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Amiel's Journal by Mrs. Humphrey Ward

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shone resplendent on the leaves which were still hanging from the boughs
or had already fallen beneath the trees. It was delicious. The martial
step of our two battalions going out to their drilling-ground, the
sparkle of the guns, the song of the bugles, the sharp distinctness of
the house outlines, still moist with the morning dew, the transparent
coolness of all the shadows--every detail in the scene was instinct with
a keen and wholesome gayety.

There are two forms of autumn: there is the misty and dreamy autumn,
there is the vivid and brilliant autumn: almost the difference between
the two sexes. The very word autumn is both masculine and feminine. Has
not every season, in some fashion, its two sexes? Has it not its minor
and its major key, its two sides of light and shadow, gentleness and
force? Perhaps. All that is perfect is double; each face has two
profiles, each coin two sides. The scarlet autumn stands for vigorous
activity: the gray autumn for meditative feeling. The one is expansive
and overflowing; the other still and withdrawn. Yesterday our thoughts
were with the dead. To-day we are celebrating the vintage.

November 16, 1864.--Heard of the death of--. Will and intelligence
lasted till there was an effusion on the brain which stopped everything.

A bubble of air in the blood, a drop of water in the brain, and a man is
out of gear, his machine falls to pieces, his thought vanishes, the
world disappears from him like a dream at morning. On what a spider
thread is hung our individual existence! Fragility, appearance,
nothingness. If it were for our powers of self-detraction and
forgetfulness, all the fairy world which surrounds and draws us would
seem to us but a broken spectre in the darkness, an empty appearance, a
fleeting hallucination. Appeared--disappeared--there is the whole
history of a man, or of a world, or of an infusoria.

Time is the supreme illusion. It is but the inner prism by which we
decompose being and life, the mode under which we perceive successively
what is simultaneous in idea. The eye does not see a sphere all at once
although the sphere exists all at once. Either the sphere must turn
before the eye which is looking at it, or the eye must go round the
sphere. In the first case it is the world which unrolls, or seems to
unroll in time; in the second case it is our thought which successively
analyzes and recomposes. For the supreme intelligence there is no time;
what will be, is. Time and space are fragments of the infinite for the
use of finite creatures. God permits them, that he may not be alone.
They are the mode under which creatures are possible and conceivable.
Let us add that they are also the Jacob's ladder of innumerable steps by
which the creation reascends to its Creator, participates in being,
tastes of life, perceives the absolute, and can adore the fathomless
mystery of the infinite divinity. That is the other side of the
question. Our life is nothing, it is true, but our life is divine. A
breath of nature annihilates us, but we surpass nature in penetrating
far beyond her vast phantasmagoria to the changeless and the eternal. To
escape by the ecstasy of inward vision from the whirlwind of time, to
see one's self _sub specie eterni_ is the word of command of all the
great religions of the higher races; and this psychological possibility
is the foundation of all great hopes. The soul may be immortal because
she is fitted to rise toward that which is neither born nor dies, toward
that which exists substantially, necessarily, invariably, that is to say
toward God.

To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching. To attain it we
must be able to guess what will interest; we must learn to read the
childish soul as we might a piece of music. Then, by simply changing the
key, we keep up the attraction and vary the song.

The germs of all things are in every heart, and the greatest criminals
as well as the greatest heroes are but different modes of ourselves.
Only evil grows of itself, while for goodness we want effort and

Melancholy is at the bottom of everything, just as at the end of all
rivers is the sea. Can it be otherwise in a world where nothing lasts,
where all that we have loved or shall love must die? Is death, then, the
secret of life? The gloom of an eternal mourning enwraps, more or less
closely, every serious and thoughtful soul, as night enwraps the

A man takes to "piety" from a thousand different reasons--from imitation
or from eccentricity, from bravado or from reverence, from shame of the
past or from terror of the future, from weakness and from pride, for
pleasure's sake or for punishment's sake, in order to be able to judge,
or in order to escape being judged, and for a thousand other reasons;
but he only becomes truly religious for religion's sake.

January 11, 1865.--It is pleasant to feel nobly--that is to say, to live
above the lowlands of vulgarity. Manufacturing Americanism and Caesarian
democracy tend equally to the multiplying of crowds, governed by
appetite, applauding charlatanism, vowed to the worship of mammon and of
pleasure, and adoring no other God than force. What poor samples of
mankind they are who make up this growing majority! Oh, let us remain
faithful to the altars of the ideal! It is possible that the
spiritualists may become the stoics of a new epoch of Caesarian rule.
Materialistic naturalism has the wind in its sails, and a general moral
deterioration is preparing. NO matter, so long as the salt does not lose
its savor, and so long as the friends of the higher life maintain the
fire of Vesta. The wood itself may choke the flame, but if the flame
persists, the fire will only be the more splendid in the end. The great
democratic deluge will not after all be able to effect what the invasion
of the barbarians was powerless to bring about; it will not drown
altogether the results of the higher culture; but we must resign
ourselves to the fact that it tends in the beginning to deform and
vulgarize everything. It is clear that aesthetic delicacy, elegance,
distinction, and nobleness--that atticism, urbanity, whatever is suave
and exquisite, fine and subtle--all that makes the charm of the higher
kinds of literature and of aristocratic cultivation--vanishes
simultaneously with the society which corresponds to it. If, as Pascal,
[Footnote: The saying of Pascal's alluded to is in the _Pensees_, Art.
xi. No. 10: "A mesure qu'on a plus d'esprit on trouve qu'il y a plus
d'hommes originaux. Les gens du commun ne trouvent pas de difference
entre les hommes."] I think, says, the more one develops, the more
difference one observes between man and man, then we cannot say that the
democratic instinct tends to mental development, since it tends to make
a man believe that the pretensions have only to be the same to make the
merits equal also.

March 20, 1865.--I have just heard of fresh cases of insubordination
among the students. Our youth become less and less docile, and seem to
take for their motto, "Our master is our enemy." The boy insists upon
having the privileges of the young man, and the young man tries to keep
those of the _gamin_. At bottom all this is the natural consequence of
our system of leveling democracy. As soon as difference of quality is,
in politics, officially equal to zero, the authority of age, of
knowledge, and of function disappears.

The only counterpoise of pure equality is military discipline. In
military uniform, in the police court, in prison, or on the execution
ground, there is no reply possible. But is it not curious that the
_regime_ of individual right should lead to nothing but respect for
brute strength? Jacobinism brings with it Caesarism; the rule of the
tongue leads to the rule of the sword. Democracy and liberty are not one
but two. A republic supposes a high state of morals, but no such state
of morals is possible without the habit of respect; and there is no
respect without humility. Now the pretension that every man has the
necessary qualities of a citizen, simply because he was born twenty-one
years ago, is as much as to say that labor, merit, virtue, character,
and experience are to count for nothing; and we destroy humility when we
proclaim that a man becomes the equal of all other men, by the mere
mechanical and vegetative process of natural growth. Such a claim
annihilates even the respect for age; for as the elector of twenty-one
is worth as much as the elector of fifty, the boy of nineteen has no
serious reason to believe himself in any way the inferior of his elder
by one or two years. Thus the fiction on which the political order of
democracy is based ends in something altogether opposed to that which
democracy desires: its aim was to increase the whole sum of liberty; but
the result is to diminish it for all.

The modern state is founded on the philosophy of atomism. Nationality,
public spirit, tradition, national manners, disappear like so many
hollow and worn-out entities; nothing remains to create movement but the
action of molecular force and of dead weight. In such a theory liberty
is identified with caprice, and the collective reason and age-long
tradition of an old society are nothing more than soap-bubbles which the
smallest urchin may shiver with a snap of the fingers.

Does this mean that I am an opponent of democracy? Not at all. Fiction
for fiction, it is the least harmful. But it is well not to confound its
promises with realities. The fiction consists in the postulate of all
democratic government, that the great majority of the electors in a
state are enlightened, free, honest, and patriotic--whereas such a
postulate is a mere chimera. The majority in any state is necessarily
composed of the most ignorant, the poorest, and the least capable; the
state is therefore at the mercy of accident and passion, and it always
ends by succumbing at one time or another to the rash conditions which
have been made for its existence. A man who condemns himself to live
upon the tight-rope must inevitably fall; one has no need to be a
prophet to foresee such a result.

"[Greek: Aridton men udor]," said Pindar; the best thing in the world is
wisdom, and, in default of wisdom, science. States, churches, society
itself, may fall to pieces; science alone has nothing to fear--until at
least society once more falls a prey to barbarism. Unfortunately this
triumph of barbarism is not impossible. The victory of the socialist
Utopia, or the horrors of a religious war, reserve for us perhaps even
this lamentable experience.

April 3, 1865.--What doctor possesses such curative resources as those
latent in a spark of happiness or a single ray of hope? The mainspring
of life is in the heart. Joy is the vital air of the soul, and grief is
a kind of asthma complicated by atony. Our dependence upon surrounding
circumstances increases with our own physical weakness, and on the other
hand, in health there is liberty. Health is the first of all liberties,
and happiness gives us the energy which is the basis of health. To make
any one happy, then, is strictly to augment his store of being, to
double the intensity of his life, to reveal him to himself, to ennoble
him and transfigure him. Happiness does away with ugliness, and even
makes the beauty of beauty. The man who doubts it, can never have
watched the first gleams of tenderness dawning in the clear eyes of one
who loves; sunrise itself is a lesser marvel. In paradise, then,
everybody will be beautiful. For, as the righteous soul is naturally
beautiful, as the spiritual body is but the _visibility_ of the soul,
its impalpable and angelic form, and as happiness beautifies all that it
penetrates or even touches, ugliness will have no more place in the
universe, and will disappear with grief, sin, and death.

To the materialist philosopher the beautiful is a mere accident, and
therefore rare. To the spiritualist philosopher the beautiful is the
rule, the law, the universal foundation of things, to which every form
returns as soon as the force of accident is withdrawn. Why are we ugly?
Because we are not in the angelic state, because we are evil, morose,
and unhappy.

Heroism, ecstasy, prayer, love, enthusiasm, weave a halo round the brow,
for they are a setting free of the soul, which through them gains force
to make its envelope transparent and shine through upon all around it.
Beauty is, then, a phenomenon belonging to the spiritualization of
matter. It is a momentary transfiguration of the privileged object or
being--a token fallen from heaven to earth in order to remind us of the
ideal world. To study it, is to Platonize almost inevitably. As a
powerful electric current can render metals luminous, and reveal their
essence by the color of their flame, so intense life and supreme joy can
make the most simple mortal dazzlingly beautiful. Man, therefore, is
never more truly man than in these divine states.

The ideal, after all, is truer than the real: for the ideal is the
eternal element in perishable things: it is their type, their sum, their
_raison d'etre_, their formula in the book of the Creator, and therefore
at once the most exact and the most condensed expression of them.

April 11, 1865.--I have been measuring and making a trial of the new
gray plaid which is to take the place of my old mountain shawl. The old
servant which has been my companion for ten years, and which recalls to
me so many poetical and delightful memories, pleases me better than its
brilliant successor, even though this last has been a present from a
friendly hand. But can anything take the place of the past, and have not
even the inanimate witnesses of our life voice and language for us?
Glion, Villars, Albisbrunnen, the Righi, the Chamossaire, and a hundred
other places, have left something of themselves behind them in the
meshes of this woolen stuff which makes a part of my most intimate
history. The shawl, besides, is the only _chivalrous_ article of dress
which is still left to the modern traveler, the only thing about him
which may be useful to others than himself, and by means of which he may
still do his _devoir_ to fair women! How many times mine has served them
for a cushion, a cloak, a shelter, on the damp grass of the Alps, on
seats of hard rock, or in the sudden cool of the pinewood, during the
walks, the rests, the readings, and the chats of mountain life! How many
kindly smiles it has won for me! Even its blemishes are dear to me, for
each darn and tear has its story, each scar is an armorial bearing. This
tear was made by a hazel tree under Jaman--that by the buckle of a strap
on the Frohnalp--that, again, by a bramble at Charnex; and each time
fairy needles have repaired the injury.

"Mon vieux manteau, que je vous remercie
Car c'est a vous que je dois ces plaisirs!"

And has it not been to me a friend in suffering, a companion in good and
evil fortune? It reminds me of that centaur's tunic which could not be
torn off without carrying away the flesh and blood of its wearer. I am
unwilling to give it up; whatever gratitude for the past, and whatever
piety toward my vanished youth is in me, seem to forbid it. The warp of
this rag is woven out of Alpine joys, and its woof out of human
affections. It also says to me in its own way:

"Pauvre bouquet, fleurs aujourd'hui fanees!"

