February 19

Cold as ever but no wind to mention. Lieut E. P. Farr left for Vermont this morning; spent three hours this afternoon in the chapel with a class of non-commissioned officers who desire commissions in colored troops, and have requested me to hear them recite in tactics, etc., daily, before going before a board for examination in Washington, D. C. Received a letter from home; all well there. Carl Wilson is about entering a drug store in Montpelier, Vt.

February Nineteenth

Ye marshes, how candid and simple and nothing-withholding and free
Ye publish yourselves to the sky and offer yourselves to the sea!
Tolerant plains, that suffer the sea and the rains and the sun,
Ye spread and span like the catholic man who has mightily won
God out of knowledge and good out of infinite pain
And sight out of blindness and purity out of a stain.
Sidney Lanier

 

 

Friday, February 19th.—We left B. at 5 a.m. to-day, and were delayed all the morning farther up by one of the usual French collisions. A guard had left his end of a train and was on the engine; so he never noticed that twelve empty trucks had come uncoupled and careered down a hill, where they were run into and crumpled up by a passenger train. The guard of that one was badly injured (fractured spine), but the passengers only shaken.

At St Omer Miss M. and Major T. and I were being shown over the Khaki Train when ours moved off. There was a wild stampede; the Khaki Train had all its doors locked, and we had miles to go inside to get out. Their orderlies shouted to ours to pull the communication cord—the only way of appealing to the distant engine; so it slowed down, and we clambered breathlessly on. We are side-tracked now at the jolly place of the Moor and the Wireless Lorries; probably move on in the night.

Cannes Feb. 19, 1881

What I said of St. Hilaire has become a little obsolete since his resolute denial that the Greeks have a European decision—or award, as it stood in the English draft—in their favour. I cannot remember whether I indicated the mental peculiarity which has developed into such impolicy; but whatever I did say is for you to apply and employ entirely as you please. The Arthur Russells, moreover, know him enough to introduce the necessary vinegar.

The little joke about Forster is no deeper than Æsop. One said: "He has a woman's heart with a lion's spirit." Somebody answered: "Rather, a lion's skin."

It was reported that Ecuador was preparing a Bark in defence of the Pope. Your father suggested that it must be a vocal bark. Others said it was probably Jesuit's bark (they prevail in Ecuador). And so it went on—that it was worse than their bite, &c., &c., &c.

I thought the World's  apology to the Irish utterly impudent, but one of the best strokes of wit I can remember in my time.

I meant it as you say; only the slightest tinge. One need only look at them to see that generosity would be as completely wasted on them as on Salisbury, though there are three or four very much better than others. De Serre was, except Chateaubriand, the only man with a streak of genius among the politicians of Louis XVIII.'s reign; and he had virtue and governing power, which that brilliant impostor had not. It seldom happens that parliamentary debates cut down to the bone, or tap the bed of principle. There are about half-a-dozen series of debates that do, because they constructed a system of government from the foundations—the French National Assembly, in 1789-1791 and 1848; Frankfort, in 1848; Belgium, in 1831; the French Parliament, after 1815, are among the rare instances. And in that latter instance the most eminent orator, the finest character, was De Serre. He stood nearly where Canning stood at that time—between the parties, disliked by both, persuaded, without the least prejudice or passion, that a strong monarchy was necessary in the levelled society of France, willing to make some sacrifice of strict principle in that cause, yet looking forward to better times, which he did not live to see, for his health broke down in 1822, and he died in 1824. One story will explain the man to you. In one of his speeches he laid down that the bulk of a representative assembly is almost always well meaning (an axiom of constitutional philosophy). Furious outcries from all the royalist benches interrupted him; shouts of: "Vous oubliez la Convention!" He answered: "Yes, even the Convention! (order! order!) ... and if the Convention had not voted under the terror of assassins, France would have been spared the most terrible of crimes!"

