December 11

Arrived at Fortress Monroe at 7 o'clock a. m.; grand old place; never saw so much shipping at one time before; left for City Point at 9 o'clock a. m. arriving about 3 o'clock p. m.; stayed with Lieut. S. H. Lewis, Jr. till 5 o'clock p. m.; arrived at brigade headquarters about 8 o'clock p. m.; shall stay with Lieut. H. W. Kingsley to-night.

December Eleventh

Mr. Rumsey's steamboat, with more than half her loading (which was upwards of three ton) and a number of people on board, made a progress of four miles in one hour against the current of Potomac River, by the force of steam, without any external application whatsoever.

(Virginian Gazette and Winchester Advertiser, Jan. 11, 1788 )


Second trip of Rumsey's steamboat at Shepherdstown, Va., in boat designed after model of 1784



December 11, 1862

In the Gulf of Mexico. Flying fish and porpoises are in sight. The sailors say the porpoises are after the flying fish, and they skip out of the water and go as far as they can and then drop in again. It is a beautiful morning, and the water is smooth as glass on top. Under it, however, there seems to be a commotion, for the surface is up and down like hills and hollows on land. Ground swells, the sailors call it. In spite of the nice weather a great many are yet seasick. Three cases of measles are reported this morning. Every one who has never had them seems to be having them now. Only a few new cases of fever were reported. A big shark is following the vessel, after anything that is thrown overboard. It keeps up easily and as far as I can discover makes very little effort to do so.

December 11, 1863

Friday. To-day, after posting the letters I wrote yesterday, I regulated things in my trunks, getting rid of the letters I care the least about, and having a general house-cleaning time. Some of the letters I have read and re-read until they are nearly worn out. If the senders knew how I prize them I think they would send them oftener. It is rumored that Grant has been cutting up more didoes. If half the victories we read of were true the Rebellion wouldn't have a leg to stand on. Consequently we only believe such as are reported several times, and let those that are printed only once go for lies, which they generally prove to be. Still it gives us something to talk about, and to think about, and that is something we are always glad to get. How such stories get started is a wonder to me. Some one must make them up out of whole cloth, but if they knew how we hunger and thirst for the real naked facts I don't believe they would do it. At night Colonel B., Gorton and I went for a walk. We went up to the stable where the colonel has his horse kept, which is way up beyond Canal Street. After looking at the horses we went to the Murphy House and filled up on oysters, washing them down with beer. After an hour or two of this we returned by a roundabout way to the Cotton Press, our home. I found my name on the bulletin board for officer of the guard to-morrow. As that meant no sleep to-morrow night I turned in, and the very next thing I knew it was morning.

Friday, December 11th.—They wouldn't unload us at 11 p.m. at Boulogne last night, but sent us on to the Duchess of Westminster's Hospital at a little place about twenty miles south of B., and we didn't unload till this morning. It was my turn for a whole night in bed. Not that this means we are having many nights up, but that when the load doesn't require two Sisters at night, two go to bed and the other two divide the night. After unloading we had a poke round the little fishing village, and of course the church. A company of Canadian Red Cross people unloaded us. The hospital has not been open very long. It was all sand-dunes and fir-trees on the way, very attractive, and cement factories.

Mail in again.

p.m.—We came back to B. to fill up with stores after lunch, and haven't been sent out again yet; but we often go to bed here, and wake up and ask our soldier servants (batmen), who bring our jugs of hot water it the morning, where we are. I like the motion of the train in bed now, and you get used to the noise.

257. John Adams

Ferrol, 11 December, 1779.

My dearest Friend,—We have had an escape again,[211] but are arrived safely in Spain. As the frigate will probably not get from this place these two months, I must go by land to Paris, which I suppose is a journey of between three and four hundred leagues. That part of it which is in Spain is very mountainous. No post, bad roads, bad taverns, and very dear. We must ride mules, horses not being to be had. I must get some kind of carriage for the children, if possible. They are very well. Charles has sustained the voyage and behaves as well as ever his brother did. He is much pleased with what he sees. Sammy Cooper, too, is very well. These young gentlemen give me a vast deal of trouble in this unexpected journey. I have bought a dictionary and grammar, and they are learning the Spanish language as fast as possible. What could we do, if you and all the family were with me?

