Part 8 out of 8
loyalty on uprightness. We only truly know what we have, or what we have
lost and regret, as, for example, childish innocence, virginal purity,
or stainless honor. The truest and best judge, then, is Infinite
Goodness, and next to it, the regenerated sinner or the saint, the man
tried by experience or the sage. Naturally, the touchstone in us becomes
finer and truer the better we are.
November 3, 1880.--What impression has the story I have just read made
upon me? A mixed one. The imagination gets no pleasure out of it,
although the intellect is amused. Why? Because the author's mood is one
of incessant irony and _persiflage_. The Voltairean tradition has been
his guide--a great deal of wit and satire, very little feeling, no
simplicity. It is a combination of qualities which serves eminently well
for satire, for journalism, and for paper warfare of all kinds, but
which is much less suitable to the novel or short story, for cleverness
is not poetry, and the novel is still within the domain of poetry,
although on the frontier. The vague discomfort aroused in one by these
epigrammatic productions is due probably to a confusion of kinds.
Ambiguity of style keeps one in a perpetual state of tension and
self-defense; we ought not to be left in doubt whether the speaker is
jesting or serious, mocking or tender. Moreover, banter is not humor,
and never will be. I think, indeed, that the professional wit finds a
difficulty in being genuinely comic, for want of depth and disinterested
feeling. To laugh at things and people is not really a joy; it is at
best but a cold pleasure. Buffoonery is wholesomer, because it is a
little more kindly. The reason why continuous sarcasm repels us is that
it lacks two things--humanity and seriousness. Sarcasm implies pride,
since it means putting one's self above others--and levity, because
conscience is allowed no voice in controlling it. In short, we read
satirical books, but we only love and cling to the books in which there
November 22, 1880.--How is ill-nature to be met and overcome? First, by
humility: when a man knows his own weaknesses, why should he be angry
with others for pointing them out? No doubt it is not very amiable of
them to do so, but still, truth is on their side. Secondly, by
reflection: after all we are what we are, and if we have been thinking
too much of ourselves, it is only an opinion to be modified; the
incivility of our neighbor leaves us what we were before. Above all, by
pardon: there is only one way of not hating those who do us wrong, and
that is by doing them good; anger is best conquered by kindness. Such a
victory over feeling may not indeed affect those who have wronged us,
but it is a valuable piece of self-discipline. It is vulgar to be angry
on one's own account; we ought only to be angry for great causes.
Besides, the poisoned dart can only be extracted from the wound by the
balm of a silent and thoughtful charity. Why do we let human malignity
embitter us? why should ingratitude, jealousy--perfidy even--enrage us?
There is no end to recriminations, complaints, or reprisals. The
simplest plan is to blot everything out. Anger, rancor, bitterness,
trouble the soul. Every man is a dispenser of justice; but there is one
wrong that he is not bound to punish--that of which he himself is the
victim. Such a wrong is to be healed, not avenged. Fire purifies all.
"Mon ame est comme un feu qui devore et parfume
Ce qu'on jette pour le ternir."
December 27, 1880--In an article I have just read, Biedermann reproaches
Strauss with being too negative, and with having broken with
Christianity. The object to be pursued, according to him, should be the
freeing of religion from the mythological element, and the substitution
of another point of view for the antiquated dualism of orthodoxy--this
other point of view to be the victory over the world, produced by the
sense of divine sonship.
It is true that another question arises: has not a religion which has
separated itself from special miracle, from local interventions of the
supernatural, and from mystery, lost its savor and its efficacy? For the
sake of satisfying a thinking and instructed public, is it wise to
sacrifice the influence of religion over the multitude? Answer. A pious
fiction is still a fiction. Truth has the highest claim. It is for the
world to accommodate itself to truth, and not _vice versa_. Copernicus
upset the astronomy of the Middle Ages--so much the worse for it! The
Eternal Gospel revolutionizes modern churches--what matter! When symbols
become transparent, they have no further binding force. We see in them a
poem, an allegory, a metaphor; but we believe in them no longer. Yes,
but still a certain esotericism is inevitable, since critical,
scientific, and philosophical culture is only attainable by a minority.
