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Title: Amiel's Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel
Author: Amiel, Henri Frédéric
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Amiel's Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel" ***


By Henri-Frédéric Amiel

The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Translated, With an Introduction and Notes by Mrs. Humphrey Ward


In this second edition of the English translation of Amiel’s “Journal
Intime,” I have inserted a good many new passages, taken from the last
French edition (_Cinquiéme édition, revue et augmentée_.) But I have not
translated all the fresh material to be found in that edition nor have
I omitted certain sections of the Journal which in these two recent
volumes have been omitted by their French editors. It would be of no
interest to give my reasons for these variations at length. They depend
upon certain differences between the English and the French public,
which are more readily felt than explained. Some of the passages which I
have left untranslated seemed to me to overweight the introspective
side of the Journal, already so full--to overweight it, at any rate, for
English readers. Others which I have retained, though they often relate
to local names and books, more or less unfamiliar to the general public,
yet seemed to me valuable as supplying some of that surrounding detail,
that setting, which helps one to understand a life. Besides, we English
are in many ways more akin to Protestant and Puritan Geneva than the
French readers to whom the original Journal primarily addresses itself,
and some of the entries I have kept have probably, by the nature of
things, more savor for us than for them.

M. A. W.


This translation of Amiel’s “Journal Intime” is primarily addressed to
those whose knowledge of French, while it may be sufficient to carry
them with more or less complete understanding through a novel or a
newspaper, is yet not enough to allow them to understand and appreciate
a book containing subtle and complicated forms of expression. I believe
there are many such to be found among the reading public, and among
those who would naturally take a strong interest in such a life and mind
as Amiel’s, were it not for the barrier of language. It is, at any rate,
in the hope that a certain number of additional readers may be thereby
attracted to the “Journal Intime” that this translation of it has been

The difficulties of the translation have been sometimes considerable,
owing, first of all, to those elliptical modes of speech which a man
naturally employs when he is writing for himself and not for the public,
but which a translator at all events is bound in some degree to expand.
Every here and there Amiel expresses himself in a kind of shorthand,
perfectly intelligible to a Frenchman, but for which an English
equivalent, at once terse and clear, is hard to find. Another difficulty
has been his constant use of a technical philosophical language, which,
according to his French critics, is not French--even philosophical
French--but German. Very often it has been impossible to give any
other than a literal rendering of such passages, if the thought of the
original was to be preserved; but in those cases where a choice was
open to me, I have preferred the more literary to the more technical
expression; and I have been encouraged to do so by the fact that Amiel,
when he came to prepare for publication a certain number of “Pensées,”
 extracted from the Journal, and printed at the end of a volume of poems
published in 1853, frequently softened his phrases, so that sentences
which survive in the Journal in a more technical form are to be found in
a more literary form in the “Grains de Mil.”

In two or three cases--not more, I think--I have allowed myself to
transpose a sentence bodily, and in a few instances I have added some
explanatory words to the text, which wherever the addition was of any
importance, are indicated by square brackets.

My warmest thanks are due to my friend and critic, M. Edmond Scherer,
from whose valuable and interesting study, prefixed to the French
Journal, as well as from certain materials in his possession which
he has very kindly allowed me to make use of, I have drawn by far the
greater part of the biographical material embodied in the Introduction.
M. Scherer has also given me help and advice through the whole process
of translation--advice which his scholarly knowledge of English has made
especially worth having.

In the translation of the more technical philosophical passages I have
been greatly helped by another friend, Mr. Bernard Bosanquet, Fellow of
University College, Oxford, the translator of Lotze, of whose care and
pains in the matter I cherish a grateful remembrance.

But with all the help that has been so freely given me, not only by
these friends but by others, I confide the little book to the public
with many a misgiving! May it at least win a few more friends and
readers here and there for one who lived alone, and died sadly persuaded
that his life had been a barren mistake; whereas, all the while--such
is the irony of things--he had been in reality working out the mission
assigned him in the spiritual economy, and faithfully obeying the secret
mandate which had impressed itself upon his youthful consciousness:
“_Let the living live; and you, gather together your thoughts, leave
behind you a legacy of feeling and ideas; you will be most useful so_.”



It was in the last days of December, 1882, that the first volume of
Henri Frédéric Amiel’s “Journal Intime” was published at Geneva. The
book, of which the general literary world knew nothing prior to its
appearance, contained a long and remarkable Introduction from the pen of
M. Edmond Scherer, the well-known French critic, who had been for many
years one of Amiel’s most valued friends, and it was prefaced also by
a little _Avertissement_, in which the “Editors”--that is to say, the
Genevese friends to whom the care and publication of the Journal had
been in the first instance entrusted--described in a few reserved and
sober words the genesis and objects of the publication. Some thousands
of sheets of Journal, covering a period of more than thirty years, had
come into the hands of Amiel’s literary heirs. “They were written,” said
the _Avertissement_, “with several ends in view. Amiel recorded in them
his various occupations, and the incidents of each day. He preserved in
them his psychological observations, and the impressions produced on
him by books. But his Journal was, above all, the confidant of his
most private and intimate thoughts; a means whereby the thinker became
conscious of his own inner life; a safe shelter wherein his questionings
of fate and the future, the voice of grief, of self-examination and
confession, the soul’s cry for inward peace, might make themselves
freely heard.

“... In the directions concerning his papers which he left behind him,
Amiel expressed the wish that his literary executors should publish
those parts of the Journal which might seem to them to possess either
interest as thought or value as experience. The publication of this
volume is the fulfillment of this desire. The reader will find in it,
_not a volume of Memoirs_, but the confidences of a solitary thinker,
the meditations of a philosopher for whom the things of the soul were
the sovereign realities of existence.”

Thus modestly announced, the little volume made its quiet _début_. It
contained nothing, or almost nothing, of ordinary biographical material.
M. Scherer’s Introduction supplied such facts as were absolutely
necessary to the understanding of Amiel’s intellectual history, but
nothing more. Everything of a local or private character that could
be excluded was excluded. The object of the editors in their choice of
passages for publication was declared to be simply “the reproduction
of the moral and intellectual physiognomy of their friend,” while M.
Scherer expressly disclaimed any biographical intentions, and limited
his Introduction as far as possible to “a study of the character
and thought of Amiel.” The contents of the volume, then, were
purely literary and philosophical; its prevailing tone was a tone of
introspection, and the public which can admit the claims and overlook
the inherent defects of introspective literature has always been a
small one. The writer of the Journal had been during his lifetime wholly
unknown to the general European public. In Geneva itself he had been
commonly regarded as a man who had signally disappointed the hopes and
expectations of his friends, whose reserve and indecision of character
had in many respects spoiled his life, and alienated the society around
him; while his professional lectures were generally pronounced dry and
unattractive, and the few volumes of poems which represented almost
his only contributions to literature had nowhere met with any real
cordiality of reception. Those concerned, therefore, in the publication
of the first volume of the Journal can hardly have had much expectation
of a wide success. Geneva is not a favorable starting-point for a
French book, and it may well have seemed that not even the support of M.
Scherer’s name would be likely to carry the volume beyond a small local

But “wisdom is justified of her children!” It is now nearly three years
since the first volume of the “Journal Intime” appeared; the impression
made by it was deepened and extended by the publication of the second
volume in 1884; and it is now not too much to say that this remarkable
record of a life has made its way to what promises to be a permanent
place in literature. Among those who think and read it is beginning to
be generally recognized that another book has been added to the books
which live--not to those, perhaps, which live in the public view, much
discussed, much praised, the objects of feeling and of struggle, but
to those in which a germ of permanent life has been deposited silently,
almost secretly, which compel no homage and excite no rivalry, and
which owe the place that the world half-unconsciously yields to them to
nothing but that indestructible sympathy of man with man, that eternal
answering of feeling to feeling, which is one of the great principles,
perhaps the greatest principle, at the root of literature. M. Scherer
naturally was the first among the recognized guides of opinion to
attempt the placing of his friend’s Journal. “The man who, during his
lifetime, was incapable of giving us any deliberate or conscious work
worthy of his powers, has now left us, after his death, a book which
will not die. For the secret of Amiel’s malady is sublime, and the
expression of it wonderful.” So ran one of the last paragraphs of the
Introduction, and one may see in the sentences another instance of that
courage, that reasoned rashness, which distinguishes the good from the
mediocre critic. For it is as true now as it was in the days when La
Bruyère rated the critics of his time for their incapacity to praise,
and praise at once, that “the surest test of a man’s critical power is
his judgment of contemporaries.” M. Renan, I think, with that exquisite
literary sense of his, was the next among the authorities to mention
Amiel’s name with the emphasis it deserved. He quoted a passage from
the Journal in his Preface to the “Souvenirs d’Enfance et de Jeunesse,”
 describing it as the saying “_d’un penseur distingué, M. Amiel de
Genève_.” Since then M. Renan has devoted two curious articles to the
completed Journal in the _Journal des Desbats_. The first object of
these reviews, no doubt, was not so much the critical appreciation of
Amiel as the development of certain paradoxes which have been haunting
various corners of M. Renan’s mind for several years past, and to which
it is to be hoped he has now given expression with sufficient emphasis
and _brusquerie_ to satisfy even his passion for intellectual adventure.
Still, the rank of the book was fully recognized, and the first article
especially contained some remarkable criticisms, to which we shall find
occasion to recur. “In these two volumes of _pensées_,” said M. Renan,
“without any sacrifice of truth to artistic effect, we have both the
perfect mirror of a modern mind of the best type, matured by the best
modern culture, and also a striking picture of the sufferings which
beset the sterility of genius. These two volumes may certainly be
reckoned among the most interesting philosophical writings which have
appeared of late years.”

M. Caro’s article on the first volume of the Journal, in the _Revue
des Deux Mondes_ for February, 1883, may perhaps count as the first
introduction of the book to the general cultivated public. He gave a
careful analysis of the first half of the Journal--resumed eighteen
months later in the same periodical on the appearance of the second
volume--and, while protesting against what he conceived to be the
general tendency and effect of Amiel’s mental story, he showed himself
fully conscious of the rare and delicate qualities of the new
writer. “_La rêverie a réussi à notre auteur_,” he says, a little
reluctantly--for M. Caro has his doubts as to the legitimacy of
_rêverie_; “_Il en aufait une oeuvure qui restera_.” The same final
judgment, accompanied by a very different series of comments, was
pronounced on the Journal a year later by M. Paul Bourget, a young and
rising writer, whose article is perhaps chiefly interesting as showing
the kind of effect produced by Amiel’s thought on minds of a type
essentially alien from his own. There is a leaven of something positive
and austere, of something which, for want of a better name, one calls
Puritanism, in Amiel, which escapes the author of “Une Cruelle Enigme.”
 But whether he has understood Amiel or no, M. Bourget is fully alive
to the mark which the Journal is likely to make among modern records
of mental history. He, too, insists that the book is already famous and
will remain so; in the first place, because of its inexorable realism
and sincerity; in the second, because it is the most perfect example
available of a certain variety of the modern mind.

Among ourselves, although the Journal has attracted the attention of
all who keep a vigilant eye on the progress of foreign literature, and
although one or two appreciative articles have appeared on it in the
magazines, the book has still to become generally known. One remarkable
English testimony to it, however, must be quoted. Six months after the
publication of the first volume, the late Mark Pattison, who since then
has himself bequeathed to literature a strange and memorable fragment
of autobiography, addressed a letter to M. Scherer as the editor of the
“Journal Intime,” which M. Scherer has since published, nearly a year
after the death of the writer. The words have a strong and melancholy
interest for all who knew Mark Pattison; and they certainly deserve
a place in any attempt to estimate the impression already made on
contemporary thought by the “Journal Intime.”

“I wish to convey to you, sir,” writes the rector of Lincoln, “the
thanks of one at least of the public for giving the light to this
precious record of a unique experience. I say unique, but I can vouch
that there is in existence at least one other soul which has lived
through the same struggles, mental and moral, as Amiel. In your pathetic
description of the _volonté qui voudrait vouloir, mais impuissante à se
fournir à elle-même des motifs_--of the repugnance for all action--the
soul petrified by the sentiment of the infinite, in all this I recognize
myself. _Celui qui a déchiffré le secret de la vie finie, qui en a lu
le mot, est sorti du monde des vivants, il est mort de fait_. I can feel
forcibly the truth of this, as it applies to myself!

“It is not, however, with the view of thrusting my egotism upon you
that I have ventured upon addressing you. As I cannot suppose that so
peculiar a psychological revelation will enjoy a wide popularity, I
think it a duty to the editor to assure him that there are persons in
the world whose souls respond, in the depths of their inmost nature,
to the cry of anguish which makes itself heard in the pages of these
remarkable confessions.”

So much for the place which the Journal--the fruit of so many years of
painful thought and disappointed effort; seems to be at last securing
for its author among those contemporaries who in his lifetime knew
nothing of him. It is a natural consequence of the success of the
book that the more it penetrates, the greater desire there is to know
something more than its original editors and M. Scherer have yet told us
about the personal history of the man who wrote it--about his education,
his habits, and his friends. Perhaps some day this wish may find its
satisfaction. It is an innocent one, and the public may even be said
to have a kind of right to know as much as can be told it of the
personalities which move and stir it. At present the biographical
material available is extremely scanty, and if it were not for the
kindness of M. Scherer, who has allowed the present writer access to
certain manuscript material in his possession, even the sketch which
follows, vague and imperfect as it necessarily is, would have been

[Footnote: Four or five articles on the subject of Amiel’s life have
been contributed to the _Révue Internationale_ by Mdlle. Berthe Vadier
during the passage of the present book through the press. My knowledge
of them, however, came too late to enable me to make use of them for the
purposes of the present introduction.]

Henri Frédéric Amiel was born at Geneva in September, 1821. He belonged
to one of the emigrant families, of which a more or less steady supply
had enriched the little republic during the three centuries following
the Reformation. Amiel’s ancestors, like those of Sismondi, left
Languedoc for Geneva after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His
father must have been a youth at the time when Geneva passed into the
power of the French republic, and would seem to have married and settled
in the halcyon days following the restoration of Genevese independence
in 1814. Amiel was born when the prosperity of Geneva was at its height,
when the little state was administered by men of European reputation,
and Genevese society had power to attract distinguished visitors and
admirers from all parts. The veteran Bonstetten, who had been the friend
of Gray and the associate of Voltaire, was still talking and enjoying
life in his _appartement_ overlooking the woods of La Bâtie. Rossi and
Sismondi were busy lecturing to the Genevese youth, or taking part in
Genevese legislation; an active scientific group, headed by the Pictets,
De la Rive, and the botanist Auguste-Pyrame de Candolle, kept the
country abreast of European thought and speculation, while the mixed
nationality of the place--the blending in it of French keenness with
Protestant enthusiasms and Protestant solidity--was beginning to find
inimitable and characteristic expression in the stories of Töpffer.
The country was governed by an aristocracy, which was not so much an
aristocracy of birth as one of merit and intellect, and the moderate
constitutional ideas which represented the Liberalism of the
post-Waterloo period were nowhere more warmly embraced or more
intelligently carried out than in Geneva.

During the years, however, which immediately followed Amiel’s birth,
some signs of decadence began to be visible in this brilliant Genevese
society. The generation which had waited for, prepared, and controlled,
the Restoration of 1814, was falling into the background, and the
younger generation, with all its respectability, wanted energy, above
all, wanted leaders. The revolutionary forces in the state, which had
made themselves violently felt during the civil turmoils of the period
preceding the assembly of the French States General, and had afterward
produced the miniature Terror which forced Sismondi into exile, had been
for awhile laid to sleep by the events of 1814. But the slumber was a
short one at Geneva as elsewhere, and when Rossi quitted the republic
for France in 1833, he did so with a mind full of misgivings as to the
political future of the little state which had given him--an exile and a
Catholic--so generous a welcome in 1819. The ideas of 1830 were shaking
the fabric and disturbing the equilibrium of the Swiss Confederation
as a whole, and of many of the cantons composing it. Geneva was still
apparently tranquil while her neighbors were disturbed, but no one
looking back on the history of the republic, and able to measure the
strength of the Radical force in Europe after the fall of Charles X.,
could have felt much doubt but that a few more years would bring Geneva
also into the whirlpool of political change.

In the same year--1833--that M. Rossi had left Geneva, Henri Frédéric
Amiel, at twelve years old, was left orphaned of both his parents. They
had died comparatively young--his mother was only just over thirty, and
his father cannot have been much older. On the death of the mother
the little family was broken up, the boy passing into the care of one
relative, his two sisters into that of another. Certain notes in
M. Scherer’s possession throw a little light here and there upon a
childhood and youth which must necessarily have been a little bare and
forlorn. They show us a sensitive, impressionable boy, of health rather
delicate than robust, already disposed to a more or less melancholy
and dreamy view of life, and showing a deep interest in those religious
problems and ideas in which the air of Geneva has been steeped since the
days of Calvin. The religious teaching which a Genevese lad undergoes
prior to his admission to full church membership, made a deep impression
on him, and certain mystical elements of character, which remained
strong in him to the end, showed themselves very early. At the college
or public school of Geneva, and at the académie, he would seem to have
done only moderately as far as prizes and honors were concerned. We
are told, however, that he read enormously, and that he was, generally
speaking, inclined rather to make friends with men older than himself
than with his contemporaries. He fell specially under the influence of
Adolphe Pictet, a brilliant philologist and man of letters belonging
to a well-known Genevese family, and in later life he was able, while
reviewing one of M. Pictet’s books, to give grateful expression to his
sense of obligation.

Writing in 1856 he describes the effect produced in Geneva by M.
Pictet’s Lectures on Aesthetics in 1840--the first ever delivered in a
town in which the Beautiful had been for centuries regarded as the rival
and enemy of the True. “He who is now writing,” says Amiel, “was then
among M. Pictet’s youngest hearers. Since then twenty experiences of the
same kind have followed each other in his intellectual experience, yet
none has effaced the deep impression made upon him by these lectures.
Coming as they did at a favorable moment, and answering many a positive
question and many a vague aspiration of youth, they exercised a decisive
influence over his thought; they were to him an important step in that
continuous initiation which we call life, they filled him with fresh
intuitions, they brought near to him the horizons of his dreams. And, as
always happens with a first-rate man, what struck him even more than the
teaching was the teacher. So that this memory of 1840 is still dear and
precious to him, and for this double service, which is not of the kind
one forgets, the student of those days delights in expressing to the
professor of 1840 his sincere and filial gratitude.”

Amiel’s first literary production, or practically his first, seems to
have been the result partly of these lectures, and partly of a visit
to Italy which began in November, 1841. In 1842, a year which was spent
entirely in Italy and Sicily, he contributed three articles on M. Rio’s
book, “L’Art Chrétien,” to the _Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève_.
We see in them the young student conscientiously writing his first
review--writing it at inordinate length, as young reviewers are apt to
do, and treating the subject _ab ovo_ in a grave, pontifical way, which
is a little naïve and inexperienced indeed, but still promising, as all
seriousness of work and purpose is promising. All that is individual in
it is first of all the strong Christian feeling which much of it shows,
and secondly, the tone of melancholy which already makes itself felt
here and there, especially in one rather remarkable passage. As to the
Christian feeling, we find M. Rio described as belonging to “that noble
school of men who are striving to rekindle the dead beliefs of France,
to rescue Frenchmen from the camp of materialistic or pantheistic ideas,
and rally them round that Christian banner which is the banner of
true progress and true civilization.” The Renaissance is treated as a
disastrous but inevitable crisis, in which the idealism of the Middle
Ages was dethroned by the naturalism of modern times--“The Renaissance
perhaps robbed us of more than it gave us”--and so on. The tone of
criticism is instructive enough to the student of Amiel’s mind, but the
product itself has no particular savor of its own. The occasional note
of depression and discouragement, however, is a different thing; here,
for those who know the “Journal Intime,” there is already something
characteristic, something which foretells the future. For instance,
after dwelling with evident zest on the nature of the metaphysical
problems lying at the root of art in general, and Christian art in
particular, the writer goes on to set the difficulty of M. Rio’s
task against its attractiveness, to insist on the intricacy of the
investigations involved, and on the impossibility of making the two
instruments on which their success depends--the imaginative and the
analytical faculty--work harmoniously and effectively together. And
supposing the goal achieved, supposing a man by insight and patience has
succeeded in forcing his way farther than any previous explorer into the
recesses of the Beautiful or the True, there still remains the
enormous, the insuperable difficulty of expression, of fit and adequate
communication from mind to mind; there still remains the question
whether, after all, “he who discovers a new world in the depths of the
invisible would not do wisely to plant on it a flag known to himself
alone, and, like Achilles, ‘devour his heart in secret;’ whether the
greatest problems which have ever been guessed on earth had not better
have remained buried in the brain which had found the key to them,
and whether the deepest thinkers--those whose hand has been boldest in
drawing aside the veil, and their eye keenest in fathoming the mysteries
beyond it--had not better, like the prophetess of Ilion, have kept for
heaven, and heaven only, secrets and mysteries which human tongue cannot
truly express, nor human intelligence conceive.”

Curious words for a beginner of twenty-one! There is a touch, no doubt,
of youth and fatuity in the passage; one feels how much the vague
sonorous phrases have pleased the writer’s immature literary sense; but
there is something else too--there is a breath of that same speculative
passion which burns in the Journal, and one hears, as it were, the first
accents of a melancholy, the first expression of a mood of mind, which
became in after years the fixed characteristic of the writer. “At twenty
he was already proud, timid, and melancholy,” writes an old friend;
and a little farther on, “Discouragement took possession of him _very

However, in spite of this inbred tendency, which was probably hereditary
and inevitable, the years which followed these articles, from 1842
to Christmas, 1848, were years of happiness and steady intellectual
expansion. They were Amiel’s _Wanderjahre_, spent in a free, wandering
student life, which left deep marks on his intellectual development.
During four years, from 1844 to 1848, his headquarters were at
Berlin; but every vacation saw him exploring some new country or fresh
intellectual center--Scandinavia in 1845, Holland in 1846, Vienna,
Munich, and Tübingen in 1848, while Paris had already attracted him in
1841, and he was to make acquaintance with London ten years later, in
1851. No circumstances could have been more favorable, one would have
thought, to the development of such a nature. With his extraordinary
power of “throwing himself into the object”--of effacing himself and
his own personality in the presence of the thing to be understood and
absorbed--he must have passed these years of travel and acquisition in
a state of continuous intellectual energy and excitement. It is in no
spirit of conceit that he says in 1857, comparing himself with Maine de
Biran, “This nature is, as it were, only one of the men which exist
in me. My horizon is vaster; I have seen much more of men, things,
countries, peoples, books; I have a greater mass of experiences.” This
fact, indeed, of a wide and varied personal experience, must never be
forgotten in any critical estimate of Amiel as a man or writer. We
may so easily conceive him as a sedentary professor, with the ordinary
professorial knowledge, or rather ignorance, of men and the world,
falling into introspection under the pressure of circumstance, and for
want, as it were, of something else to think about. Not at all. The
man who has left us these microscopic analyses of his own moods and
feelings, had penetrated more or less into the social and intellectual
life of half a dozen European countries, and was familiar not only with
the books, but, to a large extent also, with the men of his generation.
The meditative and introspective gift was in him, not the product, but
the mistress of circumstance. It took from the outer world what that
world had to give, and then made the stuff so gained subservient to its
own ends.

Of these years of travel, however, the four years spent at Berlin were
by far the most important. “It was at Heidelberg and Berlin,” says M.
Scherer, “that the world of science and speculation first opened on the
dazzled eyes of the young man. He was accustomed to speak of his four
years at Berlin as ‘his intellectual phase,’ and one felt that he
inclined to regard them as the happiest period of his life. The spell
which Berlin laid upon him lasted long.” Probably his happiness in
Germany was partly owing to a sense of reaction against Geneva. There
are signs that he had felt himself somewhat isolated at school and
college, and that in the German world his special individuality, with
its dreaminess and its melancholy, found congenial surroundings far more
readily than had been the case in the drier and harsher atmosphere of
the Protestant Rome. However this may be, it is certain that German
thought took possession of him, that he became steeped not only in
German methods of speculation, but in German modes of expression, in
German forms of sentiment, which clung to him through life, and vitally
affected both his opinions and his style. M. Renan and M. Bourget shake
their heads over the Germanisms, which, according to the latter, give a
certain “barbarous” air to many passages of the Journal. But both admit
that Amiel’s individuality owes a great part of its penetrating force
to that intermingling of German with French elements, of which there
are such abundant traces in the “Journal Intime.” Amiel, in fact, is
one more typical product of a movement which is certainly of enormous
importance in the history of modern thought, even though we may not be
prepared to assent to all the sweeping terms in which a writer like
M. Taine describes it. “From 1780 to 1830,” says M. Taine, “Germany
produced all the ideas of our historical age, and during another
half-century, perhaps another century, _notre grande affaire sera de les
repenser_.” He is inclined to compare the influence of German ideas on
the modern world to the ferment of the Renaissance. No spiritual force
“more original, more universal, more fruitful in consequences of every
sort and bearing, more capable of transforming and remaking everything
presented to it, has arisen during the last three hundred years. Like
the spirit of the Renaissance and of the classical age, it attracts into
its orbit all the great works of contemporary intelligence.” Quinet,
pursuing a somewhat different line of thought, regards the worship of
German ideas inaugurated in France by Madame de Staël as the natural
result of reaction from the eighteenth century and all its ways. “German
systems, German hypotheses, beliefs, and poetry, all were eagerly
welcomed as a cure for hearts crushed by the mockery of Candide and the
materialism of the Revolution.... Under the Restoration France continued
to study German philosophy and poetry with profound veneration and
submission. We imitated, translated, compiled, and then again we
compiled, translated, imitated.” The importance of the part played by
German influence in French Romanticism has indeed been much disputed,
but the debt of French metaphysics, French philology, and French
historical study, to German methods and German research during the last
half-century is beyond dispute. And the movement to-day is as strong
as ever. A modern critic like M. Darmstetter regards it as a misfortune
that the artificial stimulus given by the war to the study of German
has, to some extent, checked the study of English in France. He thinks
that the French have more to gain from our literature--taking literature
in its general and popular sense--than from German literature. But he
raises no question as to the inevitable subjection of the French to
the German mind in matters of exact thought and knowledge. “To study
philology, mythology, history, without reading German,” he is as ready
to confess as any one else, “is to condemn one’s self to remain in every
department twenty years behind the progress of science.”

Of this great movement, already so productive, Amiel is then a fresh and
remarkable instance. Having caught from the Germans not only their
love of exact knowledge but also their love of vast horizons, their
insatiable curiosity as to the whence and whither of all things, their
sense of mystery and immensity in the universe, he then brings those
elements in him which belong to his French inheritance--and something
individual besides, which is not French but Genevese--to bear on his
new acquisitions, and the result is of the highest literary interest and
value. Not that he succeeds altogether in the task of fusion. For
one who was to write and think in French, he was perhaps too long in
Germany; he had drunk too deeply of German thought; he had been too
much dazzled by the spectacle of Berlin and its imposing intellectual
activities. “As to his _literary_ talent,” says M. Scherer, after
dwelling on the rapid growth of his intellectual powers under German
influence, “the profit which Amiel derived from his stay at Berlin is
more doubtful. Too long contact with the German mind had led to the
development in him of certain strangenesses of style which he had
afterward to get rid of, and even perhaps of some habits of thought
which he afterward felt the need of checking and correcting.” This
is very true. Amiel is no doubt often guilty, as M. Caro puts it, of
attempts “to write German in French,” and there are in his thought
itself veins of mysticism, elements of _Schwärmerei_, here and there, of
which a good deal must be laid to the account of his German training.

M. Renan regrets that after Geneva and after Berlin he never came to
Paris. Paris, he thinks, would have counteracted the Hegelian influences
brought to hear upon him at Berlin, [Footnote: See a not, however,
on the subject of Amiel’s philosophical relationships, printed as an
Appendix to the present volume.] would have taught him cheerfulness, and
taught him also the art of writing, not beautiful fragments, but a book.
Possibly--but how much we should have lost! Instead of the Amiel we
know, we should have had one accomplished French critic the more.
Instead of the spiritual drama of the “Journal Intime,” some further
additions to French _belles lettres_; instead of something to love,
something to admire! No, there is no wishing the German element in Amiel
away. Its invading, troubling effect upon his thought and temperament
goes far to explain the interest and suggestiveness of his mental
history. The language he speaks is the language of that French criticism
which--we have Sainte-Beuve’s authority for it--is best described by the
motto of Montaigne, “_Un peu de chaque chose et rien de l’ensemble, à la
française_,” and the thought he tries to express in it is thought torn
and strained by the constant effort to reach the All, the totality of
things: “What I desire is the sum of all desires, and what I seek
to know is the sum of all different kinds of knowledge. Always the
complete, the absolute, the _teres atque rotundum_.” And it was this
antagonism, or rather this fusion of traditions in him, which went far
to make him original, which opened to him, that is to say, so many new
lights on old paths, and stirred in him such capacities of fresh and
individual expression.

We have been carried forward, however, a little too far by this general
discussion of Amiel’s debts to Germany. Let us take up the biographical
thread again. In 1848 his Berlin apprenticeship came to an end, and
he returned to Geneva. “How many places, how many impressions,
observations, thoughts--how many forms of men and things--have passed
before me and in me since April, 1843,” he writes in the Journal, two or
three months after his return. “The last seven years have been the most
important of my life; they have been the novitiate of my intelligence,
the initiation of my being into being.” The first literary evidence of
his matured powers is to be found in two extremely interesting papers on
Berlin, which he contributed to the _Bibliothèque Universelle_ in 1848,
apparently just before he left Germany. Here for the first time we have
the Amiel of the “Journal Intime.” The young man who five years before
had written his painstaking review of M. Rio is now in his turn a
master. He speaks with dignity and authority, he has a graphic, vigorous
prose at command, the form of expression is condensed and epigrammatic,
and there is a mixture of enthusiasm and criticism in his description of
the powerful intellectual machine then working in the Prussian capital
which represents a permanent note of character, a lasting attitude
of mind. A great deal, of course, in the two papers is technical and
statistic, but what there is of general comment and criticism is so good
that one is tempted to make some melancholy comparisons between them and
another article in the _Bibliothèque_, that on Adolphe Pictet, written
in 1856, and from which we have already quoted. In 1848 Amiel was for
awhile master of his powers and his knowledge; no fatal divorce had yet
taken place in him between the accumulating and producing faculties; he
writes readily even for the public, without labor, without affectations.
Eight years later the reflective faculty has outgrown his control;
composition, which represents the practical side of the intellectual
life, has become difficult and painful to him, and he has developed what
he himself calls “a wavering manner, born of doubt and scruple.”

How few could have foreseen the failure in public and practical life
which lay before him at the moment of his reappearance at Geneva in
1848! “My first meeting with him in 1849 is still vividly present to
me,” says M. Scherer. “He was twenty-eight, and he had just come from
Germany laden with science, but he wore his knowledge lightly, his looks
were attractive, his conversation animated, and no affectation spoiled
the favorable impression he made on the bystander--the whole effect,
indeed, was of something brilliant and striking. In his young alertness
Amiel seemed to be entering upon life as a conqueror; one would have
said the future was all his own.”

His return, moreover, was marked by a success which seemed to secure
him at once an important position in his native town. After a public
competition he was appointed, in 1849, professor of esthetics and French
literature at the Academy of Geneva, a post which he held for four
years, exchanging it for the professorship of moral philosophy in 1854.
Thus at twenty-eight, without any struggle to succeed, he had gained,
it would have seemed, that safe foothold in life which should be all
the philosopher or the critic wants to secure the full and fruitful
development of his gifts. Unfortunately the appointment, instead of the
foundation and support, was to be the stumbling block of his career.
Geneva at the time was in a state of social and political ferment. After
a long struggle, beginning with the revolutionary outbreak of November,
1841, the Radical party, led by James Fazy, had succeeded in ousting the
Conservatives--that is to say, the governing class, which had ruled the
republic since the Restoration--from power. And with the advent of the
democratic constitution of 1846, and the exclusion of the old Genevese
families from the administration they had so long monopolized, a number
of subsidiary changes were effected, not less important to the ultimate
success of Radicalism than the change in political machinery introduced
by the new constitution. Among them was the disappearance of almost the
whole existing staff of the academy, then and now the center of Genevese
education, and up to 1847 the stronghold of the moderate ideas of 1814,
followed by the appointment of new men less likely to hamper the Radical
order of things.

Of these new men Amiel was one. He had been absent from Geneva during
the years of conflict which had preceded Fazy’s triumph; he seems to
have had no family or party connections with the leaders of the defeated
side, and as M. Scherer points out, he could accept a non-political post
at the hands of the new government, two years after the violent
measures which had marked its accession, without breaking any pledges or
sacrificing any convictions. But none the less the step was a fatal one.
M. Renan is so far in the right. If any timely friend had at that moment
succeeded in tempting Amiel to Paris, as Guizot tempted Rossi in 1833,
there can be little question that the young professor’s after life would
have been happier and saner. As it was, Amiel threw himself into the
competition for the chair, was appointed professor, and then found
himself in a hopelessly false position, placed on the threshold of life,
in relations and surroundings for which he was radically unfitted, and
cut off by no fault of his own from the _milieu_ to which he rightly
belonged, and in which his sensitive individuality might have expanded
normally and freely. For the defeated upper class very naturally shut
their doors on the nominees of the new _régime_, and as this class
represented at that moment almost everything that was intellectually
distinguished in Geneva, as it was the guardian, broadly speaking,
of the scientific and literary traditions of the little state, we can
easily imagine how galling such a social ostracism must have been to the
young professor, accustomed to the stimulating atmosphere, the common
intellectual interests of Berlin, and tormented with perhaps more than
the ordinary craving of youth for sympathy and for affection. In a great
city, containing within it a number of different circles of life, Amiel
would easily have found his own circle, nor could political discords
have affected his social comfort to anything like the same extent. But
in a town not much larger than Oxford, and in which the cultured class
had hitherto formed a more or less homogeneous and united whole, it was
almost impossible for Amiel to escape from his grievance and establish a
sufficient barrier of friendly interests between himself and the society
which ignored him. There can be no doubt that he suffered, both in
mind and character, from the struggle the position involved. He had
no natural sympathy with radicalism. His taste, which was extremely
fastidious, his judgment, his passionate respect for truth, were all
offended by the noise, the narrowness, the dogmatism of the triumphant
democracy. So that there was no making up on the one side for what he
had lost on the other, and he proudly resigned himself to an isolation
and a reserve which, reinforcing, as they did, certain native weaknesses
of character, had the most unfortunate effect upon his life.

In a passage of the Journal written nearly thirty years after his
election he allows himself a few pathetic words, half of accusation,
half of self-reproach, which make us realize how deeply this
untowardness of social circumstance had affected him. He is discussing
one of Madame de Staël’s favorite words, the word _consideration_. “What
is _consideration_?” he asks. “How does a man obtain it? how does it
differ from fame, esteem, admiration?” And then he turns upon himself.
“It is curious, but the idea of consideration has been to me so little
of a motive that I have not even been conscious of such an idea.
But ought I not to have been conscious of it?” he asks himself
anxiously--“ought I not to have been more careful to win the good
opinion of others, more determined to conquer their hostility or
indifference? It would have been a joy to me to be smiled upon, loved,
encouraged, welcomed, and to obtain what I was so ready to give,
kindness and goodwill. But to hunt down consideration and reputation--to
force the esteem of others--seemed to me an effort unworthy of myself,
almost a degradation. A struggle with unfavorable opinion has seemed to
me beneath me, for all the while my heart has been full of sadness
and disappointment, and I have known and felt that I have been
systematically and deliberately isolated. Untimely despair and the
deepest discouragement have been my constant portion. Incapable of
taking any interest in my talents for their own sake, I let everything
slip as soon as the hope of being loved for them and by them had
forsaken me. A hermit against my will, I have not even found peace in
solitude, because my inmost conscience has not been any better satisfied
than my heart.”

Still one may no doubt easily exaggerate this loneliness of Amiel’s.
His social difficulties represent rather a dull discomfort in his life,
which in course of time, and in combination with a good many other
causes, produced certain unfavorable results on his temperament and on
his public career, than anything very tragic and acute. They were real,
and he, being what he was, was specially unfitted to cope with and
conquer them. But he had his friends, his pleasures, and even to some
extent his successes, like other men. “He had an elasticity of mind,”
 says M. Scherer, speaking of him as he knew him in youth, “which
reacted against vexations from without, and his cheerfulness was readily
restored by conversation and the society of a few kindred spirits. We
were accustomed, two or three friends and I, to walk every Thursday to
the Salève, Lamartine’s _Salève aux flancs azurés_; we dined there, and
did not return till nightfall.” They were days devoted to _débauches
platoniciennes_, to “the free exchange of ideas, the free play of
fancy and of gayety. Amiel was not one of the original members of
these Thursday parties; but whenever he joined us we regarded it as a
fête-day. In serious discussion he was a master of the unexpected,
and his energy, his _entrain_, affected us all. If his grammatical
questions, his discussions of rhymes and synonyms, astonished us at
times, how often, on the other hand, did he not give us cause to admire
the variety of his knowledge, the precision of his ideas, the charm
of his quick intelligence! We found him always, besides, kindly and
amiable, a nature one might trust and lean upon with perfect security.
He awakened in us but one regret; _we could not understand how it was a
man so richly gifted produced nothing, or only trivialities_.”

In these last words of M. Scherer’s we have come across the determining
fact of Amiel’s life in its relation to the outer world--that “sterility
of genius,” of which he was the victim. For social ostracism and
political anxiety would have mattered to him comparatively little if he
could but have lost himself in the fruitful activities of thought, in
the struggles and the victories of composition and creation. A German
professor of Amiel’s knowledge would have wanted nothing beyond his
_Fach_, and nine men out of ten in his circumstances would have made
themselves the slave of a _magnum opus_, and forgotten the vexations
of everyday life in the “_douces joies de la science_.” But there
were certain characteristics in Amiel which made it impossible--which
neutralized his powers, his knowledge, his intelligence, and condemned
him, so far as his public performance was concerned, to barrenness and
failure. What were these characteristics, this element of unsoundness
and disease, which M. Caro calls “_la maladie de l’idéal_?”

Before we can answer the question we must go back a little and try
to realize the intellectual and moral equipment of the young man of
twenty-eight, who seemed to M. Scherer to have the world at his feet.
What were the chief qualities of mind and heart which Amiel brought back
with him from Berlin? In the first place, an omnivorous desire to
know: “Amiel,” says M. Scherer, “read everything.” In the second,
an extraordinary power of sustained and concentrated thought, and a
passionate, almost a religious, delight in the exercise of his power.
Knowledge, science, stirred in him no mere sense of curiosity or cold
critical instinct--“he came to his desk as to an altar.” “A friend who
knew him well,” says M. Scherer, “remembers having heard him speak with
deep emotion of that lofty serenity of mood which he had experienced
during his years in Germany whenever, in the early morning before dawn,
with his reading-lamp beside him, he had found himself penetrating once
more into the region of pure thought, ‘conversing with ideas, enjoying
the inmost life of things.’” “Thought,” he says somewhere in the
Journal, “is like opium. It can intoxicate us and yet leave us broad
awake.” To this intoxication of thought he seems to have been always
specially liable, and his German experience--unbalanced, as such an
experience generally is with a young man, by family life, or by any
healthy commonplace interests and pleasures--developed the intellectual
passion in him to an abnormal degree. For four years he had devoted
himself to the alternate excitement and satisfaction of this passion.
He had read enormously, thought enormously, and in the absence of
any imperative claim on the practical side of him, the accumulative,
reflective faculties had grown out of all proportion to the rest of the
personality. Nor had any special subject the power to fix him. Had he
been in France, what Sainte-Beuve calls the French “_imagination de
détail_” would probably have attracted his pliant, responsive nature,
and he would have found happy occupation in some one of the innumerable
departments of research on which the French have been patiently spending
their analytical gift since that general widening of horizons which
accompanied and gave value to the Romantic movement. But instead he was
at Berlin, in the center of that speculative ferment which followed the
death of Hegel and the break-up of the Hegelian idea into a number of
different and conflicting sections of philosophical opinion. He was
under the spell of German synthesis, of that traditional, involuntary
effort which the German mind makes, generation after generation, to
find the unity of experience, to range its accumulations from life
and thought under a more and more perfect, a more and more exhaustive,
formula. Not this study or that study, not this detail or that, but the
whole of things, the sum of Knowledge, the Infinite, the Absolute, alone
had value or reality. In his own words: “There is no repose for the mind
except in the absolute; for feeling except in the infinite; for the soul
except in the divine. Nothing finite is true, is interesting, is worthy
to fix my attention. All that is particular is exclusive, and all that
is exclusive repels me. There is nothing non-exclusive but the All; my
end is communion with Being through the whole of Being.”

It was not, indeed, that he neglected the study of detail; he had a
strong natural aptitude for it, and his knowledge was wide and real; but
detail was ultimately valuable to him, not in itself, but as food for a
speculative hunger, for which, after all, there is no real satisfaction.
All the pleasant paths which traverse the kingdom of Knowledge, in which
so many of us find shelter and life-long means of happiness, led Amiel
straight into the wilderness of abstract speculation. And the longer
he lingered in the wilderness, unchecked by any sense of intellectual
responsibility, and far from the sounds of human life, the stranger
and the weirder grew the hallucinations of thought. The Journal gives
marvelous expression to them: “I can find no words for what I feel. My
consciousness is withdrawn into itself; I hear my heart beating, and my
life passing. It seems to me that I have become a statue on the banks
of the river of time, that I am the spectator of some mystery, and
shall issue from it old, or no longer capable of age.” Or again: “I am
a spectator, so to speak, of the molecular whirlwind which men call
individual life; I am conscious of an incessant metamorphosis, an
irresistible movement of existence, which is going on within me--and
this phenomenology of myself serves as a window opened upon the mystery
of the world. I am, or rather my sensible consciousness is, concentrated
upon this ideal standing-point, this invisible threshold, as it were,
whence one hears the impetuous passage of time, rushing and foaming
as it flows out into the changeless ocean of eternity. After all the
bewildering distractions of life--after having drowned myself in a
multiplicity of trifles and in the caprices of this fugitive existence,
yet without ever attaining to self-intoxication or self-delusion--I come
again upon the fathomless abyss, the silent and melancholy cavern, where
dwell ‘_Die Mütter_,’ where sleeps that which neither lives nor dies,
which has neither movement nor change, nor extension, nor form, and
which lasts when all else passes away.”

Wonderful sentences! “_Prodiges de la pensée speculative, décrits
dans une langue non moins prodigieuse_,” as M. Scherer says of the
innumerable passages which describe either this intoxication of the
infinite, or the various forms and consequences of that deadening of
personality which the abstract processes of thought tend to produce.
But it is easy to understand that a man in whom experiences of this kind
become habitual is likely to lose his hold upon the normal interests
of life. What are politics or literature to such a mind but fragments
without real importance--dwarfed reflections of ideal truths for which
neither language nor institutions provide any adequate expression! How
is it possible to take seriously what is so manifestly relative and
temporary as the various existing forms of human activity? Above all,
how is it possible to take one’s self seriously, to spend one’s thought
on the petty interests of a petty individuality, when the beatific
vision of universal knowledge, of absolute being, has once dawned on
the dazzled beholder? The charm and the savor of everything relative and
phenomenal is gone. A man may go on talking, teaching, writing--but the
spring of personal action is broken; his actions are like the actions of
a somnambulist.

No doubt to some extent this mood is familiar to all minds endowed with
the true speculative genius. The philosopher has always tended to become
unfit for practical life; his unfitness, indeed, is one of the comic
motives, so to speak, of literature. But a mood which, in the great
majority of thinkers, is intermittent, and is easily kept within bounds
by the practical needs, the mere physical instincts of life, was in
Amiel almost constant, and the natural impulse of the human animal
toward healthy movement and a normal play of function, never very strong
in him, was gradually weakened and destroyed by an untoward combination
of circumstances. The low health from which he suffered more or less
from his boyhood, and then the depressing influences of the social
difficulties we have described, made it more and more difficult for the
rest of the organism to react against the tyranny of the brain. And as
the normal human motives lost their force, what he calls “the Buddhist
tendency in me” gathered strength year by year, until, like some strange
misgrowth, it had absorbed the whole energies and drained the innermost
life-blood of the personality which had developed it. And the result
is another soul’s tragedy, another story of conflict and failure, which
throws fresh light on the mysterious capacities of human nature, and
warns us, as the letters of Obermann in their day warned the generation
of George Sand, that with the rise of new intellectual perceptions
new spiritual dangers come into being, and that across the path of
continuous evolution which the modern mind is traversing there lies many
a _selva oscura_, many a lonely and desolate tract, in which loss and
pain await it. The story of the “Journal Intime” is a story to make us
think, to make us anxious; but at the same time, in the case of a nature
like Amiel’s, there is so much high poetry thrown off from the long
process of conflict, the power of vision and of reproduction which the
intellect gains at the expense of the rest of the personality is in many
respects so real and so splendid, and produces results so stirring often
to the heart and imagination of the listener, that in the end we put
down the record not so much with a throb of pity as with an impulse of
gratitude. The individual error and suffering is almost forgotten; all
that we can realize is the enrichment of human feeling, the quickened
sense of spiritual reality bequeathed to us by the baffled and solitary
thinker whose _via dolorosa_ is before us.

The manner in which this intellectual idiosyncrasy we have been
describing gradually affected Amiel’s life supplies abundant proof of
its actuality and sincerity. It is a pitiful story. Amiel might have
been saved from despair by love and marriage, by paternity, by strenuous
and successful literary production; and this mental habit of his--this
tyranny of ideal conceptions, helped by the natural accompaniment of
such a tyranny, a critical sense of abnormal acuteness--stood between
him and everything healing and restoring. “I am afraid of an imperfect,
a faulty synthesis, and I linger in the provisional, from timidity and
from loyalty.” “As soon as a thing attracts me I turn away from it; or
rather, I cannot either be content with the second-best, or discover
anything which satisfies my aspiration. The real disgusts me, and I
cannot find the ideal.” And so one thing after another is put away.
Family life attracted him perpetually. “I cannot escape,” he writes,
“from the ideal of it. A companion, of my life, of my work, of my
thoughts, of my hopes; within a common worship--toward the world outside
kindness and beneficence; education to undertake; the thousand and
one moral relations which develop round the first--all these ideas
intoxicate me sometimes.” But in vain. “Reality, the present, the
irreparable, the necessary, repel and even terrify me. I have too much
imagination, conscience, and penetration and not enough character.
_The life of thought alone seems to me to have enough elasticity and
immensity, to be free enough from the irreparable; practical life makes
me afraid._ I am distrustful of myself and of happiness because I know
myself. The ideal poisons for me all imperfect possession. And I abhor
useless regrets and repentance.”

It is the same, at bottom, with his professional work. He protects the
intellectual freedom, as it were, of his students with the same
jealousy as he protects his own. There shall be no oratorical device,
no persuading, no cajoling of the mind this way or that. “A professor
is the priest of his subject, and should do the honors of it gravely and
with dignity.” And so the man who in his private Journal is master of an
eloquence and a poetry, capable of illuminating the most difficult and
abstract of subjects, becomes in the lecture-room a dry compendium
of universal knowledge. “Led by his passion for the whole,” says M.
Scherer, “Amiel offered his hearers, not so much a series of positive
teachings, as an index of subjects, a framework--what the Germans call
a _Schematismus_. The skeleton was admirably put together, and excellent
of its kind, and lent itself admirably to a certain kind of analysis
and demonstration; but it was a skeleton--flesh, body, and life were

So that as a professor he made no mark. He was conscientiousness itself
in whatever he conceived to be his duty. But with all the critical and
philosophical power which, as we know from the Journal, he might have
lavished on his teaching, had the conditions been other than they were,
the study of literature, and the study of philosophy as such, owe him
nothing. But for the Journal his years of training and his years of
teaching would have left equally little record behind them. “His pupils
at Geneva,” writes one who was himself among the number, [Footnote: M.
Alphonse Rivier, now Professor of International Law at the University
of Brussels.] “never learned to appreciate him at his true worth. We did
justice no doubt to a knowledge as varied as it was wide, to his vast
stores of reading, to that cosmopolitanism of the best kind which he had
brought back with him from his travels; we liked him for his indulgence,
his kindly wit. But I look back without any sense of pleasure to his

Many a student, however, has shrunk from the burden and risks of family
life, and has found himself incapable of teaching effectively what
he knows, and has yet redeemed all other incapacities in the field of
literary production. And here indeed we come to the strangest feature in
Amiel’s career--his literary sterility. That he possessed literary
power of the highest order is abundantly proved by the “Journal Intime.”
 Knowledge, insight, eloquence, critical power--all were his. And
the impulse to produce, which is the natural, though by no means the
invariable, accompaniment of the literary gift, must have been fairly
strong in him also. For the “Journal Intime” runs to 17,000 folio pages
of MS., and his half dozen volumes of poems, though the actual quantity
is not large, represent an amount of labor which would have more than
carried him through some serious piece of critical or philosophical
work, and so enabled him to content the just expectations of his world.
He began to write early, as is proved by the fact that at twenty he was
a contributor to the best literary periodical which Geneva possessed. He
was a charming correspondent, and in spite of his passion for abstract
thought, his intellectual interest, at any rate, in all the activities
of the day--politics, religious organizations, literature, art--was of
the keenest kind. And yet at the time of his death all that this
fine critic and profound thinker had given to the world, after a life
entirely spent in the pursuit of letters, was, in the first place, a
few volumes of poems which had had no effect except on a small number
of sympathetic friends; a few pages of _pensées_ intermingled with the
poems, and, as we now know, extracted from the Journal; and four or five
scattered essays, the length of magazine articles, on Mme. de Staël,
Rousseau, the history of the Academy of Geneva, the literature of
French-speaking Switzerland, and so on! And more than this, the
production, such as it was, had been a production born of effort and
difficulty; and the labor squandered on poetical forms, on metrical
experiments and intricate problems of translation, as well as the
occasional affectations of the prose style, might well have convinced
the critical bystander that the mind of which these things were the
offspring could have no real importance, no profitable message, for the

The whole “Journal Intime” is in some sense Amiel’s explanation of these
facts. In it he has made full and bitter confession of his weakness, his
failure; he has endeavored, with an acuteness of analysis no other hand
can rival, to make the reasons of his failure and isolation clear
both to himself and others. “To love, to dream, to feel, to learn, to
understand--all these are possible to me if only I may be dispensed from
willing--I have a sort of primitive horror of ambition, of struggle,
of hatred, of all which dissipates the soul and makes it dependent on
external things and aims. The joy of becoming once more conscious
of myself, of listening to the passage of time and the flow of the
universal life, is sometimes enough to make me forget every desire and
to quench in me both the wish to produce and the power to execute.” It
is the result of what he himself calls _“l’éblouissement de l’infini_.”
 He no sooner makes a step toward production, toward action and the
realization of himself, than a vague sense of peril overtakes him.
The inner life, with its boundless horizons and its indescribable
exaltations, seems endangered. Is he not about to place between himself
and the forms of speculative truth some barrier of sense and matter--to
give up the real for the apparent, the substance for the shadow? One is
reminded of Clough’s cry under a somewhat similar experience:

  “If this pure solace should desert my mind,
  What were all else? I dare not risk the loss.
  To the old paths, my soul!”

And in close combination with the speculative sense, with the tendency
which carries a man toward the contemplative study of life and nature
as a whole, is the critical sense--the tendency which, in the realm of
action and concrete performance, carries him, as Amiel expresses it,
_“droit au défaut,”_ and makes him conscious at once of the weak point,
the germ of failure in a project or an action. It is another aspect of
the same idiosyncrasy. “The point I have reached seems to be explained
by a too restless search for perfection, by the abuse of the critical
faculty, and by an unreasonable distrust of first impulses, first
thoughts, first words. Confidence and spontaneity of life are drifting
out of my reach, and this is why I can no longer act.” For abuse of the
critical faculty brings with it its natural consequences--timidity of
soul, paralysis of the will, complete self-distrust. “To know is
enough for me; expression seems to me often a profanity. What I lack
is character, will, individuality.” “By what mystery,” he writes to M.
Scherer, “do others expect much from me? whereas I feel myself to
be incapable of anything serious or important.” _Défiance_ and
_impuissance_ are the words constantly on his lips. “My friends see what
I might have been; I see what I am.”

And yet the literary instinct remains, and must in some way be
satisfied. And so he takes refuge in what he himself calls scales,
exercises, _tours de force_ in verse-translation of the most laborious
and difficult kind, in ingenious _vers d’occasion_, in metrical
experiments and other literary trifling, as his friends think it, of the
same sort. “I am afraid of greatness. I am not afraid of ingenuity;
all my published literary essays are little else than studies, games,
exercises, for the purpose of testing myself. I play scales, as it were;
I run up and down my instrument. I train my hand and make sure of its
capacity and skill. But the work itself remains unachieved. I am always
preparing and never accomplishing, and my energy is swallowed up in a
kind of barren curiosity.”

Not that he surrenders himself to the nature which is stronger than he
all at once. His sense of duty rebels, his conscience suffers, and he
makes resolution after resolution to shake himself free from the mental
tradition which had taken such hold upon him--to write, to produce, to
satisfy his friends. In 1861, a year after M. Scherer had left Geneva,
Amiel wrote to him, describing his difficulties and his discouragements,
and asking, as one may ask an old friend of one’s youth, for help and
counsel. M. Scherer, much touched by the appeal, answered it plainly and
frankly--described the feeling of those who knew him as they watched
his life slipping away unmarked by any of the achievements of which his
youth had given promise, and pointed out various literary openings in
which, if he were to put out his powers, he could not but succeed. To
begin with, he urged him to join the _Revue Germanique,_ then being
started by Charles Dollfus, Renan, Littré, and others. Amiel left the
letter for three months unanswered and then wrote a reply which M.
Scherer probably received with a sigh of impatience. For, rightly
interpreted, it meant that old habits were too strong, and that the
momentary impulse had died away. When, a little later, “Les Etrangères,”
 a collection of verse-translations, came out, it was dedicated to M.
Scherer, who did not, however, pretend to give it any very cordial
reception. Amiel took his friend’s coolness in very good part, calling
him his “dear Rhadamanthus.” “How little I knew!” cries M. Scherer.
“What I regret is to have discovered too late by means of the Journal,
the key to a problem which seemed to me hardly serious, and which I now
feel to have been tragic. A kind of remorse seizes me that I was not
able to understand my friend better, and to soothe his suffering by a
sympathy which would have been a mixture of pity and admiration.”

Was it that all the while Amiel felt himself sure of his _revanche_
that he knew the value of all those sheets of Journal which were slowly
accumulating under his hand? Did he say to himself sometimes: “My
friends are wrong; my gifts and my knowledge are not lost; I have given
expression to them in the only way possible to me, and when I die
it will be found that I too, like other men, have performed the task
appointed me, and contributed my quota to the human store?” It is clear
that very early he began to regard it as possible that portions of the
Journal should be published after his death, and, as we have seen, he
left certain “literary instructions,” dated seven years before his last
illness, in which his executors were directed to publish such parts
of it as might seem to them to possess any general interest. But it
is clear also that the Journal was not, in any sense, written for
publication. “These pages,” say the Geneva editors, “written _au courant
de la plume_--sometimes in the morning, but more often at the end of
the day, without any idea of composition or publicity--are marked by the
repetition, the _lacunae_, the carelessness, inherent in this kind of
monologue. The thoughts and sentiments expressed have no other aim than
sincerity of rendering.”

And his estimate of the value of the record thus produced was, in
general, a low one, especially during the depression and discouragement
of his later years. “This Journal of mine,” he writes in 1876,
“represents the material of a good many volumes; what prodigious waste
of time, of thought, of strength! It will be useful to nobody, and even
for myself--it has rather helped me to shirk life than to practice
it.” And again: “Is everything I have produced, taken together--my
correspondence, these thousands of Journal pages, my lectures, my
articles, my poems, my notes of different kinds--anything better than
withered leaves? To whom and to what have I been useful? Will my name
survive me a single day, and will it ever mean anything to anybody? A
life of no account! When all is added up--nothing!” In passages like
these there is no anticipation of any posthumous triumph over the
disapproval of his friends and the criticism of his fellow-citizens. The
Journal was a relief, the means of satisfying a need of expression which
otherwise could find no outlet; “a grief-cheating device,” but nothing
more. It did not still the sense of remorse for wasted gifts and
opportunities which followed poor Amiel through the painful months of
his last illness. Like Keats, he passed away, feeling that all was over,
and the great game of life lost forever.

It still remains for us to gather up a few facts and impressions of
a different kind from those which we have been dwelling on, which may
serve to complete and correct the picture we have so far drawn of
the author of the Journal. For Amiel is full of contradictions and
surprises, which, are indeed one great source of his attractiveness.
Had he only been the thinker, the critic, the idealist we have been
describing, he would never have touched our feeling as he now does; what
makes him so interesting is that there was in him a _fond_ of heredity,
a temperament and disposition, which were perpetually reacting against
the oppression of the intellect and its accumulations. In his hours of
intellectual concentration he freed himself from all trammels of country
or society, or even, as he insists, from all sense of personality.
But at other times he was the dutiful son of a country which he loved,
taking a warm interest in everything Genevese, especially in everything
that represented the older life of the town. When it was a question of
separating the Genevese state from the church, which had been the center
of the national life during three centuries of honorable history, Amiel
the philosopher, the cosmopolitan, threw himself ardently on to the side
of the opponents of separation, and rejoiced in their victory. A large
proportion of his poems deal with national subjects. He was one of the
first members of “_L’Institut Genevois_,” founded in 1853, and he took a
warm interest in the movement started by M. Eugene Rambert toward 1870,
for the improvement of secondary education throughout French-speaking
Switzerland. One of his friends dwells with emphasis on his “_sens
profond des nationalités, des langues, des villes_”--on his love for
local characteristics, for everything deep-rooted in the past, and
helping to sustain the present. He is convinced that no state can live
and thrive without a certain number of national prejudices, without _à
priori_ beliefs and traditions. It pleases him to see that there is a
force in the Genevese nationality which resists the leveling influences
of a crude radicalism; it rejoices him that Geneva “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

His love of traveling never left him. Paris attracted him, as it
attracts all who cling to letters, and he gained at one time or another
a certain amount of acquaintance with French literary men. In 1852
we find him for a time brought into contact with Thierry, Lamennais,
Béranger, Mignet, etc., as well as with Romantics like Alfred de Vigny
and Théophile Gautier. There are poems addressed to De Vigny and Gautier
in his first published volume of 1854. He revisited Italy and his old
haunts and friends in Germany more than once, and in general kept the
current of his life fresh and vigorous by his openness to impressions
and additions from without.

He was, as we have said, a delightful correspondent, “taking pains with
the smallest note,” and within a small circle of friends much liked.
His was not a nature to be generally appreciated at its true value;
the motives which governed his life were too remote from the ordinary
motives of human conduct, and his characteristics just those which have
always excited the distrust, if not the scorn, of the more practical
and vigorous order of minds. Probably, too--especially in his
later years--there was a certain amount of self-consciousness and
artificiality in his attitude toward the outer world, which was the
result partly of the social difficulties we have described, partly of
his own sense of difference from his surroundings, and partly again of
that timidity of nature, that self-distrust, which is revealed to us in
the Journal. So that he was by no means generally popular, and the great
success of the Journal is still a mystery to the majority of those who
knew him merely as a fellow-citizen and acquaintance. But his friends
loved him and believed in him, and the reserved student, whose manners
were thought affected in general society, could and did make himself
delightful to those who understood him, or those who looked to him for
affection. “According to my remembrance of him,” writes M. Scherer, “he
was bright, sociable, a charming companion. Others who knew him
better and longer than I say the same. The mobility of his disposition
counteracted his tendency to exaggerations of feeling. In spite of his
fits of melancholy, his natural turn of mind was cheerful; up to the
end he was young, a child even, amused by mere nothings; and whoever had
heard him laugh his hearty student’s laugh would have found it difficult
to identify him with the author of so many somber pages.” M. Rivier,
his old pupil, remembers him as “strong and active, still handsome,
delightful in conversation, ready to amuse and be amused.” Indeed, if
the photographs of him are to be trusted, there must have been something
specially attractive in the sensitive, expressive face, with its lofty
brow, fine eyes, and kindly mouth. It is the face of a poet rather than
of a student, and makes one understand certain other little points which
his friends lay stress on--for instance, his love for and popularity
with children.

In his poems, or at any rate in the earlier ones, this lighter side
finds more expression, proportionally, than in the Journal. In the
volume called “Grains de Mil,” published in 1854, and containing
verse written between the ages of eighteen and thirty, there are poems
addressed, now to his sister, now to old Genevese friends, and now to
famous men of other countries whom he had seen and made friends with
in passing, which, read side by side with the “Journal Intime,” bring
a certain gleam and sparkle into an otherwise somber picture. Amiel was
never a master of poetical form; his verse, compared to his prose, is
tame and fettered; it never reaches the glow and splendor of expression
which mark the finest passages of the Journal. It has ability,
thought--beauty even, of a certain kind, but no plastic power, none of
the incommunicable magic which a George Eliot seeks for in vain, while
it comes unasked, to deck with imperishable charm the commonplace
metaphysic and the simpler emotions of a Tennyson or a Burns. Still as
Amiel’s work, his poetry has an interest for those who are interested in
him. Sincerity is written in every line of it. Most of the thoughts and
experiences with which one grows familiar in the Journal are repeated
in it; the same joys, the same aspirations, the same sorrows are visible
throughout it, so that in reading it one is more and more impressed
with the force and reality of the inner life which has left behind it
so definite an image of itself. And every now and then the poems add a
detail, a new impression, which seems by contrast to give fresh value
to the fine-spun speculations, the lofty despairs, of the Journal. Take
these verses, written at twenty-one, to his younger sister:

  “Treize ans! et sur ton front aucun baiser de mère
  Ne viendra, pauvre enfant, invoquer le bonheur;
  Treize ans! et dans ce jour mil regard de ton père
  Ne fera d’allégresse épanouir ton coeur.

  “Orpheline, c’est là le nom dont tu t’appelles,
  Oiseau né dans un nid que la foudre a brisé;
  De la couvée, hélas! seuls, trois petits, sans ailes
  Furent lancés au vent, loin du reste écrasé.

  “Et, semés par l’éclair sur les monts, dans les plaines,
  Un même toit encor n’a pu les abriter,
  Et du foyer natal, malgré leurs plaintes vaines
  Dieu, peut-être longtemps, voudra les écarter.

  “Pourtant console-toi! pense, dans tes alarmes,
  Qu’un double bien te reste, espoir et souvenir;
  Une main dans le ciel pour essuyer tes larmes;
  Une main ici-bas, enfant, pour te bénir.”

The last stanza is especially poor, and in none of them is there much
poetical promise. But the pathetic image of a forlorn and orphaned
childhood, “_un nid que la foudre a brisé_,” which it calls up, and the
tone of brotherly affection, linger in one’s memory. And through much
of the volume of 1863, in the verses to “My Godson,” or in the charming
poem to Loulou, the little girl who at five years old, daisy in hand,
had sworn him eternal friendship over Gretchen’s game of “_Er liebt
mich--liebt mich nicht_,” one hears the same tender note.

  “Merci, prophétique fleurette,
  Corolle à l’oracle vainqueur,
  Car voilà trois ans, paquerette,
  Que tu m’ouvris un petit coeur.

  “Et depuis trois hivers, ma belle,
  L’enfant aux grands yeux de velours
  Maintient son petit coeur fidèle,
  Fidèle comme aux premiers jours.”

His last poetical volume, “Jour à Jour,” published in 1880, is far
more uniformly melancholy and didactic in tone than the two earlier
collections from which we have been quoting. But though the dominant
note is one of pain and austerity, of philosophy touched with emotion,
and the general tone more purely introspective, there are many traces in
it of the younger Amiel, dear, for very ordinary human reasons, to his
sisters and his friends. And, in general, the pathetic interest of the
book for all whose sympathy answers to what George Sand calls “_les
tragédies que la pensée aperçoit et que l’oeil ne voit point_” is very
great. Amiel published it a year before his death, and the struggle with
failing power which the Journal reveals to us in its saddest and most
intimate reality, is here expressed in more reserved and measured form.
Faith, doubt, submission, tenderness of feeling, infinite aspiration,
moral passion, that straining hope of something beyond, which is the
life of the religious soul--they are all here, and the _Dernier Mot_
with which the sad little volume ends is poor Amiel’s epitaph on
himself, his conscious farewell to that more public aspect of his life
in which he had suffered much and achieved comparatively so little.

