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TO COUNT LOUIS DE KERGORLAY. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 1 
Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville. Translated from the French by the translator of Napoleon’s Correspondence with King Joseph. With large Additions. In Two Volumes (London: Macamillan, 1861). Vol. 1.
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TO COUNT LOUIS DE KERGORLAY.
Your letter, dear friend, made me laugh heartily, especially the coolness, so worthy of us, with which you write on the margin: “Idle away the rest of our time;” that single touch paints us . . . . The plan that I had formed was most preposterous, but therefore only the more delightful.* Though we were to have been only a week away, our tour would have cost as much as if it had lasted a fortnight. But the results would have been magnificent, we were to go straight to London. We were to take the public conveyance as far as Calais. There get on board the packet, which in twenty-four hours would take us to London, sailing up the Thames, through the double line of vessels, and all the wealth that covers its waters. In London we spend two days. Williams assures me, that with the complete information which he would give us, two days would be enough, on the third we re-enter France. Here is a superb plan! what a pity that it is so little practicable. In the first place it must have been done, as we have done some other things, incognito, and told about afterwards as a sudden fancy that seized us on the sea-coast. I have already told my father that I should go with you to Calais and Lille. All that is easy; the great, the chief obstacle is, that one must have a passport to go abroad. I cannot get one here. If you could procure one in Paris, it would be capital. If it were made out for you and your servant it would be still better. At the worst I might provide myself with Williams’ English passport, as his height and appearance tally with mine. Once in England we want no passport. It is only on leaving and returning to France. Very likely we might be arrested, and in this lies the extravagance of the plan. But one must risk something. I own that I should like above all things to take a voyage of forty miles in your company, and to see for once those rascally English who, we are told, are so strong and so flourishing. I send to you the plan arranged by Williams, and an estimate of the cost of a fortnight’s tour. I make it about 12l. piece.
Rome, January 20, 1827.
Nothing ever produced a greater effect upon me than the sight of the Campagna of Rome, on which a curse seems to have fallen; imagine, under a splendid sky, hills of a reddish hue, absolutely barren, and inclosed in a circle of the most lovely mountains. No trees, no vegetation, no dwellings; the scene animated only by a few shepherds and cowherds, whose countenances wear a sinister expression to be seen only here. The stones covering the fields, the ruined tombs, above all the unaccountable sterility, fill you with religious awe. When you perceive on the horizon a column of smoke, and an Italian voice cries “Roma,” you are plunged into a chaos of ideas and sensations. If instead of gradually approaching Rome through this desert, you came upon the ancient city suddenly, and saw the Coliseum and the Pantheon, and the heaps of ruins around: you might go mad. But modern Rome destroys the charm; and the Romans dressed like Frenchmen, spoil everything. On entering the town the heart sinks and does not recover. Less than anything else can one forgive the Romans for modernizing their ruins; it is like an old man putting on rouge.
Versailles, July 23, 1827.
. . . . You ask me how I like my new position. I cannot answer in a single word: I cannot say that I absolutely like it or dislike it,—it has both its good and its bad side; and the only way of treating the question is to separate the two. We will begin by considering the bad: first, I thought that I knew a great deal about law, and I grossly deceived myself. My knowledge of law was about equal to that which a young man who has just left college has of science. I have the raw material in my head, and that is all. When I have to apply the principles I am quite bewildered; my incompetence throws me into despair. I am certainly more ignorant than any of my colleagues; and though my vanity, which is as great as that of others, tells me that when I shall have worked as long as they have done, I shall be quite equal to them, I still feel hurt. I have on most occasions an ambition to be first, which will be the torment of my whole life. I have another defect, which annoys me at present; I find a difficulty in acquiring the habit of speaking in public; I pause for words, and I attach too much importance to my ideas. At my side I see men who reason ill and speak well; and I despair. I think myself their superior, and I come out their inferior.
I have told you part of the bad. Now for the good side. I no longer suffer from ennui. No one that has not tried it can imagine what it is to turn one’s attention seriously to a subject; in the end one cannot help being interested in one’s work. So with law,—its theory disgusted me, but its practice does not. When trying to solve a point, or find a clue, I feel my mind work with all its powers. In the second place, my companions are a greater resource to me than at first I expected. Their friendliness and goodfellowship are very agreeable. I think that I have already established my character among them. . . .
To sum up, my dear friend, I begin to think that I shall enter into the spirit of my profession. That is the important point. There are still moments when I regret bitterly that I did not choose another path; but generally speaking, I become more and more engrossed by my business, and see so little of my acquaintances or my friends, that I sometimes fear that I shall grow in time into a sort of law-machine, like most of the members of my profession, devoted to their own special line, as incapable of judging a great movement, or of guiding a great undertaking, as they are capable of drawing an inference, or discovering an analogy. I had rather burn my books! Who, however, can foresee the effects of daily influence, and who can be sure of escaping them?
Versailles, March 27, 1828.
I thank you heartily for your letter, my dear friend. I never felt more deeply than while I read it, the value of our friendship. Let us hold it with all our might, dear Louis: nothing else is firm in this world. As long as we can thus lean on each other, we shall not falter; and if one of us should fall, the other will lift him up. When we were children, you may have noticed in me a singular effect of the false experience which is given by books. I distrusted all generous sentiments. I yielded to them reluctantly, believing their very beauty to be a proof of their instability. This was my conception of friendship. I thought it a fancy of early youth. But the farther I advance in life, the more I am convinced that friendship, even such as I conceived it, can exist and preserve its charms, not in every heart, but in some hearts. One cannot make friends late in life; but when once friendship has taken root, I do not see why age should wither it, or in any way affect it; especially if, appreciating its true value, we watch over it, and do not deprive it of its necessary food—confidence in all things, little as well as great. In this respect, dear Louis, we must always be on our guard; and I own that I trust more to myself than to you. There are chambers in your mind into which I have never penetrated. Your discretion, which cannot but increase, often gives me pain; especially as I do not see that I have a right to complain of a quality founded on good feeling, and on principles that cannot be controverted. One of these days I must talk to you on this among other subjects.
Paris, May 10, 1828.
I am free for an instant, my dear friend, and I write to you, which I ought long ago to have done. You have been much neglected by me lately. Neither indifference, as you well know, nor idleness has been the cause, but an instinct that I often feel though I cannot define it, which inclines me to shut myself up in my own thoughts, even though they be sad. Pride, perhaps, may be at the bottom of it. I am ashamed to speak of an irremediable evil, and one too that I have brought upon myself. Between what I have attained, and what I aimed at, I see an immense distance. It does not discourage me, but it deprives me of the support of ardent hope. Then how is one to know oneself? This thought occurs to me twenty times a day. The world swarms with happy fools who sincerely admire themselves (I am sure that I do not belong to this category), and also with fools, who, aware of their own condition, feel its disadvantages without its pleasures. Sometimes I fancy that I belong to the latter class, and the idea is by no means agreeable.
I hear that you are coming in January. What are your plans, my dear Louis? Will you travel, or stay at home? Among the circumstances that I envy in your position, are the long intervals of absolute liberty succeeding to severe duties. How much you must enjoy your freedom! We have not such hard work; but we never have such complete rest . . . . My old taste for a life of excitement and wandering is not extinguished. It seems to me, that I should set off on a long adventurous journey with more pleasure than ever, and that after roaming for some time I should wish again to be settled. Experience has taught me to expect this ebb and flow. Longing for action, longing for rest, I have oscillated between them, for the last six or seven years.
Versailles, Sept. 6, 1828.
. . . . I have heard of the safe arrival of Stoffels. He has, no doubt, told you that our time was well-spent, without any extraordinary gaieties indeed, but in an intimacy which to me, and I think also to him, was better than all other pleasures. Friendship, dear Louis, is all that is worth having here on earth. The taste which I have had of other emotions, has gradually convinced me of this. I cannot conceive the existence of men able to live without a friend. It seems to me incredible; if there be such men, they cannot be worth much . . . . Stoffels and I talked much of you. He is attached to you with the warm friendship of which you know that he is capable, and our conversation constantly turned upon you.
Versailles, . . . 1828.
I could not write yesterday, as M. de Lamoricière* was not able to come to breakfast, and after we had met it was too late for the post. I must tell you that I was delighted with him; he seemed to me to have all the marks of a really distinguished man. Accustomed as I am to live with people who are satisfied by mere words, I was surprised by his anxiety for clearness and precision. The calm way in which he stopped me, to ask me to explain one idea before I passed on to another, sometimes disconcerted me; his manner of talking on the subjects which he understands gave me a higher opinion of him than I almost ever formed of a man on first acquaintance. I told him that I hoped that we should meet again, and it was not a compliment.
We talked much of you. I own, dear Louis, that, in spite of all my efforts, I have no clear view of your position: many premises are wanting to me in order to form an opinion:—
1st.—I do not know whether the foot artillery has any advantage over the horse artillery . . . . one thing only I see clearly: if you choose the foot and the Montpellier regiment, you will have two chances of employment; even if the expedition to the Morea should be feebly carried on, as is possible, without being probable, you might hope to be sent there to replace those who die or those who return, for it is said, that there are perpetual changes in the artillery regiments.
2dly.—The Turks seem to be victorious just now. If their success continues, I think that Europe will have peace. However, it might happen that the Turks, puffed up by their victories over the Russians, might direct an army on Attica and the Peloponnesus; and then the war in the Morea would become serious. . . . I do not see that, in this case, it would be for the interest of any European nation to make war: we should, no doubt, be left to help ourselves out of the difficult enterprise which we have undertaken; in this event, not only the Montpellier regiment would be sent, but probably many others.
3dly.—There is a third chance, which did not occur to me at first; it is not probable, but it is possible, that if the Morea were evacuated, we might attack Algiers, for that ridiculous business must be settled. . . .
However, my dear friend, I own to you, that I do not share your fears for the future; no, you will have opportunities of fighting, if your life is spared; be sure of that. Europe cannot long remain at peace. Do you not see that, in France especially, the exhaustion produced by war and revolution is rapidly vanishing; that a new generation brings with it new passions and hopes. With our strength, our pretensions will increase. Heaven grant that this activity may not turn inwards. It certainly will spread its influence in some way. . . .
* Yonkers, June 20, 1831, (twenty miles from New York).
I begin a letter to you, dear friend, but I know not when I shall finish it. I did not write to you before, because I had nothing particular to say; I hate to speak of France from such a distance. I should talk of things which would be forgotten when you got my letter; the circumstances on which I should dwell would have changed ten times in the interval. Then I wished to know a little more of this country than I did when I first arrived. I find that I have not gained much by waiting. Every foreign nation has a peculiar physiognomy, seen at the first glance and easily described. When afterwards you try to penetrate deeper, you are met by real and unexpected difficulties; you advance with a slowness that drives you to despair, and the farther you go the more you doubt. I feel that at this moment my head is a chaos of contradictory notions. I tire myself in seeking for some clear and decisive results; I find none. In this frame of mind writing to you is agreeable and useful. Perhaps my ideas may be reduced to some order by the effort to express them. Even if they should turn out to be no better than vague theories and unsupported conclusions, I still should send them to you without scruple. One of the privileges of our friendship is that we know each other so perfectly, and are so convinced of each other’s sincerity, that we may express our dawning opinions without the fear of committing ourselves, for each knows that in writing, his friend gives him an exact picture of the state of his mind at the time.
In your last letter you ask me if this country has any convictions. I do not know the precise sense that you attach to that word. What strikes me is that the majority have certain opinions in common. Up to the present time, this is what I most envy in America. Thus I have not heard a single person in any rank express a doubt as to a republic being the best possible form of government, or on the right of a nation to choose its own government. The greater number take republican principles in the most democratic sense. In a few you see peeping out an aristocratic tendency, which I shall presently try to explain. But that a republic is a good form of government, and that it is a form of government to which society naturally tends, are facts admitted by clergymen, by magistrates, by tradesmen, and by artizans. This opinion is so general and so seldom questioned, even in a country where there is entire freedom of speech, that it may almost be called a conviction.
Another idea is prevalent, apparently in an equal degree; a belief in the wisdom and good sense of mankind; the perfectibility of the human race is contradicted by few, if by any. No one denies that the majority may sometimes be mistaken; but they think that in the end it must be right; that it is not only the sole judge of its own interests, but even the safest, the nearest to infallibility. The result is the belief that education should be bestowed freely on the people; that they cannot be sufficiently enlightened. You remember how often in France we (among others) have puzzled our brains with the question, whether it were to be desired or feared that knowledge should penetrate every class of society. Though so difficult to solve in France, the doubt seems here never to have occurred. I have already propounded the question a hundred times to the most thoughtful men in this country. I saw by their summary method of dealing with it that they had never considered it; and that it should even be asked, struck them as shocking and absurd. The diffusion of intelligence, they said, is our only protection against the outbreaks of the mob.
