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Robert Green Ingersoll
A letter written to Col. Thomas Donaldson, of Philadelphia, declining an invitation to be a guest of the Clover Club of that city.
Washington, D.C, January 16, 1883.
CLOVER. — I regret that I cannot be “in clover with you on the 28th instant.
A wonderful thing is clover! It means honey and cream, — that is to say, industry and contentment, — that is to say, the happy bees in perfumed fields, and at the cottage gate “bos” the bountiful serenely chewing satisfaction’s cud, in that blessed twilight pause that like a benediction falls between all toil and sleep.
This clover makes me dream of happy hours; of childhood’s rosy cheeks; of dimpled babes; of wholesome, loving wives; of honest men; of springs and brooks and violets and all there is of stainless joy in peaceful human life.
A wonderful word is “clover”! Drop the “c,” and you have the happiest of mankind. Drop the “r,” and “c,” and you have left the only thing that makes a heaven of this dull and barren earth. Drop the “r,” and there remains a warm, deceitful bud that sweetens breath and keeps the peace in countless homes whose masters frequent clubs. After all, Bottom was right:
“Good hay, sweet hay, hath no fellow.”
Yours sincerely and regretfully,
SUPERSTITION puts belief above goodness — credulity above virtue.
Here are two men. One is industrious, frugal, honest, generous. He has a happy home — loves his wife and children — fills their lives with sunshine. He enjoys study, thoughts, music, and all the subtleties of Art — but he does not believe the creed — cares nothing for sacred books, worships no god and fears no devil.
The other is ignorant, coarse, brutal, beats his wife and children — but he believes — regards the Bible as inspired – bows to the priests, counts his beads, says his prayers, confesses and contributes, and the Catholic Church declares and the Protestant Churches declare that he is the better man.
The ignorant believer, coarse and brutal as he is, is going to heaven. He will be washed in the blood of the Lamb. He will have wings — a harp and a halo.
The intelligent and generous man who loves his fellow-men — who develops his brain, who enjoys the beautiful, is going to hell — to the eternal prison.
Such is the justice of God — the mercy of Christ.
WHILE reading the accounts of the coronation of the Czar, of the pageants, processions and feasts, of the pomp and parade, of the barbaric splendor, of cloth of gold and glittering gems, I could not help thinking of the poor and melancholy peasants, of the toiling, half-fed millions, of the sad and ignorant multitudes who belong body and soul to this Czar.
I thought of the backs that have been scarred by the knout, of the thousands in prisons for having dared to say a whispered word for freedom, of the great multitude who had been driven like cattle along the weary roads that lead to the hell of Siberia.
The cannon at Moscow were not loud enough, nor the clang of the bells, nor the blare of the trumpets, to drown the groans of the captives.
I thought of the fathers that had been torn from wives and children for the crime of speaking like men.
And when the priests spoke of the Czar as the “God-selected man,” the “God-adorned man,” my blood grew warm.
When I read of the coronation of the Czarina I thought of Siberia. I thought of girls working in the mines, hauling ore from the pits with chains about their waists; young girls, almost naked, at the mercy of brutal officials; young girls weeping and moaning their lives away because between their pure lips the word Liberty had burst into blossom.
Yet law neglects, forgets them, and crowns the Czarina. The injustice, the agony and horror in this poor world are enough to make mankind insane.
Ignorance and superstition crown impudence and tyranny. Millions of money squandered for the humiliation of man, to dishonor the people.
Back of the coronation, back of all the ceremonies, back of all the hypocrisy there is nothing but a lie.
It is not true that God “selected” this Czar to rule and rob a hundred millions of human beings.
It is all an ignorant, barbaric, superstitious lie — a lie that pomp and pageant, and flaunting flags, and robed priests, and swinging censers, cannot change to truth.
Those who are not blinded by the glare and glitter at Moscow see millions of homes on which the shadows fall; see millions of weeping mothers, whose children have been stolen by the Czar; see thousands of villages without schools, millions of houses without books, millions and millions of men, women and children in whose future there is no star and whose only friend is death.
The coronation is an insult to the nineteenth century.
Long live the people of Russia!
MUSIC. — The savage enjoys noises — explosion — the imitation of thunder. This noise expresses his feeling. He enjoys concussion. His ear and brain are in harmony. So, he takes cognizance of but few colors. The neutral tints make no impression on his eyes. He appreciates the flames of red and yellow. That is to say, there is a harmony between his brain and eye. As he advances, develops, progresses, his ear catches other sounds, his eye other colors. He becomes a complex being, and there has entered into his mind the idea of proportion. The music of the drum no longer satisfies him. He sees that there is as much difference between noises and melodies as between stones and statues. The strings in Corti’s Harp become sensitive and possibly new ones are developed.
The eye keeps pace with the ear, and the worlds of sound and sight increase from age to age.
The first idea of music is the keeping of time — a recurring emphasis at intervals of equal length or duration. This is afterward modified — the music of joy being fast, the emphasis at short intervals, and that of sorrow slow.
After all, this music of time corresponds to the action of the blood and muscles. There is a rise and fall under excitement of both. In joy the heart beats fast, and the music corresponding to such emotion is quick. In grief — in sadness, the blood is delayed. In music the broad division is one of time. In language, words of joy are born of light — that which shines — words of grief of darkness and gloom. There is still another division: The language of happiness comes also from heat, and that of sadness from cold.
These ideas or divisions are universal. In all art are the light and shadow — the heat and cold.
OF COURSE England has no love for America. By England I mean the governing class. Why should monarchy be in love with republicanism, with democracy? The monarch insists that he gets his right to rule from what he is pleased to call the will of God, whereas in a republic the sovereign authority is the will of the people. It is impossible that there should be any real friendship between the two forms of government.
We must, however, remember one thing, and that is, that there is an England within England — an England that does not belong to the titled classes — an England that has not been bribed or demoralized by those in authority; and that England has always been our friend, because that England is the friend of liberty and of progress everywhere. But the lackeys, the snobs, the flatterers of the titled, those who are willing to crawl that they may rise, are now and always have been the enemies of the great Republic.
it is a curious fact that in monarchical governments the highest and lowest are generally friends. There may be a foundation for this friendship in the fact that both are parasites — both live on the labor of honest men. After all, there is a kinship between the prince and the pauper. Both extend the hand for alms, and the fact that one is jeweled and the other extremely dirty makes no difference in principle — and the owners of these hands have always been fast friends, and, in accordance with the great law of ingratitude, both have held in contempt the people who supported them.
One thing we must not forget, and that is that the best people of England are our friends. The best writers, the best thinkers are on our side. It is only natural that all who visit America should find some fault. We find fault ourselves, and to be thin-skinned is almost a plea of guilty. For my part, I have no doubt about the future of America. It not only is, but is to be for many, many generations, the greatest nation of the world.
I DO NOT care so much where, as with whom, I live. If the right folks are with me I can manage to get a good deal of happiness in the city or in the country. Cats love places and become attached to chimney-corners and all sorts of nooks — but I have but little of the cat in me, and am not particularly in love with places. After all, a palace without affection is a poor hovel, and the meanest hut with love in it is a palace for the soul.
