Auden ,. The novel attempts to assume those burdens of life that have no place in the epic poem and to see man as unheroic, unredeemed, imperfect, even absurd. This is why there is room among its practitioners for writers of hardboiled detective thrillers such as the contemporary American Mickey Spillane or of sentimental melodramas such as the prolific 19th-century English novelist Mrs.
Henry Wood , but not for one of the unremitting elevation of outlook of a John Milton.
The novel is propelled through its hundred or thousand pages by a device known as the story or plot. The dramatist may take his plot ready-made from fiction or biography—a form of theft sanctioned by Shakespeare—but the novelist has to produce what look like novelties. At the lowest level of fiction, plot need be no more than a string of stock devices for arousing stock responses of concern and excitement in the reader. In the least sophisticated fiction, the knots to be untied are stringently physical, and the denouement often comes in a sort of triumphant violence.
Serious fiction prefers its plots to be based on psychological situations, and its climaxes come in new states of awareness—chiefly self-knowledge—on the parts of the major characters. Melodramatic plots, plots dependent on coincidence or improbability, are sometimes found in even the most elevated fiction; E.
But the novelist is always faced with the problem of whether it is more important to represent the formlessness of real life in which there are no beginnings and no ends and very few simple motives for action or to construct an artifact as well balanced and economical as a table or chair; since he is an artist, the claims of art, or artifice , frequently prevail. There are, however, ways of constructing novels in which plot may play a desultory part or no part at all.
In the works of Virginia Woolf , the consciousness of the characters, bounded by some poetic or symbolic device, sometimes provides all the fictional material. Strictly, any scheme will do to hold a novel together—raw action, the hidden syllogism of the mystery story , prolonged solipsist contemplation—so long as the actualities or potentialities of human life are credibly expressed, with a consequent sense of illumination, or some lesser mode of artistic satisfaction, on the part of the reader.
Article Media. Info Print Print. Some of the nurses are excellent. The woman-nurse in this ward I like very much. Wright—a year afterwards I found her in Mansion house hospital, Alexandria—she is a perfect nurse. In one bed a young man, Marcus Small, company K, 7th Maine—sick with dysentery and typhoid fever—pretty critical case—I talk with him often—he thinks he will die—looks like it indeed.
I write a letter for him home to East Livermore, Maine—I let him talk to me a little, but not much, advise him to keep very quiet—do most of the talking myself—stay quite a while with him, as he holds on to my hand—talk to him in a cheering, but slow, low and measured manner—talk about his furlough, and going home as soon as he is able to travel. Thomas Lindly, 1st Pennsylvania cavalry, shot very badly through the foot—poor young man, he suffers horribly, has to be constantly dosed with morphine, his face ashy and glazed, bright young eyes—I give him a large handsome apple, lay it in sight, tell him to have it roasted in the morning, as he generally feels easier then, and can eat a little breakfast.
I write two letters for him. Opposite, an old Quaker lady is sitting by the side of her son, Amer Moore, 2d U. I speak a very few words to him every day and evening—he answers pleasantly—wants nothing— he told me soon after he came about his home affairs, his mother had been an invalid, and he fear'd to let her know his condition. He died soon after she came. In my visits to the hospitals I found it was in the simple matter of personal presence, and emanating ordinary cheer and magnetism, that I succeeded and help'd more than by medical nursing, or delicacies, or gifts of money, or anything else.
During the war I possess'd the perfection of physical health. My habit, when practicable, was to prepare for starting out on one of those daily or nightly tours of from a couple to four or five hours, by fortifying myself with previous rest, the bath, clean clothes, a good meal, and as cheerful an appearance as possible. June 25, Sundown. This is the way the men come in now, seldom in small numbers, but almost always in these long, sad processions.
Through the past winter, while our army lay opposite Fredericksburgh, the like strings of ambulances were of frequent occurrence along Seventh street, passing slowly up from the steamboat wharf, with loads from Aquia creek. The soldiers are nearly all young men, and far more American than is generally supposed—I should say nine-tenths are native-born.
Among the arrivals from Chancellorsville I find a large proportion of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois men. As usual, there are all sorts of wounds.
Some of the men fearfully burnt from the explosions of artillery caissons. One ward has a long row of officers, some with ugly hurts. Yesterday was perhaps worse than usual. Amputations are going on—the attendants are dressing wounds.
