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among the greatest masters of prose ever produced by the English race. Self-educated, or rather not educated at all in the ordinary sense, as he was, he contrived to
obtain an insight and power in the handling of the 5 mechanism of letters such as has been given to few men
of his, or, indeed, in any age. That the gift of oratory should be a natural gift, is understandable enough, for the methods of the orator, like those of the poet, are
primarily sensuous, and may well be instinctive. Mr. 10 Lincoln's achievement seems to show that no less is the writing of prose an endowment of Nature. Mr. Lincoln did not get his ability to handle prose through his gift of speech. That these are separate, though co
ordinate, faculties, is a matter beyond dispute, for many 15 of the great orators of the world have proved them
selves exceedingly inefficient in the matter of deliberate composition. Mr. Lincoln enjoyed both gifts. His letters, dispatches, memoranda, and written addresses are
even better than his speeches; and in speaking thus of 20 Jr. Lincoln's prose, we are not thinking merely of
certain pieces of inspired rhetoric. We do not praise his work because, like Mr. Bright, he could exercise his power of coining illuminating phrases as effectively
upon paper as on the platform. It is in his conduct of 25 the pedestrian portions of composition that Mr. Lin
coln's genius for prose style is exhibited. Mr. Bright's writing cannot claim to answer the description which IIazlitt has given of the successful prose-writer's per
formance. Mr. Lincoln's can. What Hazlitt says is 30 complete and perfect in definition. He tells us that the
prose-writer so uses his pen “that he loses no particle of the exact characteristic extreme impression of the thing he writes about;" and with equal significance he points out that “the prose-writer is master of his ma
perfect his pen streme mual signi
terials," as "the poet is the slave of his style.” If these words convey a true definition, then Mr. Lincoln is a master of prose. Whatever the subject he has in hand, whether it be bald or impassioned, business-like or pathetic, we feel that we “lose no particle of the 5 exact characteristic extreme impression” of the thing written about. We have it all, and not merely a part. Every line shows that the writer is master of his materials; that he guides the words, never the words him. This is, indeed, the predominant note throughout all 10 Mr. Lincoln's work. We feel that he is like the engineer who controls some mighty reservoir. As he desires, he opens the various sluice-gates, but for no instant is the water not under his entire control. We are sensible in reading Mr. Lincoln's writings, that an 15 immense force is gathered up behind him, and that in each jet that flows, every drop is meant. Some writers only leak; others half flow through determined channels, half leak away their words like a broken lock when it is emptying. The greatest, like Mr. Lincoln, 20 send out none but clear-shaped streams.
The “Second Inaugural”—a written composition, though read to the citizens from the steps of the Capitol-well illustrates our words. Mr. Lincoln had to tell his countrymen, that, after four years' struggle, the war 25 was practically ended. The four years agony, the passion of love which he felt for his country, his joy in her salvation, his sense of tenderness for those who fell, of pity mixed with sternness for the men who had deluged the land with blood,—all the thoughts these 30 feelings inspired were behind Lincoln pressing for expression. A writer of less power would have been overwhelmed. Lincoln remained master of the emotional and intellectual situation. In three or four hundred
roje tala of the adequats conceive ads its les pres
words that burn with the heat of their compression, he tells the history of the war and reads its lesson. No nobler thoughts were ever conceived. No man ever
found words more adequate to his desire. Here is the 5 whole tale of the nation's shame and misery, of her
heroic struggles to free herself therefrom, and of her victory. Had Lincoln written a hundred times as much more, he could not have said more fully what he desired
to say. Every thought receives its complete expression 10 and there is no word employed which does not directly
and manifestly contribute to the development of the central thought.
As an example of Lincoln's more familiar style, we may quote from that inimitable series of letters to his 15 generals to which we made allusion on a former oc
casion. The following letter was addressed to General Hooker on his being appointed to command the Army of the Potomac, after mismanagement and failure had
made a change of generals absolutely necessary:20 "I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac.
Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satis
fied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilful soldier, 25 which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics
with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds,
does good rather than harm; but I think that, during General 30 Burnside's command of the army, you have taken counsel of
your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother-officer. I have heard, in
such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both 35 the army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it
was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than 5 it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit, which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were 10 alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.".
It is possible that this letter may sound too severe in 15 tone when read without the context. If, however, the condition of the army at the time, and the intrigues of the various commanders are considered, it will be recognized as erring in no way on the side of harshness. The irony is particularly delightful, and in no 20 sense forced. ...
The first draft of most of Washington's state papers was prepared by others. The papers were not, however, given out until revised, well considered, digested, and rewritten by Washington himself. In 1792, Madison, at Washington's request, furnished him a draft of an address to the American people on Washington's expected retirement. Having been prevailed upon to accept a second term, Washington did not again take up the project of a farewell address until 1796. The address was dated September 17, 1796, and contains some suggestions from Madison's former draft and some from Hamilton. "The copy from which the final draft was printed ... is wholly in the handwriting of Washington. It bears all the marks of a most rigid and laborious revision.” Sparks: Writings of Washington, Vol. XII, appendix.
THE OCCASION AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES. What is excellent in literature is preserved because of the universal element of truth and the evidence of great personality in it. Even though utterly ignorant of the historical facts back of Washington's Farewell Address and unacquainted with the life of Washington, a reader could not miss the appeal of the great national principles which the address embodies; nor could he escape the feeling that he is in the presence of a great and admirable personality. A knowledge of the facts and of the life, however, would greatly deepen appreciation. Recall in connection with the introduction of the address (p. 35–p. 38, l. 15) the great debt of gratitude which the country owed to Washington for his services in the Revolution. Recall the fact that he was probably the only American who could have gotten the new government under way amid the perplexities that arose after the dismal failure of the old Confederation. Recall the bitter