April 28

Wednesday, April 28th.—Here everything is as it has been for the last few days (except the weather, which is suddenly hot as summer), rather more casualties, but no rush, and the same crescendo of heavy guns. Some shells were dropped in a field just outside the town at 8.30 yesterday evening but did no damage.

A part of the regiment went on picket this morning; am officer of the day. I forgot to mention that on my return I was surprised to find that Col. A. B. Jewett had resigned and that his resignation had been accepted; received a letter from Capt. Albert F. Dodge and one from home tonight; have been very busy making out muster and pay rolls all day.

April Twenty-Eighth

Too much roseate nonsense has been indulged about life on the plantation or in the city in the ante-bellum days. Neither the planter nor the factor nor the lawyer led a life of idle ease and pleasure; they were workers, whose energy built up the State; they lived often rather in rude profusion than in luxury.

Pierce Butler


James Monroe born, 1758



April 28, 1864

Thursday. On duty as officer of the guard, and next to nothing to do. So many of the men are helping unload the boats, the camp is almost empty. The enemy is fighting his way along day by day. The roar of artillery is heard almost constantly. Our lines must hold the country for ten miles all round us, for that is as close as the fighting appears to be. We hear of wrangling among our leaders, one blaming another for the fix we are in. A dam is being built below the falls to raise the water so the gunboats may slide over. A Colonel Bailey is the engineer in charge of the job, and it is quite a job, too.

Night. A ring of fire surrounds Alexandria to-night. It is said our forces are working in and burning everything as they come. Lieutenant Ames, who has been under arrest since last winter for drunkenness, was to-day dismissed from the service.

176. John Adams

Philadelphia, 28 April, 1777.

There is a clock calm at this time in the political and military hemispheres. The surface is smooth and the air serene. Not a breath nor a wave, no news nor noise.

Nothing would promote our cause more than Howe's march to this town. Nothing quickens and determines people so much as a little smart. The Germans, who are numerous and wealthy in this State, and who have very imperfect ideas of freedom, have a violent attachment to property. They are passionate and vindictive, in a degree that is scarcely credible to persons who are unacquainted with them, and the least injury to their property excites a resentment beyond description. A few houses and plantations plundered (as many would be if Howe should come here) would set them all on fire. Nothing would unite and determine Pennsylvania so effectually. The passions of men must coöperate with their reason in the prosecution of a war. The public may be clearly convinced that a war is just, and yet, until their passions are excited, will carry it languidly on. The prejudices, the anger, the hatred of the English against the French contributes greatly to their valor and success. The British Court and their officers have studied to excite the same passions in the breasts of their soldiers against the Americans, well knowing their powerful effects. We, on the contrary, have treated their characters with too much tenderness. The Howes, their officers, and soldiers too, ought to be held up to the contempt, derision, hatred, and abhorrence of the populace in every State, and of the common soldiers in every army. It would give me no pain to see them burned or hanged in effigy in every town and village.

April 28

April 28, 1861.--In the same way as a dream transforms according to its nature, the incidents of sleep, so the soul converts into psychical phenomena the ill-defined impressions of the organism. An uncomfortable attitude becomes nightmare; an atmosphere charged with storm becomes moral torment. Not mechanically and by direct causality; but imagination and conscience engender, according to their own nature, analogous effects; they translate into their own language, and cast into their own mold, whatever reaches them from outside. Thus dreams may be helpful to medicine and to divination, and states of weather may stir up and set free within the soul vague and hidden evils. The suggestions and solicitations which act upon life come from outside, but life produces nothing but itself after all. Originality consists in rapid and clear reaction against these outside influences, in giving to them our individual stamp. To think is to withdraw, as it were, into one's impression--to make it clear to one's self, and then to put it forth in the shape of a personal judgment. In this also consists self-deliverance, self-enfranchisement, self-conquest. All that comes from outside is a question to which we owe an answer--a pressure to be met by counter-pressure, if we are to remain free and living agents. The development of our unconscious nature follows the astronomical laws of Ptolemy; everything in it is change--cycle, epi-cycle, and metamorphosis.

Every man then possesses in himself the analogies and rudiments of all things, of all beings, and of all forms of life. He who knows how to divine the small beginnings, the germs and symptoms of things, can retrace in himself the universal mechanism, and divine by intuition the series which he himself will not finish, such as vegetable and animal existences, human passions and crises, the diseases of the soul and those of the body. The mind which is subtle and powerful may penetrate all these potentialities, and make every point flash out the world which it contains. This is to be conscious of and to possess the general life, this is to enter into the divine sanctuary of contemplation.

