Thorpe by William Mountford

July 6th

We live, and have lived for the past ten days with the sound of the hammer ringing in our ears from morning till night. The whole deck is under the process of being corked. If we were subject to headaches I suppose we should go almost wild with this continuous pounding overhead. As it is, I do not dislike it, it has a busy bustling sound like that of buildings going up around one.

Last evening, mention was made, while we were walking, of the raffle of San Francisco. I asked Williams to explain to me the whole process concerning prizes and tickets, in what manner the decision was made. He was shocked that a woman of my age should not know what almost a child of twelve is acquainted with. Yet, nevertheless, I pleaded ignorance. Out of this and my stupidity of comprehension, came his opinion concerning my style of conversation. It is rather mortifying, yet as he says, nevertheless true. I clothe what I say with so many words that it is difficult to know what point or meaning is. I talk on and on as if I were thinking of some different subject than that discussed and when I commence to say a thing I go from one thought to another just as it happens to present itself apparently forgetting the subject matter, as if I never intended returning to it. Now this is a mortifying picture to have painted to oneself and not a little discouraging to one of my age, without a doubt it is all perfectly true else Williams would not have said so. The only thing I can think of to be done now is to watch myself most closely while talking and endeavor, if not too late in the day to correct in some measure those faults – faults I dislike so much when seen in others and so indicative of weakness of mind and poverty of thought. I who admire an author for his clear, nervous energy of thought and expression – such a one as Macauley for instance – so utterly failing in what I admire and go so far to the contrary – it is mortifying, disheartening and discouraging. It makes me feel almost like giving up every attempt at conversation – and then, I have so little practice – I fear my faults will only become worse. I shall find more difficulty in conversation, more difficulty in explaining myself – oh dear….

This morning finished “Thorpe” by William Mountford. Williams commenced to read it aloud soon after we left San Francisco but after reading a few pages one evening gave it up as paining his ear. Day before yesterday I commenced myself. I’m glad I read it alone for it is a book I want to read pages and sentences over and over again and indeed while chapters so full it is of fine and beautiful thoughts. Much of it conveyed, indeed nearly all, in the form of conversation. Why is it that when I delight so much in reading such a book as this and all good instructive books that they do not have some good abiding influence? That they do not aid in giving me clear, invigorating thoughts, aid me in my style, making it clear and simple? Alas when I think what I am, and what I feel that my mind was capable of becoming I cannot but feel what an utter failure I have become. I know, and feel my ignorance every day and when I really burn my thoughts to the subject, I feel it more and more, and how much more I shall feel its deficiency when I shall have Willie’s growing inquisitive mind to satisfy. For his dear darling sake I must not be discouraged but try hard to gain in useful knowledge and improve my manner and style. Now I feel not a little heavy hearted and consequently have not much hope but this will pass and I shall be better. It is hard to have our deficiencies and faults placed clearly before them whether they be of mind, intellect, disposition or character but it is a true friend who does it kindly. My husband has done it again and again. Sometimes I may not receive it lightly at first, but when I stop a moment to think I feel really grateful that he will thus speak to me and urge him to do so, and the plainer spoken the better. I know not if I have profited by his firmer remarks. I trust I have some little. Truly glad shall I be if I do.

But to return to “Thorpe”. I know not when I have read a book of this kind I liked so much. Its author is Unitarian (a minister) and I like him and agree with him in his views regarding the character, mission and nature of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Not only as they appear in this work but others of his also that I have read. One of his principals, if not the principal character, in this “Thorpe” is that of a Presbyterian minister who expresses evidently the author’s own views, thoughts and feelings on the subjects introduced. This good minister is certainly one to be loved – there is a pleasant quaintness about him and indeed about all the book – great learning combined with simplicity, good sense and a penetrating knowledge of mankind, for he makes them his constant study, as well as books. His conversation is full of thoughts, elevating and instructing – indeed, as I said before this is the character of the whole book of all the characters and conversation in a greater or less degree.

Our weather continues fine, we have not thus far suffered with heat. Our wind has been rather light for the last day or two. Our “Fourth” passed off most quietly, with nothing to mark it from another day. But our thoughts and speech was very often with our loved ones at home and we thought of their excitement and Chinese fireworks bestowed by Williams and hoped all things went off well. We thought of Frank in his glory, as master of ceremonies displaying his large stack of fireworks before the assembled villagers and prayed and trusted that all with him went off well and without an accident. I intended to have written Frank on the “Fourth” but I spent the day in some necessary mending as also yesterday. This afternoon I hope to commence a letter to him. Our little Willie is well and good, has been indeed a darling, good boy lately.