October 4

Cloudy and gloomy; have been up to Carl's drug store, but found it rather difficult walking; am not feeling very well; went up to Carl's again this afternoon for pills; remained on the bed all afternoon; didn't go down to tea; Carl Wilson called this afternoon; wound pains me very  badly tonight.

October Fourth

At morn—at noon—at twilight dim—
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe—in good and ill—
Mother of God, be with me still!
When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee!
Now, when storms of Fate o'ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!
Edgar Allan Poe

 

 

143. John Adams

Philadelphia, 4 October, 1776.

I am seated in a large library room with eight gentlemen round about me, all engaged in conversation. Amidst these interruptions, how shall I make it out to write a letter?

The first day of October, the day appointed by the charter of Pennsylvania for the annual election of Representatives, has passed away, and two counties only have chosen members, Bucks and Chester. The Assembly is therefore dead and the Convention is dissolved. A new Convention is to be chosen the beginning of November. The proceedings of the late Convention are not well liked by the best of the Whigs. Their Constitution is reprobated, and the oath with which they have endeavored to prop it, by obliging every man to swear that he will not add to, or diminish from, or any way alter that Constitution, before he can vote, is execrated.

We live in the age of political experiments. Among many that will fail, some, I hope, will succeed. But Pennsylvania will be divided and weakened, and rendered much less vigorous in the cause by the wretched ideas of government which prevail in the minds of many people in it.

October 4, 1862

Saturday. Battalion-drill again. Learning to be a soldier is hard work. There has been no rain lately and the sun has dried up everything. There are no green fields here as we have at home. The ground is sandy, and where there is grass, it is only a single stem in a place, with bare ground all round it. So many feet tread it all to dust, which the wind blows all over us, but mostly in our faces and eyes. The road past our camp is a mire of the finest dust, and as hard to travel through as so much mud. We eat it with our rations, and breathe it all the day long. It covers everything, in our tents as well as outside. Our clean new tents are already taking on the universal muddy, red color of everything in sight. The only good thing about it is, it serves every one alike, piling upon the officers just as it does on the men. We are getting to feel quite proud of ourselves as soldiers. We learn fast under the teaching of Colonel Smith. The 135th N. Y. and a Mass. regiment are with us on battalion-drill and sometimes several other regiments, so that we about cover the large plain out near the bay. We get tougher and harder every day. The fodder we so often find fault with, and the hard work we are doing, is making us hard, like the work and the fare is.

October 4

October 4, 1873. (Geneva ).--I have been dreaming a long while in the moonlight, which floods my room with a radiance, full of vague mystery. The state of mind induced in us by this fantastic light is itself so dim and ghost-like that analysis loses its way in it, and arrives at nothing articulate. It is something indefinite and intangible, like the noise of waves which is made up of a thousand fused and mingled sounds. It is the reverberation of all the unsatisfied desires of the soul, of all the stifled sorrows of the heart, mingling in a vague sonorous whole, and dying away in cloudy murmurs. All those imperceptible regrets, which never individually reach the consciousness, accumulate at last into a definite result; they become the voice of a feeling of emptiness and aspiration; their tone is melancholy itself. In youth the tone of these Aeolian vibrations of the heart is all hope--a proof that these thousands of indistinguishable accents make up indeed the fundamental note of our being, and reveal the tone of our whole situation. Tell me what you feel in your solitary room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy.

* * * *

The best path through life is the high road, which initiates us at the right moment into all experience. Exceptional itineraries are suspicious, and matter for anxiety. What is normal is at once most convenient, most honest, and most wholesome. Cross roads may tempt us for one reason or another, but it is very seldom that we do not come to regret having taken them.

* * * *

Each man begins the world afresh, and not one fault of the first man has been avoided by his remotest descendant. The collective experience of the race accumulates, but individual experience dies with the individual, and the result is that institutions become wiser and knowledge as such increases; but the young man, although more cultivated, is just as presumptuous, and not less fallible to-day than he ever was. So that absolutely there is progress, and relatively there is none. Circumstances improve, but merit remains the same. The whole is better, perhaps, but man is not positively better--he is only different. His defects and his virtues change their form, but the total balance does not show him to be the richer. A thousand things advance, nine hundred and ninety-eight fall back, this is progress. There is nothing in it to be proud of, but something, after all, to console one.

With the Collector

[October 4, 1879.]

Was it not the Bishop of Bombay who said that man was an automaton plus the mirror of consciousness? The Government of every Indian province is an automaton plus the mirror of consciousness. The Secretariat is consciousness, and the Collectors form the automaton. The Collector works, and the Secretariat observes and registers.

To the people of India the Collector is the Imperial Government. He watches over their welfare in the many facets which reflect our civilisation. He establishes schools and dispensaries [for their children], gaols [for their troublesome relations and neighbours], and courts of justice [for the benefit of their brothers who can talk and write]. He levies the rent of their fields, he fixes the tariff, and he nominates to every appointment, from that of road-sweeper or constable, to the great blood-sucking officers round the Court and Treasury. As for Boards of Revenue and Lieutenant-Governors who occasionally come sweeping across the country, with their locust hosts of servants and petty officials, they are but an occasional nightmare; while the Governor-General is a mere shadow in the background of thought, half blended with "John Company Bahadur" and other myths of the dawn.

