April 23

April 23, 1863

The officers have drawn new tents and the captains have given the cooks their old ones for cook-houses. We tore down the old shanty, and put up the new house in short order.

It cleared during the night; quite fair this morning, but by noon the wind blew a gale, and the air was loaded with dust and smoke, but the sun was shining; shall start for Washington in the morning; have written Dr. Jones to-night. It's lonely and I'm feeling depressed.

April Twenty-Third

In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown;
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!
Henry Timrod


Randall writes “My Maryland” at Pointe Coupee, La., 1861

Father Ryan dies, 1886



April 23, 1864

Saturday. When we awoke we were glad to hear it raining hard. This will at least stop the river from going any lower, and may raise it. We left the boat and took a four-mile walk to Alexandria, where we found our folks well and enjoying themselves. The regiment is nearly full. If we had remained here we might have filled it. As it is, our two trips to Grand Ecore have amounted to nothing more than seeing some stirring times in which we had no other part than spectators. Sol had nine letters for me and a basketful for the others. It took me quite a while to read so many. After reading them I began writing a reply to each one. I had had a grumbling toothache for some days and to-day it has taken hold for sure. I suppose my walk in the rain gave it an excuse. At night we were relieved from recruiting service and ordered back to the regiment, I reporting to Captain Laird for duty. Lieutenant Bell and I were ordered to report for fatigue duty in the morning at 7 a. m.

173. John Adams

Philadelphia, 23 April, 1777.

My barber has just left the chamber. The following curious dialogue was the amusement during the gay moments of shaving.

"Well, Burne, what is the lie of the day?"

"Sir, Mr. —— told me that a privateer from Baltimore has taken two valuable prizes with sixteen guns each. I can scarcely believe it."

"Have you heard of the success of the Rattlesnake, of Philadelphia, and the Sturdy Beggar, of Maryland, Mr. Burne? These two privateers have taken eleven prizes, and sent them into the West India Islands; nine transports and two Guinea-men."

"Confound the ill luck, sir; I was going to sea myself on board the Rattlesnake, and my wife fell a-yelping. These wives are queer things. I told her I wondered she had no more ambition. 'Now,' says I, 'when you walk the streets and anybody asks who that is, the answer is, "Burne the barber's wife." Should you not be better pleased to hear it said, "That is Captain Burne's lady, the captain of marines on board the Rattlesnake"?' 'Oh,' says she, 'I would rather be called Burne the barber's wife, than Captain Burne's widow. I don't desire to live better than you maintain me, my dear.' So it is, sir, by this sweet, honey language, I am choused out of my prizes, and must go on with my soap and razors and pincers and combs. I with she had my ambition."

If this letter should be intercepted by the Tories, they will get a booty. Let them enjoy it. If some of their wives had been as tender and discreet as the barber's, their husbands' ambition would not have led them into so many salt ponds. What an ignis fatuus  this ambition is? How few of either sex have arrived at Mrs. Burne's pitch of moderation, and are able to say, "I don't desire to live better, and had rather be the Barber's wife than the Captain's widow!" Quite smart, I think, as well as philosophical.

100. John Adams

Philadelphia, 23 April, 1776.

This is St. George's day, a festival celebrated by the English, as St. Patrick's is by the Irish, St. David's by the Welsh, and St. Andrew's by the Scotch. The natives of Old England in this city heretofore formed a society, which they called St. George's Club or St. George's Society. Upon the 23d of April, annually, they had a great feast. But the Tories and politics have made a schism in the society, so that one part of them are to meet and dine at the City Tavern, and the other at the Bunch of Grapes, Israel Jacobs's, and a third party go out of town. One set are stanch Americans, another stanch Britons, and a third, half-way men, neutral beings, moderate men, prudent folks; for such is the division among men upon all occasions and every question. This is the account which I have from my barber, who is one of the society, and zealous on the side of America, and one of the Philadelphia Associators.

This curious character of a barber I have a great inclination to draw, for your amusement. He is a little, dapper fellow, short and small, but active and lively. A tongue as fluent and voluble as you please, wit at will, and a memory or an invention which never leaves him at a loss for a story to tell you for your entertainment. He has seen great company. He has dressed hair and shaved faces at Bath, and at Court. He is acquainted with several of the nobility and gentry, particularly Sir William Meredith. He married a girl, the daughter of a Quaker in this place, of whom he tells many droll stories. He is a serjeant in one of the companies of some battalion or other here. He frequents, of evenings, a beer house kept by one Weaver, in the city, where he has many curious disputes and adventures, and meets many odd characters.

I believe you will think me very idle to write you so trifling a letter, upon so uninteresting a subject, at a time when my country is fighting pro aris et focis. But I assure you I am glad to chat with this barber, while he is shaving and combing me, to divert myself from less agreeable thoughts. He is so sprightly and good-humored that he contributes, more than I could have imagined, to my comfort in this life. Burne has prepared a string of toasts for the club to drink to-day at Israel's.

The thirteen united colonies.

The free and independent States of America.

The Congress for the time being.

The American army and navy.

The Governor and Council of South Carolina, etc., etc., etc.

