This is part one of a twelve-part series.
Read part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here,
part six here, part seven here, part eight here, part nine here,
part ten here, part eleven here, and part twelve here.
Mr. Hawthorne’s note-books, comprising several volumes of closely written memoranda, were found in his study after his decease. Extracts from these interesting pages will from time to time be printed in this magazine, just as he left them. They are the records of his every-day life, and as such will be welcome to all who appreciate his genius and love his memory.
Salem, June 15, 1835. — A walk down to the Juniper. The shore of the coves strewn with bunches of sea-weed, driven in by recent winds. Eel-grass, rolled and bundled up, and entangled with it, — large marine vegetables, of an olive color, with round, slender, snake-like stalks, four or five feet long, and nearly two feet broad: these are the herbage of the deep sea. Shoals of fishes, at a little distance from the shore, discernible by their fins out of water. Among the heaps of seaweed there were sometimes small pieces of painted wood, bark, and other driftage. On the shore, with pebbles of granite, there were round or oval pieces of brick, which the waves bad rolled about, till they resembled a natural mineral. Huge stones tossed about, in every variety of confusion, some shagged all over with sea-weed, others only partly covered, others bare. The old ten-gun battery, at the outer angle of the Juniper, very verdant, and besprinkled with white-weed, clover, and buttercups. The juniper-trees are very aged and decayed and moss-grown. The grass about the hospital is rank, being trodden, probably, by nobody but myself. There is a representation of a vessel under sail, cut with a penknife, on the corner of the house.
Returning by the almshouse, I stopped a good while to look at the pigs, — a great herd, — who seemed to be just finishing their suppers. They certainly are types of unmitigated sensuality, — some standing in the trough, in the midst of their own and others victuals, — some thrusting their noses deep into the food, — some rubbing their backs against a post, — some huddled together between sleeping and waking, breathing hard, — all wallowing about; a great boar swaggering round, and a big sow waddling along with her huge paunch. Notwithstanding the unspeakable defilement with which these strange sensualists spice all their food, they seem to have a quick and delicate sense of smell. What ridiculous-looking animals! Swift himself could not have imagined anything nastier than what they practise by the mere impulse of natural genius. Yet the Shakers keep their pigs very clean, and with great advantage. The legion of devils in the herd of swine, — what a scene it must have been
Sunday evening, going by the jail, the setting sun kindled up the windows most cheerfully; as if there were a bright, comfortable light within its dark-some stone wall.
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June 18. — A walk in North Salem in the decline of yesterday afternoon, — beautiful weather, bright, sunny, with a western or northwestern wind just cool enough, and a slight superfluity of heat. The verdure, both of trees and grass, is now in its prime, the leaves elastic, all life. The grass-fields are plenteously bestrewn with white-weed, large spaces looking as white as a sheet of snow, at a distance, yet with an indescribably warmer tinge than snow, — living white, intermixed with living green. The hills and hollows beyond the Cold Spring copiously shaded, principally with oaks of good growth, and some walnut-trees, with the rich sun brightening in the midst of the open spaces, and mellowing and fading into the shade, — and single trees, with their cool spot of shade in the waste of sun: quite a picture of beauty, gently picturesque. The surface of the land is so varied, with woodland mingled, that the eye cannot reach far away, except now and then in vistas perhaps across the river, showing houses, or a church and surrounding village, in Upper Beverly. In one of the sunny bits of pasture, walled irregularly in with oak-shade, I saw a gray mare feeding, and, as I drew near, a colt sprang up from amid the grass, — a very small colt. He looked me in the face, and I tried to startle him, so as to make him gallop; but he stretched his long legs, one after another, walked quietly to his mother, and began to suck, — just wetting his lips, not being very hungry. Then he rubbed his head, alternately, with each hind leg. He was a graceful little beast.