These are what I should call the convictions of this people. They believe firmly in the excellence of their government; they believe in the wisdom of the masses, provided they be educated; and do not seem to be aware that there is a certain cultivation which can never be shared by the masses, but may yet be essential for the rulers of a state.
As for what we generally consider as making up the convictions of a nation, such as the moral standard, old traditions, recollections, of these I see as yet no traces. I even doubt whether religious opinions have as much influence as appears at first sight. The religious condition of this country is, perhaps, the most interesting subject of inquiry. I will try to tell you what I know about it when I resume my letter, which I am now forced to lay aside, perhaps for some days.
Calwell, forty-five miles from New York.
My mind has been so much excited since I began my letter to you this morning, that I feel obliged to take it up again, though I know not exactly what I shall say. I was speaking of religion. Sunday is rigorously observed. I have seen the streets barred in front of the churches during Divine service. The law forbids labour; and opinion, which is much more powerful, obliges every one to appear in church, and to eschew amusement.
Hitherto my observations incline me to think that the Catholics increase in numbers. They are considerably recruited from Europe, and there are many conversions. New England and the valley of the Mississippi begin to fill with them. It is evident that all the naturally religious minds among the Protestants, the men of strong and serious opinions, disgusted by the vagueness of Protestantism, yet ardently desirous to have a faith, give up in despair the search after truth, and submit to the yoke of authority. They throw off, with pleasure, the heavy burden of reason, and they become Catholics. Again, Catholicism captivates the senses and the imagination, and suits the masses better than the reformed religion; thus the greater number of converts are from the working classes. We will pass now to the opposite end of the chain. On the confines of Protestantism is a sect that is Christian only in name. I mean the Unitarians. They all deny the Trinity, and acknowledge but one God; but among them are some who believe Christ to have been an angel, others a prophet, and others a philosopher like Socrates. The last are pure Deists. They quote the Bible because they do not wish to shock too much public opinion, which supports Christianity. They have a service on Sundays. I went to it. Verses are read from Dryden, and other English poets, on the existence of God, and the immortality of the soul. There is a sermon on some moral subject, and the service is over. This sect makes proselytes in about the same proportion as Catholicism; but its recruits come from the higher ranks of society.
Both sects grow rich on the spoils of Protestantism. It appears that the Protestants of cold, logical minds, the argumentative classes, men of intellectual and studious habits, seize the opportunity of joining an entirely philosophical sect, which allows them to make an almost public profession of pure theism. This sect, however, has no resemblance to the St. Simonians in France. It rests on different principles, and there is nothing exaggerated or absurd in its worship or in its doctrines. They endeavour as much as possible to resemble the Christian sects. No sort of ridicule is attached to them. No party-spirit urges them on or restrains them. Their demeanour is unaffectedly serious, and their ceremonies are simple. So you see that Protestantism, which is a mixture of reason and authority, is attacked on each side by these two uncompromising principles. The attentive observer will see that this is taking place, more or less, everywhere; but in America it is obvious at the first glance. It is obvious, because in this country no established laws or opinions interfere with the intelligence or the passions of men on this subject. They follow their natural inclinations. It seems to me to be certain that at no distant time the two extremes will have no barrier between them. What, then, will be the result? Here I lose myself in uncertainties from which I can see no way out.
But to return to the present state of the public mind in America; you must not take what I have said in too positive a sense. I have spoken of tendencies, not of facts that have already taken place. Christianity rests here on a firmer foundation than in any other country in the world which I know, and I have no doubt but that the religious element influences the political one. It induces morality and regularity; it restrains the eccentricities of the spirit of innovation; above all, it is almost fatal to the mental condition, so common with us, in which men leap over every obstacle per fas et nefas to gain their point. Any party, however anxious to obtain its object, would in the pursuit feel obliged to confine itself to means apparently legitimate, and not in open opposition to the maxims of religion, which are always more or less moral even when erroneous. . . .
I enter on another subject. I heard it said in Europe that there was an aristocratic tendency in America. It is a mistake; I am more sure of this than of most things. Democracy is rapidly advancing in some States, and fully developed in others. It is rooted in the habits, in the laws, and in the opinions of the majority. Its opposers hide their heads, and if they wish to rise are forced to borrow its colours. In New York, the beggars alone are without electoral rights. The effects of a democratic government are obvious—they are perpetual changes of men and of institutions, extreme external equality, manners without distinction, and ideas always common place.
We ourselves, my dear friend, are drifting towards complete democracy. I do not say that it is a good thing; what I see in this country convinces me that it will not suit France, but we are being driven on it by an irresistible force. No effort to stop its march will produce more than a halt. To refuse to admit these facts is weakness, and I cannot help believing that the Bourbons, instead of trying to fortify the aristocratic element, which is dying out with us, ought to have devoted all their energies to making it the interest of the democratic party to maintain order and stability.
In my opinion our parochial and municipal administration ought, from the first, to have attracted all their attention. Instead of living from day to day with the parochial institutions established by Napoleon, the Bourbons ought immediately to have modified them, to have gradually initiated and interested the people in the management of its own affairs; to have created local interests, and above all to have founded, if possible, the habit of submitting willingly to law, which, in my opinion, is the only counterpoise to democracy. These measures would, perhaps, have rendered the present movement less dangerous both to the State and to its rulers.
Democracy, in short, seems to me to be a fact which the government may hope in future to regulate, but not to reverse. I assure you that it was not without difficulty that I resigned myself to this idea. My view of this country does not prove to me that, even under the most favourable circumstances, and they existed here, the Government of the people is a desirable event. All are pretty well agreed that in the early days of the Republic, the Statesmen and members of congress were much more distinguished men than they now are. They nearly all belonged to the class of country-gentlemen, a race which diminishes every day. The country no longer selects so well. It chooses in general those who flatter its passions and descend to its level. This effect of democracy, joined to the extreme instability, the entire absence of coherence or permanence that one sees here, convinces me every day more and more, that the best government is not that in which all have share, but that which is directed by the class of the highest moral principle and intellectual cultivation.
However, it is impossible to deny that this country presents, on the whole, an admirable aspect. I frankly own, that it convinces me of the superiority of a free government over every other. I feel more certain than ever, that all nations are not fitted for the same amount of liberty, but also I am more inclined than ever to regret that such should be the case. It is impossible to give an idea of the universal satisfaction of this nation with the existing government. The lower classes are undeniably higher in the moral scale than with us; every man has a consciousness of his independent position and of his personal dignity which, without perhaps adding suavity to his manners, leads him to respect himself and others. The two things that I chiefly admire here are these:—First, the extraordinary respect entertained for law: standing alone, and unsupported by an armed force, it commands irresistibly. I believe, in fact, that the principal reason is, that they make it themselves and are able to repeal it. We see thieves who have violated all public laws obey those that they have made for themselves. I think that there is a similar feeling among nations. The second thing for which I envy these people is, the ease with which they do without being governed. Every man considers himself interested in maintaining the safety of the public and the exercise of the laws. Instead of depending on the police he depends on himself. The general result is that, without ever showing itself, a police is everywhere. You will scarcely credit the order kept by this people from the feeling that they themselves are the only safeguard against themselves.
You see that I give you as exact an account as I can of all my impressions. On the whole, they are more favourable to America than they were when I first arrived. There are many blots in the picture, but the general effect seizes the imagination. I fancy that it must act with irresistible power over minds that are at the same time reasoning and superficial, a combination which is not rare. The principles of the government are so simple, and the results are so sure, that if one is not on one’s guard one is carried away by the charm. One is forced to reflect, to struggle against one’s impressions to discover that these simple and reasonable institutions would not suit a great nation, which must have a strong internal government, and a fixed foreign policy; that the government of this country is in its nature perishable; that a nation adopting it should long have been used to liberty and have reached a point of intellectual cultivation acquired seldom and by slow degrees. And after repeating all this to oneself, one still thinks that a free Government is a grand institution, and that it is to be regretted that the moral and physical constitution of man should impede his enjoying it at all times and in all places.
Paris, Nov. 13, 1833.
. . . I have absolutely nothing new to tell you of myself. My life is as regular as that of a monk. From early morning till dinner-time my existence is purely intellectual; I pass the evening at Mrs. Belam’s,* where I enjoy long conversations with Marie, of which I never tire. The next day I do the same over again, and so on with wonderful uniformity; for since my return from England, my books and Marie form all my existence.
Like you, I become more and more alive to the happiness which consists in the fulfilment of duty. I believe that there is no other so deep and so real. There is only one great object in this world which deserves our efforts, that is the good of mankind. Some persons try to be of use to men while they despise them, and others because they love them. In the services rendered by the first there is always something incomplete, rough, and contemptuous that inspires neither confidence nor gratitude. I should like to belong to the second class, but often I cannot. I love mankind in general, but I constantly meet with individuals whose baseness revolts me. I struggle daily against a universal contempt for my fellow creatures. I sometimes succeed, at my own expense, by a minute uncompromising investigation into the motives of my own conduct. Sometimes I find personal calculations which others do not see, and which had escaped my own observation. Sometimes I find that I have done wrong from a good motive, and still oftener, judging of myself as if I were an indifferent spectator or an opponent. I can account for the severity of a sentence pronounced on me in spite of its injustice. All this is enough to make me doubt my own powers, and in judging other men to impute more blame to their heads than to their hearts. I think that it is almost impossible to serve them if one judges of them as one is tempted to do at the first glance; and I had rather drop a little in my own esteem than place them too low. . . .
Paris, June 25, 1834.
I received your letter only two days ago. While it was running after me in Brittany, I was on my way back to Paris.
You put me out of patience by lamenting over the little sympathy which you find for your intellectual projects. What does it signify? Do you not know yourself? Are you not acquainted with the natural bent of your tastes and habits? And as for success, who ever can be sure of it till he has succeeded? On this point the whole universe can afford no certain information. You know, beyond a doubt, that you have reached the age when your powers should be developed in action; that political events prevent your employing your powers in the public service; that your character will not allow you to content yourself with the petty cares of private life, and yet that it is absolutely necessary for you to turn the activity of your mind to some object lest you should sink even below the level of those who manage their own affairs with success.
I have just been spending six weeks in the country, a thing that I had not done since I was nine years old. I know now what a country life is. I felt somewhat as I do when I meet some man of a very religious character; a great wish to think and feel as he does, with the conviction that to me it is impossible. I know not what will happen to me; but I feel certain that I am more likely to start for China, to enlist as a soldier, or to risk my life in any hazardous, imprudent enterprise, than to condemn myself to the existence of a potatoe, like the good people whom I have just been with. . . .
Dublin, July 6, 1835.
On my arrival at this place, I found two letters from you. I was beginning to wonder at your silence, to be uneasy but not to grumble; for we have never been touchy in our friendship. As you did not write, I fancied that you had perhaps already started on your long journey. You see that there is a communion in our souls although distance separates us, and that one of us cannot be full of a subject without its influence extending to the other. I was going to write to you about it from Liverpool. I waited only in the hope of finding letters from you here.
The idea of this long tour fills me with sorrow and anxiety; but after all, I am not sure that I should not do the same in your place. This is all I have to say. It would take too long to explain the whole meaning of these words; but you will have no difficulty in understanding them. I should never advise you to undertake a journey of such length and of so much risk; I am not sufficiently convinced of its utility; my opinion is rather negative than affirmative. But if you make up your mind to it, my thoughts will follow you without repining. May God be with you, dear and true friend, and allow us to meet again in happier times! As I advance in life I see it more and more from the point of view which I used to fancy belonged to the enthusiasm of early youth; as a thing of very mediocre worth, valuable only as far as one can employ it in doing one’s duty, in serving men and in taking one’s fit place among them. Amidst the greatest trials these thoughts raise my courage. I know that you share them, for they have been the ideas that have governed our lives. They have grown with our friendship. They were the fruit of the most delightful intercourse that ever subsisted between two men. Whatever happens to you, you may be sure that my heart sympathises entirely with yours. However differently we may reason on some subjects, we shall always feel in the same way; a noble sentiment uttered by you, or a generous, disinterested action resolved on by you, will always give me a thrill of pleasure; and if I have the happiness to experience similar emotions, I shall believe that in giving myself up to their influence, I am acting in a way that you would approve. What a cold, sad, and trivial life this would be, if by the side of this everyday world, full of selfishness and cowardice, the human mind could not build for itself another, where devotion, courage—virtue, in a word, may breathe at ease! But such a world can be formed, only out of such elements as exist in minds like yours. . . .
How I long for an opportunity, if Heaven would only grant it, of directing the fire that burns within me without an object to the achievement of great and noble ends, no matter through what dangers I might have to pass!
Baden, August 5, 1836.
I am writing to you from the little town of Baden. The following circumstance brought me to it. Marie is suffering much from neuralgic pains. While we were at Berne many of our acquaintances assured us that the Baden waters were useful in such cases; we heard the same from the first physicians. I have, therefore, determined on passing the month of August here; we shall afterwards extend our tour a little. You must, therefore, write to me again, directing to Baden, Canton d’Argovie (Suisse).
