July 19

The enemy did not press us further than the river last night, nor have they made an advance to-day, yet they remain in our front. They are busy caring for their wounded. Both sides are within shelling distance; have remained in our works all day which we built last night.

July 19, 1863

Sunday. Mail came to-day. We have dodged about so lately the mail could not find us. I got two. All well at home. I dread to hear, for fear I will hear father or mother are sick, and yet I am all the time hoping to get a letter. Some stamps too. If I only had some place to keep them. I must hurry up and write to every one while they last. How different a letter from home makes the world seem. Dear ones, how good you are to me and what a debt I shall owe you when this is all over with! We are expecting our pay every day. Some of the troops have theirs, and our turn will come. We get all sorts of news from the North. First a victory, and then a defeat. We are sure of two places, Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and we have almost forgotten them. A great many are sick. I am sick myself of corn and have gone back to hard-tack. I wish we might go back to Camp Parapet, or else our things be sent us. A letter from Walt Loucks says he expects a discharge. Several have been discharged on account of disability. From his letter though he is in good spirits and says he will come up and see me before he goes home. Poor Walt, he has seen the hard side of soldiering, and I hope he will be sent home.

July Nineteenth

What was my offense? My husband was absent—an exile. He had never been a politician or in any way engaged in the struggle now going on, his age preventing. The house was built by my father, a Revolutionary soldier, who served the whole seven years for your independence.... Was it for this that you turned me, my young daughter and little son out upon the world without a shelter? Or was it because my husband was the grandson of the Revolutionary patriot and “rebel,” Richard Henry Lee, and the near kinsman of the noblest of Christian warriors, the greatest of generals, Robert E. Lee?... Your  name will stand on history's page as the Hunter of weak women and innocent children; the Hunter to destroy defenseless villages and refined and beautiful homes—to torture afresh the agonized hearts of widows; the Hunter of Africa's poor sons and daughters, to lure them on to ruin and death of soul and body; the Hunter with the relentless heart of a wild beast, the face of a fiend and the form of a man.

Henrietta B. Lee

[Extract from letter to General Hunter, often referred to as the best example of excoriating rebuke in American literature. Mrs. Lee's home was burned July 19, 1864]

 

 

Hawthorne

Monday, 19.

Hawthorne was of the darker temperament and tendencies. His sensitiveness and sadness were native, and he cultivated them apparently alike by solitude, the pursuits and studies in which he indulged, till he became almost fated to know gayer hours only by stealth. By disposition friendly, he seemed the victim of his temperament, as if he sought distance, if not his pen, to put himself in communication, and possible sympathy with others,—with his nearest friends, even. His reserve and imprisonment were more distant and close, while the desire for conversation was livelier, than any one I have known. There was something of strangeness even in his cherished intimacies, as if he set himself afar from all and from himself with the rest; the most diffident of men, as coy as a maiden, he could only be won by some cunning artifice, his reserve was so habitual, his isolation so entire, the solitude so vast. How distant people were from him, the world they lived in, how he came to know so much about them, by what stratagem he got into his own house or left it, was a marvel. Fancy fixed, he was not to be jostled from himself for a moment, his mood was so persistent. There he was in the twilight, there he stayed. Was he some damsel imprisoned in that manly form pleading alway for release, sighing for the freedom and companionships denied her? Or was he some Assyrian ill at ease afar from the olives and the East? Had he strayed over with William the Conqueror, and true to his Norman nature, was the baron still in republican America, secure in his castle, secure in his tower, whence he could defy all invasion of curious eyes? What neighbor of his ever caught him on the highway, or ventured to approach his threshold?

"His bolted Castle gates, what man should ope,

Unless the Lord did will

To prove his skill,

And tempt the fates hid in his horoscope?"

Yet if by chance admitted, welcome in a voice that a woman might own for its hesitancy and tenderness; his eyes telling the rest.

"For such the noble language of his eye,

That when of words his lips were destitute,

Kind eyebeams spake while yet his tongue was mute."

Your intrusion was worth the courage it cost; it emboldened to future assaults to carry this fort of bashfulness. During all the time he lived near me, our estates being separated only by a gate and shaded avenue, I seldom caught sight of him; and when I did it was but to lose it the moment he suspected he was visible; oftenest seen on his hill-top screened behind the shrubbery and disappearing like a hare into the bush when surprised. I remember of his being in my house but twice, and then he was so ill at ease that he found excuse for leaving politely forthwith,—"the stove was so hot," "the clock ticked so loud." Yet he once complained to me of his wish to meet oftener, and dwelt on the delights of fellowship, regretting he had so little. I think he seldom dined from home; nor did he often entertain any one,—once, an Englishman, when I was also his guest; but he preserved his shrinking taciturnity, and left to us the conversation. Another time I dined with a Southern guest at his table. The conversation turning on the war after dinner, he hid himself in the corner, as if a distant spectator, and fearing there was danger even there. It was due to his guest to hear the human side of the question of slavery, since she had heard only the best the South had to plead in its favor.

