You see those immense volumes lying upon my desk. In them, for more than thirty years, I have written whatever is most striking that my reading presents. Sometimes I limit myself to simple references; at other times I transcribe, word for word, special passages. Often I accompany them with notes, and also I place there those thoughts of the moment, those sudden illuminations, which are extinguished without result if the flash is not made permanent by writing. Carried by the revolutionary whirlwind into different European countries, never have I been without those selections; and you cannot imagine with what pleasure I look over that immense collection. Each passage awakens a crowd of interesting ideas and melancholy remembrances a thousand times sweeter than what are called pleasures. I see pages dated at Geneva, Rome, Venice, Lausanne. I cannot see the names of those cities without recalling those of excellent friends whom I have left in them, and who formerly consoled my exile. Often I turn to a page written from my dictation by a beloved child, whom the tempest has separated from me. I stretch out my arms and fancy I hear him speak to me. One date recalls to my mind the time when, upon the banks of a frozen river, I ate with a French bishop a dinner which we had ourselves prepared. That day I was merry, and could join in a laugh with that good man, who now waits for me in a better world; but the preceding night I had passed in an open vessel, without fire or light, seated with my family upon chests, without being able to lie down or rest one moment, listening to the hostile cries of some watermen who did not cease to threaten us, and being able to stretch over cherished forms only a miserable mat to protect them from a heavy snow which fell incessantly.
(Joseph de Maistre; quoted in William Alexander, “De Maistre and Romanism,” The North American Review, Vol. LXXIX, 1854, No. 165, pp. 378–379).