Amiel in Nebraska: Letters Newly Discovered and Translated

MARCH, 1921

BY JOHN SHERIDAN ZELIE

[THE translator of these letters sends us these particulars concerning the person to whom they were addressed. Edward Lyanna, a cousin of Henri Frédéric Amiel, was born in Geneva, where he learned the printing and book-binding trades. Having little hope of advancement at home, he started for America in 1850, and in Paris learned of the communistic society, called lcaria, being formed by a certain M. Cabet, to settle at Nauvoo, Illinois. For the privilege of joining, young Lyanna paid $100; but five years later he relincpnslied his membership, and received from the management $20 — the fruit of his labors in America up to that time. In 1856 he took up newspaper work, and eventually preëmpted a farm at Stella, Nebraska, where he died in December, 1912. These letters—part of a correspondence maintained from 1850 to 1881 — are printed with the approval of the surviving members of Mr. Lyanna’s family. — THE EDITOR.]

GENEVA, October 9, 1850.
MY DEAR EDWARD,—
You have no doubt been expecting this letter a long while: but be assured that its late arrival is not due to indifference. Your long and interesting letter 289. of July 27, which reached me in forty-one days, has gone unanswered for two months simply because I have been ill and so beset with cares that, though I had not forgotten you, I had no heart to write. To-night, however, having a little leisure, it is a pleasure to fulfil this long-delayed duty.
And so, my friend, you are really an Icarian? Surely, of all the adventures which an emigrant could have, yours is about the last one would think of, and your letter has given me a real sensation; for though recluses like us do study the works of contemporary reformers, we treat them as if they were historical characters; and when we run upon them eating and drinking and taking part in active life, it is like meeting an apparition.
But your letter was as instructive as it was surprising, for we know very little about these different colonizing schemes in America; and your detailed descriptions, written on the spot by a disinterested observer, make pleasant reading. You have not only kept your eyes open, but you have also expressed yourself with precision. Moreover, by enlightening me on some of these little-known affairs, you have given me the chance to undo an injustice; for the press had never made me look upon M. Cabet as a constructive genius, and so I was unconsciously doing him a wrong, as your letter has made me realize.
But let me drop your letter for the moment and talk about yourself. You wish to know what I think about the course you have taken. Here it is: —
Any conscientious experiment is a good thing; but to risk everything on one card does look to me like an imprudence. In other words, while I do not disapprove your making a trial of this thing, I do think it is a mistake that you have made it final, — burning your ships, — and have left open no retreat in the event of failure.
Here are ray reasons for thinking so. I have no prejudice against these new schemes; on the contrary, I feel a great deal of sympathy toward all generous efforts, all hopes, all sincere plans such as yours. But when the success of them is doubtful, I do not like to see the destiny of my friends involved in them. I wish to see the experiment tried, but not at their expense.
You will probably say: ‘The success of the community is not in doubt. I have looked into it thoroughly and am convinced about it. What is more, it works, it lias been successful, it has property and capital enough to guarantee its future; and it lays claim to the rights and privileges of the American middle class. Are not these certainties?’
Call them favorable probabilities and I will agree with you. It is true you have seen, but have you foreseen? I have the fullest confidence in your sincerity, your ability to think things out, and your unusual maturity of mind, but I cannot altogether forget your youth or the illusions which may ensnare it even while they do honor to it. You trust others as you do yourself; your very integrity and your vouth stand in the way of your knowing men well. And it is men, not merely things, that you have to take into account when creating institutions: it is through men that they acL and live.
All in all, I am not frowning upon your Icarian communism; I am a spectator and watch the experiment. I can only approve your fervor, like that of a neophyte; for to do anything well it has to be done with one’s whole heart. So far away, I do not undertake to judge; only I could wish you were a few years older and had had a little more knowledge of the world before taking a step so decisive. You may have chosen well; a year or two from now we shall know.
Well, what’s done is done, and having taken the leap, no more arguing about it, but energy and hope. Courage and good luck! Make your situation yield up all it has to give, and distill from it all that is significant. Whatever the outcome, experience, the dowry of life, will remain.
In your good letter you give me exact information concerning the composition of the society of which you are now a member, and the principles which it inscribes on its flag. That, is just what you ought to notice first, and it is important to know it at the start. When you can write at greater length, you will let me more into the heart of the experiment. But first of all, what is the sanction of duties? That is to say, how do you deal with those who violate your established principles — the obligation to work, brotherhood, etc.? Tell me a little about the position of women and children; and one’s leisure, and what he may do with it? In a word, next to the constitution and regulations, I am most curious to learn your theory of justice, police, the family, worship, and morals, as they are developed in Icaria. It is there that we look for the reel stamina of a society. Once more, I shall not discuss principles, but will just ask you for the facts and your observations on them. They will speak for themselves.
A letter from Europe would be anything but welcome if it were all devoted to Nauvoo. Your four or five journals, no doubt, keep you informed about world-affairs — the impending conflict between Austria and Prussia, the neverending intrigues and conspiracies at Paris, the recklessness of Italian Catholicism and the blow which has been dealt to it. In our volcanic old Europe some explosion or other is always brewing, and the energy which, in America, works itself out against; nature, here, for lack of room, becomes embittered and is turned against society itself. All conceivable parties and ideas are alive and at work at the same time, and they range all the way from absolutism to demagogy, from ultramontane superstition to atheism, and from unlimited individualism to the most despotic socialism. It is a frightful mixture — enough to baffle any other alchemist than Providence.

