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Amiel's Journal by Mrs. Humphrey Ward

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difficulty through the highly-organized brute. The divine aureole plays
only with a dim and fugitive light around the brows of the world's
governing race.

The Christian nations offer many illustrations of the law of irony. They
profess the citizenship of heaven, the exclusive worship of eternal
good; and never has the hungry pursuit of perishable joys, the love of
this world, or the thirst for conquest, been stronger or more active
than among these nations. Their official motto is exactly the reverse of
their real aspiration. Under a false flag they play the smuggler with a
droll ease of conscience. Is the fraud a conscious one? No--it is but an
application of the law of irony. The deception is so common a one that
the delinquent becomes unconscious of it. Every nation gives itself the
lie in the course of its daily life, and not one feels the ridicule of
its position. A man must be a Japanese to perceive the burlesque
contradictions of the Christian civilization. He must be a native of the
moon to understand the stupidity of man and his state of constant
delusion. The philosopher himself falls under the law of irony, for
after having mentally stripped himself of all prejudice--having, that is
to say, wholly laid aside his own personality, he finds himself slipping
back perforce into the rags he had taken off, obliged to eat and drink,
to be hungry, cold, thirsty, and to behave like all other mortals, after
having for a moment behaved like no other. This is the point where the
comic poets are lying in wait for him; the animal needs revenge
themselves for his flight into the Empyrean, and mock him by their cry:
_Thou art dust, thou art nothing, than art man_!

November 26, 1876.--I have just finished a novel of Cherbuliez, "Le
fiance de Mademoiselle de St. Maur." It is a jeweled mosaic of precious
stones, sparkling with a thousand lights. But the heart gets little from
it. The Mephistophelian type of novel leaves one sad. This subtle,
refined world is strangely near to corruption; these artificial women
have an air of the Lower Empire. There is not a character who is not
witty, and neither is there one who has not bartered conscience for
cleverness. The elegance of the whole is but a mask of immorality. These
stories of feeling in which there is no feeling make a strange and
painful impression upon me.

December 4, 1876.--I have been thinking a great deal of Victor
Cherbuliez. Perhaps his novels make up the most disputable part of his
work--they are so much wanting in simplicity, feeling, reality. And yet
what knowledge, style, wit, and subtlety--how much thought everywhere,
and what mastery of language! He astonishes one; I cannot but admire

Cherbuliez's mind is of immense range, clear-sighted, keen, full of
resource; he is an Alexandrian exquisite, substituting for the feeling
which makes men earnest the irony which leaves them free. Pascal would
say of him--"He has never risen from the order of thought to the order
of charity." But we must not be ungrateful. A Lucian is not worth an
Augustine, but still he is Lucian. Those who enfranchise the mind render
service to man as well as those who persuade the heart. After the
leaders come the liberators, and the negative and critical minds have
their place and function beside the men of affirmation, the convinced
and inspired souls. The positive element in Victor Cherbuliez's work is
beauty, not goodness, not moral or religious life. Aesthetically he is
serious; what he respects is style. And therefore he has found his
vocation; for he is first and foremost a writer--a consummate,
exquisite, and model writer. He does not win our love, but he claims our

In every union there is a mystery--a certain invisible bond which must
not be disturbed. This vital bond in the filial relation is respect; in
friendship, esteem; in marriage, confidence; in the collective life,
patriotism; in the religious life, faith. Such points are best left
untouched by speech, for to touch them is almost to profane them.

* * * * *

Men of genius supply the substance of history, while the mass of men are
but the critical filter, the limiting, slackening, passive force needed
for the modification of the ideas supplied by genius. Stupidity is
dynamically the necessary balance of intellect. To make an atmosphere
which human life can breathe, oxygen must be combined with a great
deal--with three-fourths--of azote. And so, to make history, there must
be a great deal of resistance to conquer and of weight to drag.

January 5, 1877.--This morning I am altogether miserable, half-stifled
by bronchitis--walking a difficulty--the brain weak--this last the worst
misery of all, for thought is my only weapon against my other ills.
Rapid deterioration of all the bodily powers, a dull continuous waste of
vital organs, brain decay: this is the trial laid upon me, a trial that
no one suspects! Men pity you for growing old outwardly; but what does
that matter?--nothing, so long as the faculties are intact. This boon of
mental soundness to the last has been granted to so many students that I
hoped for it a little. Alas, must I sacrifice that too? Sacrifice is
almost easy when we believe it laid upon us, asked of us, rather, by a
fatherly God and a watchful Providence; but I know nothing of this
religious joy. The mutilation of the self which is going on in me lowers
and lessens me without doing good to anybody. Supposing I became blind,
who would be the gainer? Only one motive remains to me--that of manly
resignation to the inevitable--the wish to set an example to others--the
stoic view of morals pure and simple.

This moral education of the individual soul--is it then wasted? When our
planet has accomplished the cycle of its destinies, of what use will it
have been to any one or anything in the universe? Well, it will have
sounded its note in the symphony of creation. And for us, individual
atoms, seeing monads, we appropriate a momentary consciousness of the
whole and the unchangeable, and then we disappear. Is not this enough?
No, it is not enough, for if there is not progress, increase, profit,
there is nothing but a mere chemical play and balance of combinations.
Brahma, after having created, draws his creation back into the gulf. If
we are a laboratory of the universal mind, may that mind at least profit
and grow by us! If we realize the supreme will, may God have the joy of
it! If the trustful humility of the soul rejoices him more than the
greatness of intellect, let us enter into his plan, his intention. This,
in theological language, is to live to the glory of God. Religion
consists in the filial acceptation of the divine will whatever it be,
provided we see it distinctly. Well, can we doubt that decay, sickness,
death, are in the programme of our existence? Is not destiny the
inevitable? And is not destiny the anonymous title of him or of that
which the religions call God? To descend without murmuring the stream of
destiny, to pass without revolt through loss after loss, and diminution
after diminution, with no other limit than zero before us--this is what
is demanded of us. Involution is as natural as evolution. We sink
gradually back into the darkness, just as we issued gradually from it.
The play of faculties and organs, the grandiose apparatus of life, is
put back bit by bit into the box. We begin by instinct; at the end comes
a clearness of vision which we must learn to bear with and to employ
without murmuring upon our own failure and decay. A musical theme once
exhausted, finds its due refuge and repose in silence.

February 6, 1877.--I spent the evening with the ----, and we talked of
the anarchy of ideas, of the general want of culture, of what it is
which keeps the world going, and of the assured march of science in the
midst of universal passion and superstition.

What is rarest in the world is fair-mindedness, method, the critical
view, the sense of proportion, the capacity for distinguishing. The
common state of human thought is one of confusion, incoherence, and
presumption, and the common state of human hearts is a state of passion,
in which equity, impartiality, and openness to impressions are
unattainable. Men's wills are always in advance of their intelligence,
their desires ahead of their will, and accident the source of their
desires; so that they express merely fortuitous opinions which are not
worth the trouble of taking seriously, and which have no other account
to give of themselves than this childish one: I am, because I am. The
art of finding truth is very little practiced; it scarcely exists,
because there is no personal humility, nor even any love of truth among
us. We are covetous enough of such knowledge as may furnish weapons to
our hand or tongue, as may serve our vanity or gratify our craving for
power; but self-knowledge, the criticism of our own appetites and
prejudices, is unwelcome and disagreeable to us.

Man is a willful and covetous animal, who makes use of his intellect to
satisfy his inclinations, but who cares nothing for truth, who rebels
against personal discipline, who hates disinterested thought and the
idea of self-education. Wisdom offends him, because it rouses in him
disturbance and confusion, and because he will not see himself as he is.

The great majority of men are but tangled skeins, imperfect keyboards,
so many specimens of restless or stagnant chaos--and what makes their
situation almost hopeless is the fact that they take pleasure in it.
There is no curing a sick man who believes himself in health.

April 5, 1877.--I have been thinking over the pleasant evening of
yesterday, an experience in which the sweets of friendship, the charm of
mutual understanding, aesthetic pleasure, and a general sense of
comfort, were happily combined and intermingled. There was not a crease
in the rose-leaf. Why? Because "all that is pure, all that is honest,
all that is excellent, all that is lovely and of good report," was there
gathered together. "The incorruptibility of a gentle and quiet spirit,"
innocent mirth, faithfulness to duty, fine taste and sympathetic
imagination, form an attractive and wholesome _milieu_ in which the soul
may rest.

The party--which celebrated the last day of vacation--gave much
pleasure, and not to me only. Is not making others happy the best
happiness? To illuminate for an instant the depths of a deep soul, to
cheer those who bear by sympathy the burdens of so many sorrow-laden
hearts and suffering lives, is to me a blessing and a precious
privilege. There is a sort of religious joy in helping to renew the
strength and courage of noble minds. We are surprised to find ourselves
the possessors of a power of which we are not worthy, and we long to
exercise it purely and seriously.

I feel most strongly that man, in all that he does or can do which is
beautiful, great, or good is but the organ and the vehicle of something
or some one higher than himself. This feeling is religion. The religious
man takes part with a tremor of sacred joy in these phenomena of which
he is the intermediary but not the source, of which he is the scene, but
not the author, or rather, the poet. He lends them voice, and will, and
help, but he is respectfully careful to efface himself, that he may
alter as little as possible the higher work of the genius who is making
a momentary use of him. A pure emotion deprives him of personality and
annihilates the self in him. Self must perforce disappear when it is the
Holy Spirit who speaks, when it is God who acts. This is the mood in
which the prophet hears the call, the young mother feels the movement of
the child within, the preacher watches the tears of his audience. So
long as we are conscious of self we are limited, selfish, held in
bondage; when we are in harmony with the universal order, when we
vibrate in unison with God, self disappears. Thus, in a perfectly
harmonious choir, the individual cannot hear himself unless he makes a
false note. The religious state is one of deep enthusiasm, of moved
contemplation, of tranquil ecstasy. But how rare a state it is for us
poor creatures harassed by duty, by necessity, by the wicked world, by
sin, by illness! It is the state which produces inward happiness; but
alas! the foundation of existence, the common texture of our days, is
made up of action, effort, struggle, and therefore dissonance. Perpetual
conflict, interrupted by short and threatened truces--there is a true
picture of our human condition.

Let us hail, then, as an echo from heaven, as the foretaste of a more
blessed economy, these brief moments of perfect harmony, these halts
between two storms. Peace is not in itself a dream, but we know it only
as the result of a momentary equilibrium--an accident. "Happy are the
peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

April 26, 1877.--I have been turning over again the "Paris" of Victor
Hugo (1867). For ten years event after event has given the lie to the
prophet, but the confidence of the prophet in his own imaginings is not
therefore a whit diminished. Humility and common sense are only fit for
Lilliputians. Victor Hugo superbly ignores everything that he has not
foreseen. He does not see that pride is a limitation of the mind, and
that a pride without limitations is a littleness of soul. If he could
but learn to compare himself with other men, and France with other
nations, he would see things more truly, and would not fall into these
mad exaggerations, these extravagant judgments. But proportion and
fairness will never be among the strings at his command. He is vowed to
the Titanic; his gold is always mixed with lead, his insight with
childishness, his reason with madness. He cannot be simple; the only
light he has to give blinds you like that of a fire. He astonishes a
reader and provokes him, he moves him and annoys him. There is always
some falsity of note in him, which accounts for the _malaise_ he so
constantly excites in me. The great poet in him cannot shake off the

A few shafts of Voltairean irony would have shriveled the inflation of
his genius and made it stronger by making it saner. It is a public
misfortune that the most powerful poet of a nation should not have
better understood his role, and that, unlike those Hebrew prophets who
scourged because they loved, he should devote himself proudly and
systematically to the flattery of his countrymen. France is the world;
Paris is France; Hugo is Paris; peoples, bow down!