April 28

April 28, 1871.--For a psychologist it is extremely interesting to be readily and directly conscious of the complications of one's own organism and the play of its several parts. It seems to me that the sutures of my being are becoming just loose enough to allow me at once a clear perception of myself as a whole and a distinct sense of my own brittleness. A feeling like this makes personal existence a perpetual astonishment and curiosity. Instead of only seeing the world which surrounds me, I analyze myself. Instead of being single, all of a piece, I become legion, multitude, a whirlwind--a very cosmos. Instead of living on the surface, I take possession of my inmost self, I apprehend myself, if not in my cells and atoms, at least so far as my groups of organs, almost my tissues, are concerned. In other words, the central monad isolates itself from all the subordinate monads, that it may consider them, and finds its harmony again in itself.

Health is the perfect balance between our organism, with all its component parts, and the outer world; it serves us especially for acquiring a knowledge of that world. Organic disturbance obliges us to set up a fresh and more spiritual equilibrium, to withdraw within the soul. Thereupon our bodily constitution itself becomes the object of thought. It is no longer we, although it may belong to us; it is nothing more than the vessel in which we make the passage of life, a vessel of which we study the weak points and the structure without identifying it with our own individuality.

Where is the ultimate residence of the self? In thought, or rather in consciousness. But below consciousness there is its germ, the punctum saliens of spontaneity; for consciousness is not primitive, it becomes. The question is, can the thinking monad return into its envelope, that is to say, into pure spontaneity, or even into the dark abyss of virtuality? I hope not. The kingdom passes; the king remains; or rather is it the royalty alone which subsists--that is to say, the idea--the personality begin in its turn merely the passing vesture of the permanent idea? Is Leibnitz or Hegel right? Is the individual immortal under the form of the spiritual body? Is he eternal under the form of the individual idea? Who saw most clearly, St. Paul or Plato? The theory of Leibnitz attracts me most because it opens to us an infinite of duration, of multitude, and evolution. For a monad, which is the virtual universe, a whole infinite of time is not too much to develop the infinite within it. Only one must admit exterior actions and influences which affect the evolution of the monad. Its independence must be a mobile and increasing quantity between zero and the infinite, without ever reaching either completeness or nullity, for the monad can be neither absolutely passive nor entirely free.

April 28

April 28, 1866.--I have just read the procès-verbal of the Conference of Pastors held on the 15th and 16th of April at Paris. The question of the supernatural has split the church of France in two. The liberals insist upon individual right; the orthodox upon the notion of a church. And it is true indeed that a church is an affirmation, that it subsists by the positive element in it, by definite belief; the pure critical element dissolves it. Protestantism is a combination of two factors--the authority of the Scriptures and free inquiry; as soon as one of these factors is threatened or disappears, Protestantism disappears; a new form of Christianity succeeds it, as, for example, the church of the Brothers of the Holy Ghost, or that of Christian Theism. As far as I am concerned, I see nothing objectionable in such a result, but I think the friends of the Protestant church are logical in their refusal to abandon the apostle's creed, and the individualists are illogical in imagining that they can keep Protestantism and do away with authority.

It is a question of method which separates the two camps. I am fundamentally separated from both. As I understand it, Christianity is above all religions, and religion is not a method, it is a life, a higher and supernatural life, mystical in its root and practical in its fruits, a communion with God, a calm and deep enthusiasm, a love which radiates, a force which acts, a happiness which overflows. Religion, in short, is a state of the soul. These quarrels as to method have their value, but it is a secondary value; they will never console a heart or edify a conscience. This is why I feel so little interest in these ecclesiastical struggles. Whether the one party or the other gain the majority and the victory, what is essential is in no way profited, for dogma, criticism, the church, are not religion; and it is religion, the sense of a divine life, which matters. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." The most holy is the most Christian; this will always be the criterion which is least deceptive. "By this ye shall know my disciples, if they have love one to another."

As is the worth of the individual, so is the worth of his religion. Popular instinct and philosophic reason are at one on this point. Be good and pious, patient and heroic, faithful and devoted, humble and charitable; the catechism which has taught you these things is beyond the reach of blame. By religion we live in God; but all these quarrels lead to nothing but life with men or with cassocks. There is therefore no equivalence between the two points of view.

Perfection as an end--a noble example for sustenance on the way--the divine proved by its own excellence, is not this the whole of Christianity? God manifest in all men, is not this its true goal and consummation?

