« AnteriorContinuar »
All rights reserved.
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.
“I THINK I can trace the growth of his opinions, from the little delicate boy who read his Bible and prayed the more resolutely because of the jeers and taunts of his companions at the first school he went to; the thoughtful youth, who, very early sent to Glasgow University, and while under the spell of Chalmers's eloquence, ' got thinking' over metaphysics ; the poet in nature and aspiration, chained to the dull routine of a lawyer's office; the mature mind, to which the incompatibility of the theory of punishment as held by theologians and by jurisprudence grew more and more intolerable; through all and in all the same elements — unflinching search, honest unbiassed striving toward truth, and unshaken devotion of the whole moral nature toward the Supreme Wisdom — the Highest-God! Sometimes I think, Surely some kindred nature will one day take the threads I could supply him with, and weave them into a whole. Sometimes I resolve to write out, only for myself and the nieces, all I know; or for myself only, the sweet eventless record of — indeed, indeed,- a great untroubled happiness.”
This passage, from a wife's letter soon after her husband's death, may be taken as the key to the present volume, which attempts the portraiture of both husband and wife. He was a man of genius and rare fineness of nature; the associate in early years of Mill, Sterling, Maurice, and Lewes.
a constant contributor to “Blackwood's Magazine " from 1839 to 1871, and that journal said at his death : “ No better type could be found
of the true man of letters, the student, scholar, and critic of our days.” But his reviews were anonymous, and he was withdrawn from society and an active career by a retiring disposition and the fascination of thinking purely for the sake of thought. His very name, William Smith, the commonest name in England, seems like a passport to oblivion. His personal history, quite devoid of external adventure, has yet for thoughtful minds an interest comparable to that which attends the fortunes of a Stanley or a Livingstone. For he too was an explorer, and in realms whose secrets have an attraction for our generation beyond those of the Dark Continent. And his researches were fruitful. “ Thorndale," the book which won for him the greater part of such modest celebrity as attached to his
name, gives an inadequate measure of the degree of solid conviction and clear light he attained. “Gravenhurst,” his later and probably less known production, brings the world's latest thought to the study of the world's oldest problem, with results which contribute not a little of clearness to philosophy, energy to religion, and peace and strength to the heart.
This volume includes extracts from his writings, dramatic, critical, and philosophical, — writings which various causes, external and internal, seem to have hindered from due recognition. A biographer may be considered too partial an advocate to set his estimate against that of the world, though, on the other hand, that final judge sometimes nods, and when afterward roused may shape his opinion differently. Be that as it may, this author, by no means indifferent to the world's good opinion, was very far from depending on it for his happiness. One might well apply to him his own words, written of a man of like spirit with himself, Arthur Clough: “It was not till after he had left the scene that the world at large knew that there had been a poet amongst them. Then there was much clapping of hands. Could he who had passed