I, Erzählende Schriften 30, Casanovas Heimfahrt, Seite 60

Casanovas Heimfahrt
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The Nation
[Vol. 113, No. 2945
A mingled bravery and sadness possesses him, a confusion
inevitable was so firm that he never seemed aware of it. His
of sham and an unsparing recognition of his decline. When,
letters to his father and to his sister when he knew of their
finally, the mandate from Venice arrives, he is outraged at its
approaching deaths show how stalwart was his soul. What he
humiliating provision; and he formulates a violent revenge on
had within himself comes out strikingly in his response to hills
men holding him to be no better than a spy. But in the pres¬
and sea and sky. In describing a night in the Adirondacks he
ence, the palace, of Bragadino—his patron, in reality, was the
writes his wife:" The streaming moonlight lit up things in a
Senator Bragadin—cramming rolls and butter, eggs and cold
magical checkered play, and it seemed as if the Gods of all
meat, into his meager hide, it is clear that his sensibilities, too,
nature mythologies were holding an indescribable meeting in
are atrophied.
my breast with the moral Gods of the inner life.
Yet—a Continental pen is writing—there isn't, in Casanova,
was one of the happiest lonesome nights of my existence, and I
a shred of moralizing fear; he regrets nothing but the inability
understand1 now what a poet is. He is a person who can feel
of the present to play the past. Time, destroying the body, has
the immense complexity of the influences I felt, and make some
scarcely touched the vigor of his spirit; even his ambitions, his
partial tracks in them for verbal statement.? In less exalted,
ends, are the same as when, a youth in the preliminary orders
more reflective moods the same thought occurs."Scenery
of the church, he gathered love notes instead of lire in the alms
seems to wear in one’s consciousness better than any other ele¬
bag. That was a generation for a passion as easily gratified as
ment in life. In this year of much solemn and idle meditation,
it was roused: the French Revolution was just beyond the moun¬
I have often been surprised to find what a predominant part
tains; Buonaparte was nine years old; and a premonition of
in my own spiritual experience it has played, and how it stands
tiie cannen which were to end the Venetian Republic, a whole
out as almost the only thing the memory of which I should like
civilization, drove life into a futile madness of carnival.
to carry over with me beyond the veil, unamended and unal¬
tered.? There is unconscious self-revelation in the description
of tthe sea all effervescing and sparkling with white caps and
lace, the strong sun lording it in the sky, and hope presiding in
the heart.?
William James on Himself
Best of all James loved the scenery and climate of America
The Letters of William James. Edited by his son, Henry James.
and found them the embodiment of what America meant to him.
The Atlantie Monthly Press. 2 vols. 810.
Writing from the Continent he says: “God bless the American
climate, with its transparent, passionate, impulsive variety and
F all ways to write the life of William James this was the
headlong fling. There are deeper, slower tones of earnestness
□ best. For the most part his letters tell the story unaided,
and moral gravity here, no doubt, but ours is more like youth
bur the editor has with rare art sketched in the background of
and youth’s infinite and touching promise. God bless America
biographical fact, interwoven some of the impressions which
in general.“ To his self-exiled brother Henry he writes with
his father made on those who knew him best, and put in here
a playful dig at the end: That low West that I’ve so often
and there his own appraisals, always with a dignity and re¬
fed on, with a somber but intense crimson vestige smoldering
straint that mark his fitness for his task. There are few men
close to the horizon line, eccnomical but profound, and the
whose lives can be told by their letters. In the biographies of
western well of sky shading upward from it through infinite
men of affairs, chronicle and comment must play the major
shades of transparent luminosity in darkness to the deep blue
part. What they think and feel is seldom worth remembering.
darkness overhead. It was purely American. You never see
They have their day and cease to be. William James is not
that western sky anywhere else. Solemn and wonderful. I
one of these. His life was the life of the mind and of the
should think you'd like to see it again, if only for the sake of
spirit; and by the grace of his writing liis mind and his spirit
shuddering at it.“ Stili more playfully he writes his daughter:
are bequeathed as a perpetual endowment for mankind. Here
Poverty-stricken this New Hampshire country may be—weak
in these letters we have his spontaneous and uncensored ex¬
in a certain sense, shabby, thin, pathetic—say all that, yet, like
pression of what he thought and felt and or his ways of feel¬
Jenny,' it kissed me; and it is not vulgar—even H. J. can't
ing and thinking. The editor has the courage not to omit wnat
accuse it of that—or of 'stodginess,’ especially at this emaciated
may shock timid souls who seek shelter in the ccnventional and
season. It remains pure, and clear and distinguished—Bless it!“
the commonplace. He has the reverence to withhold the inti¬
To the famous antithesis between the two brothers these let¬
mate letters to Mrs. James. He excludes, tco, those that are
ters add another no less striking. William loved his America
“wholly technical or polemic.“ In so far as any division is
as Henry found it alien. The opposition is due not to differ¬
possible the record is of Willium James the man rather than
ence in perception but to difference in response.“ How cramped
of William James the philosopher. While the letters here
and inferior England scems'’ was William’s greeting to his
printed help greatly toward a cioser grasp of James's philo¬
brother on one of his visits to England. America may be
sophical attitudes and interests, their note is so dominantly
raw and shrill, but I could never live with this as yeu do. To
human that they are packed with intellectual and spiritual re¬
another friend he wrote from England that the English atmos¬
freshment for those to whom an appreciation of more formal
phere “will conspire better with my writing tasks, and after
philosophy is denied.
all it is more congruous with one’s nature and one’s inner
James’s interests were so varied and his enthusiasms so eager
ideals'; but he adds:" Still, one loves America above all things,
that only by reading all lie wrote can one get the full scope and
for her youth, her greenness, her plasticity, innocence, good
fervor of the man. His most perennial quest was in the realm
intentions, friends, everything. Je veux que mes cendres repo¬
of religion, which for himself he defined broadly as “a universe
sent sur les bords du Charles, au milieu de ce hon peuple de
of spiritual relations surrounding the earthly practical ones.?)
Harvarr Squerre que j'ai tant aimé. That is what I say, and
This deep interest in religion naturally enough finds expression
what Napoleon B. would have said, had his life been enriched
more in his essays than in his letters, though it is affirmed
by your and my educational and other experiences.)
strongly here. One of his tasks in his Gifford Lectures was, as
Not that James did not find plenty to displease him in
he puts it, “to make the hearer or reader believe, what I my¬
self invincibly do believe, that, although all the special mani¬
America. After a weck of lecturing at Chautauqua he cries
for “anything to break the unlovely level of 10,000 good people.?
festations of religion may have been absurd (I mean its creeds
Certain types of his fellow countrymen drew from him scathing
and theories), yet the life of it as a whole is mankind’s most
comment. Dur imperialistic enterprise of 1898 die viewed with
important function.' One is tempted to quote further, but to
loathing. The Republican nominees of 1900 he called a “com¬
quote less than all might be misleading. For the full expression
bination of slime and grit, soap and sand, that ought to scour
of James’s religious attitude we must look to his whole re¬
anything away, even the moral sense of the country.“ His in¬
sponse to life. The courage with which he faced everything