Pebbles on the shore [by] Alpha of the plough eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 223 pages of information about Pebbles on the shore [by] Alpha of the plough.
which he wrote to his brother George and his wife in America and in which he poured out the wealth of family affection which was one of the most amiable features of his character.  He has described how he had been to see his mother, how she had laughed at his bad jokes, how they went out to tea at Mrs. Millar’s, and how in going they were struck with the light and shade through the gateway at the Horse Guards.  And he goes on:  “I intend to write you such volumes that it will be impossible for me to keep any order or method in what I write; that will come first which is uppermost in my mind, not that which is uppermost in my heart—­besides I should wish to give you a picture of our lives here whenever by a touch I can do it; even as you must see by the last sentence our walk past Whitehall all in good health and spirits—­this I am certain of because I felt so much pleasure from the simple idea of your playing a game of cricket.”

There is the recipe by one of the masters of the craft.  A letter written in this vein annihilates distance; it continues the personal gossip, the intimate communion, that has been interrupted by separation; it preserves one’s presence in absence.  It cannot be too simple, too commonplace, too colloquial.  Its familiarity is not its weakness, but its supreme virtue.  If it attempts to be orderly and stately and elaborate, it may be a good essay, but it will certainly be a bad letter.


Among the few legacies that my father left me was a great talent for sleeping.  I think I can say, without boasting, that in a sleeping match I could do as well as any man.  I can sleep long, I can sleep often, and I can sleep sound.  When I put my head on the pillow I pass into a fathomless peace where no dreams come, and about eight hours later I emerge to consciousness, as though I have come up from the deeps of infinity.

That is my normal way, but occasionally I have periods of wakefulness in the middle of the night.  My sleep is then divided into two chapters, and between the chapters there is a slab of unmitigated dreariness.  It is my hour of pessimism.  The tide has ebbed, the water is dead-low, and there is a vista of endless mud.  It is then that this tragi-comedy of life touches bottom, and I see the heavens all hung with black.  I despair of humanity, I despair of the war, I despair of myself.  There is not one gleam of light in all the sad landscape, and the abyss seems waiting at my feet to swallow me up with everything that I cherish.  It is no use saying to this demon of the darkness that I know he is a humbug, a mere Dismal Jemmy of the brain, who sits there croaking like a night owl or a tenth-rate journalist.  My Dismal Jemmy is not to be exorcised by argument.  He can only be driven out by a little sane companionship.

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Pebbles on the shore [by] Alpha of the plough from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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