The new faith must have its symbols too. At present the effect it
produces on pious souls is a more or less profane one; it has a
disrespectful, incredulous, frivolous look, and it seems to free a man
from traditional dogma at the cost of seriousness of conscience. How are
sensitiveness of feeling, the sense of sin, the desire for pardon, the
thirst for holiness, to be preserved among us, when the errors which
have served them so long for support and food have been eliminated? Is
not illusion indispensable? is it not the divine process of education?
Perhaps the best way is to draw a deep distinction between opinion and
belief, and between belief and science. The mind which discerns these
different degrees may allow itself imagination and faith, and still
remain within the lines of progress.
December 28, 1880.--There are two modes of classing the people we know:
the first is utilitarian--it starts from ourselves, divides our friends
from our enemies, and distinguishes those who are antipathetic to us,
those who are indifferent, those who can serve or harm us; the second is
disinterested--it classes men according to their intrinsic value, their
own qualities and defects, apart from the feelings which they have for
us, or we for them.
My tendency is to the second kind of classification. I appreciate men
less by the special affection which they show to me than by their
personal excellence, and I cannot confuse gratitude with esteem. It is a
happy thing for us when the two feelings can be combined; and nothing is
more painful than to owe gratitude where yet we can feel neither respect
I am not very willing to believe in the permanence of accidental states.
The generosity of a miser, the good nature of an egotist, the gentleness
of a passionate temperament, the tenderness of a barren nature, the
piety of a dull heart, the humility of an excitable self-love, interest
me as phenomena--nay, even touch me if I am the object of them, but they
inspire me with very little confidence. I foresee the end of them too
clearly. Every exception tends to disappear and to return to the rule.
All privilege is temporary, and besides, I am less flattered than
anxious when I find myself the object of a privilege.
A man's primitive character may be covered over by alluvial deposits of
culture and acquisition--none the less is it sure to come to the surface
when years have worn away all that is accessory and adventitious. I
admit indeed the possibility of great moral crises which sometimes
revolutionize the soul, but I dare not reckon on them. It is a
possibility--not a probability. In choosing one's friends we must choose
those whose qualities are inborn, and their virtues virtues of
temperament. To lay the foundations of friendship on borrowed or added
virtues is to build on an artificial soil; we run too many risks by it.
Exceptions are snares, and we ought above all to distrust them when they
charm our vanity. To catch and fix a fickle heart is a task which tempts
all women; and a man finds something intoxicating in the tears of
tenderness and joy which he alone has had the power to draw from a proud
woman. But attractions of this kind are deceptive. Affinity of nature
founded on worship of the same ideal, and perfect in proportion to
perfectness of soul, is the only affinity which is worth anything. True
love is that which ennobles the personality, fortifies the heart, and
sanctifies the existence. And the being we love must not be mysterious
and sphinx-like, but clear and limpid as a diamond; so that admiration
and attachment may grow with knowledge.
* * * * *
Jealousy is a terrible thing. It resembles love, only it is precisely
love's contrary. Instead of wishing for the welfare of the object loved,
it desires the dependence of that object upon itself, and its own
triumph. Love is the forgetfulness of self; jealousy is the most
passionate form of egotism, the glorification of a despotic, exacting,
and vain _ego_, which can neither forget nor subordinate itself. The
contrast is perfect.
* * * * *
Austerity in women is sometimes the accompaniment of a rare power of
loving. And when it is so their attachment is strong as death; their
fidelity as resisting as the diamond; they are hungry for devotion and
athirst for sacrifice. Their love is a piety, their tenderness a
religion, and they triple the energy of love by giving to it the
sanctity of duty.
* * * * *
To the spectator over fifty, the world certainly presents a good deal
that is new, but a great deal more which is only the old furbished
up--mere plagiarism and modification, rather than amelioration. Almost
everything is a copy of a copy, a reflection of a reflection, and the
perfect being is as rare now as he ever was. Let us not complain of it;
it is the reason why the world lasts. Humanity improves but slowly; that
is why history goes on.