May 2, 1877.--Which nation is best worth belonging to? There is not one
in which the good is not counterbalanced by evil. Each is a caricature
of man, a proof that no one among them deserves to crush the others, and
that all have something to learn from all. I am alternately struck with
the qualities and with the defects of each, which is perhaps lucky for a
critic. I am conscious of no preference for the defects of north or
south, of west or east; and I should find a difficulty in stating my own
predilections. Indeed I myself am wholly indifferent in the matter, for
to me the question is not one of liking or of blaming, but of
understanding. My point of view is philosophical--that is to say,
impartial and impersonal. The only type which pleases me is
perfection--_man_, in short, the ideal man. As for the national man, I
bear with and study him, but I have no admiration for him. I can only
admire the fine specimens of the race, the great men, the geniuses, the
lofty characters and noble souls, and specimens of these are to be found
in all the ethnographical divisions. The "country of my choice" (to
quote Madame de Stael) is with the chosen souls. I feel no greater
inclination toward the French, the Germans, the Swiss, the English, the
Poles, the Italians, than toward the Brazilians or the Chinese. The
illusions of patriotism, of Chauvinist, family, or professional feeling,
do not exist for me. My tendency, on the contrary, is to feel with
increased force the lacunas, deformities, and imperfections of the group
to which I belong. My inclination is to see things as they are,
abstracting my own individuality, and suppressing all personal will and
desire; so that I feel antipathy, not toward this or that, but toward
error, prejudice, stupidity, exclusiveness, exaggeration. I love only
justice and fairness. Anger and annoyance are with me merely
superficial; the fundamental tendency is toward impartiality and
detachment. Inward liberty and aspiration toward the true--these are
what I care for and take pleasure in.

June 4, 1877.--I have just heard the "Romeo and Juliet" of Hector
Berlioz. The work is entitled "Dramatic symphony for orchestra, with
choruses." The execution was extremely good. The work is interesting,
careful, curious, and suggestive, but it leaves one cold. When I come to
reason out my impression I explain it in this way. To subordinate man to
things--to annex the human voice, as a mere supplement, to the
orchestra--is false in idea. To make simple narrative out of dramatic
material, is a derogation, a piece of levity. A Romeo and Juliet in
which there is no Romeo and no Juliet is an absurdity. To substitute the
inferior, the obscure, the vague, for the higher and the clear, is a
challenge to common sense. It is a violation of that natural hierarchy
of things which is never violated with impunity. The musician has put
together a series of symphonic pictures, without any inner connection, a
string of riddles, to which a prose text alone supplies meaning and
unity. The only intelligible voice which is allowed to appear in the
work is that of Friar Laurence: his sermon could not be expressed in
chords, and is therefore plainly sung. But the moral of a play is not
the play, and the play itself has been elbowed out by recitative.

The musician of the present day, not being able to give us what is
beautiful, torments himself to give us what is new. False originality,
false grandeur, false genius! This labored art is wholly antipathetic to
me. Science simulating genius is but a form of quackery.

Berlioz as a critic is cleverness itself; as a musician he is learned,
inventive, and ingenious, but he is trying to achieve the greater when
he cannot compass the lesser.

Thirty years ago, at Berlin, the same impression was left upon me by his
"Infancy of Christ," which I heard him conduct himself. His art seems to
me neither fruitful nor wholesome; there is no true and solid beauty in

I ought to say, however, that the audience, which was a fairly full one,
seemed very well satisfied.

July 17, 1877.--Yesterday I went through my La Fontaine, and noticed the
omissions in him. He has neither butterfly nor rose. He utilizes neither
the crane, nor the quail, nor the dromedary, nor the lizard. There is
not a single echo of chivalry in him. For him, the history of France
dates from Louis XIV. His geography only ranges, in reality, over a few
square miles, and touches neither the Rhine nor the Loire, neither the
mountains nor the sea. He never invents his subjects, but indolently
takes them ready-made from elsewhere. But with all this what an adorable
writer, what a painter, what an observer, what a humorist, what a
story-teller! I am never tired of reading him, though I know half his
fables by heart. In the matter of vocabulary, turns, tones, phrases,
idioms, his style is perhaps the richest of the great period, for it
combines, in the most skillful way, archaism and classic finish, the
Gallic and the French elements. Variety, satire, _finesse_, feeling,
movement, terseness, suavity, grace, gayety, at times even nobleness,
gravity, grandeur--everything--is to be found in him. And then the
happiness of the epithets, the piquancy of the sayings, the felicity of
his rapid sketches and unforeseen audacities, and the unforgettable
sharpness of phrase! His defects are eclipsed by his immense variety of
different aptitudes.

One has only to compare his "Woodcutter and Death" with that of Boileau
in order to estimate the enormous difference between the artist and the
critic who found fault with his work. La Fontaine gives you a picture of
the poor peasant under the monarchy; Boileau shows you nothing but a man
perspiring under a heavy load. The first is a historical witness, the
second a mere academic rhymer. From La Fontaine it is possible to
reconstruct the whole society of his epoch, and the old Champenois with
his beasts remains the only Homer France has ever possessed. He has as
many portraits of men and women as La Bruyere, and Moliere is not more

His weak side is his epicureanism, with its tinge of grossness. This, no
doubt, was what made Lamartine dislike him. The religious note is absent
from his lyre; there is nothing in him which shows any contact with
Christianity, any knowledge of the sublimer tragedies of the soul. Kind
nature is his goddess, Horace his prophet, and Montaigne his gospel. In
other words, his horizon is that of the Renaissance. This pagan island
in the full Catholic stream is very curious; the paganism of it is so
perfectly sincere and naive. But indeed, Reblais, Moliere, Saint
Evremond, are much more pagan than Voltaire. It is as though, for the
genuine Frenchman, Christianity was a mere pose or costume--something
which has nothing to do with the heart, with the real man, or his deeper
nature. This division of things is common in Italy too. It is the
natural effect of political religions: the priest becomes separated from
the layman, the believer from the man, worship from sincerity.

July 18, 1877.--I have just come across a character in a novel with a
passion for synonyms, and I said to myself: Take care--that is your
weakness too. In your search for close and delicate expression, you run
through the whole gamut of synonyms, and your pen works too often in
series of three. Beware! Avoid mannerisms and tricks; they are signs of
weakness. Subject and occasion only must govern the use of words.
Procedure by single epithet gives strength; the doubling of a word gives
clearness, because it supplies the two extremities of the series; the
trebling of it gives completeness by suggesting at once the beginning,
middle, and end of the idea; while a quadruple phrase may enrich by
force of enumeration.

Indecision being my principal defect, I am fond of a plurality of
phrases which are but so many successive approximations and corrections.
I am especially fond of them in this journal, where I write as it comes.
In serious composition _two_ is, on the whole, my category. But it would
be well to practice one's self in the use of the single word--of the
shaft delivered promptly and once for all. I should have indeed to cure
myself of hesitation first. I see too many ways of saying things; a more
decided mind hits on the right way at once. Singleness of phrase implies
courage, self-confidence, clear-sightedness. To attain it there must he
no doubting, and I am always doubting. And yet--

"Quiconque est loup agisse en loup;
C'est le plus certain de beaucoup."

I wonder whether I should gain anything by the attempt to assume a
character which is not mine. My wavering manner, born of doubt and
scruple, has at least the advantage of rendering all the different
shades of my thought, and of being sincere. If it were to become terse,
affirmative, resolute, would it not be a mere imitation?

A private journal, which is but a vehicle for meditation and reverie,
beats about the bush as it pleases without being hound to make for any
definite end. Conversation with self is a gradual process of
thought-clearing. Hence all these synonyms, these waverings, these
repetitions and returns upon one's self. Affirmation maybe brief;
inquiry takes time; and the line which thought follows is necessarily an
irregular one.

I am conscious indeed that at bottom there is but one right expression;
[Footnote: Compare La Bruyere:

"Entre toutes les differentes expressions qui peuvent rendre une seule
de nos pensees il n'y en a qu'une qui soit la bonne; on ne la rencontre
pas toujours en parlant ou en ecrivant: il est vray neanmoins qu'elle
existe, que tout ce qui ne l'est point est foible, et ne satisfait point
un homme d'esprit qui veut se faire entendre."] but in order to find it
I wish to make my choice among all that are like it; and my mind
instinctively goes through a series of verbal modulations in search of
that shade which may most accurately render the idea. Or sometimes it is
the idea itself which has to be turned over and over, that I may know it
and apprehend it better. I think, pen in hand; it is like the
disentanglement, the winding-off of a skein. Evidently the corresponding
form of style cannot have the qualities which belong to thought which is
already sure of itself, and only seeks to communicate itself to others.
The function of the private journal is one of observation, experiment,
analysis, contemplation; that of the essay or article is to provoke
reflection; that of the book is to demonstrate.

July 21, 1877.--A superb night--a starry sky--Jupiter and Phoebe holding
converse before my windows. Grandiose effects of light and shade over
the courtyard. A sonata rose from the black gulf of shadow like a
repentant prayer wafted from purgatory. The picturesque was lost in
poetry, and admiration in feeling.

July 30, 1877.-- ... makes a very true remark about Renan, _a propos_ of
the volume of "Les Evangiles." He brings out the contradiction between
the literary taste of the artist, which is delicate, individual, and
true, and the opinions of the critic, which are borrowed, old-fashioned
and wavering. This hesitancy of choice between the beautiful and the
true, between poetry and prose, between art and learning, is, in fact,
characteristic. Renan has a keen love for science, but he has a still
keener love for good writing, and, if necessary, he will sacrifice the
exact phrase to the beautiful phrase. Science is his material rather
than his object; his object is style. A fine passage is ten times more
precious in his eyes than the discovery of a fact or the rectification
of a date. And on this point I am very much with him, for a beautiful
piece of writing is beautiful by virtue of a kind of truth which is
truer than any mere record of authentic facts. Rousseau also thought the
same. A chronicler may be able to correct Tacitus, but Tacitus survives
all the chroniclers. I know well that the aesthetic temptation is the
French temptation; I have often bewailed it, and yet, if I desired
anything, it would be to be a writer, a great writer. Te leave a
monument behind, _aere perennius_, an imperishable work which might stir
the thoughts, the feelings, the dreams of men, generation after
generation--this is the only glory which I could wish for, if I were not
weaned even from this wish also. A book would be my ambition, if
ambition were not vanity and vanity of vanities.

August 11, 1877.--The growing triumph of Darwinism--that is to say of
materialism, or of force--threatens the conception of justice. But
justice will have its turn. The higher human law cannot be the offspring
of animality. Justice is the right to the maximum of individual
independence compatible with the same liberty for others; in other
words, it is respect for man, for the immature, the small, the feeble;
it is the guarantee of those human collectivities, associations, states,
nationalities--those voluntary or involuntary unions--the object of
which is to increase the sum of happiness, and to satisfy the aspiration
of the individual. That some should make use of others for their own
purposes is an injury to justice. The right of the stronger is not a
right, but a simple fact, which obtains only so long as there is neither
protest nor resistance. It is like cold, darkness, weight, which
tyrannize over man until he has invented artificial warmth, artificial
light, and machinery. Human industry is throughout an emancipation from
brute nature, and the advances made by justice are in the same way a
series of rebuffs inflicted upon the tyranny of the stronger. As the
medical art consists in the conquest of disease, so goodness consists in
the conquest of the blind ferocities and untamed appetites of the human
animal. I see the same law throughout--increasing emancipation of the
individual, a continuous ascent of being toward life, happiness,
justice, and wisdom. Greed and gluttony are the starting-point,
intelligence and generosity the goal.

August 21, 1877. (_Baths of Ems_).--In the _salon_ there has been a
performance in chorus of "Lorelei" and other popular airs. What in our
country is only done for worship is done also in Germany for poetry and
music. Voices blend together; art shares the privilege of religion. It
is a trait which is neither French nor English, nor, I think, Italian.
The spirit of artistic devotion, of impersonal combination, of common,
harmonious, disinterested action, is specially German; it makes a
welcome balance to certain clumsy and prosaic elements in the race.

