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American Jewish History 91.3-4 (2003) 526-606

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The Diary1

Joseph Lyons
April 29th 1833
Beatum Beatum
Savannah Georgia
Nihil est ab omni parte
De rien je viens, a rien je vais
Tout est rien, mais rien n'est.3

A fool told me today, she was Sorry for me and I thought what I here write

You are sorry for me!!!
Eternal God! Am I then that thing
As to excite pity!
Give me deep scorn, without disguise,
Most rancorous hate, abhorrence
Any thing, but pity!
By heaven, tis what you feel
For the unresisting worm you've carelessly crushed
And you pity it, for its impotence,
To escape or to retaliate -
Am I so gifted - Am I, a poor
Crawling, weak despicable reptile
If I am then be sorry for me
But whilst I feel in my capacious soul
A comprehensive power to enfold
Passions that in their expansion
Would shatter your pigmy soul
Into indiscernible atoms
Dare not to reduce me
To your petty pitiful size
And be sorry for me, as,
You would for your fellows [End Page 526]

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Figure 1
First page of Joseph Lyons's diary. Special Collections, College of Charleston Library.

Friday May 23 1834

La religion fut partout une invention d'hommes adroits et politques qui ne trouvant pas en eux-memes les moyens de gouverner leurs semblables a leur gre, cherchaient a la ciel la force qui leur manquiat et en firent desacendre la terreur.

Histoire Philosophique de[s] deux
Indes, p 72
Par l'abbe Raynal4 [End Page 527]


Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear:
The dial how thy precious minutes waste,
The vacant leaves thy minds imprint willt bear
And of this book this learning mayst thou taste.
The wrinkles which thy glass will truly shew
Of mouthed graves will give them memory
Thou by the dials shady stealth mayst know
Times thievish progress to eternity.
Look, what thy memory cannot contain
Commit to these waste blanks & thou shalt find
Those children nursed delivered from thy brain
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind
These offices so oft as those wilt look
Shall profit thee & much enrich thy book.


Apr 29 1833 warm

I arrived in Savannah [Georgia] at 1 AM—I never before knew what it is to be a stranger—nor would I be now conscious of the absence of "those I love now far away", could I read without pain, but a man in my situation,5 what can he do—write c'est tout. And though I have never seen this book before I feel as if restored to the Conversation of a sincere friend, whilst imparting my feelings to the unconscious paper. I have not Journalised for some months past, though I have witnessed more novelty during that time, than in all my preceding existence. I will give a Retrospective Review of all that when I am more in the humor.

Here I am in a new land, & have an opportunity of being what I will. I have come to the conclusion that men are not to be admitted to your souls as companions, but the true road to success is to keep aloof, & when you mix with them, let it only be to command. Use them for your own purposes, & if you dance for them, let it be over their heads. All this [End Page 528] is incompatible with sincerity & I do therefore distrust the soundness of this view, however at another time I will examine it.—

I took up a Blackstone this morning6 —C'est le premier pas qui conte.7

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Figure 2
Firmin Cerveau's View of Savannah, 1837. Georgia Historical Society.

June 30th Sunday

I recommence writing in my journal after an intermission of 6 months.8 I should have written before but frequent & irritating interruptions from a very, annoying though not painful irritation inflammation of the right eye. It is even now very dim & I doubt its perfect...


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