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