June 9

June 9, 1864

Thursday. I kept very quiet to-day for the heat is harder and harder for me to bear. Colonel Bostwick, Captain Hoyt, the quartermaster, Moody and Reynolds all came up from the city, where they have been for a visit. Orders were received for us to turn over the best drilled of our men to Major Paine.

June 9, 1863

Tuesday. All quiet yet. Now and then a shell comes out of the rebel works, I suppose to let us know they are still there. We are waiting for the signal to go at them. Things have settled down, as if the troops were all in position. I went down along the left wing to-day, but could see nothing but soldiers. There are enough here to take Port Hudson, if numbers can do it, and why it isn't done none of us can imagine.

Very warm all day; sharpshooters keep pecking away at us but don't accomplish much. Occasionally a shell has been thrown by each side all day; enemy seems to throw shells oftener at night; shall be glad when we are out of range of the enemy's sharpshooters for one. It's not comfortable to be shot at every time one shows himself in daylight; have been writing letters to-day, one to Pert and another to Susan Wheeler; enemy shelling quite lively to-night, but shells all go over us and explode far in our rear among the camp-followers and hospitals where it is said to be more dangerous than here at the front, they suffer greatly from shells there.

June Ninth

He sleeps—what need to question now
If he were wrong or right?
He knows ere this whose cause was just
In God the Father's sight.
He wields no warlike weapons now,
Returns no foeman's thrust,—
Who but a coward would revile
An honest soldier's dust?

Roll, Shenandoah, proudly roll,
Adown thy rocky glen,
Above thee lies the grave of one
Of Stonewall Jackson's men.
Mary Ashley Townsend

 

Stonewall Jackson meets Shields at Port Republic, 1862

 

 

June 9, 1880

Your card came just after my letter was posted. I shall be at Munich on Friday, and have written to Hallam Tennyson, poste restante ; but I hope to waylay them at the station. It will be pleasant to pilot the great man through Munich, or on the road to Achensthal, and I will do my best....

I hope you will not quarrel with John Morley, for he seems to be making the Pall Mall  the best Liberal paper in England. But he has so many points of antagonism to Mr. Gladstone that I am afraid. He is a sceptic; his studies are all French, eighteenth century; in political economy he is a bald Cobdenite, and will do scant justice to the political aspects of the French treaty; he is a friend of Lytton's, and I suspect, of the peccant Strachey;[26 ] he has the obstinacy of a very honest mind. But I perceive that I am getting to be a bore....

[26 ] Sir John Strachey had seriously under-estimated the cost of the Afghan War.

June 9

June 9, 1870.--At bottom, everything depends upon the presence or absence of one single element in the soul--hope. All the activity of man, all his efforts and all his enterprises, presuppose a hope in him of attaining an end. Once kill this hope and his movements become senseless, spasmodic, and convulsive, like those of some one falling from a height. To struggle with the inevitable has something childish in it. To implore the law of gravitation to suspend its action would no doubt be a grotesque prayer. Very well! but when a man loses faith in the efficacy of his efforts, when he says to himself, "You are incapable of realizing your ideal; happiness is a chimera, progress is an illusion, the passion for perfection is a snare; and supposing all your ambitions were gratified, everything would still be vanity," then he comes to see that a little blindness is necessary if life is to be carried on, and that illusion is the universal spring of movement. Complete disillusion would mean absolute immobility. He who has deciphered the secret and read the riddle of finite life escapes from the great wheel of existence; he has left the world of the living--he is already dead. Is this the meaning of the old belief that to raise the veil of Isis or to behold God face to face brought destruction upon the rash mortal who attempted it? Egypt and Judea had recorded the fact, Buddha gave the key to it; the individual life is a nothing ignorant of itself, and as soon as this nothing knows itself, individual life is abolished in principle. For as soon as the illusion vanishes, Nothingness resumes its eternal sway, the suffering of life is over, error has disappeared, time and form have ceased to be for this enfranchised individuality; the colored air-bubble has burst in the infinite space, and the misery of thought has sunk to rest in the changeless repose of all-embracing Nothing. The absolute, if it were spirit, would still be activity, and it is activity, the daughter of desire, which is incompatible with the absolute. The absolute, then, must be the zero of all determination, and the only manner of being suited to it is Non-being.

Tegernsee June 9, 1880

My letter was posted with the one to you, though written, I think, the night before, so that it must have been stopped and opened by some postmaster whom the direction attracted, and who, like yourself, exaggerated its importance. There are truths so prosaic, so dense, so dull, that one can hardly state them without suggesting the idea of something subtler or more interesting beyond. Of course, to one who spends his time in watching and trying to understand the progress of political life and thought, no public event could equal the late progress from Dalmeny to Downing Street, and no prouder thing could happen than to be able to serve Mr. Gladstone's policy. Indeed, if I was not lured by his genius, his persistent friendship, and a curious sympathy in many deep questions, I should be, now, by qualities never so apparent as in the last few days, by the power of grasping principle in one hand and policy in the other, without clashing, which was shown in the opium speech, and just before, in the speech on the liability of employers. I don't know whether I could ever have been of use abroad, in other circumstances, if my nearest relation was not Foreign Secretary,[23 ] for there is only one place for which I could pretend to any special fitness. But as to trying to qualify as a candidate for anything at home, you would soon be satisfied that it is impossible, if I had a good opportunity of talking—if we climb a mountain, a very high mountain, or cross a broad and stormy lake some day.[24 ] But I think I must remind you of the old lady at Carlisle in Forty-Five, who shut herself up in terror of the Highlanders, and, not being pursued, grew impatient, and cried out: "When are they going to begin?"

I am a little disturbed at the highly ingenious and easy solution of the great party[25 ] question. It is dangerous, at any time, to multiply sources of weakness. Now there is a source of future weakness in the idea of power assumed only for a term limited and defined. A Parliament near its end becomes helpless and unable to act. When the period fixed, or supposed to be fixed, is approaching, power will slip away. Disappointed people, men impatient of having to wait, hungry, jealous, reluctant supporters, will gravitate in other directions, will promote rivalry, will speed the parting chief, will magnify the rising sun. By having only Free and Easies, you establish a festive Centre elsewhere, and the world, revolving in an improper orbit, may lose its way. There has been, in this direction, a slight waste of capital....

[23 ] Lord Granville.

[24 ] An allusion to expeditions at Tegernsee.

[25 ] Evening parties in Downing Street.