I bathed in the cove, overhung with maples and walnuts, the water cool and thrilling. At a distance it sparkled bright and blue in the breeze and sun. There were jelly-fish swimming about, and several left to melt away on the shore. On the shore, sprouting amongst the sand and gravel, I found samphire, growing somewhat like asparagus. It is an excellent salad at this season, salt, yet with an herb-like vivacity, and very tender. I strolled slowly through the pastures, watching my long shadow making grave, fantastic gestures in the sun. It is a pretty sight to see the sunshine brightening the entrance of a road which shortly becomes deeply overshadowed by trees on both sides. At the Cold Spring, three little girls, from six to nine, were seated on the stones in which the fountain is set, and paddling in the water. It was a pretty picture, and would have been prettier, if they had shown bare little legs, instead of pantalets. Very large trees overhung them, and the sun was so nearly gone down that a pleasant gloom made the spot sombre, in contrast with these light and laughing little figures. On perceiving me, they rose up, tittering among themselves. It seemed that there was a sort of playful malice in those who first saw me; for they allowed the other to keep on paddling, without warning her of my approach. I passed along, and heard them come chattering behind.
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June 22. — I rode to Boston in the afternoon with Mr. Proctor. It was a coolish day, with clouds and intermitting sun shine, and a pretty fresh breeze. We stopped about an hour at the Maverick House, in the sprouting branch of the city, at East Boston, — a stylish house, with doors painted in imitation of oak; a large bar; bells ringing; the bar-keeper calls out, when a bell rings, “Number —”; then a waiter replies, Number — answered”; and scampers up stairs. A ticket is given by the hostler, on taking the horse and chaise, which is returned to the bar-keeper when the chaise is wanted. The land-lord was fashionably dressed, with the whitest of linen, neatly plaited, and as courteous as a Lord Chamberlain. Visitors from Boston thronging the house, — some standing at the bar, watching the process of preparing tumblers of punch, — others sitting at the windows of different parlors, — some with faces flushed, puffing cigars. The bill of fare for the day was stuck up beside the bar. Opposite this principal hotel there was another, called “The Mechanics.” which seemed to be equally thronged. I suspect that the company were about on a par in each; for at the Maverick House, though well dressed, they seemed to be merely Sunday gentlemen, — mostly young fellows, — clerks in dry-goods stores being the aristocracy of them. One, very fashionable in appearance, with a handsome cane, happened to stop by me and lift up his foot, and I noticed that the sole of his boot (which was exquisitely polished) was all worn out. I apprehend that some such minor deficiencies might have been detected in the general showiness of most of them. There were girls, too, but not pretty ones, nor, on the whole, such good imitations of gentility as the young men. There were as many people as are usually collected at a muster, or on similar occasions, lounging about, without any apparent enjoyment; but the observation of this may serve me to make a sketch of the mode of spending the Sabbath by the majority of unmarried, young, middling-class people, near a great town. Most of the people had smart canes and bosom-pins.
Crossing the ferry into Boston, we went to the City Tavern, where the bar-room presented a Sabbath scene of repose, — stage-folk lounging in chairs, half asleep, smoking cigars, generally with clean linen and other niceties of apparel, to mark the day. The doors and blinds of an oyster and refreshment shop across the street were closed, but I saw people enter it. There were two owls in a back court, visible through a window of the bar-room, — speckled-gray, with dark-blue eyes, — the queerest-looking birds that exist, — so solemn and wise, — dozing away the day, much like the rest of the people, only that they looked wiser than any others. Their hooked beaks looked like hooked noses. A dull scene this. A stranger, here and there, poring over a newspaper. Many of the stage-folk sitting in chairs on the pavement, in front of the door.
We went to the top of the hill which formed part of Gardiner Greene’s estate, and which is now in the process of levelling, and pretty much taken away, except the highest point, and a narrow path to ascend to it. It gives an admirable view of the city, being almost as high as the steeples and the dome of the State House, and overlooking the whole mass of brick buildings and slated roofs, with glimpses of streets far below. It was really a pity to take it down. I noticed the stump of a very large elm, recently felled. No house in the city could have reared its roof so high as the roots of that tree, if indeed the church-spires did so.
On our drive home we passed through Charlestown. Stages in abundance were passing the road, burdened with passengers inside and out; also chaises and barouches, horsemen and footmen. We are a community of Sabbath-breakers!
