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Biographical Study of A.W. Kinglake   By: (1829-1919)

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It is just eleven years since Kinglake passed away, and his life has not yet been separately memorialized. A few years more, and the personal side of him would be irrecoverable, though by personality, no less than by authorship, he made his contemporary mark. When a tomb has been closed for centuries, the effaced lineaments of its tenant can be re coloured only by the idealizing hand of genius, as Scott drew Claverhouse, and Carlyle drew Cromwell. But, to the biographer of the lately dead, men have a right to say, as Saul said to the Witch of Endor, "Call up Samuel!" In your study of a life so recent as Kinglake's, give us, if you choose, some critical synopsis of his monumental writings, some salvage from his ephemeral and scattered papers; trace so much of his youthful training as shaped the development of his character; depict, with wise restraint, his political and public life: but also, and above all, re clothe him "in his habit as he lived," as friends and associates knew him; recover his traits of voice and manner, his conversational wit or wisdom, epigram or paradox, his explosions of sarcasm and his eccentricities of reserve, his words of winningness and acts of kindness: and, since one half of his life was social, introduce us to the companions who shared his lighter hour and evoked his finer fancies; take us to the Athenaeum "Corner," or to Holland House, and flash on us at least a glimpse of the brilliant men and women who formed the setting to his sparkle; "dic in amicitiam coeant et foedera jungant."

This I have endeavoured to do, with such aid as I could command from his few remaining contemporaries. His letters to his family were destroyed by his own desire; on those written to Madame Novikoff no such embargo was laid, nor does she believe that it was intended. I have used these sparingly, and all extracts from them have been subjected to her censorship. If the result is not Attic in salt, it is at any rate Roman in brevity. I send it forth with John Bunyan's homely aspiration:

And may its buyer have no cause to say, His money is but lost or thrown away.


The fourth decade of the deceased century dawned on a procession of Oriental pilgrims, variously qualified or disqualified to hold the gorgeous East in fee, who, with bakshish in their purses, a theory in their brains, an unfilled diary book in their portmanteaus, sought out the Holy Land, the Sinai peninsula, the valley of the Nile, sometimes even Armenia and the Monte Santo, and returned home to emit their illustrated and mapped octavos. We have the type delineated admiringly in Miss Yonge's "Heartsease," {1} bitterly in Miss Skene's "Use and Abuse," facetiously in the Clarence Bulbul of "Our Street." "Hang it! has not everybody written an Eastern book? I should like to meet anybody in society now who has not been up to the Second Cataract. My Lord Castleroyal has done one an honest one; my Lord Youngent another an amusing one; my Lord Woolsey another a pious one; there is the 'Cutlet and the Cabob' a sentimental one; Timbuctoothen a humorous one." Lord Carlisle's honesty, Lord Nugent's fun, Lord Lindsay's piety, failed to float their books. Miss Martineau, clear, frank, unemotional Curzon, fuddling the Levantine monks with rosoglio that he might fleece them of their treasured hereditary manuscripts, even Eliot Warburton's power, colouring, play of fancy, have yielded to the mobility of Time. Two alone out of the gallant company maintain their vogue to day: Stanley's "Sinai and Palestine," as a Fifth Gospel, an inspired Scripture Gazetteer; and "Eothen," as a literary gem of purest ray serene.

In 1898 a reprint of the first edition was given to the public, prefaced by a brief eulogium of the book and a slight notice of the author. It brought to the writer of the "Introduction" not only kind and indulgent criticism, but valuable corrections, fresh facts, clues to further knowledge... Continue reading book >>

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