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Fifth Series, Volume XLIII.
No. 2042.- August 11, 1883.
CONTENTS. I. THE ETHICS OF BIOGRAPHY. By M. O. W. Oliphant,
Contemporary Review, .
Contemporary Review, .
Spectator, VII. BOTANICAL TRANSGRESSORS,
Month, VIII. The DESTRUCTION OF NIAGARA, .
Spectator, IX. THE STORY OF A BOULDER, .
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MY COUNTRY COUSIN.
These are thine own, thy nearest, WITH fair complexion, watchet eyes,
For this brief human space; With lips as red as any rose,
Break not thy bonds before-time,
Nor spurn the earth-bound place.
For over-sweet is slumber
So near the dawn of day; In short, with charms she boasts alone,
Could ye not watch with me one hour? My Country Cousin comes to Town.
The signals seem to say.
O Christ! whose hour of coming
The stars of morning keep, From languid loungers in the Row.
Let me be found to meet thee, She's always fresh for ball or rout,
Waking, and not asleep. Though maiden aunts severely frown;
H. E. H. KING. I trow it's but to gad about,
My Country Cousin comes to Town.
She cries “ Academy," 'tis mine
The task to take her ; quite a brute She thinks me, if I draw the line
A MUSICIAN. At visiting the Institute
It was breathed in the blithesome days of And Grosvenor on the self-same day:
youth And so I win the martyr's crown;
This wish of mine - but in very truth 'Tis just to go on in that way,
I was ignorant of its deep portent, My Country Cousin comes to Town.
Nor ever I dreamed in my wayward bent
Of the needful teaching God has sent.
I to be a musician ! Alas!
Ere God's training was ended, and I might The mornings she will spend in shops.
take We go to Greenwich where we dine,
An honored place for his dear sake.
Little wot I, as the years went on,
And the early dreams of youth were gone, I wait upon her night and morn,
Of all that was needed to gain the goal,
And thus to complete the perfect whole
Which is found, I trow, in the artist's soul. I carry parcels in the street.
Joy is there and rapture is there, I know of all the ill-used men,
And light from above to make all things fair; That I'm Why, what a charming gown ! But the deepest sorrow remains untold, I'm not so very wretched when
And there's grief a musician alone can unfold. My Country Cousin comes to Town.
Punch. God knows in his infinite tenderness
That to heal is the bliss of blessedness.
Into the life-sonata I play;
Nor pleasure nor pain will last alway,
And sunshine is fairer, if but a cloud
Its noonday brightness at times doth shroud.
The musician is but an instrument
From heaven to earth for a short time lent. Down in the trodden highway
The truer the tone, the tighter the string Goes to and fro the crowd;
The greater the tension, the sweeter outring. About the market.places
But the silver cord will break at last,
When the life-sonata is overpast;
As the final pages are turned, and then
God's infinite peace for the strife of men. Darkness behind, before,
The training at times so hard to bear
Will end in a glorious fruition there !
H. J. ORMEROD.
From The Contemporary Review. adorned with garlands of miracles, but THE ETHICS OF BIOGRAPHY.
