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时间：2021-09-22 07:41:06 作者：剑灵 浏览量：89926
We’ve seen few interiors (no one speaks French); but if the newspapers give an idea of the domestic m?urs, the m?urs must be curious. The passport’s abolished, but they’ve printed my signalement in these sheets — perhaps for the young ladies who look for the husband. We went one night to the theatre; the piece was French (they are the only ones) but the acting American — too American; we came out in the middle. The want of taste is incredible. An Englishman whom I met tells me that even the language corrupts itself from day to day; the Englishman ceases to understand. It encourages me to find I’m not the only one. There are things every day that one can’t describe. Such is Washington, where we arrived this morning, coming from Philadelphia. My brother-inlaw wishes to see the Bureau of Patents, and on our arrival he went to look at his machines while I walked about the streets and visited the Capitol! The human machine is what interests me most. I don’t even care for the political — for that’s what they call their Government here, “the machine.” It operates very roughly, and some day evidently will explode. It is true that you’d never suspect they have a government; this is the principal seat, but, save for three or four big buildings, most of them affreux, it looks like a settlement of negroes. No movement, no officials, no authority, no embodiment of the State. Enormous streets, comme toujours, lined with little red houses where nothing ever passes but the tramway. The Capitol — a vast structure, false classic, white marble, iron and stucco, which has assez grand air— must be seen to be appreciated. The goddess of liberty on the top, dressed in a bear’s skin; their liberty over here is the liberty of bears. You go into the Capitol as you would into a railway station; you walk about as you would in the Palais Royal. No functionaries, no door-keepers, no officers, no uniforms, no badges, no reservations, no authority — nothing but a crowd of shabby people circulating in a labyrinth of spittoons. We’re too much governed perhaps in France; but at least we have a certain incarnation of the national conscience, of the national dignity. The dignity’s absent here, and I’m told the public conscience is an abyss. “L’état c’est moi” even — I like that better than the spittoons. These implements are architectural, monumental; they’re the only monuments. En somme the country’s interesting, now that we too have the Republic; it is the biggest illustration, the biggest warning. It’s the last word of democracy, and that word is — platitude. It’s very big, very rich, and perfectly ugly. A Frenchman couldn’t live here; for life with us, after all, at the worst, is a sort of appreciation. Here one has nothing to appreciate. As for the people, they’re the English minus the conventions. You can fancy what remains. The women, pourtant, are sometimes rather well turned. There was one at Philadelphia — I made her acquaintance by accident — whom it’s probable I shall see again. She’s not looking for the husband; she has already got one. It was at the hotel; I think the husband doesn’t matter. A Frenchman, as I’ve said, may mistake, and he needs to be sure he’s right. Aussi I always make sure!
“And then I came into the room. They were discussing botany. I said how I’d seen a flower growing on a dust heap on the site of an old house in Kingsway. The seed, I said, must have been sown in the reign of Charles the First. What flowers grew in the reign of Charles the First?” I asked —(but, I don’t remember the answer). Tall flowers with purple tassels to them perhaps. And so it goes on. All the time I’m dressing up the figure of myself in my own mind, lovingly, stealthily, not openly adoring it, for if I did that, I should catch myself out, and stretch my hand at once for a book in self-protection. Indeed, it is curious how instinctively one protects the image of oneself from idolatry or any other handling that could make it ridiculous, or too unlike the original to be believed in any longer. Or is it not so very curious after all? It is a matter of great importance. Suppose the looking glass smashes, the image disappears, and the romantic figure with the green of forest depths all about it is there no longer, but only that shell of a person which is seen by other people — what an airless, shallow, bald, prominent world it becomes! A world not to be lived in. As we face each other in omnibuses and underground railways we are looking into the mirror that accounts for the vagueness, the gleam of glassiness, in our eyes. And the novelists in future will realize more and more the importance of these reflections, for of course there is not one reflection but an almost infinite number; those are the depths they will explore, those the phantoms they will pursue, leaving the description of reality more and more out of their stories, taking a knowledge of it for granted, as the Greeks did and Shakespeare perhaps — but these generalizations are very worthless. The military sound of the word is enough. It recalls leading articles, cabinet ministers — a whole class of things indeed which as a child one thought the thing itself, the standard thing, the real thing, from which one could not depart save at the risk of nameless damnation. Generalizations bring back somehow Sunday in London, Sunday afternoon walks, Sunday luncheons, and also ways of speaking of the dead, clothes, and habits — like the habit of sitting all together in one room until a certain hour, although nobody liked it. There was a rule for everything. The rule for tablecloths at that particular period was that they should be made of tapestry with little yellow compartments marked upon them, such as you may see in photographs of the carpets in the corridors of the royal palaces. Tablecloths of a different kind were not real tablecloths. How shocking, and yet how wonderful it was to discover that these real things, Sunday luncheons, Sunday walks, country houses, and tablecloths were not entirely real, were indeed half phantoms, and the damnation which visited the disbeliever in them was only a sense of illegitimate freedom. What now takes the place of those things I wonder, those real standard things? Men perhaps, should you be a woman; the masculine point of view which governs our lives, which sets the standard, which establishes Whitaker’s Table of Precedency, which has become, I suppose, since the war half a phantom to many men and women, which soon — one may hope, will be laughed into the dustbin where the phantoms go, the mahogany sideboards and the Landseer prints, Gods and Devils, Hell and so forth, leaving us all with an intoxicating sense of illegitimate freedom — if freedom exists . . .
1.The next day the young merman set off on his travels. He bade good-bye to no one but his grandfather and his two sisters. His best friend was away as bearer of despatches to the secretary of state.
From Luxor you proceed to Karnak, the other great division on this side of the river, through an avenue of sphinxes, considerably above a mile in extent, though much broken. All the marvels of the world sink before the first entrance into Karnak. It is the Alps-the Andes—of architecture. The obelisks of Luxor may be unrivalled; the sculptures of Medoenet Habu more exquisite; the colossus of the Memnonion more gigantic; the paintings of the royal tombs more curious and instructive: but criticism ceases before the multifarious wonders of the halls and courts of Karnak, and the mind is open only to one general impression of colossal variety.
One of the surprises of my life I received here in this same institution. It was a disappointment as well as a surprise. It was in the character of the chaplain—a minister of the gospel. This professed follower of the Nazarene was as little a Christian as I. The official above all others who should obtain the confidence of the prisoners was the man most detested by them. This dislike on the part of the men was well founded. He was sectarian rather than Christian, and hostile to all creeds other than his own. His insincerity was evident from his daily life. I have heard him preach on the blessings of poverty with three rings on his fingers, his gold watch lying open on the table before him, and a ruby throwing scintillating rays from its resting place in his neck scarf.