What a vast fraternity it is,--that of 'Hearts that Ache.' For the last three months it has seemed to me as though all society were coming to me, to drop its mask for a moment and initiate me into the mystery. How we do suffer! And we go on laughing; for, as a practical joke at our expense, life is a success.
At the utmost, the active-minded young man should ask of his teacher only mastery of his tools. The young man himself, the subject of education, is a certain form of energy; the object to be gained is economy of his force; the training is partly the clearing away of obstacles, partly the direct application of effort. Once acquired, the tools and models may be thrown away.
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Just as the French of the nineteenth century invested their surplus capital in a railway-system in the belief that they would makemoney by it in this life, in the thirteenth they trusted their money to the Queen of Heaven because of their belief in her power to repay it with interest in the life to come.
The spring is here, young and beautiful as ever, and absolutely shocking in its display of reckless maternity; but the Judas treewill bloom for you on the Bosphorus if you get there in time. No one ever loved the dog-wood and Judas tree as I have done, and it is my one crown of life to be sure that I am going to take them with me to heaven to enjoy real happiness with the Virgin and them.
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A certain secret jealousy of the British Minister is always lurking in the breast of every American Senator, if he is truly democratic; for democracy, rightly understood, is the government of the people, by the people, for the benefit of Senators, and there is always a danger that the British Minister may not understand this political principle as he should.
You may cut off the heads of every rich man now living--of every statesman--every literary, and every scientific authority, without in the least changing the social situation. Artists, of course, disappeared long ago as social forces. So did the church. Corporations are not elevators, but levellers, as I see them.
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Society' in America means all the honest, kindly-mannered, pleasant- voiced women, and all the good, brave, unassuming men, between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Each of these has a free pass in every city and village, 'good for this generation only,' and it depends on each to make use of this pass or not as it may happen to suit his or her fancy.
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The President may indeed in one respect resemble the commander of an army in peace, but in another and more essential sense he resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek. He must sooner or later be convinced that a perpetual calm is as little to his purpose as a perpetual hurricane, and that without headway the ship can arrive nowhere.
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Power is poison. Its effect on Presidents has been always tragic, chiefly as an almost indecent excitement at first, and a worse reaction afterwards; but also because no mind is so well balanced as to bear the strain of seizing unlimited force without habit or knowledge of it; and finding it disputed with him by hungry packs of wolves and hounds whose lives depend on snatching the carion.
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If Washington were President now, he would have to learn our ways or lose his next election. Only fools and theorists imagine that our society can be handled with gloves or long poles. One must make one's self a part of it. If virtue won't answer our purpose, we must use vice, or our opponents will put us out of office, and this was as true in Washington's day as it is now, and always will be.
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One had heard and read a great deal about death, and even seen a little of it, and knew by heart the thousand commonplaces of religion and poetry which seemed to deaden one's senses and veil the horror. Society being immortal, could put on immortality at will. Adams being mortal, felt only the mortality. Death took features altogether new to him, in these rich and sensuous surroundings. Nature enjoyed it, played with it, the horror added to her charm, she liked the torture, and smothered her victim with caresses. Never had one seen her so winning. The hot Italian summer brooded outside, over the market-place and the picturesque peasants, and, in the singular color of the Tuscan atmosphere, the hills and vineyards of the Apennines seemed bursting with mid-summer blood. The sick-room itself glowed with the Italian joy of life; friends filled it; no harsh northern lights pierced the soft shadows; even the dying women shared the sense of the Italian summer, the soft, velvet air, the humor, the courage, the sensual fulness of Nature and man. She faced death, as women mostly do, bravely and even gaily, racked slowly to unconsciousness, but yielding only to violence, as a soldier sabred in battle. For many thousands of years, on these hills and plains, Nature had gone on sabring men and women with the same air of sensual pleasure.
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The habit of looking at life as a social relation - an affair of society - did no good. It cultivated a weakness which needed no cultivation. If it had helped to make men of the world, or give the manners and instincts of any profession - such as temper, patience, courtesy, or a faculty of profiting by the social defects of opponents - it would have been education better worth having than mathematics or languages; but so far as it helped to make anything, it helped only to make the college standard permanent through life.
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Charles Francis Adams was singular for mental poise - absence of self-assertion or self-consciousness - the faculty of standing apart without seeming aware that he was alone - a balance of mind and temper that neither challenged nor avoided notice, nor admitted question of superiority or inferiority, of jealousy, of personal motives, from any source, even under great pressure.
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The first serious consciousness of Nature's gesture - her attitude towards life-took form then as a phantasm, a nightmare, all insanity of force. For the first time, the stage-scenery of the senses collapsed; the human mind felt itself stripped naked, vibrating in a void of shapeless energies, with resistless mass, colliding, crushing, wasting, and destroying what these same energies had created and labored from eternity to perfect.
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I, too, like yourself was a good party man: my party was that of the Church; I was ultramontane. Your party system is one of your thefts from our Church; your National Convention is our Ecunemic Council; you abdicate reason, as we do, before its decisions; and you yourself Mr. Ratcliffe, you are a Cardinal.
For the first time in his life, Mont Blanc for a moment looked to him what it was - a chaos of anarchic and purposeless forces - and he needed days of repose to see it clothe itself again with the illusions of his senses, the white purity of its snows, the splendor of its light, and the infinity of its heavenly peace. Nature was kind; Lake Geneva was beautiful beyond itself, and the Alps put on charms real as terrors.
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