GENEVA, March 15, 1851.
MY DEAR EDWARD,—
A11 the details which you have written are most welcome and have excited a great deal of curiosity among your old acquaintances and others to whom I have shown them. Little by little, this Cabetian colony, which so many considered rather fantastic, begins to emerge from the fog which surrounded it. However, I still have a host of questions to ask you, in order to fix a little better in my mind the contour of that distant building, half-veiled in the mists of the Mississippi — or shall I say, the Meschacebe, since you are a reader of Chateaubriand? I might, by analogy, draw my own conclusions about it, but would much prefer to know it from you; and since you offer to satisfy my curiosity, I give it full swing.
First, will you not draw up a little plan or map of the colony showing its topography and buildings and designating the points of the compass.

A. THE HOME LIFE OF THE COLONY

a. The Individual

I. Liberty. — What limits do you set for the liberty of the individual?

1. Is illness the only excuse for ceasing to work?

2. Can one leave the colony for an hour, a day, or a week, as the case may be? Or is Icaria a kind of pleasant prison for good people, with a yard rather more extensive and attractive than the ordinary?

3. Are the recreations and pleasures also numbered and labeled? Are the community Library and the Sunday hymns, and whatever else the kind administration has judged permissible, your only resource in that direction?

4. In a word, do the Icarians surrender to the management the entire direction, not only of their work, but also of their tastes and their leisure? Must they eat, drink, play, read, and listen by rule? You will quite understand the scruple which leads me to ask this question,

II. Property. — Is the individual not allowed to possess anything of his own, neither utensils nor furnishings, nor books, nor money? Does the community have a currency of its own? Has an Icarian a right to put anything by as savings? Who pays for the carrying of letters, for example? Or, if anybody wastes or damages property, does he suffer for it, or who becomes responsible? Is the individual a minor, or a Paraguay Indian, who does not worry about anything?

b. The Family

Do the married couples live separately or are they allowed a life by themselves which they may arrange as they please? Can they send for their children or visit them whenever they wish? Or do they live together without any private life, using the common parlor and table? In short, is marriage in Icaria a gentle, serious, and moral institution, or does it exist merely for producing children?

c. The Society

I. Civil Offices. — Who officiates at marriages, baptisms, and burials? Who records the activities of the community? How is all this taken care of?

II. Religion. — Do you have a chapel? Is there no preaching, nothing more than the course in Christianity which you spoke of? Do you have common worship? Does anyone minister to the dying? Is any religious sanction invoked for the most solemn acts of life? Is the Gospel read without comments? etc., etc.

III. Justice. — If there is no resort to force, and it requires nine tenths of your members to expel anyone from Icaria, how will you manage when all the members are not models of virtue? When there arise cases of falsehood, cheating, trickery, violence, assault, and theft, how will you deal with them, or with habitual idleness or sensuality? For you cannot guarantee perpetual saintliness.