I never deemed Hawthorne an advocate of Southern ideas and institutions. He professed democracy, not in the party, but large sense of equality. Perhaps he loved England too well to be quite just to his native land,—was more the Old Englishman than the New. He seemed to regret the transplanting, as if reluctant to fix his roots in our soil. His book on England, entitled "Our Old Home," intimates his filial affection for that and its institutions. If his themes were American, his treatment of them was foreign, rather. He stood apart as having no stake in home affairs. While calling himself a democrat, he sympathized apparently with the absolutism of the old countries. He had not full faith in the people; perhaps feared republicanism because it had. Of our literary men, he least sympathized with the North, and was tremulously disturbed, I remember, at the time of the New-York mob. It is doubtful if he ever attended a political meeting or voted on any occasion throughout the long struggle with slavery. He stood aloof, hesitating to take a responsible part, true to his convictions, doubtless, strictly honest, if not patriotic.

He strove by disposition to be sunny and genial, traits not native to him. Constitutionally shy, recluse, melancholy, only by shafts of wit and flow of humor could he deliver himself. There was a soft sadness in his smile, a reserve in his glance, telling how isolate he was. Was he ever one of his company while in it? There was an aloofness, a besides , that refused to affiliate himself with himself, even. His readers must feel this, while unable to account for it, perhaps, or express it adequately. A believer in transmitted traits needs but read his pedigree to find the genesis of what characterized him distinctly, and made him and his writings their inevitable sequel. Everywhere you will find persons of his type and complexion similar in cast of character and opinions. His associates mostly confirm the observation.

Landor

Landor's Biography, edited by James Forster, and lately published here, well repays perusal. Landor seems to have been the victim of his temperament all his life long. I know not when I have read a commentary so appalling on the fate that breaks a noble mind on the wheel of its passions, precipitating it into the dungeons but to brighten its lights. Of impetuous wing, his genius was yet sure of its boldest flights, and to him, if any modern, may be applied Coleridge's epithet of "myriad mindedness," so salient, varied, so daring the sweep of his thought. More than any he reminds of Shakespeare in dramatic power; of Plato, in his mastery of dialogue; in epic force, of Æschylus. He seems to have been one of the demigods, cast down, out of place, out of his time, restless ever, and indignant at his destiny,—

"Heaven's exile straying from the orb of light."

His stormful, wayward career exemplifies in a remarkable manner the recoiling Fate pervading human affairs.

"A sharp dogmatic man," says Emerson, who met him when abroad, "with a great deal of knowledge, a great deal of worth and a great deal of pride, with a profound contempt for all that he does not understand, a master of elegant learning and capable of the utmost delicacy of sentiment, and yet prone to indulge a sort of ostentation of coarse imagery and language. He has capital enough to have furnished the brain of fifty stock authors, yet has written no good book. In these busy days of avarice and ambition, when there is so little disposition to profound thought, or to any but the most superficial intellectual entertainments, a faithful scholar, receiving from past ages the treasures of wit, and enlarging them by his own lore, is a friend and consoler of mankind. Whoever writes for the love of mirth and beauty, and not with ulterior ends, belongs to this sacred class, and among these, few men of the present age have a better claim to be numbered than Mr. Landor. Wherever genius and taste have existed, wherever freedom and justice are threatened (which he values as the element in which genius may work), his interest is here to be commanded. Nay, when we remember his rich and ample page, wherein we are always sure to find free and sustained thought, a keen and precise understanding, an affluent and ready memory familiar with all chosen books, an industrious observation in every department of life, an experience to which nothing has occurred in vain, honor for every just sentiment, and a scourge like that of the Furies for every oppressor, whether public or private, we feel how dignified is this perpetual censor in his cerule chair, and we wish to thank a benefactor of the reading world."

No writer of our time in the difficult species of composition, the dialogue, has attained a success upon so high a plane as Landor in his Conversations, wherein he has treated almost every human interest, brought his characters together, like Plato's interlocutors, from different ages and of differing opinions, using these as representatives of the world's best literature. And besides these his masterpieces, his verses have the chaste and exquisite quality of the best Greek poetry.

"His dialogues number," says his biographer, "not fewer than a hundred and fifty. Different as these were in themselves, it was not the less the distinguishing mark of their genius to be, both in their conformation and in their mass, almost strangely alike; and it is this unity in their astonishing variety, the fire of an inexpressible genius running through the whole, that gives to his books containing them their place among the books not likely to pass away; there is scarcely a form or function of the human mind, sincere or sprightly, cogitative or imaginative, historical, fanciful, or real, which has not been exercised or brought into play in this extraordinary series of writings. The world, past and present, is reproduced in them, with its variety and uniformity, its continuity and change."

What Landor says of written dialogue, holds in still wider latitude, even, in conversation.

"When a man writes a dialogue, he has it all to himself, the pro and the con, the argument and the reply. Within the shortest given space of time, he may indulge in every possible variety of mood. He may contradict himself every minute. In the same page, without any sort of violence, the most different shades of sentiment may find expression. Extravagance of statement, which in other forms could not be admitted, may be fully put forth. Dogmas of every description may be dealt in, audaciously propounded, or passionately opposed, with a result all the livelier in proportion to the mere vehemence expended on them. In no other style of composition is a writer so free from ordinary restraints upon opinion, or so absolved from self-control. Better far than any other, it adapts itself to eagerness and impatience. Dispensing with preliminaries, the jump in medias res  may at once be taken safely. That one thing should be unexpectedly laid aside, and another as capriciously taken up, is quite natural to it; the subjects being few that may not permissively branch off into all the kindred topics connected with them, when the formalities held ordinarily necessary in the higher order of prose composition have disappeared in the freedom of conversation."