April 26

April 26, 1864

Tuesday. Kept right on writing. Sim goes in a day or two and I want to get even with my correspondents.

April Twenty-Sixth

Homes without the means of support were no longer homes. With barns and mills and implements for tilling the soil all gone, with cattle, sheep, and every animal that furnished food to the helpless inmates carried off, they were dismal abodes of hunger, of hopelessness, and of almost measureless woe.

General John B. Gordon

 

Joseph E. Johnston surrenders at Greensboro, N. C., 1865

 

 

Fine day. Several regiments have passed up Pennsylvania Avenue during the day; have been before the board; am very much pleased with its appearance with the exception of General Silas Casey who is too old and childish for such business. To my surprise I was asked what position I wanted, and I replied a field office; was told the supply was more than the demand and as officers were absorbed in the same order as passed by the board I would never be called on. I replied that I should never accept anything but a field office; was passed for a first class Captaincy, there being three grades, First, Second and Third class; saw Edwin Forrest play Mattamora tonight at Ford's Theatre. It was fine.

April 26

April 26, 1868. (Sunday, Mid-day ).--A gloomy morning. On all sides a depressing outlook, and within, disgust with self.

Ten P.M.--Visits and a walk. I have spent the evening alone. Many things to-day have taught me lessons of wisdom. I have seen the hawthorns covering themselves with blossom, and the whole valley springing up afresh under the breath of the spring. I have been the spectator of faults of conduct on the part of old men who will not grow old, and whose heart is in rebellion against the natural law. I have watched the working of marriage in its frivolous and commonplace forms, and listened to trivial preaching. I have been a witness of griefs without hope, of loneliness that claimed one's pity. I have listened to pleasantries on the subject of madness, and to the merry songs of the birds. And everything has had the same message for me: "Place yourself once more in harmony with the universal law; accept the will of God; make a religious use of life; work while it is yet day; be at once serious and cheerful; know how to repeat with the apostle, 'I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.'"

Pooree, April 26, 1845

FATAL ILLNESS OF AUTHOR.

I have had another attack similar to last year; it came on in the same way and whilst I was in the pulpit. In the midst of the sermon my teeth began to chatter; I could not speak; my face became perfectly white; a cold blast seemed to enter my left side and spread over the surface of my body, and then gradually penetrate to the very innermost part, whilst I was obliged to cling to the sides of the pulpit for support. It did not last above a minute and a half, and I managed to finish my sermon; but it was enough to astonish the congregation and to warn me of what was coming. All my old symptoms returned, though not so strongly as before—utter restlessness at night and heavy sleepiness during the day, a painful cough when I lay down, and other alarming signs. We came down to Pooree, where my favourite doctor lives, and I already feel much better.

There is a billiard-table in the house where we are now staying, and the doctor desires me to play as much as I can every day. Of course playing for money is never allowed. The game of billiards is about the best exercise for India. It is not too violent, yet it gives a man about three miles of walking in the hour, and brings all the limbs into play.

April 26

April 26, 1877.--I have been turning over again the "Paris" of Victor Hugo (1867). For ten years event after event has given the lie to the prophet, but the confidence of the prophet in his own imaginings is not therefore a whit diminished. Humility and common sense are only fit for Lilliputians. Victor Hugo superbly ignores everything that he has not foreseen. He does not see that pride is a limitation of the mind, and that a pride without limitations is a littleness of soul. If he could but learn to compare himself with other men, and France with other nations, he would see things more truly, and would not fall into these mad exaggerations, these extravagant judgments. But proportion and fairness will never be among the strings at his command. He is vowed to the Titanic; his gold is always mixed with lead, his insight with childishness, his reason with madness. He cannot be simple; the only light he has to give blinds you like that of a fire. He astonishes a reader and provokes him, he moves him and annoys him. There is always some falsity of note in him, which accounts for the malaise he so constantly excites in me. The great poet in him cannot shake off the charlatan.

A few shafts of Voltairean irony would have shriveled the inflation of his genius and made it stronger by making it saner. It is a public misfortune that the most powerful poet of a nation should not have better understood his role, and that, unlike those Hebrew prophets who scourged because they loved, he should devote himself proudly and systematically to the flattery of his countrymen. France is the world; Paris is France; Hugo is Paris; peoples, bow down!

Monday, April 26th, 11 p.m.—We have been admitting, cutting the clothes off, dressing, and evacuating a good many to-day, and I think they are still coming in.

There is a great noise going on to-night, snapping and popping, and crackling of rifle firing and machine-guns, with the sudden roar of our 9.2's every few minutes. The thundery roll after them is made by the big shell bounding along on its way.