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August 31. A drive to Nahant yesterday afternoon. Stopped at Rice’s, and afterwards walked down to the steamboat wharf to see the passengers land. It is strange how few good faces there are in the world, comparatively to the ugly ones. Scarcely a single comely one in all this collection. Then to the hotel. Barouches at the doors, and gentlemen and ladies going to drive, and gentlemen smoking round the piazza. The bar-keeper had one of Benton’s mint-drops for a bosom-brooch! It made a very handsome one. I crossed the beach for home about sunset. The tide was so far down as just to give me a passage on the hard sand, between the sea and the loose gravel. The sea was calm and smooth, with only the surf-waves whitening along the beach. Several ladies and gentlemen on horseback were cantering and galloping before and behind me.
A hint of a story, — some incident which should bring on a general war; and the chief actor in the incident to have something corresponding to the mischief he had caused.
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1835, September 7. — A drive to Ipswich with B——. At the tavern was an old, fat, country major, and another old fellow, laughing and playing off jokes on each other, — one tying a ribbon upon the other’s hat. One had been a trumpeter to the major’s troop. Walking about town, we knocked, for a whim, at the door of a dark old house, and inquired if Miss Hannah Lord lived there. A woman of about thirty came to the door, with rather a confused smile, and a disorder about the bosom of her dress, as if she had been disturbed while nursing her child. She answered us with great kindness.
Entering the burial-ground, where some masons were building a tomb, we found a good many old monuments, and several covered with slabs of red free-stone or slate, and with arms sculptured on the slab, or an inlaid circle of slate. On one slate grave-stone, of the Rev. Nathl. Rogers, there was a portrait of that worthy, about a third of the size of life, carved in relief, with his cloak, band, and wig, in excellent preservation, all the buttons of his waistcoat being cut with great minuteness, — the minister’s nose being on a level with his cheeks. It was an upright grave-stone. Returning home, I held a colloquy with a young girl about the right road. She had come out to feed a pig, and was confused, and also a little suspicious that we were making fun of her, yet answered us with a shy laugh and good-nature, — the pig all the time squealing for his dinner.
Displayed along the walls, and suspended from the pillars or the original King’s Chapel, were coats-of-arms of the king, the successive governors, and other distinguished men. In the pulpit there was an hour-glass on a large and elaborate brass stand. The organ was surmounted by a gilt crown in the centre, supported by a gilt mitre on each side. The governors pew had Corinthian pillars, and crimson damask tapestry. In 1727 it was lined with china, probably tiles.
Saint Augustin, at mass, charged all that were accursed to go out of the church. “Then a dead body arose, and went out of the church into the churchyard, with a white cloth on its head, and stood there till mass was over. It was a former lord of the manor, whom a curate had cursed because he refused to pay his tithes. A justice also commanded the dead curate to arise, and gave him a rod; and the dead lord, kneeling, received penance thereby.” He then ordered the lord to go again to his grave, which he did, and fell immediately to ashes. Saint Augustin offered to pray for the curate, that he might remain on earth to confirm men in their belief; but the curate refused, because he was in the place of rest.
A sketch to be given of a modern reformer, — a type of the extreme doctrines on the subject of slaves, cold water, and other such topics. He goes about the streets haranguing most eloquently, and is on the point of making many converts, when his labors are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of the keeper of a mad-house, whence he has escaped. Much may be made of this idea.
The world is so sad and solemn; that things meant in jest are liable, by an overpowering influence, to become dreadful earnest, — gayly dressed fantasies turning to ghostly and black-clad images of themselves.
A story, the hero of which is to be represented as naturally capable of deep and strong passion, and looking forward to the time when he shall feel passionate love, which is to be the great event of his existence. But it so chances that he never falls in love; and although he gives up the expectation of so doing, and marries calmly, yet it is somewhat sadly, with sentiments merely of esteem for his bride. The lady might be one who had loved him early in life, but whom then, in his expectation of passionate love, he had scorned.
The scene of a story or sketch to be laid within the light of a street-lantern the time, when the lamp is near going out; and the catastrophe to be simultaneous with the last flickering gleam.
The peculiar weariness and depression of spirits which is felt after a day wasted in turning over a magazine or other light miscellany, different from the state of the mind after severe study; because there has been no excitement, no difficulties to be overcome, but the spirits have evaporated insensibly.
