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duced upon the mind by a study of Plato's works is a firm conviction that he was a believer in immortality; and, although some of his arguments are inconclusive, the reader is insensibly led to admit the probability at least of his conclusions. Mr. Browne then arranges the Platonic dialogues, and, after briefly but clearly explaining them, adds :-" The above is necessarily but an imperfect sketch of a few features of that great and comprehensive mind, which fearlessly attacked every subject of human contemplation, which analysed all preceding philosophy, and left so rich a legacy to posterity that the deepest thinkers of every age and nation have chosen him for their master and their guide.”
Aristotle, his eventful life and numerous and important writings, come next under observation, and form a conclusion to a most agreeable and valuable history of Greek literature: valuable for its conciseness and correctness—for its wide scope of subjects and for the vast general information it supplies : of the greatest value to those who desire to have right views of the subject, but with whom neither leisure nor opportunity are afforded to examine into it satisfactorily to themselves; whilst to the student and to all to whom the attainment of Greek literature is essential, these volumes will be found great helps and highly useful guides, clearing the ground before them of all incumbrances, and enabling them with the greatest facility to prosecute their further and deeper researches.
There will be some, doubtless, who are tolerably conversant with the subject, who will be disposed to be critical, and complain that some one particularly favourite Greek writer has been almost, if not altogether, overlooked, or has not been in their judgment sufficiently commended. Indeed, we all have our little fancies and prejudices in this matter, and we are all sensible to the delicate flattery of having the authors of our admiration admired by others, and our favourable opinion of them confirmed by those whose judgment and decision all will assent to; but the criticism that is founded on such feelings, and the observations to which it would generally and naturally give rise, will in no way whatever affect, in truth, the general character of this most interesting work nor detract from its usefulness. It is, doubtless, not faultlesswhat work of man is? and there are numerous chapters where many of ourselves might very well imagine that we could make some additions and supply other information both pertinent and valuable; but as a whole there are few men in the kingdom who could have written what Mr. Browne has here written--so tersely, so clearly, so learnedly, so philosophically. We may have our own views and opinions of certain characters, and we may have come to a different conclusion from the professor as to the good or bad influence of their writings upon their respective generations; but all this says nothing against the general merits of the work. Even Colonel Mure, learnedly and elaborately as he argued, fully and ably as he reasoned, and cleverly as he has written, has yet failed to persuade the whole world to adopt all his opinions and to receive as truths all his conclusions; hut, among all candid and unprejudiced scholars, there will be but one opinion, that Mr. Browne has deserved well of the whole literary world by this ably written and well-timed publication,
ART. V.—The Life of John Sterling. By THOMAS CAR
LYLE. London: Chapman and Hall. 1851.
IT is something remarkable to find that an individual who died comparatively young and effected comparatively nothing-who possessed merely the simple virtues that adorn the moral man, never, indeed, swerving therefrom-who has not left a line behind him which the general reading world will not have forgotten before another decade of years—it is something remarkable, we say, to find that such a person, since whose death seven years have barely elapsed, should already have been honoured by two biographies, and his name be held in the memory of his friends and their children by the institution of a club formed in his lifetime, still existing, and made up of members of various shades of belief both religious and political.
Such, however, is the fact; and the second biography is now before us. Its author, Mr. Carlyle, justifies the feat he has just performed by accusing the author of the first biography, Archdeacon Hare—(both gentlemen are the literary executors of the late John Sterling)—of incapacity ; inasmuch as that the archdeacon is a Churchman and treats Sterling's religious phases after a fashion which Carlyle thinks cannot, or ought not, to interest laymen. The impression conveyed by either work is that Sterling was a highly honourable, sensitive, and impressionable young man. Archdeacon Hare employed the influences that were in his power to keep Sterling a faithful son in that Church of which he was, for a brief term, an ordained and an exemplary minister. The influences of Mr. Carlyle appear to us, from this biography, to have been exerted in an opposite direction. Sterling; between his two
biographers, stands like the German student between the minister of revealed truth and—we use the word without intending offence, only as illustrating a strong contrast-between the minister of revealed truth and Mephistopheles. The latter not, indeed, here of the same origin as his namesake of old, but scarcely less mischievous. If he lacked success in shaking into hideous ruin the edifice of Sterling's original belief, it was not for want of energy, as this book shows, in assailing it. To that record we will now direct our attention.
On the 20th day of July, 1806, John Sterling was born at Kaimes Castle, a farm rented by his father, an old militia and unattached captain, in the romantic island of Bute. His grandfather was, in his day, a clergyman of the Established Church in Waterford, and among his ancestors was Sir Robert Sterling, a cavalier who measured swords with the Cromwellians in Ireland, and who got well recompensed therefore in lands, when the King obtained his own again. The father of John, Edward Sterling, a somewhat obstreporous and versatile Irishman, was well-known for a brief season as the particular “thunderer” of the Times: his mother was a native of Derry, and was a gentle true-hearted woman.