If the time comes when poverty and want cease for the most part to exist, then the city will be far better than the country. People are always talking about the beauties of nature and the delights of solitude, but to me some people are more interesting than rocks and trees. As to city and country life I think that I substantially agree with Touchstone:
“In respect that it is solitary I like it very well; but in respect that it is private it is a very vile life. Now, in respect it is in the fields it pleases me well; but in respect it is not in the court it is tedious.”
WHAT do I think of the launchings in Georgia? I suppose these outrages — these frightful crimes — make the same impression on my mind that they do on the minds of all civilized people. I know of no words strong enough, bitter enough, to express my indignation and horror. Men who belong to the “superior” race take a negro — a criminal, a supposed murderer, one alleged to have assaulted a white woman — chain him to a tree, saturate his clothing with kerosene, pile fagots about his feet. This is the preparation for the festival. The people flock in from the neighborhood — come in special trains from the towns. They are going to enjoy themselves.
Laughing and cursing they gather about the victim. A man steps from the crowd — a man who hates crime and loves virtue. He draws his knife, and in a spirit of merry sport cuts off one of the victim’s ears. This he keeps for a trophy — a souvenir. Another gentlemen fond of a jest cuts off the other ear. Another cuts off the nose of the chained and helpless wretch. The victim suffered in silence. He uttered no groan, no word — the one man of the two thousand who had courage.
Other white heroes cut and slashed his flesh. The crowd cheered. The people were intoxicated with joy. Then the fagots were lighted and the bleeding and mutilated man was clothed in flame.
The people were wild with hideous delight. With greedy eyes they watched him burn; with hungry ears they listened for his shrieks — for the music of his moans and cries. He did not shriek. The festival was not quite perfect.
But they had their revenge. They trampled on the charred and burning corpse. They divided among themselves the broken bones. They wanted mementos — keepsakes that they could give to their loving wives and gentle babes.
These horrors were perpetrated in the name of justice. The savages who did these things belong to the superior race. They are citizens of the great Republic. And yet, it does not seem possible that such fiends are human beings. They are a disgrace to our country, our century and the human race.
Ex-Governor Atkinson protested against this savagery. He was threatened with death. The good people were helpless. While these lynchers murder the blacks they will destroy their own country. No civilized man wishes to live where the mob is supreme. He does not wish to be governed by murderers.
Let me say that what I have said is flattery compared with what I feel. When I think of the other lynching — of the poor man mutilated and hanged without the slightest evidence, of the negro who said that these murders would be avenged, and who was brutally murdered for the utterance of a natural feeling — I am utterly at a loss for words.
Are the white people insane? Has mercy fled to beasts? Has the United States no power to protect a citizen? A nation that cannot or will not protect its citizens in time of peace has no right to ask its citizens to protect it in time of war.
OUR COUNTRY. — Our country is all we hope for — all we are. It is the grave of our father, of our mother, of each and every one of the sacred dead.
It is every glorious memory of our race. Every heroic deed. Every act of self-sacrifice done by our blood. It is all the accomplishments of the past — all the wise things said — all the kind things done — all the poems written and all the poems lived — all the defeats sustained — all the victories won — the girls we love — the wives we adore — the children we carry in our hearts — all the firesides of home all the quiet springs, the babbling brooks, the rushing rivers, the mountains, plains and woods — the dells and dales and vines and vales.
GIFT GIVING. — I believe in the festival called Christmas — not in the celebration of the birth of any man, but to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness — the victory of the sun.
I believe in giving gifts on that day, and a real gift should be given to those who cannot return it; gifts from the rich to the poor, from the prosperous to the unfortunate, from parents to children.
There is no need of giving water to the sea or light to the sun. Let us give to those who need, neither asking nor expecting return, not even asking gratitude, only asking that the gift shall make the receiver happy — and he who gives in that way increases his own joy.
WE HAVE no right to enslave our children. We have no right to bequeath chains and manacles to our heirs. We have no right to leave a legacy of mental degradation.
Liberty is the birthright of all. Parents should not deprive their children of the great gifts of nature. We cannot all leave lands and gold to those we love; but we can leave Liberty, and that is of more value than all the wealth of India.
The dead have no right to enslave the living. To worship ancestors is to curse posterity. He who bows to the Past insults the Future; and allows, so to speak, the dead to rob the unborn. The coffin is good enough in its way, but the cradle is far better. With the bones of the fathers they beat out the brains of the children.
The road is short to anything we fear.
Joy lives in the house beyond the one we reach.
IN YOUTH the time is halting, slow and lame.
In age the time is winged and eager as a flame.
The sea seems narrow as we near the farther shore.
Youth goes hand in hand with hope — old age with fear.
Youth has a wish — old age a dread.
In youth the leaves and buds seem loath to grow.
Youth shakes the glass to speed the lingering sands.
Youth says to Time: O crutched and limping laggard, get thee wings.
The dawn comes slowly, but the Westering day leaps
like a lover to the dusky bosom of the Ethiop night
I THINK that all days are substantially alike in the long run. It is no worse to drink on Sunday than on Monday. The idea that one day in the week is holy is wholly idiotic. Besides, these closing laws do no good.
Laws are not locks and keys. Saloon doors care nothing about laws. Law or no law, people will slip in, and then, having had so much trouble getting there, they will stay until they stagger out. These nasty, meddlesome, Pharisaic, hypocritical laws make sneaks and hypocrites. The children of these laws are like the fathers of the laws. Ever since I can remember, people have been trying to make other people temperate by intemperate laws. I have never known of the slightest success. It is a pity that Christ manufactured wine, a pity that Paul took heart and thanked God when he saw the sign of the Three Taverns; a pity that Jehovah put alcohol in almost everything that grows; a great pity that prayer-meetings are not more popular than saloons; a pity that our workingmen do not amuse themselves reading religious papers and the genealogies in the Old Testament.
Rum has caused many quarrels and many murders.
Religion has caused many wars and covered countless fields with dead.
Of course, all men should be temperate, — should avoid excess — should keep the golden path between extremes — should gather roses, not thorns. The only way to make men temperate is to develop the brain.
When passions and appetites are stronger than the intellect, men are savages; when the intellect governs the passions, when the passions are servants, men are civilized. The people need education — facts — philosophy. Drunkenness is one form of intemperance, prohibition is another form. Another trouble is that these little laws and ordinances can not be enforced.
Both parties want votes, and to get votes they will allow unpopular laws to sleep, neglected, and finally refuse to enforce them. These spasms of virtue, these convulsions of conscience are soon over, and then comes a long period of neglectful rest.
THE OLD AND NEW YEAR. — For countless ages the old earth has been making, in alternating light and shade, in gleam and gloom, the whirling circuit of the sun, leaving the record of its flight in many forms — in leaves of stone, in growth of tree and vine and flower, in glittering gems of many hues, in curious forms of monstrous life, in ravages of flood and flame, in fossil fragments stolen from decay by chance, in molten masses hurled from lips of fire, in gorges worn by waveless, foamless cataracts of ice, in coast lines beaten back by the imprisoned sea, in mountain ranges and in ocean reefs, in islands lifted from the underworld — in continents submerged and given back to light and life.