Ferrol is a magnificent port and harbor. It is fortified by nature by rows of lofty rocky mountains on each side the narrow entrance of it, and the public works, the fortifications, barracks, arsenals, etc., which are of stone very like Braintree stone, exceed anything I have seen. I dined the day before yesterday with Don Joseph Saint Vincent, the Lieutenant-general of the Marine, who is the commandant of this port, with four-and-twenty French and Spanish officers. The difference between gravity and gayety was an amusing speculation. Yesterday I dined on board the Triomphant, an eighty-gun French ship, commanded by the Chef d'Escadre, M. Sade, and have engagements for every day for a much longer time than I shall stay. The French consul and vice-consul have been particularly polite and obliging to me. In short, I never was better pleased with a reception at any place.

There is no news. Nothing has been done in Europe. England is as insolent in language as ever; but this is only ridiculous, as it is apparently impotent.


[211]The frigate sprang a leak and was compelled to put into the first harbor, which proved to be Ferrol in Spain.

December 11

December 11, 1872.--A deep and dreamless sleep and now I wake up to the gray, lowering, rainy sky, which has kept us company for so long. The air is mild, the general outlook depressing. I think that it is partly the fault of my windows, which are not very clean, and contribute by their dimness to this gloomy aspect of the outer world. Rain and smoke have besmeared them.

Between us and things how many screens there are! Mood, health, the tissues of the eye, the window-panes of our cell, mist, smoke, rain, dust, and light itself--and all infinitely variable! Heraclitus said: "No man bathes twice in the same river." I feel inclined to say; No one sees the same landscape twice over, for a window is one kaleidoscope, and the spectator another.

What is madness? Illusion, raised to the second power. A sound mind establishes regular relations, a modus vivendi, between things, men, and itself, and it is under the delusion that it has got hold of stable truth and eternal fact. Madness does not even see what sanity sees, deceiving itself all the while by the belief that it sees better than sanity. The sane mind or common sense confounds the fact of experience with necessary fact, and assumes in good faith that what is, is the measure of what may be; while madness cannot perceive any difference between what is and what it imagines--it confounds its dreams with reality.

Wisdom consists in rising superior both to madness and to common sense, and in lending one's self to the universal illusion without becoming its dupe. It is best, on the whole, for a man of taste who knows how to be gay with the gay, and serious with the serious, to enter into the game of Maïa, and to play his part with a good grace in the fantastic tragi-comedy which is called the Universe. It seems to me that here intellectualism reaches its limit. [Footnote: "We all believe in duty," says M. Renan, "and in the triumph of righteousness;" but it is possible notwithstanding, "que tout le contraire soit vrai--et que le monde ne soit qu'une amusante féerie dont aucun dieu ne se soucie. Il faut donc nous arranger de maniere à ceque, dans le cas où le seconde hypothèse serait la vraie, nous n'ayons pas été trop dupés."

This strain of remark, which is developed at considerable length, is meant as a criticism of Amiel's want of sensitiveness to the irony of things. But in reality, as the passage in the text shows, M. Renan is only expressing a feeling with which Amiel was just as familiar as his critic. Only he is delivered from this last doubt of all by his habitual seriousness; by that sense of "horror and awe" which M. Renan puts away from him. Conscience saves him "from the sorceries of Maïa."] The mind, in its intellectual capacity, arrives at the intuition that all reality is but the dream of a dream. What delivers us from the palace of dreams is pain, personal pain; it is also the sense of obligation, or that which combines the two, the pain of sin; and again it is love; in short, the moral order. What saves us from the sorceries of Maïa is conscience; conscience dissipates the narcotic vapors, the opium-like hallucinations, the placid stupor of contemplative indifference. It drives us into contact with the terrible wheels within wheels of human suffering and human responsibility; it is the bugle-call, the cockcrow, which puts the phantoms to flight; it is the armed archangel who chases man from an artificial paradise. Intellectualism may be described as an intoxication conscious of itself; the moral energy which replaces it, on the other hand, represents a state of fast, a famine and a sleepless thirst. Alas! Alas!

Those who have the most frivolous idea of sin are just those who suppose that there is a fixed gulf between good people and others.

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The ideal which the wife and mother makes for herself, the manner in which she understands duty and life, contain the fate of the community. Her faith becomes the star of the conjugal ship, and her love the animating principle that fashions the future of all belonging to her. Woman is the salvation or destruction of the family. She carries its destinies in the folds of her mantle.

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Perhaps it is not desirable that a woman should be free in mind; she would immediately abuse her freedom. She cannot become philosophical without losing her special gift, which is the worship of all that is individual, the defense of usage, manners, beliefs, traditions. Her rôle is to slacken the combustion of thought. It is analogous to that of azote in vital air.

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In every loving woman there is a priestess of the past--a pious guardian of some affection, of which the object has disappeared.