A French Critic's Impressions of America
|A French Critic's Impressions of America (1897)
|From McClure's Magazine/Volume 10, November 1897, pp. 67-74; Although the editor's note anticipated further articles in this series they were never published.|
By Ferdinand Brunetière,
Editor of the "Revue des Deux Mondes."NEW YORK AND BALTlMORE.—AMERICAN UNIVERSITlES.—AMERICAN CHARACTERISTICS.
- Editor's Note.—The author of this paper, M. Brunetière, besides being the editor of one of the most important periodicals in the world, is, perhaps, the foremost of living French critics. In it and two that are to follow (one in December and one in January) is collected whatever has particular interest for American readers in a series which M. Brunetière is now publishing in his own magazine, the "Revue des Deux Mondes.
NEW YORK, March 22d.—My greatest. surprise is to be surprised so little; and in the mild atmosphere, under a brilliant sun, it does not seem to me that I have changed climates.
Nevertheless I am in America.
But what can you expect ? My eyes and my mind are so fashioned that wherever I have journeyed I have found men more like each other than their vanity might be willing to admit; and douhtless that is not a favorable temper for "observing,".but who knows whether it be not an excellent one for seeing better? How many travelers there are whose accounts have aroused in me nothing but a great astonishment at their ingenuity! They discover differences everywhere, and to my eyes these differences do not exist. Europeans or Americans, yellow men or white, Anglo-Saxons or Latins, we all have specimens at home of all the vices; let us add that the same is true of all the qualities and virtues, and repeat with the poet:
"Humani generis mores tibi nosse volenti,
Sufficit una domus. . . ."
. . . I am walking along Fifth Avenue, making these reflections and beginning to fear lest a spice of vexation at not possessing, a more traveled soul may creep into them, when it suddenly occurs to me that this avenue is very long. I also perceive that all the streets cross each other at right angles, and that, motley as the crowd may be which fills them with commotion, numerous as are the car lines by which they are furrowed, unlike and sumptuous as are the shops which line them, the impression they produce is, after all, a trifle monotonous. Fortunately, some tall houses come to dispel this at the very nick of time—very tall houses, of from twelve to fourteen stories; cubical houses with flat roofs; pierced with innumerable windows; stoue houses whose crude whiteness enlivens at last this decoration which hitherto has been all in brick. I take pains to note, then, that in New York there are houses of fourteen stories, and, must it be said? they are not uglier than if they had only five. Where is it that I have seen uglier ones, not so tall, but in the same style, or the same taste, which proceeded less from the art of Bramante or Palladio than from the science of Eiffel the engineer? Was it not perchance at Rome, in the new quarters? What astonishes me most, however, and what I can scarcely account for to myself, is that, positively, these enormous houses do not seem to be embedded in the ground; one would say they were placed upon its surface.
I go on to the right, and the aspect of the scene has suddenly changed. The flooring of an aërial railway, supported by enormous cast-iron pillars, has robbed me of sunlight, and the trains which momentarily succeed each other make a deafening racket over my head. Now the streets are lined with popular shops, saloons, oyster houses, and also with boot-blacks. Pedlars of Italian aspect offer me bananas, oranges, apples, and sticks of marshmallow. These are no longer the smells of Paris, but those of Marseilles and Genoa; in fact, they make me remember that I am in a maritime city. Did I say in a maritime city? I should have said in an island, where I ought to have found it quite natural that the manners and institutions should be "floating" (it is the remark of an ancient who had not seen America), and that the very houses should not yet succeed in "fixing themselves." A great maritime city aIways has a little the air of having been born yesterday; its monuments can be counted; and how often I have been surprised that of all our French cities the most ancient, the one that existed before there was a France, and even before Gaul had a name—I mean Marseilles—should also be one of the most modern, where one finds least of the historical and detects the least of what is past. . . . There are from sixty to eighty thousand Italians at Marseilles, and formerly there were many Greeks and I.evantines; this doubtless gave it the cosmopolitan aspect. Here at New York there are from four hundred to five hundred thonsand Germans, and how many Irish? To say nothing of Italians, French, Greeks, Chinese, Japanese, etc. I am not surprised that all this makes a mixture, a medley in which one would be troubled to find anything very "American." The business streets, Twenty-third, Fourteenth, Broadway, are filled with a crowd, neither very noisy nor very bustling; numerous loiterers are seated on benches in the squares—a great "cosmopolitan" city; a very large city; a gigantic city; where I seem to recognize some traits of Paris and Marseilles, of Genoa, Antwerp, and Amsterdam; where certain slight differences, suspected rather than felt, fancied rather than experienced, indefinable for the moment, melt and are effaced in the multiplicity of resemblances and analogies: such did New York appear to me at first. And also as an "amusing" city, since I had been walking in it for four hours without either my curiosity or my legs having grown .weary of it.