Is not progress the goad of Siva? It excites the torch to burn itself
away; it hastens the approach of death. Societies which change rapidly
only reach their final catastrophe the sooner. Children who are too
precocious never reach maturity. Progress should be the aroma of life,
not its substance.
* * * * *
Man is a passion which brings a will into play, which works an
intelligence--and thus the organs which seem to be in the service of
intelligence, are in reality only the agents of passion. For all the
commoner sorts of being, determinism is true: inward liberty exists only
as an exception and as the result of self-conquest. And even he who has
tasted liberty is only free intermittently and by moments. True liberty,
then, is not a continuous state; it is not an indefeasible and
invariable quality. We are free only so far as we are not dupes of
ourselves, our pretexts, our instincts, our temperament. We are freed by
energy and the critical spirit--that is to say, by detachment of soul,
by self-government. So that we are enslaved, but susceptible of freedom;
we are bound, but capable of shaking off our bonds. The soul is caged,
but it has power to flutter within its cage.
* * * * *
Material results are but the tardy sign of invisible activities. The
bullet has started long before the noise of the report has reached us.
The decisive events of the world take place in the intellect.
* * * * *
Sorrow is the most tremendous of all realities in the sensible world,
but the transfiguration of sorrow after the manner of Christ is a more
beautiful solution of the problem than the extirpation of sorrow, after
the method of Cakyamouni.
* * * * *
Life should be a giving birth to the soul, the development of a higher
mode of reality. The animal must be humanized; flesh must be made
spirit; physiological activity must be transmuted into intellect and
conscience, into reason, justice, and generosity, as the torch is
transmuted into life and warmth. The blind, greedy, selfish nature of
man must put on beauty and nobleness. This heavenly alchemy is what
justifies our presence on the earth: it is our mission and our glory.
* * * * *
To renounce happiness and think only of duty, to put conscience in the
place of feeling--this voluntary martyrdom has its nobility. The natural
man in us flinches, but the better self submits. To hope for justice in
the world is a sign of sickly sensibility; we must be able to do without
it. True manliness consists in such independence. Let the world think
what it will of us, it is its own affair. If it will not give us the
place which is lawfully ours until after our death, or perhaps not at
all, it is but acting within its right. It is our business to behave as
though our country were grateful, as though the world were equitable, as
though opinion were clear-sighted, as though life were just, as though
men were good.
* * * * *
Death itself may become matter of consent, and therefore a moral act.
The animal expires; man surrenders his soul to the author of the soul.
[With the year 1881, beginning with the month of January, we enter upon
the last period of Amiel's illness. Although he continued to attend to
his professional duties, and never spoke of his forebodings, he felt
himself mortally ill, as we shall see by the following extracts from the
Journal. Amiel wrote up to the end, doing little else, however, toward
the last than record the progress of his disease, and the proofs of
interest and kindliness which he received. After weeks of suffering and
pain a state of extreme weakness gradually gained upon him. His last
lines are dated the 29th of April; it was on the 11th of May that he
succumbed, without a struggle, to the complicated disease from which he
January 5, 1881.--I think I fear shame more than death. Tacitus said:
_Omnia serviliter pro dominatione_. My tendency is just the contrary.
Even when it is voluntary, dependence is a burden to me. I should blush
to find myself determined by interest, submitting to constraint, or
becoming the slave of any will whatever. To me vanity is slavery,
self-love degrading, and utilitarianism meanness. I detest the ambition
which makes you the liege man of something or some-one--I desire to be
simply my own master.