April 28

April 28, 1852. (Lancy.) [Footnote: A village near Geneva.]--Once more I feel the spring languor creeping over me, the spring air about me. This morning the poetry of the scene, the song of the birds, the tranquil sunlight, the breeze blowing over the fresh green fields, all rose into and filled my heart. Now all is silent. O silence, thou art terrible! terrible as that calm of the ocean which lets the eye penetrate the fathomless abysses below. Thou showest us in ourselves depths which make us giddy, inextinguishable needs, treasures of suffering. Welcome tempests! at least they blur and trouble the surface of these waters with their terrible secrets. Welcome the passion blasts which stir the wares of the soul, and so veil from us its bottomless gulfs! In all of us, children of dust, sons of time, eternity inspires an involuntary anguish, and the infinite, a mysterious terror. We seem to be entering a kingdom of the dead. Poor heart, thy craving is for life, for love, for illusions! And thou art right after all, for life is sacred.

In these moments of tête-à-tête with the infinite, how different life looks! How all that usually occupies and excites us becomes suddenly puerile, frivolous and vain. We seem to ourselves mere puppets, marionettes, strutting seriously through a fantastic show, and mistaking gewgaws for things of great price. At such moments, how everything becomes transformed, how everything changes! Berkeley and Fichte seem right, Emerson too; the world is but an allegory; the idea is more real than the fact; fairy tales, legends, are as true as natural history, and even more true, for they are emblems of greater transparency. The only substance properly so called is the soul. What is all the rest? Mere shadow, pretext, figure, symbol, or dream. Consciousness alone is immortal, positive, perfectly real. The world is but a firework, a sublime phantasmagoria, destined to cheer and form the soul. Consciousness is a universe, and its sun is love....

Already I am falling back into the objective life of thought. It delivers me from--shall I say? no, it deprives me of the intimate life of feeling. Reflection solves reverie and burns her delicate wings. This is why science does not make men, but merely entities and abstractions. Ah, let us feel and live and beware of too much analysis! Let us put spontaneity, naïveté, before reflection, experience before study; let us make life itself our study. Shall I then never have the heart of a woman to rest upon? a son in whom to live again, a little world where I may see flowering and blooming all that is stifled in me? I shrink and draw back, for fear of breaking my dream. I have staked so much on this card that I dare not play it. Let me dream again....

Do no violence to yourself, respect in yourself the oscillations of feeling. They are your life and your nature; One wiser than you ordained them. Do not abandon yourself altogether either to instinct or to will. Instinct is a siren, will a despot. Be neither the slave of your impulses and sensations of the moment, nor of an abstract and general plan; be open to what life brings from within and without, and welcome the unforeseen; but give to your life unity, and bring the unforeseen within the lines of your plan. Let what is natural in you raise itself to the level of the spiritual, and let the spiritual become once more natural. Thus will your development be harmonious, and the peace of heaven will shine upon your brow; always on condition that your peace is made, and that you have climbed your Calvary.

Afternoon --Shall I ever enjoy again those marvelous reveries of past days, as, for instance, once, when I was still quite a youth, in the early dawn, sitting among the ruins of the castle of Faucigny; another time in the mountains above Lavey, under the midday sun, lying under a tree and visited by three butterflies; and again another night on the sandy shore of the North Sea, stretched full length upon the beach, my eyes wandering over the Milky Way? Will they ever return to me, those grandiose, immortal, cosmogonic dreams, in which one seems to carry the world in one's breast, to touch the stars, to possess the infinite? Divine moments, hours of ecstasy, when thought flies from world to world, penetrates the great enigma, breathes with a respiration large, tranquil, and profound, like that of the ocean, and hovers serene and boundless like the blue heaven! Visits from the muse, Urania, who traces around the foreheads of those she loves the phosphorescent nimbus of contemplative power, and who pours into their hearts the tranquil intoxication, if not the authority of genius, moments of irresistible intuition in which a man feels himself great like the universe and calm like a god! From the celestial spheres down to the shell or the moss, the whole of creation is then submitted to our gaze, lives in our breast, and accomplishes in us its eternal work with the regularity of destiny and the passionate ardor of love. What hours, what memories! The traces which remain to us of them are enough to fill us with respect and enthusiasm, as though they had been visits of the Holy Spirit. And then, to fall back again from these heights with their boundless horizons into the muddy ruts of triviality! what a fall! Poor Moses! Thou too sawest undulating in the distance the ravishing hills of the promised land, and it was thy fate nevertheless to lay thy weary bones in a grave dug in the desert! Which of us has not his promised land, his day of ecstasy and his death in exile? What a pale counterfeit is real life of the life we see in glimpses, and how these flaming lightnings of our prophetic youth make the twilight of our dull monotonous manhood more dark and dreary!

