November 7

Took the 7 o'clock a. m. stage for Montpelier, and thence by 11 o'clock a. m. train to Vergennes to see Levi Meader, my old roommate at Barre Academy, Mr. F. E. Woodbridge's law partner; am not impressed with the cordiality of Mr. Woodbridge; met him on the train en route.

November Seventh

A very shy fellow was dusky Sam,
As slow of speech as the typical clam.
He couldn't make love to his Angeline
Though his love grew like the Great Gourd Vine;
So he brought the telephone to his aid
To assist in wooing the chosen maid:
“Miss Angeline? Dat you?” called he.
“Yas.—Dis Angeline—Dis me—”
“I—des wanter say—dat I does—love you—
Miss Angeline—does you love me, too—?”
“Why—yas—Of course I loves my beau—
Say what's de reason you wants to know?”
“Miss—hold de wire—Will you marry me? True—?”
“Yas. Course I will——Say. Who is you?”
Martha Young

 

 

November 7, 1863

Saturday. I have never described our camp, and may never have a better time than now. We are out of town, to the north, on high, hard ground, for this country—so high that there is quite a slope towards the water of Berwick Bay. Company streets are laid out and the camp kept clean by a detail made each day for that purpose. There are many large trees in and about our camp, and taken altogether we have never had a stopping-place quite equal to it. The sick list has shrunk already, though the hospital tent is pretty well filled yet. We have company-drill every day and there is quite a strife among us to see which can learn his troop the fastest. The men are as eager to learn as we are to have them, which makes it much easier for both parties. Berwick, which is directly opposite, is quite a place from the looks, larger than Brashear. It is the shipping port for the great Teche country that lies beyond.

Just after dinner Colonel Tarbell's orderly rode into camp and inquired for me, handing me an order which read, "Lieutenant Lawrence Van Alstyne, commanding Company D, 90th U. S. C. I., at Brashear City, La. Captain Vallance, quartermaster, will furnish the bearer with a boat, in which he will proceed to Berwick and procure a sufficient supply of lumber to floor the hospital tent in said regiment." Signed, "Tarbell, commander." I took five men and such tools as we could find and called on Captain Vallance, who gave us a boat in which we rowed across the bay, which was still as a mill pond. We landed near a shanty which easily came apart, and which had good wide boards, enough to floor several hospital tents. We made these into a raft which we towed back, reaching camp without having seen a person, except a guard—who considered my order good enough authority for letting the boards go. We had boards enough for the hospital tent and all the other tents, which as soon as they are dry will be used for the comfort of all hands. At night Lieutenant Gorton arrived from the city to take the next boat for Newtown to join Colonel B.

Lieutenant Smith made me a present of a handsome pair of shoulder straps. The groundwork is dark velvet and the border of gold cord twisted and woven together. Altogether they are as handsome a pair as I have ever seen on anybody's shoulders. I shall lay them away until I get a coat fit to put them on, and that won't be until after pay day. Thank you, Matt, I'll try and not disgrace them. I presume he paid money for them that he needed for fodder; but that's just like Matt Smith. Major Palon also returned to-night, and made some changes. Lieutenant Ames, my partner in Company D, goes in the medical department as clerk, and Lieutenant Reynolds takes his place with me.

November 7

November 7, 1862.--How malign, infectious, and unwholesome is the eternal smile of that indifferent criticism, that attitude of ironical contemplation, which corrodes and demolishes everything, that mocking pitiless temper, which holds itself aloof from every personal duty and every vulnerable affection, and cares only to understand without committing itself to action! Criticism become a habit, a fashion, and a system, means the destruction of moral energy, of faith, and of all spiritual force. One of my tendencies leads me in this direction, but I recoil before its results when I come across more emphatic types of it than myself. And at least I cannot reproach myself with having ever attempted to destroy the moral force of others; my reverence for life forbade it, and my self-distrust has taken from me even the temptation to it.

This kind of temper is very dangerous among us, for it flatters all the worst instincts of men--indiscipline, irreverence, selfish individualism--and it ends in social atomism. Minds inclined to mere negation are only harmless in great political organisms, which go without them and in spite of them. The multiplication of them among ourselves will bring about the ruin of our little countries, for small states only live by faith and will. Woe to the society where negation rules, for life is an affirmation; and a society, a country, a nation, is a living whole capable of death. No nationality is possible without prejudices, for public spirit and national tradition are but webs woven out of innumerable beliefs which have been acquired, admitted, and continued without formal proof and without discussion. To act, we must believe; to believe, we must make up our minds, affirm, decide, and in reality prejudge the question. He who will only act upon a full scientific certitude is unfit for practical life. But we are made for action, and we cannot escape from duty. Let us not, then, condemn prejudice so long as we have nothing but doubt to put in its place, or laugh at those whom we should be incapable of consoling! This, at least, is my point of view.

