September 27

O, what a delightful morning! And the scenery here about Harper's Ferry is so grand that it makes it all the more enjoyable. Of course, I awoke in fine spirits for how could I help it? I thought I was to start for home at 1 o'clock p. m. but on going to the hospital, I found that my leave had not been sent over for approval therefore I can't go until tomorrow. The wagon train has started for the front again. I am sure I shall start for Vermont tomorrow. Sometimes I almost think it would be a good thing if some of the Adjutants General could be wounded, too, perhaps they would see to it then that wounded men's applications for leave to go home were not delayed.

September 27, 1862

Saturday. We are looking for the Dutchess County regiment as if their coming was an assured fact, yet it is only a rumor, and even that cannot be traced very far. Aside from our daily drill, which is not much fun, we manage to get some amusement out of everything that comes along. We visit each other and play all sorts of games. Fiddling and dancing take the lead just now. The company streets, now that the ground has been smoothed off, make a good ballroom. A partner has just been swung clear off the floor into a tent, onto a man who was writing a letter, and from the sound is going to end up in a fight. "Taps" are sounded at 9 p. m., which is a signal for lights out and quiet in the camp.

September Twenty-Seventh

All America will soon treasure alike both Federal and Confederate exploits, in the greatest of wars, as a priceless national heritage. Then Semmes and the Alabama  will shine beside John Paul Jones and the Bonhomme Richard, Decatur and the Philadelphia, Lawrence and the Chesapeake, and be ever lauded with the victories of Old Ironsides, the intrepid deed of Farragut sailing over the mines in the channel of Mobile Bay, that of Dewey entering Manila Harbor, and of Hobson bringing the Merrimac  under the fire of the forts at Santiago.

John C. Reed

 

Raphael Semmes born, 1809

 

 

Sunday, September 27th.—My luck is in this time. Miss —— has just sent for me to tell me I am for permanent duty on No.— Ambulance Train (equipped) which goes up to the Front, to the nearest point on the rail to the fighting line. Did you ever know such luck? There are four of us, one Army Sister and me and two juniors; we live altogether on the train. The train will always be pushed up as near the Field Hospitals as the line gets to, whether we drive the Germans back to Berlin or they drive us into the sea. It is now going to Braisne, a little east of Soissons, just S. of the Aisne, N.E. of Rheims. It is on its way up now, and we are to join it with our baggage when it stops here on the way to St Nazaire. We shall have two days and two nights with wounded, and two days and two nights to rest on the return empty. The work itself will be of the grimmest possible, as we shall have all the worst cases, being an equipped Hospital in a train. It was worth waiting five weeks to get this; every man or woman stuck at the Base has dreams of getting to the Front, but only one in a hundred gets the dream fulfilled.

There is no doubt that "the horrors of War" have outdone themselves by this modern perfection of machinery killing, and the numbers involved, as they have never done before, and as it was known they would. The details are often unprintable. They have eight cases of tetanus at No.— Stationary, and five have died.

All the patients at No.— have been inoculated against tetanus to-day. They have it in the French Hospitals too.

Went to the Voluntary Evening Service for the troops at the theatre at 5. The Padres and a Union Jack and the Allies' Flags; and a piano on the stage; officers and sisters in the stalls; and the rest packed tight with men: they were very reverent, and nearly took the roof off in the Hymns, Creed, and Lord's Prayer. Excellent sermon. We had the War Intercessions and a good prayer I didn't know, ending with "Strengthen us in life, and comfort us in death." The men looked what they were, British to the bone; no one could take them for any other nation a mile off. Clean, straight, thin, sunburnt, clear-eyed, all at their Active Service best, no pallid rolls of fat on their faces like the French. The man who preached must have liked talking to them in that pin-dropped silence and attention; he evidently knows his opportunities.

September 27

September 27, 1852. (Lancy.)--To-day I complete my thirty-first year....