The Collector lives in a long rambling bungalow furnished with folding chairs and tables, and in every way marked by the provisional arrangements of camp life. He seems to have just arrived from out of the firmament of green fields and mango groves that encircles the little station where he lives; or he seems just about to pass away into it again. The shooting-howdahs are lying in the verandah, the elephant of a neighbouring landowner is swinging his hind foot to and fro under a tree, or switching up straw and leaves on to his back, a dozen camels are lying down in a circle making bubbling noises, and tents are pitched here and there to dry, like so many white wings on which the whole establishment is about to rise and fly away—fly away into "the district," which is the correct expression for the vast expanse of level plain melting into blue sky on the wide horizon-circle around.

The Collector is a bustling man. He is always in a hurry. His multitudinous duties succeed one another so fast that one is never ended before the next begins. A mysterious thing called "the Joint" comes gleaning after him, I believe, and completes the inchoate work.

The verandah is full of fat black men in clean linen waiting for interviews. They are bankers, shopkeepers, and landholders, who have only come to "pay their respects," with ever so little a petition as a corollary. The chuprassie-vultures hover about them. Each of these obscene fowls has received a gratification from each of the clean fat men; else the clean fat men would not be in the verandah. This import tax is a wholesome restraint upon the excessive visiting tendencies of wealthy men of colour. [Several little groups of] brass dishes filled with pistachio nuts and candied sugar are ostentatiously displayed here and there; they are the oblations of the would-be visitors. The English call these offerings "dollies"; the natives dáli. They represent in the profuse East the visiting cards of the meagre West.

Although from our lofty point of observation, among the pine-trees, the Collector seems to be of the smallest social calibre, a mere carronade, not to be distinguished by any proper name; in his own district he is a Woolwich Infant; and a little community of microscopicals,—doctors, engineers, inspectors of schools, and assistant magistrates, look up to him as to a magnate.

They tell little stories of his weaknesses and eccentricities, and his wife is considered a person entitled "to give herself airs" (within the district) if she feels so disposed; while to their high dinners is allowed the use of champagne and "Europe" talk on æsthetic subjects. The Collector is not, however, permitted to wear a chimney-pot hat and gloves on Sunday (unless he has been in the Provincial Secretariat as a boy); a Terai hat is sufficient for a Collector.

A Collector is usually a sportsman; when he is a poet, a co-respondent, or a neologist it is thought rather a pity; and he is spoken of in undertones. Neology is considered especially reprehensible. The junior member of the Board of Revenue, or even the Commissioner of a division (if he be pukka )[M], may question the literal inspiration of Genesis; but it is not good form for a Collector to tamper with his Bible. A Collector should have no leisure for opinions of any sort.

[M: Confirmed in the appointment .]

I have said that a Collector is usually a sportsman. In this capacity he is frequently made use of by the Viceroy and long-shore Governors, as he is an adept at showing sport to globe-trotters. The villagers who live on the borders of the jungle will generally turn out and beat for the Collector, and the petty chief who owns the jungle always keeps a tiger or two for district officers. A Political Agent's tiger is known to be a domestic animal suitable for delicate noble Lords travelling for health; but a Collector's tiger is often [believed to be almost] a wild beast, although usually reared upon buffalo calves and accustomed to be driven. [Of course the tiger which the Collector and his friends shoot is quite an inferior article; a fierce, roaming creature that lives upon spotted deer when it can get them, but is often quite savage from hunger.] The Collector, who is always the most unselfish and hospitable of men, only kills the fatted tiger for persons of distinction with letters of introduction. Any common jungle tiger, even a man-eater, is good enough for himself and his friends.

The Collector never ventures to approach Simla, when on leave. At Simla people would stare and raise their eye-brows if they heard that a Collector was on the hill. They would ask what sort of a thing a Collector was. The Press Commissioner would be sent to interview it. The children at Peterhoff would send for it to play with. So the clodhopping Collector goes to Naini Tal or Darjiling, where he is known either as Ellenborough Higgins, or Higgins of Gharibpur in territorial fashion. Here he is understood. Here he can bubble of his Bandobast,[N] his Balbacha [O] and his Bawarchikhana ;[P] and here he can speak in familiar accents of his neighbours, Dalhousie Smith and Cornwallis Jones. All day long he strides up and down the club verandah with his old Haileybury chum Teignmouth Tompkins; and they compare experiences of the hunting-field and office, and denounce in unmeasured terms of Oriental vituperation the new sort of civilian who moves about with the Penal Code under his arm and measures his authority by statute, clause, and section.

[N: Settlement of the land revenue .]

[O: Children .]

[P: Kitchen .]

In England the Collector is to be found riding at anchor in the Bandicoot Club. He makes two or three hurried cruises to his native village, where he finds himself half forgotten. This sours him. The climate seems worse than of old, the means of locomotion at his disposal are inconvenient and expensive; he yearns for the sunshine and elephants of Gharibpur, and returns an older and a quieter man. The afternoon of life is throwing longer shadows, the Acheron of promotion is gaping before him; he falls into a Commissionership; still deeper into an officiating seat on the Board of Revenue. Facilis est descensus, etc. Nothing will save him now; transmigration has set in; the gates of Simla fly open; it is all over. Let us pray that his halo may fit him.—ALI BABA, K.C.B.