Your letter of the 20th July reached me at Berne. It interested me deeply; you need not have told me to keep it. This letter proves to me more than ever the truth of what I have already said to you, that you must beware of spoiling your style when you polish it too highly. Your carefully-finished writings have, indeed, all the appearance of being torn from the book of an author of the seventeenth century, but not from that of a first-rate author; your familiar style, on the other hand, with all its faults, has often first-rate merits, and these merits incline me to give it the preference, in spite of its defects. But we must consider the subject again.
What you say on material enjoyments has always seemed to me to be true, and all the more just now when I am reading Plato. The philosophers of his school do not, I think, make the marked division which you complain of, in the pleasures of sense. Immorality and luxury are in their eyes, if not synonymous at least analogous, and of the two they are more indulgent to the former than to the latter. . . .
Your ideas are expressed with great originality; in substance they are rather recent than new. The Platonists and the Fathers of our Church have said, I think, something like them before; but I do not remember having ever seen expressed so strongly and so clearly the strong resemblance that exists between the various sensual pleasures. They were satisfied with condemning all. Now I will state my own opinion. Whatever we do, we cannot prevent men from having a body as well as a soul, as if an angel occupied the form of an animal. . . . A system of philosophy or of religion that chooses entirely to ignore the one or the other may produce some extraordinary cases, but will never exercise any general influence over mankind: this I believe and deplore, for you know that though the animal is not more subdued in me than in most people, I adore the angel, and would give anything to make it predominate. I am, therefore, continually at work to discover a middle course which men may follow without becoming disciples either of Heliogabalus or of St. Jerome; for I am convinced that the great majority will never be persuaded to imitate either, and less the saint than the emperor. I am, then, not so much shocked as you are by the decorous materialism of which you complain so bitterly; not that it does not excite my contempt as much as it does yours; but I consider it practically, and I ask myself whether, if not exactly this, something like it, be not, in fact, all that one can expect, not of any particular man, but of the species in general? Reflect on these ideas, and give me an answer. Now I will turn to another subject, for I have not much to do here, and I have great pleasure in writing to you.
The Machiavelli of the “History of Florence” is to me the same Machiavelli who wrote the “Prince.” I cannot understand the perusal of the first work leaving any doubt as to the object and meaning of the second. Machiavelli, in his history, often praises great and noble actions: but with him this is obviously an affair of the imagination. The foundation of his ideas is, that all actions are morally indifferent in themselves, and must be judged according to the skill they display and the success they secure. For him the world is a great arena, from which God is absent, in which conscience has nothing to do, and where every one must manage as as well as he can. Machiavelli is the grandfather of M———. I need say no more.
As for the events that he relates, I own that his picture of those times startles me, and leads me to think that our own may be unjustly censured. The Italian republics in the middle ages, had, indeed, a sort of coarse energy, but how little real virtue! What brutal violence joined to refinement of vice! What selfishness! What disregard of right! What scepticism in the higher, and what superstition in the lower classes! What utter corruption without cultivation, in society!
I am aware, however, that what was true of the Italians in the sixteenth century, was not the case with the other European nations. Still I imagine that the times immediately before the Reformation were everywhere periods of great corruption. Ignorance and bigotry in the lower classes, doubt and unbelief in the higher; in short, the evils of barbarism and of civilization combined. This proves to me more than ever, that when once the religious belief of a nation is shaken, no time should be lost in educating its reasoning faculties. For if an intellectual but sceptical nation presents a sad spectacle, there can be none so frightful as that of a people at the same time ignorant, brutal, and incredulous.
But I begin to tire of writing. Good-bye. Answer quickly. Your letters always give great pleasure to me: here more than elsewhere. Marie sends her kind regards. We often talk of you. I wish that you could hear us.
Nacqueville,* October 10, 1836.
I write from Nacqueville, where I am spending a few days. Your letter from Châlons reached me here. I suppose that my answer should be directed to Berlin, lest my letter should miss you at the intermediate address that you have given me. Your present journey is deeply interesting to me, not alone on your account, though I believe that it will be useful to you, but also on my own. You will see things which greatly excite my curiosity. After England, the country that I have always most wished to travel in, is Prussia. All that I have heard makes me think that there is none more deserving careful observation. Many things that I have been told about it are very striking, among others this:—the Prussian government, acting either from principle or instinct, tries, they say, to make its subjects forget that they have not real freedom, by granting them liberally all the lesser liberties that are compatible with absolute monarchy; so that voluntarily it prepares the people to stand alone, and without any violent change to govern themselves. To me it is interesting to study the indirect influence exercised by the free states of the west of Europe over the great despotic monarchies in the East and the North. It somewhat resembles the state of affairs in the sixteenth century, when the reformed countries modified Catholicism in those which still remained Catholic.
I point this out to you, not as being in itself, perhaps, the subject most interesting generally, but as being that which most interests me. In detail, I would ask you to obtain as precise information as you can on the Prussian provincial and municipal systems, as well as on the extent of its centralization. I attach great importance to this. It is not with arguments taken from republican or half-republican nations that we can hope to attack with advantage French centralization. The examples that can produce a real impression on the ordinary crowd of illiberals must be taken from nations with an absolute government. I should like you, then, to get me all the documents that you can, and also to enter yourself into the spirit, and understand the system of administration, or you will not be able to explain it, nor I to comprehend it.
As to general advice about your travels, recollect that it is most important to mix with as many people as possible; and by making each talk on what he knows best, to draw out of him all that you can in the shortest possible time. It is good, too, to make men talk of one another. This sort of information is precious; and as you do not intend to communicate it, you may innocently obtain it. Your name and letters of introduction will secure your reception among the aristocracy. All your endeavours should therefore be directed to becoming acquainted with the middle and literary classes. I should also, as an experienced traveller, advise you to listen to every one and take part with no one. You are a foreigner; you need not have an opinion on Prussian affairs. Only say enough to make your interlocutor develope fully his ideas. Above all, be on your guard against a tendency natural to you, which even in France you carry to an extreme, that of associating only with those whom you esteem. Write a great deal; you cannot write too much. In writing you become aware of the vagueness of your ideas, and you see whence they sprang. Do not hesitate, therefore, to send me as much MS. as you like. It will be useful to you and interesting to me. For such a purpose to regard expense would be absurd. . . . I need not add that you may put into the packet as many sealed letters as you please. As you so well said, the singular and in a moral point of view really elevated side of our friendship, is to have combined so much independence of thought and action with so much intimacy. Now I think that I have said all. I will add, however, as a general remark, that you should vigorously shake off during your tour the disposition to carelessness to which almost all travellers are subject, and you especially, because you are given to dreaming. Be as active therefore as possible. Never lose an opportunity of seeing things, or above all of making acquaintances. . . .
Our visit to Switzerland has done Marie good in many respects. Still it tired her, and has left her with a sort of general physical irritation which we find a difficulty in subduing. If, however, our tour was not entirely satisfactory as far as health is concerned, it at least drew our minds closer together, if possible, than before. I cannot tell you the inexpressible charm which I found in living so continually with Marie, nor the treasures that I was perpetually discovering in her heart. You know that in travelling, still more than at other times, my temper is uneven, irritable and impatient. I scolded her frequently and almost always unjustly, and on each occasion I discovered in her inexhaustible springs of tenderness and indulgence; and then I cannot describe to you the happiness yielded in the long run by the habitual society of a woman in whose soul all that is good in your own is reflected naturally, and even improved. When I say or do a thing which seems to me to be perfectly right, I read immediately in Marie’s countenance an expression of proud satisfaction which elevates me. And so when my conscience reproaches me her face instantly clouds over. Although I have great power over her mind, I see with pleasure that she awes me; and as long as I love her as I now do, I am sure that I shall never allow myself to be drawn into anything wrong. You asked me, my dear friend, to speak of myself and of Marie; I have opened to you my whole heart. There is one idea connected with this subject which often troubles me. You will soon be married, and I cannot help trembling lest the kind and friendly relations that would be so favourable to our intimacy should not be established between our wives; for experience will teach you how difficult it is to separate oneself in any way from one’s partner. In this respect Beaumont’s recent marriage is sure to be very agreeable to me. I see that a real friendship is likely to spring up between Marie and Madame de Beaumont, and from that minute our intimacy will be secure for the rest of our lives. Take notice that I speak of intimacy not of friendship, which can be affected by no external circumstances. Good-bye, my paper is out.
Baugy,* October 10, 1836.
A few days ago I received your letter of the 27th October, dated from Geislingen, in which you complain of finding nothing from me. When you reached Berlin you must have found that I was not in fault. More than a month ago I wrote to you at the latter address, fearing lest my letter should run after you, and at last lose you, as has often happened to me in travelling. I hope, therefore, that you now are no longer angry, and that you are prepared to write to me at length while you remain in Prussia.
Your letter from Geislingen interested me much. There was a passage on the intellectual somnolence of our time, that I think excellent and full of spirit. Why do you not always write with the same liveliness and originality? I agree with you entirely as to the fact, but it is difficult to ascribe it entirely to the reason which you give. Do you not think that, independently of King Louis Philippe, our unnatural horror of intellectual exertion arises from the exhaustion produced by a protracted revolution, every outbreak in which was preceded by great mental excitement, by theories, ideas, and principles more or less true or plausible, and yet in the end producing results so little satisfactory, as to inspire disgust for all intellectual activity, and to cause the frightful consequences that you describe? Louis Philippe gives no impulse to the production of new ideas: true; but he does not stifle them. Try to bring out the cause that you assign, try to place it in a strong light and high relief, and you will have made great progress in the political inquiries of our day; but I doubt your being able to do so.
On the subject of Louis Philippe, no doubt you heard long ago of the Strasburg attempt. That our greatest dangers would come from the army we had long foreseen; and I myself think that not only our present but our future dangers will arise in the same quarter; and that not only the existing government, but all future governments, will long continue to be threatened by them. This subject has long occupied my thoughts, and it seems to me that the same reasons that incline a democratic people to wish for peace and quiet, ought to induce a democratic army to desire war and tumult. The same wish to get on, and the same possibility of doing so, drives the citizens in one direction and the soldiers in the other. The cause is the same, the effects only are different; and the cause is essentially permanent. The recent attempt was put down with ease; but the apathy of the nation is alarming; for it did not arise from dislike of the existing Government, but from the absolute indifference of the French to any form of government whatever. I am sure that at the present time three-fourths of the nation either have never heard, or never bestow a thought upon, what has happened. Trade and manufacturers are prosperous, that is enough for them; and they have such an imbecile love of comfort, that they seem to fear to think of the causes that procure it, and maintain it, lest they should endanger it.
You will see in my letter to Berlin, the almost personal interest which I take in your inquiries. Your journey, full of interest for you, is a piece of luck to me. You will come back with a number of ideas and of reflections which will be new to me; for I have never set foot in Germany. We shall find it an inexhaustible mine of useful and agreeable conversations. I cannot tell you how much pleasure I felt in reading your last letter to see your eagerness to examine and to understand everything before you, and your lamentations that you cannot be in two places at once, or prolong your visit. You know, too, what I think ought to be the turn of mind of a traveller. How rare it is, and how little can be done without it. I never believed that the scheme, of which we so often talked, of making our letters during your tour a sort of biography, could be realized. In a foreign country every instant has its demands. One must catch one’s impressions flying, and record them without trying to reflect on them. That must be done afterwards. Pray attend, if you have time, to the municipal institutions of Prussia. Do not hurry back. You cannot be better employed as respects yourself, or as respects the world, than you are at present.
I am here on my return from Normandy, and shall probably remain till the 15th of December. I work seven hours a day and make little progress, for I feel that my second book will find the world and critics ready to pounce on it. I must therefore do my best. There is not a day when I do not feel your absence. A crowd of ideas remains undefined in my mind, from my inability to talk them over with you, and hear how you would oppose them, or observe the new form that they would assume if you admitted them. I pass a short portion of every day with three men, Pascal, Montesquieu and Rousseau; I miss the presence of a fourth, and that is you. Although we often differ even upon serious points, there is so much resemblance in our general views and impressions, that your society always rouses and animates me. You alone have habitually this effect upon me, and this is the chief proof that I have of some remarkable or at least peculiar quality in you; for most people leave me more or less cold, while you almost always excite me. Goodbye. I leave you to resume my work. Besides I shall wait for your first letter from Germany, before I write to you at length.
Paris, December 26, 1836.