  “Nous avons à plaisir compliqué le bonheur,
  Et par un idéal frivole et suborneur
    Attaché nos coeurs à la terre;
  Dupes des faux dehors tenus pour l’important,
  Mille choses pour nous ont du prix ... et pourtant
    Une seule était nécessaire.

  “Sans fin nous prodiguons calculs, efforts, travaux;
  Cependant, au milieu des succès, des bravos
  En nous quelque chose soupire;
  Multipliant nos pas et nos soins de fourmis,
  Nous vondrions nous faire une foule d’amis....
       Pourtant un seul pouvait suffire.

  “Victime des désirs, esclave des regrets,
  L’homme s’agite, et s’use, et vieillit sans progrès
       Sur sa toile de Pénélope;
  Comme un sage mourant, puissions-nous dire en paix
  J’ai trop longtemps erré, cherché; je me trompais;
         Tout est bien, mon Dieu m’enveloppe.”

Upon the small remains of Amiel’s prose outside the Journal there is
no occasion to dwell. The two essays on Madame de Staël and Rousseau
contain much fine critical remark, and might find a place perhaps as
an appendix to some future edition of the Journal; and some of the
“Pensées,” published in the latter half of the volume containing the
“Grains de Mils,” are worthy of preservation. But in general, whatever
he himself published was inferior to what might justly have been
expected of him, and no one was more conscious of the fact than himself.

The story of his fatal illness, of the weary struggle for health which
filled the last seven years of his life, is abundantly told in the
Journal--we must not repeat it here. He had never been a strong man, and
at fifty-three he received, at his doctor’s hands, his _arrêt de mort_.
We are told that what killed him was “heart disease, complicated by
disease of the larynx,” and that he suffered “much and long.” He was
buried in the cemetery of Clarens, not far from his great contemporary
Alexander Vinet; and the affection of a sculptor friend provided the
monument which now marks his resting-place.

We have thus exhausted all the biographical material which is at present
available for the description of Amiel’s life and relations toward the
outside world. It is to be hoped that the friends to whom the charge of
his memory has been specially committed may see their way in the
future, if not to a formal biography, which is very likely better left
unattempted, at least to a volume of Letters, which would complete the
“Journal Intime,” as Joubert’s “Correspondence” completes the “Pensées.”
 There must be ample material for it; and Amiel’s letters would probably
supply us with more of that literary and critical reflection which his
mind produced so freely and so well, as long as there was no question
of publication, but which is at present somewhat overweighted in the
“Journal Intime.”

But whether biography or correspondence is ever forthcoming or not, the
Journal remains--and the Journal is the important matter. We shall read
the Letters if they appear, as we now read the Poems, for the Journal’s
sake. The man himself, as poet, teacher, and _littérateur_, produced no
appreciable effect on his generation; but the posthumous record of his
inner life has stirred the hearts of readers all over Europe, and won
him a niche in the House of Fame. What are the reasons for this striking
transformation of a man’s position--a transformation which, as M.
Scherer says, will rank among the curiosities of literary history?
In other words, what has given the “Journal Intime” its sudden and
unexpected success?

In the first place, no doubt, its poetical quality, its beauty of
manner--that fine literary expression in which Amiel has been able to
clothe the subtler processes of thought, no less than the secrets of
religious feeling, or the aspects of natural scenery. Style is what
gives value and currency to thought, and Amiel, in spite of all his
Germanisms, has style of the best kind. He possesses in prose that
indispensable magic which he lacks in poetry.

His style, indeed, is by no means always in harmony with the central
French tradition. Probably a Frenchman will be inclined to apply
Sainte-Beuve’s remarks on Amiel’s elder countryman, Rodolphe Töpffer, to
Amiel himself: “_C’est ainsi qu’on écrit dans les littératures qui n’ont
point de capitale, de quartier général classique, ou d’Académie; c’est
ainsi qu’un Allemand, qu’un Américain, ou même un Anglais, use à son gré
de sa langue. En France au contraire, où il y a une Académie Française
... on doit trouver qu’un tel style est une très-grande nouveauté et le
succés qu’il a obtenu un evènement: il a fallu bien des circonstances
pour y préparer_.” No doubt the preparatory circumstance in Amiel’s case
has been just that Germanization of the French mind on which M. Taine
and M. Bourget dwell with so much emphasis. But, be this as it may,
there is no mistaking the enthusiasm with which some of the best living
writers of French have hailed these pages--instinct, as one declares,
“with a strange and marvelous poetry;” full of phrases “_d’une intense
suggestion de beauté_;” according to another. Not that the whole of the
Journal flows with the same ease, the same felicity. There are a certain
number of passages where Amiel ceases to be the writer, and becomes the
technical philosopher; there are others, though not many, into which a
certain German heaviness and diffuseness has crept, dulling the edge of
the sentences, and retarding the development of the thought. When all
deductions have been made, however, Amiel’s claim is still first and
foremost, the claim of the poet and the artist; of the man whose
thought uses at will the harmonies and resources of speech, and who has
attained, in words of his own, “to the full and masterly expression of

Then to the poetical beauty of manner which first helped the book
to penetrate, _faire sa trouée_, as the French say, we must add its
extraordinary psychological interest. Both as poet and as psychologist,
Amiel makes another link in a special tradition; he adds another name
to the list of those who have won a hearing from their fellows as
interpreters of the inner life, as the revealers of man to himself.
He is the successor of St. Augustine and Dante; he is the brother of
Obermann and Maurice de Guérin. What others have done for the spiritual
life of other generations he has done for the spiritual life of this,
and the wealth of poetical, scientific, and psychological faculty which
he has brought to the analysis of human feeling and human perceptions
places him--so far as the present century is concerned--at the head of
the small and delicately-gifted class to which he belongs. For beside
his spiritual experience Obermann’s is superficial, and Maurice de
Guérin’s a passing trouble, a mere quick outburst of passionate feeling.
Amiel indeed has neither the continuous romantic beauty nor the rich
descriptive wealth of Senancour. The Dent du Midi, with its untrodden
solitude, its primeval silences and its hovering eagles, the Swiss
landscape described in the “Fragment on the Ranz des Vaches,” the summer
moonlight on the Lake of Neufchâtel--these various pictures are the
work of one of the most finished artists in words that literature has
produced. But how true George Sand’s criticism is! “_Chez Obermann la
sensibilité est active, l’intelligence est paresseuse ou insuffisante._”
 He has a certain antique power of making the truisms of life splendid
and impressive. No one can write more poetical exercises than he on the
old text of _pulvis et umbra sumus_, but beyond this his philosophical
power fails him. As soon as he leaves the region of romantic description
how wearisome the pages are apt to grow! Instead of a poet, “_un
ergoteur Voltairien_;” instead of the explorer of fresh secrets of the
heart, a Parisian talking a cheap cynicism! Intellectually, the ground
gives way; there is no solidity of knowledge, no range of thought. Above
all, the scientific idea in our sense is almost absent; so that while
Amiel represents the modern mind at its keenest and best, dealing at
will with the vast additions to knowledge which the last fifty years
have brought forth, Senancour is still in the eighteenth-century stage,
talking like Rousseau of a return to primitive manners, and discussing
Christianity in the tone of the “Encyclopédie.”

Maurice de Guérin, again, is the inventor of new terms in the language
of feeling, a poet as Amiel and Senancour are. His love of nature, the
earth-passion which breathes in his letters and journal, has a strange
savor, a force and flame which is all his own. Beside his actual sense
of community with the visible world, Amiel’s love of landscape has a
tame, didactic air. The Swiss thinker is too ready to make nature a mere
vehicle of moral or philosophical thought; Maurice de Guérin loves her
for herself alone, and has found words to describe her influence over
him of extraordinary individuality and power. But for the rest the story
of his inner life has but small value in the history of thought. His
difficulties do not go deep enough; his struggle is intellectually not
serious enough--we see in it only a common incident of modern experience
poetically told; it throws no light on the genesis and progress of
the great forces which are molding and renovating the thought of the
present--it tells us nothing for the future.

No--there is much more in the “Journal Intime” than the imagination or
the poetical glow which Amiel shares with his immediate predecessors
in the art of confession-writing. His book is representative of human
experience in its more intimate and personal forms to an extent hardly
equaled since Rousseau. For his study of himself is only a means to an
end. “What interests me in myself,” he declares, “is that I find in my
own case a genuine example of human nature, and therefore a specimen of
general value.” It is the human consciousness of to-day, of the modern
world, in its two-fold relation--its relation toward the infinite and
the unknowable, and its relation toward the visible universe which
conditions it--which is the real subject of the “Journal Intime.” There
are few elements of our present life which, in a greater or less degree,
are not made vocal in these pages. Amiel’s intellectual interest is
untiring. Philosophy, science, letters, art--he has penetrated the
spirit of them all; there is nothing, or almost nothing, within the wide
range of modern activities which he has not at one time or other felt
the attraction of, and learned in some sense to understand. “Amiel,”
 says M. Renan, “has his defects, but he was certainly one of the
strongest speculative heads who, during the period from 1845 to 1880,
have reflected on the nature of things.” And, although a certain fatal
spiritual weakness debarred him to a great extent from the world of
practical life, his sympathy with action, whether it was the action
of the politician or the social reformer, or merely that steady
half-conscious performance of its daily duty which keeps humanity
sweet and living, was unfailing. His horizon was not bounded by his own
“prison-cell,” or by that dream-world which he has described with so
much subtle beauty; rather the energies which should have found their
natural expression in literary or family life, pent up within the mind
itself, excited in it a perpetual eagerness for intellectual discovery,
and new powers of sympathy with whatever crossed its field of vision.

So that the thinker, the historian, the critic, will find himself at
home with Amiel. The power of organizing his thought, the art of writing
a book, _monumentum aere perennius_, was indeed denied him--he
laments it bitterly; but, on the other hand, he is receptivity itself,
responsive to all the great forces which move the time, catching and
reflecting on the mobile mirror of his mind whatever winds are blowing
from the hills of thought.

And if the thinker is at home with him, so too are the religious minds,
the natures for whom God and duty are the foundation of existence. Here,
indeed, we come to the innermost secret of Amiel’s charm, the fact which
probably goes farther than any other to explain his fascination for a
large and growing class of readers. For, while he represents all the
intellectual complexities of a time bewildered by the range and number
of its own acquisitions, the religious instinct in him is as strong
and tenacious as in any of the representative exponents of the life of
faith. The intellect is clear and unwavering; but the heart clings to
old traditions, and steadies itself on the rock of duty. His Calvinistic
training lingers long in him; and what detaches him from the Hegelian
school, with which he has much in common, is his own stronger sense of
personal need, his preoccupation with the idea of “sin.” “He speaks,”
 says M. Renan contemptuously, “of sin, of salvation, of redemption, and
conversion, as if these things were realities. He asks me ‘What does M.
Renan make of sin?’ _Eh bien, je crois que je le supprime_.” But it is
just because Amiel is profoundly sensitive to the problems of evil and
responsibility, and M. Renan dismisses them with this half-tolerant,
half-skeptical smile, that M. Renan’s “Souvenirs” inform and entertain
us, while the “Journal Intime” makes a deep impression on that moral
sense which is at the root of individual and national life.

The Journal is full, indeed, of this note of personal religion.
Religion, Amiel declares again and again, cannot be replaced by
philosophy. The redemption of the intelligence is not the redemption of
the heart. The philosopher and critic may succeed in demonstrating that
the various definite forms into which the religious thought of man has
thrown itself throughout history are not absolute truth, but only the
temporary creations of a need which gradually and surely outgrows them
all. “The Trinity, the life to come, paradise and hell, may cease to
be dogmas and spiritual realities, the form and the letter may vanish
away--the question of humanity remains: What is it which saves?” Amiel’s
answer to the question will recall to a wide English circle the method
and spirit of an English teacher, whose dear memory lives to-day in many
a heart, and is guiding many an effort in the cause of good--the method
and spirit of the late Professor Green of Balliol. In many respects
there was a gulf of difference between the two men. The one had all the
will and force of personality which the other lacked. But the ultimate
creed of both, the way in which both interpret the facts of nature and
consciousness, is practically the same. In Amiel’s case, we have to
gather it through all the variations and inevitable contradictions of a
Journal which is the reflection of a life, not the systematic expression
of a series of ideas, but the main results are clear enough. Man is
saved by love and duty, and by the hope which springs from duty, or
rather from the moral facts of consciousness, as a flower springs from
the soil. Conscience and the moral progress of the race--these are his
points of departure. Faith in the reality of the moral law is what he
clings to when his inherited creed has yielded to the pressure of the
intellect, and after all the storms of pessimism and necessitarianism
have passed over him. The reconciliation of the two certitudes, the two
methods, the scientific and the religious, “is to be sought for in that
moral law which is also a fact, and every step of which requires for its
explanation another cosmos than the cosmos of necessity.” “Nature is the
virtuality of mind, the soul the fruit of life, and liberty the flower
of necessity.” Consciousness is the one fixed point in this boundless
and bottomless gulf of things, and the soul’s inward law, as it has been
painfully elaborated by human history, the only revelation of God.

The only but the sufficient revelation! For this first article of a
reasonable creed is the key to all else--the clue which leads the mind
safely through the labyrinth of doubt into the presence of the Eternal.
Without attempting to define the indefinable, the soul rises from the
belief in the reality of love and duty to the belief in “a holy will at
the root of nature and destiny”--for “if man is capable of conceiving
goodness, the general principle of things, which cannot be inferior to
man, must be good.” And then the religious consciousness seizes on this
intellectual deduction, and clothes it in language of the heart, in
the tender and beautiful language of faith. “There is but one thing
needful--to possess God. All our senses, all our powers of mind and
soul, are so many ways of approaching the Divine, so many modes of
tasting and adoring God. Religion is not a method; it is a life--a
higher and supernatural life, mystical in its root and practical in its
fruits; a communion with God, a calm and deep enthusiasm, a love which
radiates, a force which acts, a happiness which overflows.” And the
faith of his youth and his maturity bears the shock of suffering, and
supports him through his last hours. He writes a few months before the
end: “The animal expires; man surrenders his soul to the author of the
soul.” ... “We dream alone, we suffer alone, we die alone, we inhabit
the last resting-place alone. But there is nothing to prevent us from
opening our solitude to God. And so what was an austere monologue
becomes dialogue, reluctance becomes docility, renunciation passes into
peace, and the sense of painful defeat is lost in the sense of recovered
liberty”--_“Tout est bien, mon Dieu m’enveloppe.”_

Nor is this all. It is not only that Amiel’s inmost thought and
affections are stayed on this conception of “a holy will at the root of
nature and destiny”--in a certain very real sense he is a Christian. No
one is more sensitive than he to the contribution which Christianity has
made to the religious wealth of mankind; no one more penetrated than he
with the truth of its essential doctrine “death unto sin and a new
birth unto righteousness.” “The religion of sin, of repentance and
reconciliation,” he cries, “the religion of the new birth and of
eternal life, is not a religion to be ashamed of.” The world has
found inspiration and guidance for eighteen centuries in the religious
consciousness of Jesus. “The gospel has modified the world and consoled
mankind,” and so “we may hold aloof from the churches and yet bow
ourselves before Jesus. We may be suspicious of the clergy and refuse to
have anything to do with catechisms, and yet love the Holy and the Just
who came to save and not to curse.” And in fact Amiel’s whole life and
thought are steeped in Christianity. He is the spiritual descendant of
one of the intensest and most individual forms of Christian belief,
and traces of his religious ancestry are visible in him at every step.
Protestantism of the sincerer and nobler kind leaves an indelible
impression on the nature which has once surrounded itself to the austere
and penetrating influences flowing from the religion of sin and grace;
and so far as feeling and temperament are concerned, Amiel retained
throughout his life the marks of Calvinism and Geneva.

And yet how clear the intellect remains, through all the anxieties
of thought, and in the face of the soul’s dearest memories and most
passionate needs! Amiel, as soon as his reasoning faculty has once
reached its maturity, never deceives himself as to the special claims
of the religion which by instinct and inheritance he loves; he makes
no compromise with dogma or with miracle. Beyond the religions of the
present he sees always the essential religion which lasts when all local
forms and marvels have passed away; and as years go on, with more and
more clearness of conviction, he learns to regard all special beliefs
and systems as “prejudices, useful in practice, but still narrownesses
of the mind;” misgrowths of thought, necessary in their time and place,
but still of no absolute value, and having no final claim on the thought
of man.

And it is just here--in this mixture of the faith which clings and
aspires, with the intellectual pliancy which allows the mind to sway
freely under the pressure of life and experience, and the deep respect
for truth, which will allow nothing to interfere between thought and
its appointed tasks--that Amiel’s special claim upon us lies. It is this
balance of forces in him which makes him so widely representative of the
modern mind--of its doubts, its convictions, its hopes. He speaks for
the life of to-day as no other single voice has yet spoken for it; in
his contradictions, his fears, his despairs, and yet in the constant
straining toward the unseen and the ideal which gives a fundamental
unity to his inner life, he is the type of a generation universally
touched with doubt, and yet as sensitive to the need of faith as any
that have gone before it; more widely conscious than its predecessors
of the limitations of the human mind, and of the iron pressure of man’s
physical environment; but at the same time--paradox as it may seem--more
conscious of man’s greatness, more deeply thrilled by the spectacle of
the nobility and beauty interwoven with the universe.

And he plays this part of his so modestly, with so much hesitation,
so much doubt of his thought and of himself! He is no preacher, like
Emerson and Carlyle, with whom, as poet and idealist, he has so much in
common; there is little resemblance between him and the men who
speak, as it were, from a height to the crowd beneath, sure always of
themselves and what they have to say. And here again he represents the
present and foreshadows the future. For the age of the preachers is
passing those who speak with authority on the riddles of life and nature
as the priests of this or that all-explaining dogma, are becoming less
important as knowledge spreads, and the complexity of experience is made
evident to a wider range of minds. The force of things is against _the
certain people_. Again and again truth escapes from the prisons made for
her by mortal hands, and as humanity carries on the endless pursuit she
will pay more and more respectful heed to voices like this voice of the
lonely Genevese thinker--with its pathetic alterations of hope and fear,
and the moral steadfastness which is the inmost note of it--to these
meditative lives, which, through all the ebb and flow of thought, and in
the dim ways of doubt and suffering, rich in knowledge, and yet rich in
faith, grasp in new forms, and proclaim to us in new words,

  “The mighty hopes which make us men.”


       *       *       *       *       *

[Where no other name is mentioned, Geneva is to be understood as the
author’s place of residence.]

BERLIN, July 16. 1848.--There is but one thing needful--to possess
God. All our senses, all our powers of mind and soul, all our external
resources, are so many ways of approaching the divinity, so many modes
of tasting and of adoring God. We must learn to detach ourselves from
all that is capable of being lost, to bind ourselves absolutely only
to what is absolute and eternal, and to enjoy the rest as a loan, a
usufruct.... To adore, to understand, to receive, to feel, to give, to
act: there is my law my duty, my happiness, my heaven. Let come what
come will--even death. Only be at peace with self, live in the presence
of God, in communion with Him, and leave the guidance of existence to
those universal powers against whom thou canst do nothing! If death
gives me time, so much the better. If its summons is near, so much the
better still; if a half-death overtake me, still so much the better,
for so the path of success is closed to me only that I may find opening
before me the path of heroism, of moral greatness and resignation. Every
life has its potentiality of greatness, and as it is impossible to be
outside God, the best is consciously to dwell in Him.

BERLIN, July 20, 1848.--It gives liberty and breadth to thought,
to learn to judge our own epoch from the point of view of universal
history, history from the point of view of geological periods, geology
from the point of view of astronomy. When the duration of a man’s life
or of a people’s life appears to us as microscopic as that of a fly and
inversely, the life of a gnat as infinite as that of a celestial body,
with all its dust of nations, we feel ourselves at once very small and
very great, and we are able, as it were, to survey from the height of
the spheres our own existence, and the little whirlwinds which agitate
our little Europe.

At bottom there is but one subject of study: the forms and metamorphoses
of mind. All other subjects may be reduced to that; all other studies
bring us back to this study.

GENEVA, April 20, 1849.--It is six years [Footnote: Amiel left Geneva
for Paris and Berlin in April, 1848, the preceding year, 1841-42, having
been spent in Italy and Sicily.] to-day since I last left Geneva. How
many journeys, how many impressions, observations, thoughts, how many
forms of men and things have since then passed before me and in me! The
last seven years have been the most important of my life: they have been
the novitiate of my intelligence, the initiation of my being into being.

Three snowstorms this afternoon. Poor blossoming plum-trees and peach
trees! What a difference from six years ago, when the cherry-trees,
adorned in their green spring dress and laden with their bridal flowers,
smiled at my departure along the Vaudois fields, and the lilacs of
Burgundy threw great gusts of perfume into my face!...

May 3, 1849.--I have never felt any inward assurance of genius, or
any presentiment of glory or of happiness. I have never seen myself in
imagination great or famous, or even a husband, a father, an influential
citizen. This indifference to the future, this absolute self-distrust,
are, no doubt, to be taken as signs. What dreams I have are all vague
and indefinite; I ought not to live, for I am now scarcely capable
of living. Recognize your place; let the living live; and you, gather
together your thoughts, leave behind you a legacy of feeling and ideas;
you will be most useful so. Renounce yourself, accept the cup given
you, with its honey and its gall, as it comes. Bring God down into your
heart. Embalm your soul in Him now, make within you a temple for the
Holy Spirit, be diligent in good works, make others happier and better.

Put personal ambition away from you, and then you will find consolation
in living or in dying, whatever may happen to you.

May 27, 1849.--To be misunderstood even by those whom one loves is
the cross and bitterness of life. It is the secret of that sad and
melancholy smile on the lips of great men which so few understand; it
is the cruelest trial reserved for self-devotion; it is what must have
oftenest wrung the heart of the Son of man; and if God could suffer, it
would be the wound we should be forever inflicting upon Him. He also--He
above all--is the great misunderstood, the least comprehended. Alas!
alas! never to tire, never to grow cold; to be patient, sympathetic,
tender; to look for the budding flower and the opening heart; to hope
always, like God; to love always--this is duty.

June 3, 1849.--Fresh and delicious weather. A long morning walk.
Surprised the hawthorn and wild rose-trees in flower. From the fields
vague and health-giving scents. The Voirons fringed with dazzling mists,
and tints of exquisite softness over the Salève. Work in the fields, two
delightful donkeys, one pulling greedily at a hedge of barberry. Then
three little children. I felt a boundless desire to caress and play
with them. To be able to enjoy such leisure, these peaceful fields, fine
weather, contentment; to have my two sisters with me; to rest my eyes on
balmy meadows and blossoming orchards; to listen to the life singing in
the grass and on the trees; to be so calmly happy--is it not too much?
is it deserved? O let me enjoy it with gratitude. The days of trouble
come soon enough and are many enough. I have no presentiment of
happiness. All the more let me profit by the present. Come, kind nature,
smile and enchant me! Veil from me awhile my own griefs and those of
others; let me see only the folds of thy queenly mantle, and hide all
miserable and ignoble things from me under thy bounties and splendors!

October 1, 1849.--Yesterday, Sunday, I read through and made extracts
from the gospel of St. John. It confirmed me in my belief that about
Jesus we must believe no one but Himself, and that what we have to do
is to discover the true image of the founder behind all the prismatic
reactions through which it comes to us, and which alter it more or less.
A ray of heavenly light traversing human life, the message of Christ
has been broken into a thousand rainbow colors and carried in a thousand
directions. It is the historical task of Christianity to assume
with every succeeding age a fresh metamorphosis, and to be forever
spiritualizing more and more her understanding of the Christ and of

I am astounded at the incredible amount of Judaism and formalism which
still exists nineteen centuries after the Redeemer’s proclamation,
“it is the letter which killeth”--after his protest against a dead
symbolism. The new religion is so profound that it is not understood
even now, and would seem a blasphemy to the greater number of
Christians. The person of Christ is the center of it. Redemption,
eternal life, divinity, humanity, propitiation, incarnation, judgment,
Satan, heaven and hell--all these beliefs have been so materialized and
coarsened, that with a strange irony they present to us the spectacle of
things having a profound meaning and yet carnally interpreted. Christian
boldness and Christian liberty must be reconquered; it is the church
which is heretical, the church whose sight is troubled and her heart
timid. Whether we will or no, there is an esoteric doctrine, there is a
relative revelation; each man enters into God so much as God enters
into him, or as Angelus, [Footnote: Angelus Silesius, otherwise Johannes
Soheffler, the German seventeenth century hymn-writer, whose tender and
mystical verses have been popularized in England by Miss Winkworth’s
translations in the _Lyra Germanica_.] I think, said, “the eye by which
I see God is the same eye by which He sees me.”

Christianity, if it is to triumph over pantheism, must absorb it. To
our pusillanimous eyes Jesus would have borne the marks of a hateful
pantheism, for he confirmed the Biblical phrase “ye are gods,” and
so would St. Paul, who tells us that we are of “the race of God.”
 Our century wants a new theology--that is to say, a more profound
explanation of the nature of Christ and of the light which it flashes
upon heaven and upon humanity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Heroism is the brilliant triumph of the soul over the flesh--that is to
say, over fear: fear of poverty, of suffering, of calumny, of sickness,
of isolation, and of death. There is no serious piety without heroism.
Heroism is the dazzling and glorious concentration of courage.

       *       *       *       *       *

Duty has the virtue of making us feel the reality of a positive world
while at the same time detaching us from it.

       *       *       *       *       *

December 30, 1850.--The relation of thought to action filled my mind on
waking, and I found myself carried toward a bizarre formula, which seems
to have something of the night still clinging about it: _Action is but
coarsened thought_; thought become concrete, obscure, and unconscious.
It seemed to me that our most trifling actions, of eating, walking, and
sleeping, were the condensation of a multitude of truths and thoughts,
and that the wealth of ideas involved was in direct proportion to the
commonness of the action (as our dreams are the more active, the deeper
our sleep). We are hemmed round with mystery, and the greatest mysteries
are contained in what we see and do every day. In all spontaneity the
work of creation is reproduced in analogy. When the spontaneity is
unconscious, you have simple action; when it is conscious, intelligent
and moral action. At bottom this is nothing more than the proposition of
Hegel: [“What is rational is real; and what is real is rational;”] but
it had never seemed to me more evident, more palpable. Everything which
is, is thought, but not conscious and individual thought. The human
intelligence is but the consciousness of being. It is what I have
formulated before: Everything is a symbol of a symbol, and a symbol of
what? of mind.

... I have just been looking through the complete works of Montesquieu,
and cannot yet make plain to myself the impression left on me by
this singular style, with its mixture of gravity and affectation, of
carelessness and precision, of strength and delicacy; so full of sly
intention for all its coldness, expressing at once inquisitiveness and
indifference, abrupt, piecemeal, like notes thrown together haphazard,
and yet deliberate. I seem to see an intelligence naturally grave and
austere donning a dress of wit for convention’s sake. The author desires
to entertain as much as to teach, the thinker is also a _bel-esprit_,
the jurisconsult has a touch of the coxcomb, and a perfumed breath from
the temple of Venus has penetrated the tribunal of Minos. Here we have
austerity, as the century understood it, in philosophy or religion. In
Montesquieu, the art, if there is any, lies not in the words but in
the matter. The words run freely and lightly, but the thought is

       *       *       *       *       *

Each bud flowers but once and each flower has but its minute of perfect
beauty; so, in the garden of the soul each feeling has, as it were,
its flowering instant, its one and only moment of expansive grace and
radiant kingship. Each star passes but once in the night through the
meridian over our heads and shines there but an instant; so, in the
heaven of the mind each thought touches its zenith but once, and in that
moment all its brilliancy and all its greatness culminate. Artist,
poet, or thinker, if you want to fix and immortalize your ideas or your
feelings, seize them at this precise and fleeting moment, for it is
their highest point. Before it, you have but vague outlines or dim
presentiments of them. After it you will have only weakened reminiscence
or powerless regret; that moment is the moment of your ideal.

Spite is anger which is afraid to show itself, it is an impotent fury
conscious of its impotence.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nothing resembles pride so much as discouragement.

       *       *       *       *       *

To repel one’s cross is to make it heavier.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the conduct of life, habits count for more than maxims, because habit
is a living maxim, becomes flesh and instinct. To reform one’s maxims is
nothing: it is but to change the title of the book. To learn new habits
is everything, for it is to reach the substance of life. Life is but a
tissue of habits.

       *       *       *       *       *

February 17, 1851.--I have been reading, for six or seven hours without
stopping the _Pensées_ of Joubert. I felt at first a very strong
attraction toward the book, and a deep interest in it, but I have
already a good deal cooled down. These scattered and fragmentary
thoughts, falling upon one without a pause, like drops of light, tire,
not my head, but reasoning power. The merits of Joubert consist in the
grace of the style, the vivacity or _finesse_ of the criticisms, the
charm of the metaphors; but he starts many more problems than he solves,
he notices and records more than he explains. His philosophy is
merely literary and popular; his originality is only in detail and
in execution. Altogether, he is a writer of reflections rather than
a philosopher, a critic of remarkable gifts, endowed with exquisite
sensibility, but, as an intelligence, destitute of the capacity for
co-ordination. He wants concentration and continuity. It is not that he
has no claims to be considered a philosopher or an artist, but rather
that he is both imperfectly, for he thinks and writes marvelously, _on a
small scale_. He is an entomologist, a lapidary, a jeweler, a coiner of
sentences, of adages, of criticisms, of aphorisms, counsels, problems;
and his book, extracted from the accumulations of his journal during
fifty years of his life, is a collection of precious stones, of
butterflies, coins and engraved gems. The whole, however, is more subtle
than strong, more poetical than profound, and leaves upon the reader
rather the impression of a great wealth of small curiosities of value,
than of a great intellectual existence and a new point of view.
The place of Joubert seems to me then, below and very far from the
philosophers and the true poets, but honorable among the moralists and
the critics. He is one of those men who are superior to their works, and
who have themselves the unity which these lack. This first judgment is,
besides, indiscriminate and severe. I shall have to modify it later.

February 20th.--I have almost finished these two volumes of _Pensées_
and the greater part of the _Correspondance_. This last has especially
charmed me; it is remarkable for grace, delicacy, atticism, and
precision. The chapters on metaphysics and philosophy are the most
insignificant. All that has to do with large views with the whole of
things, is very little at Joubert’s command; he has no philosophy of
history, no speculative intuition. He is the thinker of detail, and his
proper field is psychology and matters of taste. In this sphere of the
subtleties and delicacies of imagination and feeling, within the circle
of personal affectation and preoccupations, of social and educational
interests, he abounds in ingenuity and sagacity, in fine criticisms,
in exquisite touches. It is like a bee going from flower to flower, a
teasing, plundering, wayward zephyr, an Aeolian harp, a ray of furtive
light stealing through the leaves. Taken as a whole, there is something
impalpable and immaterial about him, which I will not venture to call
effeminate, but which is scarcely manly. He wants bone and body: timid,
dreamy, and _clairvoyant_, he hovers far above reality. He is rather a
soul, a breath, than a man. It is the mind of a woman in the character
of a child, so that we feel for him less admiration than tenderness and

February 27, 1851.--Read over the first book of _Emile_. I was revolted,
contrary to all expectation, for I opened the book with a sort of
hunger for style and beauty. I was conscious instead of an impression of
heaviness and harshness, of labored, _hammering_ emphasis, of something
violent, passionate, and obstinate, without serenity, greatness,
nobility. Both the qualities and the defects of the book produced in
me a sense of lack of good manners, a blaze of talent, but no grace, no
distinction, the accent of good company wanting. I understood how it is
that Rousseau rouses a particular kind of repugnance, the repugnance of
good taste, and I felt the danger to style involved in such a model
as well as the danger to thought arising from a truth so alloyed and
sophisticated. What there is of true and strong in Rousseau did not
escape me, and I still admired him, but his bad sides appeared to me
with a clearness relatively new.

(_Same day._)--The _pensée_-writer is to the philosopher what the
_dilettante_ is to the artist. He plays with thought, and makes it
produce a crowd of pretty things in detail, but he is more anxious about
truths than truth, and what is essential in thought, its sequence, its
unity, escapes him. He handles his instrument agreeably, but he does
not possess it, still less does he create it. He is a gardener and not a
geologist; he cultivates the earth only so much as is necessary to make
it produce for him flowers and fruits; he does not dig deep enough into
it to understand it. In a word, the _pensée_-writer deals with what is
superficial and fragmentary. He is the literary, the oratorical,
the talking or writing philosopher; whereas the philosopher is the
scientific _pensée_-writer. The _pensée_-writers serve to stimulate or
to popularize the philosophers. They have thus a double use, besides
their charm. They are the pioneers of the army of readers, the doctors
of the crowd, the money-changers of thought, which they convert into
current coin. The writer of _pensée_ is a man of letters, though of
a serious type, and therefore he is popular. The philosopher is a
specialist, as far as the form of his science goes, though not in
substance, and therefore he can never become popular. In France, for one
philosopher (Descartes) there have been thirty writers of _pensées_; in
Germany, for ten such writers there have been twenty philosophers.

March 25, 1851.--How many illustrious men whom I have known have been
already reaped by death, Steffens, Marheineke, Neander, Mendelssohn,
Thorwaldsen, Oelenschläger, Geijer, Tegner, Oersted, Stuhr, Lachmann;
and with us, Sismondi, Töpffer, de Candolle, savants, artists, poets,
musicians, historians. [Footnote: Of these Marheineke, Neander, and
Lachmann had been lecturing at Berlin during Amiel’s residence there.
The Danish dramatic poet Oelenschläger and the Swedish writer
Tegner were among the Scandinavian men of letters with whom he made
acquaintance during his tour of Sweden and Denmark in 1845. He probably
came across the Swedish historian Geijer on the same occasion. Schelling
and Alexander von Humboldt, mentioned a little lower down, were
also still holding sway at Berlin when he was a student. There is an
interesting description in one of his articles on Berlin, published in
the _Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève_, of a university ceremonial
there in or about 1847, and of the effect produced on the student’s
young imagination by the sight of half the leaders of European research
gathered into a single room. He saw Schlosser, the veteran historian, at
Heidelberg at the end of 1843.] The old generation is going. What will
the new bring us? What shall we ourselves contribute? A few great old
men--Schelling, Alexander von Humboldt, Schlosser--still link us with
the glorious past. Who is preparing to bear the weight of the future?
A shiver seizes us when the ranks grow thin around us, when age is
stealing upon us, when we approach the zenith, and when destiny says to
us: “Show what is in thee! Now is the moment, now is the hour, else fall
back into nothingness! It is thy turn! Give the world thy measure, say
thy word, reveal thy nullity or thy capacity. Come forth from the shade!
It is no longer a question of promising, thou must perform. The time of
apprenticeship is over. Servant, show us what thou hast done with thy
talent. Speak now, or be silent forever.” This appeal of the conscience
is a solemn summons in the life of every man, solemn and awful as
the trumpet of the last judgment. It cries, “Art thou ready? Give an
account. Give an account of thy years, thy leisure, thy strength, thy
studies, thy talent, and thy works. Now and here is the hour of great
hearts, the hour of heroism and of genius.”

April 6, 1851.--Was there ever any one so vulnerable as I? If I were
a father how many griefs and vexations, a child might cause me. As a
husband I should have a thousand ways of suffering because my happiness
demands a thousand conditions I have a heart too easily reached, a
too restless imagination; despair is easy to me, and every sensation
reverberates again and again within me. What might be, spoils for me
what is. What ought to be consumes me with sadness. So the reality, the
present, the irreparable, the necessary, repel and even terrify me. I
have too much imagination, conscience and penetration, and not enough
character. The life of thought alone seems to me to have enough
elasticity and immensity, to be free enough from the irreparable;
practical life makes me afraid.

And yet, at the same time it attracts me; I have need of it. Family
life, especially, in all its delightfulness, in all its moral depth,
appeals to me almost like a duty. Sometimes I cannot escape from the
ideal of it. A companion of my life, of my work, of my thoughts, of my
hopes; within, a common worship, toward the world outside, kindness
and beneficence; educations to undertake, the thousand and one moral
relations which develop round the first, all these ideas intoxicate me
sometimes. But I put them aside because every hope is, as it were, an
egg whence a serpent may issue instead of a dove, because every joy
missed is a stab; because every seed confided to destiny contains an ear
of grief which the future may develop.

I am distrustful of myself and of happiness because I know myself.
The ideal poisons for me all imperfect possession. Everything which
compromises the future or destroys my inner liberty, which enslaves me
to things or obliges me to be other than I could and ought to be, all
which injures my idea of the perfect man, hurts me mortally, degrades
and wounds me in mind, even beforehand. I abhor useless regrets and
repentances. The fatality of the consequences which follow upon every
human act, the leading idea of dramatic art and the most tragic element
of life, arrests me more certainly than the arm of the _Commandeur_. I
only act with regret, and almost by force.

To be dependent is to me terrible; but to depend upon what is
irreparable, arbitrary and unforeseen, and above all to be so dependent
by my fault and through my own error, to give up liberty and hope, to
slay sleep and happiness, this would be hell!

All that is necessary, providential, in short, _unimputable_, I could
bear, I think, with some strength of mind. But responsibility mortally
envenoms grief; and as an act is essentially voluntary, therefore I act
as little as possible.

Last outbreak of a rebellious and deceitful self-will, craving for
repose for satisfaction, for independence! is there not some relic
of selfishness in such a disinterestedness, such a fear, such idle

I wish to fulfill my duty, but where is it, what is it? Here inclination
comes in again and interprets the oracle. And the ultimate question is
this: Does duty consist in obeying one’s nature, even the best and most
spiritual? or in conquering it?

Life, is it essentially the education of the mind and intelligence,
or that of the will? And does will show itself in strength or in
resignation? If the aim of life is to teach us renunciation, then
welcome sickness, hindrances, sufferings of every kind! But if its aim
is to produce the perfect man, then one must watch over one’s integrity
of mind and body. To court trial is to tempt God. At bottom, the God of
justice veils from me the God of love. I tremble instead of trusting.

Whenever conscience speaks with a divided, uncertain, and disputed
voice, it is not yet the voice of God. Descend still deeper into
yourself, until you hear nothing but a clear and undivided voice, a
voice which does away with doubt and brings with it persuasion, light
and serenity. Happy, says the apostle, are they who are at peace with
themselves, and whose heart condemneth them not in the part they take.
This inner identity, this unity of conviction, is all the more
difficult the more the mind analyzes, discriminates, and foresees. It is
difficult, indeed, for liberty to return to the frank unity of instinct.

Alas! we must then re-climb a thousand times the peaks already scaled,
and reconquer the points of view already won, we must _fight the fight_!
The human heart, like kings, signs mere truces under a pretence of
perpetual peace. The eternal life is eternally to be re-won. Alas, yes!
peace itself is a struggle, or rather it is struggle and activity
which are the law. We only find rest in effort, as the flame only finds
existence in combustion. O Heraclitus! the symbol of happiness is after
all the same as that of grief; anxiety and hope, hell and heaven, are
equally restless. The altar of Vesta and the sacrifice of Beelzebub burn
with the same fire. Ah, yes, there you have life--life double-faced and
double-edged. The fire which enlightens is also the fire which consumes;
the element of the gods may become that of the accursed.

April 7, 1851.--Read a part of Ruge’s [Footnote: Arnold Ruge, born in
1803, died at Brighton in 1880, principal editor of the _Hallische_,
afterward the _Deutsche Jahrbücher_ (1838-43), in which Strauss, Bruno
Bauer, and Louis Feuerbach wrote. He was a member of the parliament of
Frankfort.] volume “_Die Academie_” (1848) where the humanism of the
neo-Hegelians in politics, religion, and literature is represented by
correspondents or articles (Kuno Fischer, Kollach, etc). They recall the
_philosophist_ party of the last century, able to dissolve anything by
reason and reasoning, but unable to construct anything; for construction
rests upon feeling, instinct, and will. One finds them mistaking
philosophic consciousness for realizing power, the redemption of the
intelligence for the redemption of the heart, that is to say, the part
for the whole. These papers make me understand the radical difference
between morals and intellectualism. The writers of them wish to supplant
religion by philosophy. Man is the principle of their religion, and
intellect is the climax of man. Their religion, then, is the religion
of intellect. There you have the two worlds: Christianity brings and
preaches salvation by the conversion of the will, humanism by the
emancipation of the mind. One attacks the heart, the other the brain.
Both wish to enable man to reach his ideal. But the ideal differs, if
not by its content, at least by the disposition of its content, by the
predominance and sovereignty given to this for that inner power. For
one, the mind is the organ of the soul; for the other, the soul is
an inferior state of the mind; the one wishes to enlighten by making
better, the other to make better by enlightening. It is the difference
between Socrates and Jesus.

_The cardinal question is that of sin._ The question of immanence or of
dualism is secondary. The trinity, the life to come, paradise and hell,
may cease to be dogmas, and spiritual realities, the form and the letter
may vanish away, the question of humanity remains: What is it which
saves? How can man be led to be truly man? Is the ultimate root of his
being responsibility, yes or no? And is doing or knowing the right,
acting or thinking, his ultimate end? If science does not produce
love it is insufficient. Now all that science gives is the _amor
intellectualis_ of Spinoza, light without warmth, a resignation which
is contemplative and grandiose, but inhuman, because it is scarcely
transmissible and remains a privilege, one of the rarest of all. Moral
love places the center of the individual in the center of being. It has
at least salvation in principle, the germ of eternal life. _To love is
virtually to know; to know is not virtually to love_; there you have the
relation of these two modes of man. The redemption wrought by science or
by intellectual love is then inferior to the redemption wrought by
will or by moral love. The first may free a man from himself, it may
enfranchise him from egotism. The second drives the _ego_ out of itself,
makes it active and fruitful. The one is critical, purifying, negative;
the other is vivifying, fertilizing, positive. Science, however
spiritual and substantial it may be in itself, is still formal
relatively to love. Moral force is then the vital point. And this force
is only produced by moral force. Like alone acts upon like. Therefore do
not amend by reasoning, but by example; approach feeling by feeling;
do not hope to excite love except by love. Be what you wish others to
become. Let yourself and not your words preach for you.

Philosophy, then, to return to the subject, can never replace religion;
revolutionaries are not apostles, although the apostles may have been
revolutionaries. To save from the outside to the inside--and by the
outside I understand also the intelligence relatively to the will--is an
error and danger. The negative part of the humanist’s work is good; it
will strip Christianity of an outer shell, which has become superfluous;
but Ruge and Feuerbach cannot save humanity. She must have her saints
and her heroes to complete the work of her philosophers. Science is
the power of man, and love his strength; man _becomes_ man only by
the intelligence, but he _is_ man only by the heart. Knowledge, love,
power--there is the complete life.

June 16, 1851.--This evening I walked up and down on the Pont des
Bergues, under a clear, moonless heaven delighting in the freshness of
the water, streaked with light from the two quays, and glimmering under
the twinkling stars. Meeting all these different groups of young people,
families, couples and children, who were returning to their homes, to
their garrets or their drawing-rooms, singing or talking as they went,
I felt a movement of sympathy for all these passers-by; my eyes and
ears became those of a poet or a painter; while even one’s mere kindly
curiosity seems to bring with it a joy in living and in seeing others

August 15, 1851.--To know how to be ready, a great thing, a precious
gift, and one that implies calculation, grasp and decision. To be always
ready a man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied;
he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which
it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word,
he must be able to simplify his duties, his business, and his life. To
know how to be ready, is to know how to start.

It is astonishing how all of us are generally cumbered up with the
thousand and one hindrances and duties which are not such, but which
nevertheless wind us about with their spider threads and fetter the
movement of our wings. It is the lack of order which makes us slaves;
the confusion of to-day discounts the freedom of to-morrow.

Confusion is the enemy of all comfort, and confusion is born of
procrastination. To know how to be ready we must be able to finish.
Nothing is done but what is finished. The things which we leave dragging
behind us will start up again later on before us and harass our path.
Let each day take thought for what concerns it, liquidate its own
affairs and respect the day which is to follow, and then we shall be
always ready. To know how to be ready is at bottom to know how to die.

September 2, 1851.--Read the work of Tocqueville (“_De la Democratie
en Amérique_.”) My impression is as yet a mixed one. A fine book, but
I feel in it a little too much imitation of Montesquieu. This abstract,
piquant, sententious style, too, is a little dry, over-refined and
monotonous. It has too much cleverness and not enough imagination. It
makes one think, more than it charms, and though really serious, it
seems flippant. His method of splitting up a thought, of illuminating
a subject by successive facets, has serious inconveniences. We see
the details too clearly, to the detriment of the whole. A multitude of
sparks gives but a poor light. Nevertheless, the author is evidently a
ripe and penetrating intelligence, who takes a comprehensive view of
his subject, while at the same time possessing a power of acute and
exhaustive analysis.

September 6th.--Tocqueville’s book has on the whole a calming effect
upon the mind, but it leaves a certain sense of disgust behind. It
makes one realize the necessity of what is happening around us and the
inevitableness of the goal prepared for us; but it also makes it plain
that the era of _mediocrity_ in everything is beginning, and mediocrity
freezes all desire. Equality engenders uniformity, and it is by
sacrificing what is excellent, remarkable, and extraordinary that we get
rid of what is bad. The whole becomes less barbarous, and at the same
time more vulgar.

The age of great men is going; the epoch of the ant-hill, of life in
multiplicity, is beginning. The century of individualism, if abstract
equality triumphs, runs a great risk of seeing no more true individuals.
By continual leveling and division of labor, society will become
everything and man nothing.

As the floor of valleys is raised by the denudation and washing down
of the mountains, what is average will rise at the expense of what is
great. The exceptional will disappear. A plateau with fewer and fewer
undulations, without contrasts and without oppositions, such will be
the aspect of human society. The statistician will register a growing
progress, and the moralist a gradual decline: on the one hand, a
progress of things; on the other, a decline of souls. The useful will
take the place of the beautiful, industry of art, political economy of
religion, and arithmetic of poetry. The spleen will become the malady of
a leveling age.

Is this indeed the fate reserved for the democratic era? May not the
general well-being be purchased too dearly at such a price? The creative
force which in the beginning we see forever tending to produce and
multiply differences, will it afterward retrace its steps and obliterate
them one by one? And equality, which in the dawn of existence is mere
inertia, torpor, and death, is it to become at last the natural form of
life? Or rather, above the economic and political equality to which the
socialist and non-socialist democracy aspires, taking it too often for
the term of its efforts, will there not arise a new kingdom of mind, a
church of refuge, a republic of souls, in which, far beyond the region
of mere right and sordid utility, beauty, devotion, holiness, heroism,
enthusiasm, the extraordinary, the infinite, shall have a worship and an
abiding city? Utilitarian materialism, barren well-being, the idolatry
of the flesh and of the “I,” of the temporal and of mammon, are they to
be the goal if our efforts, the final recompense promised to the labors
of our race? I do not believe it. The ideal of humanity is something
different and higher.

But the animal in us must be satisfied first, and we must first banish
from among us all suffering which is superfluous and has its origin in
social arrangements, before we can return to spiritual goods.

September 7, 1851. (_Aix_).--It is ten o’clock at night. A strange
and mystic moonlight, with a fresh breeze and a sky crossed by a few
wandering clouds, makes our terrace delightful. These pale and gentle
rays shed from the zenith a subdued and penetrating peace; it is like
the calm joy or the pensive smile of experience, combined with a certain
stoic strength. The stars shine, the leaves tremble in the silver light.
Not a sound in all the landscape; great gulfs of shadow under the green
alleys and at the corners of the steps. Everything is secret, solemn,

O night hours, hours of silence and solitude! with you are grace and
melancholy; you sadden and you console. You speak to us of all that
has passed away, and of all that must still die, but you say to us,
“courage!” and you promise us rest.

November 9, 1851. (Sunday).--At the church of St. Gervais, a second
sermon from Adolphe Monod, less grandiose perhaps but almost more
original, and to me more edifying than that of last Sunday. The subject
was St. Paul or the active life, his former one having been St. John or
the inner life, of the Christian. I felt the golden spell of eloquence:
I found myself hanging on the lips of the orator, fascinated by his
boldness, his grace, his energy, and his art, his sincerity, and his
talent; and it was borne in upon me that for some men difficulties are
a source of inspiration, so that what would make others stumble is for
them the occasion of their highest triumphs. He made St. Paul _cry_
during an hour and a half; he made an old nurse of him, he hunted up his
old cloak, his prescriptions of water and wine to Timothy, the canvas
that he mended, his friend Tychicus, in short, all that could raise a
smile; and from it he drew the most unfailing pathos, the most austere
and penetrating lessons. He made the whole St. Paul, martyr, apostle and
man, his grief, his charities, his tenderness, live again before us,
and this with a grandeur, an unction, a warmth of reality, such as I had
never seen equaled.

How stirring is such an apotheosis of pain in our century of comfort,
when shepherds and sheep alike sink benumbed in Capuan languors, such
an apotheosis of ardent charity in a time of coldness and indifference
toward souls, such an apotheosis of a _human_, natural, inbred
Christianity, in an age, when some put it, so to speak, above man, and
others below man! Finally, as a peroration, he dwelt upon the necessity
for a new people, for a stronger generation, if the world is to be
saved from the tempests which threaten it. “People of God, awake! Sow
in tears, that ye may reap in triumph!” What a study is such a sermon!
I felt all the extraordinary literary skill of it, while my eyes were
still dim with tears. Diction, composition, similes, all is instructive
and precious to remember. I was astonished, shaken, taken hold of.

November 18, 1851.--The energetic subjectivity, which has faith in
itself, which does not fear to be something particular and definite
without any consciousness or shame of its subjective illusion, is
unknown to me. I am, so far as the intellectual order is concerned,
essentially objective, and my distinctive speciality, is to be able
to place myself in all points of view, to see through all eyes, to
emancipate myself, that is to say, from the individual prison. Hence
aptitude for theory and irresolution in practice; hence critical talent
and difficulty in spontaneous production. Hence, also, a continuous
uncertainty of conviction and opinion, so long as my aptitude remained
mere instinct; but now that it is conscious and possesses itself, it is
able to conclude and affirm in its turn, so that, after having brought
disquiet, it now brings peace. It says: “There is no repose for the mind
except in the absolute; for feeling, except in the infinite; for the
soul, except in the divine.” Nothing finite is true, is interesting, or
worthy to fix my attention. All that is particular is exclusive, and
all that is exclusive, repels me. There is nothing non-exclusive but the
All; my end is communion with Being through the whole of Being. Then, in
the light of the absolute, every idea becomes worth studying; in that of
the infinite, every existence worth respecting; in that of the divine,
every creature worth loving.

December 2, 1851.--Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always
turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but
leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds
may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a
place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown
God. Then if a bird sing among your branches, do not be too eager to
tame it. If you are conscious of something new--thought or feeling,
wakening in the depths of your being--do not be in a hurry to let in
light upon it, to look at it; let the springing germ have the protection
of being forgotten, hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in
upon its darkness; let it take shape and grow, and not a word of your
happiness to any one! Sacred work of nature as it is, all conception
should be enwrapped by the triple veil of modesty, silence and night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kindness is the principle of tact, and respect for others the first
condition of _savoir-vivre_.

       *       *       *       *       *

He who is silent is forgotten; he who abstains is taken at his word;
he who does not advance, falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed,
distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow greater becomes smaller; he
who leaves off, gives up; the stationary condition is the beginning of
the end--it is the terrible symptom which precedes death. To live, is
to achieve a perpetual triumph; it is to assert one’s self against
destruction, against sickness, against the annulling and dispersion of
one’s physical and moral being. It is to will without ceasing, or rather
to refresh one’s will day by day.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not history which teaches conscience to be honest; it is the
conscience which educates history. Fact is corrupting, it is we who
correct it by the persistence of our ideal. The soul moralizes the past
in order not to be demoralized by it. Like the alchemists of the middle
ages, she finds in the crucible of experience only the gold that she
herself has poured into it.

       *       *       *       *       *

February 1, 1852. (Sunday).--Passed the afternoon in reading the
_Monologues_ of Schleiermacher. This little book made an impression on
me almost as deep as it did twelve years ago, when I read it for the
first time. It replunged me into the inner world, to which I return with
joy whenever I may have forsaken it. I was able besides, to measure my
progress since then by the transparency of all the thoughts to me, and
by the freedom with which I entered into and judged the point of view.

It is great, powerful, profound, but there is still pride in it, and
even selfishness. For the center of the universe is still the self, the
great _Ich_ of Fichte. The tameless liberty, the divine dignity of
the individual spirit, expanding till it admits neither any limit nor
anything foreign to itself, and conscious of a strength instinct with
creative force, such is the point of view of the _Monologues_.

The inner life in its enfranchisement from time, in its double end,
the realization of the species and of the individuality, in its proud
dominion over all hostile circumstances, in its prophetic certainty of
the future, in its immortal youth, such is their theme. Through them we
are enabled to enter into a life of monumental interest, wholly original
and beyond the influence of anything exterior, an astonishing example
of the autonomy of the _ego_, an imposing type of character, Zeno and
Fichte in one. But still the motive power of this life is not
religious; it is rather moral and philosophic. I see in it not so much a
magnificent model to imitate as a precious subject of study. This ideal
of a liberty, absolute, indefeasible, inviolable, respecting itself
above all, disdaining the visible and the universe, and developing
itself after its own laws alone, is also the ideal of Emerson, the stoic
of a young America. According to it, man finds his joy in himself,
and, safe in the inaccessible sanctuary, of his personal consciousness,
becomes almost a god. [Footnote: Compare Clough’s lines:

  “Where are the great, whom thou would’st wish to praise thee?
  Where are the pure, whom thou would’st choose to love thee?
  Where are the brave, to stand supreme above thee?
  Whose high commands would cheer, whose chidings raise thee?
  Seek, seeker, in thyself; submit to find
  In the stones, bread, and life in the blank mind.”]

He is himself principle, motive, and end of his own destiny; he is
himself, and that is enough for him. This superb triumph of life is
not far from being a sort of impiety, or at least a displacement of
adoration. By the mere fact that it does away with humility, such a
superhuman point of view becomes dangerous; it is the very temptation
to which the first man succumbed, that of becoming his own master by
becoming like unto the Elohim. Here then the heroism of the philosopher
approaches temerity, and the _Monologues_ are therefore open to three
reproaches: Ontologically, the position of man in the spiritual universe
is wrongly indicated; the individual soul, not being unique and not
springing from itself, can it be conceived without God? Psychologically,
the force of spontaneity in the _ego_ is allowed a dominion too
exclusive of any other. As a fact, it is not everything in man. Morally,
evil is scarcely named, and conflict, the condition of true peace, is
left out of count. So that the peace described in the _Monologues_ is
neither a conquest by man nor a grace from heaven; it is rather a stroke
of good fortune.

February 2d.--Still the _Monologues_. Critically I defended myself
enough against them yesterday; I may abandon myself now, without scruple
and without danger, to the admiration and the sympathy with which they
inspire me. This life so proudly independent, this sovereign conception
of human dignity, this actual possession of the universe and the
infinite, this perfect emancipation from all which passes, this calm
sense of strength and superiority, this invincible energy of will, this
infallible clearness of self-vision, this autocracy of the consciousness
which is its own master, all these decisive marks of a royal personality
of a nature Olympian, profound, complete, harmonious, penetrate the
mind with joy and heart with gratitude. What a life! what a man! These
glimpses into the inner regions of a great soul do one good. Contact of
this kind strengthens, restores, refreshes. Courage returns as we gaze;
when we see what has been, we doubt no more that it can be again. At the
sight of a _man_ we too say to ourselves, let us also be men.

March 3, 1852.--Opinion has its value and even its power: to have it
against us is painful when we are among friends, and harmful in the case
of the outer world. We should neither flatter opinion nor court it; but
it is better, if we can help it, not to throw it on to a false scent.
The first error is a meanness; the second an imprudence. We should be
ashamed of the one; we may regret the other. Look to yourself; you are
much given to this last fault, and it has already done you great harm.
Be ready to bend your pride; abase yourself even so far as to show
yourself ready and clever like others. This world of skillful egotisms
and active ambitions, this world of men, in which one must deceive
by smiles, conduct, and silence as much as by actual words, a world
revolting to the proud and upright soul, it is our business to learn to
live in it! Success is required in it: succeed. Only force is recognized
there: be strong. Opinion seeks to impose her law upon all, instead of
setting her at defiance, it would be better to struggle with her and
conquer.... I understand the indignation of contempt, and the wish to
crush, roused irresistibly by all that creeps, all that is tortuous,
oblique, ignoble.... But I cannot maintain such a mood, which is a mood
of vengeance, for long. This world is a world of men, and these men
are our brothers. We must not banish from us the divine breath, we must
love. Evil must be conquered by good; and before all things one must
keep a pure conscience. Prudence may be preached from this point of
view too. “Be ye simple as the dove and prudent as the serpent,” are the
words of Jesus. Be careful of your reputation, not through vanity, but
that you may not harm your life’s work, and out of love for truth. There
is still something of self-seeking in the refined disinterestedness
which will not justify itself, that it may feel itself superior to
opinion. It requires ability, to make what we seem agree with what we
are, and humility, to feel that we are no great things.

There, thanks to this journal, my excitement has passed away. I have
just read the last book of it through again, and the morning has passed
by. On the way I have been conscious of a certain amount of monotony.
It does not signify! These pages are not written to be read; they are
written for my own consolation and warning. They are landmarks in my
past; and some of the landmarks are funeral crosses, stone pyramids,
withered stalks grown green again, white pebbles, coins--all of them
helpful toward finding one’s way again through the Elysian fields of the
soul. The pilgrim has marked his stages in it; he is able to trace by it
his thoughts, his tears, his joys. This is my traveling diary: if some
passages from it may be useful to others, and if sometimes even I have
communicated such passages to the public, these thousand pages as a
whole are only of value to me and to those who, after me, may take some
interest in the itinerary of an obscurely conditioned soul, far from the
world’s noise and fame. These sheets will be monotonous when my life is
so; they will repeat themselves when feelings repeat themselves; truth
at any rate will be always there, and truth is their only muse, their
only pretext, their only duty.

April 2, 1852.--What a lovely walk! Sky clear, sun rising, all the tints
bright, all the outlines sharp, save for the soft and misty infinite
of the lake. A pinch of white frost, powdered the fields, lending a
metallic relief to the hedges of green box, and to the whole landscape,
still without leaves, an air of health and vigor, of youth and
freshness. “Bathe, O disciple, thy thirsty soul in the dew of the dawn!”
 says Faust, to us, and he is right. The morning air breathes a new and
laughing energy into veins and marrow. If every day is a repetition of
life, every dawn gives signs as it were a new contract with existence.
At dawn everything is fresh, light, simple, as it is for children. At
dawn spiritual truth, like the atmosphere, is more transparent, and our
organs, like the young leaves, drink in the light more eagerly, breathe
in more ether, and less of things earthly. If night and the starry sky
speak to the meditative soul of God, of eternity and the infinite, the
dawn is the time for projects, for resolutions, for the birth of action.
While the silence and the “sad serenity of the azure vault,” incline the
soul to self-recollection, the vigor and gayety of nature spread into
the heart and make it eager for life and living. Spring is upon us.
Primroses and violets have already hailed her coming. Rash blooms are
showing on the peach trees; the swollen buds of the pear trees and
the lilacs point to the blossoming that is to be; the honeysuckles are
already green.

April 26, 1852.--This evening a feeling of emptiness took possession
of me; and the solemn ideas of duty, the future, solitude, pressed
themselves upon me. I gave myself to meditation, a very necessary
defense against the dispersion and distraction brought about by the
day’s work and its detail. Read a part of Krause’s book “_Urbild der
Menschheit_” [Footnote: Christian Frederick Krause, died 1832, Hegel’s
younger contemporary, and the author of a system which he called
_panentheism_--Amiel alludes to it later on.] which answered marvelously
to my thought and my need. This philosopher has always a beneficent
effect upon me; his sweet religious serenity gains upon me and invades
me. He inspires me with a sense of peace and infinity.

Still I miss something, common worship, a positive religion, shared with
other people. Ah! when will the church to which I belong in heart rise
into being? I cannot like Scherer, content myself with being in the
right all alone. I must have a less solitary Christianity. My religious
needs are not satisfied any more than my social needs, or my needs of
affection. Generally I am able to forget them and lull them to sleep.
But at times they wake up with a sort of painful bitterness ... I waver
between languor and _ennui_, between frittering myself away on the
infinitely little, and longing after what is unknown and distant. It is
like the situation which French novelists are so fond of, the story of
a _vie de province_; only the province is all that is not the country
of the soul, every place where the heart feels itself strange,
dissatisfied, restless and thirsty. Alas! well understood, this place is
the earth, this country of one’s dreams is heaven, and this suffering is
the eternal homesickness, the thirst for happiness.

“_In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister_,” says Goethe. _Mâle
résignation_, this also is the motto of those who are masters of the
art of life; “manly,” that is to say, courageous, active, resolute,
persevering, “resignation,” that is to say, self-sacrifice,
renunciation, limitation. Energy in resignation, there lies the wisdom
of the sons of earth, the only serenity possible in this life of
struggle and of combat. In it is the peace of martyrdom, in it too the
promise of triumph.

April 28, 1852. (Lancy.) [Footnote: A village near Geneva.]--Once more I
feel the spring languor creeping over me, the spring air about me. This
morning the poetry of the scene, the song of the birds, the tranquil
sunlight, the breeze blowing over the fresh green fields, all rose into
and filled my heart. Now all is silent. O silence, thou art terrible!
terrible as that calm of the ocean which lets the eye penetrate the
fathomless abysses below. Thou showest us in ourselves depths which
make us giddy, inextinguishable needs, treasures of suffering. Welcome
tempests! at least they blur and trouble the surface of these waters
with their terrible secrets. Welcome the passion blasts which stir the
wares of the soul, and so veil from us its bottomless gulfs! In all of
us, children of dust, sons of time, eternity inspires an involuntary
anguish, and the infinite, a mysterious terror. We seem to be entering a
kingdom of the dead. Poor heart, thy craving is for life, for love, for
illusions! And thou art right after all, for life is sacred.

In these moments of _tête-à-tête_ with the infinite, how different life
looks! How all that usually occupies and excites us becomes suddenly
puerile, frivolous and vain. We seem to ourselves mere puppets,
marionettes, strutting seriously through a fantastic show, and mistaking
gewgaws for things of great price. At such moments, how everything
becomes transformed, how everything changes! Berkeley and Fichte seem
right, Emerson too; the world is but an allegory; the idea is more real
than the fact; fairy tales, legends, are as true as natural history, and
even more true, for they are emblems of greater transparency. The only
substance properly so called is the soul. What is all the rest? Mere
shadow, pretext, figure, symbol, or dream. Consciousness alone is
immortal, positive, perfectly real. The world is but a firework,
a sublime phantasmagoria, destined to cheer and form the soul.
Consciousness is a universe, and its sun is love....

Already I am falling back into the objective life of thought. It
delivers me from--shall I say? no, it deprives me of the intimate life
of feeling. Reflection solves reverie and burns her delicate wings. This
is why science does not make men, but merely entities and abstractions.
Ah, let us feel and live and beware of too much analysis! Let us put
spontaneity, _naïveté_, before reflection, experience before study; let
us make life itself our study. Shall I then never have the heart of a
woman to rest upon? a son in whom to live again, a little world where I
may see flowering and blooming all that is stifled in me? I shrink and
draw back, for fear of breaking my dream. I have staked so much on this
card that I dare not play it. Let me dream again....

Do no violence to yourself, respect in yourself the oscillations of
feeling. They are your life and your nature; One wiser than you ordained
them. Do not abandon yourself altogether either to instinct or to
will. Instinct is a siren, will a despot. Be neither the slave of your
impulses and sensations of the moment, nor of an abstract and general
plan; be open to what life brings from within and without, and welcome
the unforeseen; but give to your life unity, and bring the unforeseen
within the lines of your plan. Let what is natural in you raise itself
to the level of the spiritual, and let the spiritual become once more
natural. Thus will your development be harmonious, and the peace of
heaven will shine upon your brow; always on condition that your peace is
made, and that you have climbed your Calvary.