Baltimore, March 24th.—I have "descended," but only to "mount" at once to the sixth or seventh story in a fine hotel, entirely new, and in which there is nothing "American," or at least more "American" than in any other hotel, unless its [sic!] being admirably kept. I cannot refrain from noting that in a city where the negro population is not less than seventy or eighty thousand souls, the hotel service is performed exclusively by whites. Strange fatality! All other travelers have lodged in extraordinary hotels. They were inundated with electric light! They were drenched with ice water! They could not make a step nor even a gesture, without setting in motion all sorts of very complicated machinery or mobilizing a whole army of negroes. Not one of these favors has yet fallen to my lot.
If one excepts five or six large streets, Baltimore does not seem to be very animated, or, above all, very busy—I just now had to consult my guide-book to assure myself that it contains four or five hundred thousand souls. Have the tales of travelers positively misled me concerning the activity of Americans? What sort of epicurean or dilettante existence can they have led iu Enrope who find that people live so fast here, or even in New York? Or rather—and it is this doubtless which is more probable—are there not two, three, four Americas, of which it wonld be wrong to be unwilling to see only one? I shall not see Chicago, or St. Louis, or San Francisco, or even New Orleans; but here, in the Eastern States, I do not find myself at all perplexed, and the reason appears to me very simple. The habits of European civilization are daily becoming the foundation of American, and, reciprocally, if Arnerica makes an improvement in these habits, we hasten to adopt it in Enrope.
For instance, these interminable streets crossing each other at right angles are monotonous; the picturesque, the unexpected, the variety of perspectives is absent. But has not this rectilinear ideal become ours also within the last half centnry and in the name of science and hygiene? Here, moreover, much more than in New York, where all the houses in a locality resemble each other, the diversity of architecture puts an element of gaiety into the monotony of the street. A touch of every style blends into a disorder which amuses the eyes. The brick is less somber, newer, and of a more vivid red; clambering greenery and the whiteness of marble steps attenuate its crudity. Stone alternates with brick. Here are houses of "colonial" aspect, one especially which is unfailingly pointed out to Frenchmen—the old Patterson house, where that young prodigal of a Jérôme Bonaparte, as his great brother styled him, married Miss Elizabeth Patterson.
The general impression of Baltimore was very well rendered by Mr. George Cable, when he said that its "aspect is quite meridional." And when he was asked to explain himself more fully, he insisted on the air of ease and the agreeable, nonchalant bearing of the promenaders in the streets—a city of leisure, a city of "residences," where the negro looks happy and the negro girls still more so. . . .
Nevertheless, I must think about my first lecture. . . .
March 25th.—My eyes wander over my audience, ascertaining in the first place that the studeuts of the Johns Hopkins University, more courteous than our own, have not excluded women from these lectures. Doubtless they do not believe in Baltimore that the words of a professor are the exclusive property of male students, or that these words must necessarily be empty or superficial if women comprehend them. Neither do they believe, and I make the remark with singular pleasure, that the instruction given in a Protestant university should be interdicted to Catholic seminarians.