B. THE FUTURE

a. The Economic Outlook. — Can Icaria become a fairly populous community under the conditions which it has imposed upon itself? Supposing that it succeeds in housing, clothing, feeding, amusing, and finding work for an immense family, and that its revenues should even exceed its expenses, will not such a self-contained society soon reach the limit of its growth?

b. Social. — Read Campanella’s City of the Sun, The Republic and the Laws of Plato, if they are in your library, and you will find that the philosophers who dreamed of these model societies confessed that they could not support more than a limited number of members. They carried in their very nature a limiting principle, and could stand at all only in so far as virtue could be assured. And Icaria stands or falls with charity and brotherhood. But who can vouch for their continuance? What is to prevent some irruption of wickedness? You wish to restore primitive Christianity, but primitive Christianity itself was not proof against very strange developments. Every institution deteriorates, even communism, because it is composed of men, and men are not incorruptible. ‘ Give me excellent men and I will give you happiness.1 In other words, ‘ Take away the moral evil and I will answer for physical well-being.’ But to remove the moral evil, you must suppress liberty, or, better still, man himself. Next you will find yourself saying, ‘Give me angels and I will furnish you an ideal human society.’ These are fine promises ! The old story—Archimedes offering to lift the world with a lever if someone would furnish a fulcrum; or Æsop boasting he would build a palace from the top downward provided the law of gravity were reversed. Such, at any rate, are the objections which occur to a reflective mind after examining the principles of the Icarian colony and the likelihood of its lasting. One question more. You hope that this fresh, untried world of yours can shake itself quite free of the Old World. Look well to see if you can quite do that. What about your exports and imports?

C. EXTERNAL POLICY

Will you tell me in what political relations you will stand toward the United States? Will the Icarians be citizens of a state? And just what will be their position in it? Will they not have to bear their share of the taxes, and recognize the laws and the courts of the country? Will not their community, though separated, be influenced through and through by the atmosphere of the great society that surrounds it? Do you suppose that you can possibly remain isolated, and if you cannot, can you remain pure Icarians?

The same persons who were the friends and helpers of your youth follow you with their good wishes and encouragements. M. Barde sends his kindest remembrances, and Mile. Brandt also; and if they have any warmer feelings toward communism, be sure it is entirely for your sake. The communism of Europe was founded on crime, and inevitably casts some shade of suspicion upon the communism of Icaria, even though it be founded on virtue and love.
Since you receive the papers, you know how European politics stand: the vacillations of Germany, the dynastic and revolutionary intrigues in France, the distress of Italy; but these are matters which disturb you but little. Is Icaria at all stirred by the Universal Exposition to be held in London? Geneva has sent some superb exhibits.
Our fortifications are being torn down. Building is going on in every part of the city. The conflict of parties has become bitterer than ever. Political life is very intense in Geneva. Since the New Year began, balls and soirées have crowded one upon another. A neighbor of mine attended, a few evenings ago, his thirty-third ball. So you see that life goes on with us, and there is some gayety still. This has been a Tuscan winter. No skating or sleighing, or ice, or snow. At Neuchâtel it has been very cold.
I am very busy and, unfortunately, a little under the weather. I am finishing the works of Emerson, the American philosopher, whom I would urge you to read if you can. By the way, how are you getting on with your English?
Please accept, my dear Edward, the assurance of my sincere affection and believe me, your devoted
H. F. AMIEL.