The most beautiful poem there is, is life--life which discerns its own story in the making, in which inspiration and self-consciousness go together and help each other, life which knows itself to be the world in little, a repetition in miniature of the divine universal poem. Yes, be man; that is to say, be nature, be spirit, be the image of God, be what is greatest, most beautiful, most lofty in all the spheres of being, be infinite will and idea, a reproduction of the great whole. And be everything while being nothing, effacing thyself, letting God enter into thee as the air enters an empty space, reducing the ego to the mere vessel which contains the divine essence. Be humble, devout, silent, that so thou mayest hear within the depths of thyself the subtle and profound voice; be spiritual and pure, that so thou mayest have communion with the pure spirit. Withdraw thyself often into the sanctuary of thy inmost consciousness; become once more point and atom, that so thou mayest free thyself from space, time, matter, temptation, dispersion, that thou mayest escape thy very organs themselves and thine own life. That is to say, die often, and examine thyself in the presence of this death, as a preparation for the last death. He who can without shuddering confront blindness, deafness, paralysis, disease, betrayal, poverty; he who can without terror appear before the sovereign justice, he alone can call himself prepared for partial or total death. How far am I from anything of the sort, how far is my heart from any such stoicism! But at least we can try to detach ourselves from all that can be taken away from us, to accept everything as a loan and a gift, and to cling only to the imperishable--this at any rate we can attempt. To believe in a good and fatherly God, who educates us, who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, who punishes only when he must, and takes away only with regret; this thought, or rather this conviction, gives courage and security. Oh, what need we have of love, of tenderness, of affection, of kindness, and how vulnerable we are, we the sons of God, we, immortal and sovereign beings! Strong as the universe or feeble as the worm, according as we represent God or only ourselves, as we lean upon infinite being, or as we stand alone.

The point of view of religion, of a religion at once active and moral, spiritual and profound, alone gives to life all the dignity and all the energy of which it is capable. Religion makes invulnerable and invincible. Earth can only be conquered in the name of heaven. All good things are given over and above to him who desires but righteousness. To be disinterested is to be strong, and the world is at the feet of him whom it cannot tempt. Why? Because spirit is lord of matter, and the world belongs to God. "Be of good cheer," saith a heavenly voice, "I have overcome the world."

Lord, lend thy strength to those who are weak in the flesh, but willing in the spirit!

Tegernsee Sept. 27, 1880

It is not easy to add to the panegyric pronounced on St. Hilaire by a too zealous friend in Friday's Pall Mall. That gratifying description is not quite satisfactory. The writer affirms that St. Hilaire is an Orientalist of the first rank, and a Greek scholar unsurpassed in France. He knows Greek thoroughly for working purposes, but not exquisitely as a scholar; and he has done little, on the whole, for his idol Aristotle in the way of consulting the manuscripts and improving the unsettled text. And although he has studied Eastern religions deeply, I do not believe that he is a master of Eastern languages. Nor does he live on a third floor in that good street the Rue d'Astorg. He does not live there at all, but three miles away, in a charming little bachelor's house at Passy. His rooms, formerly in the Rue d'Astorg, were "au fond de la cour au premier," and his maid-servant is not (and was not) elderly, but young, though ill-favoured. And it is not fair to say, with obvious purpose, that he never deserts the Thiers dinner-table except for the Germans. I made his acquaintance at a dinner at Lord Lyons's.

From all which I conclude that the letter is a vehement endeavour to recommend the new Minister abroad. Last summer St. Hilaire gave me the three big volumes of his Aristotelian Metaphysics, and, when I remonstrated, said, "Vous me le rendrez un jour, d'une autre façon." That is what I am doing at this moment, when I tell you how very highly I rate the man.

St. Hilaire is quite at the top of scholars and philosophers of the second class. Not a discoverer, not an originator, not even clever in the sense common with Frenchmen, not eloquent at all, not vivid or pointed in phrase, sufficient in knowledge, but not abounding, sound, but not supple, accustomed to heavy work in the darkness, unused to effect, to influence, or to applause, unsympathetic and a little isolated, but high-minded, devoted to principle, willing, even enthusiastic, to sacrifice himself, his comfort, his life, his reputation, to public duty or scientific truth. He is not vain, so much as didactic; there is a method about him that is a little severe, a solidity that wants relief. His character has been shaped by long devotion to a cause that was hopeless, by which there was nothing to gain except the joy of being a pioneer of ideas assured of distant triumph. So that he is disinterested, consistent, patient, tolerant, convinced, and brave. Indeed, courage, contempt of death, is the one thing I have heard him speak of with something like display. The Republican party, to which he belonged even under Charles X., and of which he is the patriarch, had a good deal of dirty work to wash off; and I have observed that he was not communicative when, in an interest which it were superfluous to mention, I have tried to learn the secret history of Republicanism under the monarchy. There are few of them who never touched pitch. But he and Littre are distinct from most others by their hard work and their voluntary poverty.