And the appeal is one of those which move the heart, although profane
ears neither hear it nor understand it.

What a stab there is in those words, _thou hast been_! when the sense of
them becomes absolutely clear to us. One feels one's self sinking
gradually into one's grave, and the past tense sounds the knell of our
illusions as to ourselves. What is past is past: gray hairs will never
become black curls again; the forces, the gifts, the attractions of
youth, have vanished with our young days.

"Plus d'amour; partant plus de joie."

How hard it is to grow old, when we have missed our life, when we have
neither the crown of completed manhood nor of fatherhood! How sad it is
to feel the mind declining before it has done its work, and the body
growing weaker before it has seen itself renewed in those who might
close our eyes and honor our name! The tragic solemnity of existence
strikes us with terrible force, on that morning when we wake to find the
mournful word _too late_ ringing in our ears! "Too late, the sand is
turned, the hour is past! Thy harvest is unreaped--too late! Thou hast
been dreaming, forgetting, sleeping--so much the worse! Every man
rewards or punishes himself. To whom or of whom wouldst thou

April 21, 1865. (_Mornex_).--A morning of intoxicating beauty, fresh as
the feelings of sixteen, and crowned with flowers like a bride. The
poetry of youth, of innocence, and of love, overflowed my soul. Even to
the light mist hovering over the bosom of the plain--image of that
tender modesty which veils the features and shrouds in mystery the
inmost thoughts of the maiden--everything that I saw delighted my eyes
and spoke to my imagination. It was a sacred, a nuptial day! and the
matin bells ringing in some distant village harmonized marvelously with
the hymn of nature. "Pray," they said, "and love! Adore a fatherly and
beneficent God." They recalled to me the accent of Haydn; there was in
them and in the landscape a childlike joyousness, a naive gratitude, a
radiant heavenly joy innocent of pain and sin, like the sacred,
simple-hearted ravishment of Eve on the first day of her awakening in
the new world. How good a thing is feeling, admiration! It is the bread
of angels, the eternal food of cherubim and seraphim.

I have not yet felt the air so pure, so life-giving, so ethereal, during
the five days that I have been here. To breathe is a beatitude. One
understands the delights of a bird's existence--that emancipation from
all encumbering weight--that luminous and empyrean life, floating in
blue space, and passing from one horizon to another with a stroke of the
wing. One must have a great deal of air below one before one can be
conscious of such inner freedom as this, such lightness of the whole
being. Every element has its poetry, but the poetry of air is liberty.
Enough; to your work, dreamer!

May 30, 1865.--All snakes fascinate their prey, and pure wickedness
seems to inherit the power of fascination granted to the serpent. It
stupefies and bewilders the simple heart, which sees it without
understanding it, which touches it without being able to believe in it,
and which sinks engulfed in the problem of it, like Empedocles in Etna.
_Non possum capere te, cape me_, says the Aristotelian motto. Every
diminutive of Beelzebub is an abyss, each demoniacal act is a gulf of
darkness. Natural cruelty, inborn perfidy and falseness, even in
animals, cast lurid gleams, as it were, into that fathomless pit of
Satanic perversity which is a moral reality.

Nevertheless behind this thought there rises another which tells me that
sophistry is at the bottom of human wickedness, that the majority of
monsters like to justify themselves in their own eyes, and that the
first attribute of the Evil One is to be the father of lies. Before
crime is committed conscience must be corrupted, and every bad man who
succeeds in reaching a high point of wickedness begins with this. It is
all very well to say that hatred is murder; the man who hates is
determined to see nothing in it but an act of moral hygiene. It is to do
himself good that he does evil, just as a mad dog bites to get rid of
his thirst.

To injure others while at the same time knowingly injuring one's self is
a step farther; evil then becomes a frenzy, which, in its turn, sharpens
into a cold ferocity.

Whenever a man, under the influence of such a diabolical passion,
surrenders himself to these instincts of the wild or venomous beast he
must seem to the angels a madman--a lunatic, who kindles his own Gehenna
that he may consume the world in it, or as much of it as his devilish
desires can lay hold upon. Wickedness is forever beginning a new spiral
which penetrates deeper still into the abysses of abomination, for the
circles of hell have this property--that they have no end. It seems as
though divine perfection were an infinite of the first degree, but as
though diabolical perfection were an infinite of unknown power. But no;
for if so, evil would be the true God, and hell would swallow up
creation. According to the Persian and the Christian faiths, good is to
conquer evil, and perhaps even Satan himself will be restored to
grace--which is as much as to say that the divine order will be
everywhere re-established. Love will be more potent than hatred; God
will save his glory, and his glory is in his goodness. But it is very
true that all gratuitous wickedness troubles the soul, because it seems
to make the great lines of the moral order tremble within us by the
sudden withdrawal of the curtain which hides from us the action of those
dark corrosive forces which have ranged themselves in battle against the
divine plan.

June 26, 1865.--One may guess the why and wherefore of a tear and yet
find it too subtle to give any account of. A tear may be the poetical
_resume_ of so many simultaneous impressions, the quintessence of so
many opposing thoughts! It is like a drop of one of those precious
elixirs of the East which contain the life of twenty plants fused into a
single aroma. Sometimes it is the mere overflow of the soul, the running
over of the cup of reverie. All that one cannot or will not say, all
that one refuses to confess even to one's self--confused desires, secret
trouble, suppressed grief, smothered conflict, voiceless regret, the
emotions we have struggled against, the pain we have sought to hide, our
superstitious fears, our vague sufferings, our restless presentiments,
our unrealized dreams, the wounds inflicted upon our ideal, the
dissatisfied languor, the vain hopes, the multitude of small
indiscernible ills which accumulate slowly in a corner of the heart like
water dropping noiselessly from the roof of a cavern--all these
mysterious movements of the inner life end in an instant of emotion, and
the emotion concentrates itself in a tear just visible on the edge of
the eyelid.

For the rest, tears express joy as well as sadness. They are the symbol
of the powerlessness of the soul to restrain its emotion and to remain
mistress of itself. Speech implies analysis; when we are overcome by
sensation or by feeling analysis ceases, and with it speech and liberty.
Our only resource, after silence and stupor, is the language of
action--pantomime. Any oppressive weight of thought carries us back to a
stage anterior to humanity, to a gesture, a cry, a sob, and at last to
swooning and collapse; that is to say, incapable of bearing the
excessive strain of sensation as men, we fall back successively to the
stage of mere animate being, and then to that of the vegetable. Dante
swoons at every turn in his journey through hell, and nothing paints
better the violence of his emotions and the ardor of his piety.

... And intense joy? It also withdraws into itself and is silent. To
speak is to disperse and scatter. Words isolate and localize life in a
single point; they touch only the circumference of being; they analyze,
they treat one thing at a time. Thus they decentralize emotion, and
chill it in doing so. The heart would fain brood over its feeling,
cherishing and protecting it. Its happiness is silent and meditative; it
listens to its own beating and feeds religiously upon itself.

August 8, 1865. (_Gryon sur Bex_).--Splendid moonlight without a cloud.
The night is solemn and majestic. The regiment of giants sleeps while
the stars keep sentinel. In the vast shadow of the valley glimmer a few
scattered roofs, while the torrent, organ-like, swells its eternal note
in the depths of this mountain cathedral which has the heavens for roof.

A last look at this blue night and boundless landscape. Jupiter is just
setting on the counterscarp of the Dent du Midi. Prom the starry vault
descends an invisible snow-shower of dreams, calling us to a pure sleep.
Nothing of voluptuous or enervating in this nature. All is strong,
austere and pure. Good night to all the world!--to the unfortunate and
to the happy. Rest and refreshment, renewal and hope; a day is
dead--_vive le lendemain!_ Midnight is striking. Another step made
toward the tomb.

August 13, 1865.--I have just read through again the letter of J. J.
Rousseau to Archbishop Beaumont with a little less admiration than I
felt for it--was it ten or twelve years ago? This emphasis, this
precision, which never tires of itself, tires the reader in the long
run. The intensity of the style produces on one the impression of a
treatise on mathematics. One feels the need of relaxation after it in
something easy, natural, and gay. The language of Rousseau demands an
amount of labor which makes one long for recreation and relief.

But how many writers and how many books descend from our Rousseau! On my
way I noticed the points of departure of Chateaubriand, Lamennais,
Proudhon. Proudhon, for instance, modeled the plan of his great work,
"De la Justice dang l'Eglise et dans la Revolution," upon the letter of
Rousseau to Beaumont; his three volumes are a string of letters to an
archbishop; eloquence, daring, and elocution are all fused in a kind of
_persiflage_, which is the foundation of the whole.

How many men we may find in one man, how many styles in a great writer!
Rousseau, for instance, has created a number of different _genres_.
Imagination transforms him, and he is able to play the most varied parts
with credit, among them even that of the pure logician. But as the
imagination is his intellectual axis--his master faculty--he is, as it
were, in all his works only half sincere, only half in earnest. We feel
that his talent has laid him the wager of Carneades; it will lose no
cause, however bad, as soon as the point of honor Is engaged. It is
indeed the temptation of all talent to subordinate things to itself and
not itself to things; to conquer for the sake of conquest, and to put
self-love in the place of conscience. Talent is glad enough, no doubt,
to triumph in a good cause; but it easily becomes a free lance, content,
whatever the cause, so long as victory follows its banner. I do not know
even whether success in a weak and bad cause is not the most flattering
for talent, which then divides the honors of its triumph with nothing
and no one.

Paradox is the delight of clever people and the joy of talent. It is so
pleasant to pit one's self against the world, and to overbear mere
commonplace good sense and vulgar platitudes! Talent and love of truth
are then not identical; their tendencies and their paths are different.
In order to make talent obey when its instinct is rather to command, a
vigilant moral sense and great energy of character are needed. The
Greeks--those artists of the spoken or written word--were artificial by
the time of Ulysses, sophists by the time of Pericles, cunning,
rhetorical, and versed in all the arts of the courtier down to the end
of the lower empire. From the talent of the nation sprang its vices.

For a man to make his mark, like Rousseau by polemics, is to condemn
himself to perpetual exaggeration and conflict. Such a man expiates his
celebrity by a double bitterness; he is never altogether true, and he is
never able to recover the free disposal of himself. To pick a quarrel
with the world is attractive, but dangerous.

J. J. Rousseau is an ancestor in all things. It was he who founded
traveling on foot before Toepffer, reverie before "Rene," literary botany
before George Sand, the worship of nature before Bernardin de S. Pierre,
the democratic theory before the Revolution of 1789, political
discussion and theological discussion before Mirabeau and Renan, the
science of teaching before Pestalozzi, and Alpine description before De
Saussure. He made music the fashion, and created the taste for
confessions to the public. He formed a new French style--the close,
chastened, passionate, interwoven style we know so well. Nothing indeed
of Rousseau has been lost, and nobody has had more influence than he
upon the French Revolution, for he was the demigod of it, and stands
between Neckar and Napoleon. Nobody, again, has had more than he upon
the nineteenth century, for Byron, Chateaubriand, Madame de Stael, and
George Sand all descend from him.

And yet, with these extraordinary talents, he was an extremely unhappy
man--why? Because he always allowed himself to be mastered by his
imagination and his sensations; because he had no judgment in deciding,
no self-control in acting. Regret indeed on this score would be hardly
reasonable, for a calm, judicious, orderly Rousseau would never have
made so great an impression. He came into collision with his time: hence
his eloquence and his misfortunes. His naive confidence in life and
himself ended in jealous misanthropy and hypochondria.

What a contrast to Goethe or Voltaire, and how differently they
understood the practical wisdom of life and the management of literary
gifts! They were the able men--Rousseau is a visionary. They knew
mankind as it is--he always represented it to himself either whiter or
blacker than it is; and having begun by taking life the wrong way, he
ended in madness. In the talent of Rousseau there is always something
unwholesome, uncertain, stormy, and sophistical, which destroys the
confidence of the reader; and the reason is no doubt that we feel
passion to have been the governing force in him as a writer: passion
stirred his imagination, and ruled supreme over his reason.

* * * * *

Our systems, perhaps, are nothing more than an unconscious apology for
our faults--a gigantic scaffolding whose object is to hide from us our
favorite sin.

* * * * *

The unfinished is nothing.

* * * * *

Great men are the true men, the men in whom nature has succeeded. They
are not extraordinary--they are in the true order. It is the other
species of men who are not what they ought to be.