Another year has joined his shadowy fellows in the wide and voiceless desert of the past, where, from the eternal hour-glass forever fall the sands of time. Another year, with all its joy and grief, of birth and death, of failure and success — of love and hate. And now, the first day of the new o’er arches all. Standing between the buried and the babe, we cry, “Farewell and Hail!”
January 1, 1893.
KNOWLEDGE consists in the perception of facts, their relations — conditions, modes and results of action. Experience is the foundation of knowledge — without experience it is impossible to know. It may be that experience can be transmitted — inherited. Suppose that an infinite being existed in infinite space. He being the only existence, what knowledge could he gain by experience? He could see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing. He would have no use for what we call the senses. Could he use what we call the faculties of the mind? He could not compare, remember, hope or fear. He could not reason. How could he know that he existed? How could he use force? There was in the universe nothing that would resist — nothing.
MOST MEN are economical when dealing with abundance, hoarding gold and wasting time — throwing away the sunshine of life — the few remaining hours, and hugging to their shriveled hearts that which they do not and cannot even expect to use. Old age should enjoy the luxury of giving. How divine to live in the atmosphere, the climate of gratitude, The men who clutch and fiercely hold and look at wife and children with eyes dimmed by age and darkened by suspicion, giving naught until the end, then give to death the gratitude that should have been their own.
DEATH OF THE AGED. — After all, there is something tenderly appropriate in the serene death of the old. Nothing is more touching than the death of the young, the strong. But when the duties of life have all been nobly done; when the sun touches the horizon; when the purple twilight falls upon the past, the present, and the future; when memory, with dim eyes, can scarcely spell the blurred and faded records of the vanished days — then, surrounded by kindred and by friends, death comes like a strain of music. The day has been long, the road weary, and the traveler gladly stops at the welcome inn.
Nearly forty-eight years ago, under the snow, in the little town of Cazenovia, my poor mother was buried. I was but two years old. I remember her as she looked in death. That sweet, cold face has kept my heart warm through all the changing years.
THERE is no cunning art to trace
In any feature, form or face,
Or wrinkled palm, with criss-cross lines
The good or bad in peoples’ minds.
Nor can we guess men’s thoughts or aims
By seeing how they write their names.
We could as well foretell their acts
By getting outlines of their tracks.
Ourselves we do not know — how then
Can we find out our fellow-men?
And yet — although the reason laughs —
We like to look at autographs —
And almost think that we can guess
What lines and dots of ink express. —
August 11, 1892.
From the autograph collection of Miss Eva Ingersoll Farrell.
THE WORLD Is growing poor. — Darwin the naturalist, the observer, the philosopher, is dead. Wagner the greatest composer the world has produced, is silent. Hugo the poet, patriot and philanthropist, is at rest. Three mighty rivers have ceased to flow. The smallest insect was made interesting by Darwin’s glance; the poor blind worm became the farmer’s friend — the maker of the farm, — and even weeds began to dream and hope.
BUT IF we live beyond life’s day and reach the dusk, and slowly travel in the shadows of the night, the way seems long, and being weary we ask for rest, and then, as in our youth, we chide the loitering hours. When eyes are dim and memory fails to keep a record of events; when ears are dull and muscles fail to obey the will; when the pulse is low and the tired heart is weak. and the poor brain has hardly power to think, then comes the dream, the hope of rest, the longing for the peace of dreamless sleep.
SAINTS. — The saints have poisoned life with piety. They have soured the mother’s milk. They have insisted that joy is crime — that beauty is a bait with which the Devil captures the souls of men — that laughter leads to sin — that pleasure, in its every form, degrades, and that love itself is but the loathsome serpent of unclean desire. They have tried to compel men to love shadows rather than women — phantoms rather than people.
The saints have been the assassins of sunshine, — the skeletons at feasts. They have been the enemies of happiness. They have hated the singing birds, the blossoming plants. They have loved the barren and the desolate — the croaking raven and the hooting owl — tombstones, rather than statues.
And yet, with a strange inconsistency, happiness was to be enjoyed forever, in another world. There, pleasure, with all its corrupting influences, was to be eternal. No one pretended that heaven was to be filled with self-denial with fastings and scourgings, with weepings and regrets: with solemn and emaciated angels, with sad-eyed seraphim with lonely parsons, with mumbling monks, with shriveled nuns, with days of penance and with nights of prayer.
Yet all this self-denial on the part of the saints was founded in the purest selfishness. They were to be paid for all their sufferings in another world. They were “laying up treasures in heaven.” They had made a bargain with God. He had offered eternal joy to those who would make themselves miserable here. The saints gladly and cheerfully accepted the terms. They expected pay for every pang of hunger, for every groan, for every tear, for every temptation resisted; and this pay was to be an eternity of joy. The selfishness of the saints was equaled only by the stupidity of the saints.
It is not true that character is the aim of life. Happiness should be the aim — and as a matter of fact is and always has been the aim, not only of sinners, but of saints. The saints seemed to think that happiness was better in another world than here, and they expected this happiness beyond the clouds. They looked upon the sinner as foolish to enjoy himself for the moment here, and in consequence thereof to suffer forever. Character is not an end, it is a means to an end. The object of the saint is happiness hereafter — the means, to make himself miserable here. The object of the philosopher is happiness here and now, and hereafter, — if there be another world.
If struggle and temptation, misery and misfortune, are essential to the formation of what you call character, how do you account for the perfection of your angels, or for the goodness of your God? Were the angels perfected through misfortune? If happiness is the only good in heaven, why should it not be considered the only good here?
In order to be happy, we must be in harmony with the conditions of happiness. It cannot be obtained by prayer, — it does not come from heaven — it must be found here, and nothing should be done, or left undone, for the sake of any supernatural being, but for the sake of ourselves and other natural beings.
The early Christians were preparing for the end of the world. In their view, life was of no importance except as it gave them time to prepare for “The Second Coming.” They were crazed by fear. Since that time, the world not coming to the expected end, they have been preparing for “The Day of judgment,” and have, to the extent of their ability, filled the world with horror. For centuries, it was, and still is, their business to destroy the pleasures of this life. In the midst of prosperity they have prophesied disaster. At every feast they have spoken of famine, and over the cradle they have talked of death. They have held skulls before the faces of terrified babes. On the cheeks of health they see the worms of the grave, and in their eyes the white breasts of love are naught but corruption and decay.
THE WASTE FORCES OF NATURE. — For countless years the great cataracts, as for instance, Niagara, have been singing their solemn songs, filling the savage with terror, the civilized with awe; recording its achievements in books of stone — useless and sublime; inspiring beholders with the majesty of purposeless force and the wastefulness of nature.
Force great enough to turn the wheels of the world, lost, useless.
So with the great tides that rise and fall on all the shores of the world — lost forces. And yet man is compelled to use to exhaustion’s point the little strength he has.
This will be changed.
The great cataracts and the great tides will submit to the genius of man. They are to be for use. Niagara will not be allowed to remain a barren roar. It must become the servant of man. It will weave robes for men and women. It will fashion implements for the farmer and the mechanic. It will propel coaches for rich and poor. It will fill streets and homes with light, and the old barren roar will be changed to songs of success, to the voices of love and content and joy.
