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women, people who left positive mortal footsteps in the soil they trod, and tangible good works behind them, lived and died. It is by no means an overstrain of the fact to say, that one might go on reading half-a-dozen such memoirs at once, and but for the difference of name, and perhaps the distinction of here and there a personal pronoun, would be quite unable to find out which was the young soldier in the midst of his regiment, and which the humble Sunday-school teacher dwelling at home. How this can be done, and by what extraordinary effort of skill it is possible to veil every glimmer of the natural man, and reduce so many diverse characters, circumstances, and dispositions, to one flat unrounded hieroglyph of piety, seems of itself sufficiently remarkable. Yet it is done with astonishing success and oft-repeated frequency. Religious sentiments, pious aspirations, devout thoughts, must, one would suppose, be differently developed in different minds; and to every human creature there belongs some certain thread of individuality to distinguish him from the rest of the world. Notwithstanding, volume grows upon volume, and "Life" after "Life" fills the shelves of the religious publisher. Each among the crowd contains a dim memorial of some one who was excellent in his generation, each is written with the sincere intention and the honest vanity of doing good, and each supposes itself to carry the most weighty lessons, and to set forth a model to mankind. Let us not pronounce a hasty judgment. People buy, by the million, those well-intentioned publications-it is to be supposed that people also read them yet in face of these facts it is mortifying to confess that an unaccustomed reader loses himself in those wildernesses of words, and finds nothing but tedium and vexation in books which, if they truly did what they undertake to do, should be safe companions and counsellors for every one, examples of all the manifold and unlimitable diversities of the Christian and the human life.
tunate that a high impulse should have so poor a result. Yet we can perfectly well understand how it is that the young convert, in the early flush of his devotion, looking about for something by which he may prove his gratitude to God and his benevolence towards his neighbour, finds few methods so fascinating, and with so ready an appearance of doing good," as this of literature. Nothing is more common than to find, at the outset of the Christian life, a dedication of "myself, my pen, my tongue,” &c., to the service of God. One cannot well dedicate what one has never received, and Christians are not inevitably endowed with pens for this high purpose, nor with tongues either, for that matter. But talk is the great faculty of this age-an aptitude for conversation and a fluent power of words are so common that they are not remarkable in any way, and certainly are by no means a criterion of mental capacity. But before one has learned to be content with holding fast to God's service through common life and common days, which is harder work than writing bookswhile it yet appears impossible to throw aside all friends and duties on the instant, and throw one's self into missionary labours, or some heroic enterprise of Christian zeal and self-sacrifice-then the flattering suggestion of literature relieves the eager soul of the newly-awakened champion. Here is a class bigger and more accessible than the classes of a Sabbath school; here is an opportunity for instructing, it may be, the whole world; and the new disciple rushes into print, thoroughly satisfied of his own longing to good," and anxious to testify aloud to every one within his reach the gratitude and love which fill his own soul. Who can blame the desire? who should criticise the endeavour? But the drawback unfortunately is, that devotion will not create genius, nor anything resembling it, and that even the passionate sincerity and earnestness which give force to the humblest Christian's personal protest against evil or exhortation to good, does not brighten the cold pages of the book; where cold cyes find only words without meaning,
But it is perhaps not so difficult after all to understand the failure of this class of writing. It is unfor
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and a profusion of abstract statements without any living thread of interest to bind them into one.
This suggestion of doing good by writing is consequently a very unfortunate one for literature. The person to whom it is suggested having really nothing to say by nature, can never by any chance forget himself and his purpose, or fall into any spontaneous and liberal effusion of what may be in him. What he says arises out of a manufacturing process, perfectly conscientious and admirably wellintentioned, but still artificial; and books without number are the result -stories in which the incidents of the ancient romance are adapted to modern edification-where the personages have great downfalls into poverty, in order that they may be evangelised in their low estate, and thereafter raised into ineffable goodness and grandeur, to be examples to the world-children's books, in which the hapless little souls are instructed that to do a piece of childish kindness to an old woman is to "do good," encouraged to ask themselves in their baby meditations, "What good can I do to-day?" and taught how to do it accordingly-and greatest of all in biographies and memoirs, a few of which we mean shortly to submit to the consideration of our readers.