101. John Adams

Philadelphia, 28 April, 1776.

Yesterday I received two letters from you from the 7th to the 14th of April. It gives me concern to think of the many cares you must have upon your mind. Your reputation as a farmer, or anything else you undertake, I dare answer for. Your partner's character as a statesman is much more problematical.

As to my return, I have not a thought of it. Journeys of such a length are tedious, and expensive both of time and money, neither of which is my own. I hope to spend the next Christmas where I did the last, and after that I hope to be relieved; for by that time, I shall have taken a pretty good trick at helm, whether the vessel has been well steered or not. But if my countrymen should insist upon my serving them another year, they must let me bring my whole family with me. Indeed, I could keep house here, with my partner, four children, and two servants, as cheap as I maintain myself here with two horses and a servant at lodgings.

Instead of domestic felicity, I am destined to public contentions. Instead of rural felicity, I must reconcile myself to the smoke and noise of a city. In the place of private peace, I must be distracted with the vexation of developing the deep intrigues of politicians, and must assist in conducting the arduous operations of war, and think myself well rewarded if my private pleasure and interests are sacrificed, as they ever have been and will be, to the happiness of others.

You tell me our jurors refuse to serve, because the writs are issued in the King's name. I am very glad to hear that they discover so much sense and spirit. I learn, from another letter, that the General Court have left out of their bills the year of his reign, and that they are making a law that the same name shall be left out of all writs, commissions, and all law processes. This is good news too. The same will be the case in all the colonies, very soon.

You ask me, how I have done, the winter past. I have not enjoyed so good health as last fall. But I have done complaining of anything. Of ill-health I have no right to complain, because it is given me by Heaven. Of meanness, of envy, of littleness, of——, of——, of——, I have reason and right to complain, but I have too much contempt to use that right. There is such a mixture of folly, littleness, and knavery in this world, that I am weary of it, and although I behold it with unutterable contempt and indignation, yet the public good requires that I should take no notice of it by word or by letter. And to this public good I will conform.

You will see an account of the fleet in some of the papers I have sent you. I give you joy of the Admiral's success. I have vanity enough to take to myself a share in the merit of the American navy. It was always a measure that my heart was much engaged in, and I pursued it for a long time against the wind and tide, but at last obtained it.

Is there no way for two friendly souls to converse together although the bodies are four hundred miles off? Yes, by letter. But I want a better communication. I want to hear you think or to see your thoughts. The conclusion of your letter makes my heart throb more than a cannonade would. You bid me burn your letters. But I must forget you first. In yours of April 14 you say you miss our friend in the conveyance of your letters. Don't hesitate to write by the post. Seal well. Don't miss a single post. You take it for granted that I have particular intelligence of everything from others, but I have not. If any one wants a vote for a commission he vouchsafes me a letter, but tells me very little news. I have more particulars from you than any one else. Pray keep me constantly informed what ships are in the harbor and what fortifications are going on. I am quite impatient to hear of more vigorous measures for fortifying Boston harbor: Not a moment should be neglected. Every man ought to go down, as they did after the battle of Lexington, and work until it is done. I would willingly pay half a dozen hands myself, and subsist them, rather than it should not be done immediately. It is of more importance than to raise corn. You say "inclosed is a prologue and a parody," but neither was inclosed. If you did not forget it, the letter has been opened, and the inclosures taken out. If the small-pox spreads, run me in debt. I received, a post or two past, a letter from your uncle at Salem, containing a most friendly and obliging invitation to you and yours to go and have the distemper at his house if it should spread. He has one or two in his family to have it.

The writer of "Common Sense" and "The Forester" is the same person. His name is Paine, a gentleman about two years ago from England, a man who, General Lee says, has genius in his eyes. The writer of "Cassandra" is said to be Mr. James Cannon, a tutor in the Philadelphia College. "Cato" is reported here to be Doctor Smith—a match for Brattle. The oration was an insolent performance. A motion was made to thank the orator, and ask a copy, but opposed with great spirit and vivacity from every part of the room, and at last withdrawn, lest it should be rejected, as it certainly would have been, with indignation. The orator then printed it himself, after leaving out or altering some offensive passages. This is one of the many irregular and extravagant characters of the age. I never heard one single person speak well of anything about him but his abilities, which are generally allowed to be good. The appointment of him to make the oration was a great oversight and mistake.