As you pass by, you must be on your guard where you look. I saw the other day a gentleman, a visitor apparently from curiosity, in one of the wards, stop and turn a moment to look at an awful wound they were probing. He turn'd pale, and in a moment more he had fainted away and fallen on the floor. June The men evidently had seen service. First came a mounted band of sixteen bugles, drums and cymbals, playing wild martial tunes—made my heart jump.
Then the principal officers, then company after company, with their officers at their heads, making of course the main part of the cavalcade; then a long train of men with led horses, lots of mounted negroes with special horses—and a long string of baggage-wagons, each drawn by four horses—and then a motley rear guard. It was a pronouncedly warlike and gay show; the sabres clank'd, the men look'd young and healthy and strong; the electric tramping of so many horses on the hard road, and the gallant bearing, fine seat, and bright faced appearance of a thousand and more handsome young American men, were so good to see.
An hour later another troop went by, smaller in numbers, perhaps three hundred men. They too look'd like serviceable men, campaigners used to field and fight.
July 3. I saw them in Fourteenth street, coming in town from north. Several hundred extra horses, some of the mares with colts, trotting along. Appear'd to be a number of prisoners too. How inspiriting always the cavalry regiments. Our men are generally well mounted, feel good, are young, gay on the saddle, their blankets in a roll behind them, their sabres clanking at their sides. This noise and movement and the tramp of many horses' hoofs has a curious effect upon one.
The bugles play—presently you hear them afar off, deaden'd, mix'd with other noises. Then just as they had all pass'd, a string of ambulances commenc'd from the other way, moving up Fourteenth street north, slowly wending along, bearing a large lot of wounded to the hospitals. July 4th. I saw the parade about noon, Pennsylvania avenue, from Fifteenth street down toward the capitol.
There were three regiments of infantry, I suppose the ones doing patrol duty here, two or three societies of Odd Fellows, a lot of children in barouches, and a squad of policemen. A useless imposition upon the soldiers—they have work enough on their backs without piling the like of this. As I went down the Avenue, saw a big flaring placard on the bulletin board of a newspaper office, announcing "Glorious Victory for the Union Army! I afterwards saw Meade's despatch, very modest, and a sort of order of the day from the President himself, quite religious, giving thanks to the Supreme, and calling on the people to do the same.
I walk'd on to Armory hospital—took along with me several bottles of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent.
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Went through several of the wards, announc'd to the soldiers the news from Meade, and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water, quite refreshing—prepar'd it all myself, and serv'd it around. Meanwhile the Washington bells are ringing their sundown peals for Fourth of July, and the usual fusilades of boys' pistols, crackers, and guns. I am writing this, nearly sundown, watching a cavalry company acting Signal service, just come in through a shower, making their night's camp ready on some broad, vacant ground, a sort of hill, in full view opposite my window.
All are dismounted; the freed horses stand with drooping heads and wet sides; they are to be led off presently in groups, to water. The little wall-tents and shelter tents spring up quickly. I see the fires already blazing, and pots and kettles over them. Some among the men are driving in tent-poles, wielding their axes with strong, slow blows.
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The smoke streams upward, additional men arrive and dismount—some drive in stakes, and tie their horses to them; some go with buckets for water, some are chopping wood, and so on. July 6th. A train of six-mule wagons has just pass'd bearing pontoons, great square-end flat-boats, and the heavy planking for overlaying them.
click We hear that the Potomac above here is flooded, and are wondering whether Lee will be able to get back across again, or whether Meade will indeed break him to pieces. The cavalry camp on the hill is a ceaseless field of observation for me.
This forenoon there stand the horses, tether'd together, dripping, steaming, chewing their hay. The men emerge from their tents, dripping also. The fires are half quench'd. July 10th.
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Some of the men are cleaning their sabres pleasant to-day, some brushing boots, some laying off, reading, writing—some cooking, some sleeping. On long temporary cross-sticks back of the tents are cavalry accoutrements—blankets and overcoats are hung out to air—there are the squads of horses tether'd, feeding, continually stamping and whisking their tails to keep off flies.
I sit long in my third story window and look at the scene—a hundred little things going on—peculiar objects connected with the camp that could not be described, any one of them justly, without much minute drawing and coloring in words. This afternoon, July 22d, I have spent a long time with Oscar F. He asked me to read him a chapter in the New Testament.