Two officers were brought in last night from a sap where they were overpowered by carbon monoxide. Three of them and a sergeant crawled along it to get out the bodies of another officer and a sergeant who'd been killed there by an explosion the day before; it leads into a crater in the German lines, and reaches under the German trenches, which we intended to blow up. But they were greeted by this poisonous gas last night, and the officer in front of these two suddenly became inanimate; each tried to pull the one in front out by the legs, but all became unconscious in turn, and only these two survived and were hauled out up twenty feet of rope-ladder. They will get all right.

The wounded ones are generally in "the excited stage" when they arrive—some surprised and resentful, some relieved that it is no worse, and some very quiet and collapsed.

Captain —— showed me his periscope to-day; you bob down and look into it about level with his mattress, and then you see a picture of the garden across the road. He has seen one made by Ross with a magnifying lens in it so good that you can see the moustaches of the Boches in it from the bottom of your trench. The noise is getting so beastly I must knock off and read 'Punch.'

April 26

April 26, 1852.--This evening a feeling of emptiness took possession of me; and the solemn ideas of duty, the future, solitude, pressed themselves upon me. I gave myself to meditation, a very necessary defense against the dispersion and distraction brought about by the day's work and its detail. Read a part of Krause's book "Urbild der Menschheit " [Footnote: Christian Frederick Krause, died 1832, Hegel's younger contemporary, and the author of a system which he called panentheism --Amiel alludes to it later on.] which answered marvelously to my thought and my need. This philosopher has always a beneficent effect upon me; his sweet religious serenity gains upon me and invades me. He inspires me with a sense of peace and infinity.

Still I miss something, common worship, a positive religion, shared with other people. Ah! when will the church to which I belong in heart rise into being? I cannot like Scherer, content myself with being in the right all alone. I must have a less solitary Christianity. My religious needs are not satisfied any more than my social needs, or my needs of affection. Generally I am able to forget them and lull them to sleep. But at times they wake up with a sort of painful bitterness ... I waver between languor and ennui, between frittering myself away on the infinitely little, and longing after what is unknown and distant. It is like the situation which French novelists are so fond of, the story of a vie de province ; only the province is all that is not the country of the soul, every place where the heart feels itself strange, dissatisfied, restless and thirsty. Alas! well understood, this place is the earth, this country of one's dreams is heaven, and this suffering is the eternal homesickness, the thirst for happiness.

"In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister," says Goethe. Mâle résignation, this also is the motto of those who are masters of the art of life; "manly," that is to say, courageous, active, resolute, persevering, "resignation," that is to say, self-sacrifice, renunciation, limitation. Energy in resignation, there lies the wisdom of the sons of earth, the only serenity possible in this life of struggle and of combat. In it is the peace of martyrdom, in it too the promise of triumph.

174. John Adams

Philadelphia, Saturday Evening, 26 April, 1777.

I have been lately more remiss than usual in writing to you. There has been a great dearth of news. Nothing from England, nothing from France, Spain, or any other part of Europe, nothing from the West Indies, nothing from Howe and his banditti, nothing from General Washington. There are various conjectures that Lord Howe is dead, sick, or gone to England, as the proclamations run in the name of Will. Howe only, and nobody from New York can tell anything of his lordship.

I am wearied out with expectations that the Massachusetts troops would have arrived, ere now, at Head-quarters. Do our people intend to leave the continent in the lurch? Do they mean to submit? or what fatality attends them? With the noblest prize in view that ever mortals contended for, and with the fairest prospect of obtaining it upon easy terms, the people of the Massachusetts Bay are dead. Does our State intend to send only half or a third of their quota? Do they wish to see another crippled, disastrous, and disgraceful campaign, for want of an army? I am more sick and more ashamed of my own countrymen than ever I was before. The spleen, the vapors, the dismals, the horrors seem to have seized our whole State. More wrath than terror has seized me. I am very mad. The gloomy cowardice of the times is intolerable in New England. Indeed, I feel not a little out of humor from indisposition of body. You know I cannot pass a spring or fall without an ill turn, and I have had one these four or five weeks; a cold, as usual. Warm weather and a little exercise, with a little medicine, I suppose, will cure me, as usual. I am not confined, but mope about and drudge, as usual, like a galley-slave. I am a fool, if ever there was one, to be such a slave. I won't be much longer. I will be more free in some world or other. Is it not intolerable, that the opening spring, which I should enjoy with my wife and children, upon my little farm, should pass away, and laugh at me for laboring, day after day and month after month, in a conclave where neither taste, nor fancy, nor reason, nor passion, nor appetite can be gratified?

Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent it in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.