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The Education of Henry Adams

Teufelsdrockh (1901)
INEVITABLE Paris beckoned, and resistance became more and more futile as the store
of years grew less; for the world contains no other spot than Paris where education can be
pursued from every side. Even more vigorously than in the twelfth century, Paris taught
in the twentieth, with no other school approaching it for variety of direction and energy of
mind. Of the teaching in detail, a man who knew only what accident had taught him in
the nineteenth century, could know next to nothing, since science had got quite beyond
his horizon, and mathematics had become the only necessary language of thought; but
one could play with the toys of childhood, including Ming porcelain, salons of painting,
operas and theatres, beaux-arts and Gothic architecture, theology and anarchy, in any
jumble of time; or totter about with Joe Stickney, talking Greek philosophy or recent
poetry, or studying "Louise" at the Opera Comique, or discussing the charm of youth and
the Seine with Bay Lodge and his exquisite young wife. Paris remained Parisian in spite
of change, mistress of herself though China fell. Scores of artists -- sculptors and
painters, poets and dramatists, workers in gems and metals, designers in stuffs and
furniture -- hundreds of chemists, physicists, even philosophers, philologists, physicians,
and historians -- were at work, a thousand times as actively as ever before, and the mass
and originality of their product would have swamped any previous age, as it very nearly
swamped its own; but the effect was one of chaos, and Adams stood as helpless before it
as before the chaos of New York. His single thought was to keep in front of the
movement, and, if necessary, lead it to chaos, but never fall behind. Only the young have
time to linger in the rear.
The amusements of youth had to be abandoned, for not even pugilism needs more
staying-power than the labors of the pale-faced student of the Latin Quarter in the haunts
of Montparnasse or Montmartre, where one must feel no fatigue at two o'clock in the
morning in a beer- garden even after four hours of Mounet Sully at the Theatre Francais.
In those branches, education might be called closed. Fashion, too, could no longer teach
anything worth knowing to a man who, holding open the door into the next world,
regarded himself as merely looking round to take a last glance of this. The glance was
more amusing than any he had known in his active life, but it was more -- infinitely more
-- chaotic and complex.
Still something remained to be done for education beyond the chaos, and as usual the
woman helped. For thirty years or there-abouts, he had been repeating that he really must
go to Baireuth. Suddenly Mrs. Lodge appeared on the horizon and bade him come. He
joined them, parents and children, alert and eager and appreciative as ever, at the little old
town of Rothenburg-on-the Taube, and they went on to the Baireuth festival together.
Thirty years earlier, a Baireuth festival would have made an immense stride in
education, and the spirit of the master would have opened a vast new world. In 1901 the
effect was altogether different from the spirit of the master. In 1876 the rococo setting of
Baireuth seemed the correct atmosphere for Siegfried and Brunhilde, perhaps even for
Parsifal. Baireuth was out of the world, calm, contemplative, and remote. In 1901 the
 
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