_Afternoon_--Shall I ever enjoy again those marvelous reveries of past
days, as, for instance, once, when I was still quite a youth, in the
early dawn, sitting among the ruins of the castle of Faucigny; another
time in the mountains above Lavey, under the midday sun, lying under a
tree and visited by three butterflies; and again another night on the
sandy shore of the North Sea, stretched full length upon the beach, my
eyes wandering over the Milky Way? Will they ever return to me, those
grandiose, immortal, cosmogonic dreams, in which one seems to carry
the world in one’s breast, to touch the stars, to possess the infinite?
Divine moments, hours of ecstasy, when thought flies from world to
world, penetrates the great enigma, breathes with a respiration large,
tranquil, and profound, like that of the ocean, and hovers serene and
boundless like the blue heaven! Visits from the muse, Urania, who traces
around the foreheads of those she loves the phosphorescent nimbus
of contemplative power, and who pours into their hearts the tranquil
intoxication, if not the authority of genius, moments of irresistible
intuition in which a man feels himself great like the universe and calm
like a god! From the celestial spheres down to the shell or the moss,
the whole of creation is then submitted to our gaze, lives in our
breast, and accomplishes in us its eternal work with the regularity of
destiny and the passionate ardor of love. What hours, what memories! The
traces which remain to us of them are enough to fill us with respect and
enthusiasm, as though they had been visits of the Holy Spirit. And then,
to fall back again from these heights with their boundless horizons into
the muddy ruts of triviality! what a fall! Poor Moses! Thou too sawest
undulating in the distance the ravishing hills of the promised land, and
it was thy fate nevertheless to lay thy weary bones in a grave dug in
the desert! Which of us has not his promised land, his day of ecstasy
and his death in exile? What a pale counterfeit is real life of the life
we see in glimpses, and how these flaming lightnings of our prophetic
youth make the twilight of our dull monotonous manhood more dark and

April 29 (Lancy).--This morning the air was calm, the sky slightly
veiled. I went out into the garden to see what progress the spring was
making. I strolled from the irises to the lilacs, round the flower-beds,
and in the shrubberies. Delightful surprise! at the corner of the walk,
half hidden under a thick clump of shrubs, a small leaved _chorchorus_
had flowered during the night. Gay and fresh as a bunch of bridal
flowers, the little shrub glittered before me in all the attraction
of its opening beauty. What springlike innocence, what soft and modest
loveliness, there was in these white corollas, opening gently to the
sun, like thoughts which smile upon us at waking, and perched upon
their young leaves of virginal green like bees upon the wing! Mother of
marvels, mysterious and tender nature, why do we not live more in thee?
The poetical _flâneurs_ of Töpffer, his Charles and Jules, the friends
and passionate lovers of thy secret graces, the dazzled and ravished
beholders of thy beauties, rose up in my memory, at once a reproach and
a lesson. A modest garden and a country rectory, the narrow horizon of
a garret, contain for those who know how to look and to wait more
instruction than a library, even than that of _Mon oncle_. [Footnote:
The allusions in this passage are to Töpffer’s best known books--“La
Presbytère” and “La Bibliothèque de mon Oncle,” that airy chronicle of a
hundred romantic or vivacious nothings which has the young student
Jules for its center.] Yes, we are too busy, too encumbered, too much
occupied, too active! We read too much! The one thing needful is to
throw off all one’s load of cares, of preoccupations, of pedantry, and
to become again young, simple, child-like, living happily and gratefully
in the present hour. We must know how to put occupation aside, which
does not mean that we must be idle. In an inaction which is meditative
and attentive the wrinkles of the soul are smoothed away, and the soul
itself spreads, unfolds, and springs afresh, and, like the trodden grass
of the roadside or the bruised leaf of a plant, repairs its injuries,
becomes new, spontaneous, true, and original. Reverie, like the rain of
night, restores color and force to thoughts which have been blanched and
wearied by the heat of the day. With gentle fertilizing power it awakens
within us a thousand sleeping germs, and as though in play, gathers
round us materials for the future, and images for the use of talent.
_Reverie is the Sunday of thought_; and who knows which is the more
important and fruitful for man, the laborious tension of the week, or
the life-giving repose of the Sabbath? The _flânerie_ so exquisitely
glorified and sung by Töpffer is not only delicious, but useful. It is
like a bath which gives vigor and suppleness to the whole being, to the
mind as to the body; it is the sign and festival of liberty, a joyous
and wholesome banquet, the banquet of the butterfly wandering from
flower to flower over the hills and in the fields. And remember, the
soul too is a butterfly.

May 2, 1852. (Sunday) Lancy.--This morning read the epistle of St.
James, the exegetical volume of Cellérier [Footnote: Jacob-Élysée
Cellérier, professor of theology at the Academy of Geneva, and son of
the pastor of Satigny mentioned in Madame de Staël’s “L’Allemagne.”]
on this epistle, and a great deal of Pascal, after having first of all
passed more than an hour in the garden with the children. I made them
closely examine the flowers, the shrubs, the grasshoppers, the snails,
in order to practice them in observation, in wonder, in kindness.

How enormously important are these first conversations of childhood!
I felt it this morning with a sort of religious terror. Innocence and
childhood are sacred. The sower who casts in the seed, the father or
mother casting in the fruitful word are accomplishing a pontifical act
and ought to perform it with religious awe, with prayer and gravity, for
they are laboring at the kingdom of God. All seed-sowing is a mysterious
thing, whether the seed fall into the earth or into souls. Man is a
husbandman; his whole work rightly understood is to develop life, to
sow it everywhere. Such is the mission of humanity, and of this divine
mission the great instrument is speech. We forget too often that
language is both a seed-sowing and a revelation. The influence of a word
in season, is it not incalculable? What a mystery is speech! But we are
blind to it, because we are carnal and earthy. We see the stones and the
trees by the road, the furniture of our houses, all that is palpable
and material. We have no eyes for the invisible phalanxes of ideas which
people the air and hover incessantly around each one of us.

Every life is a profession of faith, and exercises an inevitable and
silent propaganda. As far as lies in its power, it tends to transform
the universe and humanity into its own image. Thus we have all a cure
of souls. Every man is the center of perpetual radiation like a luminous
body; he is, as it were, a beacon which entices a ship upon the rocks
if it does not guide it into port. Every man is a priest, even
involuntarily; his conduct is an unspoken sermon, which is forever
preaching to others; but there are priests of Baal, of Moloch, and of
all the false gods. Such is the high importance of example. Thence comes
the terrible responsibility which weighs upon us all. An evil example is
a spiritual poison: it is the proclamation of a sacrilegious faith, of
an impure God. Sin would be only an evil for him who commits it, were
it not a crime toward the weak brethren, whom it corrupts. Therefore, it
has been said: “It were better for a man not to have been born than to
offend one of these little ones.”

May 6, 1852.--It is women who, like mountain flowers, mark with most
characteristic precision the gradation of social zones. The hierarchy of
classes is plainly visible among them; it is blurred in the other sex.
With women this hierarchy has the average regularity of nature; among
men we see it broken by the incalculable varieties of human freedom. The
reason is that the man on the whole, makes himself by his own activity,
and that the woman, is, on the whole, made by her situation; that
the one modifies and shapes circumstance by his own energy, while the
gentleness of the other is dominated by and reflects circumstance;
so that woman, so to speak, inclines to be species, and man to be

Thus, which is curious, women are at once the sex which is most constant
and most variable. Most constant from the moral point of view, most
variable from the social. A confraternity in the first case, a hierarchy
in the second. All degrees of culture and all conditions of society
are clearly marked in their outward appearance, their manners and their
tastes; but the inward fraternity is traceable in their feelings, their
instincts, and their desires. The feminine sex represents at the same
time natural and historical inequality; it maintains the unity of the
species and marks off the categories of society, it brings together and
divides, it gathers and separates, it makes castes and breaks through
them, according as it interprets its twofold _rôle_ in the one sense or
the other. At bottom, woman’s mission is essentially conservative,
but she is a conservative without discrimination. On the one side,
she maintains God’s work in man, all that is lasting, noble, and truly
human, in the race, poetry, religion, virtue, tenderness. On the other,
she maintains the results of circumstance, all that is passing, local,
and artificial in society; that is to say, customs, absurdities,
prejudices, littlenesses. She surrounds with the same respectful and
tenacious faith the serious and the frivolous, the good and the bad.
Well, what then? Isolate if you can, the fire from its smoke. It is
a divine law that you are tracing, and therefore good. The woman
preserves; she is tradition as the man is progress. And if there is no
family and no humanity without the two sexes, without these two forces
there is no history.

May 14, 1852. (Lancy.)--Yesterday I was full of the philosophy of joy,
of youth, of the spring, which smiles and the roses which intoxicate;
I preached the doctrine of strength, and I forgot that, tried and
afflicted like the two friends with whom I was walking, I should
probably have reasoned and felt as they did.

Our systems, it has been said, are the expression of our character, or
the theory of our situation, that is to say, we like to think of what
has been given as having been acquired, we take our nature for our own
work, and our lot in life for our own conquest, an illusion born of
vanity and also of the craving for liberty. We are unwilling to be the
product of circumstances, or the mere expansion of an inner germ. And
yet we have received everything, and the part which is really ours, is
small indeed, for it is mostly made up of negation, resistance, faults.
We receive everything, both life and happiness; but the _manner_ in
which we receive, this is what is still ours. Let us then, receive
trustfully without shame or anxiety. Let us humbly accept from God even
our own nature, and treat it charitably, firmly, intelligently. Not that
we are called upon to accept the evil and the disease in us, but let
us accept _ourselves_ in spite of the evil and the disease. And let us
never be afraid of innocent joy; God is good, and what He does is well
done; resign yourself to everything, even to happiness; ask for the
spirit of sacrifice, of detachment, of renunciation, and above all, for
the spirit of joy and gratitude, that genuine and religious optimism
which sees in God a father, and asks no pardon for His benefits. We must
dare to be happy, and dare to confess it, regarding ourselves always as
the depositaries, not as the authors of our own joy.

       *       *       *       *       *

... This evening I saw the first glow-worm of the season in the turf
beside the little winding road which descends from Lancy toward the
town. It was crawling furtively under the grass, like a timid thought or
a dawning talent.

June 17, 1852.--Every despotism has a specially keen and hostile
instinct for whatever keeps up human dignity, and independence. And it
is curious to see scientific and realist teaching used everywhere as
a means of stifling all freedom of investigation as addressed to moral
questions under a dead weight of facts. Materialism is the auxiliary
doctrine of every tyranny, whether of the one or of the masses. To crush
what is spiritual, moral, human so to speak, in man, by specializing
him; to form mere wheels of the great social machine, instead of perfect
individuals; to make society and not conscience the center of life, to
enslave the soul to things, to de-personalize man, this is the dominant
drift of our epoch. Everywhere you may see a tendency to substitute
the laws of dead matter (number, mass) for the laws of the moral nature
(persuasion, adhesion, faith) equality, the principle of mediocrity,
becoming a dogma; unity aimed at through uniformity; numbers doing
duty for argument; negative liberty, which has no law _in itself_, and
recognizes no limit except in force, everywhere taking the place of
positive liberty, which means action guided by an inner law and curbed
by a moral authority. Socialism _versus_ individualism: this is how
Vinet put the dilemma. I should say rather that it is only the eternal
antagonism between letter and spirit, between form and matter, between
the outward and the inward, appearance and reality, which is always
present in every conception and in all ideas.

Materialism coarsens and petrifies everything; makes everything
vulgar and every truth false. And there is a religious and political
materialism which spoils all that it touches, liberty, equality,
individuality. So that there are two ways of understanding democracy....

What is threatened to-day is moral liberty, conscience, respect for the
soul, the very nobility of man. To defend the soul, its interests, its
rights, its dignity, is the most pressing duty for whoever sees the
danger. What the writer, the teacher, the pastor, the philosopher, has
to do, is to defend humanity in man. Man! the true man, the ideal man!
Such should be their motto, their rallying cry. War to all that
debases, diminishes, hinders, and degrades him; protection for all
that fortifies, ennobles, and raises him. The test of every religious,
political, or educational system, is the man which it forms. If a system
injures the intelligence it is bad. If it injures the character it is
vicious. If it injures the conscience it is criminal.

August 12, 1852. (Lancy.)--Each sphere of being tends toward a higher
sphere, and has already revelations and presentiments of it. The ideal
under all its forms is the anticipation and the prophetic vision of that
existence, higher than his own, toward which every being perpetually
aspires. And this higher and more dignified existence is more inward in
character, that is to say, more spiritual. Just as volcanoes reveal to
us the secrets of the interior of the globe, so enthusiasm and ecstasy
are the passing explosions of this inner world of the soul; and human
life is but the preparation and the means of approach to this spiritual
life. The degrees of initiation are innumerable. Watch, then, disciple
of life, watch and labor toward the development of the angel within
thee! For the divine Odyssey is but a series of more and more ethereal
metamorphoses, in which each form, the result of what goes before, is
the condition of those which follow. The divine life is a series of
successive deaths, in which the mind throws off its imperfections and
its symbols, and yields to the growing attraction of the ineffable
center of gravitation, the sun of intelligence and love. Created spirits
in the accomplishment of their destinies tend, so to speak, to form
constellations and milky ways within the empyrean of the divinity;
in becoming gods, they surround the throne of the sovereign with a
sparkling court. In their greatness lies their homage. The divinity with
which they are invested is the noblest glory of God. God is the father
of spirits, and the constitution of the eternal kingdom rests on the
vassalship of love.

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

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

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

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

October 31, 1852. (Lancy.)--Walked for half an hour in the garden. A
fine rain was falling, and the landscape was that of autumn. The sky was
hung with various shades of gray, and mists hovered about the distant
mountains, a melancholy nature. The leaves were falling on all sides
like the last illusions of youth under the tears of irremediable
grief. A brood of chattering birds were chasing each other through the
Shrubberies, and playing games among the branches, like a knot of hiding
schoolboys. The ground strewn with leaves, brown, yellow, and reddish;
the trees half-stripped, some more, some less, and decked in ragged
splendors of dark-red, scarlet, and yellow; the reddening shrubs and
plantations; a few flowers still lingering behind, roses, nasturtiums,
dahlias, shedding their petals round them; the bare fields, the thinned
hedges; and the fir, the only green thing left, vigorous and stoical,
like eternal youth braving decay; all these innumerable and marvelous
symbols which forms colors, plants, and living beings, the earth and the
sky, yield at all times to the eye which has learned to look for them,
charmed and enthralled me. I wielded a poetic wand, and had but to touch
a phenomenon to make it render up to me its moral significance. Every
landscape is, as it were, a state of the soul, and whoever penetrates
into both is astonished to find how much likeness there is in each
detail. True poetry is truer than science, because it is synthetic, and
seizes at once what the combination of all the sciences is able at most
to attain as a final result. The soul of nature is divined by the
poet; the man of science, only serves to accumulate materials for its

November 6, 1852.--I am capable of all the passions, for I bear them all
within me. Like a tamer of wild beasts, I keep them caged and lassoed,
but I sometimes hear them growling. I have stifled more than one nascent
love. Why? Because with that prophetic certainty which belongs to moral
intuition, I felt it lacking in true life, and less durable than myself.
I choked it down in the name of the supreme affection to come. The loves
of sense, of imagination, of sentiment, I have seen through and rejected
them all; I sought the love which springs from the central profundities
of being. And I still believe in it. I will have none of those passions
of straw which dazzle, burn up, and wither; I invoke, I await, and I
hope for the love which is great, pure and earnest, which lives and
works in all the fibres and through all the powers of the soul. And even
if I go lonely to the end, I would rather my hope and my dream died with
me, than that my soul should content itself with any meaner union.

November 8, 1852.--Responsibility is my invisible nightmare. To suffer
through one’s own fault is a torment worthy of the lost, for so grief is
envenomed by ridicule, and the worst ridicule of all, that which springs
from shame of one’s self. I have only force and energy wherewith to
meet evils coming from outside; but an irreparable evil brought about
by myself, a renunciation for life of my liberty, my peace of mind,
the very thought of it is maddening--I expiate my privilege indeed. My
privilege is to be spectator of my life drama, to be fully conscious of
the tragi-comedy of my own destiny, and, more than that, to be in the
secret of the tragi-comic itself, that is to say, to be unable to take
my illusions seriously, to see myself, so to speak, from the theater
on the stage, or to be like a man looking from beyond the tomb into
existence. I feel myself forced to feign a particular interest in my
individual part, while all the time I am living in the confidence of the
poet who is playing with all these agents which seem so important, and
knows all that they are ignorant of. It is a strange position, and one
which becomes painful as soon as grief obliges me to betake myself once
more to my own little _rôle_, binding me closely to it, and warning me
that I am going too far in imagining myself, because of my conversations
with the poet, dispensed from taking up again my modest part of valet
in the piece. Shakespeare must have experienced this feeling often, and
Hamlet, I think, must express it somewhere. It is a _Doppelgängerei_,
quite German in character, and which explains the disgust with reality
and the repugnance to public life, so common among the thinkers of
Germany. There is, as it were, a degradation a gnostic fall, in thus
folding one’s wings and going back again into the vulgar shell of
one’s own individuality. Without grief, which is the string of this
venturesome kite, man would soar too quickly and too high, and the
chosen souls would be lost for the race, like balloons which, save for
gravitation, would never return from the empyrean.

How, then, is one to recover courage enough for action? By striving to
restore in one’s self something of that unconsciousness, spontaneity,
instinct, which reconciles us to earth and makes man useful and
relatively happy.

By believing more practically in the providence which pardons and allows
of reparation.

By accepting our human condition in a more simple and childlike spirit,
fearing trouble less, calculating less, hoping more. For we decrease our
responsibility, if we decrease our clearness of vision, and fear lessens
with the lessening of responsibility.

By extracting a richer experience out of our losses and lessons.

November 9, 1852.--A few pages of the _Chrestomathie Française_ and
Vinet’s remarkable letter at the head of the volume, have given me one
or two delightful hours. As a thinker, as a Christian, and as a man,
Vinet occupies a typical place. His philosophy, his theology, his
esthetics, in short, his work, will be, or has been already surpassed
at all points. His was a great soul and a fine talent. But neither were
well enough served by circumstances. We see in him a personality
worthy of all veneration, a man of singular goodness and a writer
of distinction, but not quite a great man, nor yet a great writer.
Profundity and purity, these are what he possesses in a high degree, but
not greatness, properly speaking. For that, he is a little too subtle
and analytical, too ingenious and fine-spun; his thought is overladen
with detail, and has not enough flow, eloquence, imagination, warmth,
and largeness. Essentially and constantly meditative, he has not
strength enough left to deal with what is outside him. The
casuistries of conscience and of language, eternal self-suspicion, and
self-examination, his talent lies in these things, and is limited by
them. Vinet wants passion, abundance, _entraînement_, and therefore
popularity. The individualism which is his title to glory is also the
cause of his weakness.

We find in him always the solitary and the ascetic. His thought is, as
it were, perpetually at church; it is perpetually devising trials
and penances for itself. Hence the air of scruple and anxiety which
characterizes it even in its bolder flights. Moral energy, balanced by a
disquieting delicacy of fibre; a fine organization marred, so to speak,
by low health, such is the impression it makes upon us. Is it
reproach or praise to say of Vinet’s mind that it seems to one a force
perpetually reacting upon itself? A warmer and more self-forgetful
manner; more muscles, as it were, around the nerves, more circles of
intellectual and historical life around the individual circle, these are
what Vinet, of all writers perhaps the one who makes us _think_ most, is
still lacking in. Less _reflexivity_ and more plasticity, the eye more
on the object, would raise the style of Vinet, so rich in substance, so
nervous, so full of ideas, and variety, into a grand style. Vinet,
to sum up, is conscience personified, as man and as writer. Happy the
literature and the society which is able to count at one time two or
three like him, if not equal to him!

November 10, 1852.--How much have we not to learn from the Greeks,
those immortal ancestors of ours! And how much better they solved their
problem than we have solved ours. Their ideal man is not ours, but they
understood infinitely better than we how to reverence, cultivate and
ennoble the man whom they knew. In a thousand respects we are still
barbarians beside them, as Béranger said to me with a sigh in 1843:
barbarians in education, in eloquence, in public life, in poetry, in
matters of art, etc. We must have millions of men in order to produce a
few elect spirits: a thousand was enough in Greece. If the measure of a
civilization is to be the number of perfected men that it produces, we
are still far from this model people. The slaves are no longer below us,
but they are among us. Barbarism is no longer at our frontiers; it lives
side by side with us. We carry within us much greater things than
they, but we ourselves are smaller. It is a strange result. Objective
civilization produced great men while making no conscious effort
toward such a result; subjective civilization produces a miserable and
imperfect race, contrary to its mission and its earnest desire. The
world grows more majestic but man diminishes. Why is this?

We have too much barbarian blood in our veins, and we lack measure,
harmony and grace. Christianity, in breaking man up into outer
and inner, the world into earth and heaven, hell and paradise, has
decomposed the human unity, in order, it is true, to reconstruct it more
profoundly and more truly. But Christianity has not yet digested this
powerful leaven. She has not yet conquered the true humanity; she is
still living under the antimony of sin and grace, of here below and
there above. She has not penetrated into the whole heart of Jesus. She
is still in the _narthex_ of penitence; she is not reconciled, and even
the churches still wear the livery of service, and have none of the joy
of the daughters of God, baptized of the Holy Spirit.

Then, again, there is our excessive division of labor; our bad and
foolish education which does not develop the whole man; and the problem
of poverty. We have abolished slavery, but without having solved the
question of labor. In law there are no more slaves, in fact, there are
many. And while the majority of men are not free, the free man, in the
true sense of the term can neither be conceived nor realized. Here are
enough causes for our inferiority.

November 12, 1852.--St. Martin’s summer is still lingering, and the days
all begin in mist. I ran for a quarter of an hour round the garden to
get some warmth and suppleness. Nothing could be lovelier than the last
rosebuds, or than the delicate gaufred edges of the strawberry leaves
embroidered with hoar-frost, while above them Arachne’s delicate webs
hung swaying in the green branches of the pines, little ball-rooms
for the fairies carpeted with powdered pearls and kept in place by a
thousand dewy strands hanging from above like the chains of a lamp and
supporting them from below like the anchors of a vessel. These little
airy edifices had all the fantastic lightness of the elf-world and all
the vaporous freshness of dawn. They recalled to me the poetry of the
north, wafting to me a breath from Caledonia or Iceland or Sweden,
Frithiof and the Edda, Ossian and the Hebrides. All that world of cold
and mist, of genius and of reverie, where warmth comes not from the sun
but from the heart where man is more noticeable than nature--that chaste
and vigorous world in which will plays a greater part than sensation and
thought has more power than instinct--in short the whole romantic cycle
of German and northern poetry, awoke little by little in my memory and
laid claim upon my sympathy. It is a poetry of bracing quality, and acts
upon one like a moral tonic. Strange charm of imagination! A twig of
pine wood and a few spider-webs are enough to make countries, epochs,
and nations live again before her.

December 26, 1852. (Sunday.)--If I reject many portions of our theology
and of our church system, it is that I may the better reach the Christ
himself. My philosophy allows me this. It does not state the dilemma
as one of religion or philosophy, but as one of religion accepted or
experienced, understood or not understood. For me philosophy is a manner
of apprehending things, a mode of perception of reality. It does not
create nature, man or God, but it finds them and seeks to understand
them. Philosophy is consciousness taking account of itself with all
that it contains. Now consciousness may contain a new life--the facts of
regeneration and of salvation, that is to say, Christian experience.
The understanding of the Christian consciousness is an integral part
of philosophy, as the Christian consciousness is a leading form of
religious consciousness, and religious consciousness an essential form
of consciousness.

       *       *       *       *       *

An error is the more dangerous in proportion to the degree of truth
which it contains.

Look twice, if what you want is a just conception; look once, if what
you want is a sense of beauty.

       *       *       *       *       *

A man only understands what is akin to something already existing in

       *       *       *       *       *

Common sense is the measure of the possible; it is composed of
experience and prevision; it is calculation applied to life.

       *       *       *       *       *

The wealth of each mind is proportioned to the number and to the
precision of its categories and its points of view.

       *       *       *       *       *

To feel himself freer than his neighbor is the reward of the critic.

Modesty (_pudeur_) is always the sign and safeguard of a mystery. It is
explained by its contrary--profanation. Shyness or modesty is, in
truth, the half-conscious sense of a secret of nature or of the soul too
intimately individual to be given or surrendered. It is _exchanged_.
To surrender what is most profound and mysterious in one’s being and
personality at any price less than that of absolute reciprocity is

January 6, 1853.--Self-government with tenderness--here you have the
condition of all authority over children. The child must discover in us
no passion, no weakness of which he can make use; he must feel himself
powerless to deceive or to trouble us; then he will recognize in us his
natural superiors, and he will attach a special value to our kindness,
because he will respect it. The child who can rouse in us anger, or
impatience, or excitement, feels himself stronger than we, and a child
only respects strength. The mother should consider herself as her
child’s sun, a changeless and ever radiant world, whither the small
restless creature, quick at tears and laughter, light, fickle,
passionate, full of storms, may come for fresh stores of light, warmth,
and electricity, of calm and of courage. The mother represents goodness,
providence, law; that is to say, the divinity, under that form of it
which is accessible to childhood. If she is herself passionate, she will
inculcate on her child a capricious and despotic God, or even several
discordant gods. The religion of a child depends on what its mother
and its father are, and not on what they say. The inner and unconscious
ideal which guides their life is precisely what touches the child; their
words, their remonstrances, their punishments, their bursts of feeling
even, are for him merely thunder and comedy; what they worship, this it
is which his instinct divines and reflects.

The child sees what we are, behind what we wish to be. Hence his
reputation as a physiognomist. He extends his power as far as he can
with each of us; he is the most subtle of diplomatists. Unconsciously
he passes under the influence of each person about him, and reflects it
while transforming it after his own nature. He is a magnifying mirror.
This is why the first principle of education is: train yourself; and the
first rule to follow if you wish to possess yourself of a child’s will
is: master your own.

February 5, 1853 (seven o’clock in the morning).--I am always astonished
at the difference between one’s inward mood of the evening and that
of the morning. The passions which are dominant in the evening, in the
morning leave the field free for the contemplative part of the soul. Our
whole being, irritated and overstrung by the nervous excitement of
the day, arrives in the evening at the culminating point of its human
vitality; the same being, tranquilized by the calm of sleep, is in the
morning nearer heaven. We should weigh a resolution in the two balances,
and examine an idea under the two lights, if we wish to minimize the
chances of error by taking the average of our daily oscillations. Our
inner life describes regular curves, barometical curves, as it were,
independent of the accidental disturbances which the storms of sentiment
and passion may raise in us. Every soul has its climate, or rather, is
a climate; it has, so to speak, its own meteorology in the general
meteorology of the soul. Psychology, therefore, cannot be complete so
long as the physiology of our planet is itself incomplete--that science
to which we give nowadays the insufficient name of physics of the globe.

I became conscious this morning that what appears to us impossible is
often an impossibility altogether subjective. Our mind, under the
action of the passions, produces by a strange mirage gigantic obstacles,
mountains or abysses, which stop us short. Breathe upon the passion and
the phantasmagoria will vanish. This power of mirage, by which we are
able to delude and fascinate ourselves, is a moral phenomenon worthy
of attentive study. We make for ourselves, in truth, our own spiritual
world monsters, chimeras, angels, we make objective what ferments in us.
All is marvelous for the poet; all is divine for the saint; all is great
for the hero; all is wretched, miserable, ugly, and bad for the base and
sordid soul. The bad man creates around him a pandemonium, the artist,
an Olympus, the elect soul, a paradise, which each of them sees for
himself alone. We are all visionaries, and what we see is our soul in
things. We reward ourselves and punish ourselves without knowing it, so
that all appears to change when we change.

The soul is essentially active, and the activity of which we are
conscious is but a part of our activity, and voluntary activity is but
a part of our conscious activity. Here we have the basis of a whole
psychology and system of morals. Man reproducing the world, surrounding
himself with a nature which is the objective rendering of his spiritual
nature, rewarding and punishing himself; the universe identical with
the divine nature, and the nature of the perfect spirit only becoming
understood according to the measure of our perfection; intuition the
recompense of inward purity; science as the result of goodness; in
short, a new phenomenology more complete and more moral, in which the
total soul of things becomes spirit. This shall perhaps be my subject
for my summer lectures. How much is contained in it! the whole domain
of inner education, all that is mysterious in our life, the relation of
nature to spirit, of God and all other beings to man, the repetition
in miniature of the cosmogony, mythology, theology, and history of the
universe, the evolution of mind, in a word the problem of problems
into which I have often plunged but from which finite things, details,
minutiae, have turned me back a thousand times. I return to the brink of
the great abyss with the clear perception that here lies the problem
of science, that to sound it is a duty, that God hides Himself only
in light and love, that He calls upon us to become spirits, to possess
ourselves and to possess Him in the measure of our strength and that it
is our incredulity, our spiritual cowardice, which is our infirmity and

Dante, gazing into the three worlds with their divers heavens, saw under
the form of an image what I would fain seize under a purer form. But he
was a poet, and I shall only be a philosopher. The poet makes himself
understood by human generations and by the crowd; the philosopher
addresses himself only to a few rare minds. The day has broken.
It brings with it dispersion of thought in action. I feel myself
de-magnetized, pure clairvoyance gives place to study, and the ethereal
depth of the heaven of contemplation vanishes before the glitter of
finite things. Is it to be regretted? No. But it proves that the hours
most apt for philosophical thought are those which precede the dawn.

February 10, 1853.--This afternoon I made an excursion to the Salève
with my particular friends, Charles Heim, Edmond Scherer, Élie
Lecoultre, and Ernest Naville. The conversation was of the most
interesting kind, and prevented us from noticing the deep mud which
hindered our walking. It was especially Scherer, Naville, and I who kept
it alive. Liberty in God, the essence of Christianity, new publications
in philosophy, these were our three subjects of conversation. The
principle result for me was an excellent exercise in dialectic and in
argumentation with solid champions. If I learned nothing, many of my
ideas gained new confirmation, and I was able to penetrate more deeply
into the minds of my friends. I am much nearer to Scherer than to
Naville, but from him also I am in some degree separated.

It is a striking fact, not unlike the changing of swords in “Hamlet,”
 that the abstract minds, those which move from ideas to facts, are
always fighting on behalf of concrete reality; while the concrete minds,
which move from facts to ideas, are generally the champions of abstract
notions. Each pretends to that over which he has least power; each aims
instinctively at what he himself lacks. It is an unconscious protest
against the incompleteness of each separate nature. We all tend toward
that which we possess least of, and our point of arrival is essentially
different from our point of departure. The promised land is the land
where one is not. The most intellectual of natures adopts an ethical
theory of mind; the most moral of natures has an intellectual theory
of morals. This reflection was brought home to me in the course of our
three or four hours’ discussion. Nothing is more hidden from us than the
illusion which lives with us day by day, and our greatest illusion is to
believe that we are what we think ourselves to be.

The mathematical intelligence and the historical intelligence (the two
classes of intelligences) can never understand each other. When they
succeed in doing so as to words, they differ as to the things which the
words mean. At the bottom of every discussion of detail between them
reappears the problem of the origin of ideas. If the problem is not
present to them, there is confusion; if it is present to them, there is
separation. They only agree as to the goal--truth; but never as to the
road, the method, and the criterion.

Heim represented the impartiality of consciousness, Naville the morality
of consciousness, Lecoultre the religion of consciousness, Scherer the
intelligence of consciousness, and I the consciousness of consciousness.
A common ground, but differing individualities. _Discrimen ingeniorum_.

What charmed me most in this long discussion was the sense of mental
freedom which it awakened in me. To be able to set in motion the
greatest subjects of thought without any sense of fatigue, to be greater
than the world, to play with one’s strength, this is what makes the
well-being of intelligence, the Olympic festival of thought. _Habere,
non haberi_. There is an equal happiness in the sense of reciprocal
confidence, of friendship, and esteem in the midst of conflict; like
athletes, we embrace each other before and after the combat, and the
combat is but a deploying of the forces of free and equal men.

March 20, 1853.--I sat up alone; two or three times I paid a visit to
the children’s room. It seemed to me, young mothers, that I understood
you! sleep is the mystery of life; there is a profound charm in this
darkness broken by the tranquil light of the night-lamp, and in this
silence measured by the rhythmic breathings of two young sleeping
creatures. It was brought home to me that I was looking on at a
marvelous operation of nature, and I watched it in no profane spirit. I
sat silently listening, a moved and hushed spectator of this poetry of
the cradle, this ancient and ever new benediction of the family, this
symbol of creation, sleeping under the wing of God, of our consciousness
withdrawing into the shade that it may rest from the burden of thought,
and of the tomb, that divine bed, where the soul in its turn rests from
life. To sleep is to strain and purify our emotions, to deposit the
mud of life, to calm the fever of the soul, to return into the bosom of
maternal nature, thence to re-issue, healed and strong. Sleep is a sort
of innocence and purification. Blessed be He who gave it to the poor
sons of men as the sure and faithful companion of life, our daily healer
and consoler.

April 27, 1853.--This evening I read the treatise by Nicole so much
admired by Mme. de Sévigné: “_Des moyens de conserver la paix avec les
hommes._” Wisdom so gentle and so insinuating, so shrewd, piercing, and
yet humble, which divines so well the hidden thoughts and secrets of the
heart, and brings them all into the sacred bondage of love to God and
man, how good and delightful a thing it is! Everything in it is smooth,
even well put together, well thought out, but no display, no tinsel,
no worldly ornaments of style. The moralist forgets himself and in us
appeals only to the conscience. He becomes a confessor, a friend, a

May 11, 1853.--Psychology, poetry, philosophy, history, and science,
I have swept rapidly to-day on the wings of the invisible hippogriff
through all these spheres of thought. But the general impression has
been one of tumult and anguish, temptation and disquiet.

I love to plunge deep into the ocean of life; but it is not without
losing sometimes all sense of the axis and the pole, without losing
myself and feeling the consciousness of my own nature and vocation
growing faint and wavering. The whirlwind of the wandering Jew carries
me away, tears me from my little familiar enclosure, and makes me behold
all the empires of men. In my voluntary abandonment to the generality,
the universal, the infinite, my particular _ego_ evaporates like a drop
of water in a furnace; it only condenses itself anew at the return
of cold, after enthusiasm has died out and the sense of reality has
returned. Alternate expansion and condensation, abandonment and recovery
of self, the conquest of the world to be pursued on the one side, the
deepening of consciousness on the other--such is the play of the inner
life, the march of the microcosmic mind, the marriage of the individual
soul with the universal soul, the finite with the infinite, whence
springs the intellectual progress of man. Other betrothals unite the
soul to God, the religious consciousness with the divine; these belong
to the history of the will. And what precedes will is feeling, preceded
itself by instinct. Man is only what he becomes--profound truth; but he
becomes only what he is, truth still more profound. What am I? Terrible
question! Problem of predestination, of birth, of liberty, there lies
the abyss. And yet one must plunge into it, and I have done so. The
prelude of Bach I heard this evening predisposed me to it; it paints
the soul tormented and appealing and finally seizing upon God, and
possessing itself of peace and the infinite with an all-prevailing
fervor and passion.

May 14, 1853.--Third quartet concert. It was short. Variations for piano
and violin by Beethoven, and two quartets, not more. The quartets were
perfectly clear and easy to understand. One was by Mozart and the
other by Beethoven, so that I could compare the two masters. Their
individuality seemed to become plain to me: Mozart--grace, liberty,
certainty, freedom, and precision of style, and exquisite and
aristocratic beauty, serenity of soul, the health and talent of the
master, both on a level with his genius; Beethoven--more pathetic, more
passionate, more torn with feeling, more intricate, more profound, less
perfect, more the slave of his genius, more carried away by his fancy or
his passion, more moving, and more sublime than Mozart. Mozart refreshes
you, like the “Dialogues” of Plato; he respects you, reveals to you your
strength, gives you freedom and balance. Beethoven seizes upon you; he
is more tragic and oratorical, while Mozart is more disinterested and
poetical. Mozart is more Greek, and Beethoven more Christian. One is
serene, the other serious. The first is stronger than destiny, because
he takes life less profoundly; the second is less strong, because he
has dared to measure himself against deeper sorrows. His talent is
not always equal to his genius, and pathos is his dominant feature,
as perfection is that of Mozart. In Mozart the balance of the whole is
perfect, and art triumphs; in Beethoven feeling governs everything and
emotion troubles his art in proportion as it deepens it.

July 26, 1853.--Why do I find it easier and more satisfactory, as a
writer of verse, to compose in the short metres than in the long and
serious ones? Why, in general, am I better fitted for what is difficult
than for what is easy? Always for the same reason. I cannot bring myself
to move freely, to show myself without a veil, to act on my own account
and act seriously, to believe in and assert myself, whereas a piece of
badinage which diverts attention from myself to the thing in hand,
from the feeling to the skill of the writer, puts me at my ease. It is
timidity which is at the bottom of it. There is another reason, too--I
am afraid of greatness, I am not afraid of ingenuity, and distrustful as
I am both of my gift and my instrument, I like to reassure myself by
an elaborate practice of execution. All my published literary essays,
therefore, are little else than studies, games, exercises for the
purpose of testing myself. I play scales, as it were; I run up and down
my instrument, I train my hand and make sure of its capacity and skill.
But the work itself remains unachieved. My effort expires, and satisfied
with the _power_ to act I never arrive at the will to act. I am always
preparing and never accomplishing, and my energy is swallowed up in a
kind of barren curiosity. Timidity, then, and curiosity--these are
the two obstacles which bar against me a literary career. Nor must
procrastination be forgotten. I am always reserving for the future what
is great, serious, and important, and meanwhile, I am eager to exhaust
what is pretty and trifling. Sure of my devotion to things that are vast
and profound, I am always lingering in their contraries lest I should
neglect them. Serious at bottom, I am frivolous in appearance. A
lover of thought, I seem to care above all, for expression; I keep the
substance for myself, and reserve the form for others. So that the net
result of my timidity is that I never treat the public seriously,
and that I only show myself to it in what is amusing, enigmatical, or
capricious; the result of my curiosity is that everything tempts me,
the shell as well as the mountain, and that I lose myself in endless
research; while the habit of procrastination keeps me forever at
preliminaries and antecedents, and production itself is never even

But if that is the fact, the fact might be different. I understand
myself, but I do not approve myself.

August 1, 1853.--I have just finished Pelletan’s book, “Profession de
foi du dix-neuvième Siècle.” It is a fine book Only one thing is wanting
to it--the idea of evil. It is a kind of supplement to the theory of
Condorcet--indefinite perfectibility, man essentially good, _life_,
which is a physiological notion, dominating virtue, duty, and holiness,
in short, a non-ethical conception of history, liberty identified with
nature, the natural man taken for the whole man. The aspirations which
such a book represents are generous and poetical, but in the first place
dangerous, since they lead to an absolute confidence in instinct; and
in the second, credulous and unpractical, for they set before us a mere
dream man, and throw a veil over both present and past reality. The book
is at once the plea justificatory of progress, conceived as fatal and
irresistible, and an enthusiastic hymn to the triumph of humanity. It is
earnest, but morally superficial; poetical, but fanciful and untrue. It
confounds the progress of the race with the progress of the individual,
the progress of civilization with the advance of the inner life. Why?
Because its criterion is quantitative, that is to say, purely exterior
(having regard to the wealth of life), and not qualitative (the goodness
of life). Always the same tendency to take the appearance for the thing,
the form for the substance, the law for the essence, always the same
absence of moral personality, the same obtuseness of conscience, which
has never recognized sin present in the will, which places evil outside
of man, moralizes from outside, and transforms to its own liking
the whole lesson of history! What is at fault is the philosophic
superficiality of France, which she owes to her fatal notion of
religion, itself due to a life fashioned by Catholicism and by absolute

Catholic thought cannot conceive of personality as supreme and conscious
of itself. Its boldness and its weakness come from one and the same
cause--from an absence of the sense of responsibility, from that vassal
state of conscience which knows only slavery or anarchy, which proclaims
but does not obey the law, because the law is outside it, not within it.
Another illusion is that of Quinet and Michelet, who imagine it possible
to come out of Catholicism without entering into any other positive form
of religion, and whose idea is to fight Catholicism by philosophy, a
philosophy which is, after all, Catholic at bottom, since it springs
from anti-Catholic reaction. The mind and the conscience, which have
been formed by Catholicism, are powerless to rise to any other form of
religion. From Catholicism, as from Epicureanism there is no return.

October 11, 1853.--My third day at Turin, is now over. I have been able
to penetrate farther than ever before into the special genius of this
town and people. I have felt it live, have realized it little by little,
as my intuition became more distinct. That is what I care for most: to
seize the soul of things, the soul of a nation; to live the objective
life, the life outside self; to find my way into a new moral country. I
long to assume the citizenship of this unknown world, to enrich myself
with this fresh form of existence, to feel it from within, to link
myself to it, and to reproduce it sympathetically; this is the end and
the reward of my efforts. To-day the problem grew clear to me as I stood
on the terrace of the military hospital, in full view of the Alps, the
weather fresh and clear in spite of a stormy sky. Such an intuition
after all is nothing out a synthesis wrought by instinct, a synthesis
to which everything--streets, houses, landscape, accent, dialect,
physiognomies, history, and habits contribute their share. I might call
it the ideal integration of a people or its reduction to the generating
point, or an entering into its consciousness. This generating point
explains everything else, art, religion, history, politics, manners;
and without it nothing can be explained. The ancients realized
their consciousness in the national God. Modern nationalities, more
complicated and less artistic, are more difficult to decipher. What
one seeks for in them is the daemon, the fatum, the inner genius, the
mission, the primitive disposition, both what there is desire for and
what there is power for, the force in them and its limitations.

A pure and life-giving freshness of thought and of the spiritual life
seemed to play about me, borne on the breeze descending from the Alps.
I breathed an atmosphere of spiritual freedom, and I hailed with emotion
and rapture the mountains whence was wafted to me this feeling of
strength and purity. A thousand sensations, thoughts, and analogies
crowded upon me. History, too, the history of the sub-Alpine countries,
from the Ligurians to Hannibal, from Hannibal to Charlemagne, from
Charlemagne to Napoleon, passed through my mind. All the possible
points of view, were, so to speak, piled upon each other, and one caught
glimpses of some eccentrically across others. I was enjoying and I was
learning. Sight passed into vision without a trace of hallucination, and
the landscape was my guide, my Virgil.

All this made me very sensible of the difference between me and the
majority of travelers, all of whom have a special object, and content
themselves with one thing or with several, while I desire all or
nothing, and am forever straining toward the total, whether of all
possible objects, or of all the elements present in the reality. In
other words, what I desire is the sum of all desires, and what I seek
to know is the sum of all different kinds of knowledge. Always the
complete, the absolute; the _teres atque rotundum_, sphericity,

October 27, 1853.--I thank Thee, my God, for the hour that I have just
passed in Thy presence. Thy will was clear to me; I measured my faults,
counted my griefs, and felt Thy goodness toward me. I realized my own
nothingness, Thou gavest me Thy peace. In bitterness there is sweetness;
in affliction, joy; in submission, strength; in the God who punishes,
the God who loves. To lose one’s life that one may gain it, to offer it
that one may receive it, to possess nothing that one may conquer all, to
renounce self that God may give Himself to us, how impossible a problem,
and how sublime a reality! No one truly knows happiness who has not
suffered, and the redeemed are happier than the elect.

(Same day.)--The divine miracle _par excellence_ consists surely in the
apotheosis of grief, the transfiguration of evil by good. The work of
creation finds its consummation, and the eternal will of the infinite
mercy finds its fulfillment only in the restoration of the free creature
to God and of an evil world to goodness, through love. Every soul in
which conversion has taken place is a symbol of the history of the
world. To be happy, to possess eternal life, to be in God, to be saved,
all these are the same. All alike mean the solution of the problem,
the aim of existence. And happiness is cumulative, as misery may be.
An eternal growth is an unchangeable peace, an ever profounder depth of
apprehension, a possession constantly more intense and more spiritual of
the joy of heaven--this is happiness. Happiness has no limits, because
God has neither bottom nor bounds, and because happiness is nothing but
the conquest of God through love.

The center of life is neither in thought nor in feeling, nor in will,
nor even in consciousness, so far as it thinks, feels, or wishes. For
moral truth may have been penetrated and possessed in all these ways,
and escape us still. Deeper even than consciousness there is our being
itself, our very substance, our nature. Only those truths which have
entered into this last region, which have become ourselves, become
spontaneous and involuntary, instinctive and unconscious, are really our
life--that is to say something more than our property. So long as we
are able to distinguish any space whatever between the truth and us
we remain outside it. The thought, the feeling, the desire, the
consciousness of life, are not yet quite life. But peace and repose can
nowhere be found except in life, and in eternal life and the eternal
life is the divine life, is God. To become divine is then the aim of
life: then only can truth be said to be ours beyond the possibility of
loss, because it is no longer outside us, nor even in us, but we are it,
and it is we; we ourselves are a truth, a will, a work of God. Liberty
has become nature; the creature is one with its creator--one through
love. It is what it ought to be; its education is finished, and its
final happiness begins. The sun of time declines and the light of
eternal blessedness arises.

Our fleshly hearts may call this mysticism. It is the mysticism of
Jesus: “I am one with my Father; ye shall be one with me. We will be one
with you.”

Do not despise your situation; in it you must act, suffer, and conquer.
From every point on earth we are equally near to heaven and to the

There are two states or conditions of pride. The first is one of
self-approval, the second one of self-contempt. Pride is seen probably
at its purest in the last.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe,
by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that
we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.

       *       *       *       *       *

February 1, 1854.--A walk. The atmosphere incredibly pure, a warm
caressing gentleness in the sunshine--joy in one’s whole being. Seated
motionless upon a bench on the Tranchées, beside the slopes clothed with
moss and tapestried with green, I passed some intense delicious moments,
allowing great elastic waves of music, wafted to me from a military band
on the terrace of St. Antoine, to surge and bound through me. Every way
I was happy, as idler, as painter, as poet. Forgotten impressions of
childhood and youth came back to me--all those indescribable effects
wrought by color, shadow, sunlight, green hedges, and songs of birds,
upon the soul just opening to poetry. I became again young, wondering,
and simple, as candor and ignorance are simple. I abandoned myself to
life and to nature, and they cradled me with an infinite gentleness.
To open one’s heart in purity to this ever pure nature, to allow this
immortal life of things to penetrate into one’s soul, is at the same
time to listen to the voice of God. Sensation may be a prayer, and
self-abandonment an act of devotion.

February 18, 1854.--Everything tends to become fixed, solidified, and
crystallized in this French tongue of ours, which seeks form and not
substance, the result and not its formation, what is seen rather than
what is thought, the outside rather than the inside.

We like the accomplished end and not the pursuit of the end, the goal
and not the road, in short, ideas ready-made and bread ready-baked,
the reverse of Lessing’s principle. What we look for above all are
conclusions. This clearness of the “ready-made” is a superficial
clearness--physical, outward, solar clearness, so to speak, but in the
absence of a sense for origin and genesis it is the clearness of
the incomprehensible, the clearness of opacity, the clearness of
the obscure. We are always trifling on the surface. Our temper is
formal--that is to say, frivolous and material, or rather artistic and
not philosophical. For what it seeks is the figure, the fashion and
manner of things, not their deepest life, their soul, their secret.

March 16, 1854. (From Veevay to Geneva.)--What message had this lake for
me, with its sad serenity, its soft and even tranquility, in which
was mirrored the cold monotonous pallor of mountains and clouds? That
disenchanted disillusioned life may still be traversed by duty, lit by a
memory of heaven. I was visited by a clear and profound intuition of the
flight of things, of the fatality of all life, of the melancholy which
is below the surface of all existence, but also of that deepest depth
which subsists forever beneath the fleeting wave.

December 17, 1854.--When we are doing nothing in particular, it is then
that we are living through all our being; and when we cease to add to
our growth it is only that we may ripen and possess ourselves. Will is
suspended, but nature and time are always active and if our life is no
longer our work, the work goes on none the less. With us, without us, or
in spite of us, our existence travels through its appointed phases, our
invisible Psyche weaves the silk of its chrysalis, our destiny fulfills
itself, and all the hours of life work together toward that flowering
time which we call death. This activity, then, is inevitable and fatal;
sleep and idleness do not interrupt it, but it may become free and
moral, a joy instead of a terror.

Nothing is more characteristic of a man than the manner in which he
behaves toward fools.

It costs us a great deal of trouble not to be of the same opinion as our
self-love, and not to be ready to believe in the good taste of those who
believe in our merits.

Does not true humility consist in accepting one’s infirmity as a
trial, and one’s evil disposition as a cross, in sacrificing all one’s
pretensions and ambitions, even those of conscience? True humility is

       *       *       *       *       *

A man only understands that of which he has already the beginnings in

Let us be true: this is the highest maxim of art and of life, the secret
of eloquence and of virtue, and of all moral authority.

       *       *       *       *       *

March 28, 1855.--Not a blade of grass but has a story to tell, not a
heart but has its romance, not a life which does not hide a secret
which is either its thorn or its spur. Everywhere grief, hope, comedy,
tragedy; even under the petrifaction of old age, as in the twisted forms
of fossils, we may discover the agitations and tortures of youth. This
thought is the magic wand of poets and of preachers: it strips the
scales from our fleshly eyes, and gives us a clear view into human life;
it opens to the ear a world of unknown melodies, and makes us understand
the thousand languages of nature. Thwarted love makes a man a polyglot,
and grief transforms him into a diviner and a sorcerer.

April 16, 1855.--I realized this morning the prodigious effect of
climate on one’s state of mind. I was Italian or Spanish. In this blue
and limpid air, and under this southern sun, the very walls smile at
you. All the chestnut trees were en fete; with their glistening buds
shining like little flames at the curved ends of the branches, they were
the candelabra of the spring decking the festival of eternal nature. How
young everything was, how kindly, how gracious! the moist freshness of
the grass, the transparent shadows in the courtyards, the strength of
the old cathedral towers, the white edges of the roads. I felt myself a
child; the sap of life mounted again into my veins as it does in plants.
How sweet a thing is a little simple enjoyment! And now, a brass
band which has stopped in the street makes my heart leap as it did at
eighteen. Thanks be to God; there have been so many weeks and months
when I thought myself an old man. Come poetry, nature, youth, and love,
knead my life again with your fairy hands; weave round me once more your
immortal spells; sing your siren melodies, make me drink of the cup
of immortality, lead me back to the Olympus of the soul. Or rather, no
paganism! God of joy and of grief, do with me what Thou wilt; grief is
good, and joy is good also. Thou art leading me now through joy. I take
it from Thy hands, and I give Thee thanks for it.

April 17, 1855.--The weather is still incredibly brilliant, warm, and
clear. The day is full of the singing of birds, the night is full of
stars, nature has become all kindness, and it is a kindness clothed upon
with splendor.

For nearly two hours have I been lost in the contemplation of this
magnificent spectacle. I felt myself in the temple of the infinite, in
the presence of the worlds, God’s guest in this vast nature. The stars
wandering in the pale ether drew me far away from earth. What peace
beyond the power of words, what dews of life eternal, they shed on the
adoring soul! I felt the earth floating like a boat in this blue ocean.
Such deep and tranquil delight nourishes the whole man, it purifies and
ennobles. I surrendered myself, I was all gratitude and docility.

April 21, 1855.--I have been reading a great deal: ethnography,
comparative anatomy, cosmical systems. I have traversed the universe
from the deepest depths of the empyrean to the peristaltic movements of
the atoms in the elementary cell. I have felt myself expanding in the
infinite, and enfranchised in spirit from the bounds of time and space,
able to trace back the whole boundless creation to a point without
dimensions, and seeing the vast multitude of suns, of milky ways, of
stars, and nebulae, all existent in the point.

And on all sides stretched mysteries, marvels and prodigies, without
limit, without number, and without end. I felt the unfathomable thought
of which the universe is the symbol live and burn within me; I touched,
proved, tasted, embraced my nothingness and my immensity; I kissed the
hem of the garments of God, and gave Him thanks for being Spirit and
for being life. Such moments are glimpses of the divine. They make one
conscious of one’s immortality; they bring home to one that an eternity
is not too much for the study of the thoughts and works of the eternal;
they awaken in us an adoring ecstasy and the ardent humility of love.

May 23, 1855.--Every hurtful passion draws us to it, as an abyss does,
by a kind of vertigo. Feebleness of will brings about weakness of head,
and the abyss in spite of its horror, comes to fascinate us, as though
it were a place of refuge. Terrible danger! For this abyss is within
us; this gulf, open like the vast jaws of an infernal serpent bent on
devouring us, is in the depth of our own being, and our liberty floats
over this void, which is always seeking to swallow it up. Our only
talisman lies in that concentration of moral force which we call
conscience, that small inextinguishable flame of which the light is duty
and the warmth love. This little flame should be the star of our life;
it alone can guide our trembling ark across the tumult of the great
waters; it alone can enable us to escape the temptations of the sea, the
storms and the monsters which are the offspring of night and the deluge.
Faith in God, in a holy, merciful, fatherly God, is the divine ray which
kindles this flame.

How deeply I feel the profound and terrible poetry of all these
primitive terrors from which have issued the various theogonies of the
world, and how it all grows clear to me, and becomes a symbol of the
one great unchanging thought, the thought of God about the universe! How
present and sensible to my inner sense is the unity of everything! It
seems to me that I am able to pierce to the sublime motive which, in all
the infinite spheres of existence, and through all the modes of space
and time, every created form reproduces and sings within the bond of an
eternal harmony. From the infernal shades I feel myself mounting toward
the regions of light; my flight across chaos finds its rest in paradise.
Heaven, hell, the world, are within us. Man is the great abyss.

July 27, 1855.--So life passes away, tossed like a boat by the waves
up and down, hither and thither, drenched by the spray, stained by the
foam, now thrown upon the bank, now drawn back again according to the
endless caprice of the water. Such, at least, is the life of the heart
and the passions, the life which Spinoza and the stoics reprove, and
which is the exact opposite of that serene and contemplative life,
always equable like the starlight, in which man lives at peace, and sees
everything tinder its eternal aspect; the opposite also of the life
of conscience, in which God alone speaks, and all self-will surrenders
itself to His will made manifest.

I pass from one to another of these three existences, which are equally
known to me; but this very mobility deprives me of the advantages of
each. For my heart is worn with scruples, the soul in me cannot crush
the needs of the heart, and the conscience is troubled and no longer
knows how to distinguish, in the chaos of contradictory inclinations,
the voice of duty or the will of God. The want of simple faith, the
indecision which springs from distrust of self, tend to make all my
personal life a matter of doubt and uncertainty. I am afraid of the
subjective life, and recoil from every enterprise, demand, or promise
which may oblige me to realize myself; I feel a terror of action, and
am only at ease in the impersonal, disinterested, and objective life of
thought. The reason seems to be timidity, and the timidity springs
from the excessive development of the reflective power which has almost
destroyed in me all spontaneity, impulse, and instinct, and therefore
all boldness and confidence. Whenever I am forced to act, I see cause
for error and repentance everywhere, everywhere hidden threats and
masked vexations. From a child I have been liable to the disease of
irony, and that it may not be altogether crushed by destiny, my nature
seems to have armed itself with a caution strong enough to prevail
against any of life’s blandishments. It is just this strength which is
my weakness. I have a horror of being duped, above all, duped by myself,
and I would rather cut myself off from all life’s joys than deceive or
be deceived. Humiliation, then, is the sorrow which I fear the most,
and therefore it would seem as if pride were the deepest rooted of my

This may be logical, but it is not the truth: it seems to me that it is
really distrust, incurable doubt of the future, a sense of the justice
but not of the goodness of God--in short, unbelief, which is my
misfortune and my sin. Every act is a hostage delivered over to avenging
destiny--there is the instinctive belief which chills and freezes; every
act is a pledge confided to a fatherly providence, there is the belief
which calms.

Pain seems to me a punishment and not a mercy: this is why I have a
secret horror of it. And as I feel myself vulnerable at all points, and
everywhere accessible to pain, I prefer to remain motionless, like a
timid child, who, left alone in his father’s laboratory, dares not touch
anything for fear of springs; explosions, and catastrophes, which may
burst from every corner at the least movement of his inexperienced
hands. I have trust in God directly and as revealed in nature, but I
have a deep distrust of all free and evil agents. I feel or foresee
evil, moral and physical, as the consequence of every error, fault, or
sin, and I am ashamed of pain.

At bottom, is it not a mere boundless self-love, the purism of
perfection, an incapacity to accept our human condition, a tacit protest
against the order of the world, which lies at the root of my inertia?
It means _all or nothing_, a vast ambition made inactive by disgust, a
yearning that cannot be uttered for the ideal, joined with an offended
dignity and a wounded pride which will have nothing to say to what they
consider beneath them. It springs from the ironical temper which
refuses to take either self or reality seriously, because it is forever
comparing both with the dimly-seen infinite of its dreams. It is a state
of mental reservation in which one lends one’s self to circumstances for
form’s sake, but refuses to recognize them in one’s heart because one
cannot see the necessity or the divine order in them. I am disinterested
because I am indifferent; I have nothing to say against what is, and yet
I am never satisfied. I am too weak to conquer, and yet I will not be
Conquered--it is the isolation of the disenchanted soul, which has put
even hope away from it.

But even this is a trial laid upon one. Its providential purpose is no
doubt to lead one to that true renunciation of which charity is the sign
and symbol. It is when one expects nothing more for one’s self that one
is able to love. To do good to men because we love them, to use every
talent we have so as to please the Father from whom we hold it for
His service, there is no other way of reaching and curing this
deep discontent with life which hides itself under an appearance of

September 4, 1855.--In the government of the soul the parliamentary form
succeeds the monarchical. Good sense, conscience, desire, reason, the
present and the past, the old man and the new, prudence and generosity,
take up their parable in turn; the reign of argument begins; chaos
replaces order, and darkness light. Simple will represents the
autocratic _régime_, interminable discussion the deliberate regime of
the soul. The one is preferable from the theoretical point of view, the
other from the practical. Knowledge and action are their two respective

But the best of all would be to be able to realize three powers in the
soul. Besides the man of counsel we want the man of action and the man
of judgment. In me, reflection comes to no useful end, because it is
forever returning upon itself, disputing and debating. I am wanting in
both the general who commands and the judge who decides.

Analysis is dangerous if it overrules the synthetic faculty; reflection
is to be feared if it destroys our power of intuition, and inquiry
is fatal if it supplants faith. Decomposition becomes deadly when it
surpasses in strength the combining and constructive energies of life,
and the _separate_ action of the powers of the soul tends to mere
disintegration and destruction as soon as it becomes impossible to bring
them to bear as _one_ undivided force. When the sovereign abdicates
anarchy begins.

It is just here that my danger lies. Unity of life, of force, of action,
of expression, is becoming impossible to me; I am legion, division,
analysis, and reflection; the passion for dialectic, for fine
distinctions, absorbs and weakens me. The point which I have reached
seems to be explained by a too restless search for perfection, by the
abuse of the critical faculty, and by an unreasonable distrust of first
impulses, first thoughts, first words. Unity and simplicity of being,
confidence, and spontaneity of life, are drifting out of my reach, and
this is why I can no longer act.

Give up, then, this trying to know all, to embrace all. Learn to
limit yourself, to content yourself with some definite thing, and some
definite work; dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good
grace all that you are not, and to believe in your own individuality.
Self-distrust is destroying you; trust, surrender, abandon yourself;
“believe and thou shalt be healed.” Unbelief is death, and depression
and self-satire are alike unbelief.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the point of view of happiness, the problem of life is insoluble,
for it is our highest aspirations which prevent us from being happy.
From the point of view of duty, there is the same difficulty, for the
fulfillment of duty brings peace, not happiness. It is divine love, the
love of the holiest, the possession of God by faith, which solves the
difficulty; for if sacrifice has itself become a joy, a lasting, growing
and imperishable joy--the soul is then secure of an all-sufficient and
unfailing nourishment.

       *       *       *       *       *

January 21, 1856.--Yesterday seems to me as far off as though it were
last year. My memory holds nothing more of the past than its general
plan, just as my eye perceives nothing more in the starry heaven. It
is no more possible for me to recover one of my days from the depths of
memory than if it were a glass of water poured into a lake; it is not
so much a lost thing as a thing melted and fused; the individual has
returned into the whole. The divisions of time are categories which
have no power to mold my life, and leave no more lasting impression than
lines traced by a stick in water. My life, my individuality, are fluid,
there is nothing for it but to resign one’s self.

April 9, 1856.--How true it is that our destinies are decided by
nothings and that a small imprudence helped by some insignificant
accident, as an acorn is fertilized by a drop of rain, may raise the
trees on which perhaps we and others shall be crucified. What happens
is quite different from that we planned; we planned a blessing and there
springs from it a curse. How many times the serpent of fatality, or
rather the law of life, the force of things, intertwining itself with
some very simple facts, cannot be cut away by any effort, and the logic
of situations and characters leads inevitably to a dreaded _dénouement_.
It is the fatal spell of destiny, which obliges us to feed our grief
from our own hand, to prolong the existence of our vulture, to throw
into the furnace of our punishment and expiation, our powers, our
qualities, our very virtues, one by one, and so forces us to recognize
our nothingness, our dependence and the implacable majesty of law. Faith
in a providence softens punishment but does not do away with it. The
wheels of the divine chariot crush us first of all that justice may be
satisfied and an example given to men, and then a hand is stretched out
to us to raise us up, or at least to reconcile us with the love hidden
under the justice. Pardon cannot precede repentance and repentance only
begins with humility. And so long as any fault whatever appears trifling
to us, so long as we see, not so much the culpability of as the excuses
for imprudence or negligence, so long, in short, as Job murmurs and as
providence is thought to be too severe, so long as there is any inner
protestation against fate, or doubt as to the perfect justice of God,
there is not yet entire humility or true repentance. It is when we
accept the expiation that it can be spared us; it is when we submit
sincerely that grace can be granted to us. Only when grief finds its
work done can God dispense us from it. Trial then only stops when it is
useless: that is why it scarcely ever stops. Faith in the justice and
love of the Father is the best and indeed the only support under the
sufferings of this life. The foundation of all of our pains is unbelief;
we doubt whether what happens to us ought to happen to us; we think
ourselves wiser than providence, because to avoid fatalism we believe in
accident. Liberty in submission--what a problem! And yet that is what we
must always come back to.

May 7, 1856.--I have been reading Rosenkrantz’s “History of Poetry”
 [Footnote: “Geschichte der Poesie,” by Rosenkrantz, the pupil and
biographer of Hegel] all day: it touches upon all the great names of
Spain, Portugal, and France, as far as Louis XV. It is a good thing to
take these rapid surveys; the shifting point of view gives a perpetual
freshness to the subject and to the ideas presented, a literary
experience which is always pleasant and bracing. For one of my
temperament, this philosophic and morphological mode of embracing and
expounding literary history has a strong attraction. But it is the
antipodes of the French method of proceeding, which takes, as it were,
only the peaks of the subject, links them together by theoretical
figures and triangulations, and then assumes these lines to represent
the genuine face of the country. The real process of formation of a
general opinion, of a public taste, of an established _genre_, cannot be
laid bare by an abstract method, which suppresses the period of growth
in favor of the final fruit, which prefers clearness of outline to
fullness of statement, and sacrifices the preparation to the result, the
multitude to the chosen type. This French method, however, is eminently
characteristic, and it is linked by invisible ties to their respect for
custom and fashion, to the Catholic and dualist instinct which admits
two truths, two contradictory worlds, and accepts quite naturally
what is magical, incomprehensible, and arbitrary in God, the king,
or language. It is the philosophy of accident become habit, instinct,
nature and belief, it is the religion of caprice.

By one of those eternal contrasts which redress the balance of things,
the romance peoples, who excel in the practical matters of life, care
nothing for the philosophy of it; while the Germans, who know very
little about the practice of life, are masters of its theory. Every
living being seeks instinctively to complete itself; this is the secret
law according to which that nation whose sense of life is fullest and
keenest, drifts most readily toward a mathematical rigidity of theory.
Matter and form are the eternal oppositions, and the mathematical
intellects are often attracted by the facts of life, just as the
sensuous minds are often drawn toward the study of abstract law. Thus
strangely enough, what we think we are is just what we are not: what we
desire to be is what suits us least; our theories condemn us, and our
practice gives the lie to our theories. And the contradiction is an
advantage, for it is the source of conflict, of movement, and therefore
a condition of progress. Every life is an inward struggle, every
struggle supposes two contrary forces; nothing real is simple,
and whatever thinks itself simple is in reality the farthest from
simplicity. Therefore it would seem that every state is a moment in
a series; every being a compromise between contraries. In concrete
dialectic we have the key which opens to us the understanding of beings
in the series of beings, of states in the series of moments; and it is
in dynamics that we have the explanation of equilibrium. Every situation
is an _equilibrium_ of forces; every life is a _struggle_ between
opposing forces working within the limits of a certain equilibrium.