If I had health I should be the freest man I know. Although perhaps a
little hardness of heart would be desirable to make me still more
Let me exaggerate nothing. My liberty is only negative. Nobody has any
hold over me, but many things have become impossible to me, and if I
were so foolish as to wish for them, the limits of my liberty would soon
become apparent. Therefore I take care not to wish for them, and not to
let my thoughts dwell on them. I only desire what I am able for, and in
this way I run my head against no wall, I cease even to be conscious of
the boundaries which enclose me. I take care to wish for rather less
than is in my power, that I may not even be reminded of the obstacles in
my way. Renunciation is the safeguard of dignity. Let us strip ourselves
if we would not be stripped. He who has freely given up his life may
look death in the face: what more can it take away from him? Do away
with desire and practice charity--there you have the whole method of
Buddha, the whole secret of the great Deliverance....
It is snowing, and my chest is troublesome. So that I depend on nature
and on God. But I do not depend on human caprice; this is the point to
be insisted on. It is true that my chemist may make a blunder and poison
me, my banker may reduce me to pauperism, just as an earthquake may
destroy my house without hope of redress. Absolute independence,
therefore, is a pure chimera. But I do possess relative
independence--that of the stoic who withdraws into the fortress of his
will, and shuts the gates behind him.
"Jurons, excepte Dieu, de n'avoir point de maitre."
This oath of old Geneva remains my motto still.
January 10, 1881.--To let one's self be troubled by the ill-will, the
ingratitude, the indifference, of others, is a weakness to which I am
very much inclined. It is painful to me to be misunderstood, ill-judged.
I am wanting in manly hardihood, and the heart in me is more vulnerable
than it ought to be. It seems to me, however, that I have grown tougher
in this respect than I used to be. The malignity of the world troubles
me less than it did. Is it the result of philosophy, or an effect of
age, or simply caused by the many proofs of respect and attachment that
I have received? These proofs were just what were wanting to inspire me
with some self-respect. Otherwise I should have so easily believed in my
own nullity and in the insignificance of all my efforts. Success is
necessary for the timid, praise is a moral stimulus, and admiration a
strengthening elixir. We think we know ourselves, but as long as we are
ignorant of our comparative value, our place in the social assessment,
we do not know ourselves well enough. If we are to act with effect, we
must count for something with our fellow-men; we must feel ourselves
possessed of some weight and credit with them, so that our effort may be
rightly proportioned to the resistance which has to be overcome. As long
as we despise opinion we are without a standard by which to measure
ourselves; we do not know our relative power. I have despised opinion
too much, while yet I have been too sensitive to injustice. These two
faults have cost me dear. I longed for kindness, sympathy, and equity,
but my pride forbade me to ask for them, or to employ any address or
calculation to obtain them.... I do not think I have been wrong
altogether, for all through I have been in harmony with my best self,
but my want of adaptability has worn me out, to no purpose. Now, indeed,
I am at peace within, but my career is over, my strength is running out,
and my life is near its end.
"Il n'est plus temps pour rien excepte pour mourir."
This is why I can look at it all historically.
January 23, 1881.--A tolerable night, but this morning the cough has
been frightful. Beautiful weather, the windows ablaze with sunshine.
With my feet on the fender I have just finished the newspaper.
At this moment I feel well, and it seems strange to me that my doom
should be so near. Life has no sense of kinship with death. This is why,
no doubt, a sort of mechanical instinctive hope is forever springing up
afresh in us, troubling our reason, and casting doubt on the verdict of
science. All life is tenacious and persistent. It is like the parrot in
the fable, who, at the very moment when its neck is being wrung, still
repeats with its last breath:
"Cela, cela, ne sera rien."
The intellect puts the matter at its worst, but the animal protests. It
will not believe in the evil till it comes. Ought one to regret it?
Probably not. It is nature's will that life should defend itself against
death; hope is only the love of life; it is an organic impulse which
religion has taken under its protection. Who knows? God may save us, may
work a miracle. Besides, are we ever sure that there is no remedy?
Uncertainty is the refuge of hope. We reckon the doubtful among the
chances in our favor. Mortal frailty clings to every support. How be
angry with it for so doing? Even with all possible aids it hardly ever
escapes desolation and distress. The supreme solution is, and always
will be, to see in necessity the fatherly will of God, and so to submit
ourselves and bear our cross bravely, as an offering to the Arbiter of
human destiny. The soldier does not dispute the order given him: he
obeys and dies without murmuring. If he waited to understand the use of
his sacrifice, where would his submission be?