_Later_.--Perhaps the craving for independence of thought--the tendency
to go back to first principles--is really proper to the Germanic mind
only. The Slavs and the Latins are governed rather by the collective
wisdom of the community, by tradition, usage, prejudice, fashion; or, if
they break through these, they are like slaves in revolt, without any
real living apprehension of the law inherent in things--the true law,
which is neither written, nor arbitrary, nor imposed. The German wishes
to get at nature; the Frenchman, the Spaniard, the Russian, stop at
conventions. The root of the problem is in the question of the relations
between God and the world. Immanence or transcendence--that, step by
step, decides the meaning of everything else. If the mind is radically
external to things, it is not called upon to conform to them. If the
mind is destitute of native truth, it must get its truth from outside,
by revelations. And so you get thought despising nature, and in bondage
to the church--so you have the Latin world!

November 6, 1877. (_Geneva_).--We talk of love many years before we know
anything about it, and we think we know it because we talk of it, or
because we repeat what other people say of it, or what books tell us
about it. So that there are ignorances of different degrees, and degrees
of knowledge which are quite deceptive. One of the worst plagues of
society is this thoughtless inexhaustible verbosity, this careless use
of words, this pretense of knowing a thing because we talk about
it--these counterfeits of belief, thought, love, or earnestness, which
all the while are mere babble. The worst of it is, that as self-love is
behind the babble, these ignorances of society are in general
ferociously affirmative; chatter mistakes itself for opinion, prejudice
poses as principle. Parrots behave as though they were thinking beings;
imitations give themselves out as originals; and politeness demands the
acceptance of the convention. It is very wearisome.

Language is the vehicle of this confusion, the instrument of this
unconscious fraud, and all evils of the kind are enormously increased by
universal education, by the periodical press, and by all the other
processes of vulgarization in use at the present time. Every one deals
in paper money; few have ever handled gold. We live on symbols, and even
on the symbols of symbols; we have never grasped or verified things for
ourselves; we judge everything, and we know nothing.

How seldom we meet with originality, individuality, sincerity,
nowadays!--with men who are worth the trouble of listening to! The true
self in the majority is lost in the borrowed self. How few are anything
else than a bundle of inclinations--anything more than animals--whose
language and whose gait alone recall to us the highest rank in nature!

The immense majority of our species are candidates for humanity, and
nothing more. Virtually we are men; we might be, we ought to be, men;
but practically we do not succeed in realizing the type of our race.
Semblances and counterfeits of men fill up the habitable earth, people
the islands and the continents, the country and the town. If we wish to
respect men we must forget what they are, and think of the ideal which
they carry hidden within them, of the just man and the noble, the man of
intelligence and goodness, inspiration and creative force, who is loyal
and true, faithful and trustworthy, of the higher man, in short, and
that divine thing we call a soul. The only men who deserve the name are
the heroes, the geniuses, the saints, the harmonious, puissant, and
perfect samples of the race.

Very few individuals deserve to be listened to, but all deserve that our
curiosity with regard to them should be a pitiful curiosity--that the
insight we bring to bear on them should be charged with humility. Are we
not all shipwrecked, diseased, condemned to death? Let each work out his
own salvation, and blame no one but himself; so the lot of all will be
bettered. Whatever impatience we may feel toward our neighbor, and
whatever indignation our race may rouse in us, we are chained one to
another, and, companions in labor and misfortune, have everything to
lose by mutual recrimination and reproach. Let us be silent as to each
other's weakness, helpful, tolerant, nay, tender toward each other! Or,
if we cannot feel tenderness, may we at least feel pity! May we put away
from us the satire which scourges and the anger which brands; the oil
and wine of the good Samaritan are of more avail. We may make the ideal
a reason for contempt; but it is more beautiful to make it a reason for

December 9, 1877.--The modern haunters of Parnassus [Footnote: Amiel's
expression is _Les Parnassieus_, an old name revived, which nowadays
describes the younger school of French poetry represented by such names
as Theophile Gautier, Leconte de Lisle, Theodore de Bauville, and
Baudelaire. The modern use of the word dates from the publication of "La
Parnasse Contemporain" (Lemerre, 1866).] carve urns of agate and of
onyx, but inside the urns what is there?--ashes. Their work lacks
feeling, seriousness, sincerity, and pathos--in a word, soul and moral
life. I cannot bring myself to sympathize with such a way of
understanding poetry. The talent shown is astonishing, but stuff and
matter are wanting. It is an effort of the imagination to stand alone--a
substitute for everything else. We find metaphors, rhymes, music, color,
but not man, not humanity. Poetry of this factitious kind may beguile
one at twenty, but what can one make of it at fifty? It reminds me of
Pergamos, of Alexandria, of all the epochs of decadence when beauty of
form hid poverty of thought and exhaustion of feeling. I strongly share
the repugnance which this poetical school arouses in simple people. It
is as though it only cared to please the world-worn, the over-subtle,
the corrupted, while it ignores all normal healthy life, virtuous
habits, pure affections, steady labor, honesty, and duty. It is an
affectation, and because it is an affectation the school is struck with
sterility. The reader desires in the poet something better than a
juggler in rhyme, or a conjurer in verse; he looks to find in him a
painter of life, a being who thinks, loves, and has a conscience, who
feels passion and repentance.

* * * * *

Composition is a process of combination, in which thought puts together
complementary truths, and talent fuses into harmony the most contrary
qualities of style.

So that there is no composition without effort, without pain even, as in
all bringing forth. The reward is the giving birth to something
living--something, that is to say, which, by a kind of magic, makes a
living unity out of such opposed attributes as orderliness and
spontaneity, thought and imagination, solidity and charm.

The true critic strives for a clear vision of things as they are--for
justice and fairness; his effort is to get free from himself, so that he
may in no way disfigure that which he wishes to understand or reproduce.
His superiority to the common herd lies in this effort, even when its
success is only partial. He distrusts his own senses, he sifts his own
impressions, by returning upon them from different sides and at
different times, by comparing, moderating, shading, distinguishing, and
so endeavoring to approach more and more nearly to the formula which
represents the maximum of truth.

* * * * *

Is it not the sad natures who are most tolerant of gayety? They know
that gayety means impulse and vigor, that generally speaking it is
disguised kindliness, and that if it were a mere affair of temperament
and mood, still it is a blessing.

* * * * *

The art which is grand and yet simple is that which presupposes the
greatest elevation both in artist and in public.

How much folly is compatible with ultimate wisdom and prudence? It is
difficult to say. The cleverest folk are those who discover soonest how
to utilize their neighbor's experience, and so get rid in good time of
their natural presumption.

We must try to grasp the spirit of things, to see correctly, to speak to
the point, to give practicable advice, to act on the spot, to arrive at
the proper moment, to stop in time. Tact, measure, occasion--all these
deserve our cultivation and respect.

* * * * *

April 22, 1878.--Letter from my cousin Julia. These kind old relations
find it very difficult to understand a man's life, especially a
student's life. The hermits of reverie are scared by the busy world, and
feel themselves out of place in action. But after all, we do not change
at seventy, and a good, pious old lady, half-blind and living in a
village, can no longer extend her point of view, nor form any idea of
existences which have no relation with her own.

What is the link by which these souls, shut in and encompassed as they
are by the details of daily life, lay hold on the ideal? The link of
religious aspiration. Faith is the plank which saves them. They know the
meaning of the higher life; their soul is athirst for heaven. Their
opinions are defective, but their moral experience is great; their
intellect is full of darkness but their souls is full of light. We
scarcely know how to talk to them about the things of earth, but they
are ripe and mature in the things of the heart. If they cannot
understand us, it is for us to make advances to them, to speak their
language, to enter into their range of ideas, their modes of feeling. We
must approach them on their noble side, and, that we may show them the
more respect, induce them to open to us the casket of their most
treasured thoughts. There is always some grain of gold at the bottom of
every honorable old age. Let it be our business to give it an
opportunity of showing itself to affectionate eyes.

May 10, 1878.--I have just come back from a solitary walk. I heard
nightingales, saw white lilac and orchard trees in bloom. My heart is
full of impressions showered upon it by the chaffinches, the golden
orioles, the grasshoppers, the hawthorns, and the primroses. A dull,
gray, fleecy sky brooded with a certain melancholy over the nuptial
splendors of vegetation. Many painful memories stirred afresh in me; at
Pre l'Eveque, at Jargonnant, at Villereuse, a score of phantoms
--phantoms of youth--rose with sad eyes to greet me. The walls
had changed, and roads which were once shady and dreamy I found now
waste and treeless. But at the first trills of the nightingale a flood
of tender feeling filled my heart. I felt myself soothed, grateful,
melted; a mood of serenity and contemplation took possession of me. A
certain little path, a very kingdom of green, with fountain, thickets,
gentle ups and downs, and an abundance of singing-birds, delighted me,
and did me inexpressible good. Its peaceful remoteness brought back the
bloom of feeling. I had need of it.

May 19, 1878.--Criticism is above all a gift, an intuition, a matter of
tact and _flair_; it cannot be taught or demonstrated--it is an art.
Critical genius means an aptitude for discerning truth under appearances
or in disguises which conceal it; for discovering it in spite of the
errors of testimony, the frauds of tradition, the dust of time, the loss
or alteration of texts. It is the sagacity of the hunter whom nothing
deceives for long, and whom no ruse can throw off the trail. It is the
talent of the _Juge d'Instruction_, who knows how to interrogate
circumstances, and to extract an unknown secret from a thousand
falsehoods. The true critic can understand everything, but he will be
the dupe of nothing, and to no convention will he sacrifice his duty,
which is to find out and proclaim truth. Competent learning, general
cultivation, absolute probity, accuracy of general view, human sympathy
and technical capacity--how many things are necessary to the critic,
without reckoning grace, delicacy, _savoir vivre_, and the gift of happy

July 26, 1878.--Every morning I wake up with the same sense of vain
struggle against a mountain tide which is about to overwhelm me. I shall
die by suffocation, and the suffocation has begun; the progress it has
already made stimulates it to go on.

How can one make any plans when every day brings with it some fresh
misery? I cannot even decide on a line of action in a situation so full
of confusion and uncertainty in which I look forward to the worst, while
yet all is doubtful. Have I still a few years before me or only a few
months? Will death be slow or will it come upon me as a sudden
catastrophe? How am I to bear the days as they come? how am I to fill
them? How am I to die with calmness and dignity? I know not. Everything
I do for the first time I do badly; but here everything is new; there
can be no help from experience; the end must be a chance! How mortifying
for one who has set so great a price upon independence--to depend upon a
thousand unforeseen contingencies! He knows not how he will act or what
he will become; he would fain speak of these things with a friend of
good sense and good counsel--but who? He dares not alarm the affections
which are most his own, and he is almost sure that any others would try
to distract his attention, and would refuse to see the position as it

And while I wait (wait for what?--certainty?) the weeks flow by like
water, and strength wastes away like a smoking candle....

Is one free to let one's self drift into death without resistance? Is
self-preservation a duty? Do we owe it to those who love us to prolong
this desperate struggle to its utmost limit? I think so, but it is one
fetter the more. For we must then feign a hope which we do not feel, and
hide the absolute discouragement of which the heart is really full.
Well, why not? Those who succumb are bound in generosity not to cool the
ardor of those who are still battling, still enjoying.

Two parallel roads lead to the same result; meditation paralyzes me,
physiology condemns me. My soul is dying, my body is dying. In every
direction the end is closing upon me. My own melancholy anticipates and
endorses the medical judgment which says, "Your journey is done." The
two verdicts point to the same result--that I have no longer a future.
And yet there is a side of me which says, "Absurd!" which is
incredulous, and inclined to regard it all as a bad dream. In vain the
reason asserts it; the mind's inward assent is still refused. Another

I have not the strength to hope, and I have not the strength to submit.
I believe no longer, and I believe still. I feel that I am dying, and
yet I cannot realize that I am dying. Is it madness already? No, it is
human nature taken in the act; it is life itself which is a
contradiction, for life means an incessant death and a daily
resurrection; it affirms and it denies, it destroys and constructs, it
gathers and scatters, it humbles and exalts at the same time. To live is
to die partially--to feel one's self in the heart of a whirlwind of
opposing forces--to be an enigma.