The few which we have selected, are, however, wanting in the great distinguishing feature of their class, which might indeed be called the literature of the deathbed. "Don't be a good boy, Jack-they all die!" says one of Mr Leech's schoolboys; and indeed it would seem very true, were we to take for criterion the multitudinous examples offered to us. It does seem a very strange view of human existence which makes death its chief feature, and slumps up the events of a man's lifetime in a few pages, while it devotes chapters to the sayings of his deathbed. Perhaps it is less strange when the subject is a child, for there must always be something touching in the conjunction of that great stern presence of death with those little tender saintly blossoms, who have little more than this solemn event in their short history, and whose pathetic
infant godliness is not to be thought of unmoved. But men have other things to do in the world besides dying, and it is not the true office of religion to throw a fictitious importance over the latest step of nature. It is only a very limited experience which can persuade itself that the manner of death is any real test of Christianity. Many men have died well who have not lived well; many a soul has been able to make a dignified and solemn departure, which has but a poor account to give of its mortal course before. All this is so commonly and visibly true that everybody knows it; yet our advertisinglists are still full of memoirs of the lives which ought to be called by a truer name-Memoirs of the Deaths of Departed Christians; and tender friends can find nothing better to put into the hands of young people, by way of attracting them to a life of religion, than volumes which trace with painful minuteness the progress of disease and weakness, and culminate in death. Why should this be? Patience, devotion, and a tender acquiescence in the will of the great Father, are at all times profitable to us; but Heaven knows how many times there are in a man's life when it is far harder for him to acquiesce in God's will than at that last time, when often the tired spirit, spite of all the shrinkings of nature, is glad to go. Death is not a religious act, nor a meritorious sacrifice. The Gospel was not given simply to teach us how to die; and why the religious life should be fostered by stories of deathbeds, and the greatest spiritual influence be exercised by the last and weakest hours of existence, is, when one thinks of it, a very extraordinary human improvement upon God's manner of teaching, which is not by death, but by life.
But we have no intention of entering into those sad hospitals of literature, or pausing by the deathbeds, where every one whose hour has come finds that "to die is gain." This is not, we repeat it, the manner in which God teaches us. There are no deathbeds in the Scriptures. There is, however, in the common mind, a singular amount of curiosity about dying people-a strange curi
osity, conscious to its very heart of its own certain encounter, by-and-by, with the same struggle. It is to this instinct, doubtless, that the literature of the deathbed addresses itself, and we have no right to complain that it should do so. What we do complain of is, that this should be supposed a subject essentially religious and edifying that it should be the standard and prevailing theme in all devout books which are personal and not theological, and that we should be required to accept it as the special ground of the spiritual-minded and pious were it so, life would be only, after all, a huge mistake; and the best thing we could wish for any one, after we had made sure of his safe conversion, would be a lingering illness and a happy. death. We are not quite sure even that practical means to bring about this end might not be justifiable. Why should Christian people be permitted to live through long years of commonplace duty and labour-years which can be summed up in a few syllables -when the real interest and moral lesson of their lives lies lingering in the last half-dozen days or hours before they die?