which bold every one a living soul of huThe art of biography is one of the old manily, a human life commending itself est in the world if not the first, at least to the admiration, the instruction, the fola very early form of literary composition. lowing of men. If before Homer and Moses there burst These are perhaps rather too magnifi. forth into lyrical lament the overburdened cent examples to be brought down to the soul of the early homicide who “slew a experiences of an age which scarcely per. man to his wounding and a young man to mits a man to be cold in his grave before bis burt,” making, before law began, the it turns forth from his old drawers and discovery that the criminal is always the wardrobes such relics of his living permost miserable of all the sons of Adamsonality as he may have left there, and - his is, perhaps, the only human utter- displays his vacant clothes, with any twist ance which has preceded story-telling: that attitude or habit may have lent to and primitive story-telling is always a them, as characteristic of his soul. And kind of biography. The ancient history set as the rules that Titian worked by of the Old Testament is entirely of this must still direct the modern art of pordescription. It concerns itself less even traiture, even though descended into the with law.giving, though the first theory of | hands of Dick Tinto — and our object is a constitution is involved in it, than with not to gather specimens from present the records of the life of one man after performance, but rather to elucidate the another Moses, Joshua, David, the laws by which the workmen in this art of leading spirits of their generations. The moral portrait-painting ought to be guided art of the minstrel takes a somewhat it is scarcely possible to go too high for different development, and selects the our examples. The saints and heroes, dramatic incidents which count most in a however, if we believe what is now told man's career, but still follows Ulysses on every side, were neither heroic nor through all his wandering course, and saintly to their valets, and it might have leads the reader back through intervening been, for anything we can tell, quite pos. centuries to the footprints of an individ. sible to deprive us of every noble name ual man across an undeveloped world. It that now gives lustre to humanity, and to is the same in the sacred books of all leave the past as naked of all veneration religions, which are secondarily the store. or respect as is the present. That fine house of thought, of moral injunction and St. George, who has given an emblem of teaching, but primarily the records of the spotless valor and conquest over the imlife of Brahma, Buddha, Mahomet. And pure image of fleshly lust and cruelty to of all religions, that which to us is the one two great nations he who tilts against entirely divine, the greatest and purest bis dragon with such concentrated, grave inspiration of heaven, what does our gos- enthusiasm in that little chapel on the pel mean but the biography of Christ, the Venice Canal, which Mr. Ruskin has most perfect of lives and portraitures, so made one of the shrines to which we all transcending all others that either the go on pilgrimages — turns out, they say, fishermen of Galilee must have been men to have been an army contractor, furnish. of a divine genius, before which neither ing the shoddy of his time 10 the commis. Plato nor Shakespeare could lift their sariat; and a great deal the better we all heads, or He whom in their simplicity they are for that exquisite discovery, And knew, such a man as never man before or St. Francis was a dirty, little, half-witted
These are all biographical fanatic, and Oliver Cromwell a vulgar inworks
upon which the faiths of the world postor with a big wart, and Luther a fat are founded. And so are those legends priest, who wanted to marry. How many of the saints in all ages, to which the more could we add to the list ? till at the affectionate, imagination of the simple end nobody would be left towards whom have lent a thousand embellishing touches we could look with any sentiment more beyond the simplicity of nature, and I reverent than that which we feel for our
greengrocer. That this is not the true any case to biography. The sentiment of sentiment of humanity, nor in accord with the death-chamber is one thing, the judgany law of natural right and wrong, mustment of history another. When we speak be evident to the most cursory observer, of the dead we mean our own contempoand it is worth while, perhaps, to make an raries, those who have gone along witb attempt to discover what are the tenets us through the conflicts, and probably on this subject which ought to guide the competed with us in the rivalries, of life. artist, and which commend themselves to The personages of previous generations the impartial sense of mankind in gen. are not in this sense the dead at all. eral. Though there is a great deal of They have passed through that period of unconfessed cynicism in the common softened regard, and are now beyond all mind as respects matters within its prac- such temporary courtesies, permanent fig. tical range and immediate vicinity, there ures upon the clear horizon of the past. is something underlying this of a nobler It is one of the mysterious qualities of strain, which does not permit even the human nature that, though we all share man who doubts his neighbor's motives, the natural awe of that extraordinary and and thinks the worst of his actions, to unfathomed wonder of death to which we refuse a higher justice to those who stand are in our turn universally subject, yet an apart on the vantage-ground of age or instinctive appreciation of the effects of distance. Man is more just, more char- it as temporary is equally universal. A itable than men; and an appeal from the man who has been dead twenty days is individual to the general is a privilege enveloped in a mystery and solemnity which we all seek instinctively, and in which the most heartless will not disturb. which, in the majority of cases, our in- We speak of him with subdued voice, and stinct is justified.
recognize his right to the utmost stretch In this investigation we are met at once of tenderness of which charity is capable, by a rule universally respected and very and say nothing of him if not good. But generally acquiesced in - the first and be who has been dead twenty years, has, broadest expression of natural feeling as it were, emerged from death altogether. towards our contemporaries who are He has been, and to our senses is, no dead, De mortuis nil nisi bonum. Noth- longer; but the mystery and awe have ing can be more entirely justified by the departed, and he is restored to the cheerinstincts of human nature than this. In ful atmosphere of common day, though the hush of the death-chamber, by the of a day that is past. It is probable that edge of the grave, there is even a sort of we know him better than in his lifetiine, benevolent fiction which comes naturally when he brushed shoulders with us, and to our lips and to our thoughts, so that we found him now in one mood, now annot only do we say nothing that is not other, but could not, so bear were we, ever good of the dead, but we go further, and get him in perspective, or divine what he during that moment in which judgment is was thinking about, even while he walked suspended, do actually take the most with us by the common way.