If the invisible type molded by these two contradictory currents--if
this form which presides over all my changes of being--has itself
general and original value, what does it matter whether it carries on
the game a few months or years longer, or not? It has done what it had
to do, it has represented a certain unique combination, one particular
expression of the race. These types are shadows--_manes_. Century after
century employs itself in fashioning them. Glory--fame--is the proof
that one type has seemed to the other types newer, rarer, and more
beautiful than the rest. The common types are souls too, only they have
no interest except for the Creator, and for a small number of

To feel one's own fragility is well, but to be indifferent to it is
better. To take the measure of one's own misery is profitable, but to
understand its _raison d'etre_ is still more profitable. To mourn for
one's self is a last sign of vanity; we ought only to regret that which
has real values, and to regret one's self, is to furnish involuntary
evidence that one had attached importance to one's self. At the same
time it is a proof of ignorance of our true worth and function. It is
not necessary to live, but it is necessary to preserve one's type
unharmed, to remain faithful to one's idea, to protect one's monad
against alteration and degradation.

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

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

January 3, 1879.--Letter from----. This kind friend of mine has no
pity.... I have been trying to quiet his over-delicate
susceptibilities.... It is difficult to write perfectly easy letters
when one finds them studied with a magnifying glass, and treated like
monumental inscriptions, in which each character has been deliberately
engraved with a view to an eternity of life. Such disproportion between
the word and its commentary, between the playfulness of the writer and
the analytical temper of the reader, is not favorable to ease of style.
One dares not be one's natural self with these serious folk who attach
importance to everything; it is difficult to write open-heartedly if one
must weigh every phrase and every word.

_Esprit_ means taking things in the sense which they are meant to have,
entering into the tone of other people, being able to place one's self
on the required level; _esprit_ is that just and accurate sense which
divines, appreciates, and weighs quickly, lightly, and well. The mind
must have its play, the Muse is winged--the Greeks knew it, and

January 13, 1879.--It is impossible for me to remember what letters I
wrote yesterday. A single night digs a gulf between the self of
yesterday and the self of to-day. My life is without unity of action,
because my actions themselves are escaping from the control of memory.
My mental power, occupied in gaining possession of itself under the form
of consciousness, seems to be letting go its hold on all that generally
peoples the understanding, as the glacier throws off the stones and
fragments fallen into its crevasses, that it may remain pure crystal.
The philosophic mind is both to overweight itself with too many material
facts or trivial memories. Thought clings only to thought--that is to
say, to itself, to the psychological process. The mind's only ambition
is for an enriched experience. It finds its pleasure in studying the
play of its own facilities, and the study passes easily into an aptitude
and habit. Reflection becomes nothing more than an apparatus for the
registration of the impressions, emotions, and ideas which pass across
the mind. The whole moulting process is carried on so energetically that
the mind is not only unclothed, but stripped of itself, and, so to
speak, _de-substantiated_. The wheel turns so quickly that it melts
around the mathematical axis, which alone remains cold because it is
impalpable, and has no thickness. All this is natural enough, but very

So long as one is numbered among the living--so long, that is to say, as
one is still plunged in the world of men, a sharer of their interests,
conflicts, vanities, passions, and duties, one is bound to deny one's
self this subtle state of consciousness; one must consent to be a
separate individual, having one's special name, position, age, and
sphere of activity. In spite of all the temptations of impersonality,
one must resume the position of a being imprisoned within certain limits
of time and space, an individual with special surroundings, friends,
enemies, profession, country, bound to house and feed himself, to make
up his accounts and look after his affairs; in short, one must behave
like all the world. There are days when all these details seem to me a
dream--when I wonder at the desk under my hand, at my body itself--when
I ask myself if there is a street before my house, and if all this
geographical and topographical phantasmagoria is indeed real. Time and
space become then mere specks; I become a sharer in a purely spiritual
existence; I see myself _sub specie oeternitatis_.

Is not mind simply that which enables us to merge finite reality in the
infinite possibility around it? Or, to put it differently, is not mind
the universal virtuality, the universe latent? If so, its zero would be
the germ of the infinite, which is expressed mathematically by the
double zero (00).

Deduction: that the mind may experience the infinite in itself; that in
the human individual there arises sometimes the divine spark which
reveals to him the existence of the original, fundamental, principal
Being, within which all is contained like a series within its generating
formula. The universe is but a radiation of mind; and the radiations of
the Divine mind are for us more than appearances; they have a reality
parallel to our own. The radiations of our mind are imperfect
reflections from the great show of fireworks set in motion by Brahma,
and great art is great only because of its conformities with the Divine
order--with that which is.

Ideal conceptions are the mind's anticipation of such an order. The mind
is capable of them because it is mind, and, as such, perceives the
Eternal. The real, on the contrary, is fragmentary and passing. Law
alone is eternal. The ideal is then the imperishable hope of something
better--the mind's involuntary protest against the present, the leaven
of the future working in it. It is the supernatural in us, or rather the
super-animal, and the ground of human progress. He who has no ideal
contents himself with what is; he has no quarrel with facts, which for
him are identical with the just, the good, and the beautiful.

But why is the divine radiation imperfect? Because it is still going on.
Our planet, for example, is in the mid-course of its experience. Its
flora and fauna are still changing. The evolution of humanity is nearer
its origin than its close. The complete spiritualization of the animal
element in nature seems to be singularly difficult, and it is the task
of our species. Its performance is hindered by error, evil, selfishness,
and death, without counting telluric catastrophes. The edifice of a
common happiness, a common science of morality and justice, is sketched,
but only sketched. A thousand retarding and perturbing causes hinder
this giant's task, in which nations, races, and continents take part. At
the present moment humanity is not yet constituted as a physical unity,
and its general education is not yet begun. All our attempts at order as
yet have been local crystallizations. Now, indeed, the different
possibilities are beginning to combine (union of posts and telegraphs,
universal exhibitions, voyages round the globes, international
congresses, etc.). Science and common interest are binding together the
great fractions of humanity, which religion and language have kept
apart. A year in which there has been talk of a network of African
railways, running from the coast to the center and bringing the
Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean into communication
with each other--such a year is enough to mark a new epoch. The
fantastic has become the conceivable, the possible tends to become the
real; the earth becomes the garden of man. Man's chief problem is how to
make the cohabitation of the individuals of his species possible; how,
that is to say, to secure for each successive epoch the law, the order,
the equilibrium which befits it. Division of labor allows him to explore
in every direction at once; industry, science, art, law, education,
morals, religion, politics, and economical relations--all are in process
of birth.

Thus everything may be brought back to zero by the mind, but it is a
fruitful zero--a zero which contains the universe and, in particular,
humanity. The mind has no more difficulty in tracking the real within
the innumerable than in apprehending infinite possibility. 00 may issue
from 0, or may return to it.

January 19, 1879.--Charity--goodness--places a voluntary curb on
acuteness of perception; it screens and softens the rays of a too vivid
insight; it refuses to see too clearly the ugliness and misery of the
great intellectual hospital around it. True goodness is loth to
recognize any privilege in itself; it prefers to be humble and
charitable; it tries not to see what stares it in the face--that is to
say, the imperfections, infirmities, and errors of humankind; its pity
puts on airs of approval and encouragement. It triumphs over its own
repulsions that it may help and raise.

It has often been remarked that Vinet praised weak things. If so, it was
not from any failure in his own critical sense; it was from charity.
"Quench not the smoking flax,"--to which I add, "Never give unnecessary
pain." The cricket is not the nightingale; why tell him so? Throw
yourself into the mind of the cricket--the process is newer and more
ingenious; and it is what charity commands.

Intellect is aristocratic, charity is democratic. In a democracy the
general equality of pretensions, combined with the inequality of merits,
creates considerable practical difficulty; some get out of it by making
their prudence a muzzle on their frankness; others, by using kindness as
a corrective of perspicacity. On the whole, kindness is safer than
reserve; it inflicts no wound, and kills nothing.

Charity is generous; it runs a risk willingly, and in spite of a hundred
successive experiences, it thinks no evil at the hundred-and-first. We
cannot be at the same time kind and wary, nor can we serve two
masters--love and selfishness. We must be knowingly rash, that we may
not be like the clever ones of the world, who never forget their own
interests. We must be able to submit to being deceived; it is the
sacrifice which interest and self-love owe to conscience. The claims of
the soul must be satisfied first if we are to be the children of God.

Was it not Bossuet who said, "It is only the great souls who know all
the grandeur there is in charity?"

January 21, 1879.--At first religion holds the place of science and
philosophy; afterward she has to learn to confine herself to her own
domain--which is in the inmost depths of conscience, in the secret
recesses of the soul, where life communes with the Divine will and the
universal order. Piety is the daily renewing of the ideal, the steadying
of our inner being, agitated, troubled, and embittered by the common
accidents of existence. Prayer is the spiritual balm, the precious
cordial which restores to us peace and courage. It reminds us of pardon
and of duty. It says to us, "Thou art loved--love; thou hast
received--give; thou must die--labor while thou canst; overcome anger by
kindness; overcome evil with good. What does the blindness of opinion
matter, or misunderstanding, or ingratitude? Thou art neither bound to
follow the common example nor to succeed. _Fais ce que dois, advienne
que pourra_. Thou hast a witness in thy conscience; and thy conscience
is God speaking to thee!"

March 3, 1879.--The sensible politician is governed by considerations of
social utility, the public good, the greatest attainable good; the
political windbag starts from the idea of the rights of the
individual--abstract rights, of which the extent is affirmed, not
demonstrated, for the political right of the individual is precisely
what is in question. The revolutionary school always forgets that right
apart from duty is a compass with one leg. The notion of right inflates
the individual fills him with thoughts of self and of what others owe
him, while it ignores the other side of the question, and extinguishes
his capacity for devoting himself to a common cause. The state becomes a
shop with self-interest for a principle--or rather an arena, in which
every combatant fights for his own hand only. In either case self is the
motive power.

Church and state ought to provide two opposite careers for the
individual; in the state he should be called on to give proof of
merit--that is to say, he should earn his rights by services rendered;
in the church his task should be to do good while suppressing his own
merits, by a voluntary act of humility.

Extreme individualism dissipates the moral substance of the individual.
It leads him to subordinate everything to himself, and to think the
world; society, the state, made for him. I am chilled by its lack of
gratitude, of the spirit of deference, of the instinct of solidarity. It
is an ideal without beauty and without grandeur.

But, as a consolation, the modern zeal for equality makes a counterpoise
for Darwinism, just as one wolf holds another wolf in check. Neither,
indeed, acknowledges the claim of duty. The fanatic for equality affirms
his right not to be eaten by his neighbor; the Darwinian states the fact
that the big devour the little, and adds--so much the better. Neither
the one nor the other has a word to say of love, of eternity, of
kindness, of piety, of voluntary submission, of self-surrender.

All forces and all principles are brought into action at once in this
world. The result is, on the whole, good. But the struggle itself is
hateful because it dislocates truth and shows us nothing but error
pitted against error, party against party; that is to say, mere halves
and fragments of being--monsters against monsters. A nature in love with
beauty cannot reconcile itself to the sight; it longs for harmony, for
something else than perpetual dissonance. The common condition of human
society must indeed be accepted; tumult, hatred, fraud, crime, the
ferocity of self-interest, the tenacity of prejudice, are perennial; but
the philosopher sighs over it; his heart is not in it; his ambition is
to see human history from a height; his ear is set to catch the music of
the eternal spheres.