The last act of Parliament has made so deep an impression upon people's minds throughout the colonies, it is looked upon as the last stretch of oppression, that we are hastening rapidly to great events. Governments will be up everywhere before midsummer, and an end to royal style, titles, and authority. Such mighty revolutions make a deep impression on the minds of men, and set many violent passions at work. Hope, fear, joy, sorrow, love, hatred, malice, envy, revenge, jealousy, ambition, avarice, resentment, gratitude, and every other passion, feeling, sentiment, principle, and imagination were never in more lively exercise than they are now from Florida to Canada inclusively. May God in his providence overrule the whole for the good of mankind. It requires more serenity of temper, a deeper understanding, and more courage than fell to the lot of Marlborough to ride in this whirlwind.


Wednesday, 28.

Apart they sit, the better know,

Why towns and talk sway men below.

Freedom from affairs, and leisure to entertain his thoughts, is the scholar's paradise. Hardly less the delight in comparing notes with another in conversation. It is the chiefest of satisfactions this last, where sympathy is possible and perfect. One does not see his thought distinctly till it is reflected in the image of another's. Personal perspective gives the distance necessary to bring out its significance. "There are some," says Thoreau, "whose ears help me so much that my things have a rare significance when I read to them. It is almost too good a hearing, so that, for the time, I regard my writing from too favorable a point of view." Yet the criticism of admiration is far more acceptable and the more likely to be just than that of censure. Much learning does not make an accomplished critic; taste, sensibility, sympathy, ideality, are indispensable. A man of talent may apprehend and judge fairly of works of his class. But genius alone comprehends and appreciates truly the works of genius.

Nor are all moods equally favorable for criticism. "It may be owing to my mood at the time," says Goethe, "but it seems to me, that as well in treating of writings as of actions, unless one speak with a loving sympathy, a certain enthusiasm, the result is so defective as to have little value. Pleasure, delight, sympathy in things, is all that is real; and that reproduces reality in us; all else is empty and vain." One must seize the traits as they rise with the tender touch, else they elude and dissolve in the moment; pass into the obscurity out of which they emerged, and are lost forever. Much depends upon this, that one make the most of his time, and miss no propitious moods.

Rarely does one win a success with either tongue or pen. Of the books printed, scarcely never the volume entire justifies its appearance in type. Much is void of deep and permanent significance, touches nothing in one's experience, and fails to command attention. Even subjects of gravest quality, unless treated suggestively, find no place in a permanent literature. It is not enough that the thing is literally defined, stated logically; it needs to be complemented ideally,—set forth in lucid imagery to tell the story to the end. Style carries weight oftentimes when seemingly light itself. Movement is necessary, while the logic is unapparent,—all the more profound and edifying as it appeals to and speaks from the deeper instincts, and so makes claims upon the reader's mind. That is good which stands strong in its own strength, detached from local relations. So a book of thoughts suggests thought, edifies, inspires. Whatever interests at successive readings has life in it, and deserves type and paper.

My code of composition stands thus, and this is my advice to whom it may concern:—

Burn every scrap that stands not the test of all moods of criticism. Such lack longevity. What is left gains immensely. Such is the law. Very little of what is thought admirable at the writing holds good over night. Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially. You may read selections to sensible women,—if young the better; and if it stand these trials, you may offer it to a publisher, and think yourself fortunate if he refuse to print it. Then you may be sure you have written a book worthy of type, and wait with assurance for a publisher and reader thirty years hence,—that is, when you are engaged in authorship that needs neither type nor publisher.

"Learning," says Fuller, "hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost." It must be an enlightened public that asks for works the most enlightened publishers decline printing. A magazine were ruined already if it reflected its fears only. Yet one cannot expect the trade to venture reputation or money in spreading unpopular views.

Ben Jonson wrote to his bookseller:—

"Thou that mak'st gain thy end, and wisely well

Call'st a book good or bad, as it doth sell,

Use mine so too; I give thee leave, but crave

For the luck's sake, it thus much favor have;—

To lie upon thy stall, till it be sought,

Not offered as it made suit to be bought;

Nor have my title page on posts or walls,

Or in cleft-sticks advanced to make calls

For termers, or some clerk-like serving man

Who scarce can spell the hard names, whose knight less can.

If, without these vile arts it will not sell,

Send it to Bucklersbury, there 't will, well."