This makes him peculiarly hateful to opponents. A legitimate Marquis said to me: "C'est un honnête homme, qui nous coupera la tête de la manière la plus honnête du monde." People who admit that he is unstained by the gross vices of his party, speak of him as an enthusiast, and a dupe, and no doubt expect him to acquiesce, like Pilate, in all manner of wrong that he will not initiate.

I do not feel that there is no truth at all in these imputations. I have found that he thinks accurately, that he is even penetrating, but not impressive. He told me the speech he had prepared against the Jesuits, which, I believe, he never delivered. The argument was: The conscience of man is his most divine possession. Jesuits give up conscience to authority, therefore they forfeit the rights of men, which are the rights of conscience, and have no claim to toleration. I won't undertake to refute this argument; but it is pre-eminently unparliamentary, and smells of the oil he burns all day. St. Hilaire does not believe in the Christian religion, but he has Descartes's philosophic belief in God, and the elevated morality of the Stoics. Not the least of his merits is that having spent his life on Aristotle, he told me that he thought more highly of Plato; and in his Introduction to the Ethics he shows the weakness of his hero's attack on Platonism. In saying this he overcame a strong temptation. Scientifically his great achievement is the transposition of the several books of the Politics—which were in hopeless confusion before him. All Germany accepts the arrangement he proposed, and as the work is the ablest production of antiquity, this is no small matter. As a moderate, unambitious, totally dispassionate Republican, he belongs to the Thiers Centre. He thinks Jules Simon the most eminent public man in France, so that he is scarcely to the Left of Freycinet. He despises and detests Laboulaye, the oracle of the Centre Gauche. I often heard, but am not sure, that St. Hilaire turned the scale, and made Thiers adopt, and enforce, Republicanism.

Forgive me for writing so soon and so confusedly.

A Man in Buckram

[Illustration: THE POLITICAL AGENT—"A man in buckram."]

[September 27, 1879.]

This is a most curious product of the Indian bureaucracy. Nothing in all White Baboodom is so wonderful as the Political Agent. A near relation of the Empress who was travelling a good deal about India some three or four years ago said that he would rather get a Political Agent, with raja, chuprassies,[H] and everything complete, to take home, than the unfigured "mum" of Beluchistan, or the sea-aye-ee mocking bird, Kokiolliensis Lyttonia. But the Political Agent cannot be taken home. The purple bloom fades in the scornful climate of England; the paralytic swagger passes into sheer imbecility; the thirteen-gun tall talk reverberates in jeering echoes; the chuprassies are only so many black men, and the raja is felt to be a joke. The Political Agent cannot live beyond Aden.

[H: Official messengers.]

The Government of India keeps its Political Agents scattered over the native states in small jungle stations. It furnishes them with maharajas, nawabs, rajas, and chuprassies, according to their rank, and it usually throws in a house, a gaol, a doctor, a volume of Aitchison's Treaties, an escort of native Cavalry, a Star of India, an assistant, the powers of a first-class magistrate, a flag-staff, six camels, three tents, and a salute of eleven or thirteen guns. In very many cases the Government of India nominates a Political Agent to the rank of Son-to-a-Lieut.-Governor, Son-in-Law-to-a-Lieut.-Governor, Son-to-a-member-of-Council, or Son-to-an-agent-to-the-Governor-General. Those who are thus elevated to the Anglo-Indian peerage need have no thought for the morrow what they shall do, what they shall say, or wherewithal they shall be supplied with a knowledge of Oriental language and occidental law. Nature clothes them with increasing quantities of gold lace and starry ornaments, and that charming, if unblushing, female—Lord Lytton begs me to write "maid"—Miss Anglo-Indian Promotion, goes skipping about among them like a joyful kangaroo.