Science at last has found that all forces are convertible into each other, and that all are only different aspects of one fact.
So the flood is still a terror, but, in my judgment, the time will come when the floods will be controlled by the genius of man, when the tributaries of the great rivers and their tributaries will be dammed in such a way as to collect the waters of every flood and give them out gradually through all the year, maintaining an equal current at all times in the great rivers.
We have at last found that force occupies a circle, that Niagara is a child of the Sun — that the sun shines, the mist rises, clouds form, the rain falls, the rivers flow to the lakes, and Niagara fills the heavens with its song. Man will arrest the falling flood; he will change its force to electricity; that is to say, to light, and then force will have made the circuit from light to light.
ARE MEN’S characters fully determined at the age of thirty?
It depends, first, on what their opportunities have been — that is to say, on their surroundings, their education, their advantages; second, on the shape, quality and quantity of brain they happen to possess; third, on their mental and oral courage; and, fourth, on the character of the people among whom they live.
The natural man continues to grow. The longer he lives, the more he ought to know, and the more he knows, the more he changes the views and opinions held by him in his youth. Every new fact results in a change of views more or less radical. This growth of the mind may be hindered by the “tyrannous north wind” of public opinion; by the bigotry of his associates; by the fear that he cannot make a living if he becomes unpopular; and it is to some extent affected by the ambition of the person, that is to say, if he wishes to hold office the tendency is to agree with his neighbor, or at least to round off and smooth the corners and angles of difference. If a man wishes to ascertain the truth, regardless of the opinions of his fellow-citizens, the probability is that he will change from day to day and from year to year — that is, his intellectual horizon ill widen — and that what he once deemed of great importance will be regarded as an exceedingly small segment of a greater circle.
Growth means change. If a man grows after thirty years he must necessarily change. Many men probably reach their intellectual height long before they have lived thirty years, and spend the balance of their lives in defending the mistakes of their youth. A great man continues to grow until his death, and growth — as I said before — means change. Darwin was continually finding new facts, and kept his mind as open to a new truth as the East is to the rising of another sun. Humboldt at the age of ninety maintained the attitude of a pupil, and was, until the moment of his death, willing to learn.
The more a man knows, the more willing he is to learn — The less a man knows, the more positive he is that he knows everything.
The smallest minds mature the earliest. The less there is to a man the quicker he attains his growth. I have known many people who reached their intellectual height while in their mother’s arms, I have known people who were exceedingly smart babies to become excessively stupid people. It is with men as with other things. The mullein needs only a year, but the oak a century, and the greatest men are those who have continued to grow as long as they have lived. Small people delight in what they call consistency — that is, it gives them immense pleasure to say that they believe now exactly as they did ten years ago. This simply amounts to a certificate that they have not grown — that they have not developed — and that they know just as little now as they ever did. The highest possible conception of consistency is to be true to the knowledge of to-day, without the slightest reference to what your opinion was years ago.
There is another view of this subject. Few men have settled opinions before or at thirty. Of course, I do not include persons of genius. At thirty the passions have, as a rule, too much influence; the intellect is not the pilot. At thirty most men have prejudices rather than opinions — that is to say, rather than judgments — and few men have lived to be sixty without materially modifying the opinions they held at thirty.
As I said in the first place, much depends on the shape, quality and quantity of brain; much depends on mental and moral courage. There are many people with great physical courage who are afraid to express their opinions; men who will meet death without a tremor and will yet hesitate to express their views.
So, much depends on the character of the people among whom we live. A man in the old times living in New England thought several times before he expressed any opinion contrary to the views of the majority. But if the people have intellectual hospitality, then men express their views — and it may be that we change somewhat in proportion to the decency of our neighbors. In the old times it was thought that God was opposed to any change of opinion, and that nothing so excited the anger of the deity as the expression of a new thought. That idea is fading away.
The real truth is that men change their opinions as long as they grow, and only those remain of the same opinion still who have reached the intellectual autumn of their lives; who have gone to seed, and who are simply waiting for the winter of death. Now and then there is a brain in which there is the climate of perpetual spring — men who never grow old — and when such a one is found we say, “Here is a genius.”
Talent has the four seasons: spring, that is to say, the sowing of the seeds; summer, growth; autumn, the harvest; winter, intellectual death. But there is now and then a genius who has no winter, and, no matter how many years he may live, on the blossom of his thought no snow falls. Genius has the climate of perpetual growth.
THE MOIETY SYSTEM. — The Secretary of the Treasury recommends a revival of the moiety system. Against this infamous step every honest citizen ought to protest.
In this country, taxes cannot be collected through such Instrumentalities. An informer is not indigenous to our soil. He always has been and always will be held in merited contempt.
Every inducement, by this system, is held out to the informer to become a liar. The spy becomes an officer of the Government. He soon becomes the terror of his superior. He is a sword without a hilt and without a scabbard, Every taxpayer becomes the lawful prey of a detective whose property depends upon the destruction of his prey.
These informers and spies are corrupters of public morals. They resort to all known dishonest means for the accomplishment of what they pretend to be an honest object. With them perjury becomes a fine art. Their words are a commodity bought and sold in courts of justice.
This is the first phase. In a little while juries will refuse to believe them, and every suit in which they are introduced will be lost by the Government. Of this the real thieves will be quick to take advantage. So many honest men will nave been falsely charged by perjured informers and moiety miscreants, that to convict the guilty will become impossible. If the Government wishes to collect the taxes it must set an honorable example. It must deal kindly and honestly with the people. It must not inaugurate a vampire system of espionage. It must not take it for granted that every manufacturer and importer is a thief, and that all spies and informers are honest men.
The revenues of this country are as honestly paid as they are expended. There has been as much fair dealing outside as inside of the Treasury Department.
But, however that may be, the informer system will not make them honest men, but will in all probability produce exactly the opposite result. If our system of taxation is so unpopular that the revenues cannot be collected without bribing men to tell the truth; if our officers must be offered rewards beyond their salaries to state the facts; if it is impossible to employ men to discharge their duties honestly, then let us change the system. The moiety system makes the Treasury Department a vast vampire sucking the blood of the people upon shares. Americans detest informers, spies, detectives, turners of State’s evidence, eavesdroppers, paid listeners, hypocrites, public smellers, trackers, human hounds and ferrets. They despise men who “suspect” for a living; they hate legal layers-in-wait and the highwaymen of the law. They abhor the betrayers of friends and those who lead and tempt others to commit a crime in order that they may detect it. In a monarchy, the detective system is a necessity. The great thief has to be sustained by smaller ones. — December 4, 1877.
LANGUAGE. — Most people imagine that men have always talked; that language is as old as the race; and it is supposed that some language was taught by some mythological god to the first pair. But we now know, if we know anything, that language is a growth; that every word had to be created by man, and that back of every word is some want, some wish, some necessity of the body or mind, and also a genius to embody that want or that wish, to express that thought in some sound that we call a word.
At first, the probability is that men uttered sounds of fear, of content, of anger, or happiness. And the probability is that the first sounds or cries expressed such feelings, and these sounds were nouns, adjectives, and verbs.
