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viction than to have the lease of indefinite centuries and millenniums and æons. Higher than the question of our duration is the question of our deserving. Immortality will come to such as are fit for it, and he who would be a great soul in future must be a great soul
It is a doctrine too great to rest on any legend, that is, on any man's experience but our own. It must be proved, if at all, from our own activity and designs, which imply an interminable future for their play.1
As the bird trims her to the gale,
every wave is charmed.” ?
(1804-1864) [Hawthorne's imagination was touched by the announcement that an Italian had discovered some chemical means of petrifying the dead, converting them as it were into statues (Conway).]
UT never may we—the writer-stand amid that
marble crowd! In God's own time we would fain be buried as our fathers were. We desire to give
1 From essay on “Worship.”
2 From “ Terminus.”
mortality its own. Our clay must not be baulked of its repose. We are willing to let it moulder beneath the little hillock, and that the sods should gradually settle down and leave no traces of our grave. We have no yearnings for the grossness of this earthly immortality. If somewhat of our soul and intellect might live in the memory of men, we should be glad.
It would be an image of the ethereal and indestructible. But what belongs to earth, let the earth take it.1
Here I sit in my old accustomed chamber, where I used to sit in days gone by. . . . Here I have written many tales,-many that have been burned to ashes, many that have doubtless deserved the same fate. This claims to be called a haunted chamber, for thousands upon thousands of visions have appeared to me in it, and some few of them have become visible to the world. . . . So much of my lonely youth was wasted here, and here my mind and character were formed; and here I have been glad and hopeful, and here I have been despondent. And here I sat a long, long time waiting patiently for the world to know me, and sometimes wondering why it did not know me sooner, or whether it would ever know me at all, at least till I were in my grave.
And sometimes it seemed as if I were already in the grave, with only life enough to be chilled and benumbed. But oftener I was happy,-at least as happy as I then knew how to be, or was aware of the possibility of being. By and by, the world found me out in my lonely chamber, and called me forth,-not, indeed, with a loud roar of acclamation, but rather with a still small voice,—and forth I went,
1 From the American Magazine of Useful Knowledge, 1836.
but found nothing in the world I thought preferable to my
solitude till now. . . . And now I begin to understand why I was imprisoned so many years in this lonely chamber, and why I could never break through the viewless bolts and bars; for if I had sooner made my escape into the world, I should have grown hard and rough, and been covered with earthly dust, and my heart might have become callous by rude encounters with the multitude. . . . But living in solitude till the fulness of time was come, I still kept the dew of my youth and the freshness of my heart. . . . I used to think I could imagine all passions, all feelings, and states of the heart and mind; but how little did I know !. Indeed, we are but shadows; we are not endowed with real life, and all that seems most real about us is but the thinnest substance of a dream,—till the heart be touched. That touch creates us,—then we begin to be,—thereby we are beings of reality and inheritors of eternity.1
I cannot finish it [the Dolliver Romance) unless a great change comes over me, and if I make too great an effort to do so, it will be my death; not that I should care much for that if I could fight the battle through and win it, thus ending a life of much smoulder and a scanty fire in a blaze of glory. I am not low-spirited, nor fanciful, nor freakish, but look what seems to me realities in the face, and am ready to take whatever may come.?
1 From American Note-Books, October 4, 1840.
2 From letter written to Mr. Fields about three months before his death.
GEORGE SAND . . (1804–1876)
(MME. DUDEVANT) L' IKE yourself, I am not anxious for death. Being
convinced that life does not end, that it is not even interrupted, that all is but passage and function, I go on with the most entire confidence in the unknown. I henceforth abstain from seeking to divine or to define that unknown; I see great danger in those efforts of imagination which render us systematic and intolerant, and close our minds against progress, whose breath is always blowing from all points of the horizon. But I have the idea of the never-ceasing and everlasting future state (le devenir incessant et éternel), and, whatever it may be, its being logical, and consequently noble and good, is inwardly demonstrated to me by an invincible sentiment. It is enough to live in the love of good and in relative calm, in the degree of serenity fatally limited and transient which our relation with the universe and with our fellow-creatures permits us to enjoy.
We must not advance the hour when it will please God to unite us to those we have loved ; and when that time comes, we will also leave something of ourselves in the hearts that shall have been devoted to us. We do not die altogether in this world, and yet we live more fully elsewhere. In the bosom of God there is neither vengeance nor torment, there is only justice and goodness; in that bosom we shall live for ever, under whatever form, and whatever may be our titles to that
1 From letter to M. Armand Barbès, January 1867.
eternal life. What that life will be we do not know ; and it is precisely our ignorance of the fate He reserves for us that causes the sweetness and the merit of our confidence in Him. Rest assured that they who believed in damnation will alone be damned; yet that damnation, which we consider as eternal and terrible, can only be a new, transient, and not unbearable ordeal. God exists; He must be good. All religions whose aim is not confidence teach us the fear of God—that is, hatred of truth.1
How life worries and affects you! For all that you complain of constitutes life. It never was at
time better for any one else. We feel it, we understand it, and therefore suffer from it more or less, and the more we are in advance of the times we live in, the more we suffer. We pass like shadows on a cloudy sky, through which the sun scarcely and seldom breaks, and we are ever inveighing against that sun, though it is not its fault. It is we who should get rid of our clouds. You are too fond of literature; it will kill
you, will not succeed in stamping out human folly. Poor dear folly! As for myself, I do not hate it. I look upon it with motherly eyes; for it is that of childhood, and childhood should always be sacred. . . You forget there is something above art, viz., wisdom, of which art at its climax is but the expression. Wisdom comprises all that is beautiful, true, and good, and, of course, enthusiasm too.
It teaches us to notice outside of us something loftier than what is in us, and to assimilate it gradually through contemplation and admiration. 1 From letter to Malle. Leroyer de Chantepie, January 1873.