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CARLYLE'S FRENCH REVOLUTION
A REVIEW IN THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER,
We welcome the appearance in this country of this extraordinary work. It is by far the largest, the most elaborate, and the best work which Mr. Carlyle has yet attempted, and although an accurate and extended history, not a whit less original and eccentric than any of his earlier productions. One thing has for some time been becoming plainer, and is now quite undeniable, that Mr. Carlyle's genius, whether benignant or baleful, is no transient meteor, and no expiring taper, but a robust flame self-kindled and selffed, and more likely to light others into a conflagration, than to be speedily blown out. The work before us indicates an extent of resources, a power of labor, and powers of thought, seldom combined, and never without permanent effects.
It is a part of Mr. Carlyle's literary creed, “ that all history is poetry, were it rightly told.” The work before us is his own exemplification of his doctrine. The poetry consists in the historian's point of view. With the most accurate and lively delineation of the crowded actions of the revolution, there is the constant co-perception of the universal relations of each man. With a painter's eye for picturesque groups, and a boy's passion for exciting details, he combines a philosopher's habitual wonder as he stands before the insoluble mysteries of the Advent and Death of man.
From this point of view, he is unable to part, and the noble and hopeful heart of the narrator breathes a music of humanity through every part of the tale. Always equal to his subject, he has first thought it through; and having seen in the sequence of events the illustration of high and beautiful laws which exist eternal in the reason of man, he beholds calmly like a god the fury of the action, secure in his own perception of the general harmony resulting from particular horror or pain. This elevation of the historian's point of view is not, however, produced at any expense of attention to details. Here is a chronicle as minute as Froissart, and a scrupulous weighing of historical evidence, which begets implicit trust. Above all, we have men in the story, and not names merely. The characters are so sharply drawn that they cannot be confounded or forgotten, though we may sometimes doubt whether the thrilling impersonation is in very deed the historic man whose name it bears.
We confess we feel much curiosity in regard to the immediate success of this bold and original experiment upon the public taste. It seems very certain that the chasm which existed in English literature, the want of a just history of the French Revolution, is now filled in a manner to prevent all competition. But how far Mr. Carlyle's manifold innovations shall be reckoned worthy of adoption and of emulation, or what portion of them shall remain to himself incommunicable, as the anomalies of a genius too self-indulgent, time alone can show.
GEORGE L. STEARNS
A SERMON DELIVERED IN THE FIRST PARISH CHURCH
OF MEDFORD, MASS., IN APRIL, 1867
We do not know how to prize good men until they depart. High virtue has such an air of nature and necessity that to thank its possessor would be to praise the water for flowing or the fire for warming us. But, on the instant of their death, we wonder at our past insensibility, when we see how impossible it is to replace them. There will be other good men, but not these again. And the painful surprise which the last week brought us, in the tidings of the death of Mr. Stearns, opened all eyes to the just consideration of the singular merits of the citizen, the neighbor, the friend, the father, and the husband, whom this assembly mourns. We recall the all but exclusive devotion of this excellent man during the last twelve years to public and patriotic interests. Known until that time in no very wide circle as a man of skill and perseverance in his business; of pure life; of retiring and affectionate habits; happy in his domestic relations, — his extreme interest in the national politics, then growing more anxious year by year, engaged him to scan the fortunes of freedom with keener attention. He was an early laborer in the resistance to slavery. This brought him into sympathy with the people of Kansas. As early as 1855 the Emigrant Aid Society was formed; and in 1856 he organized the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee, by
means of which a large amount of money was obtained for the“ free-State men,” at times of the greatest need. He was the more engaged to this cause by making, in 1857, the acquaintance of Captain John Brown, who was not only an extraordinary man, but one who had a rare magnetism for men of character, and attached some of the best and noblest to him, on very short acquaintance, by lasting ties. Mr. Stearns made himself at once necessary to Captain Brown as one who respected his inspirations, and had the magnanimity to trust him entirely, and to arm his hands with all needed help.
For the relief of Kansas, in 1856-57, his own contributions were the largest and the first. He never asked any one to give so much as he himself gave, and his interest was so manifestly pure and sincere that he easily obtained eager offerings in quarters where other petitioners failed. He did not hesitate to become the banker of his clients, and to furnish them money and arms in advance of the subscriptions which he obtained. His first donations were only entering-wedges of his later; and, unlike other benefactors, he did not give money to excuse his entire preoccupation in his own pursuits, but as an earnest of the dedication of his heart and hand to the interests of the sufferers, - a pledge kept until the success he wrought and prayed for was consummated. In 1862, on the President's first or preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation, he took the first steps for organizing the Freedman's Bureau, — a department which has since grown to great proportions. In 1863 he began to recruit colored soldiers in Buffalo, then at Philadelphia and Nashville. But these were only parts of his work. He passed his time in incessant consultation with all men whom he could reach, to suggest and urge the measures needed for the hour.
And there are few men with real or supposed influence, North or South, with whom he has not at some time communicated. Every important patriotic measure in this region has had his sympathy, and of many he has been the prime mover. He gave to each his strong support, but uniformly shunned to appear in public. For himself or his friends he asked no reward; for himself, he asked only to do the hard work. His transparent singleness of purpose, his freedom from all by-ends, his plain good sense, courage, adherence, and his romantic generosity disarmed first or last all gainsayers. His examination before the United States Senate Committee on the Harper's Ferry Invasion, in January, 1860, as reported in the public documents, is a chapter well worth reading, as a shining example of the manner in which a truthspeaker baffles all statecraft, and extorts at last a reluctant homage from the bitterest adversaries.
I have heard, what must be true, that he had great executive skill, a clear method, and a just attention to all the details of the task in hand. Plainly he was no boaster or pretender, but a man for up-hill work, a soldier to bide the brunt; a man whom disasters, which dishearten other men, only stimulated to new courage and endeavor.
I have heard something of his quick temper; that he was indignant at this or that man's behavior, but never that his anger outlasted for a moment the mischief done or threatened to the good cause, or ever stood in the way of his hearty coöperation with the offenders, when they returned to the path of public duty. I look upon him as a type of the American republican. A man of the people, in strictly private life, girt with family ties; an active and intelligent manufacturer and merchant, enlightened enough to see a citizen's interest in the public affairs, and virtu