After a time, man began to give his ideas to others by rude pictures, drawings of animals and trees and the various other things with which he could give rude thoughts. At first he would make a picture of the whole animal. Afterward some part of the animal would stand for the whole, and in some of the old picture- writings the curve of the nostril of a horse stands for the animal. This was the shorthand of picture-writing. But it was a long journey to where marks would stand, not for pictures, but for sounds. And then think of the distance still to the alphabet. Then to writing, so that marks took entirely the place of pictures. Then the invention of movable type, and then the press, making it possible to save the wealth of the brain; making it possible for a man to leave not simply his property to his fellow-man, not houses and lands and dollars, but his ideas, his thoughts, his theories, his dreams, the poetry and pathos of his soul. Now each generation is heir to all the past.
If we had free thought, then we could collect the wealth of the intellectual world. In the physical world, springs make the creeks and brooks, and they the rivers, and the rivers empty into the great sea. So each brain should add to the sum of human knowledge. If we deny freedom of thought, the springs cease to gurgle, the rivers to run, and the great ocean of knowledge becomes a desert of barren ignorant sand.
THIS IS AN AGE OF MONEY-GETTING, of materialism, of cold, unfeeling science. The question arises, Is the world growing less generous, less heroic, less chivalric?
Let us answer this. The experience of the individual is much like the experience of a generation, or of a race. An old man imagines that everything was better when he was young; that the weather could then be depended on; that sudden changes are recent inventions. So he will tell you that people used to be honest; that the grocers gave full weight and the merchants full measure, and that the bank cashier did not spend the evening of his days in Canada.
He will also tell you that the women were handsome and virtuous. There were no scandals then, no divorces, and that in religion all were orthodox — no Infidels. Before he gets through, he will probably tell you that the art of cooking has been lost — that nobody can make biscuit now, and that he never expects to eat another slice of good bread.
He mistakes the twilight of his own life for the coming of the night of universal decay and death. He imagines that that has happened to the world, which has only happened to him. It does not occur to him that millions at the moment he is talking are undergoing the experience of his youth, and that when they become old they will praise the very days that he denounces.
The Garden of Eden has always been behind us. The Golden Age, after all, is the memory of youth — it is the result of remembered pleasure in the midst of present pain.
To old age youth is divine, and the morning of life cloudless.
So now thousands and millions of people suppose that the age of true chivalry has gone by and that honesty has about concluded to leave the world. As a matter of fact, the age known as the age of chivalry was the age of tyranny, of arrogance and cowardice. Men clad in complete armor cut down the peasants that were covered with leather, and these soldiers of the chivalric age armored themselves to that degree that if they fell in battle they could not rise, held to the earth by the weight of iron that their bravery had got itself entrenched within. Compare the difference in courage between going to war in coats of mail against sword and spear, and charging a battery of Krupp guns!
The ideas of justice have grown larger and nobler. Charity now does, without a thought, what the average man a few centuries ago was incapable of imagining. In the old times slavery was upheld, and imprisonment for debt. Hundreds of crimes — or rather misdemeanors — were punishable by death. Prisons were loathsome beyond description. Thousands and thousands died in chains. The insane were treated like wild beasts; no respect was paid to sex or age. Women were burned and beheaded and torn asunder as though they had been hyenas, and children were butchered with the greatest possible cheerfulness.
So it seems to me that the world is more chivalric, more generous, nearer just and fair, more charitable, than ever before.
THE COLORED MAN IS DOING WELL. He is hungry for knowledge. Their children are going to school. Colored boys are taking prizes in the colleges. A colored man was the orator of Harvard. They are industrious, and in the South many are becoming rich. As the people, black and white, become educated they become better friends. The old prejudice is the child of ignorance. The colored man will succeed if the South succeeds. The South is richer to-day than ever before, more prosperous, and both races are really improving. The greatest danger in the South, and for that matter all over the country, is the mob. It is the duty of every good citizen to denounce the mob. Down with the mob.
FREEDOM of religion is the destruction of religion. In Rome, after people were allowed to worship their own gods, all gods fell into disrepute. It will be so in America. Here is freedom of religion, and all devotees find that the gods of other devotees are just as good as theirs. They find that the prayers of others are answered precisely as their prayers are answered.
The Protestant God is no better than the Catholic, and the Catholic is no better than the Mormon, and the Mormon is no better than Nature for answering prayers. In other words, all prayers die in the air which they uselessly agitate. There is undoubtedly a tendency among the Protestant denominations to unite. This tendency is born of weakness, not of strength. In a few years, if all should unite, they would hardly have power enough to obstruct, for any considerable time, the march of the intellectual host destined to conquer the world. But let us all be good natured; let us give to others all the rights that we claim for ourselves. The future, I believe, has both hands full of blessings for the human race.
THE DEISTS AND NATURE. — We who deny the supernatural origin of the Bible, must admit not only that it exists, but that it was naturally produced. If it is not supernatural, it is natural. It will hardly do for the worshipers of Nature to hold the Bible in contempt, simply because it is not a supernatural book.
The Deists of the last century made a mistake. They proceeded to show that the Bible is immoral, untrue, cruel and absurd, and therefore came to the conclusion that it could not have been written by a being of infinite wisdom and goodness, — the being whom they believed to be the author of Nature. Could not infinite wisdom and goodness just as easily command crime as to permit it? Is it really any worse to order the strong to slay the weak, than to stand by and refuse to protect the weak?
After all, is Nature, taken together, any better than the Bible? If God did not command the Jews to murder the Canaanites, Nature, to say the least, did not prevent it. If God did not uphold the practice of polygamy, Nature did. The moment we deny the supernatural origin of the Bible, we declare that Nature wrote its every word, commanded all its cruelties, told all its falsehoods. The Bible is, like Nature, a mixture of what we call “good” and “bad,” — of what appears, and of what in reality is.
The Bible must have been a perfectly natural production not only, but a necessary one. There was, and is, no power in the universe that could have changed one word. All the mistakes in translation were necessarily made, and not one, by any possibility, could have been avoided. That book, like all other facts in Nature, could not have been otherwise than it is. The fact being that Nature has produced all superstitions, all persecution, all slavery, and every crime, ought to be sufficient to deter the average man from imagining that this power, whatever it may be, is worthy of worship.
There is good in Nature. It is the nature in us that perceives the evil, that pursues the right. In man, Nature not only contemplates herself, but approves or condemns her actions. Of course, “good and bad” are relative terms, and things are “good” or “bad” as they affect man well or ill.
Infidels, skeptics, — that is to say, Freethinkers, have opposed the Bible on account of the bad things in it, and Christians have upheld it, not on account of the bad, but on account of the good. Throw away the doctrine of inspiration, and the Bible will be more powerful for good and far less for evil.
Only a few years ago, Christians looked upon the Bible as the bulwark of human slavery. It was the word of God, and for that reason was superior to the reason of uninspired man. Had it been considered simply as the work of man, it would not have been quoted to establish that which the man of this age condemns. Throw away the idea of inspiration, and all passages in conflict with liberty, with science, with the experience of the intelligent part of the human race, instantly become harmless. They are no longer guides for man. They are simply the opinions of dead barbarians. The good passages not only remain, but their influence is increased, because they are relieved of a burden.