January 7, 1866.--Our life is but a soap-bubble hanging from a reed; it
is formed, expands to its full size, clothes itself with the loveliest
colors of the prism, and even escapes at moments from the law of
gravitation; but soon the black speck appears in it, and the globe of
emerald and gold vanishes into space, leaving behind it nothing but a
simple drop of turbid water. All the poets have made this comparison, it
is so striking and so true. To appear, to shine, to disappear; to be
born, to suffer, and to die; is it not the whole sum of life, for a
butterfly, for a nation, for a star?

Time is but the measure of the difficulty of a conception. Pure thought
has scarcely any need of time, since it perceives the two ends of an
idea almost at the same moment. The thought of a planet can only be
worked out by nature with labor and effort, but supreme intelligence
sums up the whole in an instant. Time is then the successive dispersion
of being, just as speech is the successive analysis of an intuition or
of an act of will. In itself it is relative and negative, and disappears
within the absolute being. God is outside time because he thinks all
thought at once; Nature is within time, because she is only speech--the
discursive unfolding of each thought contained within the infinite
thought. But nature exhausts herself in this impossible task, for the
analysis of the infinite is a contradiction. With limitless duration,
boundless space, and number without end, Nature does at least what she
can to translate into visible form the wealth of the creative formula.
By the vastness of the abysses into which she penetrates, in the
effort--the unsuccessful effort--to house and contain the eternal
thought, we may measure the greatness of the divine mind. For as soon as
this mind goes out of itself and seeks to explain itself, the effort at
utterance heaps universe upon universe, during myriads of centuries, and
still it is not expressed, and the great harangue must go on for ever
and ever.

The East prefers immobility as the form of the Infinite: the West,
movement. It is because the West is infected by the passion for details,
and sets proud store by individual worth. Like a child upon whom a
hundred thousand francs have been bestowed, he thinks she is multiplying
her fortune by counting it out in pieces of twenty sous, or five
centimes. Her passion for progress is in great part the product of an
infatuation, which consists in forgetting the goal to be aimed at, and
absorbing herself in the pride and delight of each tiny step, one after
the other. Child that she is, she is even capable of confounding change
with improvement--beginning over again, with growth in perfectness.

At the bottom of the modern man there is always a great thirst for
self-forgetfulness, self-distraction; he has a secret horror of all
which makes him feel his own littleness; the eternal, the infinite,
perfection, therefore scare and terrify him. He wishes to approve
himself, to admire and congratulate himself; and therefore he turns away
from all those problems and abysses which might recall to him his own
nothingness. This is what makes the real pettiness of so many of our
great minds, and accounts for the lack of personal dignity among
us--civilized parrots that we are--as compared with the Arab of the
desert; or explains the growing frivolity of our masses, more and more
educated, no doubt, but also more and more superficial in all their
conceptions of happiness.

Here, then, is the service which Christianity--the oriental element in
our culture--renders to us Westerns. It checks and counterbalances our
natural tendency toward the passing, the finite, and the changeable, by
fixing the mind upon the contemplation of eternal things, and by
Platonizing our affections, which otherwise would have too little
outlook upon the ideal world. Christianity leads us back from dispersion
to concentration, from worldliness to self-recollection. It restores to
our souls, fevered with a thousand sordid desires, nobleness, gravity,
and calm. Just as sleep is a bath of refreshing for our actual life, so
religion is a bath of refreshing for our immortal being. What is sacred
has a purifying virtue; religious emotion crowns the brow with an
aureole, and thrills the heart with an ineffable joy.

I think that the adversaries of religion as such deceive themselves as
to the needs of the western man, and that the modern world will lose its
balance as soon as it has passed over altogether to the crude doctrine
of progress. We have always need of the infinite, the eternal, the
absolute; and since science contents itself with what is relative, it
necessarily leaves a void, which it is good for man to fill with
contemplation, worship, and adoration. "Religion," said Bacon, "is the
spice which is meant to keep life from corruption," and this is
especially true to-day of religion taken in the Platonist and oriental
sense. A capacity for self-recollection--for withdrawal from the outward
to the inward--is in fact the condition of all noble and useful

This return, indeed, to what is serious, divine, and sacred, is becoming
more and more difficult, because of the growth of critical anxiety
within the church itself, the increasing worldliness of religious
preaching, and the universal agitation and disquiet of society. But such
a return is more and more necessary. Without it there is no inner life,
and the inner life is the only means whereby we may oppose a profitable
resistance to circumstance. If the sailor did not carry with him his own
temperature he could not go from the pole to the equator, and remain
himself in spite of all. The man who has no refuge in himself, who
lives, so to speak, in his front rooms, in the outer whirlwind of things
and opinions, is not properly a personality at all; he is not distinct,
free, original, a cause--in a word, _some one_. He is one of a crowd, a
taxpayer, an elector, an anonymity, but not a man. He helps to make up
the mass--to fill up the number of human consumers or producers; but he
interests nobody but the economist and the statistician, who take the
heap of sand as a whole into consideration, without troubling themselves
about the uninteresting uniformity of the individual grains. The crowd
counts only as a massive elementary force--why? because its constituent
parts are individually insignificant: they are all like each other, and
we add them up like the molecules of water in a river, gauging them by
the fathom instead of appreciating them as individuals. Such men are
reckoned and weighed merely as so many bodies: they have never been
individualized by conscience, after the manner of souls.

He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to
higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions--such a man is a
mere article of the world's furniture--a thing moved, instead of a
living and moving being--an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner
life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient
servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of
the air in motion.

January 21, 1866.--This evening after supper I did not know whither to
betake my solitary self. I was hungry for conversation, society,
exchange of ideas. It occurred to me to go and see our friends, the
----s; they were at supper. Afterward we went into the _salon_: mother
and daughter sat down to the piano and sang a duet by Boieldieu. The
ivory keys of the old grand piano, which the mother had played on before
her marriage, and which has followed and translated into music the
varying fortunes of the family, were a little loose and jingling; but
the poetry of the past sang in this faithful old servant, which had been
a friend in trouble, a companion in vigils, and the echo of a lifetime
of duty, affection, piety and virtue. I was more moved than I can say.
It was like a scene of Dickens, and I felt a rush of sympathy, untouched
either by egotism or by melancholy.

Twenty-five years! It seems to me a dream as far as I am concerned, and
I can scarcely believe my eyes, or this inanimate witness to so many
lustres passed away. How strange a thing _to have lived_, and to feel
myself so far from a past which yet is so present to me! One does not
know whether one is sleeping or waking. Time is but the space between
our memories; as soon as we cease to perceive this space, time has
disappeared. The whole life of an old man may appear to him no longer
than an hour, or less still; and as soon as time is but a moment to us,
we have entered upon eternity. Life is but the dream of a shadow; I felt
it anew this evening with strange intensity.

January 29, 1866. (_Nine o'clock in the morning_).--The gray curtain of
mist has spread itself again over the town; everything is dark and dull.
The bells are ringing in the distance for some festival; with this
exception everything is calm and silent. Except for the crackling of the
fire, no noise disturbs my solitude in this modest home, the shelter of
my thoughts and of my work, where the man of middle age carries on the
life of his student-youth without the zest of youth, and the sedentary
professor repeats day by day the habits which he formed as a traveler.

What is it which makes the charm of this existence outwardly so barren
and empty? Liberty! What does the absence of comfort and of all else
that is wanting to these rooms matter to me? These things are
indifferent to me. I find under this roof light, quiet, shelter. I am
near to a sister and her children, whom I love; my material life is
assured--that ought to be enough for a bachelor.... Am I not, besides, a
creature of habit? more attached to the _ennuis_ I know, than in love
with pleasures unknown to me. I am, then, free and not unhappy. Then I
am well off here, and I should be ungrateful to complain. Nor do I. It
is only the heart which sighs and seeks for something more and better.
The heart is an insatiable glutton, as we all know--and for the rest,
who is without yearnings? It is our destiny here below. Only some go
through torments and troubles in order to satisfy themselves, and all
without success; others foresee the inevitable result, and by a timely
resignation save themselves a barren and fruitless effort. Since we
cannot be happy, why give ourselves so much trouble? It is best to limit
one's self to what is strictly necessary, to live austerely and by rule,
to content one's self with a little, and to attach no value to anything
but peace of conscience and a sense of duty done.

It is true that this itself is no small ambition, and that it only lands
us in another impossibility. No--the simplest course is to submit one's
self wholly and altogether to God. Everything else, as saith the
preacher, is but vanity and vexation of spirit.

It is a long while now since this has been plain to me, and since this
religious renunciation has been sweet and familiar to me. It is the
outward distractions of life, the examples of the world, and the
irresistible influence exerted upon us by the current of things which
make us forget the wisdom we have acquired and the principles we have
adopted. That is why life is such weariness! This eternal beginning over
again is tedious, even to repulsion. It would be so good to go to sleep
when we have gathered the fruit of experience, when we are no longer in
opposition to the supreme will, when we have broken loose from self,
when we are at peace with all men. Instead of this, the old round of
temptations, disputes, _ennuis_, and forgettings, has to be faced again
and again, and we fall back into prose, into commonness, into vulgarity.
How melancholy, how humiliating! The poets are wise in withdrawing their
heroes more quickly from the strife, and in not dragging them after
victory along the common rut of barren days. "Whom the gods love die
young," said the proverb of antiquity.

Yes, but it is our secret self-love which is set upon this favor from on
high; such may be our desire, but such is not the will of God. We are to
be exercised, humbled, tried, and tormented to the end. It is our
patience which is the touchstone of our virtue. To bear with life even
when illusion and hope are gone; to accept this position of perpetual
war, while at the same time loving only peace; to stay patiently in the
world, even when it repels us as a place of low company, and seems to us
a mere arena of bad passions; to remain faithful to one's own faith
without breaking with the followers of the false gods; to make no
attempt to escape from the human hospital, long-suffering and patient as
Job upon his dung hill--this is duty. When life ceases to be a promise
it does not cease to be a task; its true name even is trial.

April 2, 1866. (_Mornex_).--The snow is melting and a damp fog is spread
over everything. The asphalt gallery which runs along the _salon_ is a
sheet of quivering water starred incessantly by the hurrying drops
falling from the sky. It seems as if one could touch the horizon with
one's hand, and the miles of country which were yesterday visible are
all hidden under a thick gray curtain.

This imprisonment transports me to Shetland, to Spitzbergen, to Norway,
to the Ossianic countries of mist, where man, thrown back upon himself,
feels his heart beat more quickly and his thought expand more freely--so
long, at least, as he is not frozen and congealed by cold. Fog has
certainly a poetry of its own--a grace, a dreamy charm. It does for the
daylight what a lamp does for us at night; it turns the mind toward
meditation; it throws the soul back on itself. The sun, as it were,
sheds us abroad in nature, scatters and disperses us; mist draws us
together and concentrates us--it is cordial, homely, charged with
feeling. The poetry of the sun has something of the epic in it; that of
fog and mist is elegaic and religious. Pantheism is the child of light;
mist engenders faith in near protectors. When the great world is shut
off from us, the house becomes itself a small universe. Shrouded in
perpetual mist, men love each other better; for the only reality then is
the family, and, within the family, the heart; and the greatest thoughts
come from the heart--so says the moralist.

April 6, 1866.--The novel by Miss Mulock, "John Halifax, Gentleman," is
a bolder book than it seems, for it attacks in the English way the
social problem of equality. And the solution reached is that every one
may become a gentleman, even though he may be born in the gutter. In its
way the story protests against conventional superiorities, and shows
that true nobility consists in character, in personal merit, in moral
distinction, in elevation of feeling and of language, in dignity of
life, and in self-respect. This is better than Jacobinism, and the
opposite of the mere brutal passion for equality. Instead of dragging
everybody down, the author simply proclaims the right of every one to
rise. A man may be born rich and noble--he is not born a gentleman. This
word is the Shibboleth of England; it divides her into two halves, and
civilized society into two castes. Among gentlemen--courtesy, equality,
and politeness; toward those below--contempt, disdain, coldness and
indifference. It is the old separation between the _ingenui_ and all
others; between the [Greek: eleutheroi] and the [Greek: banauphoi], the
continuation of the feudal division between the gentry and the

What, then, is a gentleman? Apparently he is the free man, the man who
is stronger than things, and believes in personality as superior to all
the accessory attributes of fortune, such as rank and power, and as
constituting what is essential, real, and intrinsically valuable in the
individual. Tell me what you are, and I will tell you what you are
worth. "God and my Right;" there is the only motto he believes in. Such
an ideal is happily opposed to that vulgar ideal which is equally
English, the ideal of wealth, with its formula, "_How much_ is he
worth?" In a country where poverty is a crime, it is good to be able to
say that a nabob need not as such be a gentleman. The mercantile ideal
and the chivalrous ideal counterbalance each other; and if the one
produces the ugliness of English society and its brutal side, the other
serves as a compensation.