These two principles have been often clear to me, but I have never
applied them widely or rigorously enough.

July 1, 1856.--A man and still more a woman, always betrays something
of his or her nationality. The women of Russia, for instance, like the
lakes and rivers of their native country, seem to be subject to
sudden and prolonged fits of torpor. In their movement, undulating and
caressing like that of water, there is always a threat of unforeseen
frost. The high latitude, the difficulty of life, the inflexibility of
their autocratic _régime_, the heavy and mournful sky, the inexorable
climate, all these harsh fatalities have left their mark upon the
Muscovite race. A certain somber obstinacy, a kind of primitive
ferocity, a foundation of savage harshness which, under the influence of
circumstances, might become implacable and pitiless; a cold strength, an
indomitable power of resolution which would rather wreck the whole
world than yield, the indestructible instinct of the barbarian tribe,
perceptible in the half-civilized nation, all these traits are visible
to an attentive eye, even in the harmless extravagances and caprices
of a young woman of this powerful race. Even in their _badinage_ they
betray something of that fierce and rigid nationality which burns its
own towns and [as Napoleon said] keeps battalions of dead soldiers on
their feet.

What terrible rulers the Russians would be if ever they should spread
the night of their rule over the countries of the south! They would
bring us a polar despotism, tyranny such as the world has never known,
silent as darkness, rigid as ice, insensible as bronze, decked with
an outer amiability and glittering with the cold brilliancy of snow,
a slavery without compensation or relief. Probably, however, they will
gradually lose both the virtues and the defects of their semi-barbarism.
The centuries as they pass will ripen these sons of the north, and they
will enter into the concert of peoples in some other capacity than as a
menace or a dissonance. They have only to transform their hardiness into
strength, their cunning into grace, their Muscovitism into humanity, to
win love instead of inspiring aversion or fear.

July 3, 1856.--The German admires form, but he has no genius for it. He
is the opposite of the Greek; he has critical instinct, aspiration, and
desire, but no serene command of beauty. The south, more artistic, more
self-satisfied, more capable of execution, rests idly in the sense of
its own power to achieve. On one side you have ideas, on the other side,
talent. The realm of Germany is beyond the clouds; that of the southern
peoples is on this earth. The Germanic race thinks and feels; the
southerners feel and express; the Anglo-Saxons will and do. To know, to
feel, to act, there you have the trio of Germany, Italy, England. France
formulates, speaks, decides, and laughs. Thought, talent, will, speech;
or, in other words science, art, action, proselytism. So the parts of
the quartet are assigned.

July 21, 1856.--_Mit sack und pack_ here I am back again in my town
rooms. I have said good-bye to my friends and my country joys, to
verdure, flowers, and happiness. Why did I leave them after all? The
reason I gave myself was that I was anxious about my poor uncle, who is
ill. But at bottom are there not other reasons? Yes, several. There is
the fear of making myself a burden upon the two or three families of
friends who show me incessant kindness, for which I can make no return.
There are my books, which call me back. There is the wish to keep faith
with myself. But all that would be nothing, I think, without another
instinct, the instinct of the wandering Jew, which snatches from me the
cup I have but just raised to my lips, which forbids me any prolonged
enjoyment, and cries “go forward! Let there be no falling asleep, no
stopping, no attaching yourself to this or that!” This restless feeling
is not the need of change. It is rather the fear of what I love, the
mistrust of what charms me, the unrest of happiness. What a _bizarre_
tendency, and what a strange nature! not to be able to enjoy anything
simply, naïvely, without scruple, to feel a force upon one impelling
one to leave the table, for fear the meal should come to an end.
Contradiction and mystery! not to use, for fear of abusing; to think
one’s self obliged to go, not because one has had enough, but because
one has stayed awhile. I am indeed always the same; the being who
wanders when he need not, the voluntary exile, the eternal traveler,
the man incapable of repose, who, driven on by an inward voice, builds
nowhere, buys and labors nowhere, but passes, looks, camps, and goes.
And is there not another reason for all this restlessness, in a certain
sense of void? of incessant pursuit of something wanting? of longing
for a truer peace and a more entire satisfaction? Neighbors, friends,
relations, I love them all; and so long as these affections are active,
they leave in me no room for a sense of want. But yet they do not _fill_
my heart; and that is why they have no power to fix it. I am always
waiting for the woman and the work which shall be capable of taking
entire possession of my soul, and of becoming my end and aim.

  “Promenant par tout séjour
  Le deuil que tu cèles,
  Psyché-papillon, un jour
  Puisses-tu trouver l’amour
  Et perdre tes ailes!”

I have not given away my heart: hence this restlessness of spirit. I
will not let it be taken captive by that which cannot fill and satisfy
it; hence this instinct of pitiless detachment from all that charms
me without permanently binding me; so that it seems as if my love
of movement, which looks so like inconstancy, was at bottom only a
perpetual search, a hope, a desire, and a care, the malady of the ideal.

... Life indeed must always be a compromise between common sense and the
ideal, the one abating nothing of its demands, the other accommodating
itself to what is practicable and real. But marriage by common sense!
arrived at by a bargain! Can it be anything but a profanation? On
the other, hand, is that not a vicious ideal which hinders life from
completing itself, and destroys the family in germ? Is there not too
much of pride in my ideal, pride which will not accept the common

Noon.--I have been dreaming--my head in my hand. About what? About
happiness. I have as it were, been asleep on the fatherly breast of God.
His will be done!

August 3, 1856.--A delightful Sunday afternoon at Pressy. Returned late,
under a great sky magnificently starred, with summer lightning playing
from a point behind the Jura. Drunk with poetry, and overwhelmed by
sensation after sensation, I came back slowly, blessing the God of life,
and plunged in the joy of the infinite. One thing only I lacked, a soul
with whom to share it all--for emotion and enthusiasm overflowed like
water from a full cup. The Milky Way, the great black poplars, the
ripple of the waves, the shooting stars, distant songs, the lamp-lit
town, all spoke to me in the language of poetry. I felt myself almost
a poet. The wrinkles of science disappeared under the magic breath of
admiration; the old elasticity of soul, trustful, free, and living was
mine once more. I was once more young, capable of self-abandonment
and of love. All my barrenness had disappeared; the heavenly dew had
fertilized the dead and gnarled stick; it began to be green and flower
again. My God, how wretched should we be without beauty! But with it,
everything is born afresh in us; the senses, the heart, imagination,
reason, will, come together like the dead bones of the prophet, and
become one single and self-same energy. What is happiness if it is not
this plentitude of existence, this close union with the universal
and divine life? I have been happy a whole half day, and I have been
brooding over my joy, steeping myself in it to the very depths of

October 22, 1856.--We must learn to look upon life as an apprenticeship
to a progressive renunciation, a perpetual diminution in our
pretensions, our hopes, our powers, and our liberty. The circle grows
narrower and narrower; we began with being eager to learn everything, to
see everything, to tame and conquer everything, and in all directions we
reach our limit--_non plus ultra_. Fortune, glory, love, power, health,
happiness, long life, all these blessings which have been possessed by
other men seem at first promised and accessible to us, and then we have
to put the dream away from us, to withdraw one personal claim after
another to make ourselves small and humble, to submit to feel ourselves
limited, feeble, dependent, ignorant and poor, and to throw ourselves
upon God for all, recognizing our own worthlessness, and that we have no
right to anything. It is in this nothingness that we recover something
of life--the divine spark is there at the bottom of it. Resignation
comes to us, and, in believing love, we reconquer the true greatness.

October 27, 1856.--In all the chief matters of life we are alone, and
our true history is scarcely ever deciphered by others. The chief part
of the drama is a monologue, rather an intimate debate between God, our
conscience, and ourselves. Tears, griefs, depressions, disappointments,
irritations, good and evil thoughts, decisions, uncertainties,
deliberations, all these belong to our secret, and are almost all
incommunicable and intransmissible, even when we try to speak of them,
and even when we write them down. What is most precious in us never
shows itself, never finds an issue even in the closest intimacy. Only
a part of it reaches our consciousness, it scarcely enters into action
except in prayer, and is perhaps only perceived by God, for our past
rapidly becomes strange to us. Our monad may be influenced by other
monads, but none the less does it remain impenetrable to them in its
essence; and we ourselves, when all is said, remain outside our own
mystery. The center of our consciousness is unconscious, as the kernel
of the sun is dark. All that we are, desire, do, and know, is more or
less superficial, and below the rays and lightnings of our periphery
there remains the darkness of unfathomable substance.

I was then well-advised when, in my theory of the inner man, I placed
at the foundation of the self, after the seven spheres which the self
contains had been successively disengaged, a lowest depth of darkness,
the abyss of the un-revealed, the virtual pledge of an infinite future,
the obscure self, the pure subjectivity which is incapable of realizing
itself in mind, conscience, or reason, in the soul, the heart, the
imagination, or the life of the senses, and which makes for itself
attributes and conditions out of all these forms of its own life.

But the obscure only exists that it may cease to exist. In it lies the
opportunity of all victory and all progress. Whether it call itself
fatality, death, night, or matter, it is the pedestal of life, of light,
of liberty, and the spirit. For it represents _resistance_--that is to
say, the fulcrum of all activity, the occasion for its development and
its triumph.

December 17, 1856.--This evening was the second quartet concert. It
stirred me much more than the first; the music chosen was loftier and
stronger. It was the quartet in D minor of Mozart, and the quartet in C
major of Beethoven, separated by a Spohr concerto. This last, vivid, and
brilliant as a whole, has fire in the allegro, feeling in the adagio,
and elegance in the _finale_, but it is the product of one fine gift in
a mediocre personality. With the two others you are at once in contact
with genius; you are admitted to the secrets of two great souls. Mozart
stands for inward liberty, Beethoven for the power of enthusiasm. The
one sets us free, the other ravishes us out of ourselves. I do not think
I ever felt more distinctly than to-day, or with more intensity, the
difference between these two masters. Their two personalities became
transparent to me, and I seemed to read them to their depths.

The work of Mozart, penetrated as it is with mind and thought,
represents a solved problem, a balance struck between aspiration and
executive capacity, the sovereignty of a grace which is always mistress
of itself, marvelous harmony and perfect unity. His quartet describes a
day in one of those Attic souls who pre-figure on earth the serenity
of Elysium. The first scene is a pleasant conversation, like that of
Socrates on the banks of the Ilissus; its chief mark is an exquisite
urbanity. The second scene is deeply pathetic. A cloud has risen in the
blue of this Greek heaven. A storm, such as life inevitably brings with
it, even in the case of great souls who love and esteem each other,
has come to trouble the original harmony. What is the cause of it--a
misunderstanding, apiece of neglect? Impossible to say, but it breaks
out notwithstanding. The andante is a scene of reproach and complaint,
but as between immortals. What loftiness in complaint, what dignity,
what feeling, what noble sweetness in reproach! The voice trembles and
grows graver, but remains affectionate and dignified. Then, the storm
has passed, the sun has come back, the explanation has taken place,
peace is re-established. The third scene paints the brightness of
reconciliation. Love, in its restored confidence, and as though in
sly self-testing, permits itself even gentle mocking and friendly
_badinage_. And the _finale_ brings us back to that tempered gaiety and
happy serenity, that supreme freedom, flower of the inner life, which is
the leading motive of the whole composition.

In Beethoven’s on the other hand, a spirit of tragic irony paints
for you the mad tumult of existence as it dances forever above the
threatening abyss of the infinite. No more unity, no more satisfaction,
no more serenity! We are spectators of the eternal duel between the
great forces, that of the abyss which absorbs all finite things, and
that of life which defends and asserts itself, expands, and enjoys. The
first bars break the seals and open the caverns of the great deep. The
struggle begins. It is long. Life is born, and disports itself gay and
careless as the butterfly which flutters above a precipice. Then it
expands the realm of its conquests, and chants its successes. It founds
a kingdom, it constructs a system of nature. But the typhon rises from
the yawning gulf, and the Titans beat upon the gates of the new empire.
A battle of giants begins. You hear the tumultuous efforts of the powers
of chaos. Life triumphs at last, but the victory is not final, and
through all the intoxication of it there is a certain note of terror and
bewilderment. The soul of Beethoven was a tormented soul. The passion
and the awe of the infinite seemed to toss it to and fro from heaven
to hell, Hence its vastness. Which is the greater, Mozart or Beethoven?
Idle question! The one is more perfect, the other more colossal. The
first gives you the peace of perfect art, beauty, at first sight. The
second gives you sublimity, terror, pity, a beauty of second impression.
The one gives that for which the other rouses a desire. Mozart has
the classic purity of light and the blue ocean; Beethoven the romantic
grandeur which belongs to the storms of air and sea, and while the
soul of Mozart seems to dwell on the ethereal peaks of Olympus, that of
Beethoven climbs shuddering the storm-beaten sides of a Sinai. Blessed
be they both! Each represents a moment of the ideal life, each does us
good. Our love is due to both.

       *       *       *       *       *

To judge is to see clearly, to care for what is just and therefore to be
impartial, more exactly, to be disinterested, more exactly still, to be

       *       *       *       *       *

To do easily what is difficult for others is the mark of talent. To do
what is impossible for talent is the mark of genius.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires but according to
our powers.

       *       *       *       *       *

If nationality is consent, the state is compulsion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Self-interest is but the survival of the animal in us. Humanity only
begins for man with self-surrender.

       *       *       *       *       *

The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he
decides, never decides. Accept life, and you must accept regret.

       *       *       *       *       *

Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the
flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its

February 3, 1857.--The phantasmagoria of the soul cradles and soothes
me as though I were an Indian yoghi, and everything, even my own life,
becomes to me smoke, shadow, vapor, and illusion. I hold so lightly
to all phenomena that they end by passing over me like gleams over a
landscape, and are gone without leaving any impression. Thought is a
kind of opium; it can intoxicate us, while still broad awake; it can
make transparent the mountains and everything that exists. It is by love
only that one keeps hold upon reality, that one recovers one’s proper
self, that one becomes again will, force, and individuality. Love
could do everything with me; by myself and for myself I prefer to be

I have the imagination of regret and not that of hope. My
clear-sightedness is retrospective, and the result with me of
disinterestedness and prudence is that I attach myself to what I have no
chance of obtaining....

May 27, 1857. (Vandoeuvres. [Footnote: Also a village in the
neighborhood of Geneva.])--We are going down to Geneva to hear the
“Tannhäuser” of Richard Wagner performed at the theater by the German
troup now passing through. Wagner’s is a powerful mind endowed with
strong poetical sensitiveness. His work is even more poetical than
musical. The suppression of the lyrical element, and therefore of
melody, is with him a systematic _parti pris_. No more duos or trios;
monologue and the _aria_ are alike done away with. There remains only
declamation, the recitative, and the choruses. In order to avoid the
conventional in singing, Wagner falls into another convention--that of
not singing at all. He subordinates the voice to articulate speech, and
for fear lest the muse should take flight he clips her wings. So that
his works are rather symphonic dramas than operas. The voice is brought
down to the rank of an instrument, put on a level with the violins, the
hautboys, and the drums, and treated instrumentally. Man is deposed from
his superior position, and the center of gravity of the work passes into
the baton of the conductor. It is music depersonalized, neo-Hegelian
music--music multiple instead of individual. If this is so, it is indeed
the music of the future, the music of the socialist democracy replacing
the art which is aristocratic, heroic, or subjective.

The overture pleased me even less than at the first hearing: it is
like nature before man appeared. Everything in it is enormous, savage,
elementary, like the murmur of forests and the roar of animals. It is
forbidding and obscure, because man, that is to say, mind, the key of
the enigma, personality, the spectator, is wanting to it.

The idea of the piece is grand. It is nothing less than the struggle of
passion and pure love, of flesh and spirit, of the animal and the angel
in man. The music is always expressive, the choruses very beautiful, the
orchestration skillful, but the whole is fatiguing and excessive,
too full, too laborious. When all is said, it lacks gayety, ease,
naturalness and vivacity--it has no smile, no wings. Poetically one is
fascinated, but one’s musical enjoyment is hesitating, often doubtful,
and one recalls nothing but the general impression--Wagner’s music
represents the abdication of the self, and the emancipation of all the
forces once under its rule. It is a falling back into Spinozism--the
triumph of fatality. This music has its root and its fulcrum in two
tendencies of the epoch, materialism and socialism--each of them
ignoring the true value of the human personality, and drowning it in the
totality of nature or of society.

June 17, 1857. (Vandoeuvres).--I have just followed Maine de Biran from
his twenty-eighth to his forty-eighth year by means of his journal,
and a crowd of thoughts have besieged me. Let me disengage those which
concern myself. In this eternal self-chronicler and observer I seem to
see myself reflected with all my faults, indecision, discouragement,
over-dependence on sympathy, difficulty of finishing, with my habit of
watching myself feel and live, with my growing incapacity for practical
action, with my aptitude for psychological study. But I have also
discovered some differences which cheer and console me. This nature
is, as it were, only one of the men which exist in me. It is one of my
departments. It is not the whole of my territory, the whole of my inner
kingdom. Intellectually, I am more objective and more constructive;
my horizon is vaster; I have seen much more of men, things, countries,
peoples and books; I have a greater mass of experiences--in a word, I
feel that I have more culture, greater wealth, range, and freedom of
mind, in spite of my wants, my limits, and my weaknesses. Why does Maine
de Biran make _will_ the whole of man? Perhaps because he had too little
will. A man esteems most highly what he himself lacks, and exaggerates
what he longs to possess. Another incapable of thought, and meditation,
would have made self-consciousness the supreme thing. Only the totality
of things has an objective value. As soon as one isolates a part from
the whole, as soon as one chooses, the choice is involuntarily and
instinctively dictated by subjective inclinations which obey one or
other of the two opposing laws, the attraction of similars or the
affinity of contraries.

Five o’clock.--The morning has passed like a dream. I went on with the
journal of Maine de Biran down to the end of 1817. After dinner I passed
my time with the birds in the open air, wandering in the shady walks
which wind along under Pressy. The sun was brilliant and the air clear.
The midday orchestra of nature was at its best. Against the humming
background made by a thousand invisible insects there rose the delicate
caprices and improvisations of the nightingale singing from the
ash-trees, or of the hedge-sparrows and the chaffinches in their nests.
The hedges are hung with wild roses, the scent of the acacia still
perfumes the paths; the light down of the poplar seeds floated in the
air like a kind of warm, fair-weather snow. I felt myself as gay as
a butterfly. On coming in I read the three first books of that poem
“Corinne,” which I have not seen since I was a youth. Now as I read it
again, I look at it across interposing memories; the romantic interest
of it seems to me to have vanished, but not the poetical, pathetic, or
moral interest.

June 18th.--I have just been spending three hours in the orchard under
the shade of the hedge, combining the spectacle of a beautiful morning
with reading and taking a turn between each chapter. Now the sky is
again covered with its white veil of cloud, and I have come up with
Biran, whose “Pensée” I have just finished, and Corinne, whom I have
followed with Oswald in their excursions among the monuments of the
eternal city. Nothing is so melancholy and wearisome as this journal of
Maine de Biran. This unchanging monotony of perpetual reflection has an
enervating and depressing effect upon one. Here, then, is the life of
a distinguished man seen in its most intimate aspects! It is one
long repetition, in which the only change is an almost imperceptible
displacement of center in the writer’s manner of viewing himself. This
thinker takes thirty years to move from the Epicurean quietude to the
quietism of Fénélon, and this only speculatively, for his practical
life remains the same, and all his anthropological discovery consists
in returning to the theory of the three lives, lower, human, and higher,
which is in Pascal and in Aristotle. And this is what they call a
philosopher in France! Beside the great philosophers, how poor and
narrow seems such an intellectual life! It is the journey of an ant,
bounded by the limits of a field; of a mole, who spends his days in the
construction of a mole-hill. How narrow and stifling the swallow who
flies across the whole Old World, and whose sphere of life embraces
Africa and Europe, would find the circle with which the mole and the ant
are content! This volume of Biran produces in me a sort of asphyxia;
as I assimilate it, it seems to paralyze me; I am chained to it by some
spell of secret sympathy. I pity, and I am afraid of my pity, for I feel
how near I am to the same evils and the same faults....

Ernest Naville’s introductory essay is full of interest, written in
a serious and noble style; but it is almost as sad as it is ripe and
mature. What displeases me in it a little is its exaggeration of the
merits of Biran. For the rest, the small critical impatience which the
volume has stirred in me will be gone by to-morrow. Maine de Biran is an
important link in the French literary tradition. It is from him that
our Swiss critics descend, Naville father and son, Secrétan. He is the
source of our best contemporary psychology, for Stapfer, Royer-Collard,
and Cousin called him their master, and Ampère, his junior by nine
years, was his friend.

July 25, 1857. (Vandoeuvres).--At ten o’clock this evening, under a
starlit sky, a group of rustics under the windows of the salon employed
themselves in shouting disagreeable songs. Why is it that this tuneless
shrieking of false notes and scoffing words delights these people? Why
is it that this ostentatious parade of ugliness, this jarring vulgarity
and grimacing is their way of finding expression and expansion in the
great solitary and tranquil night?

Why? Because of a sad and secret instinct. Because of the need they
have of realizing themselves as individuals, of asserting themselves
exclusively, egotistically, idolatrously--opposing the self in them
to everything else, placing it in harsh contrast with the nature which
enwraps us, with the poetry which raises us above ourselves, with the
harmony which binds us to others, with the adoration which carries
us toward God. No, no, no! Myself only, and that is enough! Myself by
negation, by ugliness, by grimace and irony! Myself, in my caprice, in
my independence, in my irresponsible sovereignty; myself, set free by
laughter, free as the demons are, and exulting in my freedom; I, master
of myself, invincible and self-sufficient, living for this one time
yet by and for myself! This is what seems to me at the bottom of this
merry-making. One hears in it an echo of Satan, the temptation to make
self the center of all things, to be like an Elohim, the worst and last
revolt of man. It means also, perhaps, some rapid perception of what
is absolute in personality, some rough exaltation of the subject, the
individual, who thus claims, by abasing them, the rights of subjective
existence. If so, it is the caricature of our most precious privilege,
the parody of our apotheosis, a vulgarizing of our highest greatness.
Shout away, then, drunkards! Your ignoble concert, with all its
repulsive vulgarity, still reveals to us, without knowing it, something
of the majesty of life and the sovereign power of the soul.

September 15, 1857.--I have just finished Sismondi’s journal and
correspondence. Sismondi is essentially the honest man, conscientious,
upright, respectable, the friend of the public good and the devoted
upholder of a great cause, the amelioration of the common lot of men.
Character and heart are the dominant elements in his individuality, and
cordiality is the salient feature of his nature. Sismondi’s is a most
encouraging example. With average faculties, very little imagination,
not much taste, not much talent, without subtlety of feeling, without
great elevation or width or profundity of mind, he yet succeeded in
achieving a career which was almost illustrious, and he has left behind
him some sixty volumes, well-known and well spoken of. How was this? His
love for men on the one side, and his passion for work on the other,
are the two factors in his fame. In political economy, in literary
or political history, in personal action, Sismondi showed no
genius--scarcely talent; but in all he did there was solidity, loyalty,
good sense and integrity. The poetical, artistic and philosophic sense
is deficient in him, but he attracts and interests us by his moral
sense. We see in him the sincere writer, a man of excellent heart, a
good citizen and warm friend, worthy and honest in the widest sense
of terms, not brilliant, but inspiring trust and confidence by his
character, his principles and his virtues. More than this, he is the
best type of good Genevese liberalism, republican but not democratic,
Protestant but not Calvinist, human but not socialist, progressive but
without any sympathy with violence. He was a conservative without either
egotism or hypocrisy, a patriot without narrowness. In his theories
he was governed by experience and observation, and in his practice by
general ideas. A laborious philanthropist, the past and the present were
to him but fields of study, from which useful lessons might be gleaned.
Positive and reasonable in temper, his mind was set upon a high average
well-being for human society, and his efforts were directed toward
founding such a social science as might most readily promote it.

September 24, 1857.--In the course of much thought yesterday about
“Atala” and “René,” Châteaubriand became clear to me. I saw in him a
great artist but not a great man, immense talent but a still vaster
pride--a nature at once devoured with ambition and unable to find
anything to love or admire in the world except itself--indefatigable in
labor and capable of everything except of true devotion, self-sacrifice
and faith. Jealous of all success, he was always on the opposition side,
that he might be the better able to disavow all services received, and
to hold aloof from any other glory but his own. Legitimist under the
empire, a parliamentarian tinder the legitimist _régime_, republican
under the constitutional monarchy, defending Christianity when France
was philosophical, and taking a distaste for religion as soon as
it became once more a serious power, the secret of these endless
contradictions in him was simply the desire to reign alone like the
sun--a devouring thirst for applause, an incurable and insatiable
vanity, which, with the true, fierce instinct of tyranny, would endure
no brother near the throne. A man of magnificent imagination but of poor
character, of indisputable power, but cursed with a cold egotism and
an incurable barrenness of feeling, which made it impossible for him to
tolerate about him anybody but slaves or adorers. A tormented soul and
miserable life, when all is said, under its aureole of glory and its
crown of laurels!

Essentially jealous and choleric, Châteaubriand from the beginning was
inspired by mistrust, by the passion for contradicting, for crushing and
conquering. This motive may always be traced in him. Rousseau seems to
me his point of departure, the man who suggested to him by contrast
and opposition all his replies and attacks, Rousseau is revolutionary:
Châteaubriand therefore writes his “Essay on Revolutions.” Rousseau is
republican and Protestant; Châteaubriand will be royalist and Catholic.
Rousseau is _bourgeois_; Chateaubriand will glorify nothing but noble
birth, honor, chivalry and deeds of arms. Rousseau conquered nature for
French letters, above all the nature of the mountains and of the
Swiss and Savoy, and lakes. He pleaded for her against civilization.
Châteaubriand will take possession of a new and colossal nature, of the
ocean, of America; but he will make his savages speak the language of
Louis XIV., he will bow Atala before a Catholic missionary, and sanctify
passions born on the banks of the Mississippi by the solemnities
of Catholic ceremonial. Rousseau was the apologist of reverie;
Châteaubriand will build the monument of it in order to break it in
René. Rousseau preaches Deism with all his eloquence in the “Vicaire
Savoyard;” Châteaubriand surrounds the Roman creed with all the garlands
of his poetry in the “Génie du Christianisme.” Rousseau appeals to
natural law and pleads for the future of nations; Châteaubriand will
only sing the glories of the past, the ashes of history and the
noble ruins of empires. Always a rôle to be filled, cleverness to be
displayed, a _parti-pris_ to be upheld and fame to be won--his theme,
one of imagination, his faith one to order, but sincerity, loyalty,
candor, seldom or never! Always a real indifference simulating a passion
for truth; always an imperious thirst for glory instead of devotion to
the good; always the ambitious artist, never the citizen, the believer,
the man. Châteaubriand posed all his life as the wearied Colossus,
smiling pitifully upon a pygmy world, and contemptuously affecting
to desire nothing from it, though at the same time wishing it to be
believed that he could if he pleased possess himself of everything by
mere force of genius. He is the type of an untoward race, and the father
of a disagreeable lineage.

But to return to the two episodes. “René” seems to me very superior to
“Atala.’” Both the stories show a talent of the first rank, but of the
two the beauty of “Atala” is of the more transitory kind. The attempt to
render in the style of Versailles the loves of a Natchez and a Seminole,
and to describe the manners of the adorers of the Manitous in the tone
of Catholic sentiment, was an attempt too violent to succeed. But the
work is a _tour de force_ of style, and it was only by the polished
classicism of the form, that the romantic matter of the sentiments and
the descriptions could have been imported into the colorless literature
of the empire. “Atala” is already old-fashioned and theatrical in
all the parts which are not descriptive or European--that is to say,
throughout all the sentimental savagery.

“René” is infinitely more durable. Its theme, which is the malady of a
whole generation--distaste for life brought about by idle reverie and
the ravages of a vague and unmeasured ambition--is true to reality.
Without knowing or wishing it, Châteaubriand has been sincere, for René
is himself. This little sketch is in every respect a masterpiece. It
is not, like “Atala,” spoilt artistically by intentions alien to the
subject, by being made the means of expression of a particular tendency.
Instead of taking a passion for René, indeed, future generations will
scorn and wonder at him; instead of a hero they will see in him a
pathological case; but the work itself, like the Sphinx, will endure. A
work of art will bear all kinds of interpretations; each in turn finds
a basis in it, while the work itself, because it represents an idea, and
therefore partakes of the richness and complexity which belong to ideas,
suffices for all and survives all. A portrait proves whatever one asks
of it. Even in its forms of style, in the disdainful generality of the
terms in which the story is told, in the terseness of the sentences,
in the sequence of the images and of the pictures, traced with classic
purity and marvelous vigor, “René” maintains its monumental character.
Carved, as it were, in material of the present century, with the tools
of classical art, “René” is the immortal cameo of Châteaubriand.

We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented
with ourselves. The consciousness of wrong-doing makes us irritable, and
our heart in its cunning quarrels with what is outside it, in order that
it may deafen the clamor within.

       *       *       *       *       *

The faculty of intellectual metamorphosis is the first and indispensable
faculty of the critic; without it he is not apt at understanding other
minds, and ought, therefore, if he love truth, to hold his peace.
The conscientious critic must first criticise himself; what we do not
understand we have not the right to judge.

       *       *       *       *       *

June 14, 1858.--Sadness and anxiety seem to be increasing upon me. Like
cattle in a burning stable, I cling to what consumes me, to the solitary
life which does me so much harm. I let myself be devoured by inward

Yesterday, however, I struggled against this fatal tendency. I went out
into the country, and the children’s caresses restored to me something
of serenity and calm. After we had dined out of doors all three sang
some songs and school hymns, which were delightful to listen to. The
spring fairy had been scattering flowers over the fields with lavish
hands; it was a little glimpse of paradise. It is true, indeed, that the
serpent too was not far off. Yesterday there was a robbery close by the
house, and death had visited another neighbor. Sin and death lurk
around every Eden, and sometimes within it. Hence the tragic beauty,
the melancholy poetry of human destiny. Flowers, shade, a fine view, a
sunset sky, joy, grace, feeling, abundance and serenity, tenderness and
song--here you have the element of beauty: the dangers of the present
and the treacheries of the future, here is the element of pathos.
The fashion of this world passeth away. Unless we have laid hold upon
eternity, unless we take the religious view of life, these bright,
fleeting days can only be a subject for terror. Happiness should be
a prayer--and grief also. Faith in the moral order, in the protecting
fatherhood of God, appeared to me in all its serious sweetness.

  “Pense, aime, agis et souffre en Dieu
  C’est la grande science.”

July 18, 1858.--To-day I have been deeply moved by the _nostalgia_ of
happiness and by the appeals of memory. My old self, the dreams which
used to haunt me in Germany, passionate impulses, high aspirations, all
revived in me at once with unexpected force. The dread lest I should
have missed my destiny and stifled my true nature, lest I should have
buried myself alive, passed through me like a shudder. Thirst for the
unknown, passionate love of life, the yearning for the blue vaults
of the infinite and the strange worlds of the ineffable, and that sad
ecstasy which the ideal wakens in its beholders--all these carried me
away in a whirlwind of feeling that I cannot describe. Was it a warning,
a punishment, a temptation? Was it a secret protest, or a violent act of
rebellion on the part of a nature which is unsatisfied?--the last agony
of happiness and of a hope that will not die?

What raised all this storm? Nothing but a book--the first number of the
“_Revue Germanique_.” The articles of Dollfus, Renan, Littré, Montégut,
Taillandier, by recalling to me some old and favorite subjects, made me
forget ten wasted years, and carried me back to my university life. I
was tempted to throw off my Genevese garb and to set off, stick in hand,
for any country that might offer--stripped and poor, but still young,
enthusiastic, and alive, full of ardor and of faith.

... I have been dreaming alone since ten o’clock at the window, while
the stars twinkled among the clouds, and the lights of the neighbors
disappeared one by one in the houses round. Dreaming of what? Of the
meaning of this tragic comedy which we call life. Alas! alas! I was as
melancholy as the preacher. A hundred years seemed to me a dream, life
a breath, and everything a nothing. What tortures of mind and soul, and
all that we may die in a few minutes! What should interest us, and why?

  “Le temps n’est rien pour l’âme, enfant, ta vie est pleine,
  Et ce jour vaut cent ans, s’il te fait trouver Dieu.”

To make an object for myself, to hope, to struggle, seems to me more
and more impossible and amazing. At twenty I was the embodiment of
curiosity, elasticity and spiritual ubiquity; at thirty-seven I have not
a will, a desire, or a talent left; the fireworks of my youth have left
nothing but a handful of ashes behind them.

December 13, 1858.--Consider yourself a refractory pupil for whom you
are responsible as mentor and tutor. To sanctify sinful nature, by
bringing it gradually under the control of the angel within us, by the
help of a holy God, is really the whole of Christian pedagogy and of
religious morals. Our work--my work--consists in taming, subduing,
evangelizing and _angelizing_ the evil self; and in restoring harmony
with the good self. Salvation lies in abandoning the evil self in
principle and in taking refuge with the other, the divine self, in
accepting with courage and prayer the task of living with one’s own
demon, and making it into a less and less rebellious instrument of good.
The Abel in us must labor for the salvation of the Cain. To undertake
it is to be converted, and this conversion must be repeated day by day.
Abel only redeems and touches Cain by exercising him constantly in good
works. To do right is in one sense an act of violence; it is suffering,
expiation, a cross, for it means the conquest and enslavement of self.
In another sense it is the apprenticeship to heavenly things, sweet
and secret joy, contentment and peace. Sanctification implies perpetual
martyrdom, but it is a martyrdom which glorifies. A crown of thorns is
the sad eternal symbol of the life of the saints. The best measure of
the profundity of any religious doctrine is given by its conception of
sin and the cure of sin.

A duty is no sooner divined than from that very moment it becomes
binding upon us.

       *       *       *       *       *

Latent genius is but a presumption. Everything that can be, is bound to
come into being, and what never comes into being is nothing.

July 14, 1859.--I have just read “Faust” again. Alas, every year I am
fascinated afresh by this somber figure, this restless life. It is
the type of suffering toward which I myself gravitate, and I am always
finding in the poem words which strike straight to my heart. Immortal,
malign, accursed type! Specter of my own conscience, ghost of my own
torment, image of the ceaseless struggle of the soul which has not yet
found its true aliment, its peace, its faith--art thou not the typical
example of a life which feeds upon itself, because it has not found
its God, and which, in its wandering flight across the worlds, carries
within it, like a comet, an inextinguishable flame of desire, and an
agony of incurable disillusion? I also am reduced to nothingness, and
I shiver on the brink of the great empty abysses of my inner being,
stifled by longing for the unknown, consumed with the thirst for the
infinite, prostrate before the ineffable. I also am torn sometimes by
this blind passion for life, these desperate struggles for happiness,
though more often I am a prey to complete exhaustion and taciturn
despair. What is the reason of it all? Doubt--doubt of one’s self, of
thought, of men, and of life--doubt which enervates the will and
weakens all our powers, which makes us forget God and neglect prayer and
duty--that restless and corrosive doubt which makes existence impossible
and meets all hope with satire.

July 17, 1859.--Always and everywhere salvation is torture, deliverance
means death, and peace lies in sacrifice. If we would win our pardon,
we must kiss the fiery crucifix. Life is a series of agonies, a
Calvary, which we can only climb on bruised and aching knees. We seek
distractions; we wander away; we deafen and stupefy ourselves that we
may escape the test; we turn away oar eyes from the _via dolorosa_; and
yet there is no help for it--we must come back to it in the end. What
we have to recognize is that each of us carries within himself his own
executioner--his demon, his hell, in his sin; that his sin is his idol,
and that this idol, which seduces the desire of his heart, is his curse.

_Die unto sin!_ This great saying of Christianity remains still the
highest theoretical solution of the inner life. Only in it is there any
peace of conscience; and without this peace there is no peace....

I have just read seven chapters of the gospel. Nothing calms me so much.
To do one’s duty in love and obedience, to do what is right--these are
the ideas which remain with one. To live in God and to do his work--this
is religion, salvation, life eternal; this is both the effect and the
sign of love and of the Holy Spirit; this is the new man announced by
Jesus, and the new life into which we enter by the second birth. To be
born again is to renounce the old life, sin, and the natural man, and
to take to one’s self another principle of life. It is to exist for God
with another self, another will, another love.

August 9, 1859.--Nature is forgetful: the world is almost more so.
However little the individual may lend himself to it, oblivion soon
covers him like a shroud. This rapid and inexorable expansion of the
universal life, which covers, overflows, and swallows up all individual
being, which effaces our existence and annuls all memory of us, fills me
with unbearable melancholy. To be born, to struggle, to disappear--there
is the whole ephemeral drama of human life. Except in a few hearts, and
not even always in one, our memory passes like a ripple on the water, or
a breeze in the air. If nothing in us is immortal, what a small thing is
life. Like a dream which trembles and dies at the first glimmer of
dawn, all my past, all my present, dissolve in me, and fall away from my
consciousness at the moment when it returns upon itself. I feel myself
then stripped and empty, like a convalescent who remembers nothing. My
travels, my reading, my studies, my projects, my hopes, have faded from
my mind. It is a singular state. All my faculties drop away from me like
a cloak that one takes off, like the chrysalis case of a larva. I
feel myself returning into a more elementary form. I behold my own
unclothing; I forget, still more than I am forgotten; I pass gently into
the grave while still living, and I feel, as it were, the indescribable
peace of annihilation, and the dim quiet of the Nirvana. I am conscious
of the river of time passing before and in me, of the impalpable shadows
of life gliding past me, but nothing breaks the cateleptic tranquillity
which enwraps me.

I come to understand the Buddhist trance of the Soufis, the kief of the
Turk, the “ecstasy” of the orientals, and yet I am conscious all the
time that the pleasure of it is deadly, that, like the use of opium or
of hasheesh, it is a kind of slow suicide, inferior in all respects
to the joys of action, to the sweetness of love, to the beauty of
enthusiasm, to the sacred savor of accomplished duty. November 28,
1859.--This evening I heard the first lecture of Ernest Naville
[Footnote: The well-known Genevese preacher and writer, Ernest Naville,
the son of a Genevese pastor, was born in 1816, became professor at the
Academy of Geneva in 1844, lost his post after the revolution of
1846, and, except for a short interval in 1860, has since then held no
official position. His courses of theological lectures, delivered at
intervals from 1859 onward, were an extraordinary success. They were
at first confined to men only, and an audience of two thousand persons
sometimes assembled to hear them. To literature he is mainly known as
the editor of Maine de Biran’s Journal.] on “The Eternal Life.” It was
admirably sure in touch, true, clear, and noble throughout. He proved
that, whether we would or no, we were bound to face the question
of another life. Beauty of character, force of expression, depth of
thought, were all equally visible in this extemporized address, which
was as closely reasoned as a book, and can scarcely be disentangled from
the quotations of which it was full. The great room of the Casino was
full to the doors, and one saw a fairly large number of white heads.

December 13, 1859.--Fifth lecture on “The Eternal Life” (“The Proof of
the Gospel by the Supernatural.”) The same talent and great eloquence;
but the orator does not understand that the supernatural must either
be historically proved, or, supposing it cannot be proved, that it must
renounce all pretensions to overstep the domain of faith and to encroach
upon that of history and science. He quotes Strauss, Renan, Scherer, but
he touches only the letter of them, not the spirit. Everywhere one sees
the Cartesian dualism and a striking want of the genetic, historical,
and critical sense. The idea of a living evolution has not penetrated
into the consciousness of the orator. With every intention of dealing
with things as they are, he remains, in spite of himself, subjective and
oratorical. There is the inconvenience of handling a matter polemically
instead of in the spirit of the student. Naville’s moral sense is too
strong for his discernment and prevents him from seeing what he does not
wish to see. In his metaphysic, will is placed above intelligence, and
in his personality the character is superior to the understanding, as
one might logically expect. And the consequence is, that he may prop up
what is tottering, but he makes no conquests; he may help to preserve
existing truths and beliefs, but he is destitute of initiative or
vivifying power. He is a moralizing but not a suggestive or stimulating
influence. A popularizer, apologist and orator of the greatest merit, he
is a schoolman at bottom; his arguments are of the same type as those
of the twelfth century, and he defends Protestantism in the same way
in which Catholicism has been commonly defended. The best way of
demonstrating the insufficiency of this point of view is to show by
history how incompletely it has been superseded. The chimera of a simple
and absolute truth is wholly Catholic and anti-historic. The mind of
Naville is mathematical and his objects moral. His strength lies
in _mathematicizing_ morals. As soon as it becomes a question of
development, metamorphosis, organization--as soon as he is brought
into contact with the mobile world of actual life, especially of the
spiritual life, he has no longer anything serviceable to say. Language
is for him a system of fixed signs; a man, a people, a book, are so many
geometrical figures of which we have only to discover the properties.

December 15th.--Naville’s sixth lecture, an admirable one, because it
did nothing more than expound the Christian doctrine of eternal life. As
an extempore performance--marvelously exact, finished, clear and noble,
marked by a strong and disciplined eloquence. There was not a single
reservation to make in the name of criticism, history or philosophy. It
was all beautiful, noble, true and pure. It seems to me that Naville has
improved in the art of speech during these latter years. He has always
had a kind of dignified and didactic beauty, but he has now added to
it the contagious cordiality and warmth of feeling which complete
the orator; he moves the whole man, beginning with the intellect
but finishing with the heart. He is now very near to the true virile
eloquence, and possesses one species of it indeed very nearly in
perfection. He has arrived at the complete command of the resources of
his own nature, at an adequate and masterly expression of himself. Such
expression is the joy and glory of the oratorical artist as of every
other. Naville is rapidly becoming a model in the art of premeditated
and self-controlled eloquence.

There is another kind of eloquence--that which seems inspired, which
finds, discovers, and illuminates by bounds and flashes, which is born
in the sight of the audience and transports it. Such is not Naville’s
kind. Is it better worth having? I do not know.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every real need is stilled, and every vice is stimulated by

       *       *       *       *       *

Obstinacy is will asserting itself without being able to justify itself.
It is persistence without a plausible motive. It is the tenacity of
self-love substituted for the tenacity of reason or conscience.

It is not what he has, nor even what he does, which directly expresses
the worth of a man, but what he is.

       *       *       *       *       *

What comfort, what strength, what economy there is in _order_--material
order, intellectual order, moral order. To know where one is going
and what one wishes--this is order; to keep one’s word and one’s
engagements--again order; to have everything ready under one’s hand, to
be able to dispose of all one’s forces, and to have all one’s means of
whatever kind under command--still order; to discipline one’s habits,
one’s effort, one’s wishes; to organize one’s life, to distribute
one’s time, to take the measure of one’s duties and make one’s rights
respected; to employ one’s capital and resources, one’s talent and one’s
chances profitably--all this belongs to and is included in the word
_order_. Order means light and peace, inward liberty and free command
over one’s self; order is power. Aesthetic and moral beauty consist, the
first in a true perception of order, and the second in submission to it,
and in the realization of it, by, in, and around one’s self. Order is
man’s greatest need and his true well-being.

April 17, 1860.--The cloud has lifted; I am better. I have been able
to take my usual walk on the Treille; all the buds were opening and
the young shoots were green on all the branches. The rippling of clear
water, the merriment of birds, the young freshness of plants, and the
noisy play of children, produce a strange effect upon an invalid. Or
rather it was strange to me to be looking at such things with the eyes
of a sick and dying man; it was my first introduction to a new phase of
experience. There is a deep sadness in it. One feels one’s self cut off
from nature--outside her communion as it were. She is strength and joy
and eternal health. “Room for the living,” she cries to us; “do not come
to darken my blue sky with your miseries; each has his turn: begone!”
 But to strengthen our own courage, we must say to ourselves, No; it is
good for the world to see suffering and weakness; the sight adds zest
to the joy of the happy and the careless, and is rich in warning for
all who think. Life has been lent to us, and we owe it to our traveling
companions to let them see what use we make of it to the end. We must
show our brethren both how to live and how to die. These first summonses
of illness have besides a divine value; they give us glimpses behind
the scenes of life; they teach us something of its awful reality and its
inevitable end. They teach us sympathy. They warn us to redeem the time
while it is yet day. They awaken in us gratitude for the blessings which
are still ours, and humility for the gifts which are in us. So that,
evils though they seem, they are really an appeal to us from on high, a
touch of God’s fatherly scourge.

How frail a thing is health, and what a thin envelope protects our life
against being swallowed up from without, or disorganized from within! A
breath, and the boat springs a leak or founders; a nothing, and all
is endangered; a passing cloud, and all is darkness! Life is indeed a
flower which a morning withers and the beat of a passing wing breaks
down; it is the widow’s lamp, which the slightest blast of air
extinguishes. In order to realize the poetry which clings to morning
roses, one needs to have just escaped from the claws of that vulture
which we call illness. The foundation and the heightening of all things
is the graveyard. The only certainty in this world of vain agitations
and endless anxieties, is the certainty of death, and that which is the
foretaste and small change of death--pain.

As long as we turn our eyes away from this implacable reality, the
tragedy of life remains hidden from us. As soon as we look at it face to
face, the true proportions of everything reappear, and existence becomes
solemn again. It is made clear to us that we have been frivolous and
petulant, intractable and forgetful, and that we have been wrong.

We must die and give an account of our life: here in all its simplicity
is the teaching of sickness! “Do with all diligence what you have to
do; reconcile yourself with the law of the universe; think of your duty;
prepare yourself for departure:” such is the cry of conscience and of

May 3, 1860.--Edgar Quinet has attempted everything: he has aimed
at nothing but the greatest things; he is rich in ideas, a master of
splendid imagery, serious, enthusiastic, courageous, a noble writer. How
is it, then, that he has not more reputation? Because he is too pure;
because he is too uniformly ecstatic, fantastic, inspired--a mood
which soon palls on Frenchmen. Because he is too single-minded, candid,
theoretical, and speculative, too ready to believe in the power of words
and of ideas, too expansive and confiding; while at the same time he is
lacking in the qualities which amuse clever people--in sarcasm, irony,
cunning and _finesse_. He is an idealist reveling in color: a Platonist
brandishing the _thyrsus_ of the Menads. At bottom his is a mind of no
particular country. It is in vain that he satirizes Germany and abuses
England; he does not make himself any more of a Frenchman by doing so.
It is a northern intellect wedded to a southern imagination, but
the marriage has not been a happy one. He has the disease of chronic
magniloquence, of inveterate sublimity; abstractions for him become
personified and colossal beings, which act or speak in colossal fashion;
he is intoxicated with the infinite. But one feels all the time that
his creations are only individual monologues; he cannot escape from
the bounds of a subjective lyrism. Ideas, passions, anger, hopes,
complaints--he himself is present in them all. We never have the delight
of escaping from his magic circle, of seeing truth as it is, of entering
into relation with the phenomena and the beings of whom he speaks,
with the reality of things. This imprisonment of the author within his
personality looks like conceit. But on the contrary, it is because the
heart is generous that the mind is egotistical. It is because Quinet
thinks himself so much of a Frenchman that he is it so little. These
ironical compensations of destiny are very familiar to me: I have often
observed them. Man is nothing but contradiction: the less he knows it
the more dupe he is. In consequence of his small capacity for seeing
things as they are, Quinet has neither much accuracy nor much balance
of mind. He recalls Victor Hugo, with much less artistic power but more
historical sense. His principal gift is a great command of imagery and
symbolism. He seems to me a Görres [Footnote: Joseph Goerres, a German
mystic and disciple of Schelling. He published, among other works,
“Mythengeschichte der Asiatischen Welt,” and “Christliche Mystik.”]
transplanted to Franche Comté, a sort of supernumerary prophet, with
whom his nation hardly knows what to do, seeing that she loves neither
enigmas nor ecstasy nor inflation of language, and that the intoxication
of the tripod bores her.

The real excellence of Quinet seems to me to lie in his historical works
(“Marnix,” “L’Italie,” “Les Roumains”), and especially in his studies of
nationalities. He was born, to understand these souls, at once more vast
and more sublime than individual souls.

(_Later_).--I have been translating into verse that page of Goethe’s
“Faust” in which is contained his pantheistic confession of faith. The
translation is not bad, I think. But what a difference between the two
languages in the matter of precision! It is like the difference between
stump and graving-tool--the one showing the effort, the other noting the
result of the act; the one making you feel all that is merely dreamed or
vague, formless or vacant, the other determining, fixing, giving shape
even to the indefinite; the one representing the cause, the force, the
limbo whence things issue, the other the things themselves. German has
the obscure depth of the infinite, French the clear brightness of the

May 5, 1860.--To grow old is more difficult than to die, because to
renounce a good once and for all, costs less than to renew the sacrifice
day by day and in detail. To bear with one’s own decay, to accept one’s
own lessening capacity, is a harder and rarer virtue than to face death.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a halo round tragic and premature death; there is but a long
sadness in declining strength. But look closer: so studied, a resigned
and religious old age will often move us more than the heroic ardor
of young years. The maturity of the soul is worth more than the first
brilliance of its faculties, or the plentitude of its strength, and the
eternal in us can but profit from all the ravages made by time. There is
comfort in this thought.

May 22, 1860.--There is in me a secret incapacity for expressing my
true feeling, for saying what pleases others, for bearing witness to the
present--a reserve which I have often noticed in myself with vexation.
My heart never dares to speak seriously, either because it is ashamed of
being thought to flatter, or afraid lest it should not find exactly the
right expression. I am always trifling with the present moment. Feeling
in me is retrospective. My refractory nature is slow to recognize the
solemnity of the hour in which I actually stand. An ironical instinct,
born of timidity, makes me pass lightly over what I have on pretence of
waiting for some other thing at some other time. Fear of being carried
away, and distrust of myself pursue me even in moments of emotion; by
a sort of invincible pride, I can never persuade myself to say to any
particular instant: “Stay! decide for me; be a supreme moment! stand out
from the monotonous depths of eternity and mark a unique experience in
my life!” I trifle, even with happiness, out of distrust of the future.

May 27, 1860. (Sunday).--I heard this morning a sermon on the Holy
Spirit--good but insufficient. Why was I not edified? Because there was
no unction. Why was there no unction? Because Christianity from this
rationalistic point of view is a Christianity of _dignity_, not of
humility. Penitence, the struggles of weakness, austerity, find no
place in it. The law is effaced, holiness and mysticism evaporate; the
specifically Christian accent is wanting. My impression is always the
same--faith is made a dull poor thing by these attempts to reduce it
to simple moral psychology. I am oppressed by a feeling of
inappropriateness and _malaise_ at the sight of philosophy in the
pulpit. “They have taken away my Saviour, and I know not where they have
laid him;” so the simple folk have a right to say, and I repeat it with
them. Thus, while some shock me by their sacerdotal dogmatism, others
repel me by their rationalizing laicism. It seems to me that good
preaching ought to combine, as Schleiermacher did, perfect moral
humility with energetic independence of thought, a profound sense of sin
with respect for criticism and a passion for truth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The free being who abandons the conduct of himself, yields himself to
Satan; in the moral world there is no ground without a master, and the
waste lands belong to the Evil One.

The poetry of childhood consists in simulating and forestalling the
future, just as the poetry of mature life consists often in going
backward to some golden age. Poetry is always in the distance. The whole
art of moral government lies in gaining a directing and shaping hold
over the poetical ideals of an age.

January 9, 1861.--I have just come from the inaugural lecture of Victor
Cherbuliez in a state of bewildered admiration. As a lecture it was
exquisite: if it was a recitation of prepared matter, it was admirable;
if an extempore performance, it was amazing. In the face of superiority
and perfection, says Schiller, we have but one resource--to love them,
which is what I have done. I had the pleasure, mingled with a little
surprise, of feeling in myself no sort of jealousy toward this young

March 15th.--This last lecture in Victor Cherbuliez’s course on
“Chivalry,” which is just over, showed the same magical power over his
subject as that with which he began the series two months ago. It was
a triumph and a harvest of laurels. Cervantes, Ignatius Loyola, and the
heritage of chivalry--that is to say, individualism, honor, the
poetry of the present and the poetry of contrasts, modern liberty and
progress--have been the subjects of this lecture.

The general impression left upon me all along has been one of admiration
for the union in him of extraordinary skill in execution with admirable
cultivation of mind. With what freedom of spirit he uses and wields his
vast erudition, and what capacity for close attention he must have to be
able to carry the weight of a whole improvised speech with the same ease
as though it were a single sentence! I do not know if I am partial, but
I find no occasion for anything but praise in this young wizard and his
lectures. The fact is, that in my opinion we have now one more first
rate mind, one more master of language among us. This course, with the
“Causeries Athéniennes,” seems to me to establish Victor Cherbuliez’s
position at Geneva.

March 17, 1861.--This afternoon a homicidal languor seized hold upon
me--disgust, weariness of life, mortal sadness. I wandered out into the
churchyard, hoping to find quiet and peace there, and so to reconcile
myself with duty. Vain dream! The place of rest itself had become
inhospitable. Workmen were stripping and carrying away the turf, the
trees were dry, the wind cold, the sky gray--something arid, irreverent,
and prosaic dishonored the resting-place of the dead. I was struck with
something wanting in our national feeling--respect for the dead, the
poetry of the tomb, the piety of memory. Our churches are too little
open; our churchyards too much. The result in both cases is the same.
The tortured and trembling heart which seeks, outside the scene of its
daily miseries, to find some place where it may pray in peace, or pour
out its grief before God, or meditate in the presence of eternal things,
with us has nowhere to go. Our church ignores these wants of the
soul instead of divining and meeting them. She shows very little
compassionate care for her children, very little wise consideration for
the more delicate griefs, and no intuition of the deeper mysteries of
tenderness, no religious suavity. Under a pretext of spirituality we are
always checking legitimate aspirations. We have lost the mystical sense;
and what is religion without mysticism? A rose without perfume.

The words _repentance_ and _sanctification_ are always on our lips.
But _adoration_ and _consolation_ are also two essential elements in
religion, and we ought perhaps to make more room for them than we do.

April 28, 1861.--In the same way as a dream transforms according to
its nature, the incidents of sleep, so the soul converts into psychical
phenomena the ill-defined impressions of the organism. An uncomfortable
attitude becomes nightmare; an atmosphere charged with storm becomes
moral torment. Not mechanically and by direct causality; but imagination
and conscience engender, according to their own nature, analogous
effects; they translate into their own language, and cast into their own
mold, whatever reaches them from outside. Thus dreams may be helpful to
medicine and to divination, and states of weather may stir up and
set free within the soul vague and hidden evils. The suggestions and
solicitations which act upon life come from outside, but life produces
nothing but itself after all. Originality consists in rapid and clear
reaction against these outside influences, in giving to them our
individual stamp. To think is to withdraw, as it were, into one’s
impression--to make it clear to one’s self, and then to put it forth
in the shape of a personal judgment. In this also consists
self-deliverance, self-enfranchisement, self-conquest. All that comes
from outside is a question to which we owe an answer--a pressure to be
met by counter-pressure, if we are to remain free and living agents. The
development of our unconscious nature follows the astronomical laws
of Ptolemy; everything in it is change--cycle, epi-cycle, and

Every man then possesses in himself the analogies and rudiments of all
things, of all beings, and of all forms of life. He who knows how to
divine the small beginnings, the germs and symptoms of things, can
retrace in himself the universal mechanism, and divine by intuition the
series which he himself will not finish, such as vegetable and animal
existences, human passions and crises, the diseases of the soul and
those of the body. The mind which is subtle and powerful may penetrate
all these potentialities, and make every point flash out the world which
it contains. This is to be conscious of and to possess the general life,
this is to enter into the divine sanctuary of contemplation.

September 12, 1861.--In me an intellect which would fain forget itself
in things, is contradicted by a heart which yearns to live in human
beings. The uniting link of the two contradictions is the tendency
toward self-abandonment, toward ceasing to will and exist for
one’s self, toward laying down one’s own personality, and
losing--dissolving--one’s self in love and contemplation. What I lack
above all things is character, will, individuality. But, as always
happens, the appearance is exactly the contrary of the reality, and
my outward life the reverse of my true and deepest aspiration. I whose
whole being--heart and intellect--thirsts to absorb itself in reality,
in its neighbor man, in nature and in God, I, whom solitude devours
and destroys, I shut myself up in solitude and seem to delight only
in myself and to be sufficient for myself. Pride and delicacy of soul,
timidity of heart, have made me thus do violence to all my instincts and
invert the natural order of my life. It is not astonishing that I
should be unintelligible to others. In fact I have always avoided what
attracted me, and turned my back upon the point where secretly I desired
to be.

  “Deux instincts sont en moi: vertige et déraison;
  J’ai l’effroi du bonheur et la soif du poison.”

It is the Nemesis which dogs the steps of life, the secret instinct and
power of death in us, which labors continually for the destruction of
all that seeks to be, to take form, to exist; it is the passion for
destruction, the tendency toward suicide, identifying itself with the
instinct of self-preservation. This antipathy toward all that does one
good, all that nourishes and heals, is it not a mere variation of the
antipathy to moral light and regenerative truth? Does not sin also
create a thirst for death, a growing passion for what does harm?
Discouragement has been my sin. Discouragement is an act of unbelief.
Growing weakness has been the consequence of it; the principle of death
in me and the influence of the Prince of Darkness have waxed stronger
together. My will in abdicating has yielded up the scepter to instinct;
and as the corruption of the best results in what is worst, love of
the ideal, tenderness, unworldliness, have led me to a state in which I
shrink from hope and crave for annihilation. Action is my cross.

October 11, 1861. (_Heidelberg_).--After eleven days journey, here I am
under the roof of my friends, in their hospitable house on the banks of
the Neckar, with its garden climbing up the side of the Heiligenberg....
Blazing sun; my room is flooded with light and warmth. Sitting opposite
the Geisberg, I write to the murmur of the Neckar, which rolls its green
waves, flecked with silver, exactly beneath the balcony on which my room
opens. A great barge coming from Heilbron passes silently under my eyes,
while the wheels of a cart which I cannot see are dimly heard on the
road which skirts the river. Distant voices of children, of cocks, of
chirping sparrows, the clock of the Church of the Holy Spirit, which
chimes the hour, serve to gauge, without troubling, the general
tranquility of the scene. One feels the hours gently slipping by, and
time, instead of flying, seems to hover. A peace beyond words steals
into my heart, an impression of morning grace, of fresh country poetry
which brings back the sense of youth, and has the true German savor....
Two decked barges carrying red flags, each with a train of flat boats
filled with coal, are going up the river and making their way under the
arch of the great stone bridge. I stand at the window and see a whole
perspective of boats sailing in both directions; the Neckar is as
animated as the street of some great capital; and already on the slope
of the wooded mountain, streaked by the smoke-wreaths of the town, the
castle throws its shadow like a vast drapery, and traces the outlines of
its battlements and turrets. Higher up, in front of me, rises the dark
profile of the Molkenkur; higher still, in relief against the dazzling
east, I can distinguish the misty forms of the two towers of the
Kaiserstuhl and the Trutzheinrich.

But enough of landscape. My host, Dr. George Weber, tells me that his
manual of history is translated into Polish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian,
and French, and that of his great “Universal History”--three volumes
are already published. What astonishing power of work, what prodigious
tenacity, what solidity! _O deutscher Fleiss_!

November 25, 1861.--To understand a drama requires the same mental
operation as to understand an existence, a biography, a man. It is a
putting back of the bird into the egg, of the plant into its seed, a
reconstitution of the whole genesis of the being in question. Art is
simply the bringing into relief of the obscure thought of nature; a
simplification of the lines, a falling into place of groups otherwise
invisible. The fire of inspiration brings out, as it were, designs
traced beforehand in sympathetic ink. The mysterious grows clear, the
confused plain; what is complicated becomes simple--what is accidental,

In short, art reveals nature by interpreting its intentions and
formulating its desires. Every ideal is the key of a long enigma. The
great artist is the simplifier.

Every man is a tamer of wild beasts, and these wild beasts are his
passions. To draw their teeth and claws, to muzzle and tame them, to
turn them into servants and domestic animals, fuming, perhaps, but
submissive--in this consists personal education.

February 3, 1862.--Self-criticism is the corrosive of all oratorical
or literary spontaneity. The thirst to know turned upon the self is
punished, like the curiosity of Psyche, by the flight of the thing
desired. Force should remain a mystery to itself; as soon as it tries to
penetrate its own secret it vanishes away. The hen with the golden eggs
becomes unfruitful as soon as she tries to find out why her eggs are
golden. The consciousness of consciousness is the term and end of
analysis. True, but analysis pushed to extremity devours itself, like
the Egyptian serpent. We must give it some external matter to crush
and dissolve if we wish to prevent its destruction by its action upon
itself. “We are, and ought to be, obscure to ourselves,” said Goethe,
“turned outward, and working upon the world which surrounds us.” Outward
radiation constitutes health; a too continuous concentration upon what
is within brings us back to vacuity and blank. It is better that life
should dilate and extend itself in ever-widening circles, than that it
should be perpetually diminished and compressed by solitary contraction.
Warmth tends to make a globe out of an atom; cold, to reduce a globe
to the dimensions of an atom. Analysis has been to me self-annulling,

April 23, 1862. (_Mornex sur Salève_).--I was awakened by the twittering
of the birds at a quarter to five, and saw, as I threw open my windows,
the yellowing crescent of the moon looking in upon me, while the east
was just faintly whitening. An hour later it was delicious out of doors.
The anemones were still closed, the apple-trees in full flower:

  “Ces beaux pommiers, coverts de leurs fleurs étoiléens,
  Neige odorante du printemps.”

The view was exquisite, and nature, in full festival, spread freshness
and joy around her. I breakfasted, read the paper, and here I am. The
ladies of the _pension_ are still under the horizon. I pity them for the
loss of two or three delightful hours.

Eleven o’clock.--Preludes, scales, piano-exercises going on under my
feet. In the garden children’s voices. I have just finished Rosenkrantz
on “Hegel’s Logic,” and have run through a few articles in the
Reviews.... The limitation of the French mind consists in the
insufficiency of its spiritual alphabet, which does not allow it to
translate the Greek, German, or Spanish mind without changing the
accent. The hospitality of French manners is not completed by a
real hospitality of thought.... My nature is just the opposite. I am
individual in the presence of men, objective in the presence of things.
I attach myself to the object, and absorb myself in it; I detach myself
from subjects [_i.e._. persons], and hold myself on my guard against
them. I feel myself different from the mass of men, and akin to the
great whole of nature. My way of asserting myself is in cherishing this
sense of sympathetic unity with life, which I yearn to understand, and
in repudiating the tyranny of commonplace. All that is imitative and
artificial inspires me with a secret repulsion, while the smallest true
and spontaneous existence (plant, animal, child) draws and attracts me.
I feel myself in community of spirit with the Goethes, the Hegels, the
Schleiermachers, the Leibnitzes, opposed as they are among themselves;
while the French mathematicians, philosophers, or rhetoricians, in spite
of their high qualities, leave me cold, because there is in them no
sense of the whole, the sum of things [Footnote: The following passage
from Sainte-Beuve may be taken as a kind of answer by anticipation to
this accusation, which Amiel brings more than once in the course of the

“Toute nation livrée à elle-même et à son propre génie se fait une
critique littéraire qui y est conforme. La France en son beau temps a eu
la sienne, qui ne ressemble ni à celle de l’Allemagne ni à celle de ses
autres voisins--un peu plus superficielle, dira-t-on--je ne le crois
pas: mais plus vive, moins chargée d’erudition, moins théorique et
systématique, plus confiante au sentiment immédiat du goût. _Un peu
de chaque chose et rien de l’ensemble, à la Française_: telle était
la devise de Montaigne et telle est aussi la devise de la critique
française. Nous ne sommes pas _synthétiques_, comme diraient les
Allemands; le mot même n’est pas française. L’imagination de détail nous
suffit. Montaigne, La Fontaine Madame de Sévigné, sont volontiers nos
livres de chevet.”