GENEVA, February 18, 1852.
MY DEAR EDWARD,—
Before answering your delightful and painstaking letter of last June, let me begin by relieving your mind of any least suspicion which my long silence may have created. Be sure that it does not mean the least shade of coolness on my part, for it was due to things which in no way affect the regard and interest I feel toward you. I had intended to write you from London, where I was, toward the end of the great Exposition, the first of last October; but it was out of the question. I could not find a minute in the hurly-burly of that immense city, and had barely time to write home.
I have returned, but my work has prolonged the delay. This being a dreary rainy day, I have shut myself indoors and so get an hour of leisure. I take advantage of it to travel in my imagination, cross the Atlantic, ascend the Mississippi, where a botanical article that I was reading this very morning, together with your long letter, which I have been rereading, holds me a willing prisoner, and so, to the very gates of Icaria. I must thank you first of all for these twelve long pages. They have been read with the deepest interest by myself, your friends, and others who know you only indirectly, but are much interested.
You may well believe that such curious and novel details as you have written I do not keep for myself, and so, while you are giving me pleasure, you are killing two birds with one stone and advertising Icaria. Both the theoretical discussions and the actual facts in your letter have their value. Your discussions in defense of the Icarian society, and your criticism of the non-communistic, are a good thing for you. They necessitate the putting of your ideas into form, justifying them by principles: in short, they confirm your own faith, and that is a good deal. They show that you possess knowledge, ardor, logical sense, and, above all, conviction.
These are merits which I value so highly that I am glad my questions were the means of drawing them out, though you were wholly mistaken in thinking they were inspired by ill-will or prejudice. Had you been a little more accustomed to carrying on a discussion, you would have seen in my objections nothing more than the desire for precision that singles out the salient features of a subject and describes them by their most vivid names; but malice or prejudice was out of the question. I assure you, my dear Edward, that I had not the least intention in the world of wounding you, and I believe that a mind as shrewd as yours will very quickly distinguish between a critique of ideas, systems, opinions, and the suspecting of characters, motives, and consciences. One may be honorably mistaken, hold a wrong opinion, or one only half true, and yet so conduct himself as to be worthy of all respect. One can seek the happiness of mankind, but still be mistaken about the nature of man. You surely see that. And that clears up all our misunderstanding. I am convinced of your sincerity, and after what I know of your experiences and observation, I have no doubt of the purity of motive, the excellence of purpose, and the beauty of the hopes that prevail in Icaria.
I acknowledge gladly all the happy and favorable signs you have pointed out; but I am still seriously in doubt about the permanence of the society, because of one fundamental error which has crept into its constitution, and one which is sure to entail a cruel disappointment. It is the old error of Rousseau, and consists in regarding the social structure, and that alone, as the source of all evil and vice and disorder, and in believing that by changing the environment and protecting him against these evil influences, man has no option but to be good. You must admit that that is the cardinal dogma of the Icarian system. But if, under the most favorable surroundings, a man can still develop evil instincts, in other words, if the origin of evil is within himself and not in things, though they may indeed hasten the evil in himself, your theory is vulnerable; it cannot stand the strain. It is of no use to bar the sheepfold against the wolves without; if, among the sheep, there exist the instincts of the wolf, all is ruined. What I ask is, if Icaria can exist only through fraternity and is undone the moment egoism appears again, what assurance can there be that this miracle will long continue, when Christianity itself could not long secure it to the Christian society?