The gentleman, then, is the man who is master of himself, who respects
himself, and makes others respect him. The essence of gentlemanliness is
self-rule, the sovereignty of the soul. It means a character which
possesses itself, a force which governs itself, a liberty which affirms
and regulates itself, according to the type of true dignity. Such an
ideal is closely akin to the Roman type of _dignitas cum auctoritate_.
It is more moral than intellectual, and is particularly suited to
England, which is pre-eminently the country of will. But from
self-respect a thousand other things are derived--such as the care of a
man's person, of his language, of his manners; watchfulness over his
body and over his soul; dominion over his instincts and his passions;
the effort to be self-sufficient; the pride which will accept no favor;
carefulness not to expose himself to any humiliation or mortification,
and to maintain himself independent of any human caprice; the constant
protection of his honor and of his self-respect. Such a condition of
sovereignty, insomuch as it is only easy to the man who is well-born,
well-bred, and rich, was naturally long identified with birth, rank, and
above all with property. The idea "gentleman" is, then, derived from
feudality; it is, as it were, a milder version of the seigneur.

In order to lay himself open to no reproach, a gentleman will keep
himself irreproachable; in order to be treated with consideration, he
will always be careful himself to observe distances, to apportion
respect, and to observe all the gradations of conventional politeness,
according to rank, age, and situation. Hence it follows that he will be
imperturbably cautious in the presence of a stranger, whose name and
worth are unknown to him, and to whom he might perhaps show too much or
too little courtesy. He ignores and avoids him; if he is approached, he
turns away, if he is addressed, he answers shortly and with _hauteur_.
His politeness is not human and general, but individual and relative to
persons. This is why every Englishman contains two different men--one
turned toward the world, and another. The first, the outer man, is a
citadel, a cold and angular wall; the other, the inner man, is a
sensible, affectionate, cordial, and loving creature. Such a type is
only formed in a moral climate full of icicles, where, in the face of an
indifferent world, the hearth alone is hospitable.

So that an analysis of the national type of gentlemen reveals to us the
nature and the history of the nation, as the fruit reveals the tree.

April 7, 1866.--If philosophy is the art of understanding, it is evident
that it must begin by saturating itself with facts and realities, and
that premature abstraction kills it, just as the abuse of fasting
destroys the body at the age of growth. Besides, we only understand that
which is already within us. To understand is to possess the thing
understood, first by sympathy and then by intelligence. Instead, then,
of first dismembering and dissecting the object to be conceived, we
should begin by laying hold of it in its _ensemble_, then in its
formation, last of all in its parts. The procedure is the same, whether
we study a watch or a plant, a work of art or a character. We must
study, respect, and question what we want to know, instead of massacring
it. We must assimilate ourselves to things and surrender ourselves to
them; we must open our minds with docility to their influence, and steep
ourselves in their spirit and their distinctive form, before we offer
violence to them by dissecting them.

April 14, 1866.--Panic, confusion, _sauve qui peut_ on the Bourse at
Paris. In our epoch of individualism, and of "each man for himself and
God for all," the movements of the public funds are all that now
represent to us the beat of the common heart. The solidarity of
interests which they imply counterbalances the separateness of modern
affections, and the obligatory sympathy they impose upon us recalls to
one a little the patriotism which bore the forced taxes of old days. We
feel ourselves bound up with and compromised in all the world's affairs,
and we must interest ourselves whether we will or no in the terrible
machine whose wheels may crush us at any moment. Credit produces a
restless society, trembling perpetually for the security of its
artificial basis. Sometimes society may forget for awhile that it is
dancing upon a volcano, but the least rumor of war recalls the fact to
it inexorably. Card-houses are easily ruined.

All this anxiety is intolerable to those humble little investors who,
having no wish to be rich, ask only to be able to go about their work in
peace. But no; tyrant that it is, the world cries to us, "Peace,
peace--there is no peace: whether you will or no you shall suffer and
tremble with me!" To accept humanity, as one does nature, and to resign
one's self to the will of an individual, as one does to destiny, is not
easy. We bow to the government of God, but we turn against the despot.
No man likes to share in the shipwreck of a vessel in which he has been
embarked by violence, and which has been steered contrary to his wish
and his opinion. And yet such is perpetually the case in life. We all of
us pay for the faults of the few.

Human solidarity is a fact more evident and more certain than personal
responsibility, and even than individual liberty. Our dependence has it
over our independence; for we are only independent in will and desire,
while we are dependent upon our health, upon nature and society; in
short, upon everything in us and without us. Our liberty is confined to
one single point. We may protest against all these oppressive and fatal
powers; we may say, Crush me--you will never win my consent! We may, by
an exercise of will, throw ourselves into opposition to necessity, and
refuse it homage and obedience. In that consists our moral liberty. But
except for that, we belong, body and goods, to the world. We are its
playthings, as the dust is the plaything of the wind, or the dead leaf
of the floods. God at least respects our dignity, but the world rolls us
contemptuously along in its merciless waves, in order to make it plain
that we are its thing and its chattel.

All theories of the nullity of the individual, all pantheistic and
materialist conceptions, are now but so much forcing of an open door, so
much slaying of the slain. As soon as we cease to glorify this
imperceptible point of conscience, and to uphold the value of it, the
individual becomes naturally a mere atom in the human mass, which is but
an atom in the planetary mass, which is a mere nothing in the universe.
The individual is then but a nothing of the third power, with a capacity
for measuring its nothingness! Thought leads to resignation. Self-doubt
leads to passivity, and passivity to servitude. From this a voluntary
submission is the only escape, that is to say, a state of dependence
religiously accepted, a vindication of ourselves as free beings, bowed
before duty only. Duty thus becomes our principle of action, our source
of energy, the guarantee of our partial independence of the world, the
condition of our dignity, the sign of our nobility. The world can
neither make me will nor make me will my duty; here I am my own and only
master, and treat with it as sovereign with sovereign. It holds my body
in its clutches; but my soul escapes and braves it. My thought and my
love, my faith and my hope, are beyond its reach. My true being, the
essence of my nature, myself, remain inviolate and inaccessible to the
world's attacks. In this respect we are greater than the universe, which
has mass and not will; we become once more independent even in relation
to the human mass, which also can destroy nothing more than our
happiness, just as the mass of the universe can destroy nothing more
than our body. Submission, then, is not defeat; on the contrary, it is

April 28, 1866.--I have just read the _proces-verbal_ of the Conference
of Pastors held on the 15th and 16th of April at Paris. The question of
the supernatural has split the church of France in two. The liberals
insist upon individual right; the orthodox upon the notion of a church.
And it is true indeed that a church is an affirmation, that it subsists
by the positive element in it, by definite belief; the pure critical
element dissolves it. Protestantism is a combination of two factors--the
authority of the Scriptures and free inquiry; as soon as one of these
factors is threatened or disappears, Protestantism disappears; a new
form of Christianity succeeds it, as, for example, the church of the
Brothers of the Holy Ghost, or that of Christian Theism. As far as I am
concerned, I see nothing objectionable in such a result, but I think the
friends of the Protestant church are logical in their refusal to abandon
the apostle's creed, and the individualists are illogical in imagining
that they can keep Protestantism and do away with authority.

It is a question of method which separates the two camps. I am
fundamentally separated from both. As I understand it, Christianity is
above all religions, and religion is not a method, it is a life, a
higher and supernatural life, mystical in its root and practical in its
fruits, a communion with God, a calm and deep enthusiasm, a love which
radiates, a force which acts, a happiness which overflows. Religion, in
short, is a state of the soul. These quarrels as to method have their
value, but it is a secondary value; they will never console a heart or
edify a conscience. This is why I feel so little interest in these
ecclesiastical struggles. Whether the one party or the other gain the
majority and the victory, what is essential is in no way profited, for
dogma, criticism, the church, are not religion; and it is religion, the
sense of a divine life, which matters. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God
and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
The most holy is the most Christian; this will always be the criterion
which is least deceptive. "By this ye shall know my disciples, if they
have love one to another."

As is the worth of the individual, so is the worth of his religion.
Popular instinct and philosophic reason are at one on this point. Be
good and pious, patient and heroic, faithful and devoted, humble and
charitable; the catechism which has taught you these things is beyond
the reach of blame. By religion we live in God; but all these quarrels
lead to nothing but life with men or with cassocks. There is therefore
no equivalence between the two points of view.

Perfection as an end--a noble example for sustenance on the way--the
divine proved by its own excellence, is not this the whole of
Christianity? God manifest in all men, is not this its true goal and

September 20, 1866.--My old friends are, I am afraid, disappointed in
me; they think that I do nothing, that I have deceived their
expectations and their hopes. I, too, am disappointed. All that would
restore my self-respect and give me a right to be proud of myself, seems
to me unattainable and impossible, and I fall back upon trivialities,
gay talk, distractions. I am always equally lacking in hope, in faith,
in resolution. The only difference is that my weakness takes sometimes
the form of despairing melancholy and sometimes that of a cheerful
quietism. And yet I read, I talk, I teach, I write, but to no effect; it
is as though I were walking in my sleep. The Buddhist tendency in me
blunts the faculty of free self-government and weakens the power of
action; self-distrust kills all desire, and reduces me again and again
to a fundamental skepticism. I care for nothing but the serious and the
real, and I can take neither myself nor my circumstances seriously. I
hold my own personality, my own aptitudes, my own aspirations, too
cheap. I am forever making light of myself in the name of all that is
beautiful and admirable. In a word, I bear within me a perpetual
self-detractor, and this is what takes all spring out of my life. I have
been passing the evening with Charles Heim, who, in his sincerity, has
never paid me any literary compliment. As I love and respect him, he is
forgiven. Self-love has nothing to do with it--and yet it would be sweet
to be praised by so upright a friend! It is depressing to feel one's
self silently disapproved of; I will try to satisfy him, and to think of
a book which may please both him and Scherer.

October 6, 1866.--I have just picked up on the stairs a little yellowish
cat, ugly and pitiable. Now, curled up in a chair at my side, he seems
perfectly happy, and as if he wanted nothing more. Far from being wild,
nothing will induce him to leave me, and he has followed me from room to
room all day. I have nothing at all that is eatable in the house, but
what I have I give him--that is to say, a look and a caress--and that
seems to be enough for him, at least for the moment. Small animals,
small children, young lives--they are all the same as far as the need of
protection and of gentleness is concerned.... People have sometimes said
to me that weak and feeble creatures are happy with me. Perhaps such a
fact has to do with some special gift or beneficent force which flows
from one when one is in the sympathetic state. I have often a direct
perception of such a force; but I am no ways proud of it, nor do I look
upon it as anything belonging to me, but simply as a natural gift. It
seems to me sometimes as though I could woo the birds to build in my
beard as they do in the headgear of some cathedral saint! After all,
this is the natural state and the true relation of man toward all
inferior creatures. If man was what he ought to be he would be adored by
the animals, of whom he is too often the capricious and sanguinary
tyrant. The legend of Saint Francis of Assisi is not so legendary as we
think; and it is not so certain that it was the wild beasts who attacked
man first.... But to exaggerate nothing, let us leave on one side the
beasts of prey, the carnivora, and those that live by rapine and
slaughter. How many other species are there, by thousands and tens of
thousands, who ask peace from us and with whom we persist in waging a
brutal war? Our race is by far the most destructive, the most hurtful,
and the most formidable, of all the species of the planet. It has even
invented for its own use the right of the strongest--a divine right
which quiets its conscience in the face of the conquered and the
oppressed; we have outlawed all that lives except ourselves. Revolting
and manifest abuse; notorious and contemptible breach of the law of
justice! The bad faith and hypocrisy of it are renewed on a small scale
by all successful usurpers. We are always making God our accomplice,
that so we may legalize our own iniquities. Every successful massacre is
consecrated by a Te Deum, and the clergy have never been wanting in
benedictions for any victorious enormity. So that what, in the
beginning, was the relation of man to the animal becomes that of people
to people and man to man.