I received, two days ago, your letter No. 1. It suggested to me several ideas which I will not allow to vanish before I utter them. You return to the subject of the revolution of July. To speak freely, I fear lest politics should in the end cool our friendship, which I should consider as one of the greatest misfortunes that could happen to me. I am not afraid of such an event on my side, but on yours. When politics are in question you have an instinct independent of your reason, secretly forcing you to act and to feel without being under the control of your will. It is on this rock that I fear the shipwreck of our intimacy; for though we sympathize in many things, we are separated on one that is important, and that time will render of still more consequence; this cannot be denied. Every day I deplore the events of July; on this we are agreed. I should see without much regret the restoration which you think essential. Here our minds diverge. You believe that we ought from this instant to endeavour at any risk to bring about this restoration by every honest means. I do not think so. At present I see no chance of a restoration except by foreign aid. If the restoration were effected in that or in any other way, by force and against the wish of the majority of the nation, I see no chance of its lasting; nor do I think that it would be able or willing to establish amongst us certain liberal principles to which I attach as much importance as to the restoration itself.
You see things in a different light, and you think and act accordingly. But you must feel that such being my sincere impression I cannot conscientiously assist in the overthrow of the existing Government. I shall never ask a favour from it, I shall oppose its encroachments all my life; but I cannot wish to upset it till I am convinced that I have found some good and permanent substitute. This is the gulf between us. I am sure that your reason will appreciate the train of ideas that I have suggested, even though you may think that I am mistaken. I am confident, too, that you will always think me sincere; but as I said in the beginning of my letter, I fear your instinct; I feel impelled to caution you. If ever I imagined that in consequence of some difference of opinion you would change towards me in any way, I should grieve deeply. For in our friendship there is an element that nothing could replace, that coolness would kill: it is a pure, free, fine and manly feeling, and it has always elevated us.—If once it were to become an ordinary friendship, a mere habit, the charm would disappear. Let us therefore struggle with all our might against the common enemy, the only enemy whom we have to fear—political difference on the points that I have just considered.
I turn now to the other subjects in your letter. All that you tell me of the centralizing, pedantic tendency of European democracy seems to me to be perfectly true. But after fully developing your ideas, you add that on these points we are nearly agreed; that is not saying enough. Those ideas are interwoven with my life, they occupy my mind every day and every moment in the day. To show men if possible how in a democracy they may avoid submitting to tyranny, or sinking into imbecility, is the theme of my book, and the attempt will be repeated in every page of that which I am now writing. To labour for such an object is, in my mind, a sacred calling, in which one must grudge neither one’s money, one’s time, nor one’s life.
I am as great a partizan as you are of public education, and for the same reasons; and I much wish you to examine the subject in Prussia, where the system is said to be better than elsewhere. My curiosity is at present excited principally on these points: 1. Is the law obliging parents to send their children to school still in force? what are its effects and how is it applied? 2. What part do the local authorities take in education? Do the schools excite any local interest? By what means has the public been induced to take an interest in education? 3. Is there any intermediary instruction between the primary and principal education? 4. Is the chief education given in schools, or in universities?
Good-bye—Marie desires to be remembered to you. Scarcely a day passes without our talking of you.
Paris, January 26, 1837.
Your letter, No. 2, which I received four or five days ago, gave me even more pleasure than your former ones. I read attentively, over and over, what you say upon the means of preventing our political opinions from jarring with our friendship. I have often had the same thoughts, but you make them clearer to my mind than they ever were before. I think with you, that the past is a guarantee for the future, and that we shall achieve the difficult task of uniting entire independence to perfect intimacy. Few men could do this, but experience shows that we differ from most men. And we have one great safeguard—differing as to the means, we agree as to the ends of government. Our minds are like two lines, that however long asunder, always find some points of meeting. To finish the subject, I must tell you once for all, that there is nothing in the world that I hold so precious as your friendship. For me it is a never-failing source of energy and highmindedness, of elevated feeling and generous resolution; it is a world in itself, perhaps an ideal world, but still a resting-place to which I escape, not from indolence, but like a weary man, who stops for an instant to recover strength, that he may be more active in the fight. If ever it cooled or died, I should begin to doubt of myself and of all that is good.
February 1st.—I was forced to leave off here by an attack of influenza, which made me lose four days in bed. I am up again, but very weak, and my head not in a state to add much to this letter. At the end of yours, however, is an observation which I must answer. You ask me, if in America and England I find the same prudery and affectation which so justly disgust you in Berlin. Yes; and especially in England, where it is easier to enter a woman’s bedroom in order to make love to her, than for any other purpose. Still I must say, that in those two countries, where the affectation of virtue and propriety is carried by women to an absurd extent, there is more real virtue than with us. Is this the case in Berlin? The discovery of this good result made me indulgent towards the accompanying evil, though I naturally have not much indulgence in the matter, and at last I thought that all that external and conventional parade of propriety was, perhaps, to female virtue, what an established worship is to religion—a form which powerful minds, whether for good or for evil, break through, but which serves as a protecting barrier to the weak and ordinary. So I thought that all the pretence of modesty, and rules of affected delicacy, which are unnecessary for a really virtuous woman, may perhaps be of use to the majority. As to your remark upon Protestantism, I am much inclined to share your opinion. But it is a subject that one cannot discuss fasting as I am. . . .
Tocqueville, June 11, 1837.
Up to this time, dear friend, my journey has been a melancholy one. I had scarcely arrived, when I was seized by one of those frightful attacks of neuralgia in the stomach, with which you are familiar. I had been free from them for nineteen months; but this attack has been so bad that it may count for two. It has left me in such a state of weakness and discomfort, that I can neither walk nor write long at a time, and I am condemned to idleness and dreaming, two things which, as you know, do not suit me at all. Life becomes a burden. I am excited and worn out by my own imagination, and when I attempt to escape from this state, physical fatigue drives me back to it. It is sad to have a mind that cannot exist without taking violent remedies, such as intellectual labour, physical activity, or strong emotions. During the last twelve days, Marie and I have often regretted your absence; your society would be enough for us if we could only have it, for I can talk to no one and listen to no one so well as to you. I delight in thinking over our conversations of last winter. I have never enjoyed your society so much nor so long, as during the last few months in Paris. I cannot tell you how I prize our friendship; it is to me a source of light, and strength, and high aspirations. I am always repeating this, for I am always feeling it. When in our childish days we were so united, I could not help fearing lest age, and the so-called realities of life, might loosen the ties that were so dear to me; but I find that every day they draw us closer.
Tocqueville, July 5, 1837.
My dear Louis,—Our good friend * * * asks you for my opinion of Mademoiselle ———. Here is what I know and what I think of her. She is the daughter of a clever selfish man, and of a foolish bigoted mother. However, I do not think that either would wish to tease or to domineer over a son-in-law. The young lady is not more than sixteen or seventeen. The outside is charming, the inside common-place. She is shy, amiable, gentle, and dull. Such is the impression that she has left on my mind. I do not think that as yet she has more in her than the materials for a strictly correct woman, without any higher qualities. She is, as I have said, extremely pretty; she is fond of dress, in spite of the dull retirement in which she lives, and from her earliest years, I am told, has excelled in turning every scrap of finery to the best account, both for herself and her sisters. This is the only talent that I have ever heard attributed to her, and joined with her small capacity, it will probably cause her to turn into a very pretty and equally insignificant little creature. . . . I own, that to me, her family would also be a great obstacle. An atmosphere of common-place pervades the whole house. * * * has escaped from it by his resemblance to his father, who, together with his feebleness, has given to him his pure and earnest heart. In all the rest of the family, the influence of * * * predominates. They have the virtues of the middle class, combined with the narrowest possible range of ideas, and are quite free from all aristocratical extravagances, such as the love of one’s country, and enthusiasm for bold and brilliant actions.
These are exactly my impressions. It is hard to form a final opinion on so young a girl. She may be, to a certain extent, modified by the continual influence of a husband. Still I should never recommend a young man of the character of * * * to undertake the task of such an education; and I cannot help thinking with pain, of the way in which marriages are made in France. * * * is as likely to have such a wife as any other; for it is a great chance if, before he marries, he finds again a man who can give him as much information.
I am obliged to hurry away from you, my dear Louis, for I must return to my work; I get on so slowly that I am out of patience. We are most anxious for your arrival; I cannot tell you how glad we shall be to see you. We shall have a better opportunity of enjoying each other’s society, than we have had for the last ten years. I would have given a great deal, if you could have carried out your intention of spending six or eight months with us; such a long period of intimate companionship would have been an epoch in our lives; it would have closed our youth and launched us into maturity.
Tocqueville, September 4, 1837.
I have put off answering you because I am constantly expecting an afternoon of perfect leisure, which will enable me to communicate to you ideas and feelings which are crowding into my mind. I have waited in vain, and at last I have resigned myself to writing you a trifling letter, lest you should be too long without news of me.
The other day I met Madame ——— at Caen; in the course of conversation I told her that I had just received from you a letter of ten pages, and that I hoped to answer it with one as long. She opened her eyes as wide as a park gate. She knew of our friendship, but a friendship producing letters of ten pages seemed to her to be supernatural. You would, I know, have been annoyed, you would have taken it for another proof that we live among those who do not understand us; but I laughed heartily. I should be sorry to be too well understood by such people, though they are highly respectable in their way, for it would prove that I am more like them than I care to be. I never quite enter into your displeasure when people whom you love and esteem misunderstand you. It gives me some pain, but not the pain which it gives to you; and the pain rather excites than depresses me. It makes me eager to justify my eccentricities by success, which is the only valid argument in such cases.
I cite myself, as I know myself; when I began to write, my family, it is true, encouraged me, but I relied little on that, for I thought them blinded by affection. One’s relations are always in extremes, sometimes they are disposed to exaggerate one’s merits, at others to make the most of one’s faults. I was, therefore, not elated by the praise of my own family; the world thought of me just as it does of you. I passed for a poor eccentric young man, who having no profession, wrote in order to kill time; at any rate, a respectable occupation, for it is better to write a bad book than to live in bad company.
I began surrounded by these difficulties. I remember well that they depressed, annoyed, and irritated me; but far from discouraging me, they kindled a fire within me. I felt that a man must either live quietly like other men, or show that he has in him something more than they have. Now that my book has obtained almost as much success as I desired, I see that I am allowed to go my own way without interference. Why should you not attain the same exemption? for though I do not wish to compliment you, I feel that you are my superior.
I must repeat what I have often said to you. You exaggerate every difficulty: first, as to that of allying yourself to a family that will leave you free to follow your own tastes. Probably your new connexions will not appreciate you, still they will be charmed by your studious habits, for it is better to write stupid books than to gamble. A father’s first wish is that his daughter’s husband should be steady, and with plenty of occupation. Of what sort? No matter whether he collects stones like * * * or ideas. What is wanted is, that he should not fold his arms and sit still.
Your second error is as to the difficulty of interesting your wife in your work, for I fancy that the sort of approbation which I have described would not satisfy you from her. Believe me, dear friend, you are mistaken. There are such women as you imagine, but many less than you suppose. On the contrary, I am amazed at the number of women, ordinary enough in other respects, whom I see taking a passionate and often exaggerated interest in the literary labours of their husbands. It is easily explained; for fame of whatever kind is still fame, and the woman who bears your name is, at least, as much affected by it as yourself. You must think then that she would have a low opinion of you and your talents. But is this possible? Is a wife often deceived on these points? If in no other way, is she not enlightened upon them by what she hears, and by the opinions which her husband’s friends have of him? No one can be mistaken about you who has once heard you talk freely upon a serious subject. Madame de B——— who has just left us, told us, that in a long conversation which you had had with her husband, in her presence, she had been struck by your superiority, and that she could not believe that you were the “good fellow,” she had heard of from the * * *. Your own wife could still less fail to receive a similar impression, for, however frivolous they may be, women soon discover the remarkable qualities of their husbands, and are generally willing to recognise a superiority in which they may almost be said to have a personal interest. Still I own that there are in the world some cold, silly, female fools, over whom one can have no influence, and who very likely would speak of their husbands as Madame ——— did to me of Bonaparte, whom she saw frequently before his Italian campaigns: “I never knew such a tiresome man with his eternal politics; so I always ran away when I saw him coming in.” But these are exceptions.
P.S.—Beaumont has brought back excellent materials from Ireland. He has given me some curious details on England. It seems that there the democratic movement has stopped for the present. Though too late it is a great lesson for the continental aristocracies, who after placing themselves under the protection and guidance of the crown, are at this instant being hurried by that power to destruction; while the only aristocracy which has retained the management of its affairs and has dared to look the enemy in the face, still stands and will stand for some time longer.
Tocqueville, November 14, 1837.
I believe that I have already told you that, although I did not offer myself, a considerable number of the electors of the arrondissement of Valognes wished to propose me as deputy; the attempt has been made. My friends, who belonged to every shade in the opposition, failed, but by only a few votes; and on the whole I recollect the struggle with pleasure, on account of the ardour with which a portion of the people embraced my cause. A great tie, in consequence, unites us, and I shall return to this place hereafter with delight. In the course of the election, I was induced to publish a little pamphlet, which I send to you. In general our difference of opinion on an essential point, makes me avoid talking to you of my political occupations. But I must not leave you in ignorance of my important actions, and in my eyes the putting forth of this pamphlet is one.