Laveleye has great knowledge of Political Economy and of politics, and his peculiarity is that he does not think of party, or power, or wealth, but is thoroughly anxious about the condition of society. That separates him from orthodox Economists (Lowe, Mallet, Newmarch), who do not attend to the problem of Distribution, and are not made sleepless by the suffering and sorrow of the poor. He is slightly heterodox; what Germans call Kathedersozialist, and what even Maine would call downright Socialist. His chief work is an account of early forms of property, an indirect and rather confused plea for common property in land. Ingram,[94 ] Cliffe Leslie nearly represent him in England. He is a special enemy of the Catholic priesthood, like M. Frère-Orban, the Belgian minister, and Laurent of Ghent; but differs from them in the wish to give the people something better than negations. He has married a Protestant lady, and attends Protestant service; but whether from any dogmatic conviction, or as a bulwark against Ultramontanes, I am not sure. He is a very estimable man, well informed, earnest, slightly tiresome, and not at all original.

Don't mind coming to grief over parallels. A disposition to detect resemblances is one of the greatest sources of error. To me parallels afford a blaze of light, but they are rare, and hard to find.

... What you tell me of Mr. Gladstone's health is good news indeed; and I hope you will not listen to his regrets about a measure contrary to the law of freedom. As much authority as is wanted to protect the few against the many, or the weak against the strong, is not contrary to freedom, but the condition of freedom. The disease lies in society, not in the state. The other view, that the only dangerous enemy a nation has is its government, is pure revolution, and was invented by St. Just.

[94 ] John K. Ingram, Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and author of the article on Political Economy in the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Sahib

[February 19, 1880.]

I first met him driving home from cutcherry in his buggy. He was a fat man in the early afternoon of life. In his blue eyes lay the mystery of many a secret salad and unwritten milk-punch; but though he smoked the longest cheroots of Trichinopoly and Dindigul, his hand was still steady and still grasped a cue or a long tumbler, with the unerring certainty of early youth and unshaken health.

Of an evening he would come over to my bungalow in a friendly way; he would "just drop in," as he used to say, in his pleasant offhand fashion, and he would irrigate himself with my brandy and soda, amid genial smiles and a brandishing of his long cheroot, playfully indicating his recognition of a stimulant with which he had been long acquainted.

As he began to glow with conversation and brandy, he would call for cards and play écarté with me, until the room gradually resolved itself into one of the circles of some Californian Inferno, with a knave of spades digging the diamonds out of my heart and clubbing my trumps.

He would leave me throbbing with the eructation of oaths and the hollow aching of an empty purse, and uncertain whether to give up cards and liquor for hymns and Government paper or whether to call him back and take fortune by storm. But he had gone off with a resolute "good night" that tended to dispel illusions; he had gone to his own No. 1 Exshaw and his French novels, which he read as he lay on his solitary bachelor couch.

Yes,—his bachelor couch, for he was not married. He had loved much and often. He had loved a great many people in different stations of life, but they did not marry him. He was, upon the whole, glad that they did not marry him; for they were often married to other people, and he would have been lonely with one, dissatisfied with two, and embarrassed with more; so he continued his austere bachelor life; and always tried to love unostentatiously somebody else's wife.

He loved somebody else's wife, because he had no wife of his own, and the heart requires love. It was very wrong of him to love somebody else's wife, and to sponge thus on affections which belonged to another; but then he had nothing puritanical or pharisaical in his nature; he was too highly cultivated to be moral, and arguing the point in the mood of sweet Barbara, he had often succeeded in persuading pretty women that he did right in loving them, though their household duties belonged to another.

I have said that he was too highly cultivated to be religious. He was exceedingly emotional and intellectual; and the procrustean bed of a creed would have been intolerable torture to him. Life throbbed around him in an aurora of skittles. The world of morality only raised a languid smile, or tickled an appetite pleased with novelty. An archdeacon, or a book of sermons delighted him. He would play with them and ponder over them, as if they were old china, or curious etchings. But he was never profane, especially before bishops, or children, and he always went to church on Sunday morning.