If so, we have before us an expiation too seldom noticed but altogether
just. All crime must be expiated, and slavery is the repetition among
men of the sufferings brutally imposed by man upon other living beings;
it is the theory bearing its fruits. The right of man over the animal
seems to me to cease with the need of defense and of subsistence. So
that all unnecessary murder and torture are cowardice and even crime.
The animal renders a service of utility; man in return owes it a need of
protection and of kindness. In a word, the animal has claims on man, and
the man has duties to the animal. Buddhism, no doubt, exaggerates this
truth, but the Westerns leave it out of count altogether. A day will
come, however, when our standard will be higher, our humanity more
exacting, than it is to-day. _Homo homini lupus_, said Hobbes: the time
will come when man will be humane even for the wolf--_homo lupo homo_.

December 30, 1866.--Skepticism pure and simple as the only safeguard of
intellectual independence--such is the point of view of almost all our
young men of talent. Absolute freedom from credulity seems to them the
glory of man. My impression has always been that this excessive
detachment of the individual from all received prejudices and opinions
in reality does the work of tyranny. This evening, in listening to the
conversation of some of our most cultivated men, I thought of the
Renaissance, of the Ptolemies, of the reign of Louis XV., of all those
times in which the exultant anarchy of the intellect has had despotic
government for its correlative, and, on the other hand, of England, of
Holland, of the United States, countries in which political liberty is
bought at the price of necessary prejudices and _a priori_ opinions.

That society may hold together at all, we must have a principle of
cohesion--that is to say, a common belief, principles recognized and
undisputed, a series of practical axioms and institutions which are not
at the mercy of every caprice of public opinion. By treating everything
as if it were an open question, we endanger everything.

Doubt is the accomplice of tyranny. "If a people will not believe it
must obey," said Tocqueville. All liberty implies dependence, and has
its conditions; this is what negative and quarrelsome minds are apt to
forget. They think they can do away with religion; they do not know that
religion is indestructible, and that the question is simply, Which will
you have? Voltaire plays the game of Loyola, and _vice versa_. Between
these two there is no peace, nor can there be any for the society which
has once thrown itself into the dilemma. The only solution lies in a
free religion, a religion of free choice and free adhesion.

December 23, 1866.--It is raining over the whole sky--as far at least as
I can see from my high point of observation. All is gray from the Saleve
to the Jura, and from the pavement to the clouds; everything that one
sees or touches is gray; color, life, and gayety are dead--each living
thing seems to lie hidden in its own particular shell. What are the
birds doing in such weather as this? We who have food and shelter, fire
on the hearth, books around us, portfolios of engravings close at hand,
a nestful of dreams in the heart, and a whirlwind of thoughts ready to
rise from the ink-bottle--we find nature ugly and _triste_, and turn
away our eyes from it; but you, poor sparrows, what can you be doing?
Bearing and hoping and waiting? After all, is not this the task of each
one of us?

I have just been reading over a volume of this Journal, and feel a
little ashamed of the languid complaining tone of so much of it. These
pages reproduce me very imperfectly, and there are many things in me of
which I find no trace in them. I suppose it is because, in the first
place, sadness takes up the pen more readily than joy; and in the next,
because I depend so much upon surrounding circumstances. When there is
no call upon me, and nothing to put me to the test, I fall back into
melancholy; and so the practical man, the cheerful man, the literary
man, does not appear in these pages. The portrait is lacking in
proportion and breadth; it is one-sided, and wants a center; it has, as
it were, been painted from too near.

The true reason why we know ourselves so little lies in the difficulty
we find in standing at a proper distance from ourselves, in taking up
the right point of view, so that the details may help rather than hide
the general effect. We must learn to look at ourselves socially and
historically if we wish to have an exact idea of our relative worth, and
to look at our life as a whole, or at least as one complete period of
life, if we wish to know what we are and what we are not. The ant which
crawls to and fro over a face, the fly perched upon the forehead of a
maiden, touch them indeed, but do not see them, for they never embrace
the whole at a glance.

Is it wonderful that misunderstandings should play so great a part in
the world, when one sees how difficult it is to produce a faithful
portrait of a person whom one has been studying for more than twenty
years? Still, the effort has not been altogether lost; its reward has
been the sharpening of one's perceptions of the outer world. If I have
any special power of appreciating different shades of mind, I owe it no
doubt to the analysis I have so perpetually and unsuccessfully practiced
on myself. In fact, I have always regarded myself as matter for study,
and what has interested me most in myself has been the pleasure of
having under my hand a man, a person, in whom, as an authentic specimen
of human nature, I could follow, without importunity or indiscretion,
all the metamorphoses, the secret thoughts, the heart-beats, and the
temptations of humanity. My attention has been drawn to myself
impersonally and philosophically. One uses what one has, and one must
shape one's arrow out of one's own wood.

To arrive at a faithful portrait, succession must be converted into
simultaneousness, plurality into unity, and all the changing phenomena
must be traced back to their essence. There are ten men in me, according
to time, place, surrounding, and occasion; and in their restless
diversity I am forever escaping myself. Therefore, whatever I may reveal
of my past, of my Journal, or of myself, is of no use to him who is
without the poetic intuition, and cannot recompose me as a whole, with
or in spite of the elements which I confide to him.

I feel myself a chameleon, a kaleidoscope, a Proteus; changeable in
every way, open to every kind of polarization; fluid, virtual, and
therefore latent--latent even in manifestation, and absent even in
presentation. I am a spectator, so to speak, of the molecular whirlwind
which men call individual life; I am conscious of an incessant
metamorphosis, an irresistible movement of existence, which is going on
within me. I am sensible of the flight, the revival, the modification,
of all the atoms of my being, all the particles of my river, all the
radiations of my special force.

This phenomenology of myself serves both as the magic lantern of my own
destiny, and as a window opened upon the mystery of the world. I am, or
rather, my sensible consciousness is concentrated upon this ideal
standing-point, this invisible threshold, as it were, whence one hears
the impetuous passage of time, rushing and foaming as it flows out into
the changeless ocean of eternity. After all the bewildering distractions
of life, after having drowned myself in a multiplicity of trifles and in
the caprices of this fugitive existence, yet without ever attaining to
self-intoxication or self-delusion, I come again upon the fathomless
abyss, the silent and melancholy cavern where dwell "_Die Muetter_,"
[Footnote: "_Die Muetter_"--an allusion to a strange and enigmatical,
but very effective conception in "Faust" (Part II. Act I. Scene v.) _Die
Muetter_ are the prototypes, the abstract forms, the generative ideas, of
things. "Sie sehn dich nicht, denn Schemen sehn sie nur." Goethe
borrowed the term from a passage of Plutarch's, but he has made the idea
half Platonic, half legendary. Amiel, however, seems rather to have in
his mind Faust's speech in Scene vii. than the speech of Mephistopheles
in Scene v:

"In eurem Namen, Muetter, die ihr thront
Im Graenzenlosen, ewig einsam wohnt,
Und doch gesellig! Euer haupt umschweben
Des Lebens Bilder, regsam, ohne Leben."]

where sleeps that which neither lives nor dies, that which has neither
movement, nor change, nor extension, nor form, and which lasts when all
else passes away.

"Dans l'eternel azur de l'insondable espace
S'enveloppe de paix notre globe agitee:
Homme, enveloppe ainsi tes jours, reve qui passe,
Du calme firmament de ton eternite."

(H. P. AMIEL, _Penseroso_.)

Geneva, January 11, 1867.

"Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume, Labuntar anni...."

I hear the drops of my life falling distinctly one by one into the
devouring abyss of eternity. I feel my days flying before the pursuit of
death. All that remains to me of weeks, or months, or years, in which I
may drink in the light of the sun, seems to me no more than a single
night, a summer night, which scarcely counts, because it will so soon be
at an end.

Death! Silence! Eternity! What mysteries, what names of terror to the
being who longs for happiness, immortality, perfection! Where shall I be
to-morrow--in a little while--when the breath of life has forsaken me?
Where will those be whom I love? Whither are we all going? The eternal
problems rise before us in their implacable solemnity. Mystery on all
sides! And faith the only star in this darkness and uncertainty!

No matter!--so long as the world is the work of eternal goodness, and so
long as conscience has not deceived us. To give happiness and to do
good, there is our only law, our anchor of salvation, our beacon light,
our reason for existing. All religions may crumble away; so long as this
survives we have still an ideal, and life is worth living.

Nothing can lessen the dignity and value of humanity

Was einmal war, in allem Glanz und Schein,
Es regt sich dort; denn es will ewig sein.
Und ihr vertheilt es, allgewaltige Maechte,
Zum Zelt des Tages, zum Gewoelb' der Naechte.

so long as the religion of love, of unselfishness and devotion endures;
and none can destroy the altars of this faith for us so long as we feel
ourselves still capable of love.

April 15,1867--(_Seven_ A. M.).--Rain storms in the night--the weather
is showing its April caprice. From the window one sees a gray and
melancholy sky, and roofs glistering with rain. The spring is at its
work. Yes, and the implacable flight of time is driving us toward the
grave. Well--each has his turn!

"Allez, allez, o jeunes filles,
Cueillir des bleuets dans les bles!"

I am overpowered with melancholy, languor, lassitude. A longing for the
last great sleep has taken possession of me, combated, however, by a
thirst for sacrifice--sacrifice heroic and long-sustained. Are not both
simply ways of escape from one's self? "Sleep, or self-surrender, that I
may die to self!"--such is the cry of the heart. Poor heart!

April 17, 1867.--Awake, thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead.

What needs perpetually refreshing and renewing in me is my store of
courage. By nature I am so easily disgusted with life, I fall a prey so
readily to despair and pessimism.

"The happy man, as this century is able to produce him," according to
Madame ----, is a _Weltmuede_, one who keeps a brave face before the
world, and distracts himself as best he can from dwelling upon the
thought which is hidden at his heart--a thought which has in it the
sadness of death--the thought of the irreparable. The outward peace of
such a man is but despair well masked; his gayety is the carelessness of
a heart which has lost all its illusions, and has learned to acquiesce
in an indefinite putting off of happiness. His wisdom is really
acclimatization to sacrifice, his gentleness should be taken to mean
privation patiently borne rather than resignation. In a word, he submits
to an existence in which he feels no joy, and he cannot hide from
himself that all the alleviations with which it is strewn cannot satisfy
the soul. The thirst for the infinite is never appeased. God is wanting.

To win true peace, a man needs to feel himself directed, pardoned, and
sustained by a supreme power, to feel himself in the right road, at the
point where God would have him be--in order with God and the universe.
This faith gives strength and calm. I have not got it. All that is,
seems to me arbitrary and fortuitous. It may as well not be, as be.
Nothing in my own circumstances seems to me providential. All appears to
me left to my own responsibility, and it is this thought which disgusts
me with the government of my own life. I longed to give myself up wholly
to some great love, some noble end; I would willingly have lived and
died for the ideal--that is to say, for a holy cause. But once the
impossibility of this made clear to me, I have never since taken a
serious interest in anything, and have, as it were, but amused myself
with a destiny of which I was no longer the dupe.

Sybarite and dreamer, will you go on like this to the end--forever
tossed backward and forward between duty and happiness, incapable of
choice, of action? Is not life the test of our moral force, and all
these inward waverings, are they not temptations of the soul?

September 6, 1867, _Weissenstein_. [Footnote: Weissenstein is a high
point in the Jura, above Soleure.] (_Ten o'clock in the morning_).--A
marvelous view of blinding and bewildering beauty. Above a milky sea of
cloud, flooded with morning light, the rolling waves of which are
beating up against the base of the wooded steeps of the Weissenstein,
the vast circle of the Alps soars to a sublime height. The eastern side
of the horizon is drowned in the splendors of the rising mists; but from
the Toedi westward, the whole chain floats pure and clear between the
milky plain and the pale blue sky. The giant assembly is sitting in
council above the valleys and the lakes still submerged in vapor. The
Clariden, the Spannoerter, the Titlis, then the Bernese _colossi_ from
the Wetterhorn to the Diablerets, then the peaks of Vaud, Valais, and
Fribourg, and beyond these high chains the two kings of the Alps, Mont
Blanc, of a pale pink, and the bluish point of Monte Rosa, peering out
through a cleft in the Doldenhorn--such is the composition of the great
snowy amphitheatre. The outline of the horizon takes all possible forms:
needles, ridges, battlements, pyramids, obelisks, teeth, fangs, pincers,
horns, cupolas; the mountain profile sinks, rises again, twists and
sharpens itself in a thousand ways, but always so as to maintain an
angular and serrated line. Only the inferior and secondary groups of
mountains show any large curves or sweeping undulations of form. The
Alps are more than an upheaval; they are a tearing and gashing of the
earth's surface. Their granite peaks bite into the sky instead of
caressing it. The Jura, on the contrary, spreads its broad back
complacently under the blue dome of air.