No one cares whether the truth is inspired or not. The truth is independent of man, not only, but of God. And by truth I do not mean the absolute, I mean this: Truth is the relation between things and thoughts, and between thoughts and thoughts. The perception of this relation bears the same relation to the logical faculty in man, that music does to some portion of the brain — that is to say, it is a mental melody. This sublime strain has been heard by a few, and I am enthusiastic enough to believe that it will be the music of the future.
For the good and for the true in the Old and New Testaments I have the same regard that I have for the good and true, no matter where they may be found. We who know how false the history of to- day is; we who know the almost numberless mistakes that men make who are endeavoring to tell the truth; we who know how hard it is, with all the facilities we now have — with the daily press, the telegraph, the fact that nearly all can read and write — to get a truthful report of the simplest occurrence, must see that nothing short of inspiration (admitting for the moment the possibility of such a thing,) could have prevented the Scriptures from being filled with error.
AT LAST, the schoolhouse is larger than the church. The common people have, through education, become uncommon. They now know how little is really known by kings, presidents, legislators, and professors. At last, they are capable of not only understanding a few questions, but they have acquired the art of discussing those that no one understands. With the facility of the cultured, they can now hide behind phrases and make barricades of statistics. They understand the sophistries of the upper classes; and while the cultured have been turning their attention to the classics, to the dead languages, and the dead ideas that they contain, — while they have been giving their attention to ceramics, artistic decorations, and compulsory prayers, the common people have been compelled to learn the practical things. They are acquainted with facts, because they have done the work of the world.
CRUELTY. — Sometimes it has seemed to me that cruelty is the eliminate of crime, and that generosity is the spring, Summer and Autumn of virtue. Every form of wickedness, of meanness, springs from selfishness, that is to say, from cruelty. Every good man hates and despises the wretch who abuses wife and child — who rules by curses and blows and makes his home a kind of hell, So, no generous man wishes to associate with one who overworks his horse and feeds the lean and fainting beast with blows.
The barbarian delights in inflicting pain. He loves to see his victim bleed, — but the civilized man stanches blood, binds up wounds and decreases pain. He pities the suffering animal as well as the suffering man.
He would no more inflict wanton wounds upon a dog than on a man. The heart of the civilized man speaks for the dumb and helpless.
A good man would no more think of flaying a living animal than of murdering his mother. The man who cuts a hoof from the leg of a horse is capable of committing any crime that does not require courage. Such an experiment can be of no use. Under no circumstances are hoofs taken from horses for the good of the horses any more than their heads would be cut off.
Think of the pain inflicted by separating the hoof of a living horse from the flesh! If the poor beast could speak what would he say? The same knowledge could be obtained by cutting away the hoof of a dead horse. Knowledge of every bone, ligament, artery and vein, of every cartilage and joint can be obtained by the dissection of the dead. “But,” says the biologist, “we must dissect the living.”
Well, millions of living animals have been cut in pieces; millions of experiments have been tried; all the nerves have been touched; every possible agony has been inflicted that ingenuity could invent and cruelty accomplish. Many volumes have been published filled with accounts of these experiments, giving all the details and the results. People who are curious about such things can read these reports. There is no need of repeating these savage experiments, It is now known how long a dog can live with all the pores of his skin closed, how long he can survive the loss of his skin, or one lobe of his brain, or both of his kidneys, or part of his intestines, or without his liver, and there is no necessity of mutilating and mangling thousands of other dogs to substantiate what is already known.
Of what possible use is it to know just how long an animal can live without water — at what time he becomes insane from thirst, or blind or deaf?
THE WORLD’S FAIR Will do great good. A great many thousand people of the Old World will for the first time understand the new; will for the first time appreciate what a free people can do. For the first time they will know the value of free institutions, of individual independence, of a country where people express their thoughts, are not afraid of each other, not afraid to try — a people so accustomed to success that disaster is not taken into calculation. Of course, we have great advantages. We have a new half of the world. We have soil better than is found in other countries, and the soil is new and generous and anxious to be cultivated. So we have everything in hill and mountain that man can need — silver, and gold, and iron beyond computation — and, in addition to all that, our people are the most inventive. We sustain about the same relation to invention that Italy in her palmy days did to art, or that Spain did to superstition.
And right here it may be well enough to say that I think it was exceedingly unfortunate that this country was discovered under the auspices of Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella were a couple of wretches. The same year that Columbus discovered America, these sovereigns expelled the Jews from Spain, and the expulsion was accompanied by every outrage, by every atrocity to which man — that is to say, savage man — that is to say, the superstitious savage — is capable of inflicting.
The Spaniards came to America and destroyed two civilizations far better than their own. They were natural robbers, buccaneers, and thought nothing of murdering thousands for gold. I am perfectly willing to celebrate the fact of discovery, but for the sovereigns of Spain I am not willing to celebrate, except, perhaps their deaths. There is at least some joy to be extracted from that.
In spite of the untoward circumstances under which the continent was discovered and settled, there is one thing that counteracted to a certain degree the influence of the Old World in the New. Possibly we owe our liberty to the Indians. If there had been no hostile savages on this continent, the kings and princes of the Old World would have taken possession and would have divided it out among their favorites. They tried to do that, but their favorites could not take possession. They had to fight for the soil and in the conflict of centuries they found that a good fighter was a good citizen, and the ideas of caste were slowly lost.
Then another thing was of benefit to us. The settlers felt that they had earned the soil; that they had fought for it, gained it by their sufferings, their courage, their self-denial, and their labor; and the idea crept into their heads that the kings in Europe, who had done nothing, had no right to dictate to them.
Thus at first the spirit of caste was destroyed by respectability resting on usefulness. The spirit of subserviency to the Old World also died, and the people who had rescued the land made up their minds not only to own it, but to control it. They were also firmly convinced that the profits belonged to them. ln this way manhood was recognized in the New World. In this way grew up the feeling of nationality here.
What I wish to see celebrated in this great exposition are the triumphs that have been achieved in this New World. These I wish to see above all. At the same time I want the best that labor and thought have produced in all countries. It seems to me that in the presence of the wonderful machines, of those marvelous mechanical contrivances by which we take advantage of the forces of nature, by which we make servants of the elemental powers — in the presence, I say, of these, it seems to me respect for labor must be born. We shall begin to appreciate the men of use instead of those who have posed as decorations. All the beautiful things, all the useful things, come from labor, and it is labor that has made the world a fit habitation for the human race.
Take from the World’s Fair what labor has produced — the work of the great artists — and nothing will be left. What have the great conquerors to show in this great exhibition? What shall we get from the Caesars and the Napoleons? What shall we get from popes and cardinals? What shall we get from the nobility? From princes and lords and dukes? What excuse have they for having existence and for having lived on the bread earned by honest men? They stand in the show-windows of history, lay figures, on which fine goods are shown, but inside the raiment there is nothing, and never was. This exposition will be the apotheosis of labor. No man can attend it without losing, if he has any sense at all, the spirit of caste; or, if he still maintains it, he will put the useful in the highest class, and the useless, whether carrying scepters or dishes for alms, in the lowest.