March 15, 1879.--I have been turning over "Les histories de mon Parrain"
by Stahl, and a few chapters of "Nos Fils et nos Filles" by Legouve.
These writers press wit, grace, gayety, and charm into the service of
goodness; their desire is to show that virtue is not so dull nor common
sense so tiresome as people believe. They are persuasive moralists,
captivating story-tellers; they rouse the appetite for good. This pretty
manner of theirs, however, has its dangers. A moral wrapped up in sugar
goes down certainly, but it may be feared that it only goes down because
of its sugar. The Sybarites of to-day will tolerate a sermon which is
delicate enough to flatter their literary sensuality; but it is their
taste which is charmed, not their conscience which is awakened; their
principle of conduct escapes untouched.

Amusement, instruction, morals, are distinct _genres_. They may no doubt
be mingled and combined, but if we wish to obtain direct and simple
effects, we shall do best to keep them apart. The well-disposed child,
besides, does not like mixtures which have something of artifice and
deception in them. Duty claims obedience; study requires application;
for amusement, nothing is wanted but good temper. To convert obedience
and application into means of amusement is to weaken the will and the
intelligence. These efforts to make virtue the fashion are praiseworthy
enough, but if they do honor to the writers, on the other hand they
prove the moral anaemia of society. When the digestion is unspoiled, so
much persuading is not necessary to give it a taste for bread.

May 22,1879. (Ascension Day).--Wonderful and delicious weather. Soft,
caressing sunlight--the air a limpid blue--twitterings of birds; even
the distant voices of the city have something young and springlike in
them. It is indeed a new birth. The ascension of the Saviour of men is
symbolized by this expansion, this heavenward yearning of nature.... I
feel myself born again; all the windows of the soul are clear. Forms,
lines, tints, reflections, sounds, contrasts, and harmonies, the general
play and interchange of things--it is all enchanting! The atmosphere is
steeped in joy. May is in full beauty.

In my courtyard the ivy is green again, the chestnut tree is full of
leaf, the Persian lilac beside the little fountain is flushed with red,
and just about to flower; through the wide openings to the right and
left of the old College of Calvin I see the Saleve above the trees of
St. Antoine, the Voiron above the hill of Cologny; while the three
flights of steps which, from landing to landing, lead between two high
walls from the Rue Verdaine to the terrace of the Tranchees, recall to
one's imagination some old city of the south, a glimpse of Perugia or of

All the bells are ringing. It is the hour of worship. A historical and
religious impression mingles with the picturesque, the musical, the
poetical impressions of the scene. All the peoples of Christendom--all
the churches scattered over the globe--are celebrating at this moment
the glory of the Crucified.

And what are those many nations doing who have other prophets, and honor
the Divinity in other ways?--the Jews, the Mussulmans, the Buddhists,
the Vishnuists, the Guebers? They have other sacred days, other rites,
other solemnities, other beliefs. But all have some religion, some ideal
end for life--all aim at raising man above the sorrows and smallnesses
of the present, and of the individual existence. All have faith in
something greater than themselves, all pray, all bow, all adore; all see
beyond nature, Spirit, and beyond evil, Good. All bear witness to the
Invisible. Here we have the link which binds all peoples together. All
men are equally creatures of sorrow and desire, of hope and fear. All
long to recover some lost harmony with the great order of things, and to
feel themselves approved and blessed by the Author of the universe. All
know what suffering is, and yearn for happiness. All know what sin is,
and feel the need of pardon.

Christianity reduced to its original simplicity is the reconciliation of
the sinner with God, by means of the certainty that God loves in spite
of everything, and that he chastises because he loves. Christianity
furnished a new motive and a new strength for the achievement of moral
perfection. It made holiness attractive by giving to it the air of
filial gratitude.

June 28, 1879.--Last lecture of the term and of the academic year. I
finished the exposition of modern philosophy, and wound up my course
with the precision I wished. The circle has returned upon itself. In
order to do this I have divided my hour into minutes, calculated my
material, and counted every stitch and point. This, however, is but a
very small part of the professorial science, It is a more difficult
matter to divide one's whole material into a given number of lectures,
to determine the right proportions of the different parts, and the
normal speed of delivery to be attained. The ordinary lecturer may
achieve a series of complete _seances_--the unity being the _seance_.
But a scientific course ought to aim at something more--at a general
unity of subject and of exposition.

Has this concise, substantial, closely-reasoned kind of work been useful
to my class? I cannot tell. Have my students liked me this year? I am
not sure, but I hope so. It seems to me they have. Only, if I have
pleased them, it cannot have been in any case more than a _succes
d'estime_; I have never aimed at any oratorical success. My only object
is to light up for them a complicated and difficult subject. I respect
myself too much, and I respect my class too much, to attempt rhetoric.
My role is to help them to understand. Scientific lecturing ought to be,
above all things, clear, instructive, well put together, and convincing.
A lecturer has nothing to do with paying court to the scholars, or with
showing off the master; his business is one of serious study and
impersonal exposition. To yield anything on this point would seem to me
a piece of mean utilitarianism. I hate everything that savors of
cajoling and coaxing. All such ways are mere attempts to throw dust in
men's eyes, mere forms of coquetry and stratagem. A professor is the
priest of his subject; he should do the honors of it gravely and with

September 9, 1879.--"Non-being is perfect. Being, imperfect:" this
horrible sophism becomes beautiful only in the Platonic system, because
there Non-being is replaced by the Idea, which is, and which is divine.

The ideal, the chimerical, the vacant, should not be allowed to claim so
great a superiority to the Real, which, on its side, has the
incomparable advantage of existing. The Ideal kills enjoyment and
content by disparaging the present and actual. It is the voice which
says No, like Mephistopheles. No, you have not succeeded; no, your work
is not good; no, you are not happy; no, you shall not find rest--all
that you see and all that you do is insufficient, insignificant,
overdone, badly done, imperfect. The thirst for the ideal is like the
goad of Siva, which only quickens life to hasten death. Incurable
longing that it is, it lies at the root both of individual suffering and
of the progress of the race. It destroys happiness in the name of

The only positive good is order, the return therefore to order and to a
state of equilibrium. Thought without action is an evil, and so is
action without thought. The ideal is a poison unless it be fused with
the real, and the real becomes corrupt without the perfume of the ideal.
Nothing is good singly without its complement and its contrary.
Self-examination is dangerous if it encroaches upon self-devotion;
reverie is hurtful when it stupefies the will; gentleness is an evil
when it lessens strength; contemplation is fatal when it destroys
character. "Too much" and "too little" sin equally against wisdom.
Excess is one evil, apathy another. Duty may be defined as energy
tempered by moderation; happiness, as inclination calmed and tempered by

Just as life is only lent us for a few years, but is not inherent in us,
so the good which is in us is not our own. It is not difficult to think
of one's self in this detached spirit. It only needs a little
self-knowledge, a little intuitive preception of the ideal, a little
religion. There is even much sweetness in this conception that we are
nothing of ourselves, and that yet it is granted to us to summon each
other to life, joy, poetry and holiness.

Another application of the law of irony: Zeno, a fatalist by theory,
makes his disciples heroes; Epicurus, the upholder of liberty, makes his
disciples languid and effeminate. The ideal pursued is the decisive
point; the stoical ideal is duty, whereas the Epicureans make an ideal
out of an interest. Two tendencies, two systems of morals, two worlds.
In the same way the Jansenists, and before them the great reformers, are
for predestination, the Jesuits for free-will--and yet the first founded
liberty, the second slavery of conscience. What matters then is not the
theoretical principle; it is the secret tendency, the aspiration, the
aim, which is the essential thing.

* * * * *

At every epoch there lies, beyond the domain of what man knows, the
domain of the unknown, in which faith has its dwelling. Faith has no
proofs, but only itself, to offer. It is born spontaneously in certain
commanding souls; it spreads its empire among the rest by imitation and
contagion. A great faith is but a great hope which becomes certitude as
we move farther and farther from the founder of it; time and distance
strengthen it, until at last the passion for knowledge seizes upon it,
questions, and examines it. Then all which had once made its strength
becomes its weakness; the impossibility of verification, exaltation of
feeling, distance.

* * * * *

At what age is our view clearest, our eye truest? Surely in old age,
before the infirmities come which weaken or embitter. The ancients were
right. The old man who is at once sympathetic and disinterested,
necessarily develops the spirit of contemplation, and it is given to the
spirit of contemplation to see things most truly, because it alone
perceives them in their relative and proportional value.

January 2, 1880.--A sense of rest, of deep quiet even. Silence within
and without. A quietly-burning fire. A sense of comfort. The portrait of
my mother seems to smile upon me. I am not dazed or stupid, but only
happy in this peaceful morning. Whatever may be the charm of emotion, I
do not know whether it equals the sweetness of those hours of silent
meditation, in which we have a glimpse and foretaste of the
contemplative joys of paradise. Desire and fear, sadness and care, are
done away. Existence is reduced to the simplest form, the most ethereal
mode of being, that is, to pure self-consciousness. It is a state of
harmony, without tension and without disturbance, the dominical state of
the soul, perhaps the state which awaits it beyond the grave. It is
happiness as the orientals understand it, the happiness of the
anchorite, who neither struggles nor wishes any more, but simply adores
and enjoys. It is difficult to find words in which to express this moral
situation, for our languages can only render the particular and
localized vibrations of life; they are incapable of expressing this
motionless concentration, this divine quietude, this state of the
resting ocean, which reflects the sky, and is master of its own
profundities. Things are then re-absorbed into their principles;
memories are swallowed up in memory; the soul is only soul, and is no
longer conscious of itself in its individuality and separateness. It is
something which feels the universal life, a sensible atom of the Divine,
of God. It no longer appropriates anything to itself, it is conscious of
no void. Only the Yogis and Soufis perhaps have known in its profundity
this humble and yet voluptuous state, which combines the joys of being
and of non-being, which is neither reflection nor will, which is above
both the moral existence and the intellectual existence, which is the
return to unity, to the pleroma, the vision of Plotinus and of
Proclus--Nirvana in its most attractive form.

It is clear that the western nations in general, and especially the
Americans, know very little of this state of feeling. For them life is
devouring and incessant activity. They are eager for gold, for power,
for dominion; their aim is to crush men and to enslave nature. They show
an obstinate interest in means, and have not a thought for the end. They
confound being with individual being, and the expansion of the self with
happiness--that is to say, they do not live by the soul; they ignore the
unchangeable and the eternal; they live at the periphery of their being,
because they are unable to penetrate to its axis. They are excited,
ardent, positive, because they are superficial. Why so much effort,
noise, struggle, and greed?--it is all a mere stunning and deafening of
the self. When death comes they recognize that it is so--why not then
admit it sooner? Activity is only beautiful when it is holy--that is to
say, when it is spent in the service of that which passeth not away.

February 6, 1880.--A feeling article by Edmond Scherer on the death of
Bersot, the director of the "Ecole Normale," a philosopher who bore like
a stoic a terrible disease, and who labored to the last without a
complaint.... I have just read the four orations delivered over his
grave. They have brought the tears to my eyes. In the last days of this
brave man everything was manly, noble, moral, and spiritual. Each of the
speakers paid homage to the character, the devotion, the constancy, and
the intellectual elevation of the dead. "Let us learn from him how to
live and how to die." The whole funeral ceremony had an antique dignity.

February 7, 1880.--Hoar-frost and fog, but the general aspect is bright
and fairylike, and has nothing in common with the gloom in Paris and
London, of which the newspapers tell us.

This silvery landscape has a dreamy grace, a fanciful charm, which are
unknown both to the countries of the sun and to those of coal-smoke. The
trees seem to belong to another creation, in which white has taken the
place of green. As one gazes at these alleys, these clumps, these groves
and arcades, these lace-like garlands and festoons, one feels no wish
for anything else; their beauty is original and self-sufficing, all the
more because the ground powdered with snow, the sky dimmed with mist,
and the smooth soft distances, combine to form a general scale of color,
and a harmonious whole, which charms the eye. No harshness anywhere--all
is velvet. My enchantment beguiled me out both before and after dinner.
The impression is that of a _fete_, and the subdued tints are, or seem
to be, a mere coquetry of winter which has set itself to paint something
without sunshine, and yet to charm the spectator.