Yet this is the conclusion to which we are inevitably brought, if we take for our authority the prevailing tone of religious memoirs. These works are not intended for our amusement, but for our instruction; and to people labouring in the hard midway of human existence, come for edification narratives of early death and painful sickness, and the experiences of tender young Christians dying upon the threshold of life, and totally unacquainted with it-giving the magnitude of vices to their own sins of temper and thought, and finding out persecutions and trials where nobody but themselves would have suspected such to exist. Is life, then, really an irreligious and material necessity, which we must shuffle through as we best can, and in which nothing but death and preparations for it are worth considering? Are all the hard and heavy problems of this existence to be set aside as vulgar realities, unworthy any care or consideration, and our toilsome days only to be instructed and consoled by the dying
utterances of youth and inexperience, entirely unacquainted with our sorrows, and unable to understand them? Happy are they who accomplish thus happily their course in this worldwho are discharged of their warfare at no harder a price than so much personal suffering, and to whom the joyful expectation of another life makes glad the end of this! But how should they, laying aside their virgin armour almost unassailed, and innocently unwitting of the temptations and struggles of maturer life, be guides and examples to men who perhaps will never be permitted a single day's security in the retirement of a sick-room, but must live and die in the heat and commotion of the actual world? The contrast is strange enough even to think of it; and what shall we say to the youthful penitence which calls itself the chief of sinners, and makes mysterious allusions to the sins of its early past, as if these were too black and dismal to be named? What can we say? Far be it from us to imply that the deepest and most painful sentiment of nature
the consciousness of that discord and estrangement from God-that fatal want of harmony with all His will and word which belongs to our race-is not vividly felt by those gentle young saints whose holy lives and deaths are recorded for our instruction. But the mysterious sins and dreadful self-accusations are but a more solemn fashion of those halfconscious heroics and sublimities of youth, which in other forms we are all acquainted with. So are the persecutions which consist in a comrade's joke, or a family attack upon the growing gravity of the young martyr. We smile at the magniloquence of youthful genius unappreciated, and youthful susceptibility affronted. Why, then, should we be afraid to smile at the same heroical exaggeration when it clings, a natural folly not to be too hardly censured, to the white robes of youthful devotion? Among the inspired writers of the New Testament it is only Paul who accuses himself as those tender converts do. Peter and John were doubtless as devout and faithful, and felt their own sinfulness as deeply; but Peter and John, who were never
openly opposed to the cause of their Master, do not find it necessary to proclaim themselves the chief of sinners. We trust nobody will be shocked by the words; but we cannot class those mysterious self-accusations as anything else than another development of that vanity of youth which does not like to be behind in anything, but prefers extremity to moderation even in sin.
Are we to be supposed profane opponents of godliness and enemies to religion because we say so much? We trust not so; and we would earnestly recommend any one who, with an anxious desire to do good, thinks no way of doing it so ready and accessible as the works of religious biography, to refer, before beginning, to the great standard of Christian authority, the Word of God. There, there are no dying words, no vague self-reproaches, no history of sickrooms. Dorcas, had she lived within the limits of this century, would have had one big volume at least to record her good words and works but Dorcas does not utter a single syllable in the Scriptures; neither do Aquila and Priscilla, though they took in strangers to their Christian household, and taught the teachers of the faith; neither do all those voiceless people whom the apostles remember by name; and from beginning to ending of the sacred volume there is no martyrology-there are no deathbeds; and dying utterances, save those of One, and One only, are excluded from the inspired record. It is true that we might strive in vain to emulate the Divine simplicity of the narrative of Scripture, and that indeed life itself has become too artificial for such picturesque and living brevity as forms the outer garb of inspiration; but compositions which have no warrant nor example in the Bible, and which are indeed formed on an entirely contrary model, should have no legitimate claim to be exempted from criticism because they are supposed to be pious and edifying, and belong to the modern economy of religion.
As for that extraordinary fashion of professional affection and bereavement, which proves itself by the process of making dead husbands and
wives, or dead sons and daughters, into books, one cannot help regarding it as a standing offence against natural feeling, as well as a much smaller matter-against good taste. There are people living who have survived to execute whole families after this fashion. Heaven deliver all remaining friends from the cold undertaker-touch of those biographising fingers! To have to die with the consciousness of an attendant of this description taking notes, must be hard indeed.