To represent the process by which sober truth gradually strips off all the beautiful draperies with which imagination has enveloped a beloved object, till from an angel she turns out to be a merely ordinary woman. This to be done without caricature, perhaps with a quiet humor interfused, but the prevailing impression to be a sad one. The story might consist of the various alterations in the feelings of the absent lover, caused by successive events that display the true character of his mistress; and the catastrophe should take place at their meeting, when he finds himself equally disappointed in her person; or the whole spirit of the thing may here be reproduced.
Last evening, from the opposite shore of the North River, a view of the town mirrored in the water, which was as smooth as glass, with no perceptible tide or agitation, except a trifling swell and reflux on the sand, although the shadow of the moon danced in it. The picture of the town perfect in the water, — towers of churches, houses, with here and there a light gleaming near the shore above, and more faintly glimmering under water, — all perfect, but somewhat more hazy and indistinct than the reality. There were many clouds flitting about the sky; and the picture of each could be traced in the water, — the ghost of what was itself unsubstantial. The rattling of wheels heard long and far through the town. Voices of people talking on the other side of the river, the tones being so distinguishable in all their variations that it seemed as if what was there said might be understood; but it was not so.
Two persons might be bitter enemies through life, and mutually cause the ruin of one another, and of all that were dear to them. Finally, meeting at the funeral of a grandchild, the offspring of a son and daughter married without their consent, — and who, as well as the child, had been the victims of their hatred, — they might discover that the supposed ground of the quarrel was altogether a mistake, and then be wofully reconciled.
Two persons, by mutual agreement, to make their wills in each other’s favor, then to wait impatiently for one another’s death, and both to be informed of the desired event at the same time. Both, in most joyous sorrow, hasten to be present at the funeral, meet, and find themselves both hoaxed.
The story of a man, cold and hard-hearted, and acknowledging no brotherhood with mankind. At his death they might try to dig him a grave, but, at a little space beneath the ground, strike upon a rock, as if the earth refused to receive the unnatural son into her bosom. Then they would put him into an old sepulchre, where the coffins and corpses were all turned to dust, and so he would be alone. Then the body would petrify; and he having died in some characteristic act and expression, he would seem, through endless ages of death, to repel society as in life, and no one would be buried in that tomb forever.
Cannon transformed to church-bells.
A scold and a blockhead, — brimstone and wood, — a good match.
To make one’s own reflection in a mirror the subject of a story.
In a dream to wander to some place where may be heard the complaints of all the miserable on earth.
Some common quality or circumstance that should bring together people the most unlike in all other respects, and make a brotherhood and sisterhood of them, — the rich and the proud finding themselves in the same category with the mean and the despised.
A person to consider himself as the prime mover of certain remarkable events, but to discover that his actions have not contributed in the least there-to. Another person to be the cause, without suspecting it.
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October 25, 1835. — A person or family long desires some particular good. At last it comes in such profusion as to be the great pest of their lives.
A man, perhaps with a persuasion that he shall make his fortune by some singular means, and with an eager longing so to do, while digging or boring for water, to strike upon a salt-spring.
To have one event operate in several places, — as, for example, if a man’s head were to be cut off in one town, men’s heads to drop off in several towns.
Follow out the fantasy of a man taking his life by instalments, instead of at one payment, — say ten years of life alternately with ten years of suspended animation.
Sentiments in a foreign language, which merely convey the sentiment, without retaining to the reader any graces of style or harmony of sound, have somewhat of the charm of thoughts in one’s own mind that have not yet been put into words. No possible words that we might adapt to them could realize the unshaped beauty that they appear to possess. This is the reason that translations are never satisfactory, — and less so, I should think, to one who cannot than to one who can pronounce the language.
A person to be writing a tale, and to find that it shapes itself against his intentions; that the characters act otherwise than he thought; that unforeseen events occur; and a catastrophe comes which he strives in vain to avert. It might shadow forth his own fate, — he having made himself one of the personages.
It is a singular thing, that at the distance, say, of five feet, the work of the greatest dunce looks just as well as that of the greatest genius, that little space being all the distance between genius and stupidity.
Mrs. Sigourney says, after Coleridge, that “poetry has been its own exceeding great reward.” For the writing, perhaps; but would it be so for the reading?