It is a short history of French poetry which I have promised to condense into nine lectures, and during the three months in which I have been thinking of my subject I have learned a good deal myself. Hence I have decided that it is especially necessary to avoid taking a purely French point of view, which evidently could not be that of either Englishmen or Americans. Something of Shakespeare, of Shelley, always escapes us; and, similarly, foreigners will never relish what we find particularly exquisite in Racine or André Chénier. Consideration of form or of pure art, which I might be tempted to put in the first rank if I were speaking in France, I relegate here to the second, and there results an arrangement or disposition of the subject which I confess I did not expect. Imperfect as are our Chansons de gestes and our Romans de la Table Ronde, I find it impossible not to give them in these lectures a place which answers to the extended influence which they once exerted in European literature and which they still exert. And where in the world should I feel myself more straitly obliged to this than here, where the sovereignly noble poet of the "Idyls of the King" has doubtless no fewer admirers than in England, and where the author of "Tristan and Iseult" may have more than in Germany? I know very well that the invention of the subject, the theme, is of small moment; and I remember most opportunely that no one, to my knowledge, has shown this better than Emerson in his essay on Shakespeare. But there is more than the subject in our "Heroic Ballads" or our "Romances of the Round Table": there is the sentiment of the subject; and nothing, to tell the truth, is lacking to them but the sentiment of form and art. I cannot devote less than three lectures to the French poetry of the Middle Ages.
On the other hand, if there should be such a thing as French classic poetry, we doubtless find it, and foreigners can hardly do otherwise, in the tragedies of Corneille and Racine, the comedies of Mollière, and the fables of La Fontaine—these are really our poets—and not, I imagine, Clément Marot or Malherbe, Jean Baptiste Rousseau or Voltaire. Jean Baptiste is only a declaimer, and the other three are merely excellent prose writers who have rhymed their prose. I would still be too French—I mean too narrowly confined within the limits of our national taste—if I should try to make Americans take Boileau for a poet. Nurtured as they are in Shakespeare, I fear I should find difficulty in explaining to them and making them understand what there is "poetic," in the absolute sense of the word, in Corneille's tragedies or Molière's comedies. On this point, therefore, I will concentrate my forces. I shall bring together in one lecture all that has been attempted among us from Ronsard to Malherbe, and I will show that, as all these efforts had no other tendency, even in poetry, and perhaps especially there, than to make the court and the social spirit predominate over the spirit of individualism, this could only result "poetically" in the formation of the dramatic style on the ruins of the lyric and epic styles. I will then endeavor to show what the pure dramatic style, independent of all addition or mixture of lyricism, admits of in the way of true "poetry." And finally from Racine to the other Rousseau, Jean Jacques, putting together all of our prosateurs of the eighteenth century who fancied they were poets, I will point out in the long decline of our dramatic poetry and the corresponding development of individualism the near revival of lyricism.
But how am I to divide the nineteenth century in its turn? And here in Baltimore, the city of which Edgar Poe was a native and where he rests, shall I make the concession of encouraging the sympathy I am told they feel for the Baudelaires and the Verlaines? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, what I have said of Verlaine and Baudelaire in France I will repeat, merely taking account of the fact that in the conception they have formed of poetry there is something vaguely analogous to the idea, at once mystic and sensual, which the Anglo-Saxon genius seems to have formed of it now and again. And, moreover, as this idea has been developed amongst us in contrast, or even in declared hostility, to the Parnassian idea, I will explain what has been intended by the poets who have been designated in France as Parnassians. And necessarily, the far too large part granted nowadays to romanticism, in the movement of the times, will be proportionately reduced. All Europe, however, has had its "Romanticists;" and to show what analogy Musset bears to Byron will not require a long discourse. Besides, whatever one may think respectively of the Poèmes Barbares or the Poèmes Antiques and the Légende des siècles, there are at least as many "novelties" in the arnassian theory as in the Romantic. And that will answer for my three final lectures, in the first of which I will attempt to define the romantic movement in itself and in relation to English or German romanticism; in the second I will show how and why the "Parnassians" have so far differed from the "Romanticists" as to become their living contradiction; and, finally, in the third, I will connect with symbolism the new tendencies I think I discern in contemporary poetry. . . .