The French critic then goes on to give a rapid sketch of the authors
and the books, “qui ont peu a peu formé comme notre rhétorique.” French
criticism of the old characteristic kind rests ultimately upon the
minute and delicate knowledge of a few Greek and Latin classics.
Arnauld, Boileau, Fénélon, Rollin, Racine _fils_, Voltaire, La Harpe,
Marmontel, Delille, Fontanes, and Châteaubriand in one aspect, are the
typical names of this tradition, the creators and maintainers of this
common literary _fonds_, this “sorte de circulation courante à l’usage
des gens instruits. J’avoue ma faiblesse: nous sommes devenus bien plus
forts dans la dissertation érudite, mais j’aurais un éternel regret
pour cette moyenne et plus libre habitude littéraire qui laissait à
l’imagination tout son espace et à l’esprit tout son jeu; qui formait
une atmosphère saine et facile où le talent respirait et se mouvait
à son gré: cette atmosphère-là, je ne la trouve plus, et je la
regrette.”--(_Châteaubriand et son Groupe Littéraire_, vol. i. p. 311.)

The following _pensée_ of La Bruyère applies to the second half of
Amiel’s criticism of the French mind: “If you wish to travel in the
Inferno or the Paradiso you must take other guides,” etc.

“Un homme né Chrétien et François se trouve contraint dans la satyre;
les grands sujets lui sont défendus, il les entame quelquefois, et se
détourne ensuite sur de petites choses qu’il relève par la beauté de
son génie et de son style.”--_Les Caractères_, etc., “_Des Ouvrages
del’Esprit_.”]--because they have no _grasp_ of reality in its fullness,
and therefore either cramp and limit me or awaken my distrust. The
French lack that intuitive faculty to which the living unity of things
is revealed, they have very little sense of what is sacred, very little
penetration into the mysteries of being. What they excel in is the
construction of special sciences; the art of writing a book, style,
courtesy, grace, literary models, perfection and urbanity; the spirit of
order, the art of teaching, discipline, elegance, truth of detail,
power of arrangement; the desire and the gift for proselytism, the vigor
necessary for practical conclusions. But if you wish to travel in the
“Inferno” or the “Paradiso” you must take other guides. Their home is
on the earth, in the region of the finite, the changing, the historical,
and the diverse. Their logic never goes beyond the category of mechanism
nor their metaphysic beyond dualism. When they undertake anything else
they are doing violence to themselves.

April 24th. (_Noon_).--All around me profound peace, the silence of the
mountains in spite of a full house and a neighboring village. No sound
is to be heard but the murmur of the flies. There is something very
striking in this calm. The middle of the day is like the middle of the
night. Life seems suspended just when it is most intense. These are the
moments in which one hears the infinite and perceives the ineffable.
Victor Hugo, in his “Contemplations,” has been carrying me from world
to world, and since then his contradictions have reminded me of the
convinced Christian with whom I was talking yesterday in a house near
by.... The same sunlight floods both the book and nature, the doubting
poet and the believing preacher, as well as the mobile dreamer, who, in
the midst of all these various existences, allows himself to be swayed
by every passing breath, and delights, stretched along the car of his
balloon, in floating aimlessly through all the sounds and shallows
of the ether, and in realizing within himself all the harmonies and
dissonances of the soul, of feeling, and of thought. Idleness and
contemplation! Slumber of the will, lapses of the vital force, indolence
of the whole being--how well I know you! To love, to dream, to feel,
to learn, to understand--all these are possible to me if only I may be
relieved from willing. It is my tendency, my instinct, my fault, my sin.
I have a sort of primitive horror of ambition, of struggle, of hatred,
of all which dissipates the soul and makes it dependent upon external
things and aims. The joy of becoming once more conscious of myself, of
listening to the passage of time and the flow of the universal life,
is sometimes enough to make me forget every desire, and to quench in
me both the wish to produce and the power to execute. Intellectual
Epicureanism is always threatening to overpower me. I can only combat it
by the idea of duty; it is as the poet has said:

  “Ceux qui vivent, ce sont ceux qui luttent; ce sont
  Ceux dont un dessein ferme emplit l’âme et le front,
  Ceux qui d’un haut destin gravissent l’âpre cime,
  Ceux qui marchent pensifs, épris d’un but sublime,
  Ayant devant les yeux sans cesse, nuit et jour,
  Ou quelque saint labeur ou quelque grand amour!”

[Footnote: Victor Hugo, “Les Chatiments.”]

_Five o’clock._--In the afternoon our little society met in general talk
upon the terrace. Some amount of familiarity and friendliness begins
to show itself in our relations to each other. I read over again with
emotion some passages of “Jocelyn.” How admirable it is!

  “Il se fit de sa vie une plus mâle idée:
  Sa douleur d’un seul trait ne l’avait pas vidée;
  Mais, adorant de Dieu le sévère dessein,
  Il sut la porter pleine et pure dans son sein,
  Et ne se hâtant pas de la répandre toute,
  Sa résignation l’épancha goutte à goutte,
  Selon la circonstance et le besoin d’autrui,
  Pour tout vivifier sur terre autour de lui.”

[Footnote: Epilogue of “Jocelyn.”]

The true poetry is that which raises you, as this does, toward heaven,
and fills you with divine emotion; which sings of love and death, of
hope and sacrifice, and awakens the sense of the infinite. “Jocelyn”
 always stirs in me impulses of tenderness which it would be hateful
to me to see profaned by satire. As a tragedy of feeling, it has no
parallel in French, for purity, except “Paul et Virginie,” and I think
that I prefer “Jocelyn.” To be just, one ought to read them side by

_Six o’clock._--One more day is drawing to its close. With the exception
of Mont Blanc, all the mountains have already lost their color. The
evening chill succeeds the heat of the afternoon. The sense of the
implacable flight of things, of the resistless passage of the hours,
seizes upon me afresh and oppresses me.

  “Nature au front serein, comme vous oubliez!”

In vain we cry with the poet, “O time, suspend thy flight!”... And what
days, after all, would we keep and hold? Not only the happy days, but
the lost days! The first have left at least a memory behind them, the
others nothing but a regret which is almost a remorse....

_Eleven o’clock._--A gust of wind. A few clouds in the sky. The
nightingale is silent. On the other hand, the cricket and the river are
still singing.

August 9, 1862.--Life, which seeks its own continuance, tends to repair
itself without our help. It mends its spider’s webs when they have been
torn; it re-establishes in us the conditions of health, and itself heals
the injuries inflicted upon it; it binds the bandage again upon our
eyes, brings back hope into our hearts, breathes health once more into
our organs, and regilds the dream of our imagination. But for this,
experience would have hopelessly withered and faded us long before the
time, and the youth would be older than the centenarian. The wise part
of us, then, is that which is unconscious of itself; and what is
most reasonable in man are those elements in him which do not reason.
Instinct, nature, a divine, an impersonal activity, heal in us the
wounds made by our own follies; the invisible _genius_ of our life is
never tired of providing material for the prodigalities of the self.
The essential, maternal basis of our conscious life, is therefore that
unconscious life which we perceive no more than the outer hemisphere
of the moon perceives the earth, while all the time indissolubly and
eternally bound to it. It is our [Greek: antichoon], to speak with

November 7, 1862.--How malign, infectious, and unwholesome is the
eternal smile of that indifferent criticism, that attitude of ironical
contemplation, which corrodes and demolishes everything, that mocking
pitiless temper, which holds itself aloof from every personal duty
and every vulnerable affection, and cares only to understand without
committing itself to action! Criticism become a habit, a fashion, and
a system, means the destruction of moral energy, of faith, and of all
spiritual force. One of my tendencies leads me in this direction, but I
recoil before its results when I come across more emphatic types of
it than myself. And at least I cannot reproach myself with having ever
attempted to destroy the moral force of others; my reverence for life
forbade it, and my self-distrust has taken from me even the temptation
to it.

This kind of temper is very dangerous among us, for it flatters all
the worst instincts of men--indiscipline, irreverence, selfish
individualism--and it ends in social atomism. Minds inclined to mere
negation are only harmless in great political organisms, which go
without them and in spite of them. The multiplication of them among
ourselves will bring about the ruin of our little countries, for small
states only live by faith and will. Woe to the society where negation
rules, for life is an affirmation; and a society, a country, a nation,
is a living whole capable of death. No nationality is possible without
prejudices, for public spirit and national tradition are but webs woven
out of innumerable beliefs which have been acquired, admitted, and
continued without formal proof and without discussion. To act, we must
believe; to believe, we must make up our minds, affirm, decide, and
in reality prejudge the question. He who will only act upon a full
scientific certitude is unfit for practical life. But we are made
for action, and we cannot escape from duty. Let us not, then, condemn
prejudice so long as we have nothing but doubt to put in its place, or
laugh at those whom we should be incapable of consoling! This, at least,
is my point of view.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beyond the element which is common to all men there is an element
which separates them. This element may be religion, country, language,
education. But all these being supposed common, there still remains
something which serves as a line of demarcation--namely, the ideal. To
have an ideal or to have none, to have this ideal or that--this is what
digs gulfs between men, even between those who live in the same family
circle, under the same roof or in the same room. You must love with the
same love, think with the same thought as some one else, if you are to
escape solitude.

Mutual respect implies discretion and reserve even in love itself; it
means preserving as much liberty as possible to those whose life we
share. We must distrust our instinct of intervention, for the desire
to make one’s own will prevail is often disguised under the mask of

How many times we become hypocrites simply by remaining the same
outwardly and toward others, when we know that inwardly and to ourselves
we are different. It is not hypocrisy in the strict sense, for we borrow
no other personality than our own; still, it is a kind of deception. The
deception humiliates us, and the humiliation is a chastisement which the
mask inflicts upon the face, which our past inflicts upon our present.
Such humiliation is good for us; for it produces shame, and shame gives
birth to repentance. Thus in an upright soul good springs out of evil,
and it falls only to rise again.

       *       *       *       *       *

January 8, 1863.--This evening I read through the “Cid” and “Rodogune.”
 My impression is still a mixed and confused one. There is much
disenchantment in my admiration, and a good deal of reserve in my
enthusiasm. What displeases me in this dramatic art, is the mechanical
abstraction of the characters, and the scolding, shrewish tone of
the interlocutors. I had a vague impression of listening to gigantic
marionettes, perorating through a trumpet, with the emphasis of
Spaniards. There is power in it, but we have before us heroic idols
rather than human beings. The element of artificiality, of strained
pomposity and affectation, which is the plague of classical tragedy, is
everywhere apparent, and one hears, as it were, the cords and pulleys of
these majestic _colossi_ creaking and groaning. I much prefer Racine and
Shakespeare; the one from the point of view of aesthetic sensation, the
other from that of psychological sensation. The southern theater can
never free itself from masks. Comic masks are bearable, but in the case
of tragic heroes, the abstract type, the mask, make one impatient. I can
laugh with personages of tin and pasteboard: I can only weep with the
living, or what resembles them. Abstraction turns easily to caricature;
it is apt to engender mere shadows on the wall, mere ghosts and puppets.
It is psychology of the first degree--elementary psychology--just as the
colored pictures of Germany are elementary painting. And yet with all
this, you have a double-distilled and often sophistical refinement: just
as savages are by no means simple. The fine side of it all is the manly
vigor, the bold frankness of ideas, words, and sentiments. Why is it
that we find so large an element of factitious grandeur, mingled with
true grandeur, in this drama of 1640, from which the whole dramatic
development of monarchical France was to spring? Genius is there, but it
is hemmed round by a conventional civilization, and, strive as he may,
no man wears a wig with impunity.

January 13, 1863.--To-day it has been the turn of “Polyeucte” and “La
Morte de Pompée.” Whatever one’s objections may be, there is something
grandiose in the style of Corneille which reconciles you at last even to
his stiff, emphatic manner, and his over-ingenious rhetoric. But it is
the dramatic _genre_ which is false. His heroes are rôles rather than
men. They pose as magnanimity, virtue, glory, instead of realizing
them before us. They are always _en scène_, studied by others, or by
themselves. With them glory--that is to say, the life of ceremony and of
affairs, and the opinion of the public--replaces nature--becomes nature.
They never speak except _ore rotundo_, in _cothurnus_, or sometimes on
stilts. And what consummate advocates they all are! The French drama is
an oratorical tournament, a long suit between opposing parties, on a day
which is to end with the death of somebody, and where all the personages
represented are in haste to speak before the hour of silence strikes.
Elsewhere, speech serves to make action intelligible; in French tragedy
action is but a decent motive for speech. It is the procedure calculated
to extract the finest possible speeches from the persons who are
engaged in the action, and who represent different perceptions of it at
different moments and from different points of view. Love and nature,
duty and desire, and a dozen other moral antitheses, are the limbs moved
by the wire of the dramatist, who makes them fall into all the tragic
attitudes. What is really curious and amusing is that the people of
all others the most vivacious, gay, and intelligent, should have always
understood the grand style in this pompous, pedantic fashion. But it was

April 8, 1863.--I have been turning over the 3,500 pages of “Les
Misérables,” trying to understand the guiding idea of this vast
composition. The fundamental idea of “Les Misérables” seems to be this.
Society engenders certain frightful evils--prostitution, vagabondage,
rogues, thieves, convicts, war, revolutionary clubs and barricades. She
ought to impress this fact on her mind, and not treat all those who
come in contact with her law as mere monsters. The task before us is to
humanize law and opinion, to raise the fallen as well as the vanquished,
to create a social redemption. How is this to be done? By enlightening
vice and lawlessness, and so diminishing the sum of them, and by
bringing to bear upon the guilty the healing influence of pardon.
At bottom is it not a Christianization of society, this extension of
charity from the sinner to the condemned criminal, this application to
our present life of what the church applies more readily to the other?
Struggle to restore a human soul to order and to righteousness by
patience and by love, instead of crushing it by your inflexible
vindictiveness, your savage justice! Such is the cry of the book. It
is great and noble, but it is a little optimistic and Rousseau-like.
According to it the individual is always innocent and society always
responsible, and the ideal before us for the twentieth century is a sort
of democratic age of gold, a universal republic from which war, capital
punishment, and pauperism will have disappeared. It is the religion and
the city of progress; in a word, the Utopia of the eighteenth century
revived on a great scale. There is a great deal of generosity in it,
mixed with not a little fanciful extravagance. The fancifulness consists
chiefly in a superficial notion of evil. The author ignores or pretends
to forget the instinct of perversity, the love of evil for evil’s sake,
which is contained in the human heart.

The great and salutary idea of the book, is that honesty before the law
is a cruel hypocrisy, in so far as it arrogates to itself the right
of dividing society according to its own standard into elect and
reprobates, and thus confounds the relative with the absolute. The
leading passage is that in which Javert, thrown off the rails, upsets
the whole moral system of the strict Javert, half spy, half priest--of
the irreproachable police-officer. In this chapter the writer shows us
social charity illuminating and transforming a harsh and unrighteous
justice. Suppression of the social hell, that is to say, of all
irreparable stains, of all social outlawries for which there is neither
end nor hope--it is an essentially religious idea.

The erudition, the talent, the brilliancy of execution, shown in the
book are astonishing, bewildering almost. Its faults are to be found in
the enormous length allowed to digressions and episodical dissertations,
in the exaggeration of all the combinations and all the theses, and,
finally, in something strained, spasmodic, and violent in the style,
which is very different from the style of natural eloquence or of
essential truth. Effect is the misfortune of Victor Hugo, because he
makes it the center of his aesthetic system; and hence exaggeration,
monotony of emphasis, theatricality of manner, a tendency to force and
over-drive. A powerful artist, but one with whom you never forget the
artist; and a dangerous model, for the master himself is already grazing
the rock of burlesque, and passes from the sublime to the repulsive,
from lack of power to produce one harmonious impression of beauty. It is
natural enough that he should detest Racine.

But what astonishing philological and literary power has Victor Hugo! He
is master of all the dialects contained in our language, dialects of
the courts of law, of the stock-exchange, of war, and of the sea,
of philosophy and the convict-gang, the dialects of trade and of
archaeology, of the antiquarian and the scavenger. All the bric-à-brac
of history and of manners, so to speak, all the curiosities of soil,
and subsoil, are known and familiar to him. He seems to have turned
his Paris over and over, and to know it body and soul as one knows the
contents of one’s pocket. What a prodigious memory and what a lurid
imagination! He is at once a visionary and yet master of his dreams;
he summons up and handles at will the hallucinations of opium or of
hasheesh, without ever becoming their dupe; he makes of madness one
of his tame animals, and bestrides, with equal coolness, Pegasus or
Nightmare, the Hippogriff or the Chimera. As a psychological phenomenon
he is of the deepest interest. Victor Hugo draws in sulphuric acid,
he lights his pictures with electric light. He deafens, blinds, and
bewilders his reader rather than he charms or persuades him. Strength
carried to such a point as this is a fascination; without seeming to
take you captive, it makes you its prisoner; it does not enchant
you, but it holds you spellbound. His ideal is the extraordinary, the
gigantic, the overwhelming, the incommensurable. His most characteristic
words are _immense, colossal, enormous, huge, monstrous_. He finds a
way of making even child-nature extravagant and bizarre. The only thing
which seems impossible to him is to be natural. In short, his passion
is grandeur, his fault is excess; his distinguishing mark is a kind of
Titanic power with strange dissonances of puerility in its magnificence.
Where he is weakest is, in measure, taste, and sense of humor: he
fails in _esprit_, in the subtlest sense of the word. Victor Hugo is a
gallicized Spaniard, or rather he unites all the extremes of south and
north, the Scandinavian and the African. Gaul has less part in him than
any other country. And yet, by a caprice of destiny, he is one of the
literary geniuses of France in the nineteenth century! His resources are
inexhaustible, and age seems to have no power over him. What an infinite
store of words, forms, and ideas he carries about with him, and what a
pile of works he has left behind him to mark his passage! His eruptions
are like those of a volcano; and, fabulous workman that he is, he goes
on forever raising, destroying, crushing, and rebuilding a world of his
own creation, and a world rather Hindoo than Hellenic.

He amazes me: and yet I prefer those men of genius who awaken in me the
sense of truth, and who increase the sum of one’s inner liberty. In
Hugo one feels the effort of the laboring Cyclops; give me rather the
sonorous bow of Apollo, and the tranquil brow of the Olympian Jove.
His type is that of the Satyr in the “Légende des Siècles,” who
crushes Olympus, a type midway between the ugliness of the faun and the
overpowering sublimity of the great Pan.

May 23, 1863.--Dull, cloudy, misty weather; it rained in the night
and yet the air is heavy. This somber reverie of earth and sky has
a sacredness of its own, but it fills the spectator with a vague and
stupefying _ennui_. Light brings life: darkness may bring thought, but
a dull daylight, the uncertain glimmer of a leaden sky, merely make one
restless and weary. These indecisive and chaotic states of nature are
ugly, like all amorphous things, like smeared colors, or bats, or the
viscous polyps of the sea. The source of all attractiveness is to be
found in character, in sharpness of outline, in individualization. All
that is confused and indistinct, without form, or sex, or accent, is
antagonistic to beauty; for the mind’s first need is light; light means
order, and order means, in the first place, the distinction of the
parts, in the second, their regular action. Beauty is based on reason.

August 7, 1863.--A walk after supper, a sky sparkling with stars, the
Milky Way magnificent. Alas! all the same my heart is heavy. At bottom
I am always brought up against an incurable distrust of myself and of
life, which toward my neighbor has become indulgence, but for myself
has led to a _régime_ of absolute abstention. All or nothing! This is
my inborn disposition, my primitive stuff, my “old man.” And yet if some
one will but give me a little love, will but penetrate a little into my
inner feeling, I am happy and ask for scarcely anything else. A child’s
caresses, a friend’s talk, are enough to make me gay and expansive.
So then I aspire to the infinite, and yet a very little contents me;
everything disturbs me and the least thing calms me. I have often
surprised in my self the wish for death, and yet my ambitions for
happiness scarcely go beyond those of the bird: wings! sun! a nest! I
persist in solitude because of a taste for it, so people think. No, it
is from distaste, disgust, from shame at my own need of others, shame at
confessing it, a fear of passing into bondage if I do confess it.

September 2, 1863.--How shall I find a name for that subtle feeling
which seized hold upon me this morning in the twilight of waking? It was
a reminiscence, charming indeed, but nameless, vague, and featureless,
like the figure of a woman seen for an instant by a sick man in the
uncertainty of delirium, and across the shadows of his darkened room. I
had a distinct sense of a form which I had seen somewhere, and which had
moved and charmed me once, and then had fallen back with time into the
catacombs of oblivion. But all the rest was confused: place, occasion,
and the figure itself, for I saw neither the face nor its expression.
The whole was like a fluttering veil under which the enigma--the secret
of happiness--might have been hidden. And I was awake enough to be sure
that it was not a dream.

In impressions like these we recognize the last trace of things which
are sinking out of sight and call within us, of memories which are
perishing. It is like a shimmering marsh-light falling upon some vague
outline of which one scarcely knows whether it represents a pain or a
pleasure--a gleam upon a grave. How strange! One might almost call
such things the ghosts of the soul, reflections of past happiness, the
_manes_ of our dead emotions. If, as the Talmud, I think, says, every
feeling of love gives birth involuntarily to an invisible genius or
spirit which yearns to complete its existence, and these glimmering
phantoms, which have never taken to themselves form and reality, are
still wandering in the limbo of the soul, what is there to astonish us
in the strange apparitions which sometimes come to visit our pillow? At
any rate, the fact remains that I was not able to force the phantom
to tell me its name, nor to give any shape or distinctness to my

What a melancholy aspect life may wear to us when we are floating down
the current of such dreamy thoughts as these! It seems like some vast
nocturnal shipwreck in which a hundred loving voices are clamoring for
help, while the pitiless mounting wave is silencing all the cries one
by one, before we have been able, in this darkness of death, to press a
hand or give the farewell kiss. Prom such a point of view destiny looks
harsh, savage, and cruel, and the tragedy of life rises like a rock in
the midst of the dull waters of daily triviality. It is impossible not
to be serious under the weight of indefinable anxiety produced in us by
such a spectacle. The surface of things may be smiling or commonplace,
but the depths below are austere and terrible. As soon as we touch upon
eternal things, upon the destiny of the soul, upon truth or duty, upon
the secrets of life and death, we become grave whether we will or no.

Love at its highest point--love sublime, unique, invincible--leads us
straight to the brink of the great abyss, for it speaks to us directly
of the infinite and of eternity. It is eminently religious; it may even
become religion. When all around a man is wavering and changing, when
everything is growing dark and featureless to him in the far distance of
an unknown future, when the world seems but a fiction or a fairy tale,
and the universe a chimera, when the whole edifice of ideas vanishes in
smoke, and all realities are penetrated with doubt, what is the fixed
point which may still be his? The faithful heart of a woman! There he
may rest his head; there he will find strength to live, strength to
believe, and, if need be, strength to die in peace with a benediction on
his lips. Who knows if love and its beatitude, clear manifestation as it
is of the universal harmony of things, is not the best demonstration
of a fatherly and understanding God, just as it is the shortest road by
which to reach him? Love is a faith, and one faith leads to another. And
this faith is happiness, light and force. Only by it does a man enter
into the series of the living, the awakened, the happy, the redeemed--of
those true men who know the value of existence and who labor for
the glory of God and of the truth. Till then we are but babblers and
chatterers, spendthrifts of our time, our faculties and our gifts,
without aim, without real joy--weak, infirm, and useless beings, of no
account in the scheme of things. Perhaps it is through love that I shall
find my way back to faith, to religion, to energy, to concentration. It
seems to me, at least, that if I could but find my work-fellow and my
destined companion, all the rest would be added unto me, as though to
confound my unbelief and make me blush for my despair. Believe, then, in
a fatherly Providence, and dare to love!

November 25, 1863.--Prayer is the essential weapon of all religions.
He who can no longer pray because he doubts whether there is a being
to whom prayer ascends and from whom blessing descends, he indeed is
cruelly solitary and prodigiously impoverished. And you, what do you
believe about it? At this moment I should find it very difficult to
say. All my positive beliefs are in the crucible ready for any kind of
metamorphosis. Truth above all, even when it upsets and overwhelms
us! But what I believe is that the highest idea we can conceive of the
principle of things will be the truest, and that the truest truth
is that which makes man the most wholly good, wisest, greatest, and

My creed is in transition. Yet I still believe in God, and the
immortality of the soul. I believe in holiness, truth, beauty; I believe
in the redemption of the soul by faith in forgiveness. I believe in
love, devotion, honor. I believe in duty and the moral conscience. I
believe even in prayer. I believe in the fundamental intuitions of the
human race, and in the great affirmations of the inspired of all ages. I
believe that our higher nature is our truer nature.

Can one get a theology and a theodicy out of this? Probably, but just
now I do not see it distinctly. It is so long since I have ceased to
think about my own metaphysic, and since I have lived in the thoughts of
others, that I am ready even to ask myself whether the crystallization
of my beliefs is necessary. Yes, for preaching and acting; less for
studying, contemplating and learning.

December 4, 1863.--The whole secret of remaining young in spite of
years, and even of gray hairs, is to cherish enthusiasm in one’s self
by poetry, by contemplation, by charity--that is, in fewer words, by
the maintenance of harmony in the soul. When everything is in its right
place within us, we ourselves are in equilibrium with the whole work of
God. Deep and grave enthusiasm for the eternal beauty and the
eternal order, reason touched with emotion and a serene tenderness of
heart--these surely are the foundations of wisdom.

Wisdom! how inexhaustible a theme! A sort of peaceful aureole surrounds
and illumines this thought, in which are summed up all the treasures of
moral experience, and which is the ripest fruit of a well-spent life.
Wisdom never grows old, for she is the expression of order itself--that
is, of the Eternal. Only the wise man draws from life, and from every
stage of it, its true savor, because only he feels the beauty, the
dignity, and the value of life. The flowers of youth may fade, but the
summer, the autumn, and even the winter of human existence, have their
majestic grandeur, which the wise man recognizes and glorifies. To see
all things in God; to make of one’s own life a journey toward the ideal;
to live with gratitude, with devoutness, with gentleness and courage;
this was the splendid aim of Marcus Aurelius. And if you add to it the
humility which kneels, and the charity which gives, you have the whole
wisdom of the children of God, the immortal joy which is the heritage of
the true Christian. But what a false Christianity is that which slanders
wisdom and seeks to do without it! In such a case I am on the side of
wisdom, which is, as it were, justice done to God, even in this life.
The relegation of life to some distant future, and the separation of
the holy man from the virtuous man, are the signs of a false religious
conception. This error is, in some degree, that of the whole Middle
Age, and belongs, perhaps, to the essence of Catholicism. But the true
Christianity must purge itself from so disastrous a mistake. The eternal
life is not the future life; it is life in harmony with the true order
of things--life in God. We must learn to look upon time as a movement of
eternity, as an undulation in the ocean of being. To live, so as to keep
this consciousness of ours in perpetual relation with the eternal, is
to be wise; to live, so as to personify and embody the eternal, is to be

The modern leveler, after having done away with conventional
inequalities, with arbitrary privilege and historical injustice, goes
still farther, and rebels against the inequalities of merit, capacity,
and virtue. Beginning with a just principle, he develops it into an
unjust one. Inequality may be as true and as just as equality: it
depends upon what you mean by it. But this is precisely what nobody
cares to find out. All passions dread the light, and the modern zeal for
equality is a disguised hatred which tries to pass itself off as love.

Liberty, equality--bad principles! The only true principle for humanity
is justice, and justice toward the feeble becomes necessarily protection
or kindness.

April 2, 1864.--To-day April has been displaying her showery caprices.
We have had floods of sunshine followed by deluges of rain, alternate
tears and smiles from the petulant sky, gusts of wind and storms. The
weather is like a spoiled child whose wishes and expression change
twenty times in an hour. It is a blessing for the plants, and means
an influx of life through all the veins of the spring. The circle of
mountains which bounds the valley is covered with white from top to toe,
but two hours of sunshine would melt the snow away. The snow itself is
but a new caprice, a simple stage decoration ready to disappear at the
signal of the scene-shifter.

How sensible I am to the restless change which rules the world. To
appear, and to vanish--there is the biography of all individuals,
whatever may be the length of the cycle of existence which they
describe, and the drama of the universe is nothing more. All life is
the shadow of a smoke-wreath, a gesture in the empty air, a hieroglyph
traced for an instant in the sand, and effaced a moment afterward by a
breath of wind, an air-bubble expanding and vanishing on the surface of
the great river of being--an appearance, a vanity, a nothing. But this
nothing is, however, the symbol of the universal being, and this passing
bubble is the epitome of the history of the world.

The man who has, however imperceptibly, helped in the work of the
universe, has lived; the man who has been conscious, in however small a
degree, of the cosmical movement, has lived also. The plain man serves
the world by his action and as a wheel in the machine; the thinker
serves it by his intellect, and as a light upon its path. The man of
meditative soul, who raises and comforts and sustains his traveling
companions, mortal and fugitive like himself, plays a nobler part still,
for he unites the other two utilities. Action, thought, speech, are the
three modes of human life. The artisan, the savant, and the orator,
are all three God’s workmen. To do, to discover, to teach--these three
things are all labor, all good, all necessary. Will-o’-the-wisps that we
are, we may yet leave a trace behind us; meteors that we are, we may yet
prolong our perishable being in the memory of men, or at least in the
contexture of after events. Everything disappears, but nothing is lost,
and the civilization or city of man is but an immense spiritual pyramid,
built up out of the work of all that has ever lived under the forms of
moral being, just as our calcareous mountains are made of the debris
of myriads of nameless creatures who have lived under the forms of
microscopic animal life.

April 5, 1864.--I have been reading “Prince Vitale” for the second time,
and have been lost in admiration of it. What wealth of color, facts,
ideas--what learning, what fine-edged satire, what _esprit_, science,
and talent, and what an irreproachable finish of style--so limpid, and
yet so profound! It is not heartfelt and it is not spontaneous, but all
other kinds of merit, culture, and cleverness the author possesses.
It would be impossible to be more penetrating, more subtle, and less
fettered in mind, than this wizard of language, with his irony and his
chameleon-like variety. Victor Cherbuliez, like the sphinx, is able to
play all lyres, and takes his profit from them all, with a Goethe-like
serenity. It seems as if passion, grief, and error had no hold on this
impassive soul. The key of his thought is to be looked for in Hegel’s
“Phenomenology of Mind,” remolded by Greek and French influences.

His faith, if he has one, is that of Strauss-Humanism. But he is
perfectly master of himself and of his utterances, and will take good
care never to preach anything prematurely.

What is there quite at the bottom of this deep spring?

In any case a mind as free as any can possibly be from stupidity and
prejudice. One might almost say that Cherbuliez knows all that he
wishes to know, without the trouble of learning it. He is a calm
Mephistopheles, with perfect manners, grace, variety, and an exquisite
urbanity; and Mephisto is a clever jeweler; and this jeweler is a subtle
musician; and this fine singer and storyteller, with his amber-like
delicacy and brilliancy, is making mock of us all the while. He takes a
malicious pleasure in withdrawing his own personality from scrutiny and
divination, while he himself divines everything, and he likes to make us
feel that although he holds in his hand the secret of the universe,
he will only unfold his prize at his own time, and if it pleases him.
Victor Cherbuliez is a little like Proudhon and plays with paradoxes, to
shock the _bourgeois_. Thus he amuses himself with running down Luther
and the Reformation in favor of the Renaissance. Of the troubles of
conscience he seems to know nothing. His supreme tribunal is reason.
At bottom he is Hegelian and intellectualist. But it is a splendid
organization. Only sometimes he must be antipathetic to those men of
duty who make renunciation, sacrifice, and humility the measure of
individual worth.

July, 1864.--Among the Alps I become a child again, with all the
follies and _naïveté_ of childhood. Shaking off the weight of years, the
trappings of office, and all the tiresome and ridiculous caution with
which one lives, I plunge into the full tide of pleasure, and amuse
myself sans façon, as it comes. In this careless light-hearted mood, my
ordinary formulas and habits fall away from me so completely that I feel
myself no longer either townsman, or professor, or savant, or bachelor,
and I remember no more of my past than if it were a dream. It is like a
bath in Lethe.

It makes me really believe that the smallest illness would destroy my
memory, and wipe out all my previous existence, when I see with what
ease I become a stranger to myself, and fall back once more into
the condition of a blank sheet, a _tabula rasa_. Life wears such a
dream-aspect to me that I can throw myself without any difficulty into
the situation of the dying, before whose eyes all this tumult of images
and forms fades into nothingness. I have the inconsistency of a fluid,
a vapor, a cloud, and all is easily unmade or transformed in me;
everything passes and is effaced like the waves which follow each other
on the sea. When I say all, I mean all that is arbitrary, indifferent,
partial, or intellectual in the combinations of one’s life. For I feel
that the things of the soul, our immortal aspirations, our deepest
affections, are not drawn into this chaotic whirlwind of impressions. It
is the finite things which are mortal and fugitive. Every man feels it
OH his deathbed. I feel it during the whole of life; that is the only
difference between me and others. Excepting only love, thought, and
liberty, almost everything is now a matter of indifference to me, and
those objects which excite the desires of most men, rouse in me
little more than curiosity. What does it mean--detachment of soul,
disinterestedness, weakness, or wisdom?

September 19, 1864.--I have been living for two hours with a noble
soul--with Eugénie de Guérin, the pious heroine of fraternal love. How
many thoughts, feelings, griefs, in this journal of six years! How
it makes one dream, think and live! It produces a certain homesick
impression on me, a little like that of certain forgotten melodies
whereof the accent touches the heart, one knows not why. It is as though
far-off paths came back to me, glimpses of youth, a confused murmur
of voices, echoes from my past. Purity, melancholy, piety, a thousand
memories of a past existence, forms fantastic and intangible, like
the fleeting shadows of a dream at waking, began to circle round the
astonished reader.

September 20, 1864.--Read Eugénie de Guérin’s volume again right and
left with a growing sense of attraction. Everything is heart, force,
impulse, in these pages which have the power of sincerity and a
brilliance of suffused poetry. A great and strong soul, a clear mind,
distinction, elevation, the freedom of unconscious talent, reserve and
depth--nothing is wanting for this Sévigné of the fields, who has to
hold herself in with both hands lest she should write verse, so strong
in her is the artistic impulse.

October 16, 1864.--I have just read a part of Eugénie de Guérin’s
journal over again. It charmed me a little less than the first time. The
nature seemed to me as beautiful, but the life of Eugénie was too empty,
and the circle of ideas which occupied her, too narrow.

It is touching and wonderful to see how little space is enough for
thought to spread its wings in, but this perpetual motion within the
four walls of a cell ends none the less by becoming wearisome to minds
which are accustomed to embrace more objects in their field of vision.
Instead of a garden, the world; instead of a library, the whole of
literature; instead of three or four faces, a whole people and all
history--this is what the virile, the philosophic temper demands. Men
must have more air, more room, mere horizon, more positive knowledge,
and they end by suffocating in this little cage where Eugenie lives and
moves, though the breath of heaven blows into it and the radiance of the
stars shines down upon it.

October 27, 1864. (_Promenade de la Treille_).--The air this morning was
so perfectly clear and lucid that one might have distinguished a figure
on the Vouache. [Footnote: The Vouache is the hill which bounds the
horizon of Geneva to the south-west.] This level and brilliant sun had
set fire to the whole range of autumn colors; amber, saffron, gold,
sulphur, yellow ochre, orange, red, copper-color, aquamarine, amaranth,
shone resplendent on the leaves which were still hanging from the boughs
or had already fallen beneath the trees. It was delicious. The martial
step of our two battalions going out to their drilling-ground, the
sparkle of the guns, the song of the bugles, the sharp distinctness of
the house outlines, still moist with the morning dew, the transparent
coolness of all the shadows--every detail in the scene was instinct with
a keen and wholesome gayety.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  “Mon vieux manteau, que je vous remercie
  Car c’est à vous que je dois ces plaisirs!”

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

  “Pauvre bouquet, fleurs aujourd’hui fanées!”

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

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

  “Plus d’amour; partant plus de joie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

       *       *       *       *       *

The unfinished is nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  “In eurem Namen, Mütter, die ihr thront
  Im Gränzenlosen, ewig einsam wohnt,
  Und doch gesellig! Euer haupt umschweben
  Des Lebens Bilder, regsam, ohne Leben.”]

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

  “Dans l’éternel azur de l’insondable espace
  S’enveloppe de paix notre globe agitée:
  Homme, enveloppe ainsi tes jours, rêve qui passe,
  Du calme firmament de ton éternité.”

(H. P. AMIEL, _Penseroso_.)

Geneva, January 11, 1867.

  “Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume, Labuntar anni....”

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

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

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

Nothing can lessen the dignity and value of humanity

  Was einmal war, in allem Glanz und Schein,
  Es regt sich dort; denn es will ewig sein.
  Und ihr vertheilt es, allgewaltige Mächte,
  Zum Zelt des Tages, zum Gewölb’ der Nächte.

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

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

  “Allez, allez, ô jeunes filles,
  Cueillir des bleuets dans les blés!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

  “Et je vis l’ombre d’un esprit
  Qui traçait l’ombre d’um système
  Avec l’ombre de l’ombre même.”

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

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

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

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

  “Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  “Vous qui manquez de charité,
  Tremblez à mon supplice étrange:
  Ce n’est point sa divinité,
  C’est l’humanité que Dieu venge!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

If men are always more or less deceived on the subject of women, it is
because they forget that they and women do not speak altogether the same
language, and that words have not the same weight or the same meaning
for them, especially in questions of feeling. Whether from shyness or
precaution or artifice, a woman never speaks out her whole thought, and
moreover what she herself knows of it is but a part of what it really
is. Complete frankness seems to be impossible to her, and complete
self-knowledge seems to be forbidden her. If she is a sphinx to us, it
is because she is a riddle of doubtful meaning even to herself. She
has no need of perfidy, for she is mystery itself. A woman is something
fugitive, irrational, indeterminable, illogical, and contradictory.
A great deal of forbearance ought to be shown her, and a good deal
of prudence exercised with regard to her, for she may bring about
innumerable evils without knowing It. Capable of all kinds of devotion,
and of all kinds of treason, “_monstre incompréhensible_,” raised to the
second power, she is at once the delight and the terror of man.

       *       *       *       *       *

The more a man loves, the more he suffers. The sum of possible grief for
each soul is in proportion to its degree of perfection.

       *       *       *       *       *

He who is too much afraid of being duped has lost the power of being

       *       *       *       *       *

Doubt of the reality of love ends by making us doubt everything. The
final result of all deceptions and disappointments is atheism, which
may not always yield up its name and secret, but which lurks, a masked
specter, within the depths of thought, as the last supreme explainer.
“Man is what his love is,” and follows the fortunes of his love.

       *       *       *       *       *

The beautiful souls of the world have an art of saintly alchemy,
by which bitterness is converted into kindness, the gall of human
experience into gentleness, ingratitude into benefits, insults into
pardon. And the transformation ought to become so easy and habitual that
the lookers-on may think it spontaneous, and nobody give us credit for

January 27, 1869.--What, then, is the service rendered to the world by
Christianity? The proclamation of “good news.” And what is this “good
news?” The pardon of sin. The God of holiness loving the world and
reconciling it to himself by Jesus, in order to establish the kingdom of
God, the city of souls, the life of heaven upon earth--here you have
the whole of it; but in this is a revolution. “Love ye one another, as
I have loved you;” “Be ye one with me, as I am one with the Father:” for
this is life eternal, here is perfection, salvation, joy. Faith in the
fatherly love of God, who punishes and pardons for our good, and
who desires not the death of the sinner, but his conversion and his
life--here is the motive power of the redeemed.

What we call Christianity is a vast ocean, into which flow a number of
spiritual currents of distant and various origin; certain religions,
that is to say, of Asia and of Europe, the great ideas of Greek
wisdom, and especially those of Platonism. Neither its doctrine nor
its morality, as they have been historically developed, are new or
spontaneous. What is essential and original in it is the practical
demonstration that the human and the divine nature may co-exist, may
become fused into one sublime flame; that holiness and pity, justice
and mercy, may meet together and become one, in man and in God. What is
specific in Christianity is Jesus--the religious consciousness of Jesus.
The sacred sense of his absolute union with God through perfect love and
self-surrender, this profound, invincible, and tranquil faith of his,
has become a religion; the faith of Jesus has become the faith of
millions and millions of men. From this torch has sprung a vast
conflagration. And such has been the brilliancy and the radiance both
of revealer and revelation, that the astonished world has forgotten its
justice in its admiration, and has referred to one single benefactor the
whole of those benefits which are its heritage from the past.

The conversion of ecclesiastical and confessional Christianity into
historical Christianity is the work of biblical science. The conversion
of historical Christianity into philosophical Christianity is an attempt
which is to some extent an illusion, since faith cannot be entirely
resolved into science. The transference, however, of Christianity from
the region of history to the region of psychology is the great craving
of our time. What we are trying to arrive at is the _eternal_ gospel.
But before we can reach it, the comparative history and philosophy of
religions must assign to Christianity its true place, and must judge it.
The religion, too, which Jesus professed must be disentangled from the
religion which has taken Jesus for its object. And when at last we are
able to point out the state of consciousness which is the primitive
cell, the principle of the eternal gospel, we shall have reached our
goal, for in it is the _punctum saliens_ of pure religion.

Perhaps the extraordinary will take the place of the supernatural,
and the great geniuses of the world will come to be regarded as the
messengers of God in history, as the providential revealers through whom
the spirit of God works upon the human mass. What is perishing is
not the admirable and the adorable; it is simply the arbitrary, the
accidental, the miraculous. Just as the poor illuminations of a village
_fête_, or the tapers of a procession, are put out by the great marvel
of the sun, so the small local miracles, with their meanness and
doubtfulness, will sink into insignificance beside the law of the world
of spirits, the incomparable spectacle of human history, led by that
all-powerful Dramaturgus whom we call God. _Utinam!_

March 1, 1869.--Impartiality and objectivity are as rare as justice, of
which they are but two special forms. Self-interest is an inexhaustible
source of convenient illusions. The number of beings who wish to see
truly is extraordinarily small. What governs men is the fear of
truth, unless truth is useful to them, which is as much as to say that
self-interest is the principle of the common philosophy or that truth
is made for us but not we for truth. As this fact is humiliating, the
majority of people will neither recognize nor admit it. And thus a
prejudice of self-love protects all the prejudices of the understanding,
which are themselves the result of a stratagem of the _ego_. Humanity
has always slain or persecuted those who have disturbed this selfish
repose of hers. She only improves in spite of herself. The only progress
which she desires is an increase of enjoyments. All advances in justice,
in morality, in holiness, have been imposed upon or forced from her by
some noble violence. Sacrifice, which is the passion of great souls, has
never been the law of societies. It is too often by employing one vice
against another--for example, vanity against cupidity, greed against
idleness--that the great agitators have broken through routine. In a
word, the human world is almost entirely directed by the law of nature,
and the law of the spirit, which is the leaven of its coarse paste, has
but rarely succeeded in raising it into generous expansion.

From the point of view of the ideal, humanity is _triste_ and ugly. But
if we compare it with its probable origins, we see that the human race
has not altogether wasted its time. Hence there are three possible views
of history: the view of the pessimist, who starts from the ideal; the
view of the optimist, who compares the past with the present; and the
view of the hero-worshiper, who sees that all progress whatever has cost
oceans of blood and tears.

European hypocrisy veils its face before the voluntary suicide of those
Indian fanatics who throw themselves under the wheels of their goddess’
triumphal car. And yet these sacrifices are but the symbol of what goes
on in Europe as elsewhere, of that offering of their life which is made
by the martyrs of all great causes. We may even say that the fierce and
sanguinary goddess is humanity itself, which is only spurred to progress
by remorse, and repents only when the measure of its crimes runs over.
The fanatics who sacrifice themselves are an eternal protest against
the universal selfishness. We have only overthrown those idols which are
tangible and visible, but perpetual sacrifice still exists everywhere,
and everywhere the _élite_ of each generation suffers for the salvation
of the multitude. It is the austere, bitter, and mysterious law of
solidarity. Perdition and redemption in and through each other is the
destiny of men.

March 18, 1869 (_Thursday_).--Whenever I come back from a walk outside
the town I am disgusted and repelled by this cell of mine. Out of doors,
sunshine, birds, spring, beauty, and life; in here, ugliness, piles of
paper, melancholy, and death. And yet my walk was one of the saddest
possible. I wandered along the Rhone and the Arve, and all the memories
of the past, all the disappointments of the present and all the
anxieties of the future laid siege to my heart like a whirlwind of
phantoms. I took account of my faults, and they ranged themselves in
battle against me. The vulture of regret gnawed at my heart, and the
sense of the irreparable choked me like the iron collar of the pillory.
It seemed to me that I had failed in the task of life, and that now life
was failing me. Ah! how terrible spring is to the lonely! All the needs
which had been lulled to sleep start into life again, all the sorrows
which had disappeared are reborn, and the old man which had been gagged
and conquered rises once more and makes his groans heard. It is as
though all the old wounds opened and bewailed themselves afresh. Just
when one had ceased to think, when one had succeeded in deadening
feeling by work or by amusement, all of a sudden the heart, solitary
captive that it is, sends a cry from its prison depths, a cry which
shakes to its foundations the whole surrounding edifice.

Even supposing that one had freed one’s self from all other fatalities,
there is still one yoke left from which it is impossible to escape--that
of Time. I have succeeded in avoiding all other servitudes, but I had
reckoned without the last--the servitude of age. Age comes, and its
weight is equal to that of all other oppressions taken together. Man,
under his mortal aspect, is but a species of ephemera.

As I looked at the banks of the Rhone, which have seen the river flowing
past them some ten or twenty thousand years, or at the trees forming
the avenue of the cemetery, which, for two centuries, have been the
witnesses of so many funeral processions; as I recognized the walls,
the dykes, the paths, which saw me playing as a child, and watched other
children running over that grassy plain of Plain Palais which bore my
own childish steps--I had the sharpest sense of the emptiness of life
and the flight of things. I felt the shadow of the upas tree darkening
over me. I gazed into the great implacable abyss in which are swallowed
up all those phantoms which call themselves living beings. I saw that
the living are but apparitions hovering for a moment over the earth,
made out of the ashes of the dead, and swiftly re-absorbed by eternal
night, as the will-o’-the-wisp sinks into the marsh. The nothingness
of our joys, the emptiness of our existence, and the futility of our
ambitions, filled me with a quiet disgust. From regret to disenchantment
I floated on to Buddhism, to universal weariness. Ah, the hope of a
blessed immortality would be better worth having!

With what different eyes one looks at life at ten, at twenty, at
thirty, at sixty! Those who live alone are specially conscious of this
psychological metamorphosis. Another thing, too, astonishes them; it
is the universal conspiracy which exists for hiding the sadness of
the world, for making men forget suffering, sickness, and death, for
smothering the wails and sobs which issue from every house, for painting
and beautifying the hideous face of reality. Is it out of tenderness for
childhood and youth, or is it simply from fear, that we are thus careful
to veil the sinister truth? Or is it from a sense of equity? and does
life contain as much good as evil--perhaps more? However it may be, men
feed themselves rather upon illusion than upon truth. Each one unwinds
his own special reel of hope, and as soon as he has come to the end of
it he sits him down to die, and lets his sons and his grandsons begin
the same experience over again. We all pursue happiness, and happiness
escapes the pursuit of all.

The only _viaticum_ which can help us in the journey of life is
that furnished by a great duty and some serious affections. And even
affections die, or at least their objects are mortal; a friend, a wife,
a child, a country, a church, may precede us in the tomb; duty alone
lasts as long as we.

This maxim exorcises the spirits of revolt, of anger, discouragement,
vengeance, indignation, and ambition, which rise one after another to
tempt and trouble the heart, swelling with the sap of the spring. O all
ye saints of the East, of antiquity, of Christianity, phalanx of heroes!
Ye too drank deep of weariness and agony of soul, but ye triumphed over
both. Ye who have come forth victors from the strife, shelter us under
your palms, fortify us by your example!

April 6, 1869.--Magnificent weather. The Alps are dazzling under their
silver haze. Sensations of all kinds have been crowding upon me; the
delights of a walk under the rising sun, the charms of a wonderful view,
longing for travel, and thirst for joy, hunger for work, for emotion,
for life, dreams of happiness and of love. A passionate wish to live,
to feel, to express, stirred the depths of my heart. It was a sudden
re-awakening of youth, a flash of poetry, a renewing of the soul, a
fresh growth of the wings of desire--I was overpowered by a host of
conquering, vagabond, adventurous aspirations. I forgot my age, my
obligations, my duties, my vexations, and youth leaped within me as
though life were beginning again. It was as though something explosive
had caught fire, and one’s soul were scattered to the four winds;
in such a mood one would fain devour the whole world, experience
everything, see everything. Faust’s ambition enters into one, universal
desire--a horror of one’s own prison cell. One throws off one’s hair
shirt, and one would fain gather the whole of nature into one’s arms and
heart. O ye passions, a ray of sunshine is enough to rekindle you all!
The cold black mountain is a volcano once more, and melts its snowy
crown with one single gust of flaming breath. It is the spring which
brings about these sudden and improbable resurrections, the spring
which, sending a thrill and tumult of life through all that lives,
is the parent of impetuous desires, of overpowering inclinations, of
unforeseen and inextinguishable outbursts of passion. It breaks
through the rigid bark of the trees, and rends the mask on the face of
asceticism; it makes the monk tremble in the shadow of his convent, the
maiden behind the curtains of her room, the child sitting on his school
bench, the old man bowed under his rheumatism.

  “O Hymen, Hymenae!”

April 24, 1869.--Is Nemesis indeed more real than Providence, the
jealous God more true than the good God? grief more certain than joy?
darkness more secure of victory than light? Is it pessimism or optimism
which is nearest the truth, and which--Leibnitz or Schopenhauer--has
best understood the universe? Is it the healthy man or the sick man who
sees best to the bottom of things? which is in the right?

Ah! the problem of grief and evil is and will be always the greatest
enigma of being, only second to the existence of being itself. The
common faith of humanity has assumed the victory of good over evil. But
if good consists not in the result of victory, but in victory itself,
then good implies an incessant and infinite contest, interminable
struggle, and a success forever threatened. And if this is life, is not
Buddha right in regarding life as synonymous with evil since it means
perpetual restlessness and endless war? Repose according to the Buddhist
is only to be found in annihilation. The art of self-annihilation, of
escaping the world’s vast machinery of suffering, and the misery of
renewed existence--the art of reaching Nirvâna, is to him the supreme
art, the only means of deliverance. The Christian says to God: Deliver
us from evil. The Buddhist adds: And to that end deliver us from finite
existence, give us back to nothingness! The first believes that when he
is enfranchised from the body he will enter upon eternal happiness; the
second believes that individuality is the obstacle to all repose, and he
longs for the dissolution of the soul itself. The dread of the first is
the paradise of the second.

One thing only is necessary--the committal of the soul to God. Look that
thou thyself art in order, and leave to God the task of unraveling the
skein of the world and of destiny. What do annihilation or immortality
matter? What is to be, will be. And what will be, will be for the best.
Faith in good--perhaps the individual wants nothing more for his passage
through life. Only he must have taken sides with Socrates, Plato,
Aristotle, and Zeno, against materialism, against the religion of
accident and pessimism. Perhaps also he must make up his mind
against the Buddhist nihilism, because a man’s system of conduct is
diametrically opposite according as he labors to increase his life or
to lessen it, according as he aims at cultivating his faculties or at
systematically deadening them.

To employ one’s individual efforts for the increase of good in the
world--this modest ideal is enough for us. To help forward the victory
of good has been the common aim of saints and sages. _Socii Dei sumus_
was the word of Seneca, who had it from Cleanthus.

April 30, 1869.--I have just finished Vacherot’s [Footnote: Etienne
Vacherot, a French philosophical writer, who owed his first successes in
life to the friendship of Cousin, and was later brought very much into
notice by his controversy with the Abbé Gratry, by the prosecution
brought against him in consequence of his book, “La Démocratie” (1859),
and by his rejection at the hands of the Academy of Moral and Political
Sciences in 1865, for the same kind of reasons which had brought about
the exclusion of Littré in the preceding year. In 1868, however, he
became a member of the Institute in succession to Cousin. A Liberal of
the old school, he has separated himself from the republicans since the
war, and has made himself felt as a severe critic of republican blunders
in the _Revue des deux Mondes_. _La Religion_, which discusses the
psychological origins of the religious sense, was published in 1868.]
book “La Religion,” 1869, and it has set me thinking. I have a feeling
that his notion of religion is not rigorous and exact, and that
therefore his logic is subject to correction. If religion is a
psychological stage, anterior to that of reason, it is clear that it
will disappear in man, but if, on the contrary, it is a mode of the
inner life, it may and must last, as long as the need of feeling, and
alongside the need of thinking. The question is between theism and
non-theism. If God is only the category of the ideal, religion will
vanish, of course, like the illusions of youth. But if Universal Being
can be felt and loved at the same time as conceived, the philosopher may
be a religious man just as he may be an artist, an orator, or a citizen.
He may attach himself to a worship or ritual without derogation. I
myself incline to this solution. To me religion is life before God and
in God.

And even if God were defined as the universal life, so long as this life
is positive and not negative, the soul penetrated with the sense of the
infinite is in the religious state. Religion differs from philosophy
as the simple and spontaneous self differs from the reflecting self, as
synthetic intuition differs from intellectual analysis. We are initiated
into the religious state by a sense of voluntary dependence on, and
joyful submission to the principle of order and of goodness. Religious
emotion makes man conscious of himself; he finds his own place within
the infinite unity, and it is this perception which is sacred.

But in spite of these reservations I am much impressed by the book,
which is a fine piece of work, ripe and serious in all respects.

May 13, 1869.--A break in the clouds, and through the blue interstices a
bright sun throws flickering and uncertain rays. Storms, smiles, whims,
anger, tears--it is May, and nature is in its feminine phase! She
pleases our fancy, stirs our heart, and wears out our reason by the
endless succession of her caprices and the unexpected violence of her

This recalls to me the 213th verse of the second book of the Laws of
Manou. “It is in the nature of the feminine sex to seek here below to
corrupt men, and therefore wise men never abandon themselves to the
seductions of women.” The same code, however, says: “Wherever women are
honored the gods are satisfied.” And again: “In every family where
the husband takes pleasure in his wife, and the wife in her husband,
happiness is ensured.” And again: “One mother is more venerable than a
thousand fathers.” But knowing what stormy and irrational elements there
are in this fragile and delightful creature, Manou concludes: “At no age
ought a woman to be allowed to govern herself as she pleases.”

Up to the present day, in several contemporary and neighboring codes,
a woman is a minor all her life. Why? Because of her dependence upon
nature, and of her subjection to passions which are the diminutives
of madness; in other words, because the soul of a woman has something
obscure and mysterious in it, which lends itself to all superstitions
and weakens the energies of man. To man belong law, justice, science,
and philosophy, all that is disinterested, universal, and rational.
Women, on the contrary, introduce into everything favor, exception, and
personal prejudice. As soon as a man, a people, a literature, an epoch,
become feminine in type, they sink in the scale of things. As soon as
a woman quits the state of subordination in which her merits have free
play, we see a rapid increase in her natural defects. Complete equality
with man makes her quarrelsome; a position of supremacy makes her
tyrannical. To honor her and to govern her will be for a long time yet
the best solution. When education has formed strong, noble, and serious
women in whom conscience and reason hold sway over the effervescence of
fancy and sentimentality, then we shall be able not only to honor woman,
but to make a serious end of gaining her consent and adhesion. Then she
will be truly an equal, a work-fellow, a companion. At present she is so
only in theory. The moderns are at work upon the problem, and have not
solved it yet.

June 15, 1869.--The great defect of liberal Christianity [Footnote:
At this period the controversy between the orthodox party and “Liberal
Christianity” was at its height, both in Geneva and throughout
Switzerland.] is that its conception of holiness is a frivolous one,
or, what comes to the same thing, its conception of sin is a superficial
one. The defects of the baser sort of political liberalism recur in
liberal Christianity; it is only half serious, and its theology is too
much mixed with worldliness. The sincerely pious folk look upon the
liberals as persons whose talk is rather profane, and who offend
religious feelings by making sacred subjects a theme for rhetorical
display. They shock the _convenances_ of sentiment, and affront the
delicacy of conscience by the indiscreet familiarities they take with
the great mysteries of the inner life. They seem to be mere clever
special pleaders, religious rhetoricians like the Greek sophists, rather
than guides in the narrow road which leads to salvation.

It is not to the clever folk, nor even to the scientific folk, that
the empire over souls belongs, but to those who impress us as having
conquered nature by grace, passed through the burning bush, and as
speaking, not the language of human wisdom, but that of the divine will.
In religious matters it is holiness which gives authority; it is love,
or the power of devotion and sacrifice, which goes to the heart, which
moves and persuades.

What all religious, poetical, pure, and tender souls are least able to
pardon is the diminution or degradation of their ideal. We must never
rouse an ideal against us; our business is to point men to another
ideal, purer, higher, more spiritual than the old, and so to raise
behind a lofty summit one more lofty still. In this way no one is
despoiled; we gain men’s confidence, while at the same time forcing
them to think, and enabling those minds which are already tending toward
change to perceive new objects and goals for thought. Only that which is
replaced is destroyed, and an ideal is only replaced by satisfying the
conditions of the old with some advantages over.

Let the liberal Protestants offer us a spectacle of Christian virtue of
a holier, intenser, and more intimate kind than before; let us see
it active in their persons and in their influence, and they will have
furnished the proof demanded by the Master; the tree will be judged by
its fruits.

       *       *       *       *       *

June 22, 1869 (_Nine_ A. M).--Gray and lowering weather. A fly lies dead
of cold on the page of my book, in full summer! What is life? I said to
myself, as I looked at the tiny dead creature. It is a loan, as movement
is. The universal life is a sum total, of which the units are visible
here, there, and everywhere, just as an electric wheel throws off sparks
along its whole surface. Life passes through us; we do not possess it.
Hirn admits three ultimate principles: [Footnote: Gustave-Adolphe Hirn,
a French physicist, born near Colmar, 1815, became a corresponding
member of the Academy of Sciences in 1867. The book of his to which
Amiel refers is no doubt _Conséquences philosophiques at métaphysiques
de la thermodynamique, Analyse élémentaire de l’univers_ (1869).] the
atom, the force, the soul; the force which acts upon atoms, the soul
which acts upon force. Probably he distinguishes between anonymous souls
and personal souls. Then my fly would be an anonymous soul.

(_Same day_).--The national churches are all up in arms against
so-called Liberal Christianity; Basle and Zurich began the fight, and
now Geneva has entered the lists too. Gradually it is becoming plain
that historical Protestantism has no longer a _raison d’être_ between
pure liberty and pure authority. It is, in fact, a provisional stage,
founded on the worship of the Bible--that is to say, on the idea of
a written revelation, and of a book divinely inspired, and therefore
authoritative. When once this thesis has been relegated to the rank of
a fiction Protestantism crumbles away. There is nothing for it but
to retire up on natural religion, or the religion of the moral
consciousness. M.M. Réville, Conquerel, Fontanes, Buisson, [Footnote:
The name of M. Albert Réville, the French Protestant theologian, is
more or less familiar in England, especially since his delivery of the
Hibbert lectures in 1884. Athanase Coquerel, born 1820, died 1876, the
well-known champion of liberal ideas in the French Protestant Church,
was suspended from his pastoral functions by the Consistory of Paris,
on account of his review of M. Renan’s “Vie de Jésus” in 1864.
Ferdinand-Edouard Buisson, a liberal Protestant, originally a professor
at Lausanne, was raised to the important function of Director of Primary
Instruction by M. Ferry in 1879. He was denounced by Bishop Dupanloup,
in the National Assembly of 1871, as the author of certain liberal
pamphlets on the dangers connected with Scripture-teaching in schools,
and, for the time, lost his employment under the Ministry of Education.]
accept this logical outcome. They are the advance-guard of Protestantism
and the laggards of free thought.

Their mistake is not seeing that all institutions rest upon a legal
fiction, and that every living thing involves a logical absurdity. It
may be logical to demand a church based on free examination and absolute
sincerity; but to realize it is a different matter. A church lives
by what is positive, and this positive element necessarily limits
investigation. People confound the right of the individual, which is
to be free, with the duty of the institution, which is to be something.
They take the principle of science to be the same as the principle
of the church, which is a mistake. They will not see that religion is
different from philosophy, and that the one seeks union by faith, while
the other upholds the solitary independence of thought. That the bread
should be good it must have leaven; but the leaven is not the bread.
Liberty is the means whereby we arrive at an enlightened faith--granted;
but an assembly of people agreeing only upon this criterion and
this method could not possibly found a church, for they might differ
completely as to the results of the method. Suppose a newspaper the
writers of which were of all possible parties--it would no doubt be a
curiosity in journalism, but it would have no opinions, no faith, no
creed. A drawing-room filled with refined people, carrying on polite
discussion, is not a church, and a dispute, however courteous, is not
worship. It is a mere confusion of kinds.

July 13, 1869.--Lamennais, Heine--the one the victim of a mistaken
vocation, the other of a tormenting craving to astonish and mystify his
kind. The first was wanting in common sense; the second was wanting
in seriousness. The Frenchman was violent, arbitrary, domineering; the
German was a jesting Mephistopheles, with a horror of Philistinism.
The Breton was all passion and melancholy; the Hamburger all fancy and
satire. Neither developed freely nor normally. Both of them, because of
an initial mistake, threw themselves into an endless quarrel with the
world. Both were revolutionists. They were not fighting for the good
cause, for impersonal truth; both were rather the champions of their
own pride. Both suffered greatly, and died isolated, repudiated, and
reviled. Men of magnificent talents, both of them, but men of small
wisdom, who did more harm than good to themselves and to others! It is
a lamentable existence which wears itself out in maintaining a first
antagonism, or a first blunder. The greater a man’s intellectual power,
the more dangerous is it for him to make a false start and to begin life

July 20, 1869.--I have been reading over again five or six chapters,
here and there, of Renan’s “St. Paul.” Analyzed to the bottom, the
writer is a freethinker, but a free thinker whose flexible imagination
still allows him the delicate epicurism of religious emotion. In his
eyes the man who will not lend himself to these graceful fancies is
vulgar, and the man who takes them seriously is prejudiced. He is
entertained by the variations of conscience, but he is too clever to
laugh at them. The true critic neither concludes nor excludes; his
pleasure is to understand without believing, and to profit by
the results of enthusiasm, while still maintaining a free mind,
unembarrassed by illusion. Such a mode of proceeding has a look of
dishonesty; it is nothing, however, but the good-tempered irony of a
highly-cultivated mind, which will neither be ignorant of anything nor
duped by anything. It is the dilettantism of the Renaissance in its
perfection. At the same time what innumerable proofs of insight and of
exultant scientific power!

August 14, 1869.--In the name of heaven, who art thou? what wilt
thou--wavering inconstant creature? What future lies before thee? What
duty or what hope appeals to thee?

My longing, my search is for love, for peace, for something to fill my
heart; an idea to defend; a work to which I might devote the rest of my
strength; an affection which might quench this inner thirst; a cause for
which I might die with joy. But shall I ever find them? I long for
all that is impossible and inaccessible: for true religion, serious
sympathy, the ideal life; for paradise, immortality, holiness, faith,
inspiration, and I know not what besides! What I really want is to die
and to be born again, transformed myself, and in a different world.
And I can neither stifle these aspirations nor deceive myself as to the
possibility of satisfying them. I seem condemned to roll forever the
rock of Sisyphus, and to feel that slow wearing away of the mind which
befalls the man whose vocation and destiny are in perpetual conflict.
“A Christian heart and a pagan head,” like Jacobi; tenderness and
pride; width of mind and feebleness of will; the two men of St. Paul;
a seething chaos of contrasts, antinomies, and contradictions; humility
and pride; childish simplicity and boundless mistrust; analysis and
intuition; patience and irritability; kindness and dryness of heart;
carelessness and anxiety; enthusiasm and languor; indifference and
passion; altogether a being incomprehensible and intolerable to myself
and to others!