_Eleven o'clock_.--The sea of vapor has risen and attacked the
mountains, which for a long time overlooked it like so many huge reefs.
For awhile it surged in vain over the lower slopes of the Alps. Then
rolling back upon itself, it made a more successful onslaught upon the
Jura, and now we are enveloped in its moving waves. The milky sea has
become one vast cloud, which has swallowed up the plain and the
mountains, observatory and observer. Within this cloud one may hear the
sheep-bells ringing, and see the sunlight darting hither and thither.
Strange and fanciful sight!

The Hanoverian pianist has gone; the family from Colmar has gone; a
young girl and her brother have arrived. The girl is very pretty, and
particularly dainty and elegant in all her ways; she seems to touch
things only with the tips of her fingers; one compares her to an ermine,
a gazelle. But at the same time she has no interests, does not know how
to admire, and thinks of herself more than of anything else. This
perhaps is a drawback inseparable from a beauty and a figure which
attract all eyes. She is, besides, a townswoman to the core, and feels
herself out of place in this great nature, which probably seems to her
barbarous and ill-bred. At any rate she does not let it interfere with
her in any way, and parades herself on the mountains with her little
bonnet and her scarcely perceptible sunshade, as though she were on the
boulevard. She belongs to that class of tourists so amusingly drawn by
Toepffer. Character: _naive_ conceit. Country: France. Standard of life:
fashion. Some cleverness but no sense of reality, no understanding of
nature, no consciousness of the manifold diversities of the world and of
the right of life to be what it is, and to follow its own way and not

This ridiculous element in her is connected with the same national
prejudice which holds France to be the center point of the world, and
leads Frenchmen to neglect geography and languages. The ordinary French
townsman is really deliciously stupid in spite of all his natural
cleverness, for he understands nothing but himself. His pole, his axis,
his center, his all is Paris--or even less--Parisian manners, the taste
of the day, fashion. Thanks to this organized fetishism, we have
millions of copies of one single original pattern; a whole people moving
together like bobbins in the same machine, or the legs of a single
_corps d'armee_. The result is wonderful but wearisome; wonderful in
point of material strength, wearisome psychologically. A hundred
thousand sheep are not more instructive than one sheep, but they furnish
a hundred thousand times more wool, meat, and manure. This is all, you
may say, that the shepherd--that is, the master--requires. Very well,
but one can only maintain breeding-farms or monarchies on these
principles. For a republic you must have men: it cannot get on without

_Noon_.--An exquisite effect. A great herd of cattle are running across
the meadows under my window, which is just illuminated by a furtive ray
of sunshine. The picture has a ghostly suddenness and brilliancy; it
pierces the mists which close upon it, like the slide of a magic

What a pity I must leave this place now that everything is so bright!

* * * * *

The calm sea says more to the thoughtful soul than the same sea in storm
and tumult. But we need the understanding of eternal things and the
sentiment of the infinite to be able to feel this. The divine state _par
excellence_ is that of silence and repose, because all speech and all
action are in themselves limited and fugitive. Napoleon with his arms
crossed over his breast is more expressive than the furious Hercules
beating the air with his athlete's fists. People of passionate
temperament never understand this. They are only sensitive to the energy
of succession; they know nothing of the energy of condensation. They can
only be impressed by acts and effects, by noise and effort. They have no
instinct of contemplation, no sense of the pure cause, the fixed source
of all movement, the principle of all effects, the center of all light,
which does not need to spend itself in order to be sure of its own
wealth, nor to throw itself into violent motion to be certain of its own
power. The art of passion is sure to please, but it is not the highest
art; it is true, indeed, that under the rule of democracy, the serener
and calmer forms of art become more and more difficult; the turbulent
herd no longer knows the gods.

* * * * *

Minds accustomed to analysis never allow objections more than a
half-value, because they appreciate the variable and relative elements
which enter in.

* * * * *

A well-governed mind learns in time to find pleasure in nothing but the
true and the just.

January 10, 1868. (_Eleven_ P. M.).--We have had a philosophical meeting
at the house of Edouard Claparede. [Footnote: Edouard Claparede, a
Genevese naturalist, born 1832, died 1871.] The question on the order of
the day was the nature of sensation. Claparede pronounced for the
absolute subjectivity of all experience--in other words, for pure
idealism--which is amusing, from a naturalist. According to him the
_ego_ alone exists, and the universe is but a projection of the _ego_, a
phantasmagoria which we ourselves create without suspecting it,
believing all the time that we are lookers-on. It is our nouemenon which
objectifies itself as phenomenon. The _ego_, according to him, is a
radiating force which, modified without knowing what it is that modifies
it, imagines it, by virtue of the principle of causality--that is to
say, produces the great illusion of the objective world in order so to
explain itself. Our waking life, therefore, is but a more connected
dream. The self is an unknown which gives birth to an infinite number of
unknowns, by a fatality of its nature. Science is summed up in the
consciousness that nothing exists but consciousness. In other words, the
intelligent issues from the unintelligible in order to return to it, or
rather the ego explains itself by the hypothesis of the _non-ego_, while
in reality it is but a dream, dreaming itself. We might say with

"Et je vis l'ombre d'un esprit
Qui tracait l'ombre d'um systeme
Avec l'ombre de l'ombre meme."

This abolition of nature by natural science is logical, and it was, in
fact, Schelling's starting-point. From the standpoint of physiology,
nature is but a necessary illusion, a constitutional hallucination. We
only escape from this bewitchment by the moral activity of the _ego_,
which feels itself a cause and a free cause, and which by its
responsibility breaks the spell and issues from the enchanted circle of

Maia! Is she indeed the true goddess? Hindoo wisdom long ago regarded
the world as the dream of Brahma. Must we hold with Fichte that it is
the individual dream of each individual _ego_? Every fool would then be
a cosmogonic poet producing the firework of the universe under the dome
of the infinite. But why then give ourselves such gratuitous trouble to
learn? In our dreams, at least, nightmare excepted, we endow ourselves
with complete ubiquity, liberty and omniscience. Are we then less
ingenious and inventive awake than asleep?

January 25, 1868.--It is when the outer man begins to decay that it
becomes vitally important to us to believe in immortality, and to feel
with the apostle that the inner man is renewed from day to day. But for
those who doubt it and have no hope of it? For them the remainder of
life can only be the compulsory dismemberment of their small empire, the
gradual dismantling of their being by inexorable destiny. How hard it is
to bear--this long-drawn death, of which the stages are melancholy and
the end inevitable! It is easy to see why it was that stoicism
maintained the right of suicide. What is my real faith? Has the
universal, or at any rate the very general and common doubt of science,
invaded me in my turn? I have defended the cause of the immortality of
the soul against those who questioned it, and yet when I have reduced
them to silence, I have scarcely known whether at bottom I was not after
all on their side. I try to do without hope; but it is possible that I
have no longer the strength for it, and that, like other men, I must be
sustained and consoled by a belief, by the belief in pardon and
immortality--that is to say, by religious belief of the Christian type.
Reason and thought grow tired, like muscles and nerves. They must have
their sleep, and this sleep is the relapse into the tradition of
childhood, into the common hope. It takes so much effort to maintain
one's self in an exceptional point of view, that one falls back into
prejudice by pure exhaustion, just as the man who stands indefinitely
always ends by sinking to the ground and reassuming the horizontal

What is to become of us when everything leaves us--health, joy,
affections, the freshness of sensation, memory, capacity for work--when
the sun seems to us to have lost its warmth, and life is stripped of all
its charm? What is to become of us without hope? Must we either harden
or forget? There is but one answer--keep close to duty. Never mind the
future, if only you have peace of conscience, if you feel yourself
reconciled, and in harmony with the order of things. Be what you ought
to be; the rest is God's affair. It is for him to know what is best, to
take care of his own glory, to ensure the happiness of what depends on
him, whether by another life or by annihilation. And supposing that
there were no good and holy God, nothing but universal being, the law of
the all, an ideal without hypostasis or reality, duty would still be the
key of the enigma, the pole-star of a wandering humanity.

"Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra."

January 26, 1868.--Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of
heaven into the midst of our rough earthliness. These eighty thousand
daily births, of which statistics tell us, represent as it were an
effusion of innocence and freshness, struggling not only against the
death of the race, but against human corruption, and the universal
gangrene of sin. All the good and wholesome feeling which is intertwined
with childhood and the cradle is one of the secrets of the providential
government of the world. Suppress this life-giving dew, and human
society would be scorched and devastated by selfish passion. Supposing
that humanity had been composed of a thousand millions of immortal
beings, whose number could neither increase nor diminish, where should
we be, and what should we be! A thousand times more learned, no doubt,
but a thousand times more evil. There would have been a vast
accumulation of science, but all the virtues engendered by suffering and
devotion--that is to say, by the family and society--would have no
existence. And for this there would be no compensation.

Blessed be childhood for the good that it does, and for the good which
it brings about carelessly and unconsciously by simply making us love it
and letting itself be loved. What little of paradise we see still on
earth is due to its presence among us. Without fatherhood, without
motherhood, I think that love itself would not be enough to prevent men
from devouring each other--men, that is to say, such as human passions
have made them. The angels have no need of birth and death as
foundations for their life, because their life is heavenly.

February 16, 1868.--I have been finishing About's "Mainfroy (Les
Mariages de Province)." What subtlety, what cleverness, what _verve_,
what _aplomb_! About is a master of epithet, of quick, light-winged
satire. For all his cavalier freedom of manner, his work is conceived at
bottom in a spirit of the subtlest irony, and his detachment of mind is
so great that he is able to make sport of everything, to mock at others
and himself, while all the time amusing himself extremely with his own
ideas and inventions. This is indeed the characteristic mark, the common
signature, so to speak, of _esprit_ like his.

Irrepressible mischief, indefatigable elasticity, a power of luminous
mockery, delight in the perpetual discharge of innumerable arrows from
an inexhaustible quiver, the unquenchable laughter of some little
earth-born demon, perpetual gayety, and a radiant force of
epigram--there are all these in the true humorist. _Stulti sunt
innumerabiles_, said Erasmus, the patron of all these dainty mockers.
Folly, conceit, foppery, silliness, affectation, hypocrisy,
attitudinizing and pedantry of all shades, and in all forms, everything
that poses, prances, bridles, struts, bedizens, and plumes itself,
everything that takes itself seriously and tries to impose itself on
mankind--all this is the natural prey of the satirist, so many targets
ready for his arrows, so many victims offered to his attack. And we all
know how rich the world is in prey of this kind! An alderman's feast of
folly is served up to him in perpetuity; the spectacle of society offers
him an endless _noce de Gamache_. [Footnote: _Noce de Gamache_--"repas
tres somptueux."--Littre. The allusion, of course, is to Don Quixote,
Part II. chap. xx.--"Donde se cuentan las bodas de Bamacho el rico, con
el suceso de Basilio el pobre."] With what glee he raids through his
domains, and what signs of destruction and massacre mark the path of the
sportsman! His hand is infallible like his glance. The spirit of sarcasm
lives and thrives in the midst of universal wreck; its balls are
enchanted and itself invulnerable, and it braves retaliations and
reprisals because itself is a mere flash, a bodiless and magical

Clever men will recognize and tolerate nothing but cleverness; every
authority rouses their ridicule, every superstition amuses them, every
convention moves them to contradiction. Only force finds favor in their
eyes, and they have no toleration for anything that is not purely
natural and spontaneous. And yet ten clever men are not worth one man of
talent, nor ten men of talent worth one man of genius. And in the
individual, feeling is more than cleverness, reason is worth as much as
feeling, and conscience has it over reason. If, then, the clever man is
not _mockable_, he may at least be neither loved, nor considered, nor
esteemed. He may make himself feared, it is true, and force others to
respect his independence; but this negative advantage, which is the
result of a negative superiority, brings no happiness with it.
Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient for nothing.