It occurred to me this morning how little we know of each other's
physical troubles; even those nearest and dearest to us know nothing of
our conversations with the King of Terrors. There are thoughts which
brook no confidant: there are griefs which cannot be shared.
Consideration for others even bids us conceal them. We dream alone, we
suffer alone, we die alone, we inhabit the last resting-place alone. But
there is nothing to prevent us from opening our solitude to God. And so
what was an austere monologue becomes dialogue, reluctance becomes
docility, renunciation passes into peace, and the sense of painful
defeat is lost in the sense of recovered liberty.
"Vouloir ce que Dieu veut est la seule science
Qui nous met en repos."
None of us can escape the play of contrary impulse; but as soon as the
soul has once recognized the order of things and submitted itself
thereto, then all is well.
"Comme un sage mourant puissions nous dire en paix:
J'ai trop longtemps erre, cherche; je me trompais:
Tout est bien, mon Dieu m'enveloppe."
January 28, 1881.--A terrible night. For three or four hours I struggled
against suffocation and looked death in the face.... It is clear that
what awaits me is suffocation--asphyxia. I shall die by choking.
I should not have chosen such a death; but when there is no option, one
must simply resign one's self, and at once.... Spinoza expired in the
presence of the doctor whom he had sent for. I must familiarize myself
with the idea of dying unexpectedly, some fine night, strangled by
laryngitis. The last sigh of a patriarch surrounded by his kneeling
family is more beautiful: my fate indeed lacks beauty, grandeur, poetry;
but stoicism consists in renunciation. _Abstine et sustine_.
I must remember besides that I have faithful friends; it is better not
to torment them. The last journey is only made more painful by scenes
and lamentations: one word is worth all others--"Thy will, not mine, be
done!" Leibnitz was accompanied to the grave by his servant only. The
loneliness of the deathbed and the tomb is not an evil. The great
mystery cannot be shared. The dialogue between the soul and the King of
Terrors needs no witnesses. It is the living who cling to the thought of
last greetings. And, after all, no one knows exactly what is reserved
for him. What will be will be. We have but to say, "Amen."
February 4, 1881.--It is a strange sensation that of laying one's self
down to rest with the thought that perhaps one will never see the
morrow. Yesterday I felt it strongly, and yet here I am. Humility is
made easy by the sense of excessive frailty, but it cuts away all
"Quittez le long espoir et les vastes pensees."
A long piece of work seems absurd--one lives but from day to day.
When a man can no longer look forward in imagination to five years, a
year, a month, of free activity--when he is reduced to counting the
hours, and to seeing in the coming night the threat of an unknown
fate--it is plain that he must give up art, science, and politics, and
that he must be content to hold converse with himself, the one
possibility which is his till the end. Inward soliloquy is the only
resource of the condemned man whose execution is delayed. He withdraws
upon the fastnesses of conscience. His spiritual force no longer
radiates outwardly; it is consumed in self-study. Action is cut
off--only contemplation remains. He still writes to those who have
claims upon him, but he bids farewell to the public, and retreats into
himself. Like the hare, he comes back to die in his form, and this form
is his consciousness, his intellect--the journal, too, which has been
the companion of his inner life. As long as he can hold a pen, as long
as he has a moment of solitude, this echo of himself still claims his
meditation, still represents to him his converse with his God.
In all this, however, there is nothing akin to self-examination: it is
not an act of contrition, or a cry for help. It is simply an Amen of
submission--"My child, give me thy heart!"