No doubt you will say that the removal of the external incitements to selfishness, such as individual property, competition, and the like, is guaranty enough. But if the human heart is itself a source of temptation, a spring of selfishness, is not disappointment inevitable? With men as they ought to be, Icaria might long survive; but with men as they are? What is the social malady but selfishness, and does that selfishness spring from society? The Icarian says yes, and he hopes to banish it by his model community. But what if he is wrong? Suppose he is mistaking one source of evil as the only source, the part for the whole, an effect for a cause? Notice t hat I say ‘ if,’ wishing to leave the question open and simply to make good my reserve. I advise you to look into this very carefully, lest it prove as I am supposing it wall. You, too, must feel that this is vital for your belief.
The second part of your letter, the one devoted to events, I value highly. The details regarding your employments and recreation, your reading, your attachments, your success, your progress, were a delight. I was impressed at once by three things: by the arrival among you of these additions from the cultivated classes; by the applications of children from outside the colony for admission to your schools; and by your victory in the election of a mayor — certainly, favorable signs of your moral standing. Last of all, I learned, with no little surprise, of the importance which Catholicism and socialism have both achieved in the United States. I was not altogether ignorant about the growth of the one, but the progress of the other surprised me a good deal. I would be grateful for all news of this kind.
But a letter from Europe must, not be wholly devoted t o affairs in Icaria. You will naturally wish news from this side. Reading and printing newspapers as you do, you must be fairly well informed about the important events in the Old World. I hardly need tell you of the amazing and sudden changes in our political world during the last four years. You have been able to follow, since the revolution of 1848, the gradual restoration of all that was then dislodged and the burial of liberty through fear of chaos.
Socialism can boast of having made a fine job of it! The constitutional regime killed in Austria and Prussia, the Republic killed in France, frightful oppression in Italy, all liberties challenged over a great part of the continent — such are the fruits of its threatenings, the result of its haughty, half-ripened theories, and of its resort to force and massacre. I do not believe that the communism of Icaria, which is human and moderate, and relies only upon persuasion, will pity socialism for its defeat any more than it will thank it for the catastrophes which it has caused. Piedmont, Belgium, Switzerland, and England are the only countries in Europe which have not fallen into reaction, and the first three are in a perilous position. Imperial France is a constant menace to them. It is humiliating and painful to-day to call one’s self French: humiliating, because nothing equals the servility, the venality, the baseness and moral commonplaceness that the contemporary history reveals — sad, because the universal state of siege, the suppression of all privileges which belong to the citizens of a free country, the fear of the present and dread of the future, are not a cheerful outlook. Arbitrary control and despotism are in full bloom.
The only analogy to the actual sit uation in France is the shame of Rome under the first Cæsars. And our unfortunate neighbors are brought to consider themselves fortunate by comparison. Socialism must feel flattered! Our relations with France are becoming most difficult. At Geneva, party hatred is as bitter as ever, but the foundation of a National Club, independent and conciliatory, is one encouraging sign. The club has a hundred members already. The federal centralization, in the form established by the new Pact, is taking shape, but with friction and resistance. The frontier cantons see their interests endangered by it, while Latin Switzerland considers itself inadequately provided for, even not greatly respected, by Germanic Switzerland. Our future is not a cheerful one, whichever way we turn. The life on the Meschacebe is a more peaceful one than that on the Leman.
As to your correspondent, since he last wrote you he has been at Aix for his health, and to London for his education. It was his first visit to England, so he has learned much, besides enjoying himself greatly. Both the Exposition and the capital impressed him exceedingly. Teaching, books, conversation, and writing have filled his months. This summer he is going to the country at Lancy, and will no doubt be back in town this winter.

