. S. Pritchett, The Atlantic

[Steegmuller’s] ear is so keenly attuned to the modulations of this correspondence and his craft is so accomplished that the English text is, as it were, transparent and trans-vocal. It is the voice of Flaubert we hear or, more precisely, the oral qualities of his epistolary style. Steegmuller plays Flaubert for us the way a musician plays the music of a master.
—Victor Brombert, American Scholar

Deserves to be reread and cherished by all admirers of the finest and most fastidious of French novelists. . . . The love-letters to Louise Colet are so packed with subtle observation and profound psychological insight that, despite their spontaneity, they are works of supreme literary art. Francis Steegmuller’s translations of these and of the letters from the Orient are beyond praise—as vivid in English as in the original French. His critical and historical text is extremely illuminating throughout, and I have been amazed and enthralled by this splendid contribution to our knowledge of a literary colossus, so completely objective in his other writings. Here we may see the total man . . . without his impassive mask.
—Harold Acton

An enchanting book, one that combines so happily the art of the biographer and the art of the translator—and Francis Steegmuller is a master of both. Once one starts reading Flaubert’s love letters, it’s difficult to stop.
—Leon Edel

View full details
  • Shopping for someone else but not sure what to give them? Give them the gift of choice with a New York Review Books Gift Card.

    Gift Cards 
  • A membership for yourself or as a gift for a special reader will promise a year of good reading.

    Join NYRB Classics Book Club 
  • Is there a book that you’d like to see back in print, or that you think we should consider for one of our series? Let us know!

    Tell us about it