Time is the best critic, and the better for his intolerance of any inferiority. And fortunate for literature that he is thus choice and exacting. Books, like character, are works of time, and must run the gauntlet of criticism to gain enduring celebrity. The best books may sometimes wait for their half century, or longer, for appreciative readers—create their readers; the few ready to appreciate these at their issue being the most enlightened of their time, and they diffuse the light to their circle of readers. The torch of truth thus transmitted sheds its light over hemispheres,—the globe at last.

"Hail! native language, that with sinews weak

Didst move my first endeavoring tongue to speak,

And mad'st imperfect words with childish trips

Half unpronounced slide through my infant lips,

Driving dull silence from the portal door

Where he had mutely sat two years before—

Here I salute thee, and thy pardon ask

That now I use thee in my latter task.

Now haste thee strait to do me once a pleasure,

And from thy wardrobe bring thy chiefest treasure,

Not those new-fangled toys, and trimming slight,

Which takes our late fantastics with delight,

But cull those richest robes, and gay'st attire,

Which deepest spirits and choicest wits admire."

Thus wrote Milton at the age of nineteen, and made his college illustrious and the language afterwards. Yet the purest English is not always spoken or written by graduates of universities. Speech is the fruit of breeding and of character, and one shall find sometimes in remote rural districts the language spoken in its simplicity and purity, especially by sprightly boys and girls who have not been vexed with their grammars and school tasks. Ours is one of the richest of the spoken tongues; it may not be the simplest in structure and ease of attainment; yet this last may be facilitated by simple and natural methods of studying it. Taught by masters like Ascham or Milton, students might acquire the art of speaking and of writing the language in its purity and elegance, as did these great masters in their day. Ascham lays down this sensible rule: "He that will write well in any tongue, must follow this advice of Aristotle: 'to speak as the common people do, to think as wise men do, and so should every man understand him, and the judgment of wise men about him.'"

George Chapman, the translator of Homer, thus speaks of the scholarly pedantries of his time, of which ours affords too many examples:—

"For as great clerks can use no English words,

Because (alas! great clerks) English affords,

Say they, no height nor copy,—a rude tongue,

Since 'tis their native,—but, in Greek and Latin

Their wits are rare, for thence true poesy sprung,

Through which, truth knows, they have but skill to chat in,

Compared with what they might have in their own."

Camden said, "that though our tongue may not be as sacred as the Hebrew, nor as learned as the Greek, yet it is as fluent as the Latin, as courteous as the Spanish, as court-like as the French, and as amorous as the Italian; so that being beautified and enriched out of these tongues, partly by enfranchising and endenizing foreign words, partly by implanting new ones with artful composition, our tongue is as copious, pithy, and significative as any in Europe."

If one would learn its riches at sight, let him glance along the pages of Richardson's Dictionary; and at the same time survey its history from Gower and Chaucer down to our time.

"If there be, what I believe there is," says Dr. Johnson, "in every nation, a style which never becomes obsolete, a certain mode of phraseology so component and congenial to the analogy and principles of its respective language as to remain settled and unaltered; this style is probably to be sought in the common intercourse of life, among those who speak only to be understood, without ambition of eloquence. The polite are always catching modish expressions, and the learned depart from established forms of speech, in hope of finding or making it better; those who wish for distinction forsake the vulgar when the vulgar is right; but there is a conversation above grossness and below refinement, where propriety resides, and where Shakespeare seems to have gathered his comic dialogues. He is therefore more agreeable to the ears of the present age than any other author equally remote, and among his other excellences deserves to be studied as one of the original masters of the language."

April 28, 1916

I have lived through such nerve-trying days lately that I rarely feel in the humor to write a letter.

Nothing happens here.

The spring has been as changeable as even that which New England knows. We had four fairly heavy snowstorms in the first fortnight of the awful fighting of Verdun. Then we had wet, and then unexpected heat—the sort of weather in which everyone takes cold. I get up in the morning and dress like a polar bear for a drive, and before I get back the sun is so hot I feel like stripping.

There is nothing for anyone to do but wait for news from the front. It is the same old story—they are see-sawing at Verdun, with the Germans much nearer than at the beginning—and still we have the firm faith that they will never get there. Doesn't it seem to prove that had Germany fought an honest war she could never have invaded France?

Now, in addition, we've all this strain of waiting for news from Dublin.
The affairs of the whole world are in a mess.

There are many aspects of the war which would interest you if you were sitting down on my hilltop with me—conditions which may seem more significant than they are. For example, the Government has sent back from the front a certain number of men to aid in the farm work until the planting is done. Our commune does not get many of these. Our old men and boys and women do the work fairly well, with the aid of a few territorials, who guard the railway two hours each night and work in the fields in the daytime. The women here are used to doing field work, and don't mind doing more than their usual stunt.