Renunciation and acquiescence are less difficult to me than to others,
for I desire nothing. I could only wish not to suffer, but Jesus on
Gethesemane allowed himself to make the same prayer; let us add to it
the words that he did: "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be
... For many years past the immanent God has been more real to me than
the transcendent God, and the religion of Jacob has been more alien to
me than that of Kant, or even Spinoza. The whole Semitic dramaturgy has
come to seem to me a work of the imagination. The apostolic documents
have changed in value and meaning to my eyes. Belief and truth have
become distinct to me with a growing distinctness. Religious psychology
has become a simple phenomenon, and has lost its fixed and absolute
value. The apologetics of Pascal, of Leibnitz, of Secretan, are to me no
more convincing than those of the Middle Ages, for they presuppose what
is really in question--a revealed doctrine, a definite and unchangeable
Christianity. It seems to me that what remains to me from all my studies
is a new phenomenology of mind, an intuition of universal
metamorphosis. All particular convictions, all definite principles, all
clear-cut formulas and fixed ideas, are but prejudices, useful in
practice, but still narrownesses of the mind. The absolute in detail is
absurd and contradictory. All political, religious, aesthetic, or
literary parties are protuberances, misgrowths of thought. Every special
belief represents a stiffening and thickening of thought; a stiffening,
however, which is necessary in its time and place. Our monad, in its
thinking capacity, overleaps the boundaries of time and space and of its
own historical surroundings; but in its individual capacity, and for
purposes of action, it adapts itself to current illusions, and puts
before itself a definite end. It is lawful to be _man_, but it is
needful also to be _a_ man, to be an individual. Our role is thus a
double one. Only, the philosopher is specially authorized to develop the
first role, which the vast majority of humankind neglects.
February 7, 1881.--Beautiful sunshine to-day. But I have scarcely spring
enough left in me to notice it. Admiration, joy, presuppose a little
relief from pain. Whereas my neck is tired with the weight of my head,
and my heart is wearied with the weight of life; this is not the
I have been thinking over different things which I might have written.
But generally speaking we let what is most original and best in us be
wasted. We reserve ourselves for a future which never comes. _Omnis
February 14, 1881.--Supposing that my weeks are numbered, what duties
still remain to me to fulfill, that I may leave all in order? I must
give every one his due; justice, prudence, kindness must be satisfied;
the last memories must be sweet ones. Try to forget nothing useful, nor
anybody who has a claim upon thee! February 15, 1881.--I have, very
reluctantly, given up my lecture at the university, and sent for my
doctor. On my chimney-piece are the flowers which ---- has sent me.
Letters from London, Paris, Lausanne, Neuchatel ... They seem to me like
wreaths thrown into a grave.
Mentally I say farewell to all the distant friends whom I shall never
February 18, 1881.--Misty weather. A fairly good night. Still, the
emaciation goes on. That is to say, the vulture allows me some respite,
but he still hovers over his prey. The possibility of resuming my
official work seems like a dream to me.
Although just now the sense of ghostly remoteness from life which I so
often have is absent, I feel myself a prisoner for good, a hopeless
invalid. This vague intermediate state, which is neither death nor life,
has its sweetness, because if it implies renunciation, still it allows
of thought. It is a reverie without pain, peaceful and meditative.
Surrounded with affection and with books, I float down the stream of
time, as once I glided over the Dutch canals, smoothly and noiselessly.
It is as though I were once more on board the _Treckschute_. Scarcely
can one hear even the soft ripple of the water furrowed by the barge, or
the hoof of the towing horse trotting along the sandy path. A journey
under these conditions has something fantastic in it. One is not sure
whether one still exists, still belongs to earth. It is like the
_manes_, the shadows, flitting through the twilight of the _inania
regna_. Existence has become fluid. From the standpoint of complete
personal renunciation I watch the passage of my impressions, my dreams,
thoughts, and memories.... It is a mood of fixed contemplation akin to
that which we attribute to the seraphim. It takes no interest in the
individual self, but only in the specimen monad, the sample of the
general history of mind. Everything is in everything, and the
consciousness examines what it has before it. Nothing is either great or
small. The mind adopts all modes, and everything is acceptable to it. In
this state its relations with the body, with the outer world, and with
other individuals, fade out of sight. _Selbst-bewusstsein_ becomes once
more impersonal _Bewusstsein_, and before personality can be reacquired,
pain, duty, and will must be brought into action.