After tumbling about the heather in Bute for the first three years of his life, John was carried with his brother and sisters-of whom the former, a captain in the army, is the sole survivor—to Llanblethin, a pretty village in Glamorganshire, where the peasantry “seem indolent and stagnant, but peaceable and well-provided, and much given to Methodism when they have any character.” In this spot Sterling passed five years; picked up reading at the village school; and, though he learned to write, failed in attaining any degree in penmanship that could entitle him to be called a calligraphist. During this period his father was somewhat actively engaged as adjutant of the Glamorganshire Militia, and wiled away his leisure hours by writing long letters to the Times touching on contemporary topics, and bearing the not very suggestive signature of Vetus. From the seas that roar round Bute to the placid beauties of a vale in Glamorganshire great was the change: a greater still was experienced when, in 1814, the family transmigrated to France, and sat down at Passy in full view of the most noisy of capitals and uncleanest of rivers—Paris and the Seine. What could be gathered by way of instruction in ten months was, no doubt, diligently effected. At the end of that time came the Hejira, and the whole family were in flight for England, for no other
metropol but salted in or more the man friend of
reason than because a little man had landed, hundreds of miles away from them, at Cannes, with a few chosen friends and one or two very particular objects. As the man's name was Napoleon, and his purpose rather more than suspicious, the Sterlings were quite justified in exchanging the pot au feu at Passy for simpler but safer fare in London.
Here, in the metropolis or in its suburbs, the family resided, and the tragic register of their household bears record of deaths, within six years, of three little daughters and two sons. “For little Edward, his next younger brother, who died at the age of nine, John copied out in large schoolhand a history of Valentine and Orson to beguile the poor child's sickness, which ended in death soon, leaving a sad cloud on John.” The latter soon had work to do which banished the memory of young sorrows. At Dr. Burney's school at Greenwich, during the years 1818-19, we find him a fine, joyous, gallant, petulant, self-willed boy, difficult to manage; yet ever ready to serve, and especially willing to help slower intellects through difficulties which were none to hin. At this school he exhibited the first ruling trait of his character by running away from it. Impatience of his present position seemed, according to his biographer, to have always distinguished him. He made his way down to Dover by unblushingly telling on the road a string of very bold falsehoods. Finding he could get no further, he wrote home to his mother for help to return, narrating the whole matter in a “steady historical style, not in the least apologising." That poor gentle mother wept, forgave, aided, and received. The father's household control appears to have been wanting when most needed. His pursuits often carrying him into town and detaining him late there—(the family residence was then at Blackheath)——“she would sit (says Mr. Carlyle) among her sleeping children, such of them as death had still spared, perhaps thriftily plying her needle, full of mournful, affectionate, night thoughts—apprehensive, too, in her tremulous heart, that the head of the house might have fallen among robbers in his way homewards.”
At the age of sixteen, having some little Latin, less Greek, a touch of Euclid, and a habit of writing prose compositions, John was sent to Glasgow University, whence, after spending a year and obtaining “some tuition from Mr. Jacobson, then a senior-fellow student, now (1851) the learned editor of St. Basil and Regius Professor of Divinity in Oxford,” he repaired, in the autumn of 1824, to Trinity College, Cambridge; and there he had the good fortune of pos
a seand obtaining cock University, woke composi.
sessing for a tutor “ Julius Hare, now the distinguished Archdeacon of Lewes.” Mr. Carlyle agrees with the original biographer of Sterling that the latter was not a very exact scholar. At the Pierian spring he had often dipped deeply enough, but his flights were discursive-uncertain; and the result was that, though he learned much of many things, he did not learn enough of the prescribed things, which, obtained, are rich in the produce of honours and consequent reputation. But what of that? Mr. Carlyle holds that a boy is made a true man, not by obediently applying himself to the duty enjoined, but by boldly indulging in what is forbidden. “The illicit boating and the things forbidden by the schoolmaster---these I often notice, in my Eton acquaintances, are the things that have done them good there, and not their inconsiderable or considerable knowledge of the Greek accidence almost at all."
There was once a man, almost as wise as Mr. Carlyle, who recommended that a child should be trained in the way he was to go. The teacher of modern wisdom has another instruction. In disregard of the law he sees the perfection of man. Eve had to listen to something like this from the serpent, and Adam accepted the maxim ; but the disobedience of the first man only entailed ruin on himself and his long race of sons.
Sterling himself affords us, in some small measure, an example to the point. He held companionship, indeed, with men who followed many of the same pursuits as he also did ; but they all attended to the prescribed course too, and reaped fame and honour in proportion. What was the case with Sterling? His ostensible object was to take a degree in law, “which intention (as Mr. Carlyle more strongly puts it), like many others with him, came to nothing." He left Cambridge in 1827, after about two years residence, without a degree. Let us see what sort of training he had submitted to while in residence. Mr. Carlyle shall tell it himself. He narrates with unction the doing of things forbidden--things which make the man :
“ They had among them a debating society, called the - Union, where on stated evenings was much logic, and other spiritual fencing and ingenious collision-probably, of a really superior quality in that kind; for not a few of their disputants have since proved themselves men of parts and attained distinction in the intellectual walks of lifeFrederic Maurice, Richard Trench, John Kemble, Spedding, Venables, Charles Buller, Richard Milnes, and others. I have heard that, in speaking and arguing, Sterling was the acknowledged chief in this