I often wonder if some of the women are not better off than in the days before the war. They do about the same work, only they are not bothered by their men.

In the days before the war the men worked in the fields in the summer, and in the carrière de plâtre, at Mareuil-lès-Meaux, in the winter. It was a hard life, and most of them drank a little. It is never the kind of drunkenness you know in America, however. Most of them were radical Socialists in politics—which as a rule meant "ag'in' the government." Of course, being Socialists and French, they simply had to talk it all over. The café was the proper place to do that—the provincial café being the workingman's club. Of course, the man never dreamed of quitting until legal closing hour, and when he got home, if wife objected, why he just hit her a clip,—it was, of course, for her good,—"a woman, a dog, and a walnut tree,"—you know the adage.

Almost always in these provincial towns it is the woman who is thrifty, and often she sees but too little of her man's earnings. Still, she is, in her way, fond of him, tenacious in her possession of him, and Sundays and fête days they get on together very handsomely.

All the women here, married or not, have always worked, and worked hard. The habit has settled on them. Few of them actually expect their husbands to support them, and they do not feel degraded because their labor helps, and they are wonderfully saving. They spend almost nothing on their clothes, never wear a hat, and usually treasure, for years, one black dress to wear to funerals. The children go to school bareheaded, in black pinafores. It is rare that the humblest of these women has not money put aside.

You don't have to look very deep into the present situation to discover that, psychologically, it is queer. Marriage is, after all, in so many classes, a habit. Here are the women of the class to which I refer working very little harder than in the days before the war. Only, for nearly two years they have had no drinking man to come home at midnight either quarrelsome or sulky; no man's big appetite to cook for; no man to wash for or to mend for. They have lived in absolute peace, gone to bed early to a long, unbroken sleep, and get twenty- five cents a day government aid, plus ten cents for each child. As they all raise their own vegetables, keep chickens and rabbits, and often a goat, manage to have a little to take to market, and a little time every week to work for other people, and get war prices for their time,—well, I imagine you can work out the problem yourself.'

Mind you, there is not one of these women, who, in her way, will not assure you that she loves her husband. She would be drawn and quartered before she would harm him. If anything happens to him she will weep bitterly. But, under my breath, I can assure you that there is many a woman of that class a widow today who is better off for it, and so are her children. The husband who died "en hero," the father dead for his country, is a finer figure in the family life than the living man ever was or could have been.

Of course, it is in the middle classes, where the wives have to be kept, where marriage is less a partnership than in the working classes and among the humbler commercial classes, that there is so much suffering. But that is the class which invariably suffers most in any disaster.

I do not know how characteristic of the race the qualities I find among these people are, nor can I, for lack of experience, be sure in what degree they are absolutely different from those of any class in the States. For example—this craving to own one's home. Almost no one here pays rent. There is a lad at the foot of the hill, in Voisins, who was married just before the war. He has a tiny house of two rooms and kitchen which he bought just before his marriage for the sum of one hundred and fifty francs—less than thirty dollars. He paid a small sum down, and the rest at the rate of twenty cents a week. There is a small piece of land with it, on which he does about as intensive farming as I ever saw. But it is his own.

The woman who works in my garden owns her place. She has been paying for it almost ever since she was married,—sixteen years ago,— and has still forty dollars to pay. She cultivates her own garden, raises her own chickens and rabbits, and always has some to sell. Her husband works in the fields for other people, or in the quarries, and she considers herself prosperous, as she has been able to keep her children in school, and owes no one a penny, except, of course, the sum due on her little place. She has worked since she was nine, but her children have not, and, when she dies, there will be something for them, if it is no more than the little place. In all probability, before that time comes, she will have bought more land—to own ground is the dream of these people, and they do it in such a strange way.

I remember in my girlhood, when I knew the Sandy River Valley country so well, that when a farmer wanted to buy more land he always tried, at no matter what sacrifice, to get a piece adjoining what he already owned, and put a fence around it. It is different here. People own a piece of land here, and a piece there, and another piece miles away, and there are no fences.

For example, around Père Abelard's house there is a fruit garden and a kitchen garden. The rest of his land is all over the place. He has a big piece of woodland at Pont aux Dames, where he was born, and another on the route de Mareuil. He has a field on the route de Couilly, and another on the side of the hill on the route de Meaux, and he has a small patch of fruit trees and a potato field on the chemin Madame, and another big piece of grassland running down the hill from Huiry to Condé.

