[Boston—Thursday, 15 January 1874]

Have been looking over Wilhelm Meister! I struck upon that marvellous passage “I reverence the individual who understands distinctly what he wishes; who unweariedly advances who knows the means conducive to his object, and can seize and use them. How far his object may be great or little is the next consideration with me.” x x x x and much more quite as good to the same end. It prompts me to say What I wish to do in life. Aristotle writes “Virtue is concerned with action, art with production.” the problem of life is how to harmonize the two—either career must become prominent according to the nature of the individual. I discern in myself 1st the desire to serve others unselfishly according to the example of our dear Lord, 2d the desire to cultivate my powers in order to achieve the highest life possible to me as an individual existence, by stimulating thought to its finest issues through reflection, observation, and by profound and ceaseless study of the written thoughts of the wisest in every age and every clime.

To fulfil these aims we must be able to answer the simple question promptly to ourselves, What then shall I do tomorrow and today?—then the decision being made, the thing done must have all the earnestness put into it of a creature who knows that the next moment he may be called to his account.

Earth gave no answer to these graver things.

Save this one little bird who viewless sings.

As a woman, and a wife, my first duty lies at home; to make that beautiful; to stimulate the lives of others by exchange of ideas, and the repose of domestic life; to educate children and servants;

2d To be conversant with the very poor; to visit their homes; to be keenly alive to their sufferings; never allowing the thought of their necessities to sleep in our hearts.

3d By day and night, morning and evening, in all times and seasons when strength is left to us, to study, study, study.

Because I have put this last, it does not stand last in importance but to put it first and write out the plan for study which my mind naturally selects would be to ignore that Example of perfect life in which I humbly believe and to return to the lives of the ancients, so fine in their results to the few, so costly to the many. But in the removèd periods of existence when solitude may be our blessed portion what a joy to fly to communion with the sages and live and love with them.

I have written this out for the pleasure of seeing if “I distinctly understand what I wish.” It is a wide plan, too wide I fear for much performance but therefore perhaps more conducive to a constant faith.

January 1874

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