. . . In what relates to the organization of universities, the professors, whose kindness is inexhaustible, are here to rectify or redress what, without them, might be superficial or erroneous in my observation. It is by the aid of their conversations and their publications that I wish to say a few words on a subject which has its importance and its difficulties.
Concerning this subject, let us remember, in the first place, that institutions of superior instructions are not all of the same type in France, whatever the Germans appear to think about it, when one finds the editors of their Minerva jumbling in the uniformity of one continuous enumeration the Polytechnic School, the University of Paris, and the Museum of Natural History. The Museum of Natnral History, the former Jardin du Roi, from which the great name of Buffon is inseparable, is one of the very rare institutions which are devoted amongst us to the cult of pure and disinterested science. No examinations are passed there, no diplomas or certificates are conferred; and it neither conducts nor leads to anything but an acquaintance with natural history. This is also the originality of the Collège de France. One learns nothing immediately practical there, and even the Chinese which is taught is not the Chinese which is spoken. Onr universities are already more "utilitarian;" they grant diplomas, and these diplomas, which may have a great scientific value, have before all else a state valuation. They are at once—and this is their great vice—the official sanction of studies and a title to a career. Our universities form lawyers, physicians, and professors, and it is all the better if savants or learned men issue from them; but thus far they have not been adapted for that purpose. Finally, the great schools, such as the École polytechnique or the École Normale Supérieure, are not, properly speaking, anything but professional schools, whose first object, whose principal object, is to provide for the recruiting of certain great public employments, so that if their regulations should be heedlessly altered, the quality of this recruitment would be compromised and the entire category of great employments modified in its foundations.
There are likewise different types of American universities. There are State universities—like the University of Virginia, for instance; or the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)—which are independent, no doubt, in the sense that they manage themselves absolutely, and yet whose independence is in some respect limited by the grant they receive from the States. Their principal obligations are to admit to the university course, without previous examination, pupils who come from the high schools of Michigan or Virginia, and to establish alongside of their liberal instruction, technical training—scientific agriculture, for example—or legal or medical courses.
Other universities, generally the oldest ones, like Harvard, 1655; Yale, 1701; Columbia, 1754; Princeton, 1757, or, again, the University of Pennsylvania, are free from any obligation of the sort. They began as simple colleges, such as we had under the old regime, the Collège des Grassins, the Collège d'Harcourt, the Collège des Godrans at Dijon, where Bossuet and the great Condé made their first studies, and if I make these comparisons, it is because a pious intention, a sectarian intention, if I may say so, formerly presided in America, as amongst oarselves, at the foundation .of these establishments. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, or Quakers bore their first expenses, and some traces of their origin may still be recognized. . . . Lastly, of the other universities, the most recent are perhaps in certain respects the most interesting: these are Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), Johns Hopkins (Baltimore), Leland Stanford (California), and the University of Chicago. They owe their existence to the generosity of the founder whose name they bear, and under the supervision of an administrative council, a board of trustees which itself depends solely on the terms of a will or a donation, they are masters of their budget, of the matter of their instruction, and the choice of their professors. Why should I conceal the fact that in writing these last words I am thinking of our own universities, which may be anything you please, but which will not, in my sense of the word, be universities really worthy of that name so long as their professors are appointed by the state, and, above all, so long as the examinations to which candidates are subjected are state examinations whose programme is determined by the state, and whose diplomas constitute, so to say, state titles. I do not like false names to be given to things.
The Johns Hopkins University, which I naturally take as a type, since I am speaking there, and also because it is as yet the only one that I have seen for myself, has existed only twenty-one years, but it long ago attained its majority. When Johns Hopkins died, bequeathing to Baltimore 34,000,000 francs for the foundation of a hospital and a university, the friends whom he had charged with the execution of his last will did not waste much time in long discussions over what concerned the organization of the university. They went to the remotest part of California, where for three years he had been exercising the functions of president of a university,—in France we would say of both dean and rector,—to look for a former professor of Yale, Mr. Daniel C. Gilman, who had very early gained a great reputation in America as an administrator.