Memoir-writing is, however, difficult work at the best, or at least seems so, looking at the result. Records of poets, lives of statesmen, stories of soldiers, crowd after each other into all our libraries; sketches made from a hundred different points of view, and with as many diverse objects; but amid all these varieties of the art of biography, where is the man who does not shudder at the thought of coming in his own turn under its murderous knife? A real life, honestly and modestly represented—a history which is individual without being petty, is a thing which we long for vainly, and which the multitude of failures would make it seem almost impossible to attain. For a human life is generally a very illogical performance, take it from beginning to end; it is seldom an epic, and it is never an antithesis, and before it can be made to back out any foregone conclusion, or prove any formal argument, must suffer such violence as in most instances denudes it of all its individual grace. Fact is tolerably sure ground, but it is far too meagre for the taste of the time, and for the exigencies of book-making; and it is a rare gift which qualifies a writer to represent the mind of another man without a bias and colour from his own-a very rare gift, seldom to be met with; whereas biographies are written by the thousand. They line our walls in multitudinous ranks great men and small men, heroes who belong to the whole world, and notabilities of little private circles, more pretentious than the heroes; but big and little of them, they are mostly men of Nineveh, flat figures scored into the plaster, with perhaps only such a primitive and simple
minded approach to perspective as is to be found in the fifth leg of King Sennacherib's winged lions. The portrait clings to the paper with most undesirable tenacity; it is one of those black profiles which cunning artists wont to cut out with scissors-it is not a man.
In this respect it is not religious literature alone which is at fault-the same want of character and identity is common. Religious literature, however, distinguishes itself by a more daring deficiency of literary skill than any other branch of the craft can venture on, and takes its standpoint with a more arbitrary determination to see everything from that view, and to adapt everything it finds to its own good purpose. It would be impossible to find a better example of this peculiarity than in a little volume lately published, which professes to be a Biographical Sketch of Sir Henry Havelock, and which has been published with as much precipitation as a linendraper's circular, and certainly suggests an impulse not much different from that of the worthy shopkeeper, who makes a hasty coup to forestall and anticipate his rival in the trade, and to take first advantage of a sudden novelty. All this island, in every inch of its space, and heart of its people, has tingled with anxiety, with triumph, and at last with bitter unavailing regret and disappointment, that he who had won such honours should never return to receive them, at hearing of the name which stands upon this smug and complacent title-page. Sir Henry Havelock !-he who won like an old banneret of chivalry, but, like a modern public servant, never lived to wear, that knightly title and reward which none ever more gallantly deserved - he who only paused upon his march to fight a battle, and only fought to clear the road for his onward march, and did both impossible achievements for the rescue of the perishing-he who did not live to hear how a whole country traced his steps with tears and cries, and an anxiety as breathless as if every man in his band had been a son or a brother; but did
live a better thing to know that his work was accomplished, and the blood of his soldiers, and his own noble life, were not spent in vain. It is this man, in the climax of honours and lamentations, while his name is still in every mouth, yet before there can be time for such a record as might possibly preserve his memory with becoming dignity, that the religious trade rushes in to biographise and sell so many editions of. A book is coming by-and-by, we are informed, which will be the real Life of Havelock. In the mean time, before that can be ready, why should the universal interest run to waste, and be suffered to pass without improvement? so the sheets fly through the press, and the volumes through the country. It may not be any great honour to Havelock, or a just tribute to his memory, but there can be little doubt that it is a sharp and successful stroke of business, honourable to the energy and promptitude of the trade.
The book itself is a meagre thread of history made up by letters, reflections, and hortatory remarks, beginning with extracts from a record of facts concerning his birth, birthplace, and relations, drawn up by General Havelock himself, and continuing on, through the ordinary routine of a soldier's life, up to that famous fighting march which concluded in a blaze of glory the brave old soldier's career. We must, however, do Mr Brock the justice to say that this anticipatory Life is done uneasily, as if under external pressure. The manner is forced and full of constraint, the matter hastily chucked together, and the result, we have little doubt, as unsatisfactory to the author as it must be to his readers. Where was the need for all this precipitancy?—the siege and the release of Lucknowthe last campaign of Havelock, are not a nine days' wonder, to be used up and evaporated on the momentwould not be so, at least, if the art of bookmaking would but let them alone a little, and suffer these wonderful events to take their due place in history, instead of ringing them into our ears with an unceasing re
* Biographical Sketch of Sir Henry Havelock, by the Rev. W. BROCK. London: Nisbet & Co.