We saw charitable view of him, and find explana. the best of him, or we saw the worst of tions for what is doubtful in his conduct, him, but we never saw all of him. By which would not satisfy us either before degrees, however, he eierges out of that or after. Thus the French custom of a close vicinity and neighborhood, and rises speech over a man's grave becomes nec-greater, smaller, as it may be, but at last essarily, instinctively, an éloge. That it complete in the perfection of an atmoshould be anything else would outrage sphere which no new events can disturb. every feeling of humanity. If we cannot To say nothing, if not what is good, of a praise we are silent, by a law of nature man in this monumental position, would more strong than any written law, and be a foolishness beyond even the foolishi sbrink as from a blow if any unnatural ness of human kind. Biography would in voice is raised in disapproval. This, how that case become a senseless series of ever, is not a rule which can be applied in | éloges, in which all character and individ. uality would be lost; for praise is the dull. are important to his affectionate recollecest of all expressions of feeling, just as a tion, he crowds the annals with detail rouod of unbroken happiness is dull, and and explanation, or accumulates every there is little or nothing to say about scrap of writing which fell from that pen, those who do well all their lives and and every word, however trilling, which neither offend nor suffer. Thus it is at dropped from those lips, in fond unneconce false in art and in nature to apply essary fulness, though skimming lightly this proverb beyond the immediate period over every dubious point, and leaving us of the conclusion, when all hearts are soft, without guidance or enlightenment where and every man who is not a monster re- elucidation is most required. And while ceives from his race a natural tribute of we regret we can scarcely censure such a sympathy at least, if not of regret. principle; it is not the part of a son to
That it continues, however, largely to set forth his father's faults, still less that influence the minds of those to whom it of a wife to unfold the imperfections falls to write the records of men's lives, is which, perhaps, she is all the more jealdue to various very simple causes. When ous of revealing because fully conscious this is done by a wife or a child, natural of them, and perhaps, more happy, has affection and family pride unite to make never discovered. It is not from such such a result almost inevitable. They witnesses that we can expect the uncol. know more about their subject, and they ored chronicle of absolute truth. know less, than any stranger. It is a Something of the same kind must be rare gist, indeed, to be able to fathom the said, though with at once less excuse characters of those most dear to us, and and a better reason, for the disciple-biog. we doubt much whether it is a very desir-rapher whose enthusiasm for his subject able one. They are to us not men and is of a different kind, yet for whom we women in the first place, but father and feel a sympathy almost more strong than mother, husband or brother, a portion that with which we regard the family of ourselves. To judge their actions at exposition of a great name. He whom any crisis of their lives is as difficult as the character and work of another so 10 judge our own, and disturbed by the captivates, that he is ready to be his same perception of all the triling motives champion and defender in all the con. that come in to interfere with the influ. ficts that may rise around him, and defy ence of the greater, which confuses us in the world on behalf of his hero, conciliour own case; and to judge unfavorably ates our regard for himself in affording would be an act of natural impiety which us proof of so generous a devotion, and would outrage the reader as well as the for his subject by making it apparent reverence due to the closest ties of hu- that one man at least cordially believes manity. Impartiality is not to be looked in him. The disciple's defence is usu. for, scarcely to be desired, in such a case ; | ally even warmer than the son's ; for he and it would be a greater harm to man.is better aware what are the objections, kind if a son, much less a wise or daugh- and knows that he cannot be permitted ter, were capable of setting forth the to ignore them, and with the instinct of darker shades in the character of the adoration establishes his strongest basfather, than the proportionate gain of a tions where the natural defences are complete and well-balanced picture could most weak. He who formulated hero be to the world. Such is by far the worship as one of the creeds, adopted larger class of biographies; they are writ. this system to its fullest extent, and never ten in the shadow of the great event, is more hot and fiery for his gruesome which has separated from the writer the hero, than at points upon which other writ. man from whom, perhaps, he derives ers, less thorough, would give up Fred. consequence, the most notable person of erick. The enthusiast-biographer gives the family, the most beloved friend. He nothing up. If he makes a demigod of does not attempt to criticise or judge, he his subject when right, he deifies him records; and as all things small and great | altogether when wrong, and forces his