He went to church on Sunday morning, because it was quaint and old-fashioned to do so, and because he loved to see the women of his acquaintance in their devotional moods and attitudes. There was hardly any mood or attitude in which he did not love to see a woman, partly because he was full of human sympathy and tenderness, and partly for other reasons. I suppose he was a student of human nature, though he always repudiated the notion of being a student of anything. He said that life was too short for serious study, and that every kind of pursuit should be tempered with fooling; while to prevent fooling becoming wearisome it should always be dashed with something earnest, as the sodawater is dashed with brandy, or the Government of India with Mr. Whitley Stokes.

      Nigrorum memor, dum licet, ignium,
      Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem:
      Dulce est desipere in loco.

But besides being a man of pleasure and a capital billiard player, he was a Collector in the North-Western Provinces—a man who sat at the receipt of custom under a punkah, and read his Pioneer. The Lord High Cockalorum at Nynee Tal, Sir Somebody Thingmajig,—I am speaking of years ago—did not like him, I believe; but nobody thought any the worse of him for this; and although he continued to be a Collector until the shades of evening, when all his contemporaries had retired into the Dreamland of Commissionerships, he still loved and was loved; and to the very last he read his French novels and quoted Horace, sitting peacefully on the bank while the stream of promotion rolled on, knowing well that it would roll on in omne ævum, and not caring a jot whether it did, or did not. What was a seat at the Sadr Board[BB] to him, a seat among the solemn mummies of the service? He would not object to lie in the same graveyard with them; but to sit at the same board while this sensible warm motion of life still continued was too much; this could never be. He belonged to a higher order of spirits. As a boy he had not bartered the music of his soul for Eastern languages and the Rent Law; and as an old man he would not sit in state with corpses faintly animated by rupees.

[BB: Chief Board of Land Revenue in the United Provinces .]

To the last he mocked promotion; he mocked, till the dread mocker laid mocking fingers on his liver, and till gibe and laughter were silenced for evermore. So the Collector died, the merry Collector; and "where shall we bury the merry Collector?" became the last problem for his friends to deal with. I was in far away lands at the time with another friend of his—we mourned for the Collector.

We would have buried him in soft summer weather under sweet arbute trees, near the shore of some murmuring Italian sea. The west wind should whisper its grief over his grave for ever:—

      "Thou who didst waken from his summer-dreams
      The blue Mediterranean, where he lay
      Lull'd by the coil of his crystalline streams,
      Beside a pumice isle in Baiæ's bay,
      And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
      Quivering within the wave's intenser day,
      All overgrown with azure moss and flowers."

Blue-eyed girls have bound his dear head with garlands of the amorous rosemary. The echoes of sea-caves would have chanted requiems until time should be no more. Embalmed in darkness the nightingale would nightly for ever pour forth her soul in profuse strains of inconsolable ecstasy; by day the dove should moan in the flickering shade until the sun should cease to roll on his fiery path:—

      "Where through groves deep and high,
      Sounds the far billow,
      Where early violets die under the willow.
      There, through the summer day,
      Cool streams are laving;
      There, while the tempests sway,
      Scarce are boughs waving;
      There thy rest should'st thou take,
      Parted for ever,
      Never again to wake: never, O never!"

With tender hand we would have traced on his memorial urn some valediction—not without hope—of love and friendship.

It was otherwise. He was buried during a dust-storm in a loathsome Indian cemetery. No friend stood by the grave. A hard priest reluctantly pattered an abbreviated service: and people whispered that it was not well with the Collector's soul. He is now forgotten.

But, dear friend, thy memory blossoms in my heart for ever, thy merry laugh will still sound in my ear:—

      "Abiding with me till I sail
      To seek thee on the mystic deeps,
      And this electric force, that keeps
      A thousand pulses dancing, fail."