Quotation by Henry Brooks Adams

What one really wants is youth, and what one really loses is years. Life becomes at last a mere piece of acting. One goes on by habit, playing more or less clumsily that one is still alive. It is ludicrous and at times humiliating, but there is a certain style in it which youth has not. We become all, more or less, gentlemen; we are ancien régime; we learn to smile while gout racks us.... We get out of bed in the morning all broken up, without nerves, color or temper, and by noon we are joking with young women about the play. One lives in constant company with diseased hearts, livers, kidneys and lungs; one shakes hands with certain death at closer embrace every day; one sees paralysis in every feature and feels it in every muscle; all one's functions relax their action day by day; and, what is worse, one's grasp on the interests of life relaxes with the physical relaxation; and, through it all, we improve; our manners acquire refinement; our sympathies grow wider; our youthful self-consciousness disappears; very ordinary men and women are found to have charm; our appreciations have weight; we should almost get to respect ourselves if we knew of anything human to respect.
Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918), U.S. historian. Letter, December 19, 1899, to Brooks Adams. Letters, Vol. 2, p. 251-252, ed. Worthington Chauncy Ford, Houghton Mifflin (1938).
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