July 18

Marched at 4 o'clock a. m., passed through Snickersville on a narrow stony road, and arrived at Snicker's Gap about noon. We went through the gap, but on arriving at the Shenandoah river at Island Ford about 6 o'clock p. m. found that some of Crook's force had crossed and was skirmishing; did not fight very well; fell back to the river in a stampede, plunged in and some were drowned; probably green troops. Mosby's guerillas have been in our rear all day and robbed some of our stragglers. The artillery shelling this evening made us feel uncomfortable, as the shells landed right among us.

July Eighteenth

Uncle Remus was quite a fogy in his idea of negro education. One day a number of negro children, on their way home from school, were impudent to the old man, and he was giving them an untempered piece of his mind, when a gentleman apologized for them by saying: “Oh well, they are school children. You know how they are.”

“Dat's what make I say what I duz,” said Uncle Remus. “Dey better be at home pickin' up chips. What a nigger gwineter learn outen books? I kin take a bar'l stave and fling mo' sense inter a nigger in one minnit dan all de school houses betwixt dis en de New Nited States en Midgigin. Don't talk, honey! wid one bar'l stave I kin fairly lif de vail er ignunce.”

(Quoted by) Henry Stiles Bradley

 

 

July 18, 1863

Saturday. The weather continues hot. What would we do if our old friend, the Mississippi, should dry up? We wash in it, swim in it, drink from it, and boil our dinners in it. To-day I borrowed a washtub from a native and washed my clothes. I had soap and I gave them the first good one they ever had. My shirt is more like a necklace than a shirt. I hardly know myself to-night. We have been cutting each other's hair. One of the boys borrowed a pair of shears and I guess they will wear them out. The best thing though was a fine-tooth comb, which has been in constant use to-day. That too was borrowed. I am ashamed to tell it, but when I got the comb I pulled out five lice from my hair the first grab. Strange as it may seem, I got no more, and now that my hair is cut close to my scalp the most careful search does not show any signs of others. I guess they must have been having a picnic in some favorite grove and all got caught at one haul. Body lice we don't care for. We just boil our clothes and that's the end of them. Their feeding time is when we are still for a while, but at the first move they all let go and grab fast to our clothing. But the head lice are more difficult to deal with unless it be the kind that I had, which all attend one church and at the same time.

July 18

July 18, 1858.--To-day I have been deeply moved by the nostalgia of happiness and by the appeals of memory. My old self, the dreams which used to haunt me in Germany, passionate impulses, high aspirations, all revived in me at once with unexpected force. The dread lest I should have missed my destiny and stifled my true nature, lest I should have buried myself alive, passed through me like a shudder. Thirst for the unknown, passionate love of life, the yearning for the blue vaults of the infinite and the strange worlds of the ineffable, and that sad ecstasy which the ideal wakens in its beholders--all these carried me away in a whirlwind of feeling that I cannot describe. Was it a warning, a punishment, a temptation? Was it a secret protest, or a violent act of rebellion on the part of a nature which is unsatisfied?--the last agony of happiness and of a hope that will not die?

What raised all this storm? Nothing but a book--the first number of the "Revue Germanique." The articles of Dollfus, Renan, Littré, Montégut, Taillandier, by recalling to me some old and favorite subjects, made me forget ten wasted years, and carried me back to my university life. I was tempted to throw off my Genevese garb and to set off, stick in hand, for any country that might offer--stripped and poor, but still young, enthusiastic, and alive, full of ardor and of faith.

... I have been dreaming alone since ten o'clock at the window, while the stars twinkled among the clouds, and the lights of the neighbors disappeared one by one in the houses round. Dreaming of what? Of the meaning of this tragic comedy which we call life. Alas! alas! I was as melancholy as the preacher. A hundred years seemed to me a dream, life a breath, and everything a nothing. What tortures of mind and soul, and all that we may die in a few minutes! What should interest us, and why?

"Le temps n'est rien pour l'âme, enfant, ta vie est pleine, Et ce jour vaut cent ans, s'il te fait trouver Dieu."

To make an object for myself, to hope, to struggle, seems to me more and more impossible and amazing. At twenty I was the embodiment of curiosity, elasticity and spiritual ubiquity; at thirty-seven I have not a will, a desire, or a talent left; the fireworks of my youth have left nothing but a handful of ashes behind them.

July 18

July 18, 1877.--I have just come across a character in a novel with a passion for synonyms, and I said to myself: Take care--that is your weakness too. In your search for close and delicate expression, you run through the whole gamut of synonyms, and your pen works too often in series of three. Beware! Avoid mannerisms and tricks; they are signs of weakness. Subject and occasion only must govern the use of words. Procedure by single epithet gives strength; the doubling of a word gives clearness, because it supplies the two extremities of the series; the trebling of it gives completeness by suggesting at once the beginning, middle, and end of the idea; while a quadruple phrase may enrich by force of enumeration.

Indecision being my principal defect, I am fond of a plurality of phrases which are but so many successive approximations and corrections. I am especially fond of them in this journal, where I write as it comes. In serious composition two is, on the whole, my category. But it would be well to practice one's self in the use of the single word--of the shaft delivered promptly and once for all. I should have indeed to cure myself of hesitation first. I see too many ways of saying things; a more decided mind hits on the right way at once. Singleness of phrase implies courage, self-confidence, clear-sightedness. To attain it there must be no doubting, and I am always doubting. And yet--

"Quiconque est loup agisse en loup; C'est le plus certain de beaucoup."

I wonder whether I should gain anything by the attempt to assume a character which is not mine. My wavering manner, born of doubt and scruple, has at least the advantage of rendering all the different shades of my thought, and of being sincere. If it were to become terse, affirmative, resolute, would it not be a mere imitation?

A private journal, which is but a vehicle for meditation and reverie, beats about the bush as it pleases without being hound to make for any definite end. Conversation with self is a gradual process of thought-clearing. Hence all these synonyms, these waverings, these repetitions and returns upon one's self. Affirmation maybe brief; inquiry takes time; and the line which thought follows is necessarily an irregular one.

I am conscious indeed that at bottom there is but one right expression; [Footnote: Compare La Bruyère:

"Entre toutes les differentes expressions qui peuvent rendre une seule de nos pensées il n'y en a qu'une qui soit la bonne; on ne la rencontre pas toujours en parlant ou en écrivant: il est vray néanmoins qu'elle existe, que tout ce qui ne l'est point est foible, et ne satisfait point un homme d'esprit qui veut se faire entendre."] but in order to find it I wish to make my choice among all that are like it; and my mind instinctively goes through a series of verbal modulations in search of that shade which may most accurately render the idea. Or sometimes it is the idea itself which has to be turned over and over, that I may know it and apprehend it better. I think, pen in hand; it is like the disentanglement, the winding-off of a skein. Evidently the corresponding form of style cannot have the qualities which belong to thought which is already sure of itself, and only seeks to communicate itself to others. The function of the private journal is one of observation, experiment, analysis, contemplation; that of the essay or article is to provoke reflection; that of the book is to demonstrate.