Almost nothing is fenced in. Grain fields, potato patches, beet fields belonging to different people touch each other without any other barrier than the white stones, almost level with the soil, put in by the surveyors.

Of course they are always in litigation, but, as I told you, a lawsuit is a cachet of respectability in France.

As for separating a French man or woman from the land—it is almost impossible. The piece of woodland that Abelard owns at Pont aux Dames is called "Le Paradis." It is a part of his mother's estate, and his sister, who lives across the Morin, owns the adjoining lot. It is of no use to anyone. They neither of them ever dream of cutting the wood. Now and then, when we drive, we go and look at it, and Père tells funny stories of the things he did there when he was a lad. It is full of game, and not long ago he had an offer for it. The sum was not big, but invested would have added five hundred francs a year to his income. But no one could make either him or his sister resolve to part with it. So there it lies idle, and the only thing it serves for is to add to the tax bill every year. But they would rather own land than have money in the bank. Land can't run away. They can go and look at it, press their feet on it, and realize that it is theirs.

I am afraid the next generation is going to be different, and the disturbing thing is that it is the women who are changing. So many of them, who never left the country before, are working in the ammunition factories and earning unheard-of money, and spending it, which is a radical and alarming feature of the situation.

You spoke in one of your recent letters of the awful cost of this war in money. But you must remember that the money is not lost. It is only redistributed. Whether or not the redistribution is a danger is something none of us can know yet; that is a thing only the future can show. One thing is certain, it has forcibly liberated women.

You ask how the cats are. They are remarkable. Khaki gets more savage every day, and less like what I imagined a house cat ought to be. He has thrashed every cat in the commune except Didine, and never got a scratch to show for it. But he has never scratched me. I slapped him the other day. He slapped back,—but with a velvet paw, never even showed a claw.

Didn't you always think a cat hated water? I am sure I did. He goes out in all weathers. Last winter he played in the snow like a child, and rolled in it, and no rainstorm can keep him in the house. The other day he insisted on going out in a pouring rain, and I got anxious about him. Finally I went to the door and called him, and, after a while, he walked out of the dog's kennel, gave me a reproachful look as if to say, "Can't you leave a chap in peace?" and returned to the kennel. The one thing he really hates is to have me leave the house. He goes where his sweet will leads him, but he seems to think that I should be always on the spot.

May 23, 1916

I begin to believe that we shall have no normal settled weather until all this cannon play is over. We've had most unseasonable hailstorms which have knocked all the buds off the fruit-trees, so, in addition to other annoyances, we shall have no fruit this year.

There is nothing new here except that General Foch is in the ambulance at Meaux. No one knows it; not a word has appeared in the newspapers. It was the result of a stupid, but unavoidable, automobile accident. To avoid running over a woman and child on a road near here, the automobile, in which he was travelling rapidly in company with his son-in-law, ran against a tree and smashed. Luckily he was not seriously hurt, though his head got damaged.

On Thursday Poincaré passed over our hill, with Briand, en route to meet Joffre at the General's bedside. I did not see them, but some of the people at Quincy did. It was a lucky escape for Foch. He would have hated to die during this war of a simple, unmilitary automobile accident, and the army could ill afford just now to lose one of the heroes of the Marne. Carefully as the fact has been concealed, we knew it here through our ambulance, which is a branch of that at Meaux, where he is being nursed.

Three months since the battle at Verdun began, and it is still going on, with the Germans hardly more than four miles from the city, and yet it begins to look as if they knew themselves that the battle—the most terrible the world has ever seen—was a failure. Still, I have changed my mind. I begin to believe that had Germany centred all her forces on that frontier in August, 1914, when her first-line troops were available, and their hopes high, she would probably have passed. No one can know that, but it is likely, and many military men think so. Isn't it a sort of poetic justice to think that it is even possible that had Germany fought an honorable war she might have got to Paris? "Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad."

I do nothing but work in the garden on rare days when it does not rain, and listen to the cannon. That can't be very interesting stuff to make a letter of. The silence here, which was so dear to me in the days when I was preparing the place, still hangs over it. But, oh, the difference! Now and then, in spite of one's self, the very thought of all that is going on so very near us refuses to take its place and keep in the perspective, it simply jumps out of the frame of patriotism and the welfare of the future. Then the only thing to do is to hunt for the visible consolations—and one always finds them.

For example—wouldn't it seem logical that such a warfare would brutalize the men who are actually in it? It doesn't. It seems to have just the contrary effect. I can't tell you how good the men are to one another, or how gentle they are to the children. It is strange that it should be so, but it is. I don't try to understand it, I merely set it down for you.