With the correcthess of eye and the rapidity of decision which are his characteristic traits and make him an eminent man, Mr. Gilman acknowledged that the occasion was unique. He saw that in a city like Baltimore, if one had the good sense to waste nothing on the empty luxury of buildings, nor on the petty vanity of copying Yale or Harvard at a distance, a type of university such as America had never seen might be realized, and he set to work. Means were lacking to organize faculties of law, medicine, and theology; they were dispensed with, and the Johns Hopkins University was composed at first of nothing but a faculty of philosophy; the name under which, in the United States and Germany, is included what we distinguish into faculties of literature and science. Ancient languages (that is to say, Hebrew, Sanscrit, Greek, and Latin), modern languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish), history, political economy, philosophy, on one hand; and on the other, mathematical sciences, physics, and chemistry, geology, natural history, biology, pathology; such was the programme of the nascent university. "Laboratories" and "seminaries" were its organs. The diffusion of "methods" promptly became its object, and the results are not far to seek, since within the twenty-one years of its existence the Johns Hopkins University has given not less than a hundred professors to the other universities of America. It has become a sort of normal school where the personnel of higher instruction is recruited. And it is a proof, if one were needed, that diplomas, titles, and grades, under the regime of liberty, are worth not at all, as some suppose, the stamp of the state or the notoriety of establishments, but precisely what the juries which deliver them are worth.
It is also a proof of what can be accomplished by the activity of a single man, for there is no room for error, and I am sure that not one of the professors here will accuse me of exaggeration,—the Johns Hopkins University is Mr. Daniel Gilman. It is precisely what he intended it to be; and it would not be enough to say that he is the "president" of this great body, he is truly its soul. It would be impossible—how shall I say it?—not to conceal, and still less to dissimulate, but to envelop under a more seductive affability of manners, more of character, or to place an ingenuity of resources at the source of ideas more precise, more settled, or more ample. I wish I could reproduce entirely his Opening Address, delivered nearly four years ago, in 1893, at the inauguration of the Congress of Superior Instruction at Chicago. "The first function of a university," said he, "is the conservation of knowledge;" and could the fact that the very condition of scientific progress is respect for tradition be condensed into a better phrase? "The second function of a university," Mr. Gilman went on to say, "is to extend the bounds of human knowledge;" and it is the fixity of this ambition which has characterized the Johns Hopkins among all the other American universities. "And the third function of a university," he added, "is to disseminate knowledge." And truly it is not for ourselves, but in order to transmit them, that we have inherited the treasures of tradition or the acquisitions of experience—which is exactly what they are seeking to do here. By publications, by lectures, by review and magazine articles, by letters to the daily press, Mr. Gilman has desired the Johns Hopkins University always to keep in touch with public opinion. In France we form a more mystical, and at the same time a more practical, notion of science; more "practical" because many of our young men see little in it but a matter of examinations or an occasion of diplomas; and more "mystical" because we too often affect to be afraid lest we should vulgarize it by dissemination. . . .
. . . And if, moreover, I have thought I ought to dwell at some length on this question of the American universities, it is because I have no better way of thanking them for their welcome than to do my best to make them better known; and also because, from all that I see and hear and read, there gradually emerges a lesson for ourselves. Permit me, in order to express myself clearly, to use a barbarism, and to say that, by means of these great universities, much of America is in the way of aristocratizing itself. While in France—what with our "modern education," the "specialization of our sciences," "the spirit of regionalism" with which we are trying to inocculate our universities—we are diminishing the part of general instruction, in America, on the contrary, they are seeking to extend, to increase, and to consolidate it. While we are insensibly detaching ourselves from our traditions, the Americans—who are inconsolable for not having an ancient history—are precisely essaying to attach themselves to the traditions we are forsaking. Of all that we affect to consider too useless or superannuated of the history of Greek institutions, or the examination of the books of the Old Testament, they are composing for themselves, as one might say, an intellectual past. And if, perhaps, the catalogues of their universities do not keep all their promises, which is often the case with our own, that is unimportant. The function always ends by creating its organ, and it is tendencies which must be regarded. The universitarian tendencies in America are on the way to constitute an aristocracy of intelligence in that great democracy; and, which is almost ironical, of that form of intelligence which we are so wrong-headed and stupid as to dread as the most hostile to the progress of democracy.