February 9, 1880,--Life rushes on--so much the worse for the weak and
the stragglers. As soon as a man's _tendo Achillis_ gives way he finds
himself trampled under foot by the young, the eager, the voracious.
"_Vae victis, vae debilibus!_" yells the crowd, which in its turn is
storming the goods of this world. Every man is always in some other
man's way, since, however small he may make himself, he still occupies
some space, and however little he may envy or possess, he is still sure
to be envied and his goods coveted by some one else. Mean
world!--peopled by a mean race! To console ourselves we must think of
the exceptions--of the noble and generous souls. There are such. What do
the rest matter! The traveler crossing the desert feels himself
surrounded by creatures thirsting for his blood; by day vultures fly
about his head; by night scorpions creep into his tent, jackals prowl
around his camp-fire, mosquitoes prick and torture him with their
greedy sting; everywhere menace, enmity, ferocity. But far beyond the
horizon, and the barren sands peopled by these hostile hordes, the
wayfarer pictures to himself a few loved faces and kind looks, a few
true hearts which follow him in their dreams--and smiles. When all is
said, indeed, we defend ourselves a greater or lesser number of years,
but we are always conquered and devoured in the end; there is no
escaping the grave and its worm. Destruction is our destiny, and
oblivion our portion....

How near is the great gulf! My skiff is thin as a nutshell, or even more
fragile still. Let the leak but widen a little and all is over for the
navigator. A mere nothing separates me from idiocy, from madness, from
death. The slightest breach is enough to endanger all this frail,
ingenious edifice, which calls itself my being and my life.

Not even the dragonfly symbol is enough to express its frailty; the
soap-bubble is the best poetical translation of all this illusory
magnificence, this fugitive apparition of the tiny self, which is we,
and we it.

... A miserable night enough. Awakened three or four times by my
bronchitis. Sadness--restlessness. One of these winter nights, possibly,
suffocation will come. I realize that it would be well to keep myself
ready, to put everything in order.... To begin with, let me wipe out all
personal grievances and bitternesses; forgive all, judge no one; in
enmity and ill-will, see only misunderstanding. "As much as lieth in
you, be at peace with all men." On the bed of death the soul should have
no eyes but for eternal things. All the littlenesses of life disappear.
The fight is over. There should be nothing left now but remembrance of
past blessings--adoration of the ways of God. Our natural instinct leads
us back to Christian humility and pity. "Father, forgive us our
trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us."

Prepare thyself as though the coming Easter were thy last, for thy days
henceforward shall be few and evil.

February 11, 1880.--Victor de Laprade [Footnote: Victor de Laprade, born
1812, first a disciple and imitator of Edgar Quinet, then the friend of
Lamartine, Lamennais, George Sand, Victor Hugo; admitted to the Academy
in 1857 in succession to Alfred de Musset. He wrote "Parfums de
Madeleine," 1839; "Odes et Poemes," 1843; "Poemes Evangeliques," 1852;
"Idylles Heroiques," 1858, etc. etc.] has elevation, grandeur, nobility,
and harmony. What is it, then, that he lacks? Ease, and perhaps humor.
Hence the monotonous solemnity, the excess of emphasis, the
over-intensity, the inspired air, the statue-like gait, which annoy one
in him. His is a muse which never lays aside the _cothurnus_, and a
royalty which never puts off its crown, even in sleep. The total absence
in him of playfulness, simplicity, familiarity, is a great defect. De
Laprade is to the ancients as the French tragedy is to that of
Euripides, or as the wig of Louis XIV. to the locks of Apollo. His
majestic airs are wearisome and factitious. If there is not exactly
affectation in them, there is at least a kind of theatrical and
sacerdotal posing, a sort of professional attitudinizing. Truth is not
as fine as this, but it is more living, more pathetic, more varied.
Marble images are cold. Was it not Musset who said, "If De Laprade is a
poet, then I am not one?"

February 27, 1880.--I have finished translating twelve or fourteen
little poems by Petoefi. They have a strange kind of savor. There is
something of the Steppe, of the East, of Mazeppa, of madness, in these
songs, which seem to go to the beat of a riding-whip. What force and
passion, what savage brilliancy, what wild and grandiose images, there
are in them! One feels that the Magyar is a kind of Centaur, and that he
is only Christian and European by accident. The Hun in him tends toward
the Arab.

March 20, 1880.--I have been reading "La Banniere Bleue"--a history of
the world at the time of Genghis Khan, under the form of memoirs. It is
a Turk, Ouigour, who tells the story. He shows us civilization from the
wrong side, or the other side, and the Asiatic nomads appear as the
scavengers of its corruptions.

Genghis proclaimed himself the scourge of God, and he did in fact
realize the vastest empire known to history, stretching from the Blue
Sea to the Baltic, and from the vast plains of Siberia to the banks of
the sacred Ganges. The most solid empires of the ancient world were
overthrown by the tramp of his horsemen and the shafts of his archers.
From the tumult into which he threw the western continent there issued
certain vast results: the fall of the Byzantine empire, involving the
Renaissance, the voyages of discovery in Asia, undertaken from both
sides of the globe--that is to say, Gama and Columbus; the formation of
the Turkish empire; and the preparation of the Russian empire. This
tremendous hurricane, starting from the high Asiatic tablelands, felled
the decaying oaks and worm-eaten buildings of the whole ancient world.
The descent of the yellow, flat-nosed Mongols upon Europe is a
historical cyclone which devastated and purified our thirteenth century,
and broke, at the two ends of the known world, through two great Chinese
walls--that which protected the ancient empire of the Center, and that
which made a barrier of ignorance and superstition round the little
world of Christendom. Attila, Genghis, Tamerlane, ought to range in the
memory of men with Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon. They roused whole
peoples into action, and stirred the depths of human life, they
powerfully affected ethnography, they let loose rivers of blood, and
renewed the face of things. The Quakers will not see that there is a law
of tempests in history as in nature. The revilers of war are like the
revilers of thunder, storms, and volcanoes; they know not what they do.
Civilization tends to corrupt men, as large towns tend to vitiate the

"Nos patimur longae pacis mala."

Catastrophes bring about a violent restoration of equilibrium; they put
the world brutally to rights. Evil chastises itself, and the tendency to
ruin in human things supplies the place of the regulator who has not yet
been discovered. No civilization can bear more than a certain proportion
of abuses, injustice, corruption, shame, and crime. When this proportion
has been reached, the boiler bursts, the palace falls, the scaffolding
breaks down; institutions, cities, states, empires, sink into ruin. The
evil contained in an organism is a virus which preys upon it, and if it
is not eliminated ends by destroying it. And as nothing is perfect,
nothing can escape death.

May 19, 1880.--_Inadaptibility_, due either to mysticism or stiffness,
delicacy or disdain, is the misfortune or at all events the
characteristic of my life. I have not been able to fit myself to
anything, to content myself with anything. I have never had the quantum
of illusion necessary for risking the irreparable. I have made use of
the ideal itself to keep me from any kind of bondage. It was thus with
marriage: only perfection would have satisfied me; and, on the other
hand, I was not worthy of perfection.... So that, finding no
satisfaction in things, I tried to extirpate desire, by which things
enslave us. Independence has been my refuge; detachment my stronghold. I
have lived the impersonal life--in the world, yet not in it, thinking
much, desiring nothing. It is a state of mind which corresponds with
what in women is called a broken heart; and it is in fact like it, since
the characteristic common to both is despair. When one knows that one
will never possess what one could have loved, and that one can be
content with nothing less, one has, so to speak, left the world, one has
cut the golden hair, parted with all that makes human life--that is to
say, illusion--the incessant effort toward an apparently attainable end.
May 31, 1880.--Let us not be over-ingenious. There is no help to be got
out of subtleties. Besides, one must live. It is best and simplest not
to quarrel with any illusion, and to accept the inevitable
good-temperedly. Plunged as we are in human existence, we must take it
as it comes, not too bitterly, nor too tragically, without horror and
without sarcasm, without misplaced petulance or a too exacting
expectation; cheerfulness, serenity, and patience, these are best--let
us aim at these. Our business is to treat life as the grandfather treats
his granddaughter, or the grandmother her grandson; to enter into the
pretenses of childhood and the fictions of youth, even when we ourselves
have long passed beyond them. It is probable that God himself looks
kindly upon the illusions of the human race, so long as they are
innocent. There is nothing evil but sin--that is, egotism and revolt.
And as for error, man changes his errors frequently, but error of some
sort is always with him. Travel as one may, one is always somewhere, and
one's mind rests on some point of truth, as one's feet rest upon some
point of the globe.

Society alone represents a more or less complete unity. The individual
must content himself with being a stone in the building, a wheel in the
immense machine, a word in the poem. He is a part of the family, of the
state, of humanity, of all the special fragments formed by human
interests, beliefs, aspirations, and labors. The loftiest souls are
those who are conscious of the universal symphony, and who give their
full and willing collaboration to this vast and complicated concert
which we call civilization.

In principle the mind is capable of suppressing all the limits which it
discovers in itself, limits of language, nationality, religion, race, or
epoch. But it must be admitted that the more the mind spiritualizes and
generalizes itself, the less hold it has on other minds, which no longer
understand it or know what to do with it. Influence belongs to men of
action, and for purposes of action nothing is more useful than
narrowness of thought combined with energy of will.

The forms of dreamland are gigantic, those of action are small and
dwarfed. To the minds imprisoned in things, belong success, fame,
profit; a great deal no doubt; but they know nothing of the pleasures of
liberty or the joy of penetrating the infinite. However, I do not mean
to put one class before another; for every man is happy according to his
nature. History is made by combatants and specialists; only it is
perhaps not a bad thing that in the midst of the devouring activities of
the western world, there should be a few Brahmanizing souls.

... This soliloquy means--what? That reverie turns upon itself as dreams
do; that impressions added together do not always produce a fair
judgment; that a private journal is like a good king, and permits
repetitions, outpourings, complaint.... These unseen effusions are the
conversation of thought with itself the arpeggios involuntary but not
unconscious, of that aeolian harp we bear within us. Its vibrations
compose no piece, exhaust no theme, achieve no melody, carry out no
programme, but they express the innermost life of man.

June 1, 1880.--Stendhal's "La Chartreuse de Parme." A remarkable book.
It is even typical, the first of a class. Stendhal opens the series of
naturalist novels, which suppress the intervention of the moral sense,
and scoff at the claim of free-will. Individuals are irresponsible; they
are governed by their passions, and the play of human passions is the
observer's joy, the artist's material. Stendhal is a novelist after
Taine's heart, a faithful painter who is neither touched nor angry, and
whom everything amuses--the knave and the adventuress as well as honest
men and women, but who has neither faith, nor preference, nor ideal. In
him literature is subordinated to natural history, to science. It no
longer forms part of the humanities, it no longer gives man the honor of
a separate rank. It classes him with the ant, the beaver, and the
monkey. And this moral indifference to morality leads direct to

The vice of the whole school is cynicism, contempt for man, whom they
degrade to the level of the brute; it is the worship of strength,
disregard of the soul, a want of generosity, of reverence, of nobility,
which shows itself in spite of all protestations to the contrary; in a
word, it is _inhumanity_. No man can be a naturalist with impunity: he
will be coarse even with the most refined culture. A free mind is a
great thing no doubt, but loftiness of heart, belief in goodness,
capacity for enthusiasm and devotion, the thirst after perfection and
holiness, are greater things still.

