« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
clamps and bolts, fathoms deep, in the living rock, as easily as a gardener pulls a weed from his flower border.
5. There was, in fact, a manifest sympathy between his great mind and this world-surrounding, deep-heaving, measureless, everlasting, infinite deep. His thoughts and conversation often turned upon it, and its great organic relations with other parts of nature and with man. I have heard him allude to the mysterious analogy between the circulation carried on by veins and arteries, heart and lungs, and that wonderful interchange of venous and arterial blood — that miraculous complication which lies at the basis of animal life — and that equally complicated and more stupendous circulation of river, ocean, vapor, and rain, which from the fresh currents of the rivers fills the depths of the salt sea; then by vaporous distillation carries the waters which are under the firmament up to the cloudy cisterns of the waters above the firmament; wafts them on the dripping wings of the wind against the mountain sides, precipitates them to the earth in the form of rain, and leads them again through a thousand channels, open and secret, to the beds of the rivers, and so back to the sea.
6. Were I to fix upon any one trait as the prominent trait of Mr. Webster's personal character, it would be his social disposition, his loving heart. If there ever was a person who felt all the meaning of the divine utterance, “ It is not good that man should be alone,” it was he. Notwithstanding the vast resources of his own mind, and the materials for self-communion laid up in the storehouse of such an intellect, few men whom I have known have been so little addicted to solitary and meditative introspection; to few have social intercourse, sympathy, and communion with kindred or friendly spirits been so grateful and even necessary.
7. He loved to live with his friends, with "good, pleasant men who loved him.” This was his delight, alike when oppressed with his multiplied cares of office at Washington, and when enjoying the repose and quiet of Marshfield. He loved to meet his friends at the social board, because it is there that men most cast off the burden of business and thought; there, as Cicero says, that conversation is sweetest; there that the kindly affections have the fullest play.
8. By the social sympathies thus cultivated, the genial consciousness of individual existence becomes more intense. And who that ever enjoyed it can forget the charm of his hospitality, so liberal, so choice, so thoughtful? In the very last days of his life, and when confined to the couch from which he never rose, he continued to give minute directions for the hospitable entertainment of the anxious and sorrowful friends who came to Marshfield.
9. If he enjoyed society himself, how much he contributed to its enjoyment by others! His colloquial powers were, I think, quite equal to his parliamentary and forensic talent. He had something instructive or ingenious to say on the most familiar occasion. In his playful mood he was not afraid to trifle; but he never prosed, never indulged in commonplace, never dogmatized, was never affected. His range of information was so vast, his observation so acute and accurate, his tact in separating the important from the unessential so nice, his memory so retentive, his command of language so great, that his common table talk, if taken down from his lips, would have stood the test of publication.
10. He had a keen sense of the ludicrous, and repeated or listened to a humorous anecdote with infinite glee. He narrated with unsurpassed clearness, brevity, and graceno tedious, unnecessary details to spin out the story, the fault of most professed raconteurs -- but its main points set each
in its place, so as often to make a little dinner-table epic, but all naturally and without effort. He delighted in anecdotes of eminent men, especially of eminent Americans, and his memory was stored with them. He would sometimes briefly discuss a question in natural history, relative, for instance, to climate, or the races and habits and breeds of the different domestic animals, or the various kinds of our native game, for he knew the secrets of the forest.
II. He delighted to treat a topic drawn from life, manner, and the great industrial pursuits of the community; and he did it with such spirit and originality as to throw a charm around subjects which, in common hands, are trivial and uninviting. Nor were the stores of our sterling literature less at his command. He had such an acquaintance with the great writers of our language, especially the historians and poets, as enabled him to enrich his conversation with the most apposite allusions and illustrations. When the occasion and character of the company invited it, his conversation turned on higher themes, and sometimes rose to the moral sublime.
12. He was not fond of the technical language of metaphysics, but he had grappled, like the giant he was, with its most formidable problems. Dr. Johnson was wont to say of Burke, that a stranger who should chance to meet him under a shed in a shower of rain, would say, “ This was an extraordinary man.” A stranger who did not know Mr. Webster might have passed a day with him, in his seasons of relaxation, without detecting the jurist or the statesman; but he could not pass a half hour with him without coming to the conclusion that he was one of the best informed of men.
13 His personal appearance contributed to the attraction of his social intercourse. His countenance, frame, ex
pression, and presence arrested and fixed attention. You could not pass him unnoticed in a crowd; nor fail to observe in him a man of high mark and character. could see him and not wish to see more of him, and this alike in public and private.
- EDWARD EVERETT.
XIII. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
1. His predominant passion seems to have been the love of the useful. The useful was to him the summum bonum, the supremely fair, the sublime and beautiful, which it may not, perhaps, be extravagant to believe he was in quest of every week for half a century. No department was too plain or humble for him to occupy himself in for this purpose; and, in affairs of the most unambitious order, this was still systematically his object. Whether in the construction of chimneys or of constitutions, lecturing on the saving of candles or on the economy of national revenues, he was still intent on the same end; the question always being how to obtain the most of solid, tangible advantage, by the plainest and easiest means.
2. There has rarely been a mortal of high intelligence and flattering fame on whom the pomps of life were so powerless. On him were completely thrown away the oratorical and poetical heroics about glory, of which heroics it was enough that he easily perceived the intention or effect to be to explode all sober truth and substantial good, and to impel men, at the very best of the matter, through some career of vanity, but commonly through mischief, slaughter, and devastation, in mad pursuit of what amounts at last, if attained, to some certain quantity of noise, and empty show, and intoxicated transient elation.
He was so far an admirable spirit for acting the mentor to a young republic.
3. It will not be his fault if the citizens of America shall ever become so servile to European example as to think a multitude of supernumerary places, enormous salaries, and a privileged order, a necessary security or decoration of that political liberty which they enjoy in preeminence above every other nation on earth. In the letters of their patriarch and philosopher, they will be amply warned, by repeated and emphatic representations, of the desperate mischief of a political system in which the public resources shall be expended in a way to give the government both the interest and the means to corrupt the people.
4. His cheerfulness and his colloquial powers spread around him a perpetual spring. Of Franklin no one ever became tired. There was no ambition of eloquence, no effort to shine, in anything which came from him. There was nothing which made any demand either upon your allegiance or your admiration. His manner was as unaffected as infancy. It was nature's self. He talked like an old patriarch; and his plainness and simplicity put you at once at your ease, and gave you the full and free possession and use of all your faculties. His thoughts were of a character to shine by their own light, without any adventitious aid. They required only a medium of vision like his pure and simple style to exhibit, to the highest advantage, their native radiance and beauty. His cheerfulness was unremitting. It seemed to be as much the effect of the systematic and salutary exercise of the mind as of its superior organization.
5. His wit was of the first order. It did not show itself merely in occasional coruscations; but, without any effort