As I was not elected, I am out of public life at least for several years. I am, I assure you, far from complaining of it. I shall quietly set to work again, and it will not be my fault, if you do not share my labours. You know that this has always been a dream of mine. We yet have time, you see, to philosophise like two Greeks. . . .
I take, as you do, unceasing, and perhaps even more interest than I acknowledge to myself, in Lamoricière, whom I am inclined to think somewhat indifferent to every one of us, and only, and passionately, attached to his profession. He carries me away in spite of myself; and when I read the assault of Constantine, I fancied that I saw him standing alone on the top of the breach, and for an instant my whole soul was with him. I love him, too, for the sake of France: for I cannot help thinking that a great general is contained in that little man.
Baugy, March 21, 1838.
I have just received a letter from you; but first I must answer the one that I carried away with me the other day.
Your letter is interesting, and on the whole I think that you are right. You would entirely satisfy me, if I were merely a reasonable being; but I have within me powerful instincts, which your words cannot pacify. I own that it is unreasonable to long for a better fate than that of man. But such is my involuntary and irresistible impulse. There are some views of humanity so mean, that I feel contempt for the whole affair creeping over me in spite of myself. This impression would be unfortunate, if it were frequent, and, if it became permanent, would paralyse instead of stimulating my exertions. I should have too much to say on this subject, so as time passes, I turn to your second letter.
I reply to the first part of it by telling you, that during the last few days I have been reading the life of Mahomet and the Koran. The Koran is the most annoying and the most instructive of books; for, on looking closely, one sees all the threads by which the prophet held, and still holds, his votaries. It is a complete compendium of the art of prophecy, and I strongly advise you to read it. I cannot imagine, how ——— could say, that that book was an advance upon the Gospel. In my opinion there is no comparison between them, and I think that reading it is enough to explain the difference between Musselmans and Christians. The Koran seems to me to be no more than a clever compromise between materialism and spiritualism. Mahomet has opened the door to the coarsest passions of our nature, in order to introduce with them certain highly refined notions; so that, one set balancing the other, human nature may hang tolerably suspended between heaven and earth.
This is the philosophical and disinterested part of the Koran; as for the selfish part it is still more evident. The doctrine that “faith saves;” that “the first of religious duties is to believe blindly in the prophet;” that “the sacred war is the best of God’s works;” and many other doctrines, of which the practical result is easily seen, are found in every page, and almost in every sentence in the Koran.
The violent and sensual tendencies of the Koran are so striking, that I cannot conceive their escaping the observation of a reasonable man. It is an advance on polytheism, inasmuch as it contains clearer and truer ideas of the Divine Being, and a more intelligible and wider analysis of certain duties common to man. But the passions which it excites have made it more mischievous to mankind than polytheism, which, having no unity in doctrine or priesthood, never had much hold over men, and left them considerable freedom of action; whilst Mahometanism has exercised over the human race an immense, and on the whole a far from salutary influence. I should like to say more about Mahometanism in particular, and religion in general. But of late my head soon tires, and forces me to think as little as possible on serious and engrossing topics. I stop, therefore, though with regret. It makes me sad, to think of the long period of separation still before us: nearly two months. I feel the wish and almost the necessity of conversing with you. I cannot understand why it should be impossible for you to spend Easter-week with us. Neither society nor business engages people in our world at that period. Besides the extreme pleasure it would give us to have you to enliven our solitude, we should have more leisure than we have ever enjoyed to clear up some ideas of practical importance, which discussion only can render less obscure. Come then, I pray.
Tocqueville, August 8, 1838.
I wish you to hear once more from me before you return, and I direct to Rennes as the safest place. . . . I pass immediately, and, as we often do, without transition from you to your antipodes, that is to Plato. Your view of him seems to me to be admirable, because it exactly coincides with my own. The epithet “puerile,” which you apply to the bearded old philosopher, especially pleased me; I smiled at it approvingly, for it is precisely the appropriate adjective. There is, indeed, something childish in the ideas, and still more in the arrangement, sometimes methodical, and sometimes irregular peculiar to Plato. But on several occasions he is more than man, especially if one considers the time when he lived. On the whole, I consider him a poor politician; but as a philosopher superior to any, and I admire his attempts to introduce, as much as is possible, morality into politics. There is a high and spiritual aspiration about that man which excites and elevates me. I think that it is to this more than to anything else that he owes his glorious immortality. For, after all, men in every age like to hear about their souls, though they seem to care only for their bodies. Adieu; I go back to work. We are looking forward to seeing you again.
Nacqueville, October 9, 1838.
I have lately been leading such an exciting and wandering life, dear friend, that I have not been able to answer your last letter. Yet I was much moved by it. Its expressions of attachment to me are very touching. Pray forgive me for having told you of my fears and doubts: my only excuse is the great value that I set upon our intimacy. Although I differ from you on several important points, still there is no mind to which I am so bound, or with which I have such real sympathy, as your’s. Only with you can I give full vent to my highest instincts, which I am forced to control or to suppress in my habitual intercourse with men. With you I yield freely to every impulse of my head and of my heart. With you I can sift every idea and every feeling without fear of hurting either you or myself. With no one else is this the case, and the effect is delightful. It is the greatest and most manly enjoyment that I know. Nothing could pain me more than its loss. . . .
I must say that I approve and understand the urgent endeavours of your family to prevent your visit to Africa at the present moment. Such a journey would not be well-timed. But if you are not in Africa, why do you not write? You know how impatiently Marie and I long for news of you. . . .
. . . . I have already tried to resume my work, but I find great difficulties in satisfying myself. My ideas seem to flit before me like tableaux vivans; there is always some gauze before them which prevents my seeing them distinctly. I do not know if it be my fault, or that of my subject: probably, it is the fault of both. The subject is the concluding chapter, of which we have talked so much without coming to a decision. If any new thoughts occur to you about it, pray let me know. You are aware that I want an idea so general, that the mind of the reader, after going through the whole book, may rest on it; and yet so simple, as not to require a long development, which might exhaust an attention already fatigued. Perhaps in a few days I may write to you a very long letter on this subject; at present, I am too much in the dark to discuss it advantageously. I am sent for to ride, so good-bye.
Algiers, May 23, 1841.
Thank you, dear friend, for your letter, which I received here ten days ago. I see that you expect much benefit for me from this journey. I hope so, too; but I doubt its lasting long enough to restore mind and body, both of which have been for some time in rather a poor way. I have but little to tell you of either. So as I have not much leisure, I will talk to you about Algiers. I am only beginning to see what are the questions connected with this country; but my view is a little clearer than it was in France. The situation is difficult and complicated; still I think that we should manage it if were not for faults inherent in our character and in our institutions. But these faults, joined to the nature of the undertaking, will, perhaps, cause us to fail. The state of things is this.
We are every day gaining ground in the province of Constantine, and we soon shall have turned out the Turks, and established there a government somewhat similar to theirs. In this there is nothing very glorious. But there is reason to hope, that by holding the population of the interior in quiet and subjection, we may be permitted to colonise the environs of Bona in peace. However, I doubt whether the time has come to make this attempt.
In the province of Algiers the enemy’s marauders chop off heads even as near as the hills above the town. The plain of Mitidja is a desert. The colonists are gone, and so are its old inhabitants, the Arabs. Still Algiers is a large, and looks like a prosperous town. The energy shown by the inhabitants in the midst of so much danger and misery is surprising. There is evidently a higher and firmer tone of feeling here than in France. All the province of Oran, and that of Tittery, with the exception of those towns, is in the hands of the Emir. From all that I hear, he is stronger in some respects, and weaker in others, than formerly. His government has acquired consistency and a better organization; more obedience is paid to him than was paid to the Turks. Like them he has created a permanent and regular army, which he instantly directs on a rebellious tribe and crushes it. He uses hatred towards Christians, the only feeling common to all Arabs, with more skill than the Turks did. But it seems certain, that the population, in spite of its fanaticism, is growing tired of war, which destroys property and trade. We may, therefore, hope that a war of “razzias,” well managed, may in the end force Abd-el-Kader to ask for peace, or may induce some of his tribes to desert him. The provinces of Algiers and Oran would then resemble that of Constantine, French dominion would be established with more or less security in the interior; a result of little importance in itself, but which would render possible the colonisation of the environs of Algiers—the real object of France. Our dominion here is only a means.
There are two things which as yet I think I see clearly. The first and most important is, that if we allow a real Arab power to establish itself in the interior of Africa, to organise itself, and every day to profit by our example, to accustom more and more the tribes to act together, and in case of a war between France and a European nation, to be ready to receive from that nation instruction, men, money, and arms; if we permit this, our African possessions will have no future existence, colonisation will be difficult, and the result always precarious. Those who expect a permanent peace with the Emir are mistaken. He cannot maintain it if he would, for two reasons. I have said that the only feeling which the tribes have in common, is fanaticism. His strength depends on his encouraging this feeling, and he can do so only by war. In the second place, all who are acquainted with Arabs are strongly impressed by their cupidity, which is almost equal to their fanaticism. A long peace would establish between them and us relations so advantageous to them, that Abd-el-Kader will never permit it to subsist, or if it should last he would accompany it by commercial restrictions that would destroy its usefulness. To destroy his rising power is, therefore, what we must try to do and succeed in doing.
The second point which seems to me clear is this, that such success is not impossible, and is more easy now than it will be later. You must be aware that Abd-el-Kader does not rule over individuals, but over groups of individuals, whom we call tribes. Some of these can furnish 6,000 horsemen. Such a government, especially if you consider the wandering life of these tribes, is essentially difficult and precarious. You will feel this if you remember that each of these great tribes contains great aristocratic families, naturally as fit to take the command as that of Abd-el-Kader, who therefore submit to his dominion with impatience. I may say, however, by the way, that Abd-el-Kader is as active as a European king would be in diminishing this evil, by getting rid as fast as possible of these great families. On some pretext he has already cut off the heads of almost all the chiefs. I return to my system. A government of this kind is always difficult and precarious. We may hope that by flattering the vanity or stimulating the avarice of the chiefs of some of the powerful tribes, we may gain them over, or that by ravaging by war we may indispose them towards the Emir, and so bring about his fall. If this result, of which, for want of time, I have rudely sketched the means, be possible, it must be easier now that the power of Abd-el-Kader is only beginning than it will be when time shall have added to its strength. We ought then to continue our exertions, however painful, and to prosecute the war in every direction without giving the Arabs breathing time. As to the mode of making war on such people, I am beginning to have some clear ideas which I will explain to you at another time. Today I will only say, that it has been proved to me that 6,000 infantry, even without artillery, might march all over the hostile country without fear; that they ought not to attempt any more great expeditions, but to go in every direction, now here and now there, as long as they have any provisions left, in order to surprise and astound the enemy; and to show that destruction no longer follows straight lines and fixed plans, but falls unexpectedly everywhere.
Hitherto colonisation has appeared to me to be easy, especially if protected by earth-works, and if we build fortified villages instead of solitary houses. It has been proved that a mere loop-holed wall is impregnable to the Arabs; they could never get over one of our Norman fences. At a little distance from Oran, I saw a fossé* nine feet wide, which Lamoricière made his troops dig in three months. It cost nothing, and is quite enough to ensure perfect security within it. As for the soil, it is admirable, and only wants hands. When I have studied the subject farther, I will tell you how I think that labour might be attracted and kept here.
I saw Lamoricière for two days at Mostaganem, just as he was starting with the army for Tagdempt. . . . He is already the first man in the country; he succeeds here admirably; he has the confidence of his soldiers, and at the same time satisfies the people. His system of razzias is excellent. His professional talents seem to me to increase.
Here is a letter, as in old times; let me have an answer as in old times; that is to say, of interminable length, and let me have it quickly. Why do we write less to each other? and yet our attachment is as great as ever. As for me, experience of the world and of public affairs makes me turn every day more and more to you; and when I search my heart I find that on the whole I am more really bound to you, and that I set a higher value on your friendship than I did even twenty years ago. Chance united us: the more I see of other men the more I feel that our intimacy ought to have been the result of choice.
Good bye, write to me at Algiers; I intend to leave it for a short time for a tour in Constantine, which is open to us, and where one sees the Arabs at home. Try to put all sorts of questions to me in your letter, that my mind may be set to work.
Tocqueville, October 25, 1841.
