« AnteriorContinuar »
in behind the veil have returned at our summons, to receive our plaudits, we feel persuaded that for such a purpose
he would not have re-lifted the fallen curtain." The idea which the wife intimates, of writing herself some story of her husband's life, was so far carried out that she did write a sketch of him for their friends only, which afterward she hesitatingly allowed to be published, as the prefix to a reprint of some of his philosophical works, a connection not favorable to any wide circulation. This exquisite memoir is the basis of the present volume. No other hand could approach hers in fitness for the task she undertook. But that task did not include any history of her husband's intellectual development, nor any statement of his final views; it was the beauty of his personal traits that at that time filled her heart and inspired her pen. A fuller exposition of the subjeet is here essayed; and with it there is blended a portraiture of her who brought completion and happiness to his life. Her charming personality unconsciously portrayed itself in her letters and writings, with a vividness which makes her a living figure.
“ No woman yet," said “ The Spectator” recently, " has ever really told us the history of her life as Rousseau and Pepys have told theirs, – that is, without any attempt at concealment." It adds the suggestion that a refinement, a delicacy, and sense of the sacred seclusion of the heart might restrain any woman's mind from the necessary introspection. Certainly any conscious selfdisplay to the world would have been quite impossible to the womanly nature of Lucy Smith. But to her own friends one of her many and great charms was the transparency with which to those she trusted she expressed her real and inner life. It was an openness which sprang from a generous confidence, and from her constant disposition to share her best possessions with others. Especially in writing of her husband, the love which in her was
almost a worship inspired a frankness of utterance in which her own traits reveal themselves. In self-forgetfully picturing him, she has delightfully pictured berself. Of literary ambition she had not a particle; when she made a translation or a sketch it was to “turn an honest penny;
and when she dashed off verses, it was to ease her heart of its fulness of joy, of struggle, or of playful
Rare charms of intellect, feeling, and character were combined in her. The ardor and depth of her nature were matched by its disciplined fidelity and winning grace. It is in her private letters that her genius shines brightest, if genius be the right word for such a union of insight, tenderness, sympathy, and vivid interest in everything about her. One can scarcely imagine a creature more brimming over with life, a life as pure as brilliant.
Such self-revelation, of such a woman, we have here. And it is to be added that this life is displayed to us under all the great typical experiences of womanhood, except only that of mother. This story ends not at the marriage-altar; it goes on through the every-day experiences of a most happy wedded life ; still on, through the midnight shadows of bereavement, and the sacred and sublime experiences of love stronger than death.
One other element of interest is present. The wife, fully sharing the husband's thought, is like him led to relinquish much of the traditional creed, comes into full presence of all the new thought and the new doubt, and while the problem which engaged him was an intellectual one, on her it falls to find a place under the changed conditions for her heart in its supreme needs.
Whatever value belongs to this story is largely due to the extraordinary openness and transparency of the woman who is really its author. It is not inconsiderately, nor without sense of possible animadversion, that such full self-disclosure is set before the general public. But “Wisdom is justified of her children,” and they who
rightly reading shall understand this royal woman, and appropriate her as a personal possession, will need no excuse for letting her show herself as she was. One who opens the pages at random may light on passages which come to him like secrets overheard without right. But whoever reads the whole, and understands her who is speaking, will scarcely wish to spare a word. The contributions of many of her friends
and no one had more devoted friends — have given material for this volume. Of the best part of the book, she is the author; but it has been wrought into form by the hand of one, an American, of that number who without ever seeing her knew her and loved her. No word better sums up the double story than an inscription on the inner wall of Durham Cathedral, centuries old, following the names of a husband and wife :
6 We once were two,
We two made one,
Though life be gone."