Sturt inherited a wheelwrights' (wagonmakers) in a medium-small town in England; wanted to be a literary man, knew some leading lights.
His journals have some waffly Mauve Decade aestheticizing. He wanted to publish more of this. Fortunately, what he could get published was descriptions of hte 'vanishing rural life', which seem to have been taken down from a particular garden laborer who didn't get much credit or any money for it.
In one of the New York prisons, criminals are treated in on this principle, by massage and Turkish baths, and the soul's sensitiveness grows with that of the skin. May not one reform the criminal in himself, by like means?(29 November 1890 )
It would be an impertinence to criticize Brown. As someone was fond of saying, 'John Brown himself was right': and then, so too was Emerson right, in his attitude of non-resistance to slavery. ... He may have precipitated the Secession War; probably he did so. But slavery could not have lasted much longer. There were others who hated it, besides Brown...Rather I believe, that a man's weight can only tell once: that his force was narrowed to gain that intensity: and that America is now suffering and will have to suffer, for the narrowness of the issue decided by the Civil War. ... It may be, that had the emancipation been deferred, moral force would have been much more powerful to affect it, and much of the war-misery might have been avoided: though of course this would have been balanced by the prolonged sufferings of the slaves. (28 Dec. 1890)(In because relevant to an argument I was in recently. Not much more in Sturt than what I've quoted. To look up: Emerson's attitude & actions.)
Again, the philosophy I have seemed so much my own, a thing fought for with hard thinking; carved out of experience with my own powers of reason. But in reading a book of Sir Henry Maine's, where Roman Law was dealt with, in its influence on European thought, I begin to have doubts of the value of my philosophy. The form of it (so far as it has form) is gathered from this or that author, distilled by him from who knows what philosopher? It has no more connection with life, than decorative work on bronze, traditional from prehistoric times. And this intellectual repouseé, thought-hammered, bears tool-marks of ways of thinking that are also traditional. Very eclectic too it is; or so I suspect; so that, not knowing what school I belong to, I cannot tell in what direction fresh hints are to be found.(21 Nov. 1891)
...many things which science now undertakes with certainty of success, were are one time only possible to genius, working blindly. Art precedes science, teaching us first to take an interest in a thing, and then to discover its laws.(4 June 1892 )
For the exigencies of the soil are so peculiar, varying so much from day to day and from one crop to another, and demanding so much judgement and experience to meet them, that we recur again and again to the subject, discussing it as eagerly as a game of skill. That is, indeed, its character: with the added excitement of a large element of chance, afforded by the vagaries of the weather. ... (Grover) is effectual not as a talker, but as a cottage-gardener. His toil this year will produce enough to support perhaps half a dozen people for twelve months.(6 & 7 June 1896 )
Description of a hop fair in the 1850s, with ribbons for the horses of the first wagons, a horned headdress for newcomers, lots of beer, songs for the purpose; 19 June 1896. Generosity and forbearance of very poor families, 25 December 1897; "Knowing this sort of thing, it makes me savage to hear talk of the 'improvidence' of the poor."
Does their wealth spring from others' poverty? At least in return they (the well-trained women amongst them) are exhibiting to us types, and in their own persons putting before the English race specimens of the clean-bodied creatures that it will by and by expect all its womenkind to be.(18 May 1899 )
(Actually, the Mrs. Stovold he compares to the well-trained wealthy - Mrs. Stovold was competent and benevolent enough to kill a neighbor's pig when they needed it done - has moved up in the Feminine Valor stakes; especially if she can now afford a bath and dentistry.)
mentioned, 9 August 1899; I must look her up.
Cambridge University Press, 1967