April 4th.—. . . Before entering on my great week, and, pending eight days, of functioning for two days, one at Baltimore and the next at Bryn Mawr, I would like to summarize certain reflections. What renders this difficult is that with what there is original and local here, and of which I catch a glimpse now and again in glance or gesture, there is always blended, as in New York, a substratum of cosmopolitanism. If, having taken him for an American, or at least au Englishman, I wish to make a little portrait of Professor A——, I am informed that he is a German; it was not Germany that I came to look for in America. In the manner, the language, the countenance of Mrs. B——, something decided, precise, and energetic has struck me, but it appears that she is of French extraction. I cannot make a note of what seems to me indigenous in the manners of Mr. C—— if he spends rather more than half the year in Europe, at Paris or iu Switzerland. Another person asks me what I think of Baltimore; I tell him; we become confidential; we chat; I question him; he answers me; it was a Russian! There are Italians also; there are English; there are Israelites, among whom, iu truth, I am puzzled to meet an American, born in America, of American parents. And have I not heard say that if one in three of the seventeen or eighteen hundred thousand inhabitants of Chicago were born on American soil—not merely in Chicago, nor in Illinois, nor in the Western States, but in America—it would be a great deal? Talk after that of the characters of races! Not to mention that all, or nearly all, of them have traveled, have run over the world; they know France and they know Paris; they have spent months or years there; they know Rome and Florence! No, evidently "race" has not the importance here that is given it, any more than it has in Europe; or, rather,—and from the moment that one is neither Chinese, negro, nor redskin,—it is habitudes, civilization, history that make "races;" and in our modern world, on both sides of the Atlantic, if the economists can say that the universal movement tends toward the "equalization of fortunes," it is still more true that it tends toward the effacemerit of all peculiarities which are not individual. An Englishman or an American does not greatly differ, as such, from a Frenchman or a German, and he differs only by having inherited a different civilization; and thanks to the facility of communications and exchanges, the development of industry, the internationalism of science and the solidarity of interests, these very differences may be reduced to differences of time and moment. The Americans are yonnger than we are, and that is evident first of all in their curiosity to know what we think about them.
They are also less "complicated," and by that I mean that they show what they are more naïvely, more frankly, more courageously than we do. Here one is what he is, and as he is so by decision or by choice he shows it. . . .
Nor is any astonishment felt because women, like men, have their clubs, where they meet to lunch, to talk about things that interest them—chiffons, housekeeping, cooking—to exchange ideas, and, at a pinch, when they are philosophers, "to comment on the Book of Job considered as an example of the miseries of humanity." Here all this appears natural. A woman belongs to herself in the first place, and, moreover, it is not required of her, as it is among us, that she should keep, so to say, four or five personages together. She is not compelled by prejudices to conceal her aptitudes or disguise her tastes. She has the right to herself, and she makes use of it.
No doubt there is some relation between this liberty to be oneself and certain independence in reference to "airs, waters, and places," and to habitudes which in Europe we convert into so many fetters, generally with regard to physical and moral surroundings. Omnia mecum porto, said the sage of antiquity: the American resembles this sage. Baltimore, as I have noted, is a city of residences, a city where the people are less mobilizable. They do not camp out here, they dwell; the very houses look as if they were bedded more deeply in the ground. And yet, were it necessary, one feels absolutely certain that the inhabitant would transport, onght I to say his home? but in any case his domicile, his habitudes, and his life to St. Louis or Chicago more easily than we Frenchmen would go from Paris to St. Germain. And the reason is not a need of change, an impatience of remaining in the same place, an inquietude, an agitation which is unable to settle down, but, in my opinion, the confidence which an American feels of being himself wherever he goes. The personality of a true American is interior. He is at home everywhere because he is everywhere himself. The displacement, the removal, which helps ns to escape ourselves, gives him the sensation of his identity. Again a proof of youth and force! He will grow older; I hope he may, since he desires it; and already I can easily understand that if I should penetrate into the West, every turn of the wheels would carry me from an older to a newer world. But meanwhile, and even here where there is a little history in the atmosphere, it is certainly that which distinguishes them from us. They are younger; and is not that precisely what certain observers dislike in them?
