The following entry from the SELECTED JOURNALS of Ralph Waldo Emerson just out from the Library of America is one of the most touching paragraphs I have read in a long time.
Wednesday, 8 July, 1857. This morning I had the remains my mother & and of my son Waldo removed from the tomb of Mrs Ripley to my lot in "Sleepy Hollow." The sun shone brightly on the coffins, of which Waldo's was well preserved--- now of fifteen years. I ventured to look into the coffin. I gave a few white oak leaves to each coffin, after they were put in the new vault, & the vault then covered with two slabs of granite.
Note: the son was five years of when he died
My ignorance: I could not tell you white a white oak leaf looked like.
A question What did Emerson see when he looked?
31 January 1841
Yet a novel may teach one thing as well as my choosings at the corner of the street which way to go,--- whether to my errand or whether to the woods, --- this, namely, that action inspires respect, action, makes character, power, man, God.
These novels will give way by & by to diaries or autobiographies,--- captivating books if only a man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences that which is really his experience, and how to record truth truly!
Note: while there is comfort for the the novel haters...but THAT WHICH IS REALLY HIS EXPERIENCE and then HOW TO RECORD...
Very high standards are set...
I would erect five examples:
THE DEAD OF THE HOUSE by Hannah Green
WARRENPOINT by Denis Donoghue
CASTLE TO CASTLE by Louis Ferdinand Celine
STORM OF STEEL by Ernst Junger
GOING TO PATCHOGUE by Thomas McGonigle