Four precepts: To break off customs; to shake off spirits ill-disposed; to meditate on youth; to do nothing against one’s genius.
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Salem, August, 1836. — A walk, yesterday, down to the shore, near the hospital. Standing on the old grassy battery, that forms a semicircle, and looking seaward. The sun not a great way above the horizon, yet so far as to give a very golden brightness, when it shone out. Clouds in the vicinity of the sun, and nearly all the rest of the sky covered with clouds in masses, not a gray uniformity of cloud. A fresh breeze blowing from land seaward. If it had been blowing from the sea, it would have raised it in heavy billows, and caused it to dash high against the rocks. But now its surface was not at all commoved with billows; there was only roughness enough to take off the gleam, and give it the aspect of iron after cooling. The clouds above added to the black appearance. A few sea-birds were flitting over the water, only visible at moments, when they turned their white bosoms towards me, — as if they were then first created. The sunshine had a singular effect. The clouds would interpose in such a manner that some objects were shaded from it, while others were strongly illuminated. Some of the islands lay in the shade, dark and gloomy, while others were bright and favored spots. The white light-house sometimes very cheerfully marked. There was a schooner about a mile from the shore, at anchor, laden apparently with lumber. The sea all about her had the black, iron aspect which I have described; but the vessel herself was alight. Hull, masts, and spars were all gilded, and the rigging as made of golden threads. A small, white streak of foam breaking around the bows, which were towards the wind. The shadowiness of the clouds overhead made the effect of the sunlight strange, where it fell.
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September. — The elm-trees have golden branches intermingled with their green already, and so they had on the first of the month.
To picture the predicament of worldly people, if admitted to paradise.
As the architecture of a country always follows the earliest structures, American architecture should be a refinement of the log-house. The Egyptian is so of the cavern and mound; the Chinese, of the tent; the Gothic, of overarching trees; the Greek, of a cabin.
“Though we speak nonsense, God will pick out the meaning of it,” — an extempore prayer by a New England divine.
In old times it must have been much less customary than now to drink pure water. Walker emphatically mentions, among the sufferings of a clergyman’s wife and family in the Great Rebellion, that they were forced to drink water with crab-apples stamped in it to relish it.
Mr. Kirby, author of a work on the History, Habits, and Instincts of Animals, questions whether there may not be an abyss of waters within the globe, communicating with the ocean, and whether the huge animals of the Saurian tribe—great reptiles, supposed to be exclusively antediluvian, and now extinct—may not be inhabitants of it. He quotes a passage from Revelation, where the creatures under the earth are spoken of as distinct from those of the sea, and speaks of a Saurian fossil that has been found deep in the subterranean regions. He thinks, or suggests, that these may be the dragons of Scripture.
The elephant is not particularly sagacious in the wild state, but becomes so when tamed. The fox directly the contrary, and likewise the wolf.
A modern Jewish adage, — “Let a man clothe himself beneath his ability, his children according to his ability, and his wife above his ability.”
It is said of the eagle, that, in however long a flight, he is never seen to clap his wings to his sides. He seems to govern his movements by the inclination of his wings and tail to the wind, as a ship is propelled by the action of the wind on her sails.
In old country-houses in England, instead of glass for windows, they used wicker, or fine strips of oak disposed checkerwise. Horn was also used. The windows of princes and great noblemen of crystal; those of Studley Castle, Holinshed says, of beryl. There were seldom chimneys; and they cooked their meats by a fire made against an iron back in the great hall. Houses, often of gentry, were built of a heavy timber frame, filled up with lath and plaster. People slept on rough mats or straw pallets, with a round log for a pillow; seldom better beds than a mattress, with a sack of chaff for a pillow.
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October 25, 1836. — A walk yesterday through Dark Lane, and home through the village of Danvers. Landscape now wholly autumnal. Saw an elderly man laden with two dry, yellow, rustling bundles of Indian corn-stalks, — a good personification of Autumn. Another man hoeing up potatoes. White rows of cabbages lay ripening. Fields of dry Indian corn. The grass has still considerable greenness. Wild rose-bushes devoid of leaves, with their deep, bright red seed-vessels. Meeting-house in Danvers seen at a distance, with the sun shining through the windows of its belfry. Barberry-bushes, — the leaves now of a brown red, still juicy and healthy; very few berries remaining, mostly frost-bitten and wilted. All among the yet green grass, dry stalks of weeds. The down of thistles occasionally seen flying through the sunny air.