Then from a state of conflict I fall back into the fluid, vague,
indeterminate state, which feels all form to be a mere violence and
disfigurement. All ideas, principles, acquirements, and habits are
effaced in me like the ripples on a wave, like the convolutions of a
cloud. My personality has the least possible admixture of individuality.
I am to the great majority of men what the circle is to rectilinear
figures; I am everywhere at home, because I have no particular and
nominative self. Perhaps, on the whole, this defect has good in it.
Though I am less of _a_ man, I am perhaps nearer to _the_ man; perhaps
rather more _man_. There is less of the individual, but more of the
species, in me. My nature, which is absolutely unsuited for practical
life, shows great aptitude for psychological study. It prevents me from
taking sides, but it allows me to understand all sides. It is not only
indolence which prevents me from drawing conclusions; it is a sort of
a secret aversion to all _intellectual proscription_. I have a feeling
that something of everything is wanted to make a world, that all
citizens have a right in the state, and that if every opinion is equally
insignificant in itself, all opinions have some hold upon truth. To live
and let live, think and let think, are maxims which are equally dear to
me. My tendency is always to the whole, to the totality, to the general
balance of things. What is difficult to me is to exclude, to condemn,
to say no; except, indeed, in the presence of the exclusive. I am always
fighting for the absent, for the defeated cause, for that portion of
truth which seems to me neglected; my aim is to complete every thesis,
to see round every problem, to study a thing from all its possible
sides. Is this skepticism? Yes, in its result, but not in its purpose.
It is rather the sense of the absolute and the infinite reducing to
their proper value and relegating to their proper place the finite and
the relative. But here, in the same way, my ambition is greater than my
power; my philosophical perception is superior to my speculative gift.
I have not the energy of my opinions; I have far greater width than
inventiveness of thought, and, from timidity, I have allowed the
critical intelligence in me to swallow up the creative genius. Is it
indeed from timidity?

Alas! with a little more ambition, or a little more good luck, a
different man might have been made out of me, and such as my youth gave
promise of.

August 16, 1869.--I have been thinking over Schopenhauer. It has struck
me and almost terrified me to see how well I represent Schopenhauer’s
typical man, for whom “happiness is a chimera and suffering a reality,”
 for whom “the negation of will and of desire is the only road to
deliverance,” and “the individual life is a misfortune from which
impersonal contemplation is the only enfranchisement,” etc. But the
principle that life is an evil and annihilation a good lies at the root
of the system, and this axiom I have never dared to enunciate in any
general way, although I have admitted it here and there in individual
cases. What I still like in the misanthrope of Frankfort, is his
antipathy to current prejudice, to European hobbies, to western
hypocrisies, to the successes of the day. Schopenhauer is a man of
powerful mind, who has put away from him all illusions, who professes
Buddhism in the full flow of modern Germany, and absolute detachment
of mind In the very midst of the nineteenth-century orgie. His great
defects are barrenness of soul, a proud and perfect selfishness, an
adoration of genius which is combined with complete indifference to
the rest of the world, in spite of all his teaching of resignation
and sacrifice. He has no sympathy, no humanity, no love. And here I
recognize the unlikeness between us. Pure intelligence and solitary
labor might easily lead me to his point of view; but once appeal to the
heart, and I feel the contemplative attitude untenable. Pity, goodness,
charity, and devotion reclaim their rights, and insist even upon the
first place.

August 29, 1869.--Schopenhauer preaches impersonality, objectivity, pure
contemplation, the negation of will, calmness, and disinterestedness, an
aesthetic study of the world, detachment from life, the renunciation of
all desire, solitary meditation, disdain of the crowd, and indifference
to all that the vulgar covet. He approves all my defects, my
childishness, my aversion to practical life, my antipathy to the
utilitarians, my distrust of all desire. In a word, he flatters all my
instincts; he caresses and justifies them.

This pre-established harmony between the theory of Schopenhauer and my
own natural man causes me pleasure mingled with terror. I might indulge
myself in the pleasure, but that I fear to delude and stifle conscience.
Besides, I feel that goodness has no tolerance for this contemplative
indifference, and that virtue consists in self-conquest.

August 30, 1869.--Still some chapters of Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer
believes in the unchangeableness of innate tendencies in the individual,
and in the invariability of the primitive disposition. He refuses to
believe in the new man, in any real progress toward perfection, or in
any positive improvement in a human being. Only the appearances are
refined; there is no change below the surface. Perhaps he confuses
temperament, character, and individuality? I incline to think that
individuality is fatal and primitive, that temperament reaches far back,
but is alternable, and that character is more recent and susceptible
of voluntary or involuntary modifications. Individuality is a matter of
psychology, temperament, a matter of sensation or aesthetics; character
alone is a matter of morals. Liberty and the use of it count for nothing
in the first two elements of our being; character is a historical fruit,
and the result of a man’s biography. For Schopenhauer, character is
identified with temperament just as will with passion. In short, he
simplifies too much, and looks at man from that more elementary point
of view which is only sufficient in the case of the animal. That
spontaneity which is vital or merely chemical he already calls will.
Analogy is not equation; a comparison is not reason; similes and
parables are not exact language. Many of Schopenhauer’s originalities
evaporate when we come to translate them into a more close and precise

_Later_.--One has merely to turn over the “Lichtstrahlem” of Herder to
feel the difference between him and Schopenhauer. The latter is full of
marked features and of observations which stand out from the page and
leave a clear and vivid impression. Herder is much less of a writer; his
ideas are entangled in his style, and he has no brilliant condensations,
no jewels, no crystals. While he proceeds by streams and sheets of
thought which have no definite or individual outline, Schopenhauer
breaks the current of his speculation with islands, striking, original,
and picturesque, which engrave themselves in the memory. It is the same
difference as there is between Nicole and Pascal, between Bayle and

What is the faculty which gives relief, brilliancy, and incisiveness
to thought? Imagination. Under its influence expression becomes
concentrated, colored, and strengthened, and by the power it has of
individualizing all it touches, it gives life and permanence to the
material on which it works. A writer of genius changes sand into glass
and glass into crystal, ore into iron and iron into steel; he marks
with his own stamp every idea he gets hold of. He borrows much from
the common stock, and gives back nothing; but even his robberies are
willingly reckoned to him as private property. He has, as it were,
_carte blanche_, and public opinion allows him to take what he will.

August 31, 1869.--I have finished Schopenhauer. My mind has been a
tumult of opposing systems--Stoicism, Quietism, Buddhism, Christianity.
Shall I never be at peace with myself? If impersonality is a good, why
am I not consistent in the pursuit of it? and if it is a temptation, why
return to it, after having judged and conquered it?

Is happiness anything more than a conventional fiction? The deepest
reason for my state of doubt is that the supreme end and aim of life
seems to me a mere lure and deception. The individual is an eternal
dupe, who never obtains what he seeks, and who is forever deceived by
hope. My instinct is in harmony with the pessimism of Buddha and of
Schopenhauer. It is a doubt which never leaves me even in my moments of
religious fervor. Nature is indeed for me a Maïa; and I look at her, as
it were, with the eyes of an artist. My intelligence remains skeptical.
What, then, do I believe in? I do not know. And what is it I hope for?
It would be difficult to say. Folly! I believe in goodness, and I hope
that good will prevail. Deep within this ironical and disappointed being
of mine there is a child hidden--a frank, sad, simple creature,
who believes in the ideal, in love, in holiness, and all heavenly
superstitions. A whole millennium of idylls sleeps in my heart; I am a
pseudo-skeptic, a pseudo-scoffer.

  “Borné dans sa nature, infini dans ses voeux,
  L’homme est un dieu tombé qui se souvient des cieux.”

October 14, 1869.--Yesterday, Wednesday, death of Sainte-Beuve. What a

October 16, 1869.--_Laboremus_ seems to have been the motto of
Sainte-Beuve, as it was that of Septimius Severus. He died in harness,
and up to the evening before his last day he still wrote, overcoming the
sufferings of the body by the energy of the mind. To-day, at this very
moment, they are laying him in the bosom of mother earth. He refused the
sacraments of the church; he never belonged to any confession; he was
one of the “great diocese”--that of the independent seekers of truth,
and he allowed himself no final moment of hypocrisy. He would have
nothing to do with any one except God only--or rather the mysterious
Isis beyond the veil. Being unmarried, he died in the arms of his
secretary. He was sixty-five years old. His power of work and of memory
was immense and intact. What is Scherer thinking about this life and
this death?

October 19, 1869.--An admirable article by Edmond Scherer on
Sainte-Beuve in the _Temps_. He makes him the prince of French critics
and the last representative of the epoch of literary taste, the future
belonging to the bookmakers and the chatterers, to mediocrity and to
violence. The article breathes a certain manly melancholy, befitting a
funeral oration over one who was a master in the things of the mind. The
fact is, that Sainte-Beuve leaves a greater void behind him than either
Béranger or Lamartine; their greatness was already distant, historical;
he was still helping us to think. The true critic acts as a fulcrum for
all the world. He represents the public judgment, that is to say the
public reason, the touchstone, the scales, the refining rod, which tests
the value of every one and the merit of every work. Infallibility of
judgment is perhaps rarer than anything else, so fine a balance of
qualities does it demand--qualities both natural and acquired, qualities
of mind and heart. What years of labor, what study and comparison, are
needed to bring the critical judgment to maturity! Like Plato’s sage,
it is only at fifty that the critic rises to the true height of his
literary priesthood, or, to put it less pompously, of his social
function. By then only can he hope for insight into all the modes of
being, and for mastery of all possible shades of appreciation. And
Sainte-Beuve joined to this infinitely refined culture a prodigious
memory, and an incredible multitude of facts and anecdotes stored up for
the service of his thought.

December 8, 1869.--Everything has chilled me this morning; the cold of
the season, the physical immobility around me, but, above all, Hartman’s
“Philosophy of the Unconscious.” This book lays down the terrible thesis
that creation is a mistake; being, such as it is, is not as good as
non-being, and death is better than life.

I felt the same mournful impression that Obermann left upon me in my
youth. The black melancholy of Buddhism encompassed and overshadowed
me. If, in fact, it is only illusion which hides from us the horror of
existence and makes life tolerable to us, then existence is a snare and
life an evil. Like the Greek Annikeris, we ought to counsel suicide, or
rather with Buddha and Schopenhauer we ought to labor for the radical
extirpation of hope and desire--the causes of life and resurrection.
_Not_ to rise again; there is the point, and there is the difficulty.
Death is simply a beginning again, whereas it is annihilation that
we have to aim at. Personal consciousness being the root of all our
troubles, we ought to avoid the temptation to it and the possibility
of it as diabolical and abominable. What blasphemy! And yet it is all
logical; it is the philosophy of happiness carried to its farthest
point. Epicurism must end in despair. The philosophy of duty is
less depressing. But salvation lies in the conciliation of duty and
happiness, in the union of the individual will with the divine will, and
in the faith that this supreme will is directed by love.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is as true that real happiness is good, as that the good become
better under the purification of trial. Those who have not suffered
are still wanting in depth; but a man who has not got happiness cannot
impart it. We can only give what we have. Happiness, grief, gayety,
sadness, are by nature contagious. Bring your health and your strength
to the weak and sickly, and so you will be of use to them. Give them,
not your weakness, but your energy, so you will revive and lift them
up. Life alone can rekindle life. What others claim from us is not our
thirst and our hunger, but our bread and our gourd.

The benefactors of humanity are those who have thought great thoughts
about her; but her masters and her idols are those who have flattered
and despised her, those who have muzzled and massacred her, inflamed her
with fanaticism or used her for selfish purposes. Her benefactors are
the poets, the artists, the inventors, the apostles and all pure hearts.
Her masters are the Caesars, the Constantines, the Gregory VII.’s, the
Innocent III.’s, the Borgias, the Napoleons.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every civilization is, as it were, a dream of a thousand years, in
which heaven and earth, nature and history, appear to men illumined
by fantastic light and representing a drama which is nothing but a
projection of the soul itself, influenced by some intoxication--I was
going to say hallucination--or other. Those who are widest awake still
see the real world across the dominant illusion of their race or time.
And the reason is that the deceiving light starts from our own mind: the
light is our religion. Everything changes with it. It is religion which
gives to our kaleidoscope, if not the material of the figures, at least
their color, their light and shade, and general aspect. Every religion
makes men see the world and humanity under a special light; it is a mode
of apperception, which can only be scientifically handled when we have
cast it aside, and can only be judged when we have replaced it by a

       *       *       *       *       *

February 23, 1870.--There is in man an instinct of revolt, an enemy of
all law, a rebel which will stoop to no yoke, not even that of reason,
duty, and wisdom. This element in us is the root of all sin--_das
radicale Böse_ of Kant. The independence which is the condition
of individuality is at the same time the eternal temptation of the
individual. That which makes us beings makes us also sinners.

Sin is, then, in our very marrow. It circulates in us like the blood in
our veins, it is mingled with all our substance, [Footnote: This is
one of the passages which rouses M. Renan’s wonder: “Voila la grande
difference,” he writes, “entre l’éducation catholique et l’éducation
protestante. Ceux qui comme moi ont reçu une éducation catholique en ont
gardé de profonds vestiges. Mais ces vestiges ne sont pas des dogmes, ce
sont des rêves. Une fois ce grand rideau de drap d’or, bariolé de soie,
d’indienne et de calicot, par lequel le catholicisme nous masque la vue
du monde, une fois, dis-je ce rideau déchiré, on voit l’univers en
sa splendeur infinie, la nature en sa haute et pleine majesté. Le
protestant le plus libre garde souvent quelque chose de triste, un fond
d’austérité intellectuelle analogue au pessimisme slave.”--(_Journal des
Débats_, September 30, 1884).

One is reminded of Mr. Morley’s criticism of Emerson. Emerson, he points
out, has almost nothing to say of death, and “little to say of that
horrid burden and impediment on the soul which the churches call sin,
and which, by whatever name we call it, is a very real catastrophe
in the moral nature of man--the courses of nature, and the prodigious
injustices of mail in society affect him with neither horror nor awe. He
will see no monster if he can help it.”

Here, then, we have the eternal difference between the two orders of
temperament--the men whose overflowing energy forbids them to
realize the ever-recurring defeat of the human spirit at the hands of
circumstance, like Renan and Emerson, and the men for whom “horror and
awe” are interwoven with experience, like Amiel.] Or rather I am wrong:
temptation is our natural state, but sin is not necessary. Sin consists
in the voluntary confusion of the independence which is good with the
independence which is bad; it is caused by the half-indulgence granted
to a first sophism. We shut our eyes to the beginnings of evil because
they are small, and in this weakness is contained the germ of our
defeat. _Principiis obsta_--this maxim dutifully followed would preserve
us from almost all our catastrophes.

We will have no other master but our caprice--that is to say, our evil
self will have no God, and the foundation of our nature is seditious,
impious, insolent, refractory, opposed to, and contemptuous of all that
tries to rule it, and therefore contrary to order, ungovernable and
negative. It is this foundation which Christianity calls the natural
man. But the savage which is within us, and constitutes the primitive
stuff of us, must be disciplined and civilized in order to produce a
man. And the man must be patiently cultivated to produce a wise man, and
the wise man must be tested and tried if he is to become righteous.
And the righteous man must have substituted the will of God for his
individual will, if he is to become a saint. And this new man, this
regenerate being, is the spiritual man, the heavenly man, of which
the Vedas speak as well as the gospel, and the Magi as well as the

March 17, 1870.--This morning the music of a brass band which had
stopped under my windows moved me almost to tears. It exercised an
indefinable, nostalgic power over me; it set me dreaming of another
world, of infinite passion and supreme happiness. Such impressions are
the echoes of paradise in the soul; memories of ideal spheres, whose
sad sweetness ravishes and intoxicates the heart. O Plato! O Pythagoras!
ages ago you heard these harmonies--surprised these moments of inward
ecstacy--knew these divine transports! If music thus carries us
to heaven, it is because music is harmony, harmony is perfection,
perfection is our dream, and our dream is heaven. This world of quarrels
and bitterness, of selfishness, ugliness, and misery, makes us long
involuntarily for the eternal peace, for the adoration which has no
limits, and the love which has no end. It is not so much the infinite
as the beautiful that we yearn for. It is not being, or the limits of
being, which weigh upon us; it is evil, in us and without us. It is not
all necessary to be great, so long as we are in harmony with the order
of the universe. Moral ambition has no pride; it only desires to fill
its place, and make its note duly heard in the universal concert of the
God of love.

March 30, 1870.--Certainly, nature is unjust and shameless, without
probity, and without faith. Her only alternatives are gratuitous favor
or mad aversion, and her only way of redressing an injustice is to
commit another. The happiness of the few is expiated by the misery of
the greater number. It is useless to accuse a blind force.

The human conscience, however, revolts against this law of nature, and
to satisfy its own instinct of justice it has imagined two hypotheses,
out of which it has made for itself a religion--the idea of an
individual providence, and the hypothesis of another life.

In these we have a protest against nature, which is thus declared
immoral and scandalous to the moral sense. Man believes in good, and
that he may ground himself on justice he maintains that the injustice
all around him is but an appearance, a mystery, a cheat, and that
justice _will_ be done. _Fiat justitia, pereal mundus!_

It is a great act of faith. And since humanity has not made itself,
this protest has some chance of expressing a truth. If there is conflict
between the natural world and the moral world, between reality and
conscience, conscience must be right.

It is by no means necessary that the universe should exist, but it is
necessary that justice should be done, and atheism is bound to explain
the fixed obstinacy of conscience on this point. Nature is not just; we
are the products of nature: why are we always claiming and prophesying
justice? why does the effect rise up against its cause? It is a singular
phenomenon. Does the protest come from any puerile blindness of human
vanity? No, it is the deepest cry of our being, and it is for the honor
of God that the cry is uttered. Heaven and earth may pass away, but good
_ought_ to be, and injustice ought _not_ to be. Such is the creed of the
human race. Nature will be conquered by spirit; the eternal will triumph
over time.

April 1, 1870.--I am inclined to believe that for a woman love is the
supreme authority--that which judges the rest and decides what is good
or evil. For a man, love is subordinate to right. It is a great passion,
but it is not the source of order, the synonym of reason, the criterion
of excellence. It would seem, then, that a woman places her ideal in the
perfection of love, and a man in the perfection of justice. It was in
this sense that St. Paul was able to say, “The woman is the glory of
the man, and the man is the glory of God.” Thus the woman who absorbs
herself in the object of her love is, so to speak, in the line of
nature; she is truly woman, she realizes her fundamental type. On the
contrary, the man who should make life consist in conjugal adoration,
and who should imagine that he has lived sufficiently when he has made
himself the priest of a beloved woman, such a one is but half a man;
he is despised by the world, and perhaps secretly disdained by
women themselves. The woman who loves truly seeks to merge her own
individuality in that of the man she loves. She desires that her love
should make him greater, stronger, more masculine, and more active. Thus
each sex plays its appointed part: the woman is first destined for man,
and man is destined for society. Woman owes herself to one, man owes
himself to all; and each obtains peace and happiness only when he or she
has recognized this law and accepted this balance of things. The same
thing may be a good in the woman and an evil in the man, may be strength
in her, weakness in him.

There is then a feminine and a masculine morality--preparatory chapters,
as it were, to a general human morality. Below the virtue which is
evangelical and sexless, there is a virtue of sex. And this virtue of
sex is the occasion of mutual teaching, for each of the two incarnations
of virtue makes it its business to convert the other, the first
preaching love in the ears of justice, the second justice in the ears
of love. And so there is produced an oscillation and an average which
represent a social state, an epoch, sometimes a whole civilization.

Such at least is our European idea of the harmony of the sexes in a
graduated order of functions. America is on the road to revolutionize
this ideal by the introduction of the democratic principle of the
equality of individuals in a general equality of functions. Only, when
there is nothing left but a multitude of equal individualities,
neither young nor old, neither men nor women, neither benefited nor
benefactors--all social difference will turn upon money. The whole
hierarchy will rest upon the dollar, and the most brutal, the most
hideous, the most inhuman of inequalities will be the fruit of the
passion for equality. What a result! Plutolatry--the worship of wealth,
the madness of gold--to it will be confided the task of chastising a
false principle and its followers. And plutocracy will be in its turn
executed by equality. It would be a strange end for it, if Anglo-Saxon
individualism were ultimately swallowed up in Latin socialism.

It is my prayer that the discovery of an equilibrium between the two
principles may be made in time, before the social war, with all its
terror and ruin, overtakes us. But it is scarcely likely. The masses
are always ignorant and limited, and only advance by a succession of
contrary errors. They reach good only by the exhaustion of evil. They
discover the way out, only after having run their heads against all
other possible issues.

April 15, 1870.--_Crucifixion!_ That is the word we have to meditate
to-day. Is it not Good Friday?

To curse grief is easier than to bless it, but to do so is to fall back
into the point of view of the earthly, the carnal, the natural man.
By what has Christianity subdued the world if not by the apotheosis of
grief, by its marvelous transmutation of suffering into triumph, of the
crown of thorns into the crown of glory, and of a gibbet into a symbol
of salvation? What does the apotheosis of the Cross mean, if not the
death of death, the defeat of sin, the beatification of martyrdom, the
raising to the skies of voluntary sacrifice, the defiance of pain?
“O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?” By long
brooding over this theme--the agony of the just, peace in the midst
of agony, and the heavenly beauty of such peace--humanity came to
understand that a new religion was born--a new mode, that is to say, of
explaining life and of understanding suffering.

Suffering was a curse from which man fled; now it becomes a purification
of the soul, a sacred trial sent by eternal love, a divine dispensation
meant to sanctify and ennoble us, an acceptable aid to faith, a strange
initiation into happiness. O power of belief! All remains the same, and
yet all is changed. A new certitude arises to deny the apparent and
the tangible; it pierces through the mystery of things, it places an
invisible Father behind visible nature, it shows us joy shining through
tears, and makes of pain the beginning of joy.

And so, for those who have believed, the tomb becomes heaven, and on
the funeral pyre of life they sing the hosanna of immortality; a sacred
madness has renewed the face of the world for them, and when they wish
to explain what they feel, their ecstasy makes them incomprehensible;
they speak with tongues. A wild intoxication of self-sacrifice, contempt
for death, the thirst for eternity, the delirium of love--these are
what the unalterable gentleness of the Crucified has had power to bring
forth. By his pardon of his executioners, and by that unconquerable
sense in him of an indissoluble union with God, Jesus, on his cross,
kindled an inextinguishable fire and revolutionized the world. He
proclaimed and realized salvation by faith in the infinite mercy, and in
the pardon granted to simple repentance. By his saying, “There is more
joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine
just persons who need no repentance,” he made humility the gate of
entrance into paradise.

Crucify the rebellious self, mortify yourself wholly, give up all to
God, and the peace which is not of this world will descend upon you.
For eighteen centuries no grander word has been spoken; and although
humanity is forever seeking after a more exact and complete application
of justice, yet her secret faith is not in justice but in pardon, for
pardon alone conciliates the spotless purity of perfection with the
infinite pity due to weakness--that is to say, it alone preserves and
defends the Idea of holiness, while it allows full scope to that of
love. The gospel proclaims the ineffable consolation, the good
news, which disarms all earthly griefs, and robs even death of its
terrors--the news of irrevocable pardon, that is to say, of eternal
life. The Cross is the guarantee of the gospel.

Therefore it has been its standard.

May 7, 1870.--The faith which clings to its idols and resists all
innovation is a retarding and conservative force; but it is the property
of all religion to serve as a curb to our lawless passion for freedom,
and to steady and quiet our restlessness of temper. Curiosity is the
expansive force, which, if it were allowed an unchecked action upon
us, would disperse and volatilize us; belief represents the force of
gravitation and cohesion which makes separate bodies and individuals of
us. Society lives by faith, develops by science. Its basis then is the
mysterious, the unknown, the intangible--religion--while the fermenting
principle in it is the desire of knowledge. Its permanent substance is
the uncomprehended or the divine; its changing form is the result of its
intellectual labor. The unconscious adhesions, the confused intuitions,
the obscure presentiments, which decide the first faith of a people, are
then of capital importance in its history. All history moves between the
religion which is the genial instinctive and fundamental philosophy of
a race, and the philosophy which is the ultimate religion--the clear
perception, that is to say, of those principles which have engendered
the whole spiritual development of humanity.

It is always the same thing which is, which was, and which will be; but
this thing--the absolute--betrays with more or less transparency and
profundity the law of its life and of its metamorphoses. In its fixed
aspect it is called God; in its mobile aspect the world or nature. God
is present in nature, but nature is not God; there is a nature in
God, but it is not God himself. I am neither for immanence nor for
transcendence taken alone.

May 9, 1870.--Disraeli, in his new novel, “Lothair,” shows that the two
great forces of the present are Revolution and Catholicism, and that
the free nations are lost if either of these two forces triumphs. It is
exactly my own idea. Only, while in France, in Belgium, in Italy, and
in all Catholic societies, it is only by checking one of these forces
by the other that the state and civilization can be maintained, the
Protestant countries are better off; in them there is a third force,
a middle faith between the two other idolatries, which enables them to
regard liberty not as a neutralization of two contraries, but as a moral
reality, self-subsistent, and possessing its own center of gravity and
motive force. In the Catholic world religion and liberty exclude each
other. In the Protestant world they accept each other, so that in the
second case there is a smaller waste of force.

Liberty is the lay, the philosophical principle. It expresses the
juridical and social aspiration of the race. But as there is no society
possible without regulation, without control, without limitations on
individual liberty, above all without moral limitations, the
peoples which are legally the freest do well to take their religious
consciousness for check and ballast. In mixed states, Catholic or
free-thinking, the limit of action, being a merely penal one, invites
incessant contravention.

The puerility of the freethinkers consists in believing that a free
society can maintain itself and keep itself together without a common
faith, without a religious prejudice of some kind. Where lies the will
of God? Is it the common reason which expresses it, or rather, are a
clergy or a church the depositories of it? So long as the response
is ambiguous and equivocal in the eyes of half or the majority of
consciences--and this is the case in all Catholic states--public peace
is impossible, and public law is insecure. If there is a God, we must
have him on our side, and if there is not a God, it would be necessary
first of all to convert everybody to the same idea of the lawful and the
useful, to reconstitute, that is to say, a lay religion, before anything
politically solid could be built.

Liberalism is merely feeding upon abstractions, when it persuades itself
that liberty is possible without free individuals, and when it will not
recognize that liberty in the individual is the fruit of a foregoing
education, a moral education, which presupposes a liberating religion.
To preach liberalism to a population jesuitized by education, is to
press the pleasures of dancing upon a man who has lost a leg. How is
it possible for a child who has never been out of swaddling clothes
to walk? How can the abdication of individual conscience lead to the
government of individual conscience? To be free, is to guide one’s self,
to have attained one’s majority, to be emancipated, master of one’s
actions, and judge of good and evil; but ultramontane Catholicism never
emancipates its disciples, who are bound to admit, to believe, and to
obey, as they are told, because they are minors in perpetuity, and the
clergy alone possess the law of right, the secret of justice, and the
measure of truth. This is what men are landed in by the idea of an
exterior revelation, cleverly made use of by a patient priesthood.

But what astonishes me is the short-sight of the statesmen of the south,
who do not see that the question of questions is the religious
question, and even now do not recognize that a liberal state is
wholly incompatible with an anti-liberal religion, and almost equally
incompatible with the absence of religion. They confound accidental
conquests and precarious progress with lasting results.

There is some probability that all this noise which is made nowadays
about liberty may end in the suppression of liberty; it is plain that
the internationals, the irreconcilables, and the ultramontanes, are, all
three of them, aiming at absolutism, at dictatorial omnipotence. Happily
they are not one but many, and it will not be difficult to turn them
against each other.

If liberty is to be saved, it will not be by the doubters, the men of
science, or the materialists; it will be by religious conviction, by the
faith of individuals who believe that God wills man to be free but also
pure; it will be by the seekers after holiness, by those old-fashioned
pious persons who speak of immortality and eternal life, and prefer the
soul to the whole world; it will be by the enfranchised children of the
ancient faith of the human race.

June 5, 1870.--The efficacy of religion lies precisely in that which
is not rational, philosophic, nor external; its efficacy lies in the
unforeseen, the miraculous, the extraordinary. Thus religion attracts
more devotion in proportion as it demands more faith--that is to say, as
it becomes more incredible to the profane mind. The philosopher aspires
to explain away all mysteries, to dissolve them into light. It is
mystery, on the other hand, which the religious instinct demands and
pursues; it is mystery which constitutes the essence of worship, the
power of proselytism. When the cross became the “foolishness” of the
cross, it took possession of the masses. And in our own day, those who
wish to get rid of the supernatural, to enlighten religion, to economize
faith, find themselves deserted, like poets who should declaim against
poetry, or women who should decry love. Faith consists in the acceptance
of the incomprehensible, and even in the pursuit of the impossible,
and is self-intoxicated with its own sacrifices, its own repeated

It is the forgetfulness of this psychological law which stultifies
the so-called liberal Christianity. It is the realization of it which
constitutes the strength of Catholicism.

Apparently no positive religion can survive the supernatural element
which is the reason for its existence. Natural religion seems to be the
tomb of all historic cults. All concrete religions die eventually in the
pure air of philosophy. So long then as the life of nations is in need
of religion as a motive and sanction of morality, as food for faith,
hope, and charity, so long will the masses turn away from pure reason
and naked truth, so long will they adore mystery, so long--and rightly
so--will they rest in faith, the only region where the ideal presents
itself to them in an attractive form.

June 9, 1870.--At bottom, everything depends upon the presence or
absence of one single element in the soul--hope. All the activity of
man, all his efforts and all his enterprises, presuppose a hope in
him of attaining an end. Once kill this hope and his movements become
senseless, spasmodic, and convulsive, like those of some one falling
from a height. To struggle with the inevitable has something childish
in it. To implore the law of gravitation to suspend its action would no
doubt be a grotesque prayer. Very well! but when a man loses faith in
the efficacy of his efforts, when he says to himself, “You are incapable
of realizing your ideal; happiness is a chimera, progress is an
illusion, the passion for perfection is a snare; and supposing all your
ambitions were gratified, everything would still be vanity,” then he
comes to see that a little blindness is necessary if life is to be
carried on, and that illusion is the universal spring of movement.
Complete disillusion would mean absolute immobility. He who has
deciphered the secret and read the riddle of finite life escapes from
the great wheel of existence; he has left the world of the living--he
is already dead. Is this the meaning of the old belief that to raise the
veil of Isis or to behold God face to face brought destruction upon the
rash mortal who attempted it? Egypt and Judea had recorded the fact,
Buddha gave the key to it; the individual life is a nothing ignorant
of itself, and as soon as this nothing knows itself, individual life
is abolished in principle. For as soon as the illusion vanishes,
Nothingness resumes its eternal sway, the suffering of life is over,
error has disappeared, time and form have ceased to be for this
enfranchised individuality; the colored air-bubble has burst in the
infinite space, and the misery of thought has sunk to rest in the
changeless repose of all-embracing Nothing. The absolute, if it were
spirit, would still be activity, and it is activity, the daughter of
desire, which is incompatible with the absolute. The absolute, then,
must be the zero of all determination, and the only manner of being
suited to it is Non-being.

July 2, 1870.--One of the vices of France is the frivolity which
substitutes public conventions for truth, and absolutely ignores
personal dignity and the majesty of conscience. The French are ignorant
of the A B C of individual liberty, and still show an essentially
catholic intolerance toward the ideas which have not attained
universality or the adhesion of the majority. The nation is an army
which can bring to bear mass, number, and force, but not an assembly of
free men in which each individual depends for his value on himself.
The eminent Frenchman depends upon others for his value; if he
possess stripe, cross, scarf, sword, or robe--in a word, function
and decoration--then he is held to be something, and he feels himself
somebody. It is the symbol which establishes his merit, it is the public
which raises him from nothing, as the sultan creates his viziers.
These highly-trained and social races have an antipathy for individual
independence; everything with them must be founded upon authority
military, civil, or religious, and God himself is non-existent until he
has been established by decree. Their fundamental dogma is that social
omnipotence which treats the pretension of truth to be true without any
official stamp, as a mere usurpation and sacrilege, and scouts the claim
of the individual to possess either a separate conviction or a personal

July 20, 1870 (_Bellalpe_).--A marvelous day. The panorama before me
is of a grandiose splendor; it is a symphony of mountains, a cantata of
sunny Alps.

I am dazzled and oppressed by it. The feeling uppermost is one of
delight in being able to admire, of joy, that is to say, in a recovered
power of contemplation which is the result of physical relief, in being
able at last to forget myself and surrender myself to things, as befits
a man in my state of health. Gratitude is mingled with enthusiasm.
I have just spent two hours of continuous delight at the foot of the
Sparrenhorn, the peak behind us. A flood of sensations overpowered me. I
could only look, feel, dream, and think.

_Later_.--Ascent of the Sparrenhorn. The peak of it is not very easy to
climb, because of the masses of loose stones and the steepness of the
path, which runs between two abysses. But how great is one’s reward!

The view embraces the whole series of the Valais Alps from the Furka to
the Combin; and even beyond the Furka one sees a few peaks of the Ticino
and the Rhaetian Alps; while if you turn you see behind you a whole
polar world of snowfields and glaciers forming the southern side of
the enormous Bernese group of the Finsteraarahorn, the Mönch, and the
Jungfrau. The near representative of the group is the Aletschhorn,
whence diverge like so many ribbons the different Aletsch glaciers which
wind about the peak from which I saw them. I could study the different
zones, one above another--fields, woods, grassy Alps, bare rock and
snow, and the principle types of mountain; the pagoda-shaped Mischabel,
with its four _arêtes_ as flying buttresses and its staff of nine
clustered peaks; the cupola of the Fletchhorn, the dome of Monte Rosa,
the pyramid of the Weisshorn, the obelisk of the Cervin.

Bound me fluttered a multitude of butterflies and brilliant green-backed
flies; but nothing grew except a few lichens. The deadness and emptiness
of the upper Aletsch glacier, like some vast white street, called up the
image of an icy Pompeii. All around boundless silence. On my way back
I noticed some effects of sunshine--the close elastic mountain grass,
starred with gentian, forget-me-not, and anemones, the mountain cattle
standing out against the sky, the rocks just piercing the soil, various
circular dips in the mountain side, stone waves petrified thousands of
thousands of years ago, the undulating ground, the tender quiet of the
evening; and I invoked the soul of the mountains and the spirit of the

July 22, 1870 (_Bellalpe_).--The sky, which was misty and overcast this
morning, has become perfectly blue again, and the giants of the Valais
are bathed in tranquil light.

Whence this solemn melancholy which oppresses and pursues me? I
have just read a series of scientific books (Bronn on the “Laws of
Palaeontology,” Karl Ritter on the “Law of Geographical Forms”). Are
they the cause of this depression? or is it the majesty of this immense
landscape, the splendor of this setting sun, which brings the tears to
my eyes?

  “Créature d’un jour qui t’agites une heure,”

what weighs upon thee--I know it well--is the sense of thine utter
nothingness!... The names of great men hover before my eyes like a
secret reproach, and this grand impassive nature tells me that to-morrow
I shall have disappeared, butterfly that I am, without having lived. Or
perhaps it is the breath of eternal things which stirs in me the shudder
of Job. What is man--this weed which a sunbeam withers? What is our
life in the infinite abyss? I feel a sort of sacred terror, not only for
myself, but for my race, for all that is mortal. Like Buddha, I feel
the great wheel turning--the wheel of universal illusion--and the dumb
stupor which enwraps me is full of anguish. Isis lilts the corner of
her veil, and he who perceives the great mystery beneath is struck with
giddiness. I can scarcely breathe. It seems to me that I am hanging by a
thread above the fathomless abyss of destiny. Is this the Infinite face
to face, an intuition of the last great death?

  “Créature d’un jour qui t’agites une heure,
  Ton âme est immortelle et tes pleurs vont finir.”

_Finir?_ When depths of ineffable desire are opening in the heart,
as vast, as yawning as the immensity which surrounds us? Genius,
self-devotion, love--all these cravings quicken into life and torture me
at once. Like the shipwrecked sailor about to sink under the waves, I am
conscious of a mad clinging to life, and at the same time of a rush of
despair and repentance, which forces from me a cry for pardon. And then
all this hidden agony dissolves in wearied submission. “Resign yourself
to the inevitable! Shroud away out of sight the flattering delusions
of youth! Live and die in the shade! Like the insects humming in the
darkness, offer up your evening prayer. Be content to fade out of life
without a murmur whenever the Master of life shall breathe upon your
tiny flame! It is out of myriads of unknown lives that every clod of
earth is built up. The infusoria do not count until they are millions
upon millions. Accept your nothingness.” Amen!

But there is no peace except in order, in law. Am I in order? Alas, no!
My changeable and restless nature will torment me to the end. I shall
never see plainly what I ought to do. The love of the better will have
stood between me and the good. Yearning for the ideal will have lost me
reality. Vague aspiration and undefined desire will have been enough
to make my talents useless, and to neutralize my powers. Unproductive
nature that I am, tortured by the belief that production was required of
me, may not my very remorse be a mistake and a superfluity?

Scherer’s phrase comes back to me, “We must accept ourselves as we are.”

September 8, 1870 (_Zurich_).--All the exiles are returning to
Paris--Edgar Quinet, Louis Blanc, Victor Hugo. By the help of their
united experience will they succeed in maintaining the republic? It
is to be hoped so. But the past makes it lawful to doubt. While
the republic is in reality a fruit, the French look upon it as a
seed-sowing. Elsewhere such a form of government presupposes free men;
in France it is and must be an instrument of instruction and protection.
France has once more placed sovereignty in the hands of universal
suffrage, as though the multitude were already enlightened, judicious,
and reasonable, and now her task is to train and discipline the force
which, by a fiction, is master.

The ambition of France is set upon self-government, but her capacity
for it has still to be proved. For eighty years she has confounded
revolution with liberty; will she now give proof of amendment and
of wisdom? Such a change is not impossible. Let us wait for it with
sympathy, but also with caution.

September 12, 1870 (_Basle_).--The old Rhine is murmuring under my
window. The wide gray stream rolls its great waves along and breaks
against the arches of the bridge, just as it did ten years or twenty
years ago; the red cathedral shoots its arrow-like spires toward heaven;
the ivy on the terraces which fringe the left bank of the Rhine hangs
over the walls like a green mantle; the indefatigable ferry-boat goes
and comes as it did of yore; in a word, things seem to be eternal, while
man’s hair turns gray and his heart grows old. I came here first as a
student, then as a professor. Now I return to it at the downward turn of
middle age, and nothing in the landscape has changed except myself.

The melancholy of memory may be commonplace and puerile--all the same it
is true, it is inexhaustible, and the poets of all times have been open
to its attacks.

At bottom, what is individual life? A variation of an eternal theme--to
be born, to live, to feel, to hope, to love, to suffer, to weep, to
die. Some would add to these, to grow rich, to think, to conquer; but in
fact, whatever frantic efforts one may make, however one may strain and
excite one’s self, one can but cause a greater or slighter undulation
in the line of one’s destiny. Supposing a man renders the series of
fundamental phenomena a little more evident to others or a little more
distinct to himself, what does it matter? The whole is still nothing but
a fluttering of the infinitely little, the insignificant repetition of
an invariable theme. In truth, whether the individual exists or no, the
difference is so absolutely imperceptible in the whole of things that
every complaint and every desire is ridiculous. Humanity in its entirety
is but a flash in the duration of the planet, and the planet may return
to the gaseous state without the sun’s feeling it even for a second. The
individual is the infinitesimal of nothing.

What, then, is nature? Nature is Maïa--that is to say, an incessant,
fugitive, indifferent series of phenomena, the manifestation of all
possibilities, the inexhaustible play of all combinations.

And is Maïa all the while performing for the amusement of somebody,
of some spectator--Brahma? Or is Brahma working out some serious and
unselfish end? From the theistic point of view, is it the purpose of
God to make souls, to augment the sum of good and wisdom by the
multiplication of himself in free beings--facets which may flash back to
him his own holiness and beauty? This conception is far more attractive
to the heart. But is it more true? The moral consciousness affirms
it. If man is capable of conceiving goodness, the general principle of
things, which cannot be inferior to man, must be good. The philosophy
of labor, of duty, of effort, is surely superior to that of phenomena,
chance, and universal indifference. If so, the whimsical Maïa would be
subordinate to Brahma, the eternal thought, and Brahma would be in his
turn subordinate to a holy God.

October 25, 1870 (_Geneva_).--“Each function to the most worthy:” this
maxim governs all constitutions, and serves to test them. Democracy is
not forbidden to apply it, but democracy rarely does apply it, because
she holds, for example, that the most worthy man is the man who pleases
her, whereas he who pleases her is not always the most worthy, and
because she supposes that reason guides the masses, whereas in reality
they are most commonly led by passion. And in the end every falsehood
has to be expiated, for truth always takes its revenge.

Alas, whatever one may say or do, wisdom, justice, reason, and goodness
will never be anything more than special cases and the heritage of a
few elect souls. Moral and intellectual harmony, excellence in all
its forms, will always be a rarity of great price, an isolated _chef
d’oeuvre_. All that can be expected from the most perfect institutions
is that they should make it possible for individual excellence to
develop itself, not that they should produce the excellent individual.
Virtue and genius, grace and beauty, will always constitute a _noblesse_
such as no form of government can manufacture. It is of no use,
therefore, to excite one’s self for or against revolutions which have
only an importance of the second order--an importance which I do not
wish either to diminish or to ignore, but an importance which, after
all, is mostly negative. The political life is but the means of the true

October 26, 1870.--Sirocco. A bluish sky. The leafy crowns of the trees
have dropped at their feet; the finger of winter has touched them. The
errand-woman has just brought me my letters. Poor little woman, what
a life! She spends her nights in going backward and forward from her
invalid husband to her sister, who is scarcely less helpless, and
her days are passed in labor. Resigned and indefatigable, she goes on
without complaining, till she drops.

Lives such as hers prove something: that the true ignorance is moral
ignorance, that labor and suffering are the lot of all men, and that
classification according to a greater or less degree of folly is
inferior to that which proceeds according to a greater or less degree
of virtue. The kingdom of God belongs not to the most enlightened but to
the best; and the best man is the most unselfish man. Humble, constant,
voluntary self-sacrifice--this is what constitutes the true dignity of
man. And therefore is it written, “The last shall be first.” Society
rests upon conscience and not upon science. Civilization is first
and foremost a moral thing. Without honesty, without respect for law,
without the worship of duty, without the love of one’s neighbor--in a
word, without virtue--the whole is menaced and falls into decay, and
neither letters nor art, neither luxury nor industry, nor rhetoric,
nor the policeman, nor the custom-house officer, can maintain erect and
whole an edifice of which the foundations are unsound.

A state founded upon interest alone and cemented by fear is an
ignoble and unsafe construction. The ultimate ground upon which
every civilization rests is the average morality of the masses, and a
sufficient amount of practical righteousness. Duty is what upholds all.
So that those who humbly and unobtrusively fulfill it, and set a good
example thereby, are the salvation and the sustenance of this brilliant
world, which knows nothing about them. Ten righteous men would have
saved Sodom, but thousands and thousands of good homely folk are needed
to preserve a people from corruption and decay.

If ignorance and passion are the foes of popular morality, it must
be confessed that moral indifference is the malady of the cultivated
classes. The modern separation of enlightenment and virtue, of thought
and conscience, of the intellectual aristocracy from the honest and
vulgar crowd, is the greatest danger that can threaten liberty. When
any society produces an increasing number of literary exquisites, of
satirists, skeptics, and _beaux esprits_, some chemical disorganization
of fabric may be inferred. Take, for example, the century of Augustus,
and that of Louis XV. Our cynics and railers are mere egotists, who
stand aloof from the common duty, and in their indolent remoteness are
of no service to society against any ill which may attack it. Their
cultivation consists in having got rid of feeling. And thus they fall
farther and farther away from true humanity, and approach nearer to
the demoniacal nature. What was it that Mephistopheles lacked? Not
intelligence certainly, but goodness.

October 28, 1870.--It is strange to see how completely justice is
forgotten in the presence of great international struggles. Even the
great majority of the spectators are no longer capable of judging except
as their own personal tastes, dislikes, fears, desires, interests, or
passions may dictate--that is to say, their judgment is not a judgment
at all. How many people are capable of delivering a fair verdict on the
struggle now going on? Very few! This horror of equity, this antipathy
to justice, this rage against a merciful neutrality, represents a kind
of eruption of animal passion in man, a blind fierce passion, which
is absurd enough to call itself a reason, whereas it is nothing but a

November 16, 1870.--We are struck by something bewildering and ineffable
when we look down into the depths of an abyss; and every soul is an
abyss, a mystery of love and piety. A sort of sacred emotion descends
upon me whenever I penetrate the recesses of this sanctuary of man, and
hear the gentle murmur of the prayers, hymns, and supplications which
rise from the hidden depths of the heart. These involuntary confidences
fill me with a tender piety and a religious awe and shyness. The whole
experience seems to me as wonderful as poetry, and divine with the
divineness of birth and dawn. Speech fails me, I bow myself and adore.
And, whenever I am able, I strive also to console and fortify.

December 6, 1870.--“Dauer im Wechsel”--“Persistence in change.” This
title of a poem by Goethe is the summing up of nature. Everything
changes, but with such unequal rapidity that one existence appears
eternal to another. A geological age, for instance, compared to the
duration of any living being, the duration of a planet compared to
a geological age, appear eternities--our life, too, compared to the
thousand impressions which pass across us in an hour. Wherever one
looks, one feels one’s self overwhelmed by the infinity of infinites.
The universe, seriously studied, rouses one’s terror. Everything seems
so relative that it is scarcely possible to distinguish whether anything
has a real value.

Where is the fixed point in this boundless and bottomless gulf? Must
it not be that which perceives the relations of things--in other words,
thought, infinite thought? The perception of ourselves within the
infinite thought, the realization of ourselves in God, self-acceptance
in him, the harmony of our will with his--in a word, religion--here
alone is firm ground. Whether this thought be free or necessary,
happiness lies in identifying one’s self with it. Both the stoic and
the Christian surrender themselves to the Being of beings, which the one
calls sovereign wisdom and the other sovereign goodness. St. John
says, “God is Light,” “God is Love.” The Brahmin says, “God is the
inexhaustible fount of poetry.” Let us say, “God is perfection.” And
man? Man, for all his inexpressible insignificance and frailty, may
still apprehend the idea of perfection, may help forward the supreme
will, and die with Hosanna on his lips!

       *       *       *       *       *

All teaching depends upon a certain presentiment and preparation in the
taught; we can only teach others profitably what they already virtually
know; we can only give them what they had already. This principle of
education is also a law of history. Nations can only be developed on the
lines of their tendencies and aptitudes. Try them on any other and they
are rebellious and incapable of improvement.

       *       *       *       *       *

By despising himself too much a man comes to be worthy of his own

       *       *       *       *       *

Its way of suffering is the witness which a soul bears to itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

The beautiful is superior to the sublime because it lasts and does not
satiate, while the sublime is relative, temporary and violent.

       *       *       *       *       *

February 4, 1871.--Perpetual effort is the characteristic of modern
morality. A painful process has taken the place of the old harmony, the
old equilibrium, the old joy and fullness of being. We are all so
many fauns, satyrs, or Silenuses, aspiring to become angels; so
many deformities laboring for our own embellishment; so many clumsy
chrysalises each working painfully toward the development of the
butterfly within him. Our ideal is no longer a serene beauty of soul;
it is the agony of Laocoon struggling with the hydra of evil. The lot
is cast irrevocably. There are no more happy whole-natured men among us,
nothing but so many candidates for heaven, galley-slaves on earth.

  “Nous ramons notre vie en attendant le port.”

Molière said that reasoning banished reason. It is possible also that
the progress toward perfection we are so proud of is only a pretentious
imperfection. Duty seems now to be more negative than positive; it means
lessening evil rather than actual good; it is a generous discontent,
but not happiness; it is an incessant pursuit of an unattainable goal,
a noble madness, but not reason; it is homesickness for the
impossible--pathetic and pitiful, but still not wisdom.

The being which has attained harmony, and every being may attain it, has
found its place in the order of the universe, and represents the divine
thought at least as clearly as a flower or a solar system. Harmony seeks
nothing outside itself. It is what it ought to be; it is the expression
of right, order, law, and truth; it is greater than time, and represents

February 6,1871.--I am reading Juste Olivier’s “Chansons du Soir” over
again, and all the melancholy of the poet seems to pass into my veins.
It is the revelation of a complete existence, and of a whole world of
melancholy reverie.

How much character there is in “Musette,” the “Chanson de l’Alouette,”
 the “Chant du Retour,” and the “Gaîté,” and how much freshness in
“Lina,” and “A ma fille!” But the best pieces of all are “Au delà,”
 “Homunculus,” “La Trompeuse,” and especially “Frère Jacques,” its
author’s masterpiece. To these may be added the “Marionettes” and the
national song, “Helvétie.” Serious purpose and intention disguised in
gentle gayety and childlike _badinage_, feeling hiding itself under
a smile of satire, a resigned and pensive wisdom expressing itself
in rustic round or ballad, the power of suggesting everything in a
nothing--these are the points in which the Vaudois poet triumphs. On the
reader’s side there is emotion and surprise, and on the author’s a sort
of pleasant slyness which seems to delight in playing tricks upon you,
only tricks of the most dainty and brilliant kind. Juste Olivier has the
passion we might imagine a fairy to have for delicate mystification.
He hides his gifts. He promises nothing and gives a great deal. His
generosity, which is prodigal, has a surly air; his simplicity is really
subtlety; his malice pure tenderness; and his whole talent is, as it
were, the fine flower of the Vaudois mind in its sweetest and dreamiest

February 10, 1871.--My reading for this morning has been some vigorous
chapters of Taine’s “History of English Literature.” Taine is a writer
whose work always produces a disagreeable impression upon me, as though
of a creaking of pulleys and a clicking of machinery; there is a smell
of the laboratory about it. His style is the style of chemistry and
technology. The science of it is inexorable; it is dry and forcible,
penetrating and hard, strong and harsh, but altogether lacking in charm,
humanity, nobility, and grace. The disagreeable effect which it makes on
one’s taste, ear, and heart, depends probably upon two things: upon the
moral philosophy of the author and upon his literary principles. The
profound contempt for humanity which characterizes the physiological
school, and the intrusion of technology into literature inaugurated
by Balzac and Stendhal, explain the underlying aridity of which one is
sensible in these pages, and which seems to choke one like the gases
from a manufactory of mineral products. The book is instructive in
the highest degree, but instead of animating and stirring, it parches,
corrodes, and saddens its reader. It excites no feeling whatever; it is
simply a means of information. I imagine this kind of thing will be the
literature of the future--a literature _à l’Américaine_, as different as
possible from Greek art, giving us algebra instead of life, the formula
instead of the image, the exhalations of the crucible instead of the
divine madness of Apollo. Cold vision will replace the joys of thought,
and we shall see the death of poetry, flayed and dissected by science.

February 15, 1871.--Without intending it, nations educate each other,
while having apparently nothing in view but their own selfish interests.
It was France who made the Germany of the present, by attempting its
destruction during ten generations; it is Germany who will regenerate
contemporary France, by the effort to crush her. Revolutionary France
will teach equality to the Germans, who are by nature hierarchical.
Germany will teach the French that rhetoric is not science, and that
appearance is not as valuable as reality. The worship of prestige--that
is to say, of falsehood; the passion for vainglory--that is to say, for
smoke and noise; these are what must die in the interests of the world.
It is a false religion which is being destroyed. I hope sincerely that
this war will issue in a new balance of things better than any which has
gone before--a new Europe, in which the government of the individual by
himself will be the cardinal principle of society, in opposition to the
Latin principle, which regards the individual as a thing, a means to an
end, an instrument of the church or of the state.

In the order and harmony which would result from free adhesion and
voluntary submission to a common ideal, we should see the rise of a new
moral world. It would be an equivalent, expressed in lay terms, to the
idea of a universal priesthood. The model state ought to resemble
a great musical society in which every one submits to be organized,
subordinated, and disciplined for the sake of art, and for the sake of
producing a masterpiece. Nobody is coerced, nobody is made use of for
selfish purposes, nobody plays a hypocritical or selfish part. All bring
their talent to the common stock, and contribute knowingly and gladly
to the common wealth. Even self-love itself is obliged to help on the
general action, under pain of rebuff should it make itself apparent.

February 18, 1871.--It is in the novel that the average vulgarity of
German society, and its inferiority to the societies of France and
England, are most clearly visible. The notion of “bad taste” seems to
have no place in German aesthetics. Their elegance has no grace in it;
and they cannot understand the enormous difference there is between
distinction (what is _gentlemanly_, _ladylike_), and their stiff
_vornehmlichkeit_. Their imagination lacks style, training, education,
and knowledge of the world; it has an ill-bred air even in its
Sunday dress. The race is poetical and intelligent, but common and
ill-mannered. Pliancy and gentleness, manners, wit, vivacity, taste,
dignity, and charm, are qualities which belong to others.

Will that inner freedom of soul, that profound harmony of all the
faculties which I have so often observed among the best Germans,
ever come to the surface? Will the conquerors of to-day ever learn to
civilize and soften their forms of life? It is by their future novels
that we shall be able to judge. As soon as they are capable of the novel
of “good society” they will have excelled all rivals. Till then, finish,
polish, the maturity of social culture, are beyond them; they may have
humanity of feeling, but the delicacies, the little perfections of life,
are unknown to them. They may be honest and well-meaning, but they are
utterly without _savoir vivre_.

February 22, 1871.--_Soirée_ at the M--. About thirty people
representing our best society were there, a happy mixture of sexes and
ages. There were gray heads, young girls, bright faces--the whole framed
in some Aubusson tapestries which made a charming background, and gave a
soft air of distance to the brilliantly-dressed groups.

In society people are expected to behave as if they lived on ambrosia
and concerned themselves with nothing but the loftiest interests.
Anxiety, need, passion, have no existence. All realism is suppressed as
brutal. In a word, what we call “society” proceeds for the moment on
the flattering illusory assumption that it is moving in an ethereal
atmosphere and breathing the air of the gods. All vehemence, all natural
expression, all real suffering, all careless familiarity, or any
frank sign of passion, are startling and distasteful in this delicate
_milieu_; they at once destroy the common work, the cloud palace,
the magical architectural whole, which has been raised by the general
consent and effort. It is like the sharp cock-crow which breaks the
spell of all enchantments, and puts the fairies to flight. These select
gatherings produce, without knowing it, a sort of concert for eyes and
ears, an improvised work of art. By the instinctive collaboration
of everybody concerned, intellect and taste hold festival, and
the associations of reality are exchanged for the associations of
imagination. So understood, society is a form of poetry; the cultivated
classes deliberately recompose the idyll of the past and the buried
world of Astrea. Paradox or no, I believe that these fugitive attempts
to reconstruct a dream whose only end is beauty represent confused
reminiscences of an age of gold haunting the human heart, or rather
aspirations toward a harmony of things which every day reality denies to
us, and of which art alone gives us a glimpse.

April 28, 1871.--For a psychologist it is extremely interesting to
be readily and directly conscious of the complications of one’s own
organism and the play of its several parts. It seems to me that the
sutures of my being are becoming just loose enough to allow me at once
a clear perception of myself as a whole and a distinct sense of my own
brittleness. A feeling like this makes personal existence a perpetual
astonishment and curiosity. Instead of only seeing the world which
surrounds me, I analyze myself. Instead of being single, all of a piece,
I become legion, multitude, a whirlwind--a very cosmos. Instead of
living on the surface, I take possession of my inmost self, I apprehend
myself, if not in my cells and atoms, at least so far as my groups of
organs, almost my tissues, are concerned. In other words, the central
monad isolates itself from all the subordinate monads, that it may
consider them, and finds its harmony again in itself.

Health is the perfect balance between our organism, with all its
component parts, and the outer world; it serves us especially for
acquiring a knowledge of that world. Organic disturbance obliges us to
set up a fresh and more spiritual equilibrium, to withdraw within the
soul. Thereupon our bodily constitution itself becomes the object of
thought. It is no longer we, although it may belong to us; it is nothing
more than the vessel in which we make the passage of life, a vessel of
which we study the weak points and the structure without identifying it
with our own individuality.

Where is the ultimate residence of the self? In thought, or rather in
consciousness. But below consciousness there is its germ, the _punctum
saliens_ of spontaneity; for consciousness is not primitive, it
_becomes_. The question is, can the thinking monad return into its
envelope, that is to say, into pure spontaneity, or even into the dark
abyss of virtuality? I hope not. The kingdom passes; the king remains;
or rather is it the royalty alone which subsists--that is to say, the
idea--the personality begin in its turn merely the passing vesture
of the permanent idea? Is Leibnitz or Hegel right? Is the individual
immortal under the form of the spiritual body? Is he eternal under the
form of the individual idea? Who saw most clearly, St. Paul or Plato?
The theory of Leibnitz attracts me most because it opens to us an
infinite of duration, of multitude, and evolution. For a monad, which
is the virtual universe, a whole infinite of time is not too much to
develop the infinite within it. Only one must admit exterior actions
and influences which affect the evolution of the monad. Its independence
must be a mobile and increasing quantity between zero and the infinite,
without ever reaching either completeness or nullity, for the monad can
be neither absolutely passive nor entirely free.

June 21, 1871.--The international socialism of the _ouvriers_,
ineffectually put down in Paris, is beginning to celebrate its
approaching victory. For it there is neither country, nor memories,
nor property, nor religion. There is nothing and nobody but itself. Its
dogma is equality, its prophet is Mably, and Baboeuf is its god.

[Footnote: Mably, the Abbé Mably, 1709-85, one of the precursors of the
revolution, the professor of a cultivated and classical communism
based on a study of antiquity, which Babeuf and others like him, in
the following generation, translated into practical experiment. “Caius
Gracchus” Babeuf, born 1764, and guillotined in 1797 for a conspiracy
against the Directory, is sometimes called the first French socialist.
Perhaps socialist doctrines, properly so called, may be said to make
their first entry into the region of popular debate and practical
agitation with his “Manifeste des Égaux,” issued April 1796.]

How is the conflict to be solved, since there is no longer one single
common principle between the partisans and the enemies of the existing
form of society, between liberalism and the worship of equality? Their
respective notions of man, duty, happiness--that is to say, of life
and its end--differ radically. I suspect that the communism of the
_Internationale_ is merely the pioneer of Russian nihilism, which will
be the common grave of the old races and the servile races, the Latins
and the Slavs. If so, the salvation of humanity will depend upon
individualism of the brutal American sort. I believe that the nations
of the present are rather tempting chastisement than learning wisdom.
Wisdom, which means balance and harmony, is only met within individuals.
Democracy, which means the rule of the masses, gives preponderance to
instinct, to nature, to the passions--that is to say, to blind impulse,
to elemental gravitation, to generic fatality. Perpetual vacillation
between contraries becomes its only mode of progress, because it
represents that childish form of prejudice which falls in love
and cools, adores, and curses, with the same haste and unreason. A
succession of opposing follies gives an impression of change which the
people readily identify with improvement, as though Enceladus was more
at ease on his left side than on his right, the weight of the volcano
remaining the same. The stupidity of Demos is only equaled by its
presumption. It is like a youth with all his animal and none of his
reasoning powers developed.

Luther’s comparison of humanity to a drunken peasant, always ready to
fall from his horse on one side or the other, has always struck me as
a particularly happy one. It is not that I deny the right of the
democracy, but I have no sort of illusion as to the use it will make of
its right, so long, at any rate, as wisdom is the exception and conceit
the rule. Numbers make law, but goodness has nothing to do with figures.
Every fiction is self-expiating, and democracy rests upon this legal
fiction, that the majority has not only force but reason on its
side--that it possesses not only the right to act but the wisdom
necessary for action. The fiction is dangerous because of its flattery;
the demagogues have always flattered the private feelings of the
masses. The masses will always be below the average. Besides, the age
of majority will be lowered, the barriers of sex will be swept away, and
democracy will finally make itself absurd by handing over the decision
of all that is greatest to all that is most incapable. Such an end will
be the punishment of its abstract principle of equality, which dispenses
the ignorant man from the necessity of self-training, the foolish man
from that of self-judgment, and tells the child that there is no need
for him to become a man, and the good-for-nothing that self-improvement
is of no account. Public law, founded upon virtual equality, will
destroy itself by its consequences. It will not recognize the
inequalities of worth, of merit, and of experience; in a word, it
ignores individual labor, and it will end in the triumph of platitude
and the residuum. The _régime_ of the Parisian Commune has shown us what
kind of material comes to the top in these days of frantic vanity and
universal suspicion.

Still, humanity is tough, and survives all catastrophes. Only it makes
one impatient to see the race always taking the longest road to an end,
and exhausting all possible faults before it is able to accomplish one
definite step toward improvement. These innumerable follies, that are to
be and must be, have an irritating effect upon me. The more majestic is
the history of science, the more intolerable is the history of politics
and religion. The mode of progress in the moral world seems an abuse of
the patience of God.

Enough! There is no help in misanthropy and pessimism. If our race vexes
us, let us keep a decent silence on the matter. We are imprisoned on the
same ship, and we shall sink with it. Pay your own debt, and leave the
rest to God. Sharer, as you inevitably are, in the sufferings of your
kind, set a good example; that is all which is asked of you. Do all the
good you can, and say all the truth you know or believe; and for the
rest be patient, resigned, submissive. God does his business, do yours.

July 29, 1871.--So long as a man is capable of self-renewal he is a
living being. Goethe, Schleiermacher and Humboldt, were masters of the
art. If we are to remain among the living there must be a perpetual
revival of youth within us, brought about by inward change and by love
of the Platonic sort. The soul must be forever recreating itself, trying
all its various modes, vibrating in all its fibres, raising up new
interests for itself....

The “Epistles” and the “Epigrams” of Goethe which I have been reading
to-day do not make one love him. Why? Because he has so little soul. His
way of understanding love, religion, duty, and patriotism has something
mean and repulsive in it. There is no ardor, no generosity in him. A
secret barrenness, an ill-concealed egotism, makes itself felt through
all the wealth and flexibility of his talent. It is true that the
egotism of Goethe has at least this much that is excellent in it, that
it respects the liberty of the individual, and is favorable to all
originality. But it will go out of its way to help nobody; it will give
itself no trouble for anybody; it will lighten nobody else’s burden;
in a word, it does away with charity, the great Christian virtue.
Perfection for Goethe consists in personal nobility, not in love; his
standard is aesthetic, not moral. He ignores holiness, and has never
allowed himself to reflect on the dark problem of evil. A Spinozist
to the core, he believes in individual luck, not in liberty, nor in
responsibility. He is a Greek of the great time, to whom the inward
crises of the religious consciousness are unknown. He represents, then,
a state of soul earlier than or subsequent to Christianity, what the
prudent critics of our time call the “modern spirit;” and only one
tendency of the modern spirit--the worship of nature. For Goethe stands
outside all the social and political aspirations of the generality
of mankind; he takes no more interest than Nature herself in the
disinherited, the feeble, and the oppressed....

The restlessness of our time does not exist for Goethe and his school.
It is explicable enough. The deaf have no sense of dissonance. The man
who knows nothing of the voice of conscience, the voice of regret or
remorse, cannot even guess at the troubles of those who live under two
masters and two laws, and belong to two worlds--that of nature and that
of liberty. For himself, his choice is made. But humanity cannot choose
and exclude. All needs are vocal at once in the cry of her suffering.
She hears the men of science, but she listens to those who talk to her
of religion; pleasure attracts her, but sacrifice moves her; and she
hardly knows whether she hates or whether she adores the crucifix.

_Later_.--Still re-reading the sonnets and the miscellaneous poems of
Goethe. The impression left by this part of the “Gedichte” is much more
favorable than that made upon me by the “Elegies” and the “Epigrams.”
 The “Water Spirits” and “The Divine” are especially noble in feeling.
One must never be too hasty in judging these complex natures. Completely
lacking as he is in the sense of obligation and of sin, Goethe
nevertheless finds his way to seriousness through dignity. Greek
sculpture has been his school of virtue.

August 15, 1871.--Re-read, for the second time, Renan’s “Vie de Jesus,”
 in the sixteenth popular edition. The most characteristic feature of
this analysis of Christianity is that sin plays no part at all in it.
Now, if anything explains the success of the gospel among men, it is
that it brought them deliverance from sin--in a word, salvation. A man,
however, is bound to explain a religion seriously, and not to shirk the
very center of his subject. This white-marble Christ is not the Christ
who inspired the martyrs and has dried so many tears. The author lacks
moral seriousness, and confounds nobility of character with holiness. He
speaks as an artist conscious of a pathetic subject, but his moral sense
is not interested in the question. It is not possible to mistake the
epicureanism of the imagination, delighting itself in an aesthetic
spectacle, for the struggles of a soul passionately in search of truth.
In Renan there are still some remains of priestly _ruse_; he strangles
with sacred cords. His tone of contemptuous indulgence toward a more or
less captious clergy might be tolerated, but he should have shown a
more respectful sincerity in dealing with the sincere and the spiritual.
Laugh at Pharisaism as you will, but speak simply and plainly to honest
folk. [Footnote: “‘Persifflez les pharisaïsmes, mais parlez droit aux
honnêtes gens’ me dit Amiel, avec une certaine aigreur. Mon Dieu, que
les honnêtes gens sont souvent exposés à être des pharisiens sans le
savoir!”--(M. Renan’s article, already quoted).]

