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some of his personages say, in speaking of the days which they spent on earth, “the time of my debt.” Ah, well ! let us hold out as long as we can.1
Always evil !
When will the good come ? Ah, life! life! how hard it sometimes is; and how much we need our friends, and yonder heaven to help us to come back to it ! 2
They call me a Socialist. . . . Is it, then, impossible simply to accept the ideas that come into one's mind at the sight of the man who “eats bread by the sweat of his brow”? There are people who say that I see no charms in the country. I see much more than charms there—infinite splendours. I see, as well as they do, the little flowers of which Christ said, “I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
I see very well the auréoles of the dandelions, and the sun spreading his glory in the clouds over the distant worlds. But none the less I see down there in the plain the steaming horses leading the plough, and in a rocky corner a man, quite worn-out, whose han has been heard since morning, and who tries to straighten himself and take breath for a moment. The drama is surrounded with splendour.3
1 From letter to Rousseau, 1856.
SIR JAMES PAGET (1814–1899) IT T could not be without interest to watch the changes
of the body as life naturally ebbs; changes by which all is undone that the formative process in development achieved; by which all that was gathered from the inorganic world, impressed with life, and fashioned to organic form, is restored to the masses of dead matter; to trace how life gives back to death the elements on which it had subsisted; the progress of that decay through which, as by a common path, the brutes pass to their annihilation, and man to immortality:
We that can read in memory the history of half a century might look back with shame and deep regret at the imperfections of our early knowledge, if we might not be sure that we held, and sometimes helped onward, the best things that were, in their time, possible, and that they were necessary steps to the better present, even as the present is to the still better future. Yes— to the far better future; for there is no course of nature more certain than is the upward progress of science. We may seem to move in circles, but they are the circles of a constantly ascending spiral ; we may seem to sway from side to side, but it is only as on a steep ascent, which must be climbed in zig-zag. .
How hard it is to give up, or to find examples of 1 From Lectures, published 1853.
2 From the Inaugural Address, Congress of London, August 3, 1881.
happy retreat. I suppose it is best to go on-unless one could be sure that the time taken from the business of this life would be well spent in preparing for the next, or that one had not even now time enough for this if only one would use it well. May God help us. He can make us safe in either work or rest.1
(1815-1882) IF F the rustle of a woman's petticoat has ever stirred
my blood; if a cup of wine has been a joy to me; if I have thought tobacco at midnight in pleasant company to be one of the elements of an earthly paradise; if now and again I have somewhat recklessly fluttered a £5 note over a card-table ;-of what matter is that to any reader? I have betrayed no woman. Wine has brought me to no sorrow.
It has been the companionship of smoking that I have loved, rather than the habit. I have never desired to win money, and I have lost none.
To enjoy the excitement of pleasure, but to be free from its vices and ill effects—to have the sweet, and leave the bitter untasted,- that has been my study. The preachers tell us that this is impossible. It seems to me that hitherto I have succeeded fairly well. I will not say that I have never scorched a finger—but I carry no ugly wounds.
For what remains to me of life I trust for my happiness still chiefly to my work—hoping that when the power of work be over with
me, God may be pleased to take me from a world in which, according to my
1 From letter to Sir Henry Acland, December 1891.
view, there can be no joy ; secondly, to the love of those who love me; and then to my
(1815–1898) IFI F I were not a Christian, I would not continue to
serve the King another hour. Did I not obey my God and count upon Him, I should certainly take no account of earthly masters. I should have enough to live upon, and occupy a sufficiently distinguished position. Why should I incessantly worry myself and labour in this world, exposing myself to embarrassments, annoyances, and evil treatment, if I did not feel bound to do my duty on behalf of God? Did I not believe in a Divine ordinance, which had destined this German nation to become good and great, I had never taken to the diplomatic trade; or, having done so, I would long since have given it up. I know not whence I should derive my sense of duty if not from God. Orders and titles have no charms for me; I firmly believe in a life after death, and that is why I am a Royalist; by nature I am disposed to be a Republican. To my steadfast faith alone do I owe the power of resisting all manner of absurdities which I have displayed throughout the past ten years. Deprive me of this faith and you rob me of my Fatherland. Were I not a staunch Christian, did I not stand upon the miraculous basis of religion, you would never have possessed a Federal Chancellor in my person.
1 From Autobiography.
2 From Bismarck's Table-Talk, spoken during the FrancoPrussian War.
I have never lived on principles. When I have had to act, I never first asked myself on what principles I was going to act, but I went at it, and did what I thought good. I have often been reproached for want of principles. In my youth I often talked with a lady cousin of mine who had a tincture of philosophy, and who wanted to play the aunt with me about the question whether I must adopt principles or not. At last I put an end to further dispute by remarking, “ If I am to go through life with principles, it seems to me just the same as if I had to pass along a narrow forest path with a long pole in my mouth.” 1
For him who does not believe—as I do, from the bottom of my heart—that death is a transition from one existence to another, . .. the joys of this life must possess so high a value that I could almost
him the sensations they must procure him. His occupations must appear to him so teeming with promise of reward that I cannot realise to myself what his state of feeling must be if, believing that his personal existence terminates for ever with his bodily demise, he considers it worth while to go on living at all.2
I live a life of great activity, and occupy a lucrative post; but all this could offer me no inducement to live one day longer did I not, as the poet (Schiller) says, “ believe in God and a better future." 3
1 From Bismarck's Table-Talk, spoken during the FrancoPrussian War. 2 In the Reichstag, 1870.
3 Ibid. 1878.