GENEVA, Monday, March 31, 1850.
MY DEAR EDWARD, —
It is three months to-day since you were writing to me on the banks of the Mississippi, and a month since your letter reached me at the foot of the Salève. I am dumbfounded when I look again and see that these dates are correct. I, who was counting upon writing you at once, so as not to prolong those hours and weeks of low spirits which your isolation had caused you, find myself swept thirty-seven days out of my course by the irresistible current of life. It is a difficult art to steer one’s course against the winds, the tides, the currents, and among the shoal waters oi human life, and arrive at a given point in the allotted time. So I am late; I nearly always am, hindered by my baggage and liking too well to let myself go, without knowing just where. But I beg you will not do as I do — there is no progress, no victory that way.
And there are two victories which you must set before yourself: first, Independence: and, next, Contentment. Independence will come easier for you: with your will and perseverance, the experience you have gained; and being predisposed, as you are, toward the American way, you can be sure of a living and, with economy, of being independent. It will be a hard struggle, but you are twenty-four years old, with plenty of energy and vitality, and the contest will double your strength. Courage! Edward, do not forget Franklin and so many others who started just where you are, but without the intellectual and moral equipment which is yours, and made their way. With youth, vigor, self-respect and the respect of others in your favor, you are entering in the best possible way on the struggle which we all have to make, in one form or another; harder for you than many, it may be, but for that very reason all the more glorious.
The second victory is first in importance and makes the other possible. The thing to do now is to find a faith in place of the one you have lost; to heal the wounds of your soul and find once more the spiritual strength, the hope, the satisfaction without which life holds only bitterness, and with which even poverty itself has an advantage over the wealth which is harassed by cares and sorrows. Who knows but that three months of work have already changed your whole attitude? But, perhaps, on the other hand, they have only deadened your thoughts and made you forget your anxieties, so that the trouble still persists in the depths of your heart. A passion dods not leave a heart without leaving a groat void; an ideal never falls into ruins without making desolation in the soul; an idol does not perish in the flames without filling the heart with smoke which will dim the vision. But, even so, it would not be out of place to discuss your moral position and, if you are willing, make our reckoning together with conscience.
Let us look at it and talk it out. What have you lost ? Not only your hopes about the Icarian enterprise, but, also, your faith in communism and even in socialism. In other words, 3*011 now believe impossible what seemed feasible to you five years ago, the founding of a society which would be free from selfishness. Do you believe now that this impossibility is altogether due to circumstance and the personality of this or that founder, or do you believe that, it is due to a mistaken theory? In other words, arc you disillusioned by a man or by a plan? If the fault is with the system, do you think its impossibility due to the wickedness of the outside world or the illusion of the communists themselves? These are not idle questions, you understand. You no longer have faith in M. Cabet; but, in order to live, it is absolutely necessary to have faith in something, for without faith the zest for life is gone. Let us count up our losses:—
Icaria: deception.
Communism: a chimera.
Social brotherhood: a dream.
The Earthly Paradise: an illusion.
These losses are caused by contact with reality — by experience with men and things. Then I have made a trip to Utopia and the disciples are making it too. What is the essence of Utopia? It is counting upon man as he is not; it is believing that evil comes to him from society, instead of society being, like man himself, a mixture of good and evil. The essence of Utopia is laying down laws for Providence instead of believing in its wisdom, and in declaring humanity mad, rather than its own self-originated system. At the heart of Utopia is a mistaken view of the true nature of man and the part that things take in his life. It is, then, at bottom, honest ignorance, presumptuous inexperience.
Believe me, my dear Edward, history does not proceed by mere chance; there is a pilot who is, fortunately, more skillful, wise, and mighty than these men, ruled by passion rather than consecration; believe that humanity, like man himself, carries its own evil in its own heart, and that its mission, its dignity, and its grandeur lie in increasing the whole sum of good, in being a co-worker with Providence, which does not crush, but works patiently on. To conquer the evil in one’s self is the great victory, and before casting the stone at society, one should make sure of being himself without sin.
And so faith in Providence may come to take t he place of your faith in socialism, and faith in duty the place of your dream of welfare. The rock is mightier than the revolt, and resignation takes more courage than malediction. Is n’t it so? Courage, then! Believe in God; I mean, believe in the supremacy of justice and goodness, take up the sword again, and with a cheerful spirit fight the good fight.
Your sustained hopefulness is an honor to you, for if yours was an illusion, it was a generous one. Go back, now, into human society, do all the good you can there, keep right on working, and never despair.
Edward, you have spent your youth in valiant fashion, now develop the virile qualities. Play the man. Providence is giving you just that opportunity. I hope this letter will find you at St. Louis. As for any specific advice, it would be useless. I do not know the world In which you are living, and I have confidence in your own good sense. Before anything, and at any price, keep honest and do as you please. As I said before, remember Franklin.
My health is good, I am very busy, and I send you in closing my best wishes and a hand-shake. Write me very soon.
Your affectionate
H. F. AMIEL.