_Later_.--To understand is to be conscious of the fundamental unity
of the thing to be explained--that is to say, to conceive it in its
entirety both of life and development, to be able to remake it by a
mental process without making a mistake, without adding or omitting
anything. It means, first, complete identification of the object,
and then the power of making it clear to others by a full and just
interpretation. To understand is more difficult than to judge, for
understanding is the transference of the mind into the conditions of
the object, whereas judgment is simply the enunciation of the individual

August 25, 1871. (_Charnex-sur-Montreux_).--Magnificent weather. The
morning seems bathed in happy peace, and a heavenly fragrance rises from
mountain and shore; it is as though a benediction were laid upon us. No
vulgar intrusive noise disturbs the religious quiet of the scene. One
might believe one’s self in a church--a vast temple in which every being
and every natural beauty has its place. I dare not breathe for fear of
putting the dream to flight--a dream traversed by angels.

  “Comme autrefois j’entends dans l’éther infini
  La musique du temps et l’hosanna des mondes.”

In these heavenly moments the cry of Pauline rises to one’s lips.
[Footnote: “Polyeuete,” Act. V. Scene v.

  “Mon époux en mourant m’a laissé ses lumiéres;
  Son sang dont tes bourreaux viennent de me couvrir
  M’a dessillé les yeux et me les vient d’ouvrir.
  Je vois, je sais, je crois----“]

“I feel! I believe! I see!” All the miseries, the cares, the vexations
of life, are forgotten; the universal joy absorbs us; we enter into the
divine order, and into the blessedness of the Lord. Labor and tears,
sin, pain, and death have passed away. To exist is to bless; life
is happiness. In this sublime pause of things all dissonances have
disappeared. It is as though creation were but one vast symphony,
glorifying the God of goodness with an inexhaustible wealth of praise
and harmony. We question no longer whether it is so or not. We have
ourselves become notes in the great concert; and the soul breaks the
silence of ecstasy only to vibrate in unison with the eternal joy.

September 22, 1871. (_Charnex_).--Gray sky--a melancholy day. A friend
has left me, the sun is unkind and capricious. Everything passes away,
everything forsakes us. And in place of all we have lost, age and gray
hairs! ... After dinner I walked to Chailly between two showers. A rainy
landscape has a great charm for me; the dark tints become more velvety,
the softer tones more ethereal. The country in rain is like a face with
traces of tears upon it--less beautiful no doubt, but more expressive.

Behind the beauty which is superficial, gladsome, radiant, and palpable,
the aesthetic sense discovers another order of beauty altogether,
hidden, veiled, secret and mysterious, akin to moral beauty. This sort
of beauty only reveals itself to the initiated, and is all the more
exquisite for that. It is a little like the refined joy of sacrifice,
like the madness of faith, like the luxury of grief; it is not within
the reach of all the world. Its attraction is peculiar, and affects one
like some strange perfume, or bizarre melody. When once the taste for it
is set up the mind takes a special and keen delight in it, for one finds
in it

  “Son bien premièrement, puis le dédain d’autrui,”

and it is pleasant to one’s vanity not to be of the same opinion as
the common herd. This, however, is not possible with things which are
evident, and beauty which is incontestable. Charm, perhaps, is a better
name for the esoteric and paradoxical beauty, which escapes the vulgar,
and appeals to our dreamy, meditative side. Classical beauty belongs,
so to speak, to all eyes; it has ceased to belong to itself. Esoteric
beauty is shy and retiring. It only unveils itself to unsealed eyes, and
bestows its favors only upon love.

This is why my friend ----, who places herself immediately in relation
with the souls of those she meets, does not see the ugliness of people
when once she is interested in them. She likes and dislikes, and those
she likes are beautiful, those she dislikes are ugly. There is nothing
more complicated in it than that. For her, aesthetic considerations are
lost in moral sympathy; she looks with her heart only; she passes by the
chapter of the beautiful, and goes on to the chapter of charm. I can
do the same; only it is by reflection and on second thoughts; my friend
does it involuntarily and at once; she has not the artistic fiber. The
craving for a perfect correspondence between the inside and the outside
of things--between matter and form--is not in her nature. She does not
suffer from ugliness, she scarcely perceives it. As for me, I can only
forget what shocks me, I cannot help being shocked. All corporal defects
irritate me, and the want of beauty in women, being something which
ought not to exist, shocks me like a tear, a solecism, a dissonance, a
spot of ink--in a word, like something out of order. On the other
hand, beauty restores and fortifies me like some miraculous food, like
Olympian ambrosia.

 “Que le bon soit toujours camarade du beau
  Dès demain je chercherai femme.
  Mais comme le divorce entre eux n’est pas nouveau,
  Et que peu de beaux corps, hôtes d’une belle âme,
  Assemblent l’un et l’autre point----”

I will not finish, for after all one must resign one’s self, A beautiful
soul in a healthy body is already a rare and blessed thing; and if one
finds heart, common sense, intellect, and courage into the bargain,
one may well do without that ravishing dainty which we call beauty,
and almost without that delicious seasoning which we call grace. We do
without--with a sigh, as one does without a luxury. Happy we, to possess
what is necessary.

December 29, 1871.--I have been reading Bahnsen (“Critique
de l’évolutionisme de Hegel-Hartmann, au nom des principes de
Schopenhauer”). What a writer! Like a cuttle-fish in water, every
movement produces a cloud of ink which shrouds his thought in darkness.
And what a doctrine! A thoroughgoing pessimism, which regards the world
as absurd, “absolutely idiotic,” and reproaches Hartmann for having
allowed the evolution of the universe some little remains of logic,
while, on the contrary, this evolution is eminently contradictory, and
there is no reason anywhere except in the poor brain of the reasoner. Of
all possible worlds that which exists is the worst. Its only excuse is
that it tends of itself to destruction. The hope of the philosopher is
that reasonable beings will shorten their agony and hasten the return
of everything to nothing. It is the philosophy of a desperate Satanism,
which has not even the resigned perspectives of Buddhism to offer to the
disappointed and disillusioned soul. The individual can but protest and
curse. This frantic Sivaism is developed from the conception which makes
the world the product of blind will, the principle of everything.

The acrid blasphemy of the doctrine naturally leads the writer to
indulgence in epithets of bad taste which prevent our regarding his work
as the mere challenge of a paradoxical theorist. We have really to do
with a theophobist, whom faith in goodness rouses to a fury of
contempt. In order to hasten the deliverance of the world, he kills all
consolation, all hope, and all illusion in the germ, and substitutes
for the love of humanity which inspired Çakyamouni, that Mephistophelian
gall which defiles, withers, and corrodes everything it touches.

Evolutionism, fatalism, pessimism, nihilism--how strange it is to see
this desolate and terrible doctrine growing and expanding at the very
moment when the German nation is celebrating its greatness and its
triumphs! The contrast is so startling that it sets one thinking.

This orgie of philosophic thought, identifying error with existence
itself, and developing the axiom of Proudhon--“Evil is God,” will bring
back the mass of mankind to the Christian theodicy, which is neither
optimist nor pessimist, but simply declares that the felicity which
Christianity calls eternal life is accessible to man.

Self-mockery, starting from a horror of stupidity and hypocrisy,
and standing in the way of all wholeness of mind and all true
seriousness--this is the goal to which intellect brings us at last,
unless conscience cries out.

The mind must have for ballast the clear conception of duty, if it is
not to fluctuate between levity and despair.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before giving advice we must have secured its acceptance, or rather,
have made it desired.

       *       *       *       *       *

If we begin by overrating the being we love, we shall end by treating it
with wholesale injustice.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is dangerous to abandon one’s self to the luxury of grief; it
deprives one of courage, and even of the wish for recovery.

       *       *       *       *       *

We learn to recognize a mere blunting of the conscience in that
incapacity for indignation which is not to be confounded with the
gentleness of charity, or the reserve of humility.

February 7, 1872.--Without faith a man can do nothing.

But faith can stifle all science.

What, then, is this Proteus, and whence?

Faith is a certitude without proofs. Being a certitude, it is an
energetic principle of action. Being without proof, it is the contrary
of science. Hence its two aspects and its two effects. Is its point of
departure intelligence? No. Thought may shake or strengthen faith; it
cannot produce it. Is its origin in the will? No; good will may favor
it, ill-will may hinder it, but no one believes by will, and faith is
not a duty. Faith is a sentiment, for it is a hope; it is an instinct,
for it precedes all outward instruction. Faith is the heritage of the
individual at birth; it is that which binds him to the whole of being.
The individual only detaches himself with difficulty from the maternal
breast; he only isolates himself by an effort from the nature around
him, from the love which enwraps him, the ideas in which he floats, the
cradle in which he lies. He is born in union with humanity, with the
world, and with God. The trace of this original union is faith. Faith is
the reminiscence of that vague Eden whence our individuality issued, but
which it inhabited in the somnambulist state anterior to the personal

Our individual life consists in separating ourselves from our _milieu_;
in so reacting upon it that we apprehend it consciously, and make
ourselves spiritual personalities--that is to say, intelligent and free.
Our primitive faith is nothing more than the neutral matter which our
experience of life and things works up a fresh, and which may be so
affected by our studies of every kind as to perish completely in its
original form. We ourselves may die before we have been able to
recover the harmony of a personal faith which may satisfy our mind and
conscience as well as our hearts. But the need of faith never leaves us.
It is the postulate of a higher truth which is to bring all things into
harmony. It is the stimulus of research; it holds out to us the reward,
it points us to the goal. Such at least is the true, the excellent
faith. That which is a mere prejudice of childhood, which has never
known doubt, which ignores science, which cannot respect or understand
or tolerate different convictions--such a faith is a stupidity and a
hatred, the mother of all fanaticisms. We may then repeat of faith what
Aesop said of the tongue--

  “Quid medius linguâ, linguâ quid pejus eadem?”

To draw the poison-fangs of faith in ourselves, we must subordinate it
to the love of truth. The supreme worship of the true is the only means
of purification for all religions all confessions, all sects. Faith
should only be allowed the second place, for faith has a judge--in
truth. When she exalts herself to the position of supreme judge the
world is enslaved: Christianity, from the fourth to the seventeenth
century, is the proof of it... Will the enlightened faith ever conquer
the vulgar faith? We must look forward in trust to a better future.

The difficulty, however, is this. A narrow faith has much more energy
than an enlightened faith; the world belongs to will much more than
to wisdom. It is not then certain that liberty will triumph over
fanaticism; and besides, independent thought will never have the force
of prejudice. The solution is to be found in a division of labor. After
those whose business it will have been to hold up to the world the ideal
of a pure and free faith, will come the men of violence, who will bring
the new creed within the circle of recognized interests, prejudices, and
institutions. Is not this just what happened to Christianity? After the
gentle Master, the impetuous Paul and the bitter Councils. It is true
that this is what corrupted the gospel. But still Christianity has
done more good than harm to humanity, and so the world advances, by the
successive decay of gradually improved ideals.

June 19, 1872.--The wrangle in the Paris Synod still goes on. [Footnote:
A synod of the Reformed churches of France was then occupied in
determining the constituent conditions of Protestant belief.] The
supernatural is the stone of stumbling.

It might be possible to agree on the idea of the divine; but no, that is
not the question--the chaff must be separated from the good grain.
The supernatural is miracle, and miracle is an objective phenomenon
independent of all preceding casuality. Now, miracle thus understood
cannot be proved experimentally; and besides, the subjective phenomena,
far more important than all the rest, are left out of account in the
definition. Men will not see that miracle is a perception of the soul;
a vision of the divine behind nature; a psychical crisis, analogous to
that of Aeneas on the last day of Troy, which reveals to us the heavenly
powers prompting and directing human action. For the indifferent there
are no miracles. It is only the religious souls who are capable of
recognizing the finger of God in certain given facts.

The minds which have reached the doctrine of immanence are
incomprehensible to the fanatics of transcendence. They will never
understand--these last--that the _panentheism_ of Krause is ten times
more religious than their dogmatic supernaturalism. Their passion for
the facts which are objective, isolated, and past, prevents them from
seeing the facts which are eternal and spiritual. They can only
adore what comes to them from without. As soon as their dramaturgy is
interpreted symbolically all seems to them lost. They must have their
local prodigies--their vanished unverifiable miracles, because for them
the divine is there and only there.

This faith can hardly fail to conquer among the races pledged to the
Cartesian dualism, who call the incomprehensible clear, and abhor what
is profound. Women also will always find local miracle more easy
to understand than universal miracle, and the visible objective
intervention of God more probable than his psychological and inward
action. The Latin world by its mental form is doomed to petrify its
abstractions, and to remain forever outside the inmost sanctuary of
life, that central hearth where ideas are still undivided, without shape
or determination. The Latin mind makes everything objective, because
it remains outside things, and outside itself. It is like the eye which
only perceives what is exterior to it, and which cannot see itself
except artificially, and from a distance, by means of the reflecting
surface of a mirror.

August 30, 1872.--_A priori_ speculations weary me now as much as
anybody. All the different scholasticisms make me doubtful of what they
profess to demonstrate, because, instead of examining, they affirm
from the beginning. Their object is to throw up entrenchments around
a prejudice, and not to discover the truth. They accumulate that which
darkens rather than that which enlightens. They are descended, all
of them, from the Catholic procedure, which excludes comparison,
information, and previous examination. Their object is to trick men into
assent, to furnish faith with arguments, and to suppress free inquiry.
But to persuade me, a man must have no _parti pris_, and must begin with
showing a temper of critical sincerity; he must explain to me how the
matter lies, point out to me the questions involved in it, their origin,
their difficulties, the different solutions attempted, and their
degree of probability. He must respect my reason, my conscience, and my
liberty. All scholasticism is an attempt to take by storm; the authority
pretends to explain itself, but only pretends, and its deference is
merely illusory. The dice are loaded and the premises are pre-judged.
The unknown is taken as known, and all the rest is deduced from it.

Philosophy means the complete liberty of the mind, and therefore
independence of all social, political, or religious prejudice. It is
to begin with neither Christian nor pagan, neither monarchical nor
democratic, neither socialist nor individualist; it is critical and
impartial; it loves one thing only--truth. If it disturbs the ready-made
opinions of the church or the state--of the historical medium--in which
the philosopher happens to have been born, so much the worse, but there
is no help for it.

  “Est ut est aut non est,”

Philosophy means, first, doubt; and afterward the consciousness of what
knowledge means, the consciousness of uncertainty and of ignorance, the
consciousness of limit, shade, degree, possibility. The ordinary man
doubts nothing and suspects nothing. The philosopher is more cautious,
but he is thereby unfitted for action, because, although he sees the
goal less dimly than others, he sees his own weakness too clearly, and
has no illusions as to his chances of reaching it.

The philosopher is like a man fasting in the midst of universal
intoxication. He alone perceives the illusion of which all creatures are
the willing playthings; he is less duped than his neighbor by his own
nature. He judges more sanely, he sees things as they are. It is in this
that his liberty consists--in the ability to see clearly and soberly, in
the power of mental record. Philosophy has for its foundation critical
lucidity. The end and climax of it would be the intuition of the
universal law, of the first principle and the final aim of the universe.
Not to be deceived is its first desire; to understand, its second.
Emancipation from error is the condition of real knowledge. The
philosopher is a skeptic seeking a plausible hypothesis, which may
explain to him the whole of his experiences. When he imagines that he
has found such a key to life he offers it to, but does not force it on
his fellow men.

October 9, 1872.--I have been taking tea at the M’s. These English
homes are very attractive. They are the recompense and the result of a
long-lived civilization, and of an ideal untiringly pursued. What ideal?
That of a moral order, founded on respect for self and for others, and
on reverence for duty--in a word, upon personal worth and dignity. The
master shows consideration to his guests, the children are deferential
to their parents, and every one and everything has its place. They
understand both how to command and how to obey. The little world is well
governed, and seems to go of itself; duty is the _genius loci_--but
duty tinged with a reserve and self-control which is the English
characteristic. The children are the great test of this domestic system;
they are happy, smiling, trustful, and yet no trouble. One feels that
they know themselves to be loved, but that they know also that they
must obey. _Our_ children behave like masters of the house, and when
any definite order comes to limit their encroachments they see in it an
abuse of power, an arbitrary act. Why? Because it is their principle to
believe that everything turns round them. Our children may be gentle
and affectionate, but they are not grateful, and they know nothing of

How do English mothers attain this result? By a rule which is
impersonal, invariable, and firm; in other words, by law, which forms
man for liberty, while arbitrary decree only leads to rebellion and
attempts at emancipation. This method has the immense advantage of
forming characters which are restive under arbitrary authority, and yet
amenable to justice, conscious of what is due to them and what they owe
to others, watchful over conscience, and practiced in self-government.
In every English child one feels something of the national motto--“God
and my right,” and in every English household one has a sense that the
home is a citadel, or better still, a ship in which every one has
his place. Naturally in such a world the value set on family life
corresponds with the cost of producing it; it is sweet to those whose
efforts maintain it.

October 14, 1872.--The man who gives himself to contemplation looks on
at, rather than directs his life, is rather a spectator than an actor,
seeks rather to understand than to achieve. Is this mode of existence
illegitimate, immoral? Is one bound to act? Is such detachment an
idiosyncrasy to be respected or a sin to be fought against? I have
always hesitated on this point, and I have wasted years in futile
self-reproach and useless fits of activity. My western conscience,
penetrated as it is with Christian morality, has always persecuted my
oriental quietism and Buddhist tendencies. I have not dared to approve
myself, I have not known how to correct myself. In this, as in all else,
I have remained divided, and perplexed, wavering between two extremes.
So equilibrium is somehow preserved, but the crystallization of action
or thought becomes impossible.

Having early a glimpse of the absolute, I have never had the indiscreet
effrontery of individualism. What right have I to make a merit of a
defect? I have never been able to see any necessity for imposing myself
upon others, nor for succeeding. I have seen nothing clearly except my
own deficiencies and the superiority of others. That is not the way to
make a career. With varied aptitudes and a fair intelligence, I had
no dominant tendency, no imperious faculty, so that while by virtue of
capacity I felt myself free, yet when free I could not discover what was
best. Equilibrium produced indecision, and indecision has rendered all
my faculties barren.

November 8, 1872. (_Friday_).--I have been turning over the “Stoics”
 again. Poor Louisa Siefert! [Footnote: Louise Siefert, a modern French
poetess, died 1879. In addition to “Les Stoïques,” she published
“L’Année Républicaine,” Paris 1869, and other works.] Ah! we play the
stoic, and all the while the poisoned arrow in the side pierces and
wounds, _lethalis arundo_. What is it that, like all passionate souls,
she really craves for? Two things which are contradictory--glory
and happiness. She adores two incompatibles--the Reformation and the
Revolution, France and the contrary of France; her talent itself is a
combination of two opposing qualities, inwardness and brilliancy, noisy
display and lyrical charm. She dislocates the rhythm of her verse,
while at the same time she has a sensitive ear for rhyme. She is always
wavering between Valmore and Baudelaire, between Leconte de Lisle
and Sainte-Beuve--that is to say, her taste is a bringing together of
extremes. She herself has described it:

  “Toujours extrême en mes désirs,
  Jadis, enfant joyeuse et folle,
  Souvent une seule parole
  Bouleversait tous mes plaisirs.”

But what a fine instrument she possesses! what strength of soul! what
wealth of imagination!

December 3, 1872.--What a strange dream! I was under an illusion and yet
not under it; I was playing a comedy to myself, deceiving my imagination
without being able to deceive my consciousness. This power which dreams
have of fusing incompatibles together, of uniting what is exclusive, of
identifying yes and no, is what is most wonderful and most symbolical
in them. In a dream our individuality is not shut up within itself; it
envelops, so to speak, its surroundings; it is the landscape, and all
that it contains, ourselves included. But if our imagination is not our
own, if it is impersonal, then personality is but a special and limited
case of its general functions. _A fortiori_ it would be the same for
thought. And if so, thought might exist without possessing itself
individually, without embodying itself in an _ego_. In other words,
dreams lead us to the idea of an imagination enfranchised from the
limits of personality, and even of a thought which should be no longer
conscious. The individual who dreams is on the way to become dissolved
in the universal phantasmagoria of Maïa. Dreams are excursions into the
limbo of things, a semi-deliverance from the human prison. The man
who dreams is but the _locale_ of various phenomena of which he is the
spectator in spite of himself; he is passive and impersonal; he is the
plaything of unknown vibrations and invisible sprites.

The man who should never issue from the state of dream would have never
attained humanity, properly so called, but the man who had never dreamed
would only know the mind in its completed or manufactured state, and
would not be able to understand the genesis of personality; he would
be like a crystal, incapable of guessing what crystallization means.
So that the waking life issues from the dream life, as dreams are an
emanation from the nervous life, and this again is the fine flower of
organic life. Thought is the highest point of a series of ascending
metamorphoses, which is called nature. Personality by means of thought,
recovers in inward profundity what it has lost in extension, and makes
up for the rich accumulations of receptive passivity by the enormous
privilege of that empire over self which is called liberty. Dreams, by
confusing and suppressing all limits, make us feel, indeed, the severity
of the conditions attached to the higher existence; but conscious and
voluntary thought alone brings knowledge and allows us to act--that is
to say, is alone capable of science and of perfection. Let us then take
pleasure in dreaming for reasons of psychological curiosity and mental
recreation; but let us never speak ill of thought, which is our strength
and our dignity. Let us begin as Orientals, and end as Westerns, for
these are the two halves of wisdom.

December 11, 1872.--A deep and dreamless sleep and now I wake up to the
gray, lowering, rainy sky, which has kept us company for so long. The
air is mild, the general outlook depressing. I think that it is partly
the fault of my windows, which are not very clean, and contribute by
their dimness to this gloomy aspect of the outer world. Rain and smoke
have besmeared them.

Between us and things how many screens there are! Mood, health, the
tissues of the eye, the window-panes of our cell, mist, smoke, rain,
dust, and light itself--and all infinitely variable! Heraclitus said:
“No man bathes twice in the same river.” I feel inclined to say; No one
sees the same landscape twice over, for a window is one kaleidoscope,
and the spectator another.

What is madness? Illusion, raised to the second power. A sound mind
establishes regular relations, a _modus vivendi_, between things, men,
and itself, and it is under the delusion that it has got hold of stable
truth and eternal fact. Madness does not even see what sanity sees,
deceiving itself all the while by the belief that it sees better than
sanity. The sane mind or common sense confounds the fact of experience
with necessary fact, and assumes in good faith that what is, is the
measure of what may be; while madness cannot perceive any difference
between what is and what it imagines--it confounds its dreams with

Wisdom consists in rising superior both to madness and to common sense,
and in lending one’s self to the universal illusion without becoming its
dupe. It is best, on the whole, for a man of taste who knows how to be
gay with the gay, and serious with the serious, to enter into the
game of Maïa, and to play his part with a good grace in the fantastic
tragi-comedy which is called the Universe. It seems to me that here
intellectualism reaches its limit. [Footnote: “We all believe in duty,”
 says M. Renan, “and in the triumph of righteousness;” but it is possible
notwithstanding, “que tout le contraire soit vrai--et que le monde ne
soit qu’une amusante féerie dont aucun dieu ne se soucie. Il faut donc
nous arranger de maniere à ceque, dans le cas où le seconde hypothèse
serait la vraie, nous n’ayons pas été trop dupés.”

This strain of remark, which is developed at considerable length, is
meant as a criticism of Amiel’s want of sensitiveness to the irony of
things. But in reality, as the passage in the text shows, M. Renan is
only expressing a feeling with which Amiel was just as familiar as his
critic. Only he is delivered from this last doubt of all by his habitual
seriousness; by that sense of “horror and awe” which M. Renan puts away
from him. Conscience saves him “from the sorceries of Maïa.”] The mind,
in its intellectual capacity, arrives at the intuition that all reality
is but the dream of a dream. What delivers us from the palace of dreams
is pain, personal pain; it is also the sense of obligation, or that
which combines the two, the pain of sin; and again it is love; in short,
the moral order. What saves us from the sorceries of Maïa is
conscience; conscience dissipates the narcotic vapors, the opium-like
hallucinations, the placid stupor of contemplative indifference. It
drives us into contact with the terrible wheels within wheels of human
suffering and human responsibility; it is the bugle-call, the cockcrow,
which puts the phantoms to flight; it is the armed archangel who chases
man from an artificial paradise. Intellectualism may be described as an
intoxication conscious of itself; the moral energy which replaces it,
on the other hand, represents a state of fast, a famine and a sleepless
thirst. Alas! Alas!

Those who have the most frivolous idea of sin are just those who suppose
that there is a fixed gulf between good people and others.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ideal which the wife and mother makes for herself, the manner in
which she understands duty and life, contain the fate of the community.
Her faith becomes the star of the conjugal ship, and her love the
animating principle that fashions the future of all belonging to her.
Woman is the salvation or destruction of the family. She carries its
destinies in the folds of her mantle.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps it is not desirable that a woman should be free in mind; she
would immediately abuse her freedom. She cannot become philosophical
without losing her special gift, which is the worship of all that is
individual, the defense of usage, manners, beliefs, traditions. Her
rôle is to slacken the combustion of thought. It is analogous to that of
azote in vital air.

       *       *       *       *       *

In every loving woman there is a priestess of the past--a pious guardian
of some affection, of which the object has disappeared.

January 6, 1873.--I have been reading the seven tragedies of Aeschylus,
in the translation of Leconte de Lisle. The “Prometheus” and the
“Eumenides” are greatest where all is great; they have the sublimity of
the old prophets. Both depict a religious revolution--a profound crisis
in the life of humanity. In “Prometheus” it is civilization wrenched
from the jealous hands of the gods; in the “Eumenides” it is the
transformation of the idea of justice, and the substitution of atonement
and pardon for the law of implacable revenge. “Prometheus” shows us the
martyrdom which waits for all the saviors of men; the “Eumenides” is the
glorification of Athens and the Areopagus--that is to say, of a truly
human civilization. How magnificent it is as poetry, and how small
the adventures of individual passion seem beside this colossal type of
tragedy, of which the theme is the destinies of nations!

March 31, 1873. (4 P. M.)--

  “En quel songe
  Se plonge
  Mon coeur, et que veut-il?”

For an hour past I have been the prey of a vague anxiety; I recognize
my old enemy.... It is a sense of void and anguish; a sense of something
lacking: what? Love, peace--God perhaps. The feeling is one of pure
want unmixed with hope, and there is anguish in it because I can clearly
distinguish neither the evil nor its remedy.

  “O printemps sans pitié, dans l’âme endolorie,
  Avec tes chants d’oiseaux, tes brises, ton azur,
  Tu creuses sourdement, conspirateur obscur,
  Le gouffre des langueurs et de la rêverie.”

Of all the hours of the day, in fine weather, the afternoon, about 3
o’clock, is the time which to me is most difficult to bear. I never
feel more strongly than I do then, “_le vide effrayant de la vie_,”
 the stress of mental anxiety, or the painful thirst for happiness. This
torture born of the sunlight is a strange phenomenon. Is it that the
sun, just as it brings out the stain upon a garment, the wrinkles in
a face, or the discoloration of the hair, so also it illumines with
inexorable distinctness the scars and rents of the heart? Does it rouse
in us a sort of shame of existence? In any case the bright hours of the
day are capable of flooding the whole soul with melancholy, of kindling
in us the passion for death, or suicide, or annihilation, or of driving
us to that which is next akin to death, the deadening of the senses
by the pursuit of pleasure. They rouse in the lonely man a horror of
himself; they make him long to escape from his own misery and solitude--

  “Le coeur trempé sept fois dans le néant divin.”

People talk of the temptations to crime connected with darkness, but
the dumb sense of desolation which is often the product of the most
brilliant moment of daylight must not be forgotten either. From the one,
as from the other, God is absent; but in the first case a man follows
his senses and the cry of his passion; in the second, he feels himself
lost and bewildered, a creature forsaken by all the world.

  “En nous sont deux instincts qui bravent la raison,
  C’est l’effroi du bonheur et la soif du poison.
  Coeur solitaire, à toi prends garde!”

April 3, 1873.--I have been to see my friends ----. Their niece has just
arrived with two of her children, and the conversation turned on Father
Hyacinthe’s lecture.

Women of an enthusiastic temperament have a curious way of speaking of
extempore preachers and orators. They imagine that inspiration radiates
from a crowd as such, and that inspiration is all that is wanted. Could
there be a more _naïf_ and childish explanation of what is really a
lecture in which nothing has been left to accident, neither the
plan, nor the metaphors, nor even the length of the whole, and where
everything has been prepared with the greatest care! But women, in their
love of what is marvelous and miraculous, prefer to ignore all this. The
meditation, the labor, the calculation of effects, the art, in a word,
which have gone to the making of it, diminishes for them the value of
the thing, and they prefer to believe it fallen from heaven, or sent
down from on high. They ask for bread, but cannot bear the idea of a
baker. The sex is superstitious, and hates to understand what it wishes
to admire. It would vex it to be forced to give the smaller share to
feeling, and the larger share to thought. It wishes to believe that
imagination can do the work of reason, and feeling the work of science,
and it never asks itself how it is that women, so rich in heart and
imagination, have never distinguished themselves as orators--that is to
say, have never known how to combine a multitude of facts, ideas, and
impulses, into one complex unity. Enthusiastic women never even suspect
the difference that there is between the excitement of a popular
harangue, which is nothing but a mere passionate outburst, and the
unfolding of a didactic process, the aim of which is to prove something
and to convince its hearers. Therefore, for them, study, reflection,
technique, count as nothing; the improvisatore mounts upon the tripod,
Pallas all armed issues from his lips, and conquers the applause of the
dazzled assembly.

Evidently women divide orators into two groups; the artisans of speech,
who manufacture their laborious discourses by the aid of the midnight
lamp, and the inspired souls, who simply give themselves the trouble
to be born. They will never understand the saying of Quintilian, “_Fit
orator, nascitur poeta._”

The enthusiasm which acts is perhaps an enlightening force, but the
enthusiasm which accepts is very like blindness. For this latter
enthusiasm confuses the value of things, ignores their shades of
difference, and is an obstacle to all sensible criticism and all
calm judgment. The “Ewig-Weibliche” favors exaggeration, mysticism,
sentimentalism--all that excites and startles. It is the enemy of
clearness, of a calm and rational view of things, the antipodes of
criticism and of science. I have had only too much sympathy and weakness
for the feminine nature. The very excess of my former indulgence toward
it makes me now more conscious of its infirmity. Justice and science,
law and reason, are virile things, and they come before imagination,
feeling, reverie, and fancy. When one reflects that Catholic
superstition is maintained by women, one feels how needful it is not to
hand over the reins to the “Eternal Womanly.”

May 23, 1873.--The fundamental error of France lies in her psychology.
France has always believed that to say a thing is the same as to do
it, as though speech were action, as though rhetoric were capable of
modifying the tendencies, habits, and character of real beings, and as
though verbiage were an efficient substitute for will, conscience, and

France proceeds by bursts of eloquence, of cannonading, or of
law-making; she thinks that so she can change the nature of things; and
she produces only phrases and ruins. She has never understood the first
line of Montesquieu: “Laws are necessary relations, derived from the
nature of things.” She will not see that her incapacity to organize
liberty comes from her own nature; from the notions which she has of the
individual, of society, of religion, of law, of duty--from the manner
in which she brings up children. Her way is to plant trees downward,
and then she is astonished at the result! Universal suffrage, with a bad
religion and a bad popular education, means perpetual wavering between
anarchy and dictatorship, between the red and the black, between Danton
and Loyola.

How many scapegoats will Prance sacrifice before it occurs to her to
beat her own breast in penitence?

August 18, 1873. (_Scheveningen_).--Yesterday, Sunday, the landscape was
clear and distinct, the air bracing, the sea bright and gleaming, and
of an ashy-blue color. There were beautiful effects of beach, sea, and
distance; and dazzling tracks of gold upon the waves, after the sun had
sunk below the bands of vapor drawn across the middle sky, and before
it had disappeared in the mists of the sea horizon. The place was very
full. All Scheveningen and the Hague, the village and the capital,
had streamed out on to the terrace, amusing themselves at innumerable
tables, and swamping the strangers and the bathers. The orchestra played
some Wagner, some Auber, and some waltzes. What was all the world doing?
Simply enjoying life.

A thousand thoughts wandered through my brain. I thought how much
history it had taken to make what I saw possible; Judaea, Egypt, Greece,
Germany, Gaul; all the centuries from Moses to Napoleon, and all the
zones from Batavia to Guiana, had united in the formation of this
gathering. The industry, the science, the art, the geography, the
commerce, the religion of the whole human race, are repeated in every
human combination; and what we see before our own eyes at any given
moment is inexplicable without reference to all that has ever been. This
interlacing of the ten thousand threads which necessity weaves into the
production of one single phenomenon is a stupefying thought. One feels
one’s self in the presence of law itself--allowed a glimpse of the
mysterious workshop of nature. The ephemeral perceives the eternal.

What matters the brevity of the individual span, seeing that the
generations, the centuries, and the worlds themselves are but occupied
forever with the ceaseless reproduction of the hymn of life, in all
the hundred thousand modes and variations which make up the universal
symphony? The motive is always the same; the monad has but one law:
all truths are but the variation of one single truth. The universe
represents the infinite wealth of the Spirit seeking in vain to exhaust
all possibilities, and the goodness of the Creator, who would fain share
with the created all that sleeps within the limbo of Omnipotence.

To contemplate and adore, to receive and give back, to have uttered
one’s note and moved one’s grain of sand, is all which is expected from
such insects as we are; it is enough to give motive and meaning to our
fugitive apparition in existence....

After the concert was over the paved esplanade behind the hotels and the
two roads leading to the Hague were alive with people. One might have
fancied one’s self upon one of the great Parisian boulevards just when
the theaters are emptying themselves--there were so many carriages,
omnibuses, and cabs. Then, when the human tumult had disappeared, the
peace of the starry heaven shone out resplendent, and the dreamy glimmer
of the Milky Way was only answered by the distant murmur of the ocean.

_Later_.--What is it which has always come between real life and me?
What glass screen has, as it were, interposed itself between me and the
enjoyment, the possession, the contact of things, leaving me only the
role of the looker-on?

False shame, no doubt. I have been ashamed to desire. Fatal result
of timidity, aggravated by intellectual delusion! This renunciation
beforehand of all natural ambitions, this systematic putting aside of
all longings and all desires, has perhaps been false in idea; it has
been too like a foolish, self-inflicted mutilation. Fear, too, has had a
large share in it--

  “La peur de ce que j’aime est ma fatalité.”

I very soon discovered that it was simpler for me to give up a wish than
to satisfy it. Not being able to obtain all that my nature longed for,
I renounced the whole _en bloc_, without even taking the trouble to
determine in detail what might have attracted me; for what was the good
of stirring up trouble in one’s self and evoking images of inaccessible

Thus I anticipated in spirit all possible disillusions, in the true
stoical fashion. Only, with singular lack of logic, I have sometimes
allowed regret to overtake me, and I have looked at conduct founded upon
exceptional principles with the eyes of the ordinary man. I should have
been ascetic to the end; contemplation ought to have been enough for me,
especially now, when the hair begins to whiten. But, after all, I am
a man, and not a theorem. A system cannot suffer, but I suffer. Logic
makes only one demand--that of consequence; but life makes a thousand;
the body wants health, the imagination cries out for beauty, and the
heart for love; pride asks for consideration, the soul yearns for peace,
the conscience for holiness; our whole being is athirst for happiness
and for perfection; and we, tottering, mutilated, and incomplete, cannot
always feign philosophic insensibility; we stretch out our arms toward
life, and we say to it under our breath, “Why--why--hast thou deceived

August 19,1873. (_Scheveningen_).--I have had a morning walk. It has
been raining in the night. There are large clouds all round; the sea,
veined with green and drab, has put on the serious air of labor. She
is about her business, in no threatening but at the same time in no
lingering mood. She is making her clouds, heaping up her sands, visiting
her shores and bathing them with foam, gathering up her floods for
the tide, carrying the ships to their destinations, and feeding the
universal life. I found in a hidden nook a sheet of fine sand which the
water had furrowed and folded like the pink palate of a kitten’s mouth,
or like a dappled sky. Everything repeats itself by analogy, and each
little fraction of the earth reproduces in a smaller and individual
form all the phenomena of the planet. Farther on I came across a bank of
crumbling shells, and it was borne in upon me that the sea-sand itself
might well be only the detritus of the organic life of preceding eras,
a vast monument or pyramid of immemorial age, built up by countless
generations of molluscs who have labored at the architecture of the
shores like good workmen of God. If the dunes and the mountains are the
dust of living creatures who have preceded us, how can we doubt but that
our death will be as serviceable as our life, and that nothing which has
been lent is lost? Mutual borrowing and temporary service seem to be the
law of existence. Only, the strong prey upon and devour the weak,
and the concrete inequality of lots within the abstract equality of
destinies wounds and disquiets the sense of justice.

_Same day_.--A new spirit governs and inspires the generation which will
succeed me. It is a singular sensation to feel the grass growing under
one’s feet, to see one’s self intellectually uprooted. One must address
one’s contemporaries. Younger men will not listen to you. Thought, like
love, will not tolerate a gray hair. Knowledge herself loves the young,
as Fortune used to do in olden days. Contemporary civilization does
not know what to do with old age; in proportion as it defies physical
experiment, it despises moral experience. One sees therein the triumph
of Darwinism; it is a state of war, and war must have young soldiers; it
can only put up with age in its leaders when they have the strength and
the mettle of veterans.

In point of fact, one must either be strong or disappear, either
constantly rejuvenate one’s self or perish. It is as though the humanity
of our day had, like the migratory birds, an immense voyage to make
across space; she can no longer support the weak or help on the
laggards. The great assault upon the future makes her hard and pitiless
to all who fall by the way. Her motto is, “The devil take the hindmost.”

The worship of strength has never lacked altars, but it looks as though
the more we talk of justice and humanity, the more that other god sees
his kingdom widen.

August 20, 1873. (_Scheveningen_).--I have now watched the sea which
beats upon this shore under many different aspects. On the whole, I
should class it with the Baltic. As far as color, effect, and landscape
go, it is widely different from the Breton or Basque ocean, and, above
all, from the Mediterranean. It never attains to the blue-green of the
Atlantic, nor the indigo of the Ionian Sea. Its scale of color runs from
flint to emerald, and when it turns to blue, the blue is a turquoise
shade splashed with gray. The sea here is not amusing itself; it has a
busy and serious air, like an Englishman or a Dutchman. Neither polyps
nor jelly-fish, neither sea-weed nor crabs enliven the sands at low
water; the sea life is poor and meagre. What is wonderful is the
struggle of man against a miserly and formidable power. Nature has done
little for him, but she allows herself to be managed. Stepmother though
she be, she is accommodating, subject to the occasional destruction of a
hundred thousand lives in a single inundation.

The air inside the dune is altogether different from that outside it.
The air of the sea is life-giving, bracing, oxydized; the air inland
is soft, relaxing, and warm. In the same way there are two Hollands
in every Dutchman: there is the man of the _polder_, heavy, pale,
phlegmatic, slow, patient himself, and trying to the patience of others,
and there is the man of the _dune_, of the harbor, the shore, the sea,
who is tenacious, seasoned, persevering, sunburned, daring. Where the
two agree is in calculating prudence, and in methodical persistency of

August 22, 1873. (_Scheveningen_).--The weather is rainy, the whole
atmosphere gray; it is a time favorable to thought and meditation. I
have a liking for such days as these; they revive one’s converse with
one’s self and make it possible to live the inner life; they are quiet
and peaceful, like a song in a minor key. We are nothing but thought,
but we feel our life to its very center. Our very sensations turn to
reverie. It is a strange state of mind; it is like those silences
in worship which are not the empty moments of devotion, but the full
moments, and which are so because at such times the soul, instead
of being polarized, dispersed, localized, in a single impression or
thought, feels her own totality and is conscious of herself. She tastes
her own substance. She is no longer played upon, colored, set in motion,
affected, from without; she is in equilibrium and at rest. Openness and
self-surrender become possible to her; she contemplates and she adores.
She sees the changeless and the eternal enwrapping all the phenomena of
time. She is in the religious state, in harmony with the general order,
or at least in intellectual harmony. For _holiness_, indeed, more is
wanted--a harmony of will, a perfect self-devotion, death to self and
absolute submission.

Psychological peace--that harmony which is perfect but virtual--is but
the zero, the potentiality of all numbers; it is not that moral peace
which is victorious over all ills, which is real, positive, tried by
experience, and able to face whatever fresh storms may assail it.

The peace of fact is not the peace of principle. There are indeed two
happinesses, that of nature and that of conquest--two equilibria, that
of Greece and that of Nazareth--two kingdoms, that of the natural man
and that of the regenerate man.

_Later_. (_Scheveningen_).--Why do doctors so often make mistakes?
Because they are not sufficiently individual in their diagnoses or their
treatment. They class a sick man under some given department of their
nosology, whereas every invalid is really a special case, a unique
example. How is it possible that so coarse a method of sifting should
produce judicious therapeutics? Every illness is a factor simple or
complex, which is multiplied by a second factor, invariably complex--the
individual, that is to say, who is suffering from it, so that the result
is a special problem, demanding a special solution, the more so the
greater the remoteness of the patient from childhood or from country

The principal grievance which I have against the doctors is that they
neglect the real problem, which is to seize the unity of the individual
who claims their care. Their methods of investigation are far too
elementary; a doctor who does not read you to the bottom is ignorant of
essentials. To me the ideal doctor would be a man endowed with profound
knowledge of life and of the soul, intuitively divining any suffering
or disorder of whatever kind, and restoring peace by his mere presence.
Such a doctor is possible, but the greater number of them lack
the higher and inner life, they know nothing of the transcendent
laboratories of nature; they seem to me superficial, profane, strangers
to divine things, destitute of intuition and sympathy. The model doctor
should be at once a genius, a saint, a man of God.

September 11, 1873. (_Amsterdam_).--The doctor has just gone. He says
I have fever about me, and does not think that I can start for another
three days without imprudence. I dare not write to my Genevese friends
and tell them that I am coming back from the sea in a radically worse
state of strength and throat than when I went there, and that I have
only wasted my time, my trouble, my money, and my hopes....

This contradictory double fact--on the one side an eager hopefulness
springing up afresh after all disappointments, and on the other an
experience almost invariably unfavorable--can be explained like all
illusions by the whim of nature, which either wills us to be deceived or
wills us to act as if we were so.

Skepticism is the wiser course, but in delivering us from error it
tends to paralyze life. Maturity of mind consists in taking part in the
prescribed game as seriously as though one believed in it. Good-humored
compliance, tempered by a smile, is, on the whole, the best line to
take; one lends one’s self to an optical illusion, and the voluntary
concession has an air of liberty. Once imprisoned in existence, we must
submit to its laws with a good grace; to rebel against it only ends
in impotent rage, when once we have denied ourselves the solution of

Humility and submission, or the religious point of view; clear-eyed
indulgence with a touch of irony, or the point of view of worldly
wisdom--these two attitudes are possible. The second is sufficient for
the minor ills of life, the other is perhaps necessary in the greater
ones. The pessimism of Schopenhauer supposes at least health and
intellect as means of enduring the rest of life. But optimism either of
the stoical or the Christian sort is needed to make it possible for
us to bear the worst sufferings of flesh, heart and soul. If we are to
escape the grip of despair, we must believe either that the whole of
things at least is good, or that grief is a fatherly grace, a purifying

There can be no doubt that the idea of a happy immortality, serving as
a harbor of refuge from the tempests of this mortal existence, and
rewarding the fidelity, the patience, the submission, and the courage of
the travelers on life’s sea--there can be no doubt that this idea, the
strength of so many generations, and the faith of the church, carries
with it inexpressible consolation to those who are wearied, burdened,
and tormented by pain and suffering. To feel one’s self individually
cared for and protected by God gives a special dignity and beauty to
life. Monotheism lightens the struggle for existence. But does the study
of nature allow of the maintenance of those local revelations which are
called Mosaism, Christianity, Islamism? These religions founded upon an
infantine cosmogony, and upon a chimerical history of humanity, can they
bear confronting with modern astronomy and geology? The present mode of
escape, which consists in trying to satisfy the claims of both science
and faith--of the science which contradicts all the ancient beliefs,
and the faith which, in the case of things that are beyond nature
and incapable of verification, affirms them on her own responsibility
only--this mode of escape cannot last forever. Every fresh cosmical
conception demands a religion which corresponds to it. Our age of
transition stands bewildered between the two incompatible methods,
the scientific method and the religious method, and between the two
certitudes, which contradict each other.

Surely the reconciliation of the two must be sought for in the moral
law, which is also a fact, and every step of which requires for its
explanation another cosmos than the cosmos of necessity. Who knows if
necessity is not a particular case of liberty, and its condition? Who
knows if nature is not a laboratory for the fabrication of thinking
beings who are ultimately to become free creatures? Biology protests,
and indeed the supposed existence of souls, independently of time,
space, and matter, is a fiction of faith, less logical than the Platonic
dogma. But the question remains open. We may eliminate the idea of
purpose from nature, yet, as the guiding conception of the highest being
of our planet, it is a fact, and a fact which postulates a meaning in
the history of the universe.

My thought is straying in vague paths: why? because I have no creed.
All my studies end in notes of interrogation, and that I may not draw
premature or arbitrary conclusions I draw none.

_Later on_.--My creed has melted away, but I believe in good, in the
moral order, and in salvation; religion for me is to live and die in
God, in complete abandonment to the holy will which is at the root of
nature and destiny. I believe even in the gospel, the good news--that
is to say, in the reconciliation of the sinner with God, by faith in the
love of a pardoning Father.

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

February 4, 1874.--I am still reading the “Origines du Christianisme” by
Ernest Havet. [Footnote: Ernest Havet, born 1813, a distinguished French
scholar and professor. He became professor of Latin oratory at the
Collège de France in 1855, and a member of the Institute in January,
1880. His admirable edition of the “Pensées de Pascal” is well-known.
“Le Christianisme et ses Origines,” an important book, in four volumes,
was developed from a series of articles in the _Revue des deux Mondes_,
and the _Revue Contemporaine_.] I like the book and I dislike it. I like
it for its independence and courage; I dislike it for the insufficiency
of its fundamental ideas, and the imperfection of its categories.

The author, for instance, has no clear idea of religion; and his
philosophy of history is superficial. He is a Jacobin. “The Republic and
Free Thought”--he cannot get beyond that. This curt and narrow school
of opinion is the refuge of men of independent mind, who have been
scandalized by the colossal fraud of ultramontanism; but it leads rather
to cursing history than to understanding it. It is the criticism of the
eighteenth century, of which the general result is purely negative.
But Voltairianism is only the half of the philosophic mind. Hegel frees
thought in a very different way.

Havet, too, makes another mistake. He regards Christianity as synonymous
with Roman Catholicism and with the church. I know very well that the
Roman Church does the same, and that with her the assimilation is a
matter of sound tactics; but scientifically it is inexact. We ought
not even to identify Christianity with the gospel, nor the gospel with
religion in general. It is the business of critical precision to
clear away these perpetual confusions in which Christian practice and
Christian preaching abound. To disentangle ideas, to distinguish and
limit them, to fit them into their true place and order, is the first
duty of science whenever it lays hands upon such chaotic and complex
things as manners, idioms, or beliefs. Entanglement is the condition
of life; order and clearness are the signs of serious and successful

Formerly it was the ideas of nature which were a tissue of errors and
incoherent fancies; now it is the turn of moral and psychological ideas.
The best issue from the present Babel would be the formation or the
sketching out of a truly scientific science of man.

February 16, 1874.--The multitude, who already possess force, and even,
according to the Republican view, right, have always been persuaded by
the Cleons of the day that enlightenment, wisdom, thought, and reason,
are also theirs. The game of these conjurors and quacks of universal
suffrage has always been to flatter the crowd in order to make an
instrument of it. They pretend to adore the puppet of which they pull
the threads.

The theory of radicalism is a piece of juggling, for it supposes
premises of which it knows the falsity; it manufactures the oracle
whose revelations it pretends to adore; it proclaims that the multitude
creates a brain for itself, while all the time it is the clever man who
is the brain of the multitude, and suggests to it what it is supposed
to invent. To reign by flattery has been the common practice of the
courtiers of all despotisms, the favorites of all tyrants; it is an old
and trite method, but none the less odious for that.

The honest politician should worship nothing but reason and justice, and
it is his business to preach them to the masses, who represent, on
an average, the age of childhood and not that of maturity. We corrupt
childhood if we tell it that it cannot be mistaken, and that it knows
more than its elders. We corrupt the masses when we tell them that they
are wise and far-seeing and possess the gift of infallibility.

It is one of Montesquieu’s subtle remarks, that the more wise men you
heap together the less wisdom you will obtain. Radicalism pretends that
the greater number of illiterate, passionate, thoughtless--above all,
young people, you heap together, the greater will be the enlightenment
resulting. The second thesis is no doubt the repartee to the first, but
the joke is a bad one. All that can be got from a crowd is instinct
or passion; the instinct may be good, but the passion may be bad, and
neither is the instinct capable of producing a clear idea, nor the
passion of leading to a just resolution.

A crowd is a material force, and the support of numbers gives a
proposition the force of law; but that wise and ripened temper of mind
which takes everything into account, and therefore tends to truth, is
never engendered by the impetuosity of the masses. The masses are the
material of democracy, but its form--that is to say, the laws which
express the general reason, justice, and utility--can only be rightly
shaped by wisdom, which is by no means a universal property. The
fundamental error of the radical theory is to confound the right to do
good with good itself, and universal suffrage with universal wisdom.
It rests upon a legal fiction, which assumes a real equality of
enlightenment and merit among those whom it declares electors. It is
quite possible, however, that these electors may not desire the public
good, and that even if they do, they may be deceived as to the manner
of realizing it. Universal suffrage is not a dogma--it is an instrument;
and according to the population in whose hands it is placed, the
instrument is serviceable or deadly to the proprietor.

February 27, 1874.--Among the peoples, in whom the social gifts are the
strongest, the individual fears ridicule above all things, and ridicule
is the certain result of originality. No one, therefore, wishes to make
a party of his own; every one wishes to be on the side of all the world.
“All the world” is the greatest of powers; it is sovereign, and calls
itself _we_. _We_ dress, _we_ dine, _we_ walk, _we_ go out, _we_ come
in, like this, and not like that. This _we_ is always right, whatever
it does. The subjects of _We_ are more prostrate than the slaves of the
East before the Padishah. The good pleasure of the sovereign decides
every appeal; his caprice is law. What _we_ does or says is called
custom, what it thinks is called opinion, what it believes to be
beautiful or good is called fashion. Among such nations as these _we_
is the brain, the conscience, the reason, the taste, and the judgment
of all. The individual finds everything decided for him without his
troubling about it. He is dispensed from the task of finding out
anything whatever. Provided that he imitates, copies, and repeats the
models furnished by _we_, he has nothing more to fear. He knows all that
he need know, and has entered into salvation.

April 29, 1874.--Strange reminiscence! At the end of the terrace of La
Treille, on the eastern side, as I looked down the slope, it seemed to
me that I saw once more in imagination a little path which existed
there when I was a child, and ran through the bushy underwood, which
was thicker then than it is now. It is at least forty years since this
impression disappeared from my mind. The revival of an image so dead and
so forgotten set me thinking. Consciousness seems to be like a book, in
which the leaves turned by life successively cover and hide each other
in spite of their semi-transparency; but although the book may be open
at the page of the present, the wind, for a few seconds, may blow back
the first pages into view.

And at death will these leaves cease to hide each other, and shall we
see all our past at once? Is death the passage from the successive to
the simultaneous--that is to say, from time to eternity? Shall we
then understand, in its unity, the poem or mysterious episode of our
existence, which till then we have spelled out phrase by phrase? And
is this the secret of that glory which so often enwraps the brow and
countenance of those who are newly dead? If so, death would be like the
arrival of a traveler at the top of a great mountain, whence he sees
spread out before him the whole configuration of the country, of which
till then he had had but passing glimpses. To be able to overlook one’s
own history, to divine its meaning in the general concert and in the
divine plan, would be the beginning of eternal felicity. Till then we
had sacrificed ourselves to the universal order, but then we should
understand and appreciate the beauty of that order. We had toiled
and labored under the conductor of the orchestra; and we should find
ourselves become surprised and delighted hearers. We had seen nothing
but our own little path in the mist; and suddenly a marvelous panorama
and boundless distances would open before our dazzled eyes. Why not?

May 31, 1874.--I have been reading the philosophical poems of Madame
Ackermann. She has rendered in fine verse that sense of desolation which
has been so often stirred in me by the philosophy of Schopenhauer, of
Hartmann, Comte, and Darwin. What tragic force and power! What thought
and passion! She has courage for everything, and attacks the most
tremendous subjects.

Science is implacable; will it suppress all religions? All those
which start from a false conception of nature, certainly. But if the
scientific conception of nature proves incapable of bringing harmony and
peace to man, what will happen? Despair is not a durable situation. We
shall have to build a moral city without God, without an immortality
of the soul, without hope. Buddhism and stoicism present themselves as
possible alternatives.

But even if we suppose that there is no finality in the cosmos, it is
certain that man has ends at which he aims, and if so the notion of
end or purpose is a real phenomenon, although a limited one. Physical
science may very well be limited by moral science, and _vice versâ_. But
if these two conceptions of the world are in opposition, which must give

I still incline to believe that nature is the virtuality of mind--that
the soul is the fruit of life, and liberty the flower of necessity--that
all is bound together, and that nothing can be done without. Our modern
philosophy has returned to the point of view of the Ionians, the [Greek:
_physikoi_], or naturalist thinkers. But it will have to pass once
more through Plato and through Aristotle, through the philosophy of
“goodness” and “purpose,” through the science of mind.

July 3, 1874.--Rebellion against common sense is a piece of childishness
of which I am quite capable. But it does not last long. I am soon
brought back to the advantages and obligations of my situation; I return
to a calmer self-consciousness. It is disagreeable to me, no doubt, to
realize all that is hopelessly lost to me, all that is now and will
be forever denied to me; but I reckon up my privileges as well as my
losses--I lay stress on what I have, and not only on what I want. And
so I escape from that terrible dilemma of “all or nothing,” which for me
always ends in the adoption of the second alternative. It seems to me
at such times that a man may without shame content himself with being
_some_ thing and _some_ one--

  “Ni si haut, ni si bas....”

These brusque lapses into the formless, indeterminate state, are the
price of my critical faculty. All my former habits become suddenly
fluid; it seems to me that I am beginning life over again, and that all
my acquired capital has disappeared at a stroke. I am forever new-born;
I am a mind which has never taken to itself a body, a country, an
avocation, a sex, a species. Am I even quite sure of being a man, a
European, an inhabitant of this earth? It seems to me so easy to be
something else, that to be what I am appears to me a mere piece of
arbitrary choice. I cannot possibly take an accidental structure of
which the value is purely relative, seriously. When once a man has
touched the absolute, all that might be other than what it is seems to
him indifferent. All these ants pursuing their private ends excite his
mirth. He looks down from the moon upon his hovel; he beholds the earth
from the heights of the sun; he considers his life from the point of
view of the Hindoo pondering the days of Brahma; he sees the finite from
the distance of the infinite, and thenceforward the insignificance of
all those things which men hold to be important makes effort ridiculous,
passion burlesque, and prejudice absurd.

August 7, 1874. (_Clarens_).--A day perfectly beautiful, luminous,
limpid, brilliant.

I passed the morning in the churchyard; the “Oasis” was delightful.
Innumerable sensations, sweet and serious, peaceful and solemn, passed
over me.... Around me Russians, English, Swedes, Germans, were sleeping
their last sleep under the shadow of the Cubly. The landscape was one
vast splendor; the woods were deep and mysterious, the roses full blown;
all around me were butterflies--a noise of wings--the murmur of birds.
I caught glimpses through the trees of distant mists, of soaring
mountains, of the tender blue of the lake.... A little conjunction of
things struck me. Two ladies were tending and watering a grave; two
nurses were suckling their children. This double protest against death
had something touching and poetical in it. “Sleep, you who are dead; we,
the living, are thinking of you, or at least carrying on the pilgrimage
of the race!” such seemed to me the words in my ear. It was clear to me
that the Oasis of Clarens is the spot in which I should like to rest.
Here I am surrounded with memories; here death is like a sleep--a sleep
instinct with hope.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hope is not forbidden us, but peace and submission are the essentials.

September 1, 1874. (_Clarens_).--On waking it seemed to me that I was
staring into the future with wide startled eyes. Is it indeed to _me_
that these things apply. [Footnote: Amiel had just received at the
hands of his doctor the medical verdict, which was his _arrêt de mort_.]
Incessant and growing humiliation, my slavery becoming heavier, my
circle of action steadily narrower!... What is hateful in my situation
is that deliverance can never be hoped for, and that one misery will
succeed another in such a way as to leave me no breathing space, not
even in the future, not even in hope. All possibilities are closed to
me, one by one. It is difficult for the natural man to escape from a
dumb rage against inevitable agony.

_Noon_.--An indifferent nature? A Satanic principle of things? A
good and just God? Three points of view. The second is improbable and
horrible. The first appeals to our stoicism. My organic combination has
never been anything but mediocre; it has lasted as long as it could.
Every man has his turn, and all must submit. To die quickly is a
privilege; I shall die by inches. Well, submit. Rebellion would be
useless and senseless. After all, I belong to the better-endowed half of
human-kind, and my lot is superior to the average.

But the third point of view alone can give joy. Only is it tenable? Is
there a particular Providence directing all the circumstances of our
life, and therefore imposing all our trials upon us for educational
ends? Is this heroic faith compatible with our actual knowledge of the
laws of nature? Scarcely; But what this faith makes objective we may
hold as subjective truth. The moral being may moralize his sufferings by
using natural facts for his own inner education. What he cannot change
he calls the will of God, and to will what God wills brings him peace.

To nature both our continued existence and our morality are equally
indifferent. But God, on the other hand, if God is, desires our
sanctification; and if suffering purifies us, then we may console
ourselves or suffering. This is what makes the great advantage of the
Christian faith; it is the triumph over pain, the victory over death.
There is but one thing necessary--death unto sin, the immolation of
our selfish will, the filial sacrifice of our desires. Evil consists
in living for _self_--that is to say, for one’s own vanity, pride,
sensuality, or even health. Righteousness consists in willingly
accepting one’s lot, in submitting to, and espousing the destiny
assigned us, in willing what God commands, in renouncing what he forbids
us, in consenting to what he takes from us or refuses us.

In my own particular case, what has been taken from me is health--that
is to say, the surest basis of all independence; but friendship and
material comfort are still left to me; I am neither called upon to bear
the slavery of poverty nor the hell of absolute isolation.

Health cut off, means marriage, travel, study, and work forbidden or
endangered. It means life reduced in attractiveness and utility by

Thy will be done!

September 14, 1874. (_Charnex_).--A long walk and conversation with----.
We followed a high mountain path. Seated on the turf, and talking with
open heart, our eyes wandered over the blue immensity below us, and
the smiling outlines of the shore. All was friendly, azure-tinted,
caressing, to the sight. The soul I was reading was profound and pure.
Such an experience is like a flight into paradise. A few light clouds
climbed the broad spaces of the sky, steamers made long tracks upon the
water at our feet, white sails were dotted over the vast distance of
the lake, and sea-gulls like gigantic butterflies quivered above its
rippling surface.

September 21, 1874. (_Charnex_).--A wonderful day! Never has the lake
been bluer, or the landscape softer. It was enchanting. But tragedy is
hidden under the eclogue; the serpent crawls under the flowers. All the
future is dark. The phantoms which for three or four weeks I have been
able to keep at bay, wait for me behind the door, as the Eumenides
waited for Orestes. Hemmed in on all sides!

  “On ne croit plus à son étoile,
   On sent que derrière la toile
   Sont le deuil, les maux et la mort.”

For a fortnight I have been happy, and now this happiness is going.

There are no more birds, but a few white or blue butterflies are still
left. Flowers are becoming rare--a few daisies in the fields, some blue
or yellow chicories and colchicums, some wild geraniums growing among
fragments of old walls, and the brown berries of the privet--this is all
we were able to find. In the fields they are digging potatoes, beating
down the nuts, and beginning the apple harvest. The leaves are thinning
and changing color; I watch them turning red on the pear-trees, gray on
the plums, yellow on the walnut-trees, and tinging the thickly-strewn
turf with shades of reddish-brown. We are nearing the end of the fine
weather; the coloring is the coloring of late autumn; there is no need
now to keep out of the sun. Everything is soberer, more measured, more
fugitive, less emphatic. Energy is gone, youth is past, prodigality
at an end, the summer over. The year is on the wane and tends toward
winter; it is once more in harmony with my own age and position, and
next Sunday it will keep my birthday. All these different consonances
form a melancholy harmony.

       *       *       *       *       *

The distinguishing mark of religion is not so much liberty as obedience,
and its value is measured by the sacrifices which it can extract from
the individual.

       *       *       *       *       *

A young girl’s love is a kind of piety. We must approach it with
adoration if we are not to profane it, and with poetry if we are to
understand it. If there is anything in the world which gives us a sweet,
ineffable impression, of the ideal, it is this trembling modest love. To
deceive it would be a crime. Merely to watch its unfolding life is bliss
to the beholder; he sees in it the birth of a divine marvel. When the
garland of youth fades on our brow, let us try at least to have the
virtues of maturity; may we grow better, gentler, graver, like the fruit
of the vine, while its leaf withers and falls.

       *       *       *       *       *

To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the
most difficult chapters in the great art of living.

       *       *       *       *       *

He who asks of life nothing but the improvement of his own nature, and
a continuous moral progress toward inward contentment and religious
submission, is less liable than any one else to miss and waste life.

January 2, 1875. (_Hyères_.)--In spite of my sleeping draught I have
had a bad night. Once it seemed as if I must choke, for I could breathe
neither way.

Could I be more fragile, more sensitive, more vulnerable! People talk to
me as if there were still a career before me, while all the time I know
that the ground is slipping from under me, and that the defense of my
health is already a hopeless task. At bottom, I am only living on out of
complaisance and without a shadow of self-delusion. I know that not
one of my desires will be realized, and for a long time I have had no
desires at all. I simply accept what comes to me as though it were a
bird perching on my window. I smile at it, but I know very well that my
visitor has wings and will not stay long. The resignation which comes
from despair has a kind of melancholy sweetness. It looks at life as
a man sees it from his death-bed, and judges it without bitterness and
without vain regrets.

I no longer hope to get well, or to be useful, or to be happy. I hope
that those who have loved me will love me to the end; I should wish to
have done them some good, and to leave them a tender memory of myself.
I wish to die without rebellion and without weakness; that is about all.
Is this relic of hope and of desire still too much? Let all be as God
will. I resign myself into his hands.

January 22, 1875. (_Hyères_).--The French mind, according to Gioberti,
apprehends only the outward form of truth, and exaggerates it by
isolating it, so that it acts as a solvent upon the realities with which
it works. It takes the shadow for the substance, the word for the thing,
appearance for reality, and abstract formula for truth. It lives in a
world of intellectual _assignats_. If you talk to a Frenchman of art, of
language, of religion, of the state, of duty, of the family, you feel in
his way of speaking that his thought remains outside the subject, that
he never penetrates into its substance, its inmost core. He is not
striving to understand it in its essence, but only to say something
plausible about it. On his lips the noblest words become thin and empty;
for example--mind, idea, religion. The French mind is superficial and
yet not comprehensive; it has an extraordinarily fine edge, and yet no
penetrating power. Its desire is to enjoy its own resources by the help
of things, but it has none of the respect, the disinterestedness, the
patience, and the self-forgetfulness, which, are indispensable if we
wish to see things as they are. Far from being the philosophic mind, it
is a mere counterfeit of it, for it does not enable a man to solve any
problem whatever, and remains incapable of understanding all that
is living, complex, and concrete. Abstraction is its original sin,
presumption its incurable defect, and plausibility its fatal limit.

The French language has no power of expressing truths of birth and
germination; it paints effects, results, the _caput mortuum_, but not
the cause, the motive power, the native force the development of any
phenomenon whatever. It is analytic and descriptive, but it explains
nothing, for it avoids all beginnings and processes of formation. With
it crystallization is not the mysterious act itself by which a substance
passes from the fluid state to the solid state. It is the product of
that act.