A happy election for the Whigs on the first of May, etc.

April 23

April 23, 1862. (Mornex sur Salève ).--I was awakened by the twittering of the birds at a quarter to five, and saw, as I threw open my windows, the yellowing crescent of the moon looking in upon me, while the east was just faintly whitening. An hour later it was delicious out of doors. The anemones were still closed, the apple-trees in full flower:

"Ces beaux pommiers, coverts de leurs fleurs étoiléens, Neige odorante du printemps."

The view was exquisite, and nature, in full festival, spread freshness and joy around her. I breakfasted, read the paper, and here I am. The ladies of the pension are still under the horizon. I pity them for the loss of two or three delightful hours.

Eleven o'clock.--Preludes, scales, piano-exercises going on under my feet. In the garden children's voices. I have just finished Rosenkrantz on "Hegel's Logic," and have run through a few articles in the Reviews.... The limitation of the French mind consists in the insufficiency of its spiritual alphabet, which does not allow it to translate the Greek, German, or Spanish mind without changing the accent. The hospitality of French manners is not completed by a real hospitality of thought.... My nature is just the opposite. I am individual in the presence of men, objective in the presence of things. I attach myself to the object, and absorb myself in it; I detach myself from subjects [i.e.. persons], and hold myself on my guard against them. I feel myself different from the mass of men, and akin to the great whole of nature. My way of asserting myself is in cherishing this sense of sympathetic unity with life, which I yearn to understand, and in repudiating the tyranny of commonplace. All that is imitative and artificial inspires me with a secret repulsion, while the smallest true and spontaneous existence (plant, animal, child) draws and attracts me. I feel myself in community of spirit with the Goethes, the Hegels, the Schleiermachers, the Leibnitzes, opposed as they are among themselves; while the French mathematicians, philosophers, or rhetoricians, in spite of their high qualities, leave me cold, because there is in them no sense of the whole, the sum of things [Footnote: The following passage from Sainte-Beuve may be taken as a kind of answer by anticipation to this accusation, which Amiel brings more than once in the course of the Journal:

"Toute nation livrée à elle-même et à son propre génie se fait une critique littéraire qui y est conforme. La France en son beau temps a eu la sienne, qui ne ressemble ni à celle de l'Allemagne ni à celle de ses autres voisins--un peu plus superficielle, dira-t-on--je ne le crois pas: mais plus vive, moins chargée d'erudition, moins théorique et systématique, plus confiante au sentiment immédiat du goût. Un peu de chaque chose et rien de l'ensemble, à la Française : telle était la devise de Montaigne et telle est aussi la devise de la critique française. Nous ne sommes pas synthétiques, comme diraient les Allemands; le mot même n'est pas française. L'imagination de détail nous suffit. Montaigne, La Fontaine Madame de Sévigné, sont volontiers nos livres de chevet."

The French critic then goes on to give a rapid sketch of the authors and the books, "qui ont peu a peu formé comme notre rhétorique." French criticism of the old characteristic kind rests ultimately upon the minute and delicate knowledge of a few Greek and Latin classics. Arnauld, Boileau, Fénélon, Rollin, Racine fils, Voltaire, La Harpe, Marmontel, Delille, Fontanes, and Châteaubriand in one aspect, are the typical names of this tradition, the creators and maintainers of this common literary fonds, this "sorte de circulation courante à l'usage des gens instruits. J'avoue ma faiblesse: nous sommes devenus bien plus forts dans la dissertation érudite, mais j'aurais un éternel regret pour cette moyenne et plus libre habitude littéraire qui laissait à l'imagination tout son espace et à l'esprit tout son jeu; qui formait une atmosphère saine et facile où le talent respirait et se mouvait à son gré: cette atmosphère-là, je ne la trouve plus, et je la regrette."--(Châteaubriand et son Groupe Littéraire, vol. i. p. 311.)

The following pensée of La Bruyère applies to the second half of Amiel's criticism of the French mind: "If you wish to travel in the Inferno or the Paradiso you must take other guides," etc.

"Un homme né Chrétien et François se trouve contraint dans la satyre; les grands sujets lui sont défendus, il les entame quelquefois, et se détourne ensuite sur de petites choses qu'il relève par la beauté de son génie et de son style."--Les Caractères, etc., "Des Ouvrages del'Esprit."]--because they have no grasp of reality in its fullness, and therefore either cramp and limit me or awaken my distrust. The French lack that intuitive faculty to which the living unity of things is revealed, they have very little sense of what is sacred, very little penetration into the mysteries of being. What they excel in is the construction of special sciences; the art of writing a book, style, courtesy, grace, literary models, perfection and urbanity; the spirit of order, the art of teaching, discipline, elegance, truth of detail, power of arrangement; the desire and the gift for proselytism, the vigor necessary for practical conclusions. But if you wish to travel in the "Inferno" or the "Paradiso" you must take other guides. Their home is on the earth, in the region of the finite, the changing, the historical, and the diverse. Their logic never goes beyond the category of mechanism nor their metaphysic beyond dualism. When they undertake anything else they are doing violence to themselves.