Are these oscillations between the personal and the impersonal, between
pantheism and theism, between Spinoza and Leibnitz, to be regretted? No,
for it is the one state which makes us conscious of the other. And as
man is capable of ranging the two domains, why should he mutilate
February 22, 1881.--The march of mind finds its typical expression in
astronomy--no pause, but no hurry; orbits, cycles, energy, but at the
same time harmony; movement and yet order; everything has its own weight
and its relative weight, receives and gives forth light. Cannot this
cosmic and divine become oars? Is the war of all against all, the
preying of man upon man, a higher type of balanced action? I shrink form
believing it. Some theorists imagine that the phase of selfish brutality
is the last phase of all. They must be wrong. Justice will prevail, and
justice is not selfishness. Independence of intellect, combined with
goodness of heart, will be the agents of a result, which will be the
March 1, 1881.--I have just been glancing over the affairs of the world
in the newspaper. What a Babel it is! But it is very pleasant to be able
to make the tour of the planet and review the human race in an hour. It
gives one a sense of ubiquity. A newspaper in the twentieth century will
be composed of eight or ten daily bulletins--political, religious,
scientific, literary, artistic, commercial, meteorological, military,
economical, social, legal, and financial; and will be divided into two
parts only--_Urbs_ and _Orbis_. The need of totalizing, of simplifying,
will bring about the general use of such graphic methods as permit of
series and comparisons. We shall end by feeling the pulse of the race
and the globe as easily as that of a sick man, and we shall count the
palpitations of the universal life, just as we shall hear the grass
growing, or the sunspots clashing, and catch the first stirrings of
volcanic disturbances. Activity will become consciousness; the earth
will see herself. Then will be the time for her to blush for her
disorders, her hideousness, her misery, her crime and to throw herself
at last with energy and perseverance into the pursuit of justice. When
humanity has cut its wisdom-teeth, then perhaps it will have the grace
to reform itself, and the will to attempt a systematic reduction of the
share of the evil in the world. The _Weltgeist_ will pass from the state
of instinct to the moral state. War, hatred, selfishness, fraud, the
right of the stronger, will be held to be old-world barbarisms, mere
diseases of growth. The pretenses of modern civilization will be
replaced by real virtues. Men will be brothers, peoples will be friends,
races will sympathize one with another, and mankind will draw from love
a principle of emulation, of invention, and of zeal, as powerful as any
furnished by the vulgar stimulant of interest. This millennium--will it
ever be? It is at least an act of piety to believe in it.
March 14, 1881.--I have finished Merimee's letters to Panizzi. Merimee
died of the disease which torments me--"_Je tousse, et j'etouffe_."
Bronchitis and asthma, whence defective assimilation, and finally
exhaustion. He, too, tried arsenic, wintering at Cannes, compressed air.
All was useless. Suffocation and inanition carried off the author of
"Colomba." _Hic tua res agitur_. The gray, heavy sky is of the same
color as my thoughts. And yet the irrevocable has its own sweetness and
serenity. The fluctuations of illusion, the uncertainties of desire, the
leaps and bounds of hope, give place to tranquil resignation. One feels
as though one were already beyond the grave. It is this very week, too,
I remember, that my corner of ground in the Oasis is to be bought.
Everything draws toward the end. _Festinat ad eventum_.
March l5, 1881.--The "Journal" is full of details of the horrible affair
at Petersburg. How clear it is that such catastrophes as this, in which
the innocent suffer, are the product of a long accumulation of
iniquities. Historical justice is, generally speaking, tardy--so tardy
that it becomes unjust. The Providential theory is really based on human
solidarity. Louis XVI. pays for Louis XV., Alexander II. for Nicholas.