June 7, 1880.--I am reading Madame Necker de Saussure [Footnote: Madame
Necker de Saussure was the daughter of the famous geologist, De
Saussure; she married a nephew of Jacques Necker, and was therefore
cousin by marriage of Madame de Stael. She is often supposed to be the
original of Madame de Cerlebe in "Delphine," and the _Notice sur le
Caractere et les Ecrits de Mdme. de Stael_, prefixed to the
authoritative edition of Madame de Stael's collected works, is by her.
Philanthropy and education were her two main interests, but she had also
a very large amount of general literary cultivation, as was proved by
her translation of Schlegel's "Lectures on Dramatic Literature."] again.
"L'Education progressive" is an admirable book. What moderation and
fairness of view, what reasonableness and dignity of manner! Everything
in it is of high quality--observation, thought, and style. The
reconciliation of science with the ideal, of philosophy with religion,
of psychology with morals, which the book attempts, is sound and
beneficent. It is a fine book--a classic--and Geneva may be proud of a
piece of work which shows such high cultivation and so much solid
wisdom. Here we have the true Genevese literature, the central tradition
of the country.

_Later_.--I have finished the third volume of Madame Necker. The
elevation and delicacy, the sense and seriousness, the beauty and
perfection of the whole are astonishing. A few harshnesses or
inaccuracies of language do not matter. I feel for the author a respect
mingled with emotion. How rare it is to find a book in which everything
is sincere and everything is true!

June 26, 1880.--Democracy exists; it is mere loss of time to dwell upon
its absurdities and defects. Every _regime_ has its weaknesses, and this
_regime_ is a lesser evil than others. On things its effect is
unfavorable, but on the other hand men profit by it, for it develops the
individual by obliging every one to take interest in a multitude of
questions. It makes bad work, but it produces citizens. This is its
excuse, and a more than tolerable one; in the eyes of the
philanthropist, indeed, it is a serious title to respect, for, after
all, social institutions are made for man, and not _vice versa_.

June 27, 1880.--I paid a visit to my friends--, and we resumed the
conversation of yesterday. We talked of the ills which threaten
democracy and which are derived from the legal fiction at the root of
it. Surely the remedy consists in insisting everywhere upon the truth
which democracy systematically forgets, and which is its proper
makeweight--on the inequalities of talent, of virtue, and merit, and on
the respect due to age, to capacity, to services rendered. Juvenile
arrogance and jealous ingratitude must be resisted all the more
strenuously because social forms are in their favor; and when the
institutions of a country lay stress only on the rights of the
individual, it is the business of the citizen to lay all the more stress
on duty. There must be a constant effort to correct the prevailing
tendency of things. All this, it is true, is nothing but palliative, but
in human society one cannot hope for more.

_Later_.--Alfred de Vigny is a sympathetic writer, with a meditative
turn of thought, a strong and supple talent. He possesses elevation,
independence, seriousness, originality, boldness and grace; he has
something of everything. He paints, describes, and judges well; he
thinks, and has the courage of his opinions. His defect lies in an
excess of self-respect, in a British pride and reserve which give him a
horror of familiarity and a terror of letting himself go. This tendency
has naturally injured his popularity as a writer with a public whom he
holds at arm's length as one might a troublesome crowd. The French race
has never cared much about the inviolability of personal conscience; it
does not like stoics shut up in their own dignity as in a tower, and
recognizing no master but God, duty or faith. Such strictness annoys and
irritates it; it is merely piqued and made impatient by anything solemn.
It repudiated Protestantism for this very reason, and in all crises it
has crushed those who have not yielded to the passionate current of

July 1, 1880. (_Three o'clock_).--The temperature is oppressive; I ought
to be looking over my notes, and thinking of to-morrow's examinations.
Inward distaste--emptiness--discontent. Is it trouble of conscience, or
sorrow of heart? or the soul preying upon itself? or merely a sense of
strength decaying and time running to waste? Is sadness--or regret--or
fear--at the root of it? I do not know; but this dull sense of misery
has danger in it; it leads to rash efforts and mad decisions. Oh, for
escape from self, for something to stifle the importunate voice of want
and yearning! Discontent is the father of temptation. How can we gorge
the invisible serpent hidden at the bottom of our well--gorge it so that
it may sleep?

At the heart of all this rage and vain rebellion there lies--what?
Aspiration, yearning! We are athirst for the infinite--for love--for I
know not what. It is the instinct of happiness, which, like some wild
animal, is restless for its prey. It is God calling-God avenging

July 4, 1880. (_Sunday, half-past eight in the morning_).--The sun has
come out after heavy rain. May one take it as an omen on this solemn
day? The great voice of Clemence has just been sounding in our ears. The
bell's deep vibrations went to my heart. For a quarter of an hour the
pathetic appeal went on--"Geneva, Geneva, remember! I am called
_Clemence_--I am the voice of church and of country. People of Geneva,
serve God and be at peace together." [Footnote: A law to bring about
separation between Church and State, adopted by the Great Council, was
on this day submitted to the vote of the Genevese people. It was
rejected by a large majority (9,306 against 4,044).--[S.]]

_Seven o'clock in the evening_.--_Clemence_ has been ringing again,
during the last half-hour of the _scrutin_. Now that she has stopped,
the silence has a terrible seriousness, like that which weighs upon a
crowd when it is waiting for the return of the judge and the delivery of
the death sentence. The fate of the Genevese church and country is now
in the voting box.

_Eleven o'clock in the evening_.--Victory along the whole line. The Ayes
have carried little more than two-sevenths of the vote. At my friend
----'s house I found them all full of excitement, gratitude, and joy.

July 5, 1880.--There are some words which have still a magical virtue
with the mass of the people: those of State, Republic, Country, Nation,
Flag, and even, I think, Church. Our skeptical and mocking culture knows
nothing of the emotion, the exaltation, the delirium, which these words
awaken in simple people. The blases of the world have no idea how the
popular mind vibrates to these appeals, by which they themselves are
untouched. It is their punishment; it is also their infirmity. Their
temper is satirical and separatist; they live in isolation and

I feel again what I felt at the time of the Rousseau centenary; my
feeling and imagination are chilled and repelled by those Pharisaical
people who think themselves too good to associate with the crowd.

At the same time, I suffer from an inward contradiction, from a
two-fold, instinctive repugnance--an aesthetic repugnance toward
vulgarity of every kind, a moral repugnance toward barrenness and
coldness of heart.

So that personally I am only attracted by the individuals of cultivation
and eminence, while on the other hand nothing is sweeter to me than to
feel myself vibrating in sympathy with the national spirit, with the
feeling of the masses. I only care for the two extremes, and it is this
which separates me from each of them.

Our everyday life, split up as it is into clashing parties and opposed
opinions, and harassed by perpetual disorder and discussion, is painful
and almost hateful to me. A thousand things irritate and provoke me. But
perhaps it would be the same elsewhere. Very likely it is the inevitable
way of the world which displeases me--the sight of what succeeds, of
what men approve or blame, of what they excuse or accuse. I need to
admire, to feel myself in sympathy and in harmony with my neighbor, with
the march of things, and the tendencies of those around me, and almost
always I have had to give up the hope of it. I take refuge in retreat,
to avoid discord. But solitude is only a _pis-aller_.

July 6, 1880.--Magnificent weather. The college prize-day. [Footnote:
The prize-giving at the College of Geneva is made the occasion of a
national festival.] Toward evening I went with our three ladies to the
plain of Plainpalais. There was an immense crowd, and I was struck with
the bright look of the faces. The festival wound up with the traditional
fireworks, under a calm and starry sky. Here we have the republic
indeed, I thought as I came in. For a whole week this people has been
out-of-doors, camping, like the Athenians on the Agora. Since Wednesday
lectures and public meetings have followed one another without
intermission; at home there are pamphlets and the newspapers to be read;
while speech-making goes on at the clubs. On Sunday, _plebiscite_;
Monday, public procession, service at St. Pierre, speeches on the
Molard, festival for the adults. Tuesday, the college fete-day.
Wednesday, the fete-day of the primary schools.

Geneva is a caldron always at boiling-point, a furnace of which the
fires are never extinguished. Vulcan had more than one forge, and Geneva
is certainly one of those world-anvils on which the greatest number of
projects have been hammered out. When one thinks that the martyrs of all
causes have been at work here, the mystery is explained a little; but
the truest explanation is that Geneva--republican, protestant,
democratic, learned, and enterprising Geneva--has for centuries depended
on herself alone for the solution of her own difficulties. Since the
Reformation she has been always on the alert, marching with a lantern in
her left hand and a sword in her right. It pleases me to see that she
has not yet become a mere copy of anything, and that she is still
capable of deciding for herself. Those who say to her, "Do as they do at
New York, at Paris, at Rome, at Berlin," are still in the minority. The
_doctrinaires_ who would split her up and destroy her unity waste their
breath upon her. She divines the snare laid for her and turns away. I
like this proof of vitality. Only that which is original has a
sufficient reason for existence. A country in which the word of command
comes from elsewhere is nothing more than a province. This is what our
Jacobins and our Ultramontanes never will recognize. Neither of them
understand the meaning of self-government, and neither of them have any
idea of the dignity of a historical state and an independent people.

Our small nationalities are ruined by the hollow cosmopolitan formulae
which have an equally disastrous effect upon art and letters. The modern
_isms_ are so many acids which dissolve everything living and concrete.
No one achieves a masterpiece, nor even a decent piece of work, by the
help of realism, liberalism, or romanticism. Separatism has even less
virtue than any of the other _isms_, for it is the abstraction of a
negation, the shadow of a shadow. The various _isms_ of the present are
not fruitful principles: they are hardly even explanatory formulae. They
are rather names of disease, for they express some element in excess,
some dangerous and abusive exaggeration. Examples: empiricism, idealism,
radicalism. What is best among things and most perfect among beings
slips through these categories. The man who is perfectly well is neither
sanguineous--[to use the old medical term]--nor bilious nor nervous. A
normal republic contains opposing parties and points of view, but it
contains them, as it were, in a state of chemical combination. All the
colors are contained in a ray of light, while red alone does not contain
a sixth part of the perfect ray.

July 8, 1880.--It is thirty years since I read Waagen's book on
"Museums," which my friend ---- is now reading. It was in 1842 that I
was wild for pictures; in 1845 that I was studying Krause's philosophy;
in 1850 that I became professor of aesthetics. ---- may be the same age
as I am; it is none the less true that when a particular stage has
become to me a matter of history, he is just arriving at it. This
impression of distance and remoteness is a strange one. I begin to
realize that my memory is a great catacomb, and that below my actual
standing-ground there is layer after layer of historical ashes.

Is the life of mind something like that of great trees of immemorial
growth? Is the living layer of consciousness super-imposed upon hundreds
of dead layers? _Dead?_ No doubt this is too much to say, but still,
when memory is slack the past becomes almost as though it had never
been. To remember that we did know once is not a sign of possession but
a sign of loss; it is like the number of an engraving which is no longer
on its nail, the title of a volume no longer to be found on its shelf.
My mind is the empty frame of a thousand vanished images. Sharpened by
incessant training, it is all culture, but it has retained hardly
anything in its meshes. It is without matter, and is only form. It no
longer has knowledge; it has become method. It is etherealized,
algebraicized. Life has treated it as death treats other minds; it has
already prepared it for a further metamorphosis. Since the age of
sixteen onward I have been able to look at things with the eyes of a
blind man recently operated upon--that is to say, I have been able to
suppress in myself the results of the long education of sight, and to
abolish distances; and now I find myself regarding existence as though
from beyond the tomb, from another world; all is strange to me; I am, as
it were, outside my own body and individuality; I am _depersonalized_,
detached, cut adrift. Is this madness? No. Madness means the
impossibility of recovering one's normal balance after the mind has thus
played truant among alien forms of being, and followed Dante to
invisible worlds. Madness means incapacity for self-judgment and
self-control. Whereas it seems to me that my mental transformations are
but philosophical experiences. I am tied to none. I am but making
psychological investigations. At the same time I do not hide from myself
that such experiences weaken the hold of common sense, because they act
as solvents of all personal interests and prejudices. I can only defend
myself against them by returning to the common life of men, and by
bracing and fortifying the will.