Time goes on, my dear friend, and yet I do not hear that you are preparing to join us. Till now I have not regretted your absence, because we have had friends constantly with us or have been interrupted by visits; but at last, thank God, we are on the point of being alone. This is when I like to have you, the only time when we can really enjoy each other’s society. Pray then come, if you can. You would give us real and great pleasure. Such a meeting is as useful as it is agreeable; for in Paris, though we see each other we have no intimate communion, and for myself, I shall always consider it essential to renew every year our valuable habit of close companionship. It is still more necessary now that I am about to enter the political arena. Your mind, in fact, is the only one on which I rely, and that has a real influence over mine. Many others have some effect on my actions, but none has the influence possessed by you over the ruling opinions and principles of which they are the result. It is when laying this first foundation of my conduct that I often want to consult you, especially in the moment of calm and reflection that precedes the struggle. I then feel the necessity of reviewing with you the chief principles which ought to guide me in the details of practice. Experience teaches me that in this world success and greatness depend much more on a good choice of these general principles, than on the skill with which you every day solve the petty problems of life.
I have passed a very pleasant summer. I have not been so happy for many years. I have enjoyed something which, if not contentment, is at least very like it. Will it last, or will it be lost in the political excitement of Paris? I shall not know till I try. You know with what incurable folly men attribute to reason a state of mind which is the accidental result of health, of place, of opportunities, of a thousand causes, which, forming no part of their being, must and will change. I hesitate, therefore, to attribute the comparative peace and contentment which I have enjoyed for the last few months to any real change in my views of life; and yet it does seem to me as if these views were somewhat modified.
I expect less from life. I aspire less. This is what I think that I have gained. Domestic happiness seems to me more desirable than formerly, and public applause and power less essential than till now I had thought them. I contemplate more calmly the possibility of passing my life like the ordinary run of mortals; and I no longer resist as intolerable the idea that I shall have no exalted destiny. In short, my desires, as far as I can see, are more moderate, and I have become more patient; what can be the cause? This is what, as yet, I cannot quite make out, and consequently I tremble for the future. What can have curbed the ambition which, though peculiar, was so strong and so boundless? As I said before, I cannot yet tell, and time alone will teach me. Is it that this violent ambition has subsided on meeting the obstacles presented by my own character and by external circumstances? I think so. These obstacles are, in fact, very great; perhaps insurmountable. The impossibility of attaining anything satisfactory is evident. Is this the reason of my tranquillity, and will this tranquillity follow me into action? Not in the measure that I now enjoy it. But, though I may not be calm, it would be a great gain to be, at least, less excitable. To this I confine my hopes for the winter. In the meanwhile I experience a singular phenomenon, of which I leave the explanation to your perspicacity. As life appears to me less noble and less valuable, I am better pleased to live. . . .
Tocqueville, August 23, 1842.
I received your letter this morning, dear friend, and I hasten to give you a line in reply. I hold * * * to be an excellent fellow and a very honourable man. His family is good. As he is obliged to work for his bread, he is forced to fill rather an inferior position. I quite believe, that whenever he may have an opportunity of associating with such men as you are, he anxiously seizes upon it. He has, besides, great vivacity in conversation: there is even a sort of irritability in his manner. All this is sufficient, without any other cause, to explain his eagerness to make himself agreeable to you, and to cultivate your society. It is not impossible, too, that, without entertaining any profound and Machiavellian plot for getting at your thoughts, he may be charmed to profit by your reflections on the subject which at present occupies him. This may be one motive of his conduct, but it is not the only one. Rest assured, however, that this motive is common to all men who turn ideas to account by making books or speeches. Above all, it is irresistible to newspaper writers, who, forced for three parts of their time to write without having leisure to think, steal ideas ready-made wherever they find them. . . .
With regard to the talents of the man whom we are talking of, this is what I think: I believe his mind to be superficial and shallow, and therefore his opinions on a subject that you have studied would have little influence over me. Besides these natural defects, he has acquired others, proceeding from the period when he first entered society, and from the nature of his studies. He belongs, it must be acknowledged, to the crowd of pigmies who, coming after revolutions, imagine that manliness and profound thought are exhibited by a contempt for all political questions and passions, by seeing nothing very serious in the things which so much excited their fathers, fancying that they are nearer to Voltaire because they hold up his train. * * * certainly has this weakness, he even puts it on, thinking it becoming; and this is what at first made me take a dislike to him. But on nearer acquaintance, I found that his heart was worth more than his head; and that the principles which regulate his actions are safer and more upright than those that govern his pen and his tongue. . . .
Tocqueville, October 25, 1842.
I have not written to you during the six weeks that I have spent here; and, indeed, I should not have had much to tell you. I have been leading a wandering and barren life—barren, at least, as regards ideas, still I hope that I have not wasted my time. Just now it is not by political speeches or actions that one secures constituents; but by making personal friends of them. It is a vicious system I own, but may be used for good purposes. It is only by submitting to this species of slavery that one obtains liberty in great things. However, I have just gone through it, not without fatigue, but without being disgusted. I have learnt to find pleasure in my relations with these men, whom I sought at first from political motives; I now feel for many of them sincere regard and esteem. Personal contact with this class shows me that the country is worth more than its rulers.
A few days ago I returned home. I ought to be happy and contented; I am uneasy and anxious. For what reason? It is not easy to say; for after all I am not to be pitied. I possess as much domestic happiness as ever falls to the lot of man; and as to external goods, I am not worse off than my neighbours. Yet I am habitually gloomy and irritable. I attribute this wearisome unproductive state of mind, sometimes to one cause, and sometimes to another. But I believe, that in truth, there is but one, and that is deep and lasting—dissatisfaction with myself. You know that there are two distinct species of pride, or rather pride takes two forms, one grave and the other gay. There is a pride that revels in the advantages that it enjoys, or thinks that it enjoys. This is called conceit. As it pleased God to give me a large dose of the vice of pride, He might at least have let me have this kind. But my pride is of a quite opposite nature. It is always uneasy and discontented; not, however, envious, but gloomy and melancholy. Every instant it is reminding me of the faculties that I want, and driving me into despair at not possessing them. The fact is, that my abilities if I have any, are not those which are specially wanted in such a career as mine; and those that I have not are precisely those which would be of every-day use to me; prompt conception, ease in execution, a clear perception of details, calmness, &c. I might add many others, if I wished to paint my portrait as it is constantly rising before my eyes; but it is unnecessary to the man in the whole world who knows me best. . . .
Did you ever read the History of England after the Revolution of 1688? I am at this moment studying it, and I find it very attractive, although Smollett is the sorriest writer that ever cumbered the ground. I own that this history inclines me to think that we often judge our own country and our own times with excessive severity. We often imagine as peculiar to ourselves and to our age, certain errors, weaknesses, and vices, which are caused by the form of our institutions, and by their special action on the corrupt side of human nature. The part played by selfish venal passions, the want of principle, the veering about of opinions, the degradation and the almost universal corruption of public men, in this History of Constitutional England, are enormous. The power of personal intrigues, the littleness and deformity of the passions that flourish in tranquil times, when the occasions that evolve great exertions and great characters no longer occur, are infinite. When one enters into these details, one can hardly believe, that at the time when all this meanness and vice were prevalent, or rather were allowed full play by free institutions, the nation began and carried through the great deeds with which it astonished the world in this century. It is striking in this history to see to what an extent quarrelling and passionate discussion belong to the very essence of a free country. The consequence is, that when no occasion is afforded for a grand debate, they squabble about nothing, and torment themselves to find some subject of disagreement and discussion. . . . There are more than ten periods in the history of the last century in England which afford this spectacle. I should be curious to have your opinion on this book. Among other things you would see some curious points of resemblance between the times immediately following the Revolution of 1688 and our own; with this distinguishing feature, however, that as the Revolution of 1688 restored England to her natural allies and to her proper position among nations, the appearance which she presented to foreign countries immediately became more important. With us since 1830 the contrary has taken place, and for opposite reasons.
Enough of politics and history. What are you about? You have given up too much the habit of writing to me. I know that it is very difficult to write satisfactory letters at long intervals, but still it is better than silence. . . . Have you passed all the time since I saw you at Fosseuse? and have you done more than attend to your own affairs? I believe not; and I fear, that to induce you to do anything else with animation and perseverance, you require nothing less than the shock of some great public event, of another revolution, or of some similar disturbance. In the mental temperament that one knows best, there are secrets which one cannot penetrate, in spite of all one’s efforts. I am sure, that during three parts of my time I am in a state of intellectual excitement that you cannot understand; and, in the same way, the slumber of your intelligence for the last few years is a problem which I cannot solve. That with such a mind as yours, you should not be determined to prove, at least to yourself, by some great work, your own capacity; and that as you have no political career, you should not try your powers in the only arena open: this is so mysterious to me, that I give up the attempt to throw any light upon it, or even to speak of it; for, as I said just now, even to those who know and love each other best, there are certain instincts and feelings, so peculiar to the possessor, that words are worth nothing in expressing or in arguing against them. Language, which is adapted only to the ordinary wants of men, in such cases tells nothing. There is no one who, on some subjects, does not share the fate of the deaf and dumb.
. . . . Contrive to pass a week with us, that we may at least once a year communicate freely with each other. Let us not allow public or private business, absence or age to freeze up our sympathies.
Tocqueville, October 19, 1843.
You are quite right in what you say of my disposition. It is true that from a momentary impulse I am capable of the most inconsistent behaviour, and of suddenly turning away from the road which was leading me to the object of my most passionate desires. Many people do not understand me, and I am not surprised; for I do not understand myself. There are two opposite elements in my nature; but how have they become united? I know not. I am the most impressionable of men in my every-day actions, the most easily drawn to the right or to the left, and at the same time the most obstinate in my aims. I am constantly oscillating, and yet never lose my equilibrium. All the principal objects that I have proposed to myself in life I have pursued, and with unceasing and often painful endeavours. I have preserved all my affections. There is some inflexible principle which governs my versatile and excitable nature; I cannot understand it in the least myself, and therefore I have no right to blame another for not being able to explain it.
However interesting this subject may be to me, I must quit it, for my time is limited, and there is something about which I want to talk to you. . . .
Clairoix,* near Compiègne.
. . . . I am delighted to hear that the politicians whom you meet share in general your opinions on the affairs of Germany.† Two days ago I saw in Paris a distinguished Englishman, Mr. Senior, who has just returned from Germany. I talked with him, and was glad to find that his impressions on the state of Prussia resembled yours; at least I thought so. This proves to me that you are in the right, and increases my wish that you would make up your mind some day to write about the country with which you are so well acquainted. If you should do so, I would give you this advice. The difficulty would lie in drawing a picture intelligible to a French reader of a state of society and of mind so different, not only from our own, but from what our experience of ourselves would lead us to imagine. The prejudices arising from what we see at home, and from what our history tells us, stand in our way more than our ignorance. Unfortunately I can give you no advice on this point, except to recall constantly your own earlier impressions, asking yourself what you expected to find in Germany before you studied the country, trying to retrace the path which led you from your preconceived notions to your matured opinions, and to induce your readers to follow in your footsteps.
I am sure that this is the object that you should propose to yourself; but by what means will you be able to attain it? The author alone can judge in this matter. Should you explain the resemblance and the difference between the two countries, or write so as enable the reader to find them out? I cannot tell. In my work on America, I have almost always adopted the latter plan. Though I seldom mentioned France, I did not write a page without thinking of her, and placing her as it were before me. And what I especially tried to draw out, and to explain in the United States, was not the whole condition of that foreign society, but the points in which it differs from our own, or resembles us. It is always by noticing likenesses or contrasts that I succeeded in giving an interesting and accurate description of the New World. I do not quote this as an example to be followed, but as a useful piece of information. I believe that this perpetual silent reference to France was a principal cause of the book’s success.
On the subject of religious enthusiasm you put me a question which I think insoluble, except upon general and fixed principles. To me it is incontrovertible that political liberty has sometimes deadened and sometimes animated religious feeling. That has depended on many circumstances: on the nature of the religion itself, and of the age attained, at the moment when they came in contact, by the two passions, religious and political. For passions, like everything else in the world, have their periods of growth, maturity, and decline. If religious excitement be in its decline, and political excitement just beginning, the latter passion will extinguish the former. These causes and many others that I do not mention may help to explain the great diversities, according to time and place, observable on these subjects. If, however, setting aside particular cases, one seeks to discover the truth most generally applicable, I should be more inclined to share the opinion of your German friends than your own. I believe that, as a general principle, political freedom rather increases than diminishes religious feeling. There is a greater family likeness than is supposed between the two passions. Both have in view universal and, on the whole, immaterial blessings; both aim at a certain ideal perfection of the human race, the contemplation of which lifts the mind above the consideration of petty personal interests. For my part, I can more easily understand a man full of both religious and political fervour, than I can one possessed at the same time by the love of liberty and of material comfort. The two first may exist side by side, and unite in the same heart; but not the other two. There is another reason, less comprehensive and less high-sounding, but perhaps in fact more efficient, which makes these passions co-exist and excite one another. It is that they often help one another. Free institutions are often the natural and sometimes the indispensable instrument of religious enthusiasm. Almost every effort made by the moderns towards liberty has been occasioned by the desire to manifest or to defend their religious convictions.