I would not push the metaphor too far, and I do not care to report all my impressions concerning this youthfulness of the American people. It would be too easy, and, like everything which is so easy, more specious than correct. An Irishman, a German, brings to America the temperament due to long heredity. But the very circumstances into which he is plunged are such that he is obliged to adapt himself to them promptly, and a somewhat brutal selection quickly eliminates those whom it must "Americanize." One comprehends that this is because they have a good deal of pride and very little vanity. It is because they are what they are. A German priest whom I did not know accosted me in the street the other day to complain of the condition of American workingmen, and to say, in substance, that America, no more than Europe, had solved the social question. I had no difficulty in believing him. But he forgot two points; namely, that competition is "the rule of the game," so to say, the agreement which a man signed in embarking for America—I might almost say in being born here—and he also forgot that this competition has it compensations. The distinctions which establish themselves between men here are real and solid; they do not depend, or, at any rate, they depend less than in Europe, on any caprice or despotism. Assuredly there are "Colonial Dames," but there is no old aristocracy. There are enormous fortunes; there are no "governing classes." There are professors, doctors, lawyers; there are no "liberal professions." A doctor is a man who attends others in sickness, and an upholsterer is a man who furnishes other men's houses. A rich man is a rich man, who can do a great deaI as he can everywhere, but who can do only what his money can do, and an educated man is measured by the idea he gives of his merit. From this it results that every one feels himself the sole architect of his own fate, the artisan of his destiny, and generally he blames no one but himself for his failure. . . . And these observations are in the wrong by being too general . . . and what there is true in them will be modified daily; and in a fortnight, in a month, I shall no longer recognize them myself. But if I record others which seem to contradict them, I have an idea that they will all come back to this: that there being more youth in America, the civilization, the country, the very climate being newer, one breathes more deeply, one moves more freely, one lives more independently than elsewhere. It is a privilege of age: the future will tell whether it can be transformed into a social character, and what American experience is worth as gain or loss to ancient humanity.
Bryn Mawr, ,April 8th.—One could not imagine a college better situated than that of Bryn Mawr, in the open country, "on the slope of a verdant hill,"—of several hills, in fact,—and with horizons" made as one would have them, to please the eye." The vast buildings which compose it give me an impression of solidity which I have not before experienced. This year the number of students is 285, and not a hundred of these, I am told, intend to teach. That makes, then, in one establishment, more than 200 young girls who love knowledge for itself, and assuredly it is not I who will reproach them for it. "Learn Latin, Mesdemoiselles, and, in spite of a certain Molière, learn Greek; learn it for yourselves; and also for the little Europeans who are forgetting it every day." But I will explain myself on that point when I have time. For the moment I have duties to fulfill, for I am the hero of a reception in the "American style," which consists in being introduced, as on this evening, to two or three hundred persons, to whose obliging compliments one tries to respond as best he can by energetically shaking their hands. However, I have been practising this exercise for a fortnight, and I take pleasnre in it when, in the midst of this march past, a gentleman who is watching me bends over and says in my ear: "Isn't it true that they are no uglier than if they did something else?" He was right! and I thanked him for having translated my thought so wittily. "They are not uglier." These eyes are not dimmed by reading Greek or even Hebrew, nor have they lost any of that mocking lustre which one loves to see shining in the eyes of young girls. Nor have these faces grown pale, nor these figures bent; nor, in fine, has any of that airy gaiety disappeared which was given to women, as the good Bernardin says, "to enliven the sadness of man." . . .
Baltimore, April 10th.—I have just quitted Baltimore, and I own it was not without a touch of melancholy. Eighteen days, that is very short; but speaking in public establishes so many ties, and so quickly, between an audience and a lecturer, that I seem to be leaving a beloved city. To-morrow I shall wake np in Boston.
|This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.|