It is true that I have left you a long time without letters, but it was really better so. You had told me all your hopes, and I had made my observations and held my final judgment in suspense. Time had to decide. To-day I find you more mature, but the same man. Your duty has not changed. You must make sure of your future and take thought of two other people to whom, as an Icarian, you could not be useful. But is the duty that one creates for himself worth as much as the duty he takes at another’s hands? And is not the only part of humanity for which we are responsible just ourselves and those who depend upon us?

GENIEVA, Friday, May 8, 1857,
MY DEAR EDWARD, -
It is five months since I received a letter from you, and two days ago M. Barde told me of your new change. I am going to follow your trail, to take you by the hand, thank you for your friendly remembrance, and answer a letter which has been of the deepest interest to me for its spirit, its tone, and its style, as well as its news. You are becoming a man. All the better. That is the finest result that life can give. And what more could you ask by way of proof than that your character has been put through a tempering process, you have gained right principles, got a new understanding of duty, and learned the worth of moral conflict? Courage, then; you are on the right road. Success is a help, independence a joy, capital a means; but the one thing needful is inward peace, the feeling of moral force — I mean, the strength that comes from a good conscience; the prize is to be what one ought to be: a good specimen of humanity, a fighter fashioned by the everlasting conflict between vice and virtue. To be a true man, is the mark set before us; all the rest comes after that.
One passage in your letter has concerned me a good deal. It is the one in which you regret that you do not believe in a Providence, and add that, nevertheless, you wish to live the life of those who do. That is fine and that is worthy of you. Make the experiment. Morality is beautiful enough by itself for the conscience to ask no more. But because one can manage to live on a loaf and a pitcher of water, does it follow that a richer diet is undesirable? A mere cold morality makes one sad, and sadness saps one’s strength. We all need happiness. On what would you make yours to depend? The point in question is, not having faith, but having peace. Are you having it? All is said. Have you failed of it? Let us seek for it. And by peace I mean this inner satisfact ion, the conscience at rest, which can brave all circumstances, but which no outside conditions can give. What is your present convict ion about life? Is it a good or an evil? Does it have a purpose, and what kind of a purpose? Can you get along without God, and do you believe in another life? Until I know your ideas on these subjects I cannot talk with you about Providence, for conversation starts with some things settled. Tell me what you believe and hope, and without the least hesitation; I am without prejudice of any kind, and I am used to every kind of negat ion. What I wish you with all my heart is a hope which sustains you and a conviction which will be a comfort to you. Do not limit your confidences of this kind to just a few lines, if you still think that a frank and hearty talk with one who loves and esteems you can be of any help.
Our wretched affair at Neuchatel is, so they say, on the point of being sett led, by a tiring-out process, but without sat isfying t he just hopes of Switzerland, whose trust has been treated very cavalierly. The King of Prussia has cut the saddest kind of a figure in the whole affair, and the royalists have come near losing even 1 he respect which one might have felt for them without liking them. Their addresses, petitions, and intrigues have been marked by such servility and fanaticism, and such hatred toward the Swiss nation, as to forfeit all their claim to interest. All these things put together have brought us no end of weariness and vexation. But may the earth rest lightly upon them, for this false position is going to be righted in the end, and this last frenzied strain at the collar by a party utterly at variance with our institutions has shattered it for a long time to come, perhaps forever.1 Our commercial treaty with the United States has just been signed. The Swiss railroads have been trying to effect a combination, but several of the governments and a number of the stockholders have put their veto upon it, with the result that the fusion is postponed for the present.
My health is good enough; my occupations are the same as ever. We have here Mlle. Bremer, a Swedish writer, who has written some Letters on America, and our ladies are translating a lot of American fiction.
Adieu. Don’t put off writing to me; keep a kindly thought of me now and then, and may Heaven watch over you and take care of you. But, above all, good courage.
Your affectionate
H. F. AMIEL.