THE SAVAGE made of the river, the tree, the mountain, a fetich. He put within, or behind these things, a spirit – according to Mr. Spencer, the spirit of a dead ancestor, This is considered by the modern Christian, and in fact by the modern philosopher, as the lowest possible phase of the religious idea. To put behind the river or the tree, or within them, a spirit, a something, is considered the religion of savagery; but to put behind the universe, or within it, the same kind of fetich, is considered the height of philosophy.
For my part, I see no possible distinction in these systems, except that the view of the savage is altogether the more poetic. The fetich of the savage is the noumenon of the Greek, the God of the theologian, the First Cause of the metaphysician. the Unknowable of Spencer.
THE UNTHINKABLE. — It is admitted by all who have thought upon the question that a First Cause is unthinkable — that a creative power is beyond the reach of human thought. It therefore follows that the miraculous is unthinkable. There is no possible way in which the human mind can even think of a miracle. It is infinitely beyond our power of conception. We can conceive of the statement, but not of the thing. It is impossible for the intellect to conceive of a clay pot producing oil. It is impossible to conceive even, of human life being perpetuated in the midst of fire. This is just as unthinkable as that twice two are twenty- seven. A man can say that three times three are two, but it is impossible to think of any such thing — that is, to think of such a statement as true. A man may say that he heard a stone sing a song and heard it afterward repeat a part of Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” Now, I can conceive of a man telling such a falsehood, but I cannot conceive of the thing having happened.
CAN HUMAN TESTIMONY OVERCOME THE APPARENTLY IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT EXPLANATION? — It can only be believed by a philosophic mind when explained — that is to say, by being destroyed as a miracle, and persisting simply as a fact.
Now, I say that a miracle is unthinkable because a power above Nature, a power that created Nature, is unthinkable. And if a power above Nature be unthinkable, the miracles claiming to be supernatural are unthinkable. In other words, all consequences flowing from a belief in an infinite Creator are necessarily unthinkable.
EDOUARD REMENYI. — This week the great violinist, Edouard Remenyi, as my guest, visited the Bass Rocks House, Cape Ann, Mass., and for three days delighted and entranced the fortunate idlers of the beach. He played nearly all the time, night and day, seemingly carried away with his own music. Among the many selections given, were the andante from the Tenth Sonata in E flat, also from the Twelfth Sonata in G minor, by Mozart. Nothing could exceed the wonderful playing of the selections from the Twelfth Sonata. A hush as of death fell upon the audience, and when he ceased, tears fell upon applauding hands. Then followed the Elegie from Ernst; then “The Ideal Dance” composed by himself — a fairy piece, full of wings and glancing feet, moonlight, and melody, where fountains fall in showers of pearl, and waves of music die on sands of gold — then came the “Barcarole” by Schubert, and he played this with infinite spirit, in a kind of inspired frenzy, as though music itself were mad with joy; then the grand Sonata in G, in three movements, by Beethoven. —
REMENYI’S PLAYING. — In my mind the old tones are still rising and falling — still throbbing, pleading, beseeching, imploring, wailing like the lost — rising winged and triumphant, superb and victorious — then caressing, whispering every thought of love — intoxicated, delirious with joy — panting with passion — fading to silence as softly and imperceptibly as consciousness is lost in steep.
THE KINDERGARTEN is perfectly adapted to the natural needs and desires of children. Most children dislike the old system and go “unwillingly to school.” They feel imprisoned and wait impatiently for their liberty. They learn without understanding and take no interest in their lessons. In the Kindergarten there is perfect liberty, and study is transformed into play. To learn is a pleasure. There are no wearisome tasks — no mental drudgery — nothing but enjoyment, — the enjoyment of natural development in natural ways. Children do not have to be driven to the Kindergarten. To be kept away is a punishment.
The experience in many towns and cities justifies our belief that the Kindergarten is the only valuable school for little children. They are brought in contact with actual things — with forms and colors — things that can be seen and touched, and they are taught to use their hands and senses — to understand qualities and relations, and all is done under the guise of play. We agree with Froebel who said: “Let us live for our children.”
THE METHODIST CHURCH STATISTICS. — First. In 1800, a resolution in favor of gradual emancipation was defeated.
Second. In 1804, resolutions passed requiring ministers to exhort slaves to be obedient to their masters.
Third. In 1808, everything about laymen owning slaves stricken out.
Fourth. In 1820, a resolution that ministers should not hold slaves was defeated.
Fifth. In 1836, a resolution passed that the Methodist Church opposed abolition of slavery — one hundred and twenty to fourteen.
Sixth. In 1845-1846, the Methodist Church divided — Bishop Andrews owned slaves.
Seventh. As late as 1860 there were over ten thousand Methodists who were slave-holders in the M.E. Church, North.
Response to an invitation to a dinner and a billiard tournament at the Manhattan Athletic Club, New York City.
117 East 21st Str., N. Y.
Feb. 18, 1899
. My DEAR DR. RANNEY:
I go to Boston to-morrow. So, you see it is impossible for me to be with you on the 22d inst. I would like to make a few remarks on “orthodox billiards.” The fact is that the whole world is a table, we are the balls and Fate plays the game. We are knocked and whacked against each other, — followed and drawn — whirled and twisted, pocketed and spotted, and all the time we think that we are doing the playing. But no matter, we feel that we are in the game, and a real good illusion is, after all, it may be, the only reality that we know. At the same time, I feel that Fate is a careless player — that he is always a little nervous and generally forgets to chalk his cue. I know that he has made lots of mistakes with me — lots of misses.
With many thanks, I remain, yours always.
THOUGHTS ON CHRISTMAS, 1891. — It is beautiful to give one day to the ideal — to have one day apart; one day for generous deeds, for good will, for gladness; one day to forget the shadows, the rains, the storms of life; to remember the sunshine, the happiness of youth and health; one day to forget the briers and thorns of the winding path, to remember the fruits and flowers; one day in which to feed the hungry, to salute the poor and lowly one day to feel the brotherhood of man; one day to remember the heroic and loving deeds of the dead; one day to get acquainted with children, to remember the old, the unfortunate and the imprisoned; one day in which to forget yourself and think lovingly of others; one day for the family, for the fireside, for wife and children, for the love and laughter, the joy and rapture, of home; one day in which bonds and stocks and deeds and notes and interest and mortgages and all kinds of business and trade are forgotten, and all stores and shops and factories and offices and banks and ledgers and accounts and lawsuits are cast aside, put away and locked up, and the weary heart and brain are given a voyage to fairyland.
Let us hope that such a day is a prophecy of what all days will be.
THE ORTHODOX PREACHERS are several centuries in the rear. They all love the absurd, and glory in believing the impossible. They are also as conservative as though they were dead — good people — the leaders of those who are going backward.
THE MAN who builds a home erects a temple. The flame upon the hearth is the sacred fire.
He who loves wife and children is the true worshiper.
Forms and ceremonies, kneelings and fastings are born of selfish fear.
A good deed is the best prayer.
A loving life is the best religion.
No one knows whether the Unknown is worthy of worship or not.