In this dismal chamber FAME was won. (Salem, Union Street.)
Those who are very difficult in choosing wives seem as if they would take none of Natures ready-made works, but want a woman manufactured particularly to their order.
A council of the passengers in a street: called by somebody to decide upon some points important to him.
All sorts of persons, and every individual, has a place to fill in the world, and is important in some respects, whether he chooses to be so or not.
A Thanksgiving dinner. All the miserable on earth are to be invited, — as the drunkard, the bereaved parent, the ruined merchant, the broken-hearted lover, the poor widow, the old man and woman who have outlived their generation, the disappointed author, the wounded, sick, and broken soldier, the diseased person, the infidel, the man with an evil conscience, little orphan children, or children of neglectful parents, shall be admitted to the table, and many others. The giver of the feast goes out to deliver his invitations. Some of the guests he meets in the streets, some he knocks for at the doors of their houses. The description must be rapid. But who must be the giver of the feast, and what his claims to preside? A man who has never found out what he is fit for, who has unsettled aims or objects in life, and whose mind gnaws him, making him the sufferer of many kinds of misery. He should meet some pious, old, sorrowful person, with more outward calamities than any other, and invite him with a reflection that piety would make all that miserable company truly thankful.
Merry, in merry England, does not mean mirthful; but is corrupted from an old Teutonic word signifying famous or renowned.
In an old London newspaper, 1678, there is an advertisement, among other goods at auction, of a black girl of about fifteen years old, to be sold.
We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream: it may be so the moment after death.
The race of mankind to be swept away, leaving all their cities and works. Then another human pair to be placed in the world, with native intelligence like Adam and Eve, but knowing nothing of their predecessors or of their own nature and destiny. They, perhaps, to be described as working out this knowledge by their sympathy with what they saw, and by their own feelings.
Memorials of the family of Hawthorne in the church of the village of Dundry, Somersetshire, England. The church is ancient and small, and has a prodigiously high tower of more modern date, being erected in the time of Edward IV. It serves as a landmark for an amazing extent of country.
A singular fact, that, when man is a brute, he is the most sensual and loathsome of all brutes.
A snake, taken into a man’s stomach and nourished there from fifteen years to thirty-five, tormenting him most horribly. A type of envy or some other evil passion.
A sketch illustrating the imperfect compensations which time makes for its devastations on the person, — giving a wreath of laurel while it causes baldness, honors for infirmities, wealth for a broken constitution, — and at last, when a man has everything that seems desirable, death seizes him. To contrast the man who has thus reached the summit of ambition with the ambitious youth.
Walking along the track of the railroad, I observed a place where the workmen had bored a hole through the solid rock, in order to blast it; but striking a spring of water beneath the rock, it gushed up through the hole. It looked as if the water were contained within the rock.
A Fancy Ball, in which the prominent American writers should appear, dressed in character.
A lament for life’s wasted sunshine.
A new classification of society to be instituted. Instead of rich and poor, high and low, they are to be classed, — First, by their sorrows: for instance, whenever there are any, whether in fair mansion or hovel, who are mourning the loss of relations and friends, and who wear black, whether the cloth be coarse or superfine, they are to make one class. Secondly, all who have the same mala dies, whether they lie under damask canopies or on straw pallets or in the wards of hospitals, they are to form one class. Thirdly, all who are guilty of the same sins, whether the world knows them or not; whether they languish in prison, looking forward to the gallows, or walk honored among men, they also form a class. Then proceed to generalize and classify the whole world together, as none can claim utter exemption from either sorrow, sin, or disease; and if they could, yet Death, like a great parent, comes and sweeps them all through one darksome portal, — all his children.
Fortune to come like a peddler with his goods, — as wreaths of laurel, diamonds, crowns; selling them, but asking for them the sacrifice of health, of integrity, perhaps of life in the battlefield, and of the real pleasures of existence. Who would buy, if the price were to be paid down?