The Politicals are a Greek chorus in our popular burlesque, "Empire." The Foreign Secretary is the prompter. The company is composed of nawabs and rajas (with the Duke of Buckingham as a "super"). Lord Meredith is the scene-shifter; Sir John, the manager. The Secretary of State, with his council, is in the stage-box; the House of Commons in the stalls; the London Press in the gallery; the East Indian Association, Exeter Hall, Professor Fawcett, Mr. Hyndman, and the criminal classes generally, in the pit; while those naughty little Scotch boys, the shock-headed Duke and Monty Duff, who once tried to turn down the lights, pervade the house with a policeman on their horizon. As we enter the theatre a dozen chiefs are dancing in the ballet to express their joy at the termination of the Afghan War. The political choreutæ are clapping their hands, encouraging them by name and pointing them out to the gallery.

The government of a native state by clerks and chuprassies, with a beautiful fainéant  Political Agent for Sundays and Hindu festivals, is, I am told, a thing of the past. Colonel Henderson, the imperial "Peeler," tells me so, and he ought to know, for he is a kind of demi-official superintendent of Thugs and Agents. Nowadays, my informant assures me, the Political Agents undergo a regular training in a Madras Cavalry Regiment or in the Central India Horse, or on the Viceroy's Staff, and if they have to take charge of a Mahratta State they are obliged to pass an examination in classical Persian poetry. This is as it ought to be. The intricacies of Oriental intrigue and the manifold complication of tenure and revenue that entangle administrative procedure in the protected principalities, will unravel themselves in presence of men who have enjoyed such advantages.

When I first came out to this country I was placed in charge of three degrees of latitude and eight of longitude in Rajputana that I might learn the language. The soil was sandy, the tenure feudal (zabardast,[I] as we call it in India), and the Raja a lunatic by nature and a dipsomaniac by education. He had been educated by his grandmamma and the hereditary Minister. I found that his grandmamma and the hereditary Minister were most anxious to relieve me of the most embarrassing details of government, so I handed them a copy of the Ten Commandments, underlining two that I thought might be useful, and put them in charge. They were old-fashioned in their methods—like Sir Billy Jones; but the result was admirable. In two years the revenue was reduced from ten to two lakhs of rupees, and the expenditure proportionately increased. A bridge, a summer-house, and a school were built; and I wrote the longest "Administration Report" that has ever issued from the Zulmabad Residency. When I left money was so cheap and lightly regarded that I sold my old buggy horse for two thousand rupees to grandmamma, with many mutual expressions of good-will—through a curtain—and I have not been paid to this day. But since then the horse-market has been ruined in the native states by these imperial mélas [J] and durbars. A poor Political has no chance against these Government of India people, who come down with strings of three-legged horses, and—no, I won't say they sell them to the chiefs—I should be having a commission of my khidmatgars [K] sitting upon me, like poor Har Sahai, who was beaten by Mr. Saunders, and Malhar Rao Gaikwar, who fancied his Resident was going to poison him.

[I: Lit. high-handed.]

[J: Fairs.]

[K: Table attendants .]

I like to see a Political up at Simla wooing that hoyden Promotion in her own sequestered bower. It is good to see Hercules toiling at the feet of Omphale. It is good to see Pistol fed upon leeks by Under-Secretaries and women. How simple he is! How boyish he can be, and yet how intense! He will play leap frog at Annandale; he will paddle about in the stream below the water-falls without shoes and stockings; but if you allude in the most distant way to rajas or durbars, he lets down his face a couple of holes and talks like a weather prophet. He will be so interesting that you can hardly bear it; so interesting that you will feel sorry he is not talking to the Governor-General up at Peterhoff.

[But I feel that an Agent to the Governor-General is looking over my shoulder, so perhaps I had better stop; though I know two or three things about Politicals.]—SIR ALI BABA, K.C.B.[L]

[L: I have assumed the Most Honourable Order of the Bath in commemoration of the happy termination of the Afghan War.—A.B.]