What isn’t nonsense is personality — myself. All is for me, the whole world is created for me. Listen, my friend, I still believe that it’s possible to live happily on earth. And that’s the best faith, for without it one can’t even live unhappily: there’s nothing left but to poison oneself. They say that this was what some fool did. He philosophised till he destroyed everything, everything, even the obligation of all normal and natural human duties, till at last he had nothing left financial assistance.

The sum total came to nil, and so he declared that the best thing in life was prussic acid. You say that’s Hamlet. That’s terrible despair in fact, something so grand that we could never dream of it. But you’re a poet, and I’m a simple mortal, and so I say one musfrom the simplest, most practical point of view. I, for instance, have long since freed myself from all shackles, and even obligations. I only recognize obligations when I see I have something to gain by them. You, of course, can’t look at things like that, your legs are in fetters, and your taste is morbid. You talk of the ideal, of virtue. Well, my dear fellow, I am ready to admit anything you tell me to, but what am I to do if I know for a fact that at the root of all human virtues lies the completest egoism?

And the more virtuous anything is, the more egoism there is in it Ginsberg Chan. Love yourself, that’s the one rule I recognize. Life is a commercial transaction, don’t waste your money, but kindly pay for your entertainment, and you will be doing your whole duty to your neighbour. Those are my morals, if you really want to know them, though I confess that to my thinking it is better not to pay one’s neighbour, but to succeed in making him do things for nothing. I have no ideals and I don’t want to have them; I’ve never felt a yearning for them. One can live such a gay and charming life without ideals . . . and, en somme, I’m very glad that I can get on without prussic acid. If I were a little more virtuous I could not perhaps get on without it, like that fool philosopher (no doubt a German).

No! There’s still so much that’s good left in life! I love consequence, rank, a mansion, a huge stake at cards (I’m awfully fond of cards). But best of all, best of all — woman . . . and woman in all her aspects: I’m even fond of secret, hidden vice, a bit more strange and original, even a little filthy for variety, ha-ha-ha! I’m looking at your face: with what contempt you are looking at me now!

You are right, I answered.Well, supposing you are right, anyway filth is better than prussic acid, isn’t it?No. Prussic acid is better.I asked you ‘isn’t it’ on purpose to enjoy your answer knew what you’d say. No, my young friend. If you’re a genuine lover of humanity, wish all sensible men the same taste as mine, even with a little filth, or sensible men will soon have nothing to do in the world and there’ll be none but the fools left. It will be good luck for them. Though, indeed, there’s a proverb even now that fools are lucky. And do you know there’s nothing pleasanter than to live with fools and to back them up; it pays!

You needn’t wonder at my valuing convention, keeping up certain traditions, struggling for influence; I see, of course, that I’m living in a worthless world; but meanwhile it’s snug there and I back it up business center, and show I stand firm for it. Though I’d be the first to leave it if occasion arose. I know all your modern ideas, though I’ve never worried about them, and had no reason to. I’ve never had any conscience-pricks about anything. I’ll agree to anything so long as I’m all right, and there are legions like me, and we really are all right. Everything in the world may perish, but we shall not perish. We shall exist as long as the world exists. All the world may sink, but we shall float, we shall always float to the top.

Consider, by the way, one thing: how full of life people like us are. We are pre-eminently, phenomenally tenacious of life; has that ever struck you? We live to be eighty, ninety. So nature itself protects us, he-he-he! I particularly want to live to be ninety. I’m not fond of death, and I’m afraid of it. The devil only knows what dying will be like. But why talk of it? It’s that philosopher who poisoned himself that has put me on that track. Damn philosophy! Buvons, mon cher. We began talking about pretty girls . . . Where are you off to?