The Diary of a Man of Fifty by Henry James


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Diary of a Man of Fifty, by Henry James


This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
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with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net





Title: The Diary of a Man of Fifty


Author: Henry James

Release Date: May 8, 2005 [eBook #2426]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE DIARY OF A MAN OF FIFTY***





Transcribed from the 1887 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email
ccx074@coventry.ac.uk





THE DIARY OF A MAN OF FIFTY
by Henry James


Florence, _April 5th_, 1874.--They told me I should find Italy greatly
changed; and in seven-and-twenty years there is room for changes. But to
me everything is so perfectly the same that I seem to be living my youth
over again; all the forgotten impressions of that enchanting time come
back to me. At the moment they were powerful enough; but they afterwards
faded away. What in the world became of them? Whatever becomes of such
things, in the long intervals of consciousness? Where do they hide
themselves away? in what unvisited cupboards and crannies of our being do
they preserve themselves? They are like the lines of a letter written in
sympathetic ink; hold the letter to the fire for a while and the grateful
warmth brings out the invisible words. It is the warmth of this yellow
sun of Florence that has been restoring the text of my own young romance;
the thing has been lying before me today as a clear, fresh page. There
have been moments during the last ten years when I have fell so
portentously old, so fagged and finished, that I should have taken as a
very bad joke any intimation that this present sense of juvenility was
still in store for me. It won't last, at any rate; so I had better make
the best of it. But I confess it surprises me. I have led too serious a
life; but that perhaps, after all, preserves one's youth. At all events,
I have travelled too far, I have worked too hard, I have lived in brutal
climates and associated with tiresome people. When a man has reached his
fifty-second year without being, materially, the worse for wear--when he
has fair health, a fair fortune, a tidy conscience and a complete
exemption from embarrassing relatives--I suppose he is bound, in
delicacy, to write himself happy. But I confess I shirk this obligation.
I have not been miserable; I won't go so far as to say that--or at least
as to write it. But happiness--positive happiness--would have been
something different. I don't know that it would have been better, by all
measurements--that it would have left me better off at the present time.
But it certainly would have made this difference--that I should not have
been reduced, in pursuit of pleasant images, to disinter a buried episode
of more than a quarter of a century ago. I should have found
entertainment more--what shall I call it?--more contemporaneous. I
should have had a wife and children, and I should not be in the way of
making, as the French say, infidelities to the present. Of course it's a
great gain to have had an escape, not to have committed an act of
thumping folly; and I suppose that, whatever serious step one might have
taken at twenty-five, after a struggle, and with a violent effort, and
however one's conduct might appear to be justified by events, there would
always remain a certain element of regret; a certain sense of loss
lurking in the sense of gain; a tendency to wonder, rather wishfully,
what _might_ have been. What might have been, in this case, would,
without doubt, have been very sad, and what has been has been very
cheerful and comfortable; but there are nevertheless two or three
questions I might ask myself. Why, for instance, have I never
married--why have I never been able to care for any woman as I cared for
that one? Ah, why are the mountains blue and why is the sunshine warm?
Happiness mitigated by impertinent conjectures--that's about my ticket.

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