Religion drove the Puritans to America; and when there, made them insist on governing themselves. The object of the two English revolutions was to acquire liberty of conscience. The same necessity inclined in France the Huguenot nobility of the 16th century towards republican ideas. Religious excitement on all these occasions produced political excitement, and political passions in turn helped to develop religion. If religious convictions met with no obstacle, this effect would probably not be produced. But they almost always do. When they have obtained all that they wanted this effect may again cease. Your theory may be applicable to a society which is religious without being agitated by controversy or fanaticism. It is possible that public affairs may then gradually and almost entirely absorb the attention of society: and yet I do not feel certain of this unless politics happened to be in a very interesting state. It is more likely that the excitement of mind created and sustained by political liberty will stir up all the religious elements remaining in the country.
This seems to me to be what is going on in America. Time and prosperity have there deprived the religious element of three-fourths of its original power. Still what remains is in vehement agitation. The religious world in the United States assemble, speak and act together more than anywhere else. I think that the habits induced by political freedom, and the impulse given by it to everything, count for a great deal in the religious ferment still observable in the country. I think that, though they cannot restore its former omnipotence, these circumstances maintain its influence and are the causes of all its present strength.
We must be careful not to confound political liberty with certain effects that it sometimes produces. When once it is well established and undisturbed in its exercise it inclines men to enjoy luxury, to desire and labour to acquire wealth; and these tastes, wants, and cares kill religious enthusiasm. But these tardy and secondary results of liberty deaden political passions as much as they do religious ones.
This is all that I had to say on this particular point; which, however, I am far from having examined with all the care that its importance deserves. The only universal truth that I see in the matter is, that there is no universal truth. I therefore conclude that the wise plan is to examine particular cases.
You tell me at the end of your letter, that our correspondence is no longer either so frequent or so full as it used to be. I have made the same remark. But though I am sorry for it, I do not allow it to distress me too much, because I think I see clearly that it is not caused by any change in our mutual sentiments. When I consider my attachment for you, our friendship seems to me as firm and as close as ever. Some of the enthusiasm of early youth has gone from it, but it has acquired a steadfastness, resulting from experience of life and of men, which could not formerly belong to it. The longer I have lived, and the nearer I have seen the political world, the more I have felt that I could place absolute reliance on you; for your mind is incapable of admitting the petty passions which in the long run loosen the ties of all ordinary friendships. Therefore, I may say, that I set as high, and indeed a much higher value upon our intimacy than ever, and I believe that you feel as I do. And now, why do we less often desire to pour out our hearts to each other? For two reasons: the actual business in which our lives are spent leaves us less time and less interest for the long discussions which almost always turned upon some general question; and still more the difference of our occupations. . . . Still, I agree with you, we must try to resist these influences. . . .
July 22, 1852.
I do not like to answer your wife’s letter, dear friend, without adding a line for you. I can write nothing amusing, however, for to-day I am very sad. I have just heard of the death of our excellent friend, Stoffels! Although his death had been long foreseen, and the last letters left in doubt only the exact hour, the news has deeply agitated and distressed me. What a character was his! What a high moral tone he preserved in the narrow circle to which his life was confined. He is the first intimate friend whom I have lost, and though the separation was foretold it is no less bitter! . . . . and what will become of his family? I know none more estimable and interesting. Happily his children have inherited his great qualities. . . . I cannot describe to you the gloom that this event has shed over me, nor the melancholy reflections that occur to me on youth that has passed away so quickly, on old age which is approaching, and on the sad destiny of man.
Since I have been here I have set seriously to work on the book that I mentioned to you. One or two chapters are sketched already. I am most anxious to know if it is worth anything. I have not begun by what ought to be the beginning of the book. I took it up at the part to which the notes that I made in Paris chiefly referred, and which I was most inclined to write. For the difficulty is to warm to one’s work, and for this purpose one must begin with what one most fancies. The part that I have written is a description of the state of things before the eighteenth Brumaire, and of the moral causes of that coup d’état. . . . A great question which has often occurred to me, fell in my way: what material advantages did the people derive from the Revolution? In other words, at what should we estimate the value of the confiscated estates that were abandoned to them, of the feudal rights that were abolished, of the galling and oppressive taxes that were removed, and lastly, of the debts and rents that were fictitiously paid by means of assignments. . . . If you have ever turned your mind to these questions let me know what you think of them. To act in concert will stimulate our minds. If we do not profit by the years still remaining to us, while our intellects are in their prime, we shall have wasted, if not a treasure, still a capital of which we were intended to make a better use.
P.S.—Just now I am annoyed by having to oppose my nomination to the Conseil général. I have more difficulty in avoiding it than most people have in obtaining it.
St. Cyr, near Tours, Sept. 9, 1853.
I write you a line, dear friend, to say that if it is the same to you, to make your little excursion in the beginning of October, instead of the latter end of September, I should prefer it. I am leaving home on a visit to the Beaumonts.
You have greatly encouraged me about my book. You always were, and still are, the man of all others most capable of understanding my undeveloped ideas, and of helping me to bring them out; there is something in the contact with your mind, which makes mine fruitful. The two fit in somehow, and when pursuing the same idea, they keep step wonderfully. These conversations unfortunately have become very rare. You have such a variety of business, that naturally your thoughts are no longer disengaged, and you have lost the intense fondness for discussion that I used to notice in you in our youth. You are as much interested as ever in the friend, but not in the subject. It is sad that during the whole course of our life we have never been able to join in the same pursuits. When I was writing my first book, you were absorbed by politics. When your time and thoughts became free, I was buried in public affairs. And now that I am driven back to a life of conversation and reflection, you are absorbed in the necessary business of private life. Such has been our history during the last thirty years. It is a great pity; I think that each of us might have done better if we had been occupied at the same time with the same things.
Bonn, July 2, 1854.
I think I remember your telling me that you had met in the North of Germany a very great man, one of the nobles of Mecklenburgh, an old friend of your family, who had been very hospitable to you, and to whom you could introduce me. I forgot to mention the subject again to you when I passed through Paris, although I should have liked to make such an acquaintance. But since I have been in Germany, I attach still more importance to it. One of my principal studies, as you know, is the old system of Germany. I now find that there is nothing so difficult as to form a clear idea of it; the traces are entirely swept away in a great part of the country, and they are half effaced in the rest. To understand it thoroughly, and perhaps to form a more accurate idea even of France one hundred years ago, it seems to me to be necessary to visit that portion of Germany where the institutions of the middle ages have not been entirely destroyed, and where they have left many vestiges in the customs, manners, society, and political economy of the country. From all that I hear, the old kingdom of Prussia and Mecklenburgh are the most remarkable in this respect. But as I especially wish to collect information from the old nobility and the peasantry, what would be most useful to me would be to visit for a few days a country house. Do you think that either directly or indirectly you could enable me to do any of these things? . . . . . . . . .
We met with no accident on our journey. In Belgium I saw Lamoricière, who talked to me of you, with real friendship. I also saw Bédeau. These visits pleased and distressed me for several days. It is, indeed, melancholy to see such men, still so full of vigour, reduced to look on from afar while others act. Such is fate!
If I were to return to-day to France, and to be asked my impressions of this country, I should not have a word to answer. I begin to have a glimmering of the state of ancient Germany, but as to modern Germany, I know nothing about it, I have lived so exclusively in the past. I hope at last to come to my contemporaries, but at present I live only with their grandfathers.
Tocqueville, July 29, 1856.
I ought to have thanked you sooner for your letter, for it gave me great pleasure. I consider you to be one of the very best literary judges that I know. I even think it a sort of a phenomenon, that a man so full of ideas as you are, and whose ideas are often so profound and original, whom I should select among a thousand for these qualities—that this man, I say, should never have attempted a work that would mark his place and his name among his contemporaries and for posterity. You have certainly one of the most remarkable minds that I have ever met with. Experience has only confirmed the opinion of my youth. Where then is the invisible spot, the hidden weakness, which has prevented such incontestable superiority from producing its natural fruits? No question has ever perplexed me so much as this. I have never been able to answer it to my own satisfaction. My wife and I, for she shares my opinion of you, have often discussed it, but always in vain. God has endowed you with great and rare abilities. By what strange inconsistency has he denied you the means, or rather the will, to make use of them, and to make the world appreciate what is so obvious to a few chosen spirits? Nothing is more astonishing.
You have drawn me from my book.* I return to it. I repeat that your opinion of it charmed me. Both before and after your letter I received numerous proofs of sympathy; but your judgment remains in my mind as the most solid basis of my satisfaction. I was so saturated with the facts and ideas contained in my book, that its originality had completely faded away. It struck you as well as others. I am delighted. I am also glad that you say that my style has become more simple. I have tried hard for it, but the effort did not always tend to simplicity, and I much feared that I had missed my object. I endeavoured to be myself, and to imitate no one in particular; not even any of the greatest writers. I hope that in this I have succeeded. I shall be grateful if, when you are at leisure, you will mark in your copy the errors that you mention, that I may correct them in the next edition. The present edition will soon be sold. My editor tells me that the book is going off at an extraordinary rate. Almost all the papers have noticed it at length. Some praise and others blame; none speak of it with moderation. If I can believe the letters that I receive, my success has surpassed my expectations. But I am too well acquainted with my time and my country to exaggerate the value of my success. We have ceased to be what we were in a remarkable degree during two centuries—a literary nation. Still more important is the fact that power is now in different hands. The influential classes are no longer those who read. Whatever, therefore, may be the success of a book, it does not powerfully affect the public mind; nor can the writer hope to attract attention for any length of time, or indeed, ever to obtain that of the majority. Still, as even among the nations that read least, certain ideas, often indeed very abstract ideas, in the end govern society, it may be of some use to disseminate them. Besides, I do not see, in our day, any more honourable or more agreeable mode of employing one’s time than in writing true and honest words that may draw the attention of the civilized world to their author, and serve, however humbly, the good cause.
We have been very well since our arrival; this place has rested and calmed us. It often reminds us of you; for we have spent here with you some of the happy days of our youth. Alas! will those days never return? and shall we never again be together for some time in the perfect quiet of the country, discussing all sorts of subjects, and stimulating each other to good thoughts and deeds?
Tocqueville, Aug. 28, 1856.
. . . . Of all the letters I have received since the publication of my book, from friends and also from strangers, almost enough to fill a volume, yours is incontestably the most striking as well as the most useful. I cannot sufficiently urge you to complete your criticism, and to amplify it as much as possible. You will thus render me an important service; for, thrown back, as I am, upon a literary life, I have more reasons than ever for attaining in it the highest eminence that I can. I was surprised at your finding on a first perusal so many errors as your first letter seemed to indicate; for though the book was written eagerly, in only two months, and without any interruption, I took, before I published it, great pains with the arrangement, and I attended very closely to the style. I was glad to see that the faults seemed to you fewer on the second reading than at first.
But now your criticism soars higher, and reaches what may be called the substance of the style, a matter which escapes the vulgar eye, and that all the grammatical talent in the world cannot discover. I was especially struck by the part of your letter relating to this. I have always had a vague suspicion of the defect that you point out: the inclination to include every shade of an idea in the same sentence, so that, in the endeavour to explain and to draw conclusions from the original thought, it is weakened, and the reader obtains a general impression, but not a distinct image. But no one has ever set this defect clearly before me; and indeed it belongs to those of which the inconvenience is felt without the cause being ascertained. You not only clearly mark it, but you offer to prove it by giving perspicuity to some of my sentences by suppressing portions of them. . . . You will do me a great service. By showing me examples of my fault, you will have done much to cure me of it; for, as I said before, I know that I am subject to it. I know that between my style and that of the great writers there is some hitch that I must get over before I can take my place among them. But I seem to stumble against this impediment in the dark, without making out either exactly in what it consists or its extent, and, above all, without knowing how to overcome it.
It is, I think, in general, the result of the final touches. The first mould is often in a much better shape than that which the thought receives upon reflection. But the idea itself gains by reconsideration and trituration, by being taken up and laid down again, and looked at on all sides. Experience has taught me that thus it often acquires its real value. The difficulty is to combine freshness of expression with ripeness of thought. I know not if I shall ever attain it. It would be a great gain if I could only see clearly the means. As soon as you have written all your remarks on your copy, and added all the notes that may assist me in seizing your idea, send the whole back to me.
Tocqueville, Sept. 21, 1856.