WE TWO, the doubting brain and hoping heart, with somber thought and radiant wish, in dusk and dawn, in light and shade ‘neath star and sun, together journeying toward the night. And then the end, sighs the doubting brain — but there is no end, says the hoping heart. O Brain! if you knew, you would not doubt. O Heart! if you knew, you would not hope.
RIGHTS AND DUTIES spring from the same source. He who has no rights has no duties. Without liberty there can be no responsibility and no conscience. Man calls himself to an account for the use of his power, and passes judgment upon himself. The standard of such judgment we call conscience. In the proportion that man uses his liberty, his power, for the good of all, he advances, becomes civilized. Civilization does not consist merely in invention, discovery, material advancement, but in doing justice. By civilization is meant all discoveries, facts, theories, agencies, that add to the happiness of man.
AT BAY. — Sometimes in the darkness of night I feel as though surrounded by the great armies of effacement — that the horizon is growing smaller every moment — that the final surrender is only postponed — that everything is taking something from me — that Nature robs me with her countless hands — that my heart grows weaker with every beat — that even kisses wear me away, and that every thought takes toll of my brief life.
Written on the first anniversary of his grandchild, Eva Ingersoll-Brown, August 27, 1892.
THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY. — One year of perfect health — of countless smiles — of wonder and surprise — of growing thought And love — was duly celebrated on this day, and all paid tribute to the infant queen. There were whirling things that scattered music as they turned — and boxes filled with tunes — and curious animals of whittled wood — and ivory rings with tinkling bells — and little dishes for a fairy-feast — horses that rocked, and bleating sheep and monstrous elephants of painted tin. A baby- tender, for a tender babe, garments of silk and cushions wrought with flowers, and pictures of her mother when a babe — and silver dishes for another year — and coach and four and train of cars — and bric-a-brac for a baby’s house — and last of all, a pearl, to mark her first round year of life and love.
SHELLEY. — The light of morn beyond the purple hills — a palm that lifts its coronet of leaves above the desert’s sands — an isle of green in some far sea — a spring that waits for lips of thirst — a strain of music heard within some palace wrought of dreams — a cloud of gold above a setting sun — a fragrance wafted from some unseen shore.
FATE. — Never hurried, never delayed, passionless, pitiless, patient, keeping the tryst — neither early nor late — there, on the very stroke and center of the instant fixed.
QUIET, and introspective calm come with the afternoon. Toward evening the mind grows satisfied and still. The flare and flicker of youth are gone, and the soul is like the flame of a lamp where the air is at rest. Age discards the superfluous, the immaterial, the straw and chaff, and hoards the golden grain. The highway is known, and the paths no longer mislead. Clouds are not mistaken for mountains.
THE OLD MAN has been long at the fair. He is acquainted with the jugglers at the booths. His curiosity has been satisfied. He no longer cares for the exceptional, the monstrous, the marvelous and deformed. He looks through and beyond the gilding, the glitter and gloss, not only of things, but of conduct, of manners, theories, religions and philosophies. He sees clearer. The light no longer shines in his eyes.
THE TIME will come when even selfishness will be charitable for its own sake, because at that time the man will have grown and developed to that degree that selfishness demands generosity and kindness and justice. The self becomes so noble that selfishness is a virtue. The lowest form of selfishness is when one is willing to be happy, or wishes to be happy, at the expense or the misery of another. The highest form of selfishness is when a man becomes so noble that he finds his happiness in making others so. This is the nobility of selfishness.
CUBA fell upon her knees — stretched her thin hands toward the great Republic. We saw her tear-filled eyes — her withered breasts — her dead babes — her dying — her buried and unburied dead. We heard her voice, and pity, roused to action by her grief, became as stern as justice, and the great Republic cried to Spain: “Sheathe the dagger of assassination; take your bloody hand from the throat of the helpless; and take your flag from the heaven of the stem World.”
PERHAPS I have reached the years of discretion. But it may be that discretion is the enemy of happiness. If the buds had discretion there might be no fruit. So it may be that the follies committed in the spring give autumn the harvest. —
August 11, 1892.
DICKENS wrote for homes — Thackdray for clubs. Byron did not care for the fireside — for the prattle of babes — for the smiles and tears of humble life. He was touched by grandeur rather than goodness, — loved storm and crag and the wild sea. But Burns lived in the valley, touched by the joys and griefs of lowly lives.
IMAGINE amethysts, rubies, diamonds, emeralds and opals mingled as liquids — then imagine these marvelous glories of light and color changed to a tone, and you have the wondrous, the incomparable voice of Scalchi.
THE ORGAN. — The beginnings — the timidities — the half thoughts — blushes — suggestions — a phrase of grace and feeling — a sustained note — the wing on the wind — confidence — the flight — rising with many harmonies that unite in the voluptuous swell — in the passionate tremor — rising still higher — flooding the great dome with the soul of enraptured sound.
NEW MEXICO is a most wonderful country. It is a ragged miser with billions of buried treasure. It looks as if Nature had guarded her silver and gold with enough desolation to deter all but the brave.
WHY should the Indian summer of a life be lost — the long, serene, and tender days when earth and sky are friends? The falling leaves disclose the ripened fruit — and so the flight of youth with dreams and fancies should show the wealth of bending bough.
[From a letter thanking a friend for a Christmas present of a chest of tea.]
GIVE milk to babes, and wine to youth. But for old age, when ghosts of more than two-score years are wandering on the traveled road, the fragrant tea, that loosens gossip’s tongue, is best. —
December 25, 1892.
ON Memorial Day our hearts blossom in gratitude as we lovingly remember the brave men upon whose brows Death, with fleshless hands, placed the laurel wreath of fame.
THE soul is an architect — it builds a habitation for itself — and as the soul is, is the habitation. Some live in dens and caves, and some in lowly homes made rich with love, and overrun with vine and flower.
SCIENCE at last holds with honest hand the scales wherein are weighed the facts and fictions of the world. She neither kneels nor prays, she stands erect and thinks. Her tongue is not a traitor to her brain. Her thought and speech agree.
THE NEGRO who can pass me in the race of life will receive my admiration, and he can count on my friendship. No man ever lived who proved his superiority by trampling on the weak.
RELIGION is like a palm tree — it grows at the top. The dead leaves are all orthodox, while the new ones and the buds are all heretics.
MEMORY is the miser of the mind; forgetfulness the spendthrift.
HOPE is the only bee that makes honey without flowers.
THE FIRES of the next world sustain the same relation to churches that those in this world sustain to insurance companies.
NOW and then there arises a man who on peril’s edge draws from the scabbard of despair the sword of victory.
THE FALLING leaf that tells of autumn’s death is, in a subtler sense, a prophecy of spring.
VICE lives either before Love is born, or after Love is dead.
INTELLECTUAL freedom is only the right to be honest.
I BELIEVE that finally man will go through the phase of religion before birth.
WHEN shrill chanticleer pierces the dull ear of mom.
ORTHODOXY IS the refuge of mediocrity.
THE ocean is the womb of all that will be, the tomb of all that has been.
JEALOUSY never knows the value of a fact.
ENVY cannot reason. malice cannot prophesy.
LOVE has a kind of second sight.
I HAVE never given to any one a sketch of my life. According to my idea a life should not be written until it has been lived. —
July, 1, 1888.