July 14, 1880.--What is the book which, of all Genevese literature, I
would soonest have written? Perhaps that of Madame Necker de Saussure,
or Madame de Stael's "L'Allemagne." To a Genevese, moral philosophy is
still the most congenial and remunerative of studies. Intellectual
seriousness is what suits us least ill. History, politics, economical
science, education, practical philosophy--these are our subjects. We
have everything to lose in the attempt to make ourselves mere
Frenchified copies of the Parisians: by so doing we are merely carrying
water to the Seine. Independent criticism is perhaps easier at Geneva
than at Paris, and Geneva ought to remain faithful to her own special
line, which, as compared with that of France, is one of greater freedom
from the tyranny of taste and fashion on the one hand, and the tyranny
of ruling opinion on the other--of Catholicism or Jacobinism. Geneva
should be to _La Grande Nation_ what Diogenes was to Alexander; her role
is to represent the independent thought and the free speech which is not
dazzled by prestige, and does not blink the truth. It is true that the
role is an ungrateful one, that it lends itself to sarcasm and
misrepresentation--but what matter?

July 28, 1880.--This afternoon I have had a walk in the sunshine, and
have just come back rejoicing in a renewed communion with nature. The
waters of the Rhone and the Arve, the murmur of the river, the austerity
of its banks, the brilliancy of the foliage, the play of the leaves, the
splendor of the July sunlight, the rich fertility of the fields, the
lucidity of the distant mountains, the whiteness of the glaciers under
the azure serenity of the sky, the sparkle and foam of the mingling
rivers, the leafy masses of the La Batie woods--all and everything
delighted me. It seemed to me as though the years of strength had come
back to me. I was overwhelmed with sensations. I was surprised and
grateful. The universal life carried me on its breast; the summer's
caress went to my heart. Once more my eyes beheld the vast horizons, the
soaring peaks, the blue lakes, the winding valleys, and all the free
outlets of old days. And yet there was no painful sense of longing. The
scene left upon me an indefinable impression, which was neither hope,
nor desire, nor regret, but rather a sense of emotion, of passionate
impulse, mingled with admiration and anxiety. I am conscious at once of
joy and of want; beyond what I possess I see the impossible and the
unattainable; I gauge my own wealth and poverty; in a word, I am and I
am not--my inner state is one of contradiction, because it is one of
transition. The ambiguity of it is characteristic of human nature, which
is ambiguous, because it is flesh becoming spirit, space changing into
thought, the Finite looking dimly out upon the Infinite, intelligence
working its way through love and pain.

Man is the _sensorium commune_ of nature, the point at which all values
are interchanged. Mind is the plastic medium, the principle, and the
result of all; at once material and laboratory, product and formula,
sensation, expression, and law; that which is, that which does, that
which knows. All is not mind, but mind is in all, and contains all. It
is the consciousness of being--that is, Being raised to the second
power. If the universe subsists, it is because the Eternal mind loves to
perceive its own content, in all its wealth and expansion--especially in
its stages of preparation. Not that God is an egotist. He allows myriads
upon myriads of suns to disport themselves in his shadow; he grants life
and consciousness to innumerable multitudes of creatures who thus
participate in being and in nature; and all these animated monads
multiply, so to speak, his divinity.

August 4, 1880.--I have read a few numbers of the _Feuille Centrale de
Zofingen_. [Footnote: The journal of a students' society, drawn from the
different cantons of Switzerland, which meets every year in the little
town of Zofingen] It is one of those perpetual new beginnings of youth
which thinks it is producing something fresh when it is only repeating
the old.

Nature is governed by continuity--the continuity of repetition; it is
like an oft-told tale, or the recurring burden of a song. The rose-trees
are never tired of rose-bearing, the birds of nest-building, young
hearts of loving, or young voices of singing the thoughts and feelings
which have served their predecessors a hundred thousand times before.
Profound monotony in universal movement--there is the simplest formula
furnished by the spectacle of the world. All circles are alike, and
every existence tends to trace its circle.

How, then, is _fastidium_ to be avoided? By shutting our eyes to the
general uniformity, by laying stress upon the small differences which
exist, and then by learning to enjoy repetition. What to the intellect
is old and worn-out is perennially young and fresh to the heart;
curiosity is insatiable, but love is never tired. The natural
preservative against satiety, too, is work. What we do may weary others,
but the personal effort is at least useful to its author. Where every
one works, the general life is sure to possess charm and savor, even
though it repeat forever the same song, the same aspirations, the same
prejudices, and the same sighs. "To every man his turn," is the motto of
mortal beings. If what they do is old, they themselves are new; when
they imitate, they think they are inventing. They have received, and
they transmit. _E sempre bene!_

August 24, 1880.--As years go on I love the beautiful more than the
sublime, the smooth more than the rough, the calm nobility of Plato more
than the fierce holiness of the world's Jeremiahs. The vehement
barbarian is to me the inferior of the mild and playful Socrates. My
taste is for the well-balanced soul and the well-trained heart--for a
liberty which is not harsh and insolent, like that of the newly
enfranchised slave, but lovable. The temperament which charms me is that
in which one virtue leads naturally to another. All exclusive and
sharply-marked qualities are but so many signs of imperfection.

August 29, 1880.--To-day I am conscious of improvement. I am taking
advantage of it to go back to my neglected work and my interrupted
habits; but in a week I have grown several months older--that is easy to
see. The affection of those around me makes them pretend not to see it;
but the looking-glass tells the truth. The fact does not take away from
the pleasure of convalescence; but still one hears in it the shuttle of
destiny, and death seems to be nearing rapidly, in spite of the halts
and truces which are granted one. The most beautiful existence, it seems
to me, would be that of a river which should get through all its rapids
and waterfalls not far from its rising, and should then in its widening
course form a succession of rich valleys, and in each of them a lake
equally but diversely beautiful, to end, after the plains of age were
past, in the ocean where all that is weary and heavy-laden comes to seek
for rest. How few there are of these full, fruitful, gentle lives! What
is the use of wishing for or regretting them? It is Wiser and harder to
see in one's own lot the best one could have had, and to say to one's
self that after all the cleverest tailor cannot make us a coat to fit us
more closely than our skin.

"Le vrai nom du bonheur est le contentement."

... The essential thing, for every one is to accept his destiny. Fate
has deceived you; you have sometimes grumbled at your lot; well, no more
mutual reproaches; go to sleep in peace.

August 30, 1880. (_Two o'clock_).--Rumblings of a grave and distant
thunder. The sky is gray but rainless; the sharp little cries of the
birds show agitation and fear; one might imagine it the prelude to a
symphony or a catastrophe.

"Quel eclair te traverse, o mon coeur soucieux?"

Strange--all the business of the immediate neighborhood is going on;
there is even more movement than usual; and yet all these noises are, as
it were, held suspended in the silence--in a soft, positive silence,
which they cannot disguise--silence akin to that which, in every town,
on one day of the week, replaces the vague murmur of the laboring hive.
Such silence at such an hour is extraordinary. There is something
expectant, contemplative, almost anxious in it. Are there days on which
"the little breath" of Job produces more effect than tempest? on which a
dull rumbling on the distant horizon is enough to suspend the concert of
voices, like the roaring of a desert lion at the fall of night?

September 9, 1880.--It seems to me that with the decline of my active
force I am becoming more purely spirit; everything is growing
transparent to me. I see the types, the foundation of beings, the sense
of things.

All personal events, all particular experiences, are to me texts for
meditation, facts to be generalized into laws, realities to be reduced
to ideas. Life is only a document to be interpreted, matter to be
spiritualized. Such is the life of the thinker. Every day he strips
himself more and more of personality. If he consents to act and to feel,
it is that he may the better understand; if he wills, it is that he may
know what will is. Although it is sweet to him to be loved, and he knows
nothing else so sweet, yet there also he seems to himself to be the
occasion of the phenomenon rather than its end. He contemplates the
spectacle of love, and love for him remains a spectacle. He does not
even believe his body his own; he feels the vital whirlwind passing
through him--lent to him, as it were, for a moment, in order that he may
perceive the cosmic vibrations. He is a mere thinking subject; he
retains only the form of things; he attributes to himself the material
possession of nothing whatsoever; he asks nothing from life but wisdom.
This temper of mind makes him incomprehensible to all that loves
enjoyment, dominion, possession. He is fluid as a phantom that we see
but cannot grasp; he resembles a man, as the _manes_ of Achilles or the
shade of Creusa resembled the living. Without having died, I am a ghost.
Other men are dreams to me, and I am a dream to them.

_Later_--Consciousness in me takes no account of the category of time,
and therefore all the partitions which tend to make of life a palace
with a thousand rooms, do not exist in my case; I am still in the
primitive unicellular state. I possess myself only as Monad and as Ego,
and I feel my faculties themselves reabsorbed into the substance which
they have individualized. All the endowment of animality is, so to
speak, repudiated; all the produce of study and of cultivation is in the
same way annulled; the whole crystallization is redissolved into fluid;
the whole rainbow is withdrawn within the dewdrop; consequences return
to the principle, effects to the cause, the bird to the egg, the
organism to its germ.

This psychological reinvolution is an anticipation of death; it
represents the life beyond the grave, the return to school, the soul
fading into the world of ghosts, or descending into the region of _Die
Muetter_; it implies the simplification of the individual who, allowing
all the accidents of personality to evaporate, exists henceforward only
in the indivisible state, the state of point, of potentiality, of
pregnant nothingness. Is not this the true definition of mind? Is not
mind, dissociated from space and time, just this? Its development, past
or future, is contained in it just as a curve is contained in its
algebraical formula. This nothing is an all. This _punctum_ without
dimensions is a _punctum saliens_. What is the acorn but the oak which
has lost its branches, its leaves, its trunk, and its roots--that is to
say, all its apparatus, its forms, its particularities--but which is
still present in concentration, in essence, in a force which contains
the possibility of complete revival?

This impoverishment, then, is only superficially a loss, a reduction. To
be reduced to those elements in one which are eternal, is indeed to die
but not to be annihilated: it is simply to become virtual again.

October 9, 1880. (_Clarens_).--A walk. Deep feeling and admiration.
Nature was so beautiful, so caressing, so poetical, so maternal. The
sunlight, the leaves, the sky, the bells, all said to me--"Be of good
strength and courage, poor bruised one. This is nature's kindly season;
here is forgetfulness, calm, and rest. Faults and troubles, anxieties
and regrets, cares and wrongs, are but one and the same burden. We make
no distinctions; we comfort all sorrows, we bring peace, and with us is
consolation. Salvation to the weary, salvation to the afflicted,
salvation to the sick, to sinners, to all that suffer in heart, in
conscience, and in body. We are the fountain of blessing; drink and
live! God maketh his sun to rise upon the just and upon the unjust.
There is nothing grudging in his munificence; he does not weigh his
gifts like a moneychanger, or number them like a cashier. Come--there is
enough for all!"

October 29, 1880. (_Geneva_).--The ideal which a man professes may
itself be only a matter of appearance--a device for misleading his
neighbor, or deluding himself. The individual is always ready to claim
for himself the merits of the badge under which he fights; whereas,
generally speaking, it is the contrary which happens. The nobler the
badge, the less estimable is the wearer of it. Such at least is the
presumption. It is extremely dangerous to pride one's self on any moral
or religious specialty whatever. Tell me what you pique yourself upon,
and I will tell you what you are not.

But how are we to know what an individual is? First of all by his acts;
but by something else too--something which is only perceived by
intuition. Soul judges soul by elective affinity, reaching through and
beyond both words and silence, looks and actions.

The criterion is subjective, I allow, and liable to error; but in the
first place there is no safer one, and in the next, the accuracy of the
judgment is in proportion to the moral culture of the judge. Courage is
an authority on courage, goodness on goodness, nobleness on nobleness,

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