March 8, 1868.--Madame----kept me to have tea with three young friends
of hers--three sisters, I think. The two youngest are extremely pretty,
the dark one as pretty as the blonde. Their fresh faces, radiant with
the bloom of youth, were a perpetual delight to the eye. This electric
force of beauty has a beneficent effect upon the man of letters; it acts
as a real restorative. Sensitive, impressionable, absorbent as I am, the
neighborhood of health, of beauty, of intelligence and of goodness,
exercises a powerful influence upon my whole being; and in the same way
I am troubled and affected just as easily by the presence near me of
troubled lives or diseased souls. Madame ---- said of me that I must be
"superlatively feminine" in all my perceptions. This ready sympathy and
sensitiveness is the reason of it. If I had but desired it ever so
little, I should have had the magical clairvoyance of the somnambulist,
and could have reproduced in myself a number of strange phenomena. I
know it, but I have always been on my guard against it, whether from
indifference or from prudence. When I think of the intuitions of every
kind which have come to me since my youth, it seems to me that I have
lived a multitude of lives. Every characteristic individuality shapes
itself ideally in me, or rather molds me for the moment into its own
image; and I have only to turn my attention upon myself at such a time
to be able to understand a new mode of being, a new phase of human
nature. In this way I have been, turn by turn, mathematician, musician,
_savant_, monk, child, or mother. In these states of universal sympathy
I have even seemed to myself sometimes to enter into the condition of
the animal or the plant, and even of an individual animal, of a given
plant. This faculty of ascending and descending metamorphosis, this
power of simplifying or of adding to one's individuality, has sometimes
astounded my friends, even the most subtle of them. It has to do no
doubt with the extreme facility which I have for impersonal and
objective thought, and this again accounts for the difficulty which I
feel in realizing my own individuality, in being simply one man having
his proper number and ticket. To withdraw within my own individual
limits has always seemed to me a strange, arbitrary, and conventional
process. I seem to myself to be a mere conjuror's apparatus, an
instrument of vision and perception, a person without personality, a
subject without any determined individuality--an instance, to speak
technically, of pure "determinability" and "formability," and therefore
I can only resign myself with difficulty to play the purely arbitrary
part of a private citizen, inscribed upon the roll of a particular town
or a particular country. In action I feel myself out of place; my true
_milieu_ is contemplation. Pure virtuality and perfect equilibrium--in
these I am most at home. There I feel myself free, disinterested, and
sovereign. Is it a call or a temptation?

It represents perhaps the oscillation between the two geniuses, the
Greek and the Roman, the eastern and the western, the ancient and the
Christian, or the struggle between the two ideals, that of liberty and
that of holiness. Liberty raises us to the gods; holiness prostrates us
on the ground. Action limits us; whereas in the state of contemplation
we are endlessly expansive. Will localizes us; thought universalizes us.
My soul wavers between half a dozen antagonistic general conceptions,
because it is responsive to all the great instincts of human nature, and
its aspiration is to the absolute, which is only to be reached through a
succession of contraries. It has taken me a great deal of time to
understand myself, and I frequently find myself beginning over again the
study of the oft-solved problem, so difficult is it for us to maintain
any fixed point within us. I love everything, and detest one thing
only--the hopeless imprisonment of my being within a single arbitrary
form, even were it chosen by myself. Liberty for the inner man is then
the strongest of my passions--perhaps my only passion. Is such a passion
lawful? It has been my habit to think so, but intermittently, by fits
and starts. I am not perfectly sure of it.

March 17, 1868.--Women wish to be loved without a why or a wherefore;
not because they are pretty, or good, or well bred, or graceful, or
intelligent, but because they are themselves. All analysis seems to them
to imply a loss of consideration, a subordination of their personality
to something which dominates and measures it. They will have none of it;
and their instinct is just. As soon as we can give a reason for a
feeling we are no longer under the spell of it; we appreciate, we weigh,
we are free, at least in principle. Love must always remain a
fascination, a witchery, if the empire of woman is to endure. Once the
mystery gone, the power goes with it. Love must always seem to us
indivisible, insoluble, superior to all analysis, if it is to preserve
that appearance of infinity, of something supernatural and miraculous,
which makes its chief beauty. The majority of beings despise what they
understand, and bow only before the inexplicable. The feminine triumph
_par excellence_ is to convict of obscurity that virile intelligence
which makes so much pretense to enlightenment. And when a woman inspires
love, it is then especially that she enjoys this proud triumph. I admit
that her exultation has its grounds. Still, it seems to me that
love--true and profound love--should be a source of light and calm, a
religion and a revelation, in which there is no place left for the lower
victories of vanity. Great souls care only for what is great, and to the
spirit which hovers in the sight of the Infinite, any sort of artifice
seems a disgraceful puerility.

March 19, 1868.--What we call little things are merely the causes of
great things; they are the beginning, the embryo, and it is the point of
departure which, generally speaking, decides the whole future of an
existence. One single black speck may be the beginning of a gangrene, of
a storm, of a revolution. From one insignificant misunderstanding hatred
and separation may finally issue. An enormous avalanche begins by the
displacement of one atom, and the conflagration of a town by the fall of
a match. Almost everything comes from almost nothing, one might think.
It is only the first crystallization which is the affair of mind; the
ultimate aggregation is the affair of mass, of attraction, of acquired
momentum, of mechanical acceleration. History, like nature, illustrates
for us the application of the law of inertia and agglomeration which is
put lightly in the proverb, "Nothing succeeds like success." Find the
right point at starting; strike straight, begin well; everything depends
on it. Or more simply still, provide yourself with good luck--for
accident plays a vast part in human affairs. Those who have succeeded
most in this world (Napoleon or Bismarck) confess it; calculation is not
without its uses, but chance makes mock of calculation, and the result
of a planned combination is in no wise proportional to its merit. From
the supernatural point of view people say: "This chance, as you call it,
is, in reality, the action of providence. Man may give himself what
trouble he will--God leads him all the same." Only, unfortunately, this
supposed intervention as often as not ends in the defeat of zeal,
virtue, and devotion, and the success of crime, stupidity, and
selfishness. Poor, sorely-tried Faith! She has but one way out of the
difficulty--the word Mystery! It is in the origins of things that the
great secret of destiny lies hidden, although the breathless sequence of
after events has often many surprises for us too. So that at first sight
history seems to us accident and confusion; looked at for the second
time, it seems to us logical and necessary; looked at for the third
time, it appears to us a mixture of necessity and liberty; on the fourth
examination we scarcely know what to think of it, for if force is the
source of right, and chance the origin of force, we come back to our
first explanation, only with a heavier heart than when we began.

Is Democritus right after all? Is chance the foundation of everything,
all laws being but the imaginations of our reason, which, itself born of
accident, has a certain power of self-deception and of inventing laws
which it believes to be real and objective, just as a man who dreams of
a meal thinks that he is eating, while in reality there is neither
table, nor food, nor guest nor nourishment? Everything goes on as if
there were order and reason and logic in the world, while in reality
everything is fortuitous, accidental, and apparent. The universe is but
the kaleidoscope which turns within the mind of the so-called thinking
being, who is himself a curiosity without a cause, an accident conscious
of the great accident around him, and who amuses himself with it so long
as the phenomenon of his vision lasts. Science is a lucid madness
occupied in tabulating its own necessary hallucinations. The philosopher
laughs, for he alone escapes being duped, while he sees other men the
victims of persistent illusion. He is like some mischievous spectator of
a ball who has cleverly taken all the strings from the violins, and yet
sees musicians and dancers moving and pirouetting before him as though
the music were still going on. Such an experience would delight him as
proving that the universal St. Vitus' dance is also nothing but an
aberration of the inner consciousness, and that the philosopher is in
the right of it as against the general credulity. Is it not even enough
simply to shut one's ears in a ballroom, to believe one's self in a

The multitude of religions on the earth must have very much the same
effect upon the man who has killed the religious idea in himself. But it
is a dangerous attempt, this repudiation of the common law of the
race--this claim to be in the right, as against all the world.

It is not often that the philosophic scoffers forget themselves for
others. Why should they? Self-devotion is a serious thing, and
seriousness would be inconsistent with their role of mockery. To be
unselfish we must love; to love we must believe in the reality of what
we love; we must know how to suffer, how to forget ourselves, how to
yield ourselves up--in a word, how to be serious. A spirit of incessant
mockery means absolute isolation; it is the sign of a thoroughgoing
egotism. If we wish to do good to men we must pity and not despise them.
We must learn to say of them, not "What fools!" but "What unfortunates!"
The pessimist or the nihilist seems to me less cold and icy than the
mocking atheist. He reminds me of the somber words of "Ahasverus:"

"Vous qui manquez de charite,
Tremblez a mon supplice etrange:
Ce n'est point sa divinite,
C'est l'humanite que Dieu venge!"

[Footnote: The quotation is from Quinet's "Ahasverus" (first published
1833), that strange _Welt-gedicht_, which the author himself described
as "l'histoire du monde, de Dieu dans le monde, et enfin du doute dans
le monde," and which, with Faust, probably suggested the unfinished but
in many ways brilliant performance of the young Spaniard,
Espronceda--_El Diablo Mundo_.]

It is better to be lost than to be saved all alone; and it is a wrong to
one's kind to wish to be wise without making others share our wisdom. It
is, besides, an illusion to suppose that such a privilege is possible,
when everything proves the solidarity of individuals, and when no one
can think at all except by means of the general store of thought,
accumulated and refined by centuries of cultivation and experience.
Absolute individualism is an absurdity. A man may be isolated in his own
particular and temporary _milieu_, but every one of our thoughts or
feelings finds, has found, and will find, its echo in humanity. Such an
echo is immense and far-resounding in the case of those representative
men who have been adopted by great fractions of humanity as guides,
revealers, and reformers; but it exists for everybody. Every sincere
utterance of the soul, every testimony faithfully borne to a personal
conviction, is of use to some one and some thing, even when you know it
not, and when your mouth is stopped by violence, or the noose tightens
round your neck. A word spoken to some one preserves an indestructible
influence, just as any movement whatever may be metamorphosed, but not
undone. Here, then, is a reason for not mocking, for not being silent,
for affirming, for acting. We must have faith in truth; we must seek the
true and spread it abroad; we must love men and serve them.

April 9, 1868.--I have been spending three hours over Lotze's big volume
("Geschichte der Aesthetikin Deutschland"). It begins attractively, but
the attraction wanes, and by the end I was very tired of it. Why?
Because the noise of a mill-wheel sends one to sleep, and these pages
without paragraphs, these interminable chapters, and this incessant,
dialectical clatter, affect me as though I were listening to a
word-mill. I end by yawning like any simple non-philosophical mortal in
the face of all this heaviness and pedantry. Erudition, and even
thought, are not everything. An occasional touch of esprit, a little
sharpness of phrase, a little vivacity, imagination, and grace, would
spoil neither. Do these pedantic books leave a single image or formula,
a single new or striking fact behind them in the memory, when one puts
them down? No; nothing but confusion and fatigue. Oh for clearness,
terseness, brevity! Diderot, Voltaire, and even Galiani!

A short article by Sainte-Beuve, Scherer, Renan, Victor Cherbuliez,
gives one more pleasure, and makes one think and reflect more, than a
thousand of these heavy German pages, stuffed to the brim, and showing
rather the work itself than its results. The Germans gather fuel for the
pile: it is the French who kindle it. For heaven's sake, spare me your
lucubrations; give me facts or ideas. Keep your vats, your must, your
dregs, in the background. What I ask is wine--wine which will sparkle in
the glass, and stimulate intelligence instead of weighing it down.

April 11, 1868. (_Mornex sur Saleve_).--I left town in a great storm of
wind, which was raising clouds of dust along the suburban roads, and two
hours later I found myself safely installed among the mountains, just
like last year. I think of staying a week here.... The sounds of the
village are wafted to my open window, barkings of distant dogs, voices
of women at the fountain, the songs of birds in the lower orchards. The
green carpet of the plain is dappled by passing shadows thrown upon it
by the clouds; the landscape has the charm of delicate tint and a sort
of languid grace. Already I am full of a sense of well-being, I am
tasting the joys of that contemplative state in which the soul, issuing
from itself, becomes as it were the soul of a country or a landscape,
and feels living within it a multitude of lives. Here is no more
resistance, negation, blame; everything is affirmative; I feel myself in
harmony with nature and with surroundings, of which I seem to myself the
expression. The heart opens to the immensity of things. This is what I
love! _Nam mihires, non me rebus submittere conor_. April 12, 1868.
(_Easter Day_), _Mornex Eight_ A. M.--The day has opened solemnly and
religiously. There is a tinkling of bells from the valley: even the
fields seem to be breathing forth a canticle of praise. Humanity must
have a worship, and, all things considered, is not the Christian worship
the best among those which have existed on a large scale? The religion
of sin, of repentance, and reconciliation--the religion of the new birth
and of eternal life--is not a religion to be ashamed of. In spite of all
the aberrations of fanaticism, all the superstitions of formalism, all
the ugly superstructures of hypocrisy, all the fantastic puerilities of
theology, the gospel has modified the world and consoled mankind.
Christian humanity is not much better than pagan humanity, but it would
be much worse without a religion, and without this religion. Every
religion proposes an ideal and a model; the Christian ideal is sublime,
and its model of a divine beauty. We may hold aloof from the churches,
and yet bow ourselves before Jesus. We may be suspicious of the clergy,
and refuse to have anything to do with catechisms, and yet love the Holy
and the Just, who came to save and not to curse. Jesus will always
supply us with the best criticism of Christianity, and when Christianity
has passed away the religion of Jesus will in all probability survive.
After Jesus as God we shall come back to faith in the God of Jesus.

