« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
From the strong Will, and the Endeavor
On the shifting
They, like hoarded
XCV, - IRVING AND MACAULAY.
Irving died November 28, 1859; Macaulay, December 28, 1859; and Thackeray survived the subjects of the following genial and beautiful eulogy only four years, dying December 24, 1863.
See in Index, BATON, BOUQUET, EPAULETTES, EUROPEAN, EXAGGERATE, MUSEUM, GOLDSMITH, GIBBON, IRVING, MACAULAY, THACKERAY. The Latin words PATER PAT'RI-Æ mean “father of his country"; LAUS DEO (lawz delo), “praise to God”; ET CÆTERA, "and the rest,” or &c. The style is free, familiar, and almost colloquial. See § 52.
1. ALMOST the last words which Sir Walter Scott spoke to Lockhart, his son-in-law and biographer, were, “Be a good man, my dear!” and with the last flicker of breath on his dying lips, he sighed a farewell to his family, and passed away blessing them. Two men, famous, admired, beloved, have just left us, the Goldsmith and the Gibbon of our time. Ere a few weeks are over, many a critic's pen will be at work, reviewing their lives, and passing judgment on their works.
2. This is no review, or history, or criticism; only a word in testimony of respect and regard from a man of letters, who owes to his own professional labor the honor of becoming acquainted with these two eminent literary men. One was the first ambassador whom the New World of Letters sent to the Old. He was born almost with the Republic; the pater patriæ had laid his hand on the child's head. He bore Washington's name : he came among us bringing the kindest sympathy, the most artless, smiling 'good-will.
3. His new country (which some people here might be disposed to regard rather superciliously) could send us, as he showed in his own person, a gentleman, who, though himself born in no very high sphere, was most finished, polished, easy, witty, quiet, and, socially, the equal of the most refined Europeans. If Irving's wel
come in England was a kind one, was it not also gratefully remembered ? If he ate our salt, did he not pay us with a thankful heart?
4. In America the love and regard for Irving was a national sentiment. It seemed to me, during a year's travel in the country, as if no one ever aimed a blow at Irving. All men held their hand from that harmless, friendly peacemaker. I had the good fortune to see him at New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and remarked how in every place he was honored and welcomed. Every large city has its “Irving House.” The country takes pride in the fame of its men of letters.
5. The gate of his own charming little domain on the beautiful Hudson River was forever swinging before visitors who came to him. He shut out no one. I had seen many pictures of his house, and read descriptions of it, in both of which it was treated with a not unusual American exaggeration. It was but a pretty little cabin of a place; the gentleman of the press who took notes of it, while his kind old host was sleeping, might have visited the house in a couple of minutes.
6. And how came it that this house was so small, when Mr. Irving's books were sold by hundreds of thousands, nay, millions, - when his profits were known to be large, and the habits of life of the good old bachelor were notoriously modest and simple? He had loved once in his life. The lady he loved died; and he, whom all the world loved, never sought to replace her.
7. I can't say how much the thought of that fidelity has touched me. Does not the very cheerfulness of his after life add to the pathos of that untold story ? To grieve always was not in his nature; or, when he had his sorrow, to bring all the world in to condole with him and bemoan it. Deep and quiet he lays the love of his heart, and buries it, and grass and flowers grow over the scarred ground in due time.
8. Irving had such a small house and such narrow
rooms because there was a great number of people to occupy them. He could only live very modestly because the wifeless, childless man had a number of children to whom he was as a father. He had as many as nine
house, — with all of whom the dear old man had shared the produce of his labor and genius. “Be a good man, my dear.” One can't but think of these last words of the veteran Chief of Letters, who had tasted and tested the value of worldly success, admiration, prosperity. Was Irving not good, and, of his works, was not his life the best part?
9. In his family, gentle, generous, good-humored, affectionate, self-denying; in society, a delightful example of complete gentlemanhood; quite unspoiled by prosperity; never obsequious to the great (or, worse still, to the base and mean, as some public men are forced to be in his and other countries); eager to acknowledge every contemporary's merit; always kind and affable with the young members of his calling; in his professional bargains and mercantile dealings delicately honest and grateful; he was at the same time one of the most charming masters of our lighter language; the constant friend to us and our nation; to men of letters doubly dear, not for his wit and genius merely, but as an exemplar of goodness, probity, and a pure life!
10. As for the other writer, whose departure many friends, some few most dearly-loved relatives, and multitudes of admiring readers deplore, our Republic* has already decreed his statue, and he must have known that he had earned this posthumous honor. He was not a poet and man of letters merely, but a citizen, a statesman, a great British worthy. All sorts of successes are easy to him: as a lad he goes down into the arena
* Thackeray here speaks metaphorically, meaning “the Republic of letters."
with others, and wins all the prizes to which he has a mind. A place in the Senate is straightway offered to the young man. He takes his seat there; he speaks, when so minded, without party anger or intrigue, but not without party faith and a sort of heroic enthusiasm for his cause. Still he is poet and philosopher even more than orator.
11. If a company of giants were got together, very likely one or two of the mere six-feet-six people might be angry at the incontestable superiority of the very tallest of the party; and so I have heard some London wits, rather peevish at Macaulay's superiority, complain that he occupied too much of the talk, and so forth. Now that wonderful tongue is to speak no more, will not many a man grieve that he no longer has the chance to listen? To remember the talk is to wonder; to think not only of the treasures he had in his memory, but of the trifles he had stored there, and could produce with equal readiness.
12. Many Londoners — not all — have seen the British Museum Library, — the dome where our million volumes are housed. What peace, what love, what truth, what beauty, what happiness for all, what generous kindness for you and me, are here spread out! It seems to me one cannot sit down in that place without a heart full of grateful reverence. I own to have said my grace at the table and to have thanked Heaven for this my English birthright, freely to partake of these bountiful books, and to speak the truth. I find there. Under the dome which held Macaulay's brain, and from which his solemn eyes looked out on the world but a fortnight since, what a vast, brilliant, and wonderful store of learning was ranged !-- what strange lore would he not fetch for you at your bidding !* A volume of
* Thackeray used to relate, that upon the occasion of his lecturing for the first time in London, he saw, on looking over the house, before going forward