We expiate the sins of our fathers, and our grandchildren will be
punished for ours. A double injustice! cries the individual. And he is
right if the individualist principle is true. But is it true? That is
the point. It seems as though the individual part of each man's destiny
were but one section of that destiny. Morally we are responsible for
what we ourselves have willed, but socially, our happiness and
unhappiness depend on causes outside our will. Religion answers--
"Mystery, obscurity, submission, faith. Do your duty; leave the rest to
March 16, 1881.--A wretched night. A melancholy morning.... The two
stand-bys of the doctor, digitalis and bromide, seem to have lost their
power over me. Wearily and painfully I watch the tedious progress of my
own decay. What efforts to keep one's self from dying! I am worn out
with the struggle.
Useless and incessant struggle is a humiliation to one's manhood. The
lion finds the gnat the most intolerable of his foes. The natural man
feels the same. But the spiritual man must learn the lesson of
gentleness and long-suffering. The inevitable is the will of God. We
might have preferred something else, but it is our business to accept
the lot assigned us.... One thing only is necessary--
"Garde en mon coeur la foi dans ta volonte sainte,
Et de moi fais, o Dieu, tout ce que tu voudras."
_Later_.--One of my students has just brought me a sympathetic message
from my class. My sister sends me a pot of azaleas, rich in flowers and
buds;----sends roses and violets: every one spoils me, which proves that
I am ill.
March 19, 1881.--Distaste--discouragement. My heart is growing cold. And
yet what affectionate care, what tenderness, surrounds me!... But
without health, what can one do with all the rest? What is the good of
it all to me? What was the good of Job's trials? They ripened his
patience; they exercised his submission.
Come, let me forget myself, let me shake off this melancholy, this
weariness. Let me think, not of all that is lost, but of all that I
might still lose. I will reckon up my privileges; I will try to be
worthy of my blessings.
March 21, 1881.--This invalid life is too Epicurean. For five or six
weeks now I have done nothing else but wait, nurse myself, and amuse
myself, and how weary one gets of it! What I want is work. It is work
which gives flavor to life. Mere existence without object and without
effort is a poor thing. Idleness leads to languor, and languor to
disgust. Besides, here is the spring again, the season of vague desires,
of dull discomforts, of dim aspirations, of sighs without a cause. We
dream wide-awake. We search darkly for we know not what; invoking the
while something which has no name, unless it be happiness or death.
March 28, 1881.--I cannot work; I find it difficult to exist. One may be
glad to let one's friends spoil one for a few months; it is an
experience which is good for us all; but afterward? How much better to
make room for the living, the active, the productive.
"Tircis, voici le temps de prendre sa retraite."
Is it that I care so much to go on living? I think not. It is health
that I long for--freedom from suffering.
And this desire being vain, I can find no savor in anything else.
Satiety. Lassitude. Renunciation. Abdication. "In your patience possess
ye your souls."
April 10, 1881. (_Sunday_).--Visit to ----. She read over to me letters
of 1844 to 1845--letters of mine. So much promise to end in so meager a
result! What creatures we are! I shall end like the Rhine, lost among
the sands, and the hour is close by when my thread of water will have
Afterward I had a little walk in the sunset. There was an effect of
scattered rays and stormy clouds; a green haze envelops all the trees--
"Et tout renait, et deja l'aubepine
A vu l'abeille accourir a ses fleurs,"
--but to me it all seems strange already.
_Later_.--What dupes we are of our own desires!... Destiny has two ways
of crushing us--by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them. But he
who only wills what God wills escapes both catastrophes. "All things
work together for his good."
April 14, 1881.--Frightful night; the fourteenth running, in which I
have been consumed by sleeplessness....
April 15, 1881.--To-morrow is Good Friday, the festival of pain. I know
what it is to spend days of anguish and nights of agony. Let me bear my
cross humbly.... I have no more future. My duty is to satisfy the claims
of the present, and to leave everything in order. Let me try to end
well, seeing that to undertake and even to continue, are closed to me.
April 19, 1881.--A terrible sense of oppression. My flesh and my heart
"Que vivre est difficile, o mon coeur fatigue!"