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LIBRARY
Edinburgh

ON THE
ERSITY OF MICHIG

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À SERIES OF ESSAYS ON LIFE, LITERATURE, AND MANNERS.

By the Author of 'The Caxton Family.'

PART XVII.

NO. XXIII. - POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION.

POSTHUMOUS

reputation ! who entire forgetfulness would be a can honestly say that posthumous sharp pang to his human heart. reputation, in one sense of the He does not take leave of the earth phrase, is of no value in his eyes ? without the yearning hope to retain If it were only heroes and poets, a cherished place in the love or those arch-cravers of renown, who esteem of some survivors, after his cared what was said of them after remains have been removed into death, our village burial-grounds the coffin and thrust out of sight would lack their tombstones. A into the grave. The last “ Valecertain desire for posthumous repu. were, indeed, a dreary word with. tation is so general that we might out the softening adjuration, “ Sis fairly call it universal. But I shall memor mei." Even criminals themattempt to show that, being thus uni- selves, in that confusion of reasonversal, it springs from sources which ing which appears inseparable from are common in human breasts, and crime, reconciled, in death as in not from that hunger for applause life, to names scorned by the honwhich is the exceptional character- est (who to them, indeed, form a istic of the candidates for Fame. strange and foreign race), still hope It grows out of the natural affec- for posthumous repatation among tions or the moral sentiment, rather their comrades, for qualities which than the reasonings of intellectual criminals esteem. ambition.

The Pirates in Byron's poem are Be & man how obscure soever - not content to sink, without such as free from the desire of fame, as honours as pirates afford, into the devoid of the capacities to achieve ocean that “shrouds and sepulchres it still the thought of sudden and their dead."

VOL. XCIV.

A

prey,

each brow

now !'"

6 Ours" they exclaim, in the the craving, not of the heart nor spirit of Scandinavian Vikings — of the moral sentiment, but rather

of the intellect, and tberefore lim“ Ours the brief epitaph in danger's day, ited to those who have the skill

When those who win at length divide the and the strength to vie for the And cry remembrance saddening o'er palm awarded to the victor only

when bis chariot-wheels halt and How had the brave who fell exulted

the

race is done. Competitors are

many ; victors, alas ! are few. Out But if the bad cannot banish a de- of all the myriads who have tensire to live after death in the affec- anted our earth, the number even tion even of the bad, where is the of eminent intellects which retain good man who, trained throughout place in its archives is startlingly life to value honour, can turn cynic small. The vast democracy of the on his deathbed, and say, “Let me dead are represented by an oligarchy in life enjoy the profitable credit to which that of Venice was liberal. for honesty, and I care not if, after Although successive races of laborideath, my name be held that of a ous compilers and reverential antiknave" ?

quarians do their utmost to preAll of us, then, however humble, serve in dusty shelves the bones 80 far covet posthumous reputation and fossils of every specimen of that we would fain be spoken and man which has left à vestige of its thought of with affection and esteem being in the layers and strata of by those whose opinions we have the past, it were as well, to a lover prized, even when we are beyond of fame, to sleep in his grave igibe sound of their voices and the nored, as to be dishumed a for clasp of their hands. Such reputa- lorn fragment of what he once was, tion may be (as with most of us it and catalogued alphabetically in a is) but a brief deferment of obli. Biographical Dictionary. vion — the suspense of a year, a Let us suppose some youthful month, a day, before the final can- poet whose heart is now beating cel and effacement of our footprint loud with “the immense desire of on the sands of Time. But some praise,” to whom his guardian kindly reminiscence in some human angel lifts the veil of Futurity, and hearts man intuitively yearns to saith, “Thy name

shall be prebequeath ; and the hope of it com- served from oblivion. Lo! its forts him as he turps his face to place in yon compendium of emthe wall to die.

balmed celebrities, which scholars But if this be a desire common shall compile five centuries after to the great mass of our species, it thy decease. Read and exult !" must evidently rise out of the affec- The poet (bis name be Jones) reads as tions cominon to all - it is a desire follows under the letter J :for love, not a thirst for glory.

“Jones, David, a British author This is not what is usually meant and in the reign of Victoria I. Wrote understood by the phrase of post- many poems much esteemed by his humous reputation ; it is not the contemporaries, some few fragments renown accorded to the exceptional of which have been collected in the and rare intelligences which soar recent 'Anthology of his learned above the level of mankind. And and ingenious countryman, Profeshere we approach a subject of no sor Morgan A preece ; and, though upinteresting speculation - viz., the characterised by the faults prevadistinction between that love for lent in bis period, are not without posthumous though brief repute elegance and fancy. Died at Caerwhich emanates from the affections martben A.D. 1892." and the moral sentiment, and that Such would be a very honourable greed of posthumous and lasting mention — more than is said in a renown which has been considered Biographical Dictionary of many a

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