* * * *

Beyond the element which is common to all men there is an element which separates them. This element may be religion, country, language, education. But all these being supposed common, there still remains something which serves as a line of demarcation--namely, the ideal. To have an ideal or to have none, to have this ideal or that--this is what digs gulfs between men, even between those who live in the same family circle, under the same roof or in the same room. You must love with the same love, think with the same thought as some one else, if you are to escape solitude.

Mutual respect implies discretion and reserve even in love itself; it means preserving as much liberty as possible to those whose life we share. We must distrust our instinct of intervention, for the desire to make one's own will prevail is often disguised under the mask of solicitude.

How many times we become hypocrites simply by remaining the same outwardly and toward others, when we know that inwardly and to ourselves we are different. It is not hypocrisy in the strict sense, for we borrow no other personality than our own; still, it is a kind of deception. The deception humiliates us, and the humiliation is a chastisement which the mask inflicts upon the face, which our past inflicts upon our present. Such humiliation is good for us; for it produces shame, and shame gives birth to repentance. Thus in an upright soul good springs out of evil, and it falls only to rise again.

* * * *

November 7

November 7, 1878.--To-day we have been talking of realism in painting, and, in connection with it, of that poetical and artistic illusion which does not aim at being confounded with reality itself. Realism wishes to entrap sensation; the object of true art is only to charm the imagination, not to deceive the eye. When we see a good portrait we say, "It is alive!"--in other words, our imagination lends it life. On the other hand, a wax figure produces a sort of terror in us; its frozen life-likeness makes a deathlike impression on us, and we say, "It is a ghost!" In the one case we see what is lacking, and demand it; in the other we see what is given us, and we give on our side. Art, then, addresses itself to the imagination; everything that appeals to sensation only is below art, almost outside art. A work of art ought to set the poetical faculty in us to work, it ought to stir us to imagine, to complete our perception of a thing. And we can only do this when the artist leads the way. Mere copyist's painting, realistic reproduction, pure imitation, leave us cold because their author is a machine, a mirror, an iodized plate, and not a soul.

Art lives by appearances, but these appearances are spiritual visions, fixed dreams. Poetry represents to us nature become con-substantial with the soul, because in it nature is only a reminiscence touched with emotion, an image vibrating with our own life, a form without weight--in short, a mode of the soul. The poetry which is most real and objective is the expression of a soul which throws itself into things, and forgets itself in their presence more readily than others; but still, it is the expression of the soul, and hence what we call style. Style may be only collective, hieratic, national, so long as the artist is still the interpreter of the community; it tends to become personal in proportion as society makes room for individuality and favors its expansion.

* * * *

There is a way of killing truth by truths. Under the pretense that we want to study it more in detail we pulverize the statue--it is an absurdity of which our pedantry is constantly guilty. Those who can only see the fragments of a thing are to me esprits faux, just as much as those who disfigure the fragments. The good critic ought to be master of the three capacities, the three modes of seeing men and things--he should be able simultaneously to see them as they are, as they might be, and as they ought to be.

* * * *

Modern culture is a delicate electuary made up of varied savors and subtle colors, which can be more easily felt than measured or defined. Its very superiority consists in the complexity, the association of contraries, the skillful combination it implies. The man of to-day, fashioned by the historical and geographical influences of twenty countries and of thirty centuries, trained and modified by all the sciences and all the arts, the supple recipient of all literatures, is an entirely new product. He finds affinities, relationships, analogies everywhere, but at the same time he condenses and sums up what is elsewhere scattered. He is like the smile of La Gioconda, which seems to reveal a soul to the spectator only to leave him the more certainly under a final impression of mystery, so many different things are expressed in it at once.

* * * *

To understand things we must have been once in them and then have come out of them; so that first there must be captivity and then deliverance, illusion followed by disillusion, enthusiasm by disappointment. He who is still under the spell, and he who has never felt the spell, are equally incompetent. We only know well what we have first believed, then judged. To understand we must be free, yet not have been always free. The same truth holds, whether it is a question of love, of art, of religion, or of patriotism. Sympathy is a first condition of criticism; reason and justice presuppose, at their origin, emotion.

* * * *

What is an intelligent man? A man who enters with ease and completeness into the spirit of things and the intention of persons, and who arrives at an end by the shortest route. Lucidity and suppleness of thought, critical delicacy and inventive resource, these are his attributes.

* * * *

Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more.

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