The book which you announced has not arrived. I am impatient for it, though I am no longer in immediate want of it. The first edition being exhausted, and the demand continuing, the bookseller proposes to publish immediately a second edition of 2,000 copies, to be a reproduction of the first, with a few verbal corrections. I have consented, and it is already in hand. Michel Lévy hopes that we shall have to issue a third edition next summer. Before that comes out I shall have time to reconsider the subject, and remodel the whole work. I shall employ your annotated volume for this purpose. Even now, I shall study it with the greatest interest. I shall seek in it, not so much the faults of the last book as the means of improving the next. I think that it is possible, during a whole life, to advance nearer and nearer to perfection. There is no more important maxim. Many eminent men make the contrary opinion an excuse for not becoming still more eminent. Above all, I am convinced that one may gradually eliminate all the faults that one sees. The real difficulty is in seeing them, and especially in seeing the way to attack them. Whenever I am pleased with my own performance, my satisfaction is mixed with uneasiness, as I know that it is a proof, not that I have reached perfection, but that I no longer see opening out beyond what I have done, new paths towards it. What is still worse, and happens to me still oftener, is to feel that I might do better, and yet not to see clearly what that better ought to be. . . .
Paris, Nov. 10, 1856.
. . . . The X * * * have been here for the last fortnight. They will stay ten days longer. We should have been very glad, for many reasons, to see you before they go. Your presence would have been agreeable, and also useful. These poor people are an example of one of the saddest of human miseries. They both are good-natured, refined, and full of high feeling; but they are becoming unfit for one another, because each insists on finding in the other some small merits which are not possessed, losing sight of the good qualities which are there. The result has been a gradual alienation, which became so painful, that, at the time of their arrival here, X * * * was seriously contemplating a separation. Is not such a sight enough to make one groan in despair, and to be tempted to curse human nature, and the extravagance of our expectations? There was only one way of treating this disease, now perhaps incurable; it was to show to each of them the excellent qualities of the other. This always answers; for it is another contemptible fact in our nature that the opinions of others have never so much influence as upon our inmost feelings, that is, on the subjects of which we ourselves ought to be the best judges. Without previous concert, Marie and I have tried to do this. It has already had some success; as each of them has perceived the value which we set upon the merits of the other, each has thought less of the other’s little deficiencies. This is better than direct advice. I am very sorry that you cannot take your share in the good work. . . . .
You say truly that our two minds resemble a machine, in which the moving power has lost its connexion with the working power, so that the one wastes its force, and the other stands still. My mind is like the former. It is in violent motion, and produces nothing. This is the natural effect of the present state of our country, and of the perpetual recurrence of small annoyances, without great events or strong passions to stir up and absorb the whole mind. The destiny of society is a problem for ever present to my imagination; it shuts out every other object of attention. And yet it does not excite in me such intense interest as to force me to devote myself to its solution. It prevents my thinking of other things, and yet does not stimulate my mind; I brood over it sadly and absently, and come to no conclusion. This is the chief reason why it is so much less easy for me to enter into ordinary conversation. There is another which, though on the surface, you have never been able to understand.
. . . . At this point of my letter I was interrupted. I have not time to-day to finish the subject. I will in the next . . . .
Tocqueville, Feb. 2, 1857.
I quite understand, my dear friend, that, hurried as you were in your last journey, you could not come as far as this place.
You must have strangely mistaken my last letter, since you thought that I intended to give up Paris, and retire altogether to the country. Not only I never intended to do so, but it would be quite contrary to all my notions. It is true that I intend every year to spend at least eight months here, to make this my principal establishment, and to seek here for my chief sources of happiness. But to shut myself up here entirely, has never entered, and—I think I may answer for it—never will enter into my head. Your observations are true and are strikingly put, as you well know how to do, but they did not convince me, for I was convinced already.
You know that one of my firmest opinions is, that life has no period of rest; that external, and still more internal, exertion is as necessary in age as in youth—nay, even more necessary. Man is a traveller towards a colder and colder region, and the higher his latitude, the faster ought to be his walk. The great malady of the soul is cold. It must be combated by activity and exertion, by contact with one’s fellow-creatures, and with the business of the world. In these days one must not live upon what one has already learnt, one must learn more; and instead of sleeping away our acquired ideas, we should seek for fresh ones, make the new opinions fight with the old ones, and those of youth with those of an altered state of thought and of society. Such have always been, and are now more than ever my maxims, and the longer I live, the more am I convinced of them. By observing them, I have seen men who were ordinary in youth, become agreeable and distinguished in old age. By neglecting them, I have seen eminent men fall into a torpor as heavy and unproductive as death. When strength decays, we may retire from the great struggles of the world. But absolute retirement away from the stir of life is right for no man, nor at any age.
We still intend to return towards the end of February. I hope, with you, that we shall see a great deal of each other in Paris. I shall be alone during most of the time, as Marie will have to go to Chamarande.* As I shall have no one at my home, I shall often go over to yours. I intend to go moderately into society, and a great deal to the museums and libraries. I am beginning to work again with considerable vigour, and I fancy that the ideal in my mind is well worth realizing. But the immensity of the task frightens me.
Tocqueville, Feb. 27, 1858.
. . . . We have returned to our first plan, which was not to be in Paris till the end of March. But I will not wait till then to ask for news of you, I have had none for such a long time. All I know is that you returned to Paris several months ago. I hope that you all have been well since then. We have had nothing to complain of till lately, when I have been suffering under influenza, an ailment difficult to shake off. With this exception, I have spent my time pleasantly. Since the autumn my life has been very retired, and even solitary, but suited to my taste. I take increasing interest in country pursuits; all that I ask is that God will grant me health to live here nine months out of every year.
I have not written so much as this long retirement would lead you to expect. This has been caused by the difficulty of setting my mind to work again after a long interval of repose, and of forcing it back to the subject whence it had escaped. There has been an obstinate struggle between will and inclination, in which, however, the will came off victorious. Much time was thus spent; I have got on very little with my work, but my interest in it has returned, and that was the hardest part. I have succeeded, after many trials and efforts, in finding the road that I ought to follow. I assure you that it was not easy. Am I, indeed, in the right path? Time will show. The first chapters of the new book are sketched out, but they are too unfinished for me to show them even to you. I am longing to have something ready to submit to you. All that I could say about my plan would be vague and difficult to understand. Half an hour spent in reading my MS. will make it evident to you, and you will not till then be able to tell me, if I am in the path that will lead to my object.
Six months ago, on my return from England, you wrote to me an interesting letter. On the spirit of self-government belonging to the English you say, that it can exist only when the local authorities are as good administrators as the central government, or even better. This is not always the case in England. In the local governments there are many faulty details which seem to me to be both seen and felt. The superiority of the central government in those things over which it has jurisdiction is acknowledged. Yet not only powerful private influence, but an insurmountable public conviction opposes itself to the extension of its sphere. There are many reasons, I think, for this: first, the aristocratic mould of English society. The aristocracy is wise enough to understand that, if the government took possession of the administration of the whole kingdom, on that day there would no longer be any reason for the existence of their body. There is also a vague but strong impression afloat that the system, though weak in many of its details, is the cause of so much life, activity, and variety; that, on the whole, it is the great cause which has made England the richest as well as the freest country in the world. Finally, the Englishman’s great objection to allowing the government to do his business even well, is simply his wish to do it himself. This passion for being master at home, even to act foolishly, essentially characterises the British race. “I had rather plough badly for myself than give up the stilts into the hands of the government.” We ourselves have some of this feeling in private life. The English carry it to the greatest extent in municipal life. I am inclined, however, to think that centralization is gradually gaining ground in England, but so slowly that its encroachments are scarcely perceptible.
Tocqueville, May 16, 1858.
I was much annoyed at leaving Paris, dear friend, without having seen you; at least, without once having had an opportunity for full and unrestrained conversation after such a long separation, and before another separation which may be as long. I have no notion how we shall spend our summer and autumn. . . . .
Among the things that I wanted to talk over with you, my book was the first. I am beginning to be anxious about it. I am sure that I shall not make it long; but the way in which I set about examining facts and preparing for the final execution of my task, makes me fear that I shall never end it. Unfortunately, I know no rule by which to limit my researches. For the “literature of the Revolution,” as a German would say, is so enormous, that a life might be spent in obtaining even a superficial acquaintance with it. You know that I am seeking less for facts than for the march of ideas and feelings. They are what I wish to describe. My subject consists in the successive changes in the social condition, the institutions, the public opinion and manners of the French, as the Revolution advanced. As yet I have discovered only one way of finding this out: it is to live over every moment of the Revolution with its contemporaries by reading not what has been said of them, or what they said afterwards of themselves, but what they themselves said at the time, and, as much as possible, what they really thought. Short pamphlets, and private letters, &c. are more useful for this purpose than the debates in the Assembly. By these means I certainly attain my object, which is to live gradually through the period; still my progress is so slow that I am often in despair. But is there any other way?
There is also in the disease called the French Revolution, a peculiarity which I feel, though I cannot exactly describe it or explain its cause. It is a virus of a kind that was new and unknown. Many violent revolutions have taken place in the world: but the unrestrained, fierce, radical, desperate, fearless, almost mad behaviour of the heroes of that time has, I think, no precedent in the great social earthquakes of past centuries. Whence came this new race? what produced it? what made it so effective? how is it perpetuated? For the same men are still with us, although circumstances are altered, and they have struck root over the whole civilized world. My mind exhausts itself in trying to form a true conception of these facts, and in endeavouring to reproduce it correctly. Besides all that can be explained in the French Revolution, there is a mysterious element in its motives and actions. I can perceive its presence, but I try in vain to lift the veil that hides it. A foreign substance seems interposed, which prevents me from feeling or seeing it distinctly.
Cannes, Nov. 29, 1858.
Since I last wrote my health has continued to improve, that is to say, the balance in the different functions is restored; the traces left by the extreme fatigue of the journey have nearly disappeared, and strength at last seems to be gradually returning, though so slowly as to discourage me. In all these respects I am another man from the one I was when I arrived. As to the bronchial affection, I myself see no apparent change; but this is in truth not extraordinary, since the state of my stomach has, till now, prevented any remedy from being tried, and the weather has also been unfavourable. It is mild, but there is incessant rain or wind, and the inhabitants do not recognise their own climate.
What you said in your first letter on the power that we fully retain, and which we ought to use, of discussing all the subjects, however abstract, that used formerly to interest and excite us, pleased me extremely. Although our lives are so different as to separate us, I still consider you as the only man in the world capable of thoroughly understanding the thoughts which I express, of completing them, and of rendering my mind still more fertile by adding to it the fruits of a similar soil. You will understand, therefore, that, for me, whose greatest pleasures now are intellectual, your communications are of infinite value. . . . .
Cannes, March 18, 1859.
You must not think, dear friend, that my silence is caused by forgetfulness or indifference. The only causes are sickness and solitude, the two things that most absorb the mind and take away all inclination for exertion, even for the trifling exertion mixed with pleasure of writing to so old and valued a friend.
I will describe to you our state; you will see that it is not cheerful. The painful and, above all, tedious illness which I came here to cure is indeed, as the doctors say, gradually yielding, but with an intolerable tardiness, increased and sometimes interrupted by a thousand trifling accidents, produced by the disordered state of my nerves. For instance, a slight return of the stomach affection has, during the last week, deprived me of appetite, and with my appetite I have lost some of the strength that I had regained, and which I want so much.
Enough of myself. My wife arrived here ill. At first she became much worse, so as to add anxiety for her to that which I experienced on my own account. As I got better her health improved. To-day she is infinitely better, but is still condemned for some time to silence. We are now entirely alone, one of us can speak only in a whisper, and the other cannot speak at all. Hippolyte spent three months with us. It was a great comfort. . . .
Now let us turn to you. You also have been much tried, but in another way. The terrible misfortune that has happened to your sister—the no less cruel blow that has fallen upon you—such trials are sad indeed. Remember me to all your family, and tell them, pray, that my own afflictions never make me indifferent to those of my friends. Good-bye for to-day. Do not wait long before giving me news of you.
[*]At the ages of nineteen and twenty, Alexis de Tocqueville and Louis de Kergorlay took it into their heads to visit England. Against this plan there were several obstacles; among others, 1st, that they knew not how to obtain passports; 2dly, they had no money; 3dly, they did not know how to gain their parents’ consent, or how to do without it. These early letters, of which only two fragments have been found, are curious proofs of the restless disposition, and of the remarkable activity of mind, of A. de Tocqueville.
[*]Now General Lamoricière. He entered the École Polytechnique with Louis de Kergorlay, who introduced him to Tocqueville. This interview first brought together men who were again to meet in public life.
[*]A small village on the Hudson, near New York.
[*]Aunt of the Miss Mottley whom he married two years afterward.
[*]The country seat of his brother, Hippolyte de Tocqueville, near Cherbourg.
[*]The country seat of his brother, Edward Vicomte de Tocquevile.
[*]A “fossé” is a mound, from four to eight or nine feet wide, and about four or five feet high, generally raised round a farm in Normandy, and planted.—Tr.
[*]A country house then occupied by his father.
[†]Louis de Kergorlay was then in Germany.
[*]“L’Ancien Régime et la Revolution.”
[*]The residence of her aunt.—Tr.