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rest centred in a very few simple truths. I do not want to ignore the other side, that one will not be able to see so well, or walk so far, or read so much. But there
may be more peace within, more communion with God, more real light instead of distraction about many things, better relations with others, fewer mistakes. The quality of human life does not consist in bustle or activity, but in stillness and in the heart. Therefore I will never look upon
that are before me as a time of decay. I mean to fight the battle out as well as I can, and fill up some of the shortcomings of youth and middle life.1
O coward soul is mine,
I see Heaven's glories shine,
O God within my breast,
Life—that in me has rest,
Vain are the thousand creeds
Worthless as withered weeds,
1 From letter to the Countess of Wemyss, December 17, 1890.
To waken doubt in one
So surely anchored on
With wide-embracing love
Pervades and broods above,
Though earth and man were gone,
And Thou wert left alone,
There is no room for Death,
Thou—Thou art Being and Breath,
IVAN TURGÉNEV (1818-1883) I
WONDER what I shall think when I come to die
-in case I shall be in a condition to think of anything?
Shall I think to what bad account I have turned my life, how I have slept and dreamt it away, how unfitted I have been to enjoy its gifts ?
“How ? Surely this is not death? So soon! Impossible! Why, I have as yet accomplished nothing in life. . . . I am only now really beginning to think of accomplishing something !”
1 “Last Lines.”
Shall I think on the past,--and linger in spirit with the few bright moments of my life—with the forms and persons that were dear to me?
Will my evil deeds intrude themselves on my memory—and will my soul feel the burning pain of a too late repentance ?
Shall I think on that which awaits me beyond the grave? . . . Yes, and does anything await me there?
No!... I believe I shall try not to think at all, and shall occupy myself eagerly with some trifle or other, in order to divert my attention from the threatening darkness, the darkness-ever blacker and blackerencompassing me.
I was present once when a dying man complained that they would not give him any nuts to eat!... and only in the depths of his sad eyes something trembled and quivered—something which reminded one of the shattered wings of a bird wounded to death."
JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE
HEN the weather is bad the wounds of old sins
and follies, long forgotten too, begin to ache again. It were much better never to have been. Perhaps we are responsible even for having been born. It may have been the penalty of some delinquency in a past existence. El mayor delito es haber nacido. .. The great alteration I find in myself is the disappearance of hope. I don't mean as regards another life, or that one has grown despondent. Not the least that,
1 From Senilia (“What Shall I Think ?” .), 1879.
but simply that one has so short a future in this world that it is no longer worth while to think about it. Thus the personal element is taken out of every equation, and one looks at things without the twist from personal interest or emotion.1
Mrs. OLIPHANT (About 1818–1897) LIFE, though it is short, is very long, and contains I have had trials which-I
it with full knowledge of all the ways of mental suffering -have been harder than sorrow. I have lived a laborious life—incessant work, incessant anxiety, and yet so strange, so capricious is this human being, that I would not
say I have had an unhappy life. . . . Sometimes I am miserable—always there is in me the sense that I may have active cause to be so at any moment—always the gnawing pangs of anxiety, and deep, deep dissatisfaction beyond words, and the sense of helplessness, which of itself is despair. And yet there are times when my heart jumps up in the old unreasonable way, and I am-yes, happy—though the word seems so inappropriate—without any cause for it, with so many causes the other way.2
I made on the whole a large income--and spent it, taking no thought of the morrow. Yes, taking a great deal of thought of the morrow in the way of constant work and constant undertaking of whatever kind of work came to my hand. . . . I pay the penalty in that I shall not leave anything behind me that will live.
1 From a letter (undated). 2 From Autobiography.
What does it matter? Nothing at all now—never anything to speak of. At my most ambitious of times I would rather
children had remembered me as their mother than in any other way, and my friends as their friend. I never cared for anything else.
And now that there are no children to whom to leave any memory, and the friends drop day by day, what is the reputation of a circulating library to me? Nothing, and less than nothing—a thing the thought of which now makes me angry, that any one should for a moment imagine I cared for that, or that it made
I try to realise heaven to myself, and I cannot do it. The more I think of it the less I am able to feel that those who have left us can start up at once in a heartless beatitude without caring for our sorrow.
Do they sleep until the great day? Or does time so cease for them that it seems but a matter of hours and minutes till we meet again ? God who is Love cannot give immortality and annihilate affection ; that surely, at least, we must take for granted—as sure as they live they live to love us. Human nature in the flesh cannot be more faithful, more tender, than the purified human soul in heaven. Where, then, are they, those who have gone before us ? Some people say around us, still knowing all that occupies us ; but that is an idea I cannot entertain either. It would not be happiness but pain to be beside those we love, yet unable to communicate with them, unable to make ourselves known.2
1 From Autobiography.
2 Ibid. Written at Rome in 1864, after the death of her daughter.