GENEVA,June 5, 1858.
DEAR EDWARD, -
You ask that I will show forbearance toward your long silence, and I will show all you could ask for, provided you will do the same toward me. Your delightful letter of January (received the twenty-fourth of February), so full of details, so sharply etched, so sanguine, has given me every sort of pleasure, as it has given other people (my sisters, my cousin Brandt, and a number of others) whom I have let into a share of your confidences.
I am so glad to know that, so far as temporal prosperity is concerned, all is well: you are in good health, your energy is as ever, you have made new friends, have time to spare; that the present is not a matter of anxiety to you, and the future looks bright enough. I am so glad to hear all this. And certainly it is a rare good fortune to have a correspondent from the country of the Sioux, who is not an Osage himself, bring to us in our old centre of culture news of the newest settlements in the New World. All aside from the interest prompted by my affection, your letters satisfy a keen curiosity, which is quite personal.
Now just a word about your plans for the future. You are putting off your return until May, 1859: but you are always hoping to come back to Switzerland. Let us talk it over a little. Do you feel that you must do this, and that your decision is irrevocable? I imagine not, otherwise I would not speak of it. But if it is still an open question, it will do no harm for me to make a few suggestions about it. The certain is better than the uncertain, and something in hand is worth more than something in prospect ; we are probably agreed about that. Then why give up your present position, when you have just won it and got it well established as a result of your own hard work and courage? Why lose your stake when there is no need of it — and spend the greater part of all you have saved on a voyage of fifteen hundred leagues, simply to get back to a country where you will find it four times as hard to find a position as good as your present one? And your motive? Is it homesickness? I hope not. Will you better yourself? What future could there be for you at Geneva, Lausanne, or Neuchâtcl? Printer or bookbinder? Would it be as an assistant? You know what the workman’s position is over here? Or, if you were to be in business for yourself, you would need capital; and, besides, the openings are all filled up. Journalism? There is no chance of profit there. The railway service would be lucrative enough, but it is crowded, and the places go, as a rule, to the younger sons of families who are able to use influence with the administration. The teachers’ positions are likewise filled and go to political friends. As for giving lessons, we have a superabundance of that, and these unfortunates devour each other. Some official position? But that is a favor, a lottery, and a servitude. A shop-keeper? You must have capital. To be a clerk, you must have some years of apprenticeship.
Of course, I may be mistaken and be seeing everything black. But I may be right, and it is worth the trouble to give you the most careful information about your chances before you cross the ocean again. I do not like to think of your being worse off, in all that concerns your happiness, in Switzerland than in the United States, and especially after all the experience you have gained, and after having lived on the terms of equality which prevail in America. What a loss it would be, to undergo a lot more difficulty, and then regret it too late!
But I cannot force my opinion upon you because, in the first place, not being a business man, I am hardly competent to decide; and then, too, being a relative, I feel embarrassed at having to tell you, ‘ Beware of coming back before you have laid up quite a little capital.’ I am only asking you to think it all over from every side. I have seen the ‘rolling stone’ proverb verified too often to refrain from saying to you, ‘Keep right on where you are, without fickleness or discouragement.’
Your affectionate
H. F. AMIEL.

GENEVA, Monday, April 16, 1860.
YOUR letter of February, my dear Edward, took only twenty-two days to reach me from the sources of the Missouri. By just thinking of Chateaubriand, I am still simple-minded enough to wonder at such speed.
I understand that you were quitting the firm of Furnas2 and Lyanna at Brownville, and that you had not accepted the proposals of the gold-miners from Pike’s Peak. You are in America that you may gain a competence and become independent; of the honest ways by which this may be accomplished the shortest will be the best. Besides, the life of a farmer has its charms, especially after one has wasted so much ink and blackened so much paper. It seems to me that this is what would tempt me most. I like the barns, the fields, the orchards, and the sun better than the printing press under the gas-lamps, or the feverish gold-diggings. It is far more wholesome and human and natural.
But what still delights me most in your letter is the noble frankness of the way you acknowledge your natural defects and your cheerful avowal that you have never been more active and happy than now. ‘If bread-winning were all there is in life,’ you say, ‘truly it would not be worth the trouble of living’; good words, and you have proved the worth and the truth of them. That a clear conscience is still the best pillow, is the conclusion you have arrived at, and I am heartily glad of it. Hold in reverence this inward voice, and keep on deserving in ever greater degree the affection and esteem which I have always felt toward you since the very beginning of our relationship.
I am still living with my older sister at the foot of the cathedral of St. Pierre. In November I took part in the Schiller festival and translated into French verse The Clock of the great poet. This has been a long and severe winter. I am just finishing a course on Anthropology, and I am about to give a course of lectures on the philosophy of Schelling. My eyesight still bothers me. Here you have about all there is of importance concerning myself. Wishing you good health, cheerfulness, and courage I am, my dear Edward, your friend,
H. F. AMIEL.

  1. Inspired by the indignation which stirred Switzerland over this conflict with Prussia, Amiel improvised a patriotic song, words and music, which became and has since remained the ‘Swiss Marseillaise.’ It is called ‘Roulez, Tambours.’ — THE TRANSLATOR.
  2. Robert W. Furnas, afterward Governor of NEBRASKA.—THE TRANSLATOR.