The dying exclamation of the Emperor Augustus, “Has it not been well acted?” An essay on the misery of being always under a mask. A veil may be needful, but never a mask. Instances of people who wear masks in all classes of society, and never take them off even in the most familiar moments, though sometimes they may chance to slip aside.
The various guises under which Ruin makes his approaches to his victims: to the merchant, in the guise of a merchant offering speculations; to the young heir, a jolly companion; to the maiden, a sighing, sentimentalist lover.
What were the contents of the burden of Christian in the Pilgrims Progress? He must have been taken for a peddler travelling with his pack.
To think, as the sun goes down, what events have happened in the course of the day, — events of ordinary occurrence: as, the clocks have struck, the dead have been buried.
Curious to imagine what murmurings and discontent would be excited, if any of the great so-called calamities of human beings were to be abolished, — as, for instance, death.
Trifles to one are matters of life and death to another. As, for instance, a farmer desires a brisk breeze to winnow his grain; and mariners, to blow them out of the reach of pirates.
A recluse, like myself, or a prisoner, to measure time by the progress of sunshine through his chamber.
Would it not be wiser for people to rejoice at all that they now sorrow for, and vice versâ? To put on bridal garments at funerals, and mourning at weddings? For their friends to condole with them when they attained riches and honor, as only so much care added?
If in a village it were a custom to hang a funeral garland or other token of death on a house where some one had died, and there to let it remain till a death occurred elsewhere, and then to hang that same garland over the other house, it would have, methinks, a strong effect.
No fountain so small but that Heaven may be imaged in its bosom.
Fame! Some very humble persons in a town may be said to possess it, — as, the penny-post, the town-crier, the constable, — and they are known to everybody; while many richer, more intellectual, worthier persons are unknown by the majority of their fellow-citizens. Something analogous in the world at large.
The ideas of people in general are not raised higher than the roofs of the houses. All their interests extend over the earth’s surface in a layer of that thickness. The meeting-house steeple reaches out of their sphere.
Nobody will use other people’s experience, nor has any of his own till it is too late to use it.
Two lovers to plan the building of a pleasure-house on a certain spot of ground, but various seeming accidents prevent it. Once they find a group of miserable children there; once it is the scene where crime is plotted; at last the dead body of one of the lovers or of a dear friend is found there; and instead of a pleasure-house, they build a marble tomb. The moral, — that there is no place on earth fit for the site of a pleasure-house, because there is no spot that may not have been saddened by human grief, stained by crime, or hallowed by death. It might be three friends who plan it, instead of two lovers; and the dearest one dies.
Comfort for childless people. A married couple with ten children have been the means of bringing about ten funerals.
A blind man, on a dark night, carried a torch, in order that people might see him and not run against him, and direct him how to avoid dangers.
To picture a child’s (one of four or five years old) reminiscences at sunset of a long summers day, — his first awakening, his studies, his sports, his little fits of passion, perhaps a whipping, etc.
The blind man’s walk.
To picture a virtuous family, the different members examples of virtuous dispositions in their way; then introduce a vicious person, and trace out the relations that arise between him and them, and the manner in which all are affected.
A man to flatter himself with the idea that he would not be guilty of some certain wickedness, — as, for instance, to yield to the personal temptations of the Devil, — yet to find, ultimately, that he was at that very time committing that same wickedness.
What would a man do, if he were compelled to live always in the sultry heat of society, and could never bathe himself in cool solitude?
A girl’s lover to be slain and buried in her flower-garden, and the earth levelled over him. That particular spot, which she happens to plant with some peculiar variety of flowers, produces them of admirable splendor, beauty, and perfume; and she delights, with an indescribable impulse, to wear them in her bosom, and scent her chamber with them. Thus the classic fantasy would be realized, of dead people transformed to flowers.
Objects seen by a magic-lantern reversed. A street, or other location, might be presented, where there would be opportunity to bring forward all objects of worldly interest, and thus much pleasant satire might be the result.
This is part one of a twelve-part series.
Read part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here,
part six here, part seven here, part eight here, part nine here,
part ten here, part eleven here, and part twelve here.
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