The thirst for truth is not a French passion. In everything appearance
is preferred to reality, the outside to the inside, the fashion to
the material, that which shines to that which profits, opinion to
conscience. That is to say, the Frenchman’s center of gravity is always
outside him--he is always thinking of others, playing to the gallery.
To him individuals are so many zeros; the unit which turns them into a
number must be added from outside; it may be royalty, the writer of the
day, the favorite newspaper, or any other temporary master of fashion.
All this is probably the result of an exaggerated sociability, which
weakens the soul’s forces of resistance, destroys its capacity for
investigation and personal conviction, and kills in it the worship of
the ideal.

January 27, 1875. (_Hyères_).--The whole atmosphere has a luminous
serenity, a limpid clearness. The islands are like swans swimming in a
golden stream. Peace, splendor, boundless space!... And I meanwhile look
quietly on while the soft hours glide away. I long to catch the wild
bird, happiness, and tame it. Above all, I long to share it with others.
These delicious mornings impress me indescribably. They intoxicate
me, they carry me away. I feel beguiled out of myself, dissolved in
sunbeams, breezes, perfumes, and sudden impulses of joy. And yet all the
time I pine for I know not what intangible Eden.

Lamartine in the “Préludes” has admirably described this oppressive
effect of happiness on fragile human nature. I suspect that the reason
for it is that the finite creature feels itself invaded by the infinite,
and the invasion produces dizziness, a kind of vertigo, a longing
to fling one’s self into the great gulf of being. To feel life too
intensely is to yearn for death; and for man, to die means to become
like unto the gods--to be initiated into the great mystery. Pathetic and
beautiful illusion.

_Ten o’clock in the evening_.--From one end to the other the day has
been perfect, and my walk this afternoon to Beau Vallon was one long
delight. It was like an expedition into Arcadia. Here was a wild and
woodland corner, which would have made a fit setting for a dance of
nymphs, and there an ilex overshadowing a rock, which reminded me of an
ode of Horace or a drawing of Tibur. I felt a kind of certainty that
the landscape had much that was Greek in it. And what made the sense of
resemblance the more striking was the sea, which one feels to be always
near, though one may not see it, and which any turn of the valley may
bring into view. We found out a little tower with an overgrown garden,
of which the owner might have been taken for a husbandman of the
Odyssey. He could scarcely speak any French, but was not without a
certain grave dignity. I translated to him the inscription on his
sun-dial, “_Hora est benefaciendi_,” which is beautiful, and pleased him
greatly. It would be an inspiring place to write a novel in. Only I do
not know whether the little den would have a decent room, and one
would certainly have to live upon eggs, milk, and figs, like Philemon.
February 15, 1875. (_Hyères_).--I have just been reading the two last
“Discours” at the French Academy, lingering over every word and weighing
every idea. This kind of writing is a sort of intellectual dainty, for
it is the art “of expressing truth with all the courtesy and finesse
possible;” the art of appearing perfectly at ease without the smallest
loss of manners; of being gracefully sincere, and of making criticism
itself a pleasure to the person criticized. Legacy as it is from
the monarchical tradition, this particular kind of eloquence is the
distinguishing mark of those men of the world who are also men of
breeding, and those men of letters who are also gentlemen. Democracy
could never have invented it, and in this delicate _genre_ of literature
France may give points to all rival peoples, for it is the fruit of that
refined and yet vigorous social sense which is produced by court and
drawing-room life, by literature and good company, by means of a mutual
education continued for centuries. This complicated product is as
original in its way as Athenian eloquence, but it is less healthy and
less durable. If ever France becomes Americanized this _genre_ at least
will perish, without hope of revival.

April 16, 1875. (_Hyères_).--I have already gone through the various
emotions of leave-taking. I have been wandering slowly through the
streets and up the castle hill, gathering a harvest of images and
recollections. Already I am full of regret that I have not made a better
study of the country, in which I have now spent four months and more. It
is like what happens when a friend dies; we accuse ourselves of having
loved him too little, or loved him ill; or it is like our own death,
when we look back upon life and feel that it has been misspent.

August 16,1875.--Life is but a daily oscillation between revolt and
submission, between the instinct of the _ego_, which is to expand,
to take delight in its own tranquil sense of inviolability, if not to
triumph in its own sovereignty, and the instinct of the soul, which is
to obey the universal order, to accept the will of God.

The cold renunciation of disillusioned reason brings no real peace.
Peace is only to be found in reconciliation with destiny, when destiny
seems, in the religious sense of the word, _good_; that is to say, when
man feels himself directly in the presence of God. Then, and then only,
does the will acquiesce. Nay more, it only completely acquiesces when it
adores. The soul only submits to the hardness of fate by virtue of
its discovery of a sublime compensation--the loving kindness of the
Almighty. That is to say, it cannot resign itself to lack or famine,
it shrinks from the void around it, and the happiness either of hope or
faith is essential to it. It may very well vary its objects, but some
object it must have. It may renounce its former idols, but it will
demand another cult. The soul hungers and thirsts after happiness, and
it is in vain that everything deserts it--it will never submit to its

August 28, 1875. (_Geneva_).--A word used by Sainte-Beuve à propos of
Benjamin Constant has struck me: it is the word _consideration_. To
possess or not to possess _consideration_ was to Madame de Staël a
matter of supreme importance--the loss of it an irreparable evil, the
acquirement of it a pressing necessity. What, then, is this good thing?
The esteem of the public. And how is it gained? By honorable character
and life, combined with a certain aggregate of services rendered and
of successes obtained. It is not exactly a good conscience, but it
is something like it, for it is the witness from without, if not the
witness from within. _Consideration_ is not reputation, still less
celebrity, fame, or glory; it has nothing to do with _savoir faire_, and
is not always the attendant of talent or genius. It is the reward given
to constancy in duty, to probity of conduct. It is the homage rendered
to a life held to be irreproachable. It is a little more than esteem,
and a little less than admiration. To enjoy public consideration is
at once a happiness and a power. The loss of it is a misfortune and a
source of daily suffering. Here am I, at the age of fifty-three,
without ever having given this idea the smallest place in my life. It is
curious, but the desire for consideration has been to me so little of a
motive that I have not even been conscious of such an idea at all.
The fact shows, I suppose, that for me the audience, the gallery, the
public, has never had more than a negative importance. I have neither
asked nor expected anything from it, not even justice; and to be a
dependent upon it, to solicit its suffrages and its good graces, has
always seemed to me an act of homage and flunkeyism against which my
pride has instinctively rebelled. I have never even tried to gain the
good will of a _côterìe_ or a newspaper, nor so much as the vote of
an elector. And yet it would have been a joy to me to be smiled upon,
loved, encouraged, welcomed, and to obtain what I was so ready to
give, kindness and good will. But to hunt down consideration and
reputation--to force the esteem of others--seemed to me an effort
unworthy of myself, almost a degradation. I have never even thought of

Perhaps I have lost consideration by my indifference to it. Probably I
have disappointed public expectation by thus allowing an over-sensitive
and irritable consciousness to lead me into isolation and retreat. I
know that the world, which is only eager to silence you when you do
speak, is angry with your silence as soon as its own action has killed
in you the wish to speak. No doubt, to be silent with a perfectly clear
conscience a man must not hold a public office. I now indeed say to
myself that a professor is morally bound to justify his position by
publication; that students, authorities, and public are placed thereby
in a healthier relation toward him; that it is necessary for his good
repute in the world, and for the proper maintenance of his position. But
this point of view has not been a familiar one to me. I have endeavored
to give conscientious lectures, and I have discharged all the subsidiary
duties of my post to the best of my ability; but I have never been able
to bend myself to a struggle with hostile opinion, for all the while my
heart has been full of sadness and disappointment, and I have known
and felt that I have been systematically and deliberately isolated.
Premature despair and the deepest discouragement have been my constant
portion. Incapable of taking any interest in my talents for my own sake,
I let everything slip as soon as the hope of being loved for them and
by them had forsaken me. A hermit against my will, I have not even found
peace in solitude, because my inmost conscience has not been any better
satisfied than my heart.

Does not all this make up a melancholy lot, a barren failure of a life?
What use have I made of my gifts, of my special circumstances, of my
half-century of existence? What have I paid back to my country? Are all
the documents I have produced, taken together, my correspondence, these
thousands of journal pages, my lectures, my articles, my poems, my notes
of different kinds, anything better than withered leaves? To whom and to
what have I been useful? Will my name survive me a single day, and will
it ever mean anything to anybody? A life of no account! A great many
comings and goings, a great many scrawls--for nothing. When all is added
up--nothing! And worst of all, it has not been a life used up in the
service of some adored object, or sacrificed to any future hope.
Its sufferings will have been vain, its renunciations useless, its
sacrifices gratuitous, its dreariness without reward.... No, I am wrong;
it will have had its secret treasure, its sweetness, its reward. It will
have inspired a few affections of great price; it will have given joy to
a few souls; its hidden existence will have had some value. Besides,
if in itself it has been nothing, it has understood much. If it has not
been in harmony with the great order, still it has loved it. If it has
missed happiness and duty, it has at least felt its own nothingness, and
implored its pardon.

_Later on._--There is a great affinity in me with the Hindoo
genius--that mind, vast, imaginative, loving, dreamy, and speculative,
but destitute of ambition, personality, and will. Pantheistic
disinterestedness, the effacement of the self in the great whole,
womanish gentleness, a horror of slaughter, antipathy to action--these
are all present in my nature, in the nature at least which has been
developed by years and circumstances. Still the West has also had its
part in me. What I have found difficult is to keep up a prejudice in
favor of any form, nationality, or individuality whatever. Hence my
indifference to my own person, my own usefulness, interest, or opinions
of the moment. What does it all matter? _Omnis determinatio est
negatio_. Grief localizes us, love particularizes us, but thought
delivers us from personality.... To be a man is a poor thing, to be
a man is well; to be _the_ man--man in essence and in principle--that
alone is to be desired.

Yes, but in these Brahmanic aspirations what becomes of the
subordination of the individual to duty? Pleasure may lie in ceasing to
be individual, but duty lies in performing the microscopic task allotted
to us. The problem set before us is to bring our daily task into the
temple of contemplation and ply it there, to act as in the presence of
God, to interfuse one’s little part with religion. So only can we inform
the detail of life, all that is passing, temporary, and insignificant,
with beauty and nobility. So may we dignify and consecrate the meanest
of occupations. So may we feel that we are paying our tribute to the
universal work and the eternal will. So are we reconciled with life and
delivered from the fear of death. So are we in order and at peace.

September 1, 1875.--I have been working for some hours at my article on
Mme. de Staël, but with what labor, what painful effort! When I write
for publication every word is misery, and my pen stumbles at every line,
so anxious am I to find the ideally best expression, and so great is the
number of possibilities which open before me at every step.

Composition demands a concentration, decision, and pliancy which I no
longer possess. I cannot fuse together materials and ideas. If we are
to give anything a form, we must, so to speak, be the tyrants of it.
[Footnote: Compare this paragraph from the “Pensées of a new writer,
M. Joseph Roux, a country curé, living in a remote part of the _Bas
Limousin_, whose thoughts have been edited and published this year by M.
Paul Mariéton (Paris: Alphonse Lemerre):

“Le verbe ne souffre et ne connait que la volonté qui le dompte, et
n’emporte loin sans péril que l’intelligence qui lui ménage avec empire
l’éperon et le frein.”]

We must treat our subject brutally, and not be always trembling lest we
are doing it a wrong. We must be able to transmute and absorb it into
our own substance. This sort of confident effrontery is beyond me: my
whole nature tends to that impersonality which respects and subordinates
itself to the object; it is love of truth which holds me back from
concluding and deciding. And then I am always retracing my steps:
instead of going forward I work in a circle: I am afraid of having
forgotten a point, of having exaggerated an expression, of having used
a word out of place, while all the time I ought to have been thinking
of essentials and aiming at breadth of treatment. I do not know how to
sacrifice anything, how to give up anything whatever. Hurtful timidity,
unprofitable conscientiousness, fatal slavery to detail!

In reality I have never given much thought to the art of writing, to
the best way of making an article, an essay, a book, nor have I ever
methodically undergone the writer’s apprenticeship; it would have been
useful to me, and I was always ashamed of what was useful. I have felt,
as it were, a scruple against trying to surprise the secret of the
masters of literature, against picking _chef-d’oeuvres_ to pieces. When
I think that I have always postponed the serious study of the art of
writing, from a sort of awe of it, and a secret love of its beauty, I
am furious with my own stupidity, and with my own respect. Practice and
routine would have given me that ease, lightness, and assurance, without
which the natural gift and impulse dies away. But on the contrary,
I have developed two opposed habits of mind, the habit of scientific
analysis which exhausts the material offered to it, and the habit of
immediate notation of passing impressions. The art of composition lies
between the two; you want for it both the living unity of the thing and
the sustained operation of thought.

October 25, 1875.--I have been listening to M. Taine’s first lecture
(on the “Ancien Régime”) delivered in the university hall. It was an
extremely substantial piece of work--clear, instructive, compact, and
full of matter. As a writer he shows great skill in the French method of
simplifying his subject by massing it in large striking divisions; his
great defect is a constant straining after points; his principal merit
is the sense he has of historical reality, his desire to see things
as they are. For the rest, he has extreme openness of mind, freedom of
thought, and precision of language. The hall was crowded.

October 26, 1875.--All origins are secret; the principle of every
individual or collective life is a mystery--that is to say, something
irrational, inexplicable, not to be defined. We may even go farther
and say, Every individuality is an insoluble enigma, and no beginning
explains it. In fact, all that has _become_ may be explained
retrospectively, but the beginning of anything whatever did not
_become_. It represents always the “_fiat lux_,” the initial miracle,
the act of creation; for it is the consequence of nothing else, it
simply appears among anterior things which make a _milieu_, an occasion,
a surrounding for it, but which are witnesses of its appearance without
understanding whence it comes.

Perhaps also there are no true individuals, and, if so, no beginning but
one only, the primordial impulse, the first movement. All men on this
hypothesis would be but _man_ in two sexes; man again might be reduced
to the animal, the animal to the plant, and the only individuality left
would be a living nature, reduced to a living matter, to the hylozoism
of Thales. However, even upon this hypothesis, if there were but one
absolute beginning, relative beginnings would still remain to us as
multiple symbols of the absolute. Every life, called individual for
convenience sake and by analogy, would represent in miniature the
history of the world, and would be to the eye of the philosopher a
microscopic compendium of it.

The history of the formation of ideas is what, frees the mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

A philosophic truth does not become popular until some eloquent soul has
humanized it or some gifted personality has translated and embodied it.
Pure truth cannot be assimilated by the crowd; it must be communicated
by contagion.

January 30, 1876.--After dinner I went two steps off, to Marc Monnier’s,
to hear the “Luthier de Crémone,” a one-act comedy in verse, read by the
author, François Coppée.

It was a feast of fine sensations, of literary dainties. For the little
piece is a pearl. It is steeped in poetry, and every line is a fresh
pleasure to one’s taste.

This young _maestro_ is like the violin he writes about, vibrating and
passionate; he has, besides delicacy, point, grace, all that a writer
wants to make what is simple, naïve, heartfelt, and out of the beaten
track, acceptable to a cultivated society.

How to return to nature through art: there is the problem of all highly
composite literatures like our own. Rousseau himself attacked letters
with all the resources of the art of writing, and boasted the delights
of savage life with a skill and adroitness developed only by the most
advanced civilization. And it is indeed this marriage of contraries
which charms us; this spiced gentleness, this learned innocence, this
calculated simplicity, this yes and no, this foolish wisdom. It is the
supreme irony of such combinations which tickles the taste of advanced
and artificial epochs, epochs when men ask for two sensations at once,
like the contrary meanings fused by the smile of La Gioconda. And
our satisfaction, too, in work of this kind is best expressed by that
ambiguous curve of the lip which says: I feel your charm, but I am not
your dupe; I see the illusion both from within and from without; I yield
to you, but I understand you; I am complaisant, but I am proud; I am
open to sensations, yet not the slave of any; you have talent, I have
subtlety of perception; we are quits, and we understand each other.

February 1, 1876.--This evening we talked of the infinitely great and
the infinitely small. The great things of the universe are for----so
much easier to understand than the small, because all greatness is a
multiple of herself, whereas she is incapable of analyzing what requires
a different sort of measurement.

It is possible for the thinking being to place himself in all points of
view, and to teach his soul to live under the most different modes of
being. But it must be confessed that very few profit by the possibility.
Men are in general imprisoned, held in a vice by their circumstances
almost as the animals are, but they have very little suspicion of it
because they have so little faculty of self-judgment. It is only the
critic and the philosopher who can penetrate into all states of being,
and realize their life from within.

When the imagination shrinks in fear from the phantoms which it creates,
it may be excused because it is imagination. But when the intellect
allows itself to be tyrannized over or terrified by the categories to
which itself gives birth, it is in the wrong, for it is not allowed to
intellect--the critical power of man--to be the dupe of anything.

Now, in the superstition of size the mind is merely the dupe of itself,
for it creates the notion of space. The created is not more than the
creator, the son not more than the father. The point of view wants
rectifying. The mind has to free itself from space, which gives it a
false notion of itself, but it can only attain this freedom by reversing
things and by learning to see space in the mind instead of the mind in
space. How can it do this? Simply by reducing space to its virtuality.
Space is dispersion; mind is concentration.

And that is why God is present everywhere, without taking up a thousand
millions of cube leagues, nor a hundred times more nor a hundred times

In the state of thought the universe occupies but a single point; but in
the state of dispersion and analysis this thought requires the heaven of
heavens for its expansion.

In the same way, time and number are contained in the mind. Man, as
mind, is not their inferior, but their superior.

It is true that before he can reach this state of freedom his own body
must appear to him at will either speck or world--that is to say,
he must be independent of it. So long as the self still feels itself
spatial, dispersed, corporeal, it is but a soul, it is not a mind; it
is conscious of itself only as the animal is, the impressionable,
affectionate, active and restless animal.

The mind being the subject of phenomena cannot be itself phenomenal; the
mirror of an image, if it was an image, could not be a mirror. There can
be no echo without a noise. Consciousness means some one who experiences
something. And all the somethings together cannot take the place of the
some one. The phenomenon exists only for a point which is not itself,
and for which it is an object. The perceptible supposes the perceiver.

May 15, 1876.--This morning I corrected the proofs of the “Etrangères.”
 [Footnote: _Les Etrangères: Poésies traduites de diverses littératures_,
par H. F. Amiel, 1876.] Here at least is one thing off my hands. The
piece of prose theorizing which ends the volume pleased and satisfied
me a good deal more than my new meters. The book, as a whole, may be
regarded as an attempt to solve the problem of French verse-translation
considered as a special art. It is science applied to poetry. It ought
not, I think, to do any discredit to a philosopher, for, after all, it
is nothing but applied psychology.

Do I feel any relief, any joy, pride, hope? Hardly. It seems to me that
I feel nothing at all, or at least my feeling is so vague and doubtful
that I cannot analyze it. On the whole, I am rather tempted to say to
myself, how much labor for how small a result--_Much ado about nothing!_
And yet the work in itself is good, is successful. But what does
verse-translation matter? Already my interest in it is fading; my mind
and my energies clamor for something else.

What will Edmond Scherer say to the volume?

       *       *       *       *       *

To the inmost self of me this literary attempt is quite indifferent--a
Lilliputian affair. In comparing my work with other work of the same
kind, I find a sort of relative satisfaction; but I see the intrinsic
futility of it, and the insignificance of its success or failure. I do
not believe in the public; I do not believe in my own work; I have
no ambition, properly speaking, and I blow soap-bubbles for want of
something to do.

  “Car le néant peut seul bien cacher l’infini.”

Self-satire, disillusion, absence of prejudice, may be freedom, but they
are not strength.

July 12, 1876.--Trouble on trouble. My cough has been worse than ever.
I cannot see that the fine weather or the holidays have made any change
for the better in my state of health. On the contrary, the process of
demolition seems more rapid. It is a painful experience, this premature
decay!... “_Après tant de malheurs, que vous reste-t-il? Moi._” This
_“moi”_ is the central consciousness, the trunk of all the branches
which have been cut away, that which bears every successive mutilation.
Soon I shall have nothing else left than bare intellect. Death reduces
us to the mathematical “point;” the destruction which precedes it forces
us back, as it were, by a series of ever-narrowing concentric circles to
this last inaccessible refuge. Already I have a foretaste of that zero
in which all forms and all modes are extinguished. I see how we return
into the night, and inversely I understand how we issue from it. Life is
but a meteor, of which the whole brief course is before me. Birth, life,
death assume a fresh meaning to us at each phase of our existence. To
see one’s self as a firework in the darkness--to become a witness of
one’s own fugitive phenomenon--this is practical psychology. I prefer
indeed the spectacle of the world, which is a vaster and more splendid
firework; but when illness narrows my horizon and makes me dwell
perforce upon my own miseries, these miseries are still capable of
supplying food for my psychological curiosity. What interests me in
myself, in spite of my repulsions is, that I find in my own case a
genuine example of human nature, and therefore a specimen of general
value. The sample enables me to understand a multitude of similar
situations, and numbers of my fellow-men.

To enter consciously into all possible modes of being would be
sufficient occupation for hundreds of centuries--at least for our finite
intelligences, which are conditioned by time. The progressive happiness
of the process, indeed may be easily poisoned and embittered by the
ambition which asks for everything at once, and clamors to reach
the absolute at a bound. But it may be answered that aspirations are
necessarily prophetic, for they could only have come into being under
the action of the same cause which will enable them to reach their goal.
The soul can only imagine the absolute because the absolute exists; our
consciousness of a possible perfection is the guarantee that perfection
will be realized.

Thought itself is eternal. It is the consciousness of thought which
is gradually achieved through the long succession of ages, races, and
humanities. Such is the doctrine of Hegel. The history of the mind is,
according to him one of approximation to the absolute, and the absolute
differs at the two ends of the story. It _was_ at the beginning; it
_knows itself_ at the end. Or rather it advances in the possession
of itself with the gradual unfolding of creation. Such also was the
conception of Aristotle.

If the history of the mind and of consciousness is the very marrow and
essence of being, then to be driven back on psychology, even personal
psychology, is to be still occupied with the main question of things, to
keep to the subject, to feel one’s self in the center of the universal
drama. There is comfort in the idea. Everything else may be taken away
from us, but if thought remains we are still connected by a magic thread
with the axis of the world. But we may lose thought and speech. Then
nothing remains but simple feeling, the sense of the presence of God
and of death in God--the last relic of the human privilege, which is to
participate in the whole, to commune with the absolute.

  “Ta vie est un éclair qui meurt dans son nuage,
   Mais l’éclair t’a sauvé s’il t’a fait voir le ciel.”

July 26, 1876.--A private journal is a friend to idleness. It frees us
from the necessity of looking all round a subject, it puts up with every
kind of repetition, it accompanies all the caprices and meanderings of
the inner life, and proposes to itself no definite end. This journal
of mine represents the material of a good many volumes: what prodigious
waste of time, of thought, of strength! It will be useful to nobody, and
even for myself--it has rather helped me to shirk life than to practice
it. A journal takes the place of a confidant, that is, of friend or
wife; it becomes a substitute for production, a substitute for country
and public. It is a grief-cheating device, a mode of escape and
withdrawal; but, factotum as it is, though it takes the place of
everything, properly speaking it represents nothing at all....

What is it which makes the history of a soul? It is the stratification
of its different stages of progress, the story of its acquisitions
and of the general course of its destiny. Before my history can teach
anybody anything, or even interest myself, it must be disentangled from
its materials, distilled and simplified. These thousands of pages are
but the pile of leaves and bark from which the essence has still to
be extracted. A whole forest of cinchonas are worth but one cask of
quinine. A whole Smyrna rose-garden goes to produce one vial of perfume.

This mass of written talk, the work of twenty-nine years, may in the end
be worth nothing at all; for each is only interested in his own romance,
his own individual life. Even I perhaps shall never have time to read
them over myself. So--so what? I shall have lived my life, and life
consists in repeating the human type, and the burden of the human song,
as myriads of my kindred have done, are doing, and will do, century
after century. To rise to consciousness of this burden and this type is
something, and we can scarcely achieve anything further. The realization
of the type is more complete, and the burden a more joyous one, if
circumstances are kind and propitious, but whether the puppets have done
this or that--

  “Trois p’tits tours et puis s’en vont!”

everything falls into the same gulf at last, and comes to very much the
same thing.

To rebel against fate--to try to escape the inevitable issue--is almost
puerile. When the duration of a centenarian and that of an insect are
quantities sensibly equivalent--and geology and astronomy enable us to
regard such durations from this point of view--what is the meaning of
all our tiny efforts and cries, the value of our anger, our ambition,
our hope? For the dream of a dream it is absurd to raise these
make-believe tempests. The forty millions of infusoria which make up a
cube-inch of chalk--do they matter much to us? and do the forty millions
of men who make up France matter any more to an inhabitant of the moon
or Jupiter?

To be a conscious monad--a nothing which knows itself to be the
microscopic phantom of the universe: this is all we can ever attain to.

September 12, 1876.--What is your own particular absurdity? Why,
simply that you exhaust yourself in trying to understand wisdom without
practicing it, that you are always making preparations for nothing, that
you live without living. Contemplation which has not the courage to be
purely contemplative, renunciation which does not renounce completely,
chronic contradiction--there is your case. Inconsistent skepticism,
irresolution, not convinced but incorrigible, weakness which will not
accept itself and cannot transform itself into strength--there is your

The comic side of it lies in capacity to direct others, becoming
incapacity to direct one’s self, in the dream of the infinitely great
stopped short by the infinitely little, in what seems to be the utter
uselessness of talent. To arrive at immobility by excess of motion, at
zero from abundance of numbers, is a strange farce, a sad comedy; the
poorest gossip can laugh at its absurdity.

September 19, 1876.--My reading to-day has been Doudan’s “Lettres et
Mélanges.” [Footnote: Ximénès Doudan, born in 1800, died 1872, the
brilliant friend and tutor of the De Broglie family, whose conversation
was so much sought after in life, and whose letters have been so eagerly
read in France since his death. Compare M. Scherer’s two articles
on Doudan’s “Lettres” and “Pensées” in his last published volume
of essays.] A fascinating book! Wit, grace, subtlety, imagination,
thought--these letters possess them all. How much I regret that I never
knew the man himself. He was a Frenchman of the best type, _un délicat
né sublime_, to quote Sainte-Beuve’s expression. Fastidiousness of
temper, and a too keen love of perfection, led him to withhold his
talent from the public, but while still living, and within his own
circle, he was the recognized equal of the best. He scarcely lacked
anything except that fraction of ambition, of brutality and material
force which are necessary to success in this world; but he was
appreciated by the best society of Paris, and he cared for nothing else.
He reminds me of Joubert.

September 20th.--To be witty is to satisfy another’s wits by the
bestowal on him of two pleasures, that of understanding one thing and
that of guessing another, and so achieving a double stroke.

Thus Doudan scarcely ever speaks out his thought directly; he disguises
and suggests it by imagery, allusion, hyperbole; he overlays it
with light irony and feigned anger, with gentle mischief and assumed
humility. The more the thing to be guessed differs from the thing
said, the more pleasant surprise there is for the interlocutor or the
correspondent concerned. These charming and delicate ways of expression
allow a man to teach what he will without pedantry, and to venture what
he will without offense. There is something Attic and aerial in them;
they mingle grave and gay, fiction and truth, with a light grace of
touch such as neither La Fontaine nor Alcibiades would have been ashamed
of. Socratic _badinage_ like this presupposes a free and equal mind,
victorious over physical ill and inward discontents. Such delicate
playfulness is the exclusive heritage of those rare natures in whom
subtlety is the disguise of superiority, and taste its revelation.
“What balance of faculties and cultivation it requires! What personal
distinction it shows! Perhaps only a valetudinarian would have been
capable of this _morbidezza_ of touch, this marriage of virile thought
and feminine caprice. If there is excess anywhere, it lies perhaps in a
certain effeminacy of sentiment. Doudan can put up with nothing but
what is perfect--nothing but what is absolutely harmonious; all that
is rough, harsh, powerful, brutal, and unexpected, throws him into
convulsions. Audacity--boldness of all kinds--repels him. This Athenian
of the Roman time is a true disciple of Epicurus in all matters of
sight, hearing, and intelligence--a crumpled rose-leaf disturbs him.

  “Une ombre, un souffle, un rien, tout lui donnait la fièvre.”

What all this softness wants is strength, creative and muscular force.
His range is not as wide as I thought it at first. The classical world
and the Renaissance--that is to say, the horizon of La Fontaine--is his
horizon. He is out of his element in the German or Slav literatures. He
knows nothing of Asia. Humanity for him is not much larger than France,
and he has never made a bible of Nature. In music and painting he is
more or less exclusive. In philosophy he stops at Kant. To sum up: he
is a man of exquisite and ingenious taste, but he is not a first-rate
critic, still less a poet, philosopher, or artist. He was an admirable
talker, a delightful letter writer, who might have become an author had
he chosen to concentrate himself. I must wait for the second volume in
order to review and correct this preliminary impression.

Midday.--I have now gone once more through the whole volume, lingering
over the Attic charm of it, and meditating on the originality and
distinction of the man’s organization. Doudan was a keen penetrating
psychologist, a diviner of aptitudes, a trainer of minds, a man of
infinite taste and talent, capable of every _nuance_ and of every
delicacy; but his defect was a want of persevering energy of thought,
a lack of patience in execution. Timidity, unworldliness, indolence,
indifference, confined him to the role of the literary counsellor and
made him judge of the field in which he ought rather to have fought. But
do I mean to blame him?--no indeed! In the first place, it would be to
fire on my allies; in the second, very likely he chose the better part.

Was it not Goethe who remarked that in the neighborhood of all famous
men we find men who never achieve fame, and yet were esteemed by those
who did, as their equals or superiors? Descartes, I think, said the same
thing. Fame will not run after the men who are afraid of her. She makes
mock of those trembling and respectful lovers who deserve but cannot
force her favors. The public is won by the bold, imperious talents--by
the enterprising and the skillful. It does not believe in modesty, which
it regards as a device of impotence. The golden book contains but a
section of the true geniuses; it names those only who have taken glory
by storm.

November 15, 1876.--I have been reading “L’Avenir Religieux des Peuples
Civilisés,” by Emile de Laveleye. The theory of this writer is that the
gospel, in its pure form, is capable of providing the religion of the
future, and that the abolition of all religious principle, which is what
the socialism of the present moment demands, is as much to be feared as
Catholic superstition. The Protestant method, according to him, is the
means of transition whereby sacerdotal Christianity passes into the pure
religion of the gospel. Laveleye does not think that civilization can
last without the belief in God and in another life. Perhaps he forgets
that Japan and China prove the contrary. But it is enough to determine
him against atheism if it can be shown that a general atheism would
bring about a lowering of the moral average. After all, however, this is
nothing but a religion of utilitarianism. A belief is not true because
it is useful. And it is truth alone--scientific, established, proved,
and rational truth--which is capable of satisfying nowadays the awakened
minds of all classes. We may still say perhaps, “faith governs the
world”--but the faith of the present is no longer in revelation or
in the priest--it is in reason and in science. Is there a science of
goodness and happiness?--that is the question. Do justice and goodness
depend upon any particular religion? How are men to be made free,
honest, just, and good?--there is the point.

On my way through the book I perceived many new applications of my
law of irony. Every epoch has two contradictory aspirations which are
logically antagonistic and practically associated. Thus the philosophic
materialism of the last century was the champion of liberty. And at the
present moment we find Darwinians in love with equality, while Darwinism
itself is based on the right of the stronger. Absurdity is interwoven
with life: real beings are animated contradictions, absurdities brought
into action. Harmony with self would mean peace, repose, and perhaps
immobility By far the greater number of human beings can only conceive
action, or practice it, under the form of war--a war of competition at
home, a bloody war of nations abroad, and finally war with self. So that
life is a perpetual combat; it wills that which it wills not, and wills
not that it wills. Hence what I call the law of irony--that is to say,
the refutation of the self by itself, the concrete realization of the

Is such a result inevitable? I think not. Struggle is the caricature of
harmony, and harmony, which is the association of contraries, is also a
principle of movement. War is a brutal and fierce means of pacification;
it means the suppression of resistance by the destruction or enslavement
of the conquered. Mutual respect would be a better way out of
difficulties. Conflict is the result of the selfishness which will
acknowledge no other limit than that of external force. The laws of
animality govern almost the whole of history. The history of man is
essentially zoological; it becomes human late in the day, and then
only in the beautiful souls, the souls alive to justice, goodness,
enthusiasm, and devotion. The angel shows itself rarely and with
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
fiancé 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 Staël) 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 Bruyère, and Molière 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 naïve. But indeed, Reblais, Molière, 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 be
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 Bruyère:

“Entre toutes les differentes expressions qui peuvent rendre une seule
de nos pensées il n’y en a qu’une qui soit la bonne; on ne la rencontre
pas toujours en parlant ou en écrivant: il est vray néanmoins 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 Théophile Gautier, Leconte de Lisle, Théodore 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 Pré l’Evèque, 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’être_ 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 Legouvé.
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 Salève 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 Tranchées, 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 _séances_--the unity being the _séance_.
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 _succès
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 rôle 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 _fête_, 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 Poèmes,” 1843; “Poèmes Evangéliques,” 1852;
“Idylles Héroiques,” 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 Petöfi. 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 Bannière Bleue”--a history of
the world at the time of Genghis Khan, under the form of memoirs. It is
a Turk, Ouïgour, 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 Staël. She is often supposed to be the
original of Madame de Cerlebe in “Delphine,” and the _Notice sur
le Caractère et les Écrits de Mdme. de Staël_, prefixed to the
authoritative edition of Madame de Staël’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 _régime_ has its weaknesses, and
this _régime_ 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 versâ_.

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 Clémence 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
_Clémence_--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_.--_Clémence_ 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

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 blasés 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 fête-day.
Wednesday, the fête-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 Staël’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 rôle 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 Bâtie 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 éclair te traverse, ô 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
Mütter_; 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,
loyalty on uprightness. We only truly know what we have, or what we have
lost and regret, as, for example, childish innocence, virginal purity,
or stainless honor. The truest and best judge, then, is Infinite
Goodness, and next to it, the regenerated sinner or the saint, the man
tried by experience or the sage. Naturally, the touchstone in us becomes
finer and truer the better we are.

November 3, 1880.--What impression has the story I have just read
made upon me? A mixed one. The imagination gets no pleasure out of it,
although the intellect is amused. Why? Because the author’s mood is one
of incessant irony and _persiflage_. The Voltairean tradition has been
his guide--a great deal of wit and satire, very little feeling, no
simplicity. It is a combination of qualities which serves eminently
well for satire, for journalism, and for paper warfare of all kinds, but
which is much less suitable to the novel or short story, for cleverness
is not poetry, and the novel is still within the domain of poetry,
although on the frontier. The vague discomfort aroused in one by these
epigrammatic productions is due probably to a confusion of kinds.
Ambiguity of style keeps one in a perpetual state of tension and
self-defense; we ought not to be left in doubt whether the speaker is
jesting or serious, mocking or tender. Moreover, banter is not humor,
and never will be. I think, indeed, that the professional wit finds a
difficulty in being genuinely comic, for want of depth and disinterested
feeling. To laugh at things and people is not really a joy; it is at
best but a cold pleasure. Buffoonery is wholesomer, because it is a
little more kindly. The reason why continuous sarcasm repels us is that
it lacks two things--humanity and seriousness. Sarcasm implies pride,
since it means putting one’s self above others--and levity, because
conscience is allowed no voice in controlling it. In short, we read
satirical books, but we only love and cling to the books in which there
is _heart_.

November 22, 1880.--How is ill-nature to be met and overcome? First, by
humility: when a man knows his own weaknesses, why should he be angry
with others for pointing them out? No doubt it is not very amiable
of them to do so, but still, truth is on their side. Secondly, by
reflection: after all we are what we are, and if we have been thinking
too much of ourselves, it is only an opinion to be modified; the
incivility of our neighbor leaves us what we were before. Above all, by
pardon: there is only one way of not hating those who do us wrong, and
that is by doing them good; anger is best conquered by kindness. Such
a victory over feeling may not indeed affect those who have wronged us,
but it is a valuable piece of self-discipline. It is vulgar to be
angry on one’s own account; we ought only to be angry for great causes.
Besides, the poisoned dart can only be extracted from the wound by the
balm of a silent and thoughtful charity. Why do we let human malignity
embitter us? why should ingratitude, jealousy--perfidy even--enrage
us? There is no end to recriminations, complaints, or reprisals. The
simplest plan is to blot everything out. Anger, rancor, bitterness,
trouble the soul. Every man is a dispenser of justice; but there is one
wrong that he is not bound to punish--that of which he himself is the
victim. Such a wrong is to be healed, not avenged. Fire purifies all.

  “Mon âme est comme un feu qui dévore et parfume
  Ce qu’on jette pour le ternir.”

December 27, 1880--In an article I have just read, Biedermann
reproaches Strauss with being too negative, and with having broken with
Christianity. The object to be pursued, according to him, should be the
freeing of religion from the mythological element, and the substitution
of another point of view for the antiquated dualism of orthodoxy--this
other point of view to be the victory over the world, produced by the
sense of divine sonship.

It is true that another question arises: has not a religion which has
separated itself from special miracle, from local interventions of the
supernatural, and from mystery, lost its savor and its efficacy? For
the sake of satisfying a thinking and instructed public, is it wise to
sacrifice the influence of religion over the multitude? Answer. A pious
fiction is still a fiction. Truth has the highest claim. It is for the
world to accommodate itself to truth, and not _vice versâ_. Copernicus
upset the astronomy of the Middle Ages--so much the worse for it! The
Eternal Gospel revolutionizes modern churches--what matter! When symbols
become transparent, they have no further binding force. We see in them
a poem, an allegory, a metaphor; but we believe in them no longer.
Yes, but still a certain esotericism is inevitable, since critical,
scientific, and philosophical culture is only attainable by a minority.
The new faith must have its symbols too. At present the effect it
produces on pious souls is a more or less profane one; it has a
disrespectful, incredulous, frivolous look, and it seems to free a man
from traditional dogma at the cost of seriousness of conscience. How are
sensitiveness of feeling, the sense of sin, the desire for pardon, the
thirst for holiness, to be preserved among us, when the errors which
have served them so long for support and food have been eliminated? Is
not illusion indispensable? is it not the divine process of education?

Perhaps the best way is to draw a deep distinction between opinion and
belief, and between belief and science. The mind which discerns these
different degrees may allow itself imagination and faith, and still
remain within the lines of progress.

December 28, 1880.--There are two modes of classing the people we know:
the first is utilitarian--it starts from ourselves, divides our friends
from our enemies, and distinguishes those who are antipathetic to us,
those who are indifferent, those who can serve or harm us; the second is
disinterested--it classes men according to their intrinsic value, their
own qualities and defects, apart from the feelings which they have for
us, or we for them.

My tendency is to the second kind of classification. I appreciate
men less by the special affection which they show to me than by their
personal excellence, and I cannot confuse gratitude with esteem. It is a
happy thing for us when the two feelings can be combined; and nothing is
more painful than to owe gratitude where yet we can feel neither respect
nor confidence.

I am not very willing to believe in the permanence of accidental states.
The generosity of a miser, the good nature of an egotist, the gentleness
of a passionate temperament, the tenderness of a barren nature, the
piety of a dull heart, the humility of an excitable self-love, interest
me as phenomena--nay, even touch me if I am the object of them, but they
inspire me with very little confidence. I foresee the end of them too
clearly. Every exception tends to disappear and to return to the rule.
All privilege is temporary, and besides, I am less flattered than
anxious when I find myself the object of a privilege.

A man’s primitive character may be covered over by alluvial deposits of
culture and acquisition--none the less is it sure to come to the surface
when years have worn away all that is accessory and adventitious. I
admit indeed the possibility of great moral crises which sometimes
revolutionize the soul, but I dare not reckon on them. It is a
possibility--not a probability. In choosing one’s friends we must
choose those whose qualities are inborn, and their virtues virtues of
temperament. To lay the foundations of friendship on borrowed or added
virtues is to build on an artificial soil; we run too many risks by it.

Exceptions are snares, and we ought above all to distrust them when they
charm our vanity. To catch and fix a fickle heart is a task which
tempts all women; and a man finds something intoxicating in the tears of
tenderness and joy which he alone has had the power to draw from a proud
woman. But attractions of this kind are deceptive. Affinity of nature
founded on worship of the same ideal, and perfect in proportion to
perfectness of soul, is the only affinity which is worth anything. True
love is that which ennobles the personality, fortifies the heart, and
sanctifies the existence. And the being we love must not be mysterious
and sphinx-like, but clear and limpid as a diamond; so that admiration
and attachment may grow with knowledge.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jealousy is a terrible thing. It resembles love, only it is precisely
love’s contrary. Instead of wishing for the welfare of the object
loved, it desires the dependence of that object upon itself, and its
own triumph. Love is the forgetfulness of self; jealousy is the most
passionate form of egotism, the glorification of a despotic, exacting,
and vain _ego_, which can neither forget nor subordinate itself. The
contrast is perfect.

       *       *       *       *       *

Austerity in women is sometimes the accompaniment of a rare power of
loving. And when it is so their attachment is strong as death; their
fidelity as resisting as the diamond; they are hungry for devotion
and athirst for sacrifice. Their love is a piety, their tenderness
a religion, and they triple the energy of love by giving to it the
sanctity of duty.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the spectator over fifty, the world certainly presents a good deal
that is new, but a great deal more which is only the old furbished
up--mere plagiarism and modification, rather than amelioration. Almost
everything is a copy of a copy, a reflection of a reflection, and the
perfect being is as rare now as he ever was. Let us not complain of it;
it is the reason why the world lasts. Humanity improves but slowly; that
is why history goes on.

Is not progress the goad of Siva? It excites the torch to burn itself
away; it hastens the approach of death. Societies which change rapidly
only reach their final catastrophe the sooner. Children who are too
precocious never reach maturity. Progress should be the aroma of life,
not its substance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Man is a passion which brings a will into play, which works an
intelligence--and thus the organs which seem to be in the service of
intelligence, are in reality only the agents of passion. For all the
commoner sorts of being, determinism is true: inward liberty exists only
as an exception and as the result of self-conquest. And even he who has
tasted liberty is only free intermittently and by moments. True
liberty, then, is not a continuous state; it is not an indefeasible
and invariable quality. We are free only so far as we are not dupes of
ourselves, our pretexts, our instincts, our temperament. We are freed by
energy and the critical spirit--that is to say, by detachment of soul,
by self-government. So that we are enslaved, but susceptible of freedom;
we are bound, but capable of shaking off our bonds. The soul is caged,
but it has power to flutter within its cage.

       *       *       *       *       *

Material results are but the tardy sign of invisible activities. The
bullet has started long before the noise of the report has reached us.
The decisive events of the world take place in the intellect.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sorrow is the most tremendous of all realities in the sensible world,
but the transfiguration of sorrow after the manner of Christ is a more
beautiful solution of the problem than the extirpation of sorrow, after
the method of Çakyamouni.

       *       *       *       *       *

Life should be a giving birth to the soul, the development of a higher
mode of reality. The animal must be humanized; flesh must be made
spirit; physiological activity must be transmuted into intellect and
conscience, into reason, justice, and generosity, as the torch is
transmuted into life and warmth. The blind, greedy, selfish nature of
man must put on beauty and nobleness. This heavenly alchemy is what
justifies our presence on the earth: it is our mission and our glory.

       *       *       *       *       *

To renounce happiness and think only of duty, to put conscience in the
place of feeling--this voluntary martyrdom has its nobility. The natural
man in us flinches, but the better self submits. To hope for justice in
the world is a sign of sickly sensibility; we must be able to do without
it. True manliness consists in such independence. Let the world think
what it will of us, it is its own affair. If it will not give us the
place which is lawfully ours until after our death, or perhaps not at
all, it is but acting within its right. It is our business to behave as
though our country were grateful, as though the world were equitable, as
though opinion were clear-sighted, as though life were just, as though
men were good.

       *       *       *       *       *

Death itself may become matter of consent, and therefore a moral act.
The animal expires; man surrenders his soul to the author of the soul.

[With the year 1881, beginning with the month of January, we enter upon
the last period of Amiel’s illness. Although he continued to attend to
his professional duties, and never spoke of his forebodings, he felt
himself mortally ill, as we shall see by the following extracts from the
Journal. Amiel wrote up to the end, doing little else, however, toward
the last than record the progress of his disease, and the proofs of
interest and kindliness which he received. After weeks of suffering and
pain a state of extreme weakness gradually gained upon him. His last
lines are dated the 29th of April; it was on the 11th of May that he
succumbed, without a struggle, to the complicated disease from which he

January 5, 1881.--I think I fear shame more than death. Tacitus said:
_Omnia serviliter pro dominatione_. My tendency is just the contrary.
Even when it is voluntary, dependence is a burden to me. I should blush
to find myself determined by interest, submitting to constraint, or
becoming the slave of any will whatever. To me vanity is slavery,
self-love degrading, and utilitarianism meanness. I detest the ambition
which makes you the liege man of something or some-one--I desire to be
simply my own master.

If I had health I should be the freest man I know. Although perhaps
a little hardness of heart would be desirable to make me still more

Let me exaggerate nothing. My liberty is only negative. Nobody has any
hold over me, but many things have become impossible to me, and if I
were so foolish as to wish for them, the limits of my liberty would soon
become apparent. Therefore I take care not to wish for them, and not to
let my thoughts dwell on them. I only desire what I am able for, and in
this way I run my head against no wall, I cease even to be conscious
of the boundaries which enclose me. I take care to wish for rather less
than is in my power, that I may not even be reminded of the obstacles in
my way. Renunciation is the safeguard of dignity. Let us strip ourselves
if we would not be stripped. He who has freely given up his life may
look death in the face: what more can it take away from him? Do away
with desire and practice charity--there you have the whole method of
Buddha, the whole secret of the great Deliverance....

It is snowing, and my chest is troublesome. So that I depend on nature
and on God. But I do not depend on human caprice; this is the point to
be insisted on. It is true that my chemist may make a blunder and poison
me, my banker may reduce me to pauperism, just as an earthquake may
destroy my house without hope of redress. Absolute independence,
therefore, is a pure chimera. But I do possess relative
independence--that of the stoic who withdraws into the fortress of his
will, and shuts the gates behind him.

  “Jurons, excepté Dieu, de n’avoir point de maître.”

This oath of old Geneva remains my motto still.

January 10, 1881.--To let one’s self be troubled by the ill-will, the
ingratitude, the indifference, of others, is a weakness to which I am
very much inclined. It is painful to me to be misunderstood, ill-judged.
I am wanting in manly hardihood, and the heart in me is more vulnerable
than it ought to be. It seems to me, however, that I have grown tougher
in this respect than I used to be. The malignity of the world troubles
me less than it did. Is it the result of philosophy, or an effect of
age, or simply caused by the many proofs of respect and attachment that
I have received? These proofs were just what were wanting to inspire me
with some self-respect. Otherwise I should have so easily believed in
my own nullity and in the insignificance of all my efforts. Success is
necessary for the timid, praise is a moral stimulus, and admiration a
strengthening elixir. We think we know ourselves, but as long as we are
ignorant of our comparative value, our place in the social assessment,
we do not know ourselves well enough. If we are to act with effect, we
must count for something with our fellow-men; we must feel ourselves
possessed of some weight and credit with them, so that our effort may be
rightly proportioned to the resistance which has to be overcome. As
long as we despise opinion we are without a standard by which to measure
ourselves; we do not know our relative power. I have despised opinion
too much, while yet I have been too sensitive to injustice. These two
faults have cost me dear. I longed for kindness, sympathy, and equity,
but my pride forbade me to ask for them, or to employ any address
or calculation to obtain them.... I do not think I have been wrong
altogether, for all through I have been in harmony with my best self,
but my want of adaptability has worn me out, to no purpose. Now, indeed,
I am at peace within, but my career is over, my strength is running out,
and my life is near its end.

  “Il n’est plus temps pour rien excepté pour mourir.”

This is why I can look at it all historically.

January 23, 1881.--A tolerable night, but this morning the cough has
been frightful. Beautiful weather, the windows ablaze with sunshine.
With my feet on the fender I have just finished the newspaper.

At this moment I feel well, and it seems strange to me that my doom
should be so near. Life has no sense of kinship with death. This is why,
no doubt, a sort of mechanical instinctive hope is forever springing up
afresh in us, troubling our reason, and casting doubt on the verdict of
science. All life is tenacious and persistent. It is like the parrot in
the fable, who, at the very moment when its neck is being wrung, still
repeats with its last breath:

  “Cela, cela, ne sera rien.”

The intellect puts the matter at its worst, but the animal protests.
It will not believe in the evil till it comes. Ought one to regret it?
Probably not. It is nature’s will that life should defend itself against
death; hope is only the love of life; it is an organic impulse which
religion has taken under its protection. Who knows? God may save us,
may work a miracle. Besides, are we ever sure that there is no remedy?
Uncertainty is the refuge of hope. We reckon the doubtful among the
chances in our favor. Mortal frailty clings to every support. How be
angry with it for so doing? Even with all possible aids it hardly ever
escapes desolation and distress. The supreme solution is, and always
will be, to see in necessity the fatherly will of God, and so to submit
ourselves and bear our cross bravely, as an offering to the Arbiter
of human destiny. The soldier does not dispute the order given him: he
obeys and dies without murmuring. If he waited to understand the use of
his sacrifice, where would his submission be?

It occurred to me this morning how little we know of each other’s
physical troubles; even those nearest and dearest to us know nothing
of our conversations with the King of Terrors. There are thoughts
which brook no confidant: there are griefs which cannot be shared.
Consideration for others even bids us conceal them. We dream alone, we
suffer alone, we die alone, we inhabit the last resting-place alone. But
there is nothing to prevent us from opening our solitude to God. And
so what was an austere monologue becomes dialogue, reluctance becomes
docility, renunciation passes into peace, and the sense of painful
defeat is lost in the sense of recovered liberty.

  “Vouloir ce que Dieu veut est la seule science
  Qui nous met en repos.”

None of us can escape the play of contrary impulse; but as soon as
the soul has once recognized the order of things and submitted itself
thereto, then all is well.

  “Comme un sage mourant puissions nous dire en paix:
  J’ai trop longtemps erré, cherché; je me trompais:
  Tout est bien, mon Dieu m’enveloppe.”

January 28, 1881.--A terrible night. For three or four hours I struggled
against suffocation and looked death in the face.... It is clear that
what awaits me is suffocation--asphyxia. I shall die by choking.

I should not have chosen such a death; but when there is no option, one
must simply resign one’s self, and at once.... Spinoza expired in the
presence of the doctor whom he had sent for. I must familiarize myself
with the idea of dying unexpectedly, some fine night, strangled by
laryngitis. The last sigh of a patriarch surrounded by his kneeling
family is more beautiful: my fate indeed lacks beauty, grandeur, poetry;
but stoicism consists in renunciation. _Abstine et sustine_.

I must remember besides that I have faithful friends; it is better not
to torment them. The last journey is only made more painful by scenes
and lamentations: one word is worth all others--“Thy will, not mine, be
done!” Leibnitz was accompanied to the grave by his servant only.
The loneliness of the deathbed and the tomb is not an evil. The great
mystery cannot be shared. The dialogue between the soul and the King of
Terrors needs no witnesses. It is the living who cling to the thought
of last greetings. And, after all, no one knows exactly what is reserved
for him. What will be will be. We have but to say, “Amen.”

February 4, 1881.--It is a strange sensation that of laying one’s
self down to rest with the thought that perhaps one will never see the
morrow. Yesterday I felt it strongly, and yet here I am. Humility
is made easy by the sense of excessive frailty, but it cuts away all

  “Quittez le long espoir et les vastes pensées.”

A long piece of work seems absurd--one lives but from day to day.

When a man can no longer look forward in imagination to five years,
a year, a month, of free activity--when he is reduced to counting
the hours, and to seeing in the coming night the threat of an unknown
fate--it is plain that he must give up art, science, and politics,
and that he must be content to hold converse with himself, the one
possibility which is his till the end. Inward soliloquy is the only
resource of the condemned man whose execution is delayed. He withdraws
upon the fastnesses of conscience. His spiritual force no longer
radiates outwardly; it is consumed in self-study. Action is cut
off--only contemplation remains. He still writes to those who have
claims upon him, but he bids farewell to the public, and retreats into
himself. Like the hare, he comes back to die in his form, and this form
is his consciousness, his intellect--the journal, too, which has been
the companion of his inner life. As long as he can hold a pen, as long
as he has a moment of solitude, this echo of himself still claims his
meditation, still represents to him his converse with his God.

In all this, however, there is nothing akin to self-examination: it is
not an act of contrition, or a cry for help. It is simply an Amen of
submission--“My child, give me thy heart!”

Renunciation and acquiescence are less difficult to me than to others,
for I desire nothing. I could only wish not to suffer, but Jesus on
Gethesemane allowed himself to make the same prayer; let us add to
it the words that he did: “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be
done,”--and wait.

... For many years past the immanent God has been more real to me than
the transcendent God, and the religion of Jacob has been more alien to
me than that of Kant, or even Spinoza. The whole Semitic dramaturgy has
come to seem to me a work of the imagination. The apostolic documents
have changed in value and meaning to my eyes. Belief and truth have
become distinct to me with a growing distinctness. Religious psychology
has become a simple phenomenon, and has lost its fixed and absolute
value. The apologetics of Pascal, of Leibnitz, of Secrétan, are to me no
more convincing than those of the Middle Ages, for they presuppose what
is really in question--a revealed doctrine, a definite and unchangeable
Christianity. It seems to me that what remains to me from all my studies
is a new phenomenology of mind, an intuition of universal metamorphosis.
All particular convictions, all definite principles, all clear-cut
formulas and fixed ideas, are but prejudices, useful in practice, but
still narrownesses of the mind. The absolute in detail is absurd and
contradictory. All political, religious, aesthetic, or literary
parties are protuberances, misgrowths of thought. Every special belief
represents a stiffening and thickening of thought; a stiffening,
however, which is necessary in its time and place. Our monad, in its
thinking capacity, overleaps the boundaries of time and space and of
its own historical surroundings; but in its individual capacity, and
for purposes of action, it adapts itself to current illusions, and
puts before itself a definite end. It is lawful to be _man_, but it
is needful also to be _a_ man, to be an individual. Our rôle is thus a
double one. Only, the philosopher is specially authorized to develop the
first rôle, which the vast majority of humankind neglects.

February 7, 1881.--Beautiful sunshine to-day. But I have scarcely spring
enough left in me to notice it. Admiration, joy, presuppose a little
relief from pain. Whereas my neck is tired with the weight of my
head, and my heart is wearied with the weight of life; this is not the
aesthetic state.

I have been thinking over different things which I might have written.
But generally speaking we let what is most original and best in us be
wasted. We reserve ourselves for a future which never comes. _Omnis

February 14, 1881.--Supposing that my weeks are numbered, what duties
still remain to me to fulfill, that I may leave all in order? I must
give every one his due; justice, prudence, kindness must be satisfied;
the last memories must be sweet ones. Try to forget nothing useful,
nor anybody who has a claim upon thee! February 15, 1881.--I have, very
reluctantly, given up my lecture at the university, and sent for my
doctor. On my chimney-piece are the flowers which ---- has sent me.
Letters from London, Paris, Lausanne, Neuchatel ... They seem to me like
wreaths thrown into a grave.

Mentally I say farewell to all the distant friends whom I shall never
see again.

February 18, 1881.--Misty weather. A fairly good night. Still, the
emaciation goes on. That is to say, the vulture allows me some respite,
but he still hovers over his prey. The possibility of resuming my
official work seems like a dream to me.

Although just now the sense of ghostly remoteness from life which I
so often have is absent, I feel myself a prisoner for good, a hopeless
invalid. This vague intermediate state, which is neither death nor life,
has its sweetness, because if it implies renunciation, still it allows
of thought. It is a reverie without pain, peaceful and meditative.
Surrounded with affection and with books, I float down the stream of
time, as once I glided over the Dutch canals, smoothly and noiselessly.
It is as though I were once more on board the _Treckschute_. Scarcely
can one hear even the soft ripple of the water furrowed by the barge,
or the hoof of the towing horse trotting along the sandy path. A journey
under these conditions has something fantastic in it. One is not
sure whether one still exists, still belongs to earth. It is like the
_manes_, the shadows, flitting through the twilight of the _inania
regna_. Existence has become fluid. From the standpoint of complete
personal renunciation I watch the passage of my impressions, my dreams,
thoughts, and memories.... It is a mood of fixed contemplation akin to
that which we attribute to the seraphim. It takes no interest in the
individual self, but only in the specimen monad, the sample of
the general history of mind. Everything is in everything, and the
consciousness examines what it has before it. Nothing is either great or
small. The mind adopts all modes, and everything is acceptable to it. In
this state its relations with the body, with the outer world, and with
other individuals, fade out of sight. _Selbst-bewusstsein_ becomes once
more impersonal _Bewusstsein_, and before personality can be reacquired,
pain, duty, and will must be brought into action.

Are these oscillations between the personal and the impersonal, between
pantheism and theism, between Spinoza and Leibnitz, to be regretted? No,
for it is the one state which makes us conscious of the other. And
as man is capable of ranging the two domains, why should he mutilate

February 22, 1881.--The march of mind finds its typical expression in
astronomy--no pause, but no hurry; orbits, cycles, energy, but at the
same time harmony; movement and yet order; everything has its own weight
and its relative weight, receives and gives forth light. Cannot this
cosmic and divine become oars? Is the war of all against all, the
preying of man upon man, a higher type of balanced action? I shrink form
believing it. Some theorists imagine that the phase of selfish brutality
is the last phase of all. They must be wrong. Justice will prevail, and
justice is not selfishness. Independence of intellect, combined with
goodness of heart, will be the agents of a result, which will be the
compromise required.

March 1, 1881.--I have just been glancing over the affairs of the world
in the newspaper. What a Babel it is! But it is very pleasant to be able
to make the tour of the planet and review the human race in an hour. It
gives one a sense of ubiquity. A newspaper in the twentieth century
will be composed of eight or ten daily bulletins--political, religious,
scientific, literary, artistic, commercial, meteorological, military,
economical, social, legal, and financial; and will be divided into two
parts only--_Urbs_ and _Orbis_. The need of totalizing, of simplifying,
will bring about the general use of such graphic methods as permit of
series and comparisons. We shall end by feeling the pulse of the race
and the globe as easily as that of a sick man, and we shall count the
palpitations of the universal life, just as we shall hear the grass
growing, or the sunspots clashing, and catch the first stirrings of
volcanic disturbances. Activity will become consciousness; the earth
will see herself. Then will be the time for her to blush for her
disorders, her hideousness, her misery, her crime and to throw herself
at last with energy and perseverance into the pursuit of justice. When
humanity has cut its wisdom-teeth, then perhaps it will have the grace
to reform itself, and the will to attempt a systematic reduction of the
share of the evil in the world. The _Weltgeist_ will pass from the state
of instinct to the moral state. War, hatred, selfishness, fraud, the
right of the stronger, will be held to be old-world barbarisms, mere
diseases of growth. The pretenses of modern civilization will be
replaced by real virtues. Men will be brothers, peoples will be friends,
races will sympathize one with another, and mankind will draw from love
a principle of emulation, of invention, and of zeal, as powerful as any
furnished by the vulgar stimulant of interest. This millennium--will it
ever be? It is at least an act of piety to believe in it.

March 14, 1881.--I have finished Mérimée’s letters to Panizzi. Mérimée
died of the disease which torments me--“_Je tousse, et j’étouffe_.”
 Bronchitis and asthma, whence defective assimilation, and finally
exhaustion. He, too, tried arsenic, wintering at Cannes, compressed air.
All was useless. Suffocation and inanition carried off the author of
“Colomba.” _Hic tua res agitur_. The gray, heavy sky is of the same
color as my thoughts. And yet the irrevocable has its own sweetness and
serenity. The fluctuations of illusion, the uncertainties of desire, the
leaps and bounds of hope, give place to tranquil resignation. One feels
as though one were already beyond the grave. It is this very week,
too, I remember, that my corner of ground in the Oasis is to be bought.
Everything draws toward the end. _Festinat ad eventum_.

March 15, 1881.--The “Journal” is full of details of the horrible affair
at Petersburg. How clear it is that such catastrophes as this, in
which the innocent suffer, are the product of a long accumulation of
iniquities. Historical justice is, generally speaking, tardy--so tardy
that it becomes unjust. The Providential theory is really based on human
solidarity. Louis XVI. pays for Louis XV., Alexander II. for Nicholas.
We expiate the sins of our fathers, and our grandchildren will be
punished for ours. A double injustice! cries the individual. And he is
right if the individualist principle is true. But is it true? That is
the point. It seems as though the individual part of each man’s destiny
were but one section of that destiny. Morally we are responsible
for what we ourselves have willed, but socially, our happiness
and unhappiness depend on causes outside our will. Religion
answers--“Mystery, obscurity, submission, faith. Do your duty; leave the
rest to God.”

March 16, 1881.--A wretched night. A melancholy morning.... The two
stand-bys of the doctor, digitalis and bromide, seem to have lost their
power over me. Wearily and painfully I watch the tedious progress of
my own decay. What efforts to keep one’s self from dying! I am worn out
with the struggle.

Useless and incessant struggle is a humiliation to one’s manhood. The
lion finds the gnat the most intolerable of his foes. The natural
man feels the same. But the spiritual man must learn the lesson of
gentleness and long-suffering. The inevitable is the will of God. We
might have preferred something else, but it is our business to accept
the lot assigned us.... One thing only is necessary--

  “Garde en mon coeur la foi dans ta volonté sainte,
  Et de moi fais, ô Dieu, tout ce que tu voudras.”

_Later_.--One of my students has just brought me a sympathetic message
from my class. My sister sends me a pot of azaleas, rich in flowers and
buds;----sends roses and violets: every one spoils me, which proves that
I am ill.

March 19, 1881.--Distaste--discouragement. My heart is growing cold.
And yet what affectionate care, what tenderness, surrounds me!... But
without health, what can one do with all the rest? What is the good
of it all to me? What was the good of Job’s trials? They ripened his
patience; they exercised his submission.

Come, let me forget myself, let me shake off this melancholy, this
weariness. Let me think, not of all that is lost, but of all that I
might still lose. I will reckon up my privileges; I will try to be
worthy of my blessings.

March 21, 1881.--This invalid life is too Epicurean. For five or six
weeks now I have done nothing else but wait, nurse myself, and amuse
myself, and how weary one gets of it! What I want is work. It is work
which gives flavor to life. Mere existence without object and without
effort is a poor thing. Idleness leads to languor, and languor to
disgust. Besides, here is the spring again, the season of vague desires,
of dull discomforts, of dim aspirations, of sighs without a cause. We
dream wide-awake. We search darkly for we know not what; invoking the
while something which has no name, unless it be happiness or death.

March 28, 1881.--I cannot work; I find it difficult to exist. One may
be glad to let one’s friends spoil one for a few months; it is an
experience which is good for us all; but afterward? How much better to
make room for the living, the active, the productive.

  “Tircis, voici le temps de prendre sa retraite.”

Is it that I care so much to go on living? I think not. It is health
that I long for--freedom from suffering.

And this desire being vain, I can find no savor in anything else.
Satiety. Lassitude. Renunciation. Abdication. “In your patience possess
ye your souls.”

April 10, 1881. (_Sunday_).--Visit to ----. She read over to me letters
of 1844 to 1845--letters of mine. So much promise to end in so meager
a result! What creatures we are! I shall end like the Rhine, lost among
the sands, and the hour is close by when my thread of water will have

Afterward I had a little walk in the sunset. There was an effect of
scattered rays and stormy clouds; a green haze envelops all the trees--

  “Et tout renaît, et déjà l’aubépine
  A vu l’abeille accourir à ses fleurs,”
 --but to me it all seems strange already.

_Later_.--What dupes we are of our own desires!... Destiny has two ways
of crushing us--by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them. But he
who only wills what God wills escapes both catastrophes. “All things
work together for his good.”

April 14, 1881.--Frightful night; the fourteenth running, in which I
have been consumed by sleeplessness....

April 15, 1881.--To-morrow is Good Friday, the festival of pain. I know
what it is to spend days of anguish and nights of agony. Let me bear my
cross humbly.... I have no more future. My duty is to satisfy the claims
of the present, and to leave everything in order. Let me try to end
well, seeing that to undertake and even to continue, are closed to me.

April 19, 1881.--A terrible sense of oppression. My flesh and my heart
fail me.

  “Que vivre est difficile, ô mon coeur fatigué!”

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