[merged small][ocr errors]




Compiled and Selected by



[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

As the highest Gospel was a

History is the essence of innumerable biographies. Biography, so is the life of every good man still an indubitable Gospel, and preaches to the eye and heart and whole man. All men are to an unspeakable degree brothers, each man's life a strange emblem of every man's; and human portraits, faithfully drawn, are of all pictures the welcomest on human walls."-CARLYLE

[ocr errors]


Ir may safely be taken for granted that the human mind naturally desires to know something regarding those who are marked out by great qualities in any department of life, by goodness or great attainments and achievements. The gratification of this desire is both healthy and wholesome. The present collection of biographies and 'critical sketches, while intended to be of some practical value, may help to interest and stimulate the reader to further and fuller inquiry and increased knowledge of the great men and women of the nineteenth century.

The selected biographies, by various writers of eminence, will speak for themselves, and contribute a variety of opinion, style, and treatment, to the volume. It embraces sketches by Lord Coleridge, Sir W. Stirling-Maxwell, William Hazlitt, Thomas De Quincey, Alexander Smith, James Hannay, Rev. George Gilfillan, Hugh Miller, R. H. Hutton, Thomas Carlyle, etc. When the sketch at command has been more critical than biographical, as in some of Hazlitt's papers, and others, brief but necessary biographical details have been added at the commencement of each paper. When the interest of the life centres more in continuous detail, then the chief facts of the life are given in the form of a biographical article. It is hoped that in every case the leading features and characteristics of the personages under consideration have been preserved. In the original portion of the volume the Editor makes no attempt to pass judgment on the great names under review. There may be a humbler, and not less useful

work, that of giving the simple consecutive details of each life as they occurred, with interesting extracts and other illustrative matter. There are doubtless a large class of readers to whom the complete biographies are inaccessible because of their expensive nature, because of their distance from a good library, or it may be want of time; those readers might be ready to welcome a brief yet accurate account of any life in which they felt an interest. To tell simply and plainly the main accessible facts in the lives of the men and women under review is the

chief purpose of the original portion of the volume. The principal facts in the life are thus simply and plainly given, with interesting illustrative matter, condensed from the larger biographies. The necessities of space rendered it necessary that the collection be limited to the present selection of names. Though thus selected, it is hoped that the lives are all genuinely interesting.

The influences running through modern life have tended much to throw the glance of man outward from himself towards other peoples and nationalities. Thought has become more complex and comprehensive as the materials of thought have increased. Science has her votaries, and everything in the earth and under the earth is being discussed and investigated. The fair face of nature is reflected in the poet's verse and in impassioned prose. Books and leading articles are being written, and lectures delivered, about every conceivable portion of the earth's surface, and every conceivable nationality. Africa, so long the dark continent, is emerging into the light of the knowable, and coming under the influence of mission-work and legitimate commerce. But in all his wanderings and investigations it is apparent that man meets with nothing of more supreme interest and paramount importance than his own life. The interest deepens when the life is expanded and unfolded in the midst of the complex civilisation of a complex modern life. Biography is the key to the private history of the individual, and next to the knowledge of God and of his own duty, may be placed the desire to know the life of his fellow-man. How

« VorigeDoorgaan »