_Five o'clock_ P. M.--I have been for a long walk through Cezargues,
Eseri, and the Yves woods, returning by the Pont du Loup. The weather
was cold and gray. A great popular merrymaking of some sort, with its
multitude of blouses, and its drums and fifes, has been going on
riotously for an hour under my window. The crowd has sung a number of
songs, drinking songs, ballads, romances, but all more or less heavy and
ugly. The muse has never touched our country people, and the Swiss race
is not graceful even in its gayety. A bear in high spirits--this is what
one thinks of. The poetry it produces, too, is desperately vulgar and
commonplace. Why? In the first place, because, in spite of the pretenses
of our democratic philosophies, the classes whose backs are bent with
manual labor are aesthetically inferior to the others. In the next
place, because our old rustic peasant poetry is dead, and the peasant,
when he tries to share the music or the poetry of the cultivated
classes, only succeeds in caricaturing it, and not in copying it.
Democracy, by laying it down that there is but one class for all men,
has in fact done a wrong to everything that is not first-rate. As we can
no longer without offense judge men according to a certain recognized
order, we can only compare them to the best that exists, and then they
naturally seem to us more mediocre, more ugly, more deformed than
before. If the passion for equality potentially raises the average, it
_really_ degrades nineteen-twentieths of individuals below their former
place. There is a progress in the domain of law and a falling back in
the domain of art. And meanwhile the artists see multiplying before them
their _bete-noire_, the _bourgeois_, the Philistine, the presumptuous
ignoramus, the quack who plays at science, and the feather-brain who
thinks himself the equal of the intelligent.

"Commonness will prevail," as De Candolle said in speaking of the
graminaceous plants. The era of equality means the triumph of
mediocrity. It is disappointing, but inevitable; for it is one of time's
revenges. Humanity, after having organized itself on the basis of the
dissimilarity of individuals, is now organizing itself on the basis of
their similarity, and the one exclusive principle is about as true as
the other. Art no doubt will lose, but justice will gain. Is not
universal leveling-down the law of nature, and when all has been leveled
will not all have been destroyed? So that the world is striving with all
its force for the destruction of what it has itself brought forth. Life
is the blind pursuit of its own negation; as has been said of the
wicked, nature also works for her own disappointment, she labors at what
she hates, she weaves her own shroud, and piles up the stones of her own
tomb. God may well forgive us, for "we know not what to do."

Just as the sum of force is always identical in the material universe,
and presents a spectacle not of diminution nor of augmentation but
simply of constant metamorphosis, so it is not impossible that the sum
of good is in reality always the same, and that therefore all progress
on one side is compensated inversely on another side. If this were so we
ought never to say that period or a people is absolutely and as a whole
superior to another time or another people, but only that there is
superiority in certain points. The great difference between man and man
would, on these principles, consist in the art of transforming vitality
into spirituality, and latent power into useful energy. The same
difference would hold good between nation and nation, so that the object
of the simultaneous or successive competition of mankind in history
would be the extraction of the maximum of humanity from a given amount
of animality. Education, morals, and politics would be only variations
of the same art, the art of living--that is to say, of disengaging the
pure form and subtlest essence of our individual being.

April 26, 1868. (_Sunday, Mid-day_).--A gloomy morning. On all sides a
depressing outlook, and within, disgust with self.

_Ten_ P.M.--Visits and a walk. I have spent the evening alone. Many
things to-day have taught me lessons of wisdom. I have seen the
hawthorns covering themselves with blossom, and the whole valley
springing up afresh under the breath of the spring. I have been the
spectator of faults of conduct on the part of old men who will not grow
old, and whose heart is in rebellion against the natural law. I have
watched the working of marriage in its frivolous and commonplace forms,
and listened to trivial preaching. I have been a witness of griefs
without hope, of loneliness that claimed one's pity. I have listened to
pleasantries on the subject of madness, and to the merry songs of the
birds. And everything has had the same message for me: "Place yourself
once more in harmony with the universal law; accept the will of God;
make a religious use of life; work while it is yet day; be at once
serious and cheerful; know how to repeat with the apostle, 'I have
learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.'"

August 26, 1868.--After all the storms of feeling within and the organic
disturbances without, which during these latter months have pinned me so
closely to my own individual existence, shall I ever be able to reascend
into the region of pure intelligence, to enter again upon the
disinterested and impersonal life, to recover my old indifference toward
subjective miseries, and regain a purely scientific and contemplative
state of mind? Shall I ever succeed in forgetting all the needs which
bind me to earth and to humanity? Shall I ever become pure spirit? Alas!
I cannot persuade myself to believe it possible for an instant. I see
infirmity and weakness close upon me, I feel I cannot do without
affection, and I know that I have no ambition, and that my faculties are
declining. I remember that I am forty-seven years old, and that all my
brood of youthful hopes has flown away. So that there is no deceiving
myself as to the fate which awaits me: increasing loneliness,
mortification of spirit, long-continued regret, melancholy neither to be
consoled nor confessed, a mournful old age, a slow decay, a death in the

Terrible dilemma! Whatever is still possible to me has lost its savor,
while all that I could still desire escapes me, and will always escape
me. Every impulse ends in weariness and disappointment. Discouragement,
depression, weakness, apathy; there is the dismal series which must be
forever begun and re-begun, while we are still rolling up the Sisyphean
rock of life. Is it not simpler and shorter to plunge head-foremost into
the gulf?

No, rebel as we may, there is but one solution--to submit to the general
order, to accept, to resign ourselves, and to do still what we can. It
is our self-will, our aspirations, our dreams, that must be sacrificed.
We must give up the hope of happiness once for all! Immolation of the
self--death to self--this is the only suicide which is either useful or
permitted. In my present mood of indifference and disinterestedness,
there is some secret ill-humor, some wounded pride, a little rancor;
there is selfishness in short, since a premature claim for rest is
implied in it. Absolute disinterestedness is only reached in that
perfect humility which tramples the self under foot for the glory of

I have no more strength left, I wish for nothing; but that is not what
is wanted. I must wish what God wishes; I must pass from indifference to
sacrifice, and from sacrifice to self-devotion. The cup which I would
fain put away from me is the misery of living, the shame of existing and
suffering as a common creature who has missed his vocation; it is the
bitter and increasing humiliation of declining power, of growing old
under the weight of one's own disapproval, and the disappointment of
one's friends! "Wilt thou be healed?" was the text of last Sunday's
sermon. "Come to me, all ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will
give you rest." "And if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our

August 27, 1868.--To-day I took up the "Penseroso" [Footnote: "II
Penseroso," poesies-maximes par H. F. Amiel: Geneve, 1858. This little
book, which contains one hundred and thirty-three maxims, several of
which are quoted in the _Journal Intime_, is prefaced by a motto
translated from Shelley--"Ce n'est pas la science qui nous manque, a
nous modernes; nous l'avons surabondamment.... Mais ce que nous avons
absorbe nous absorbe.... Ce qui nous manque c'est la poesie de la vie."]
again. I have often violated its maxims and forgotten its lessons.
Still, this volume is a true son of my soul, and breathes the true
spirit of the inner life. Whenever I wish to revive my consciousness of
my own tradition, it is pleasant to me to read over this little gnomic
collection which has had such scant justice done to it, and which, were
it another's, I should often quote. I like to feel that in it I have
attained to that relative truth which may be defined as consistency with
self, the harmony of appearance with reality, of thought with
expression--in other words, sincerity, ingenuousness, inwardness. It is
personal experience in the strictest sense of the word.

September 21, 1868. (_Villars_).--A lovely autumn effect. Everything was
veiled in gloom this morning, and a gray mist of rain floated between us
and the whole circle of mountains. Now the strip of blue sky which made
its appearance at first behind the distant peaks has grown larger, has
mounted to the zenith, and the dome of heaven, swept almost clear of
cloud, sends streaming down upon us the pale rays of a convalescent sun.
The day now promises kindly, and all is well that ends well.

Thus after a season of tears a sober and softened joy may return to us.
Say to yourself that you are entering upon the autumn of your life; that
the graces of spring and the splendors of summer are irrevocably gone,
but that autumn too has its beauties. The autumn weather is often
darkened by rain, cloud, and mist, but the air is still soft, and the
sun still delights the eyes, and touches the yellowing leaves
caressingly; it is the time for fruit, for harvest, for the vintage, the
moment for making provision for the winter. Here the herds of milch-cows
have already come down to the level of the _chalet_, and next week they
will be lower than we are. This living barometer is a warning to us that
the time has come to say farewell to the mountains. There is nothing to
gain, and everything to lose, by despising the example of nature, and
making arbitrary rules of life for one's self. Our liberty, wisely
understood, is but a voluntary obedience to the universal laws of life.
My life has reached its month of September. May I recognize it in time,
and suit thought and action to the fact!

November 13, 1868.--I am reading part of two books by Charles Secretan
[Footnote: Charles Secretan, a Lausanne professor, the friend of Vinet,
born 1819. He published "Lecons sur la Philosophie de Leibnitz,"
"Philosophie de la Liberte," "La Raison et le Christianisme," etc.]
"Recherches sur la Methode," 1857; "Precis elementaire de Philosophie,"
1868. The philosophy of Secretan is the philosophy of Christianity,
considered as the one true religion. Subordination of nature to
intelligence, of intelligence to will, and of will to dogmatic faith
--such is its general framework. Unfortunately there are no signs of
critical, or comparative, or historical study in it, and as an
apologetic--in which satire is curiously mingled with glorification of
the religion of love--it leaves upon one an impression of _parti pris_.
A philosophy of religion, apart from the comparative science of
religions, and apart also from a disinterested and general philosophy of
history, must always be more or less arbitrary and factitious. It is
only pseudo-scientific, this reduction of human life to three
spheres--industry, law, and religion. The author seems to me to possess a
vigorous and profound mind, rather than a free mind. Not only is he
dogmatic, but he dogmatizes in favor of a given religion, to which his
whole allegiance is pledged. Besides, Christianity being an X which each
church defines in its own way, the author takes the same liberty, and
defines the X in his way; so that he is at once too free and not free
enough; too free in respect to historical Christianity, not free enough
in respect to Christianity as a particular church. He does not satisfy
the believing Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed Churchman, or Catholic; and
he does not satisfy the freethinker. This Schellingian type of
speculation, which consists in logically deducing a particular
religion--that is to say, in making philosophy the servant of Christian
theology--is a legacy from the Middle Ages.

After belief comes judgment; but a believer is not a judge. A fish lives
in the ocean, but it cannot see all around it; it cannot take a view of
the whole; therefore it cannot judge what the ocean is. In order to
understand Christianity we must put it in its historical place, in its
proper framework; we must regard it as a part of the religious
development of humanity, and so judge it, not from a Christian point of
view, but from a human point of view, _sine ira nec studio_.

December 16, 1868.--I am in the most painful state of anxiety as to my
poor kind friend, Charles Heim.... Since the 30th of November I have had
no letter from the dear invalid, who then said his last farewell to me.
How long these two weeks have seemed to me--and how keenly I have
realized that strong craving which many feel for the last words, the
last looks, of those they love! Such words and looks are a kind of
testament. They have a solemn and sacred character which is not merely
an effect of our imagination. For that which is on the brink of death
already participates to some extent in eternity. A dying man seems to
speak to us from beyond the tomb; what he says has the effect upon us of
a sentence, an oracle, an injunction; we look upon him as one endowed
with second sight. Serious and solemn words come naturally to the man
who feels life escaping him, and the grave opening before him. The
depths of his nature are then revealed; the divine within him need no
longer hide itself. Oh, do not let us wait to be just or pitiful or
demonstrative toward those we love until they or we are struck down by
illness or threatened with death! Life is short and we have never too
much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark
journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind!

December 26, 1868.--My dear friend died this morning at Hyeres. A
beautiful soul has returned to heaven. So he has ceased to suffer! Is he

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