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Select Speeches of Kossuth   By: (1802-1894)

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Condensed and abridged, with Kossuth's express sanction ,

by Francis W. Newman.


Nothing appears in history similar to the enthusiasm roused by Kossuth in nations foreign to him, except perhaps the kindling for the First Crusade by the voice of Peter the Hermit. Then bishops, princes, and people alike understood the danger which overshadowed Europe from the Mohammedan powers; and by soundly directed, though fanatical instinct, all Christendom rushed eastward, till the chivalry of the Seljuk Turks was crippled on the fields of Palestine. Now also the multitudes of Europe, uncorrupted by ambition, envy, or filthy lucre, forebode the deadly struggle impending over us all from the conspiracy of crowned heads. Seeing the apathy of their own rulers, and knowing, perhaps by dim report, the deeds of Kossuth, they look to him as the Great Prophet and Leader, by whom Policy is at length to be moulded into Justice; and are ready to catch his inspiration before he has uttered a word. Kossuth undoubtedly is a mighty Orator; but no one is better aware than he, that the cogency of his arguments is due to the atrocity of our common enemies, and the enthusiasm which he kindles to the preparations of the people's heart.

His orations are a tropical forest, full of strength and majesty, tangled in luxuriance, a wilderness of self repetition. Utterly unsuited to form a book without immense abridgment, they contain materials adapted equally for immediate political service and for permanence as a work of wisdom and of genius. To prepare them for the press is an arduous and responsible duty: the best excuse which I can give for having assumed it, is, that it has been to me a labour of love. My task I have felt to be that of a judicious reporter, who cuts short what is of temporary interest, condenses what is too amplified for his limits and for written style, severely prunes down the repetitions which are inevitable where numerous[] audiences are addressed by the same man on the same subject, yet amid all these necessary liberties retains not only the true sentiments and arguments of the speaker, but his forms of thought and all that is characteristic of his genius. Such an operation, rightly performed, may, like a diminishing mirror, concentrate the brilliancy of diffuse orations, and assist their efficacy on minds which would faint under the effort of grasping the original.

[Footnote : The number of speeches, great and small, spoken in his American half year, is reckoned to be above 500.]

It is true, the exuberance of Kossuth is often too Asiatic for English taste, and that excision of words, which needful abridgment suggests, will often seem to us a gain. Moreover, remembering that he is a foreigner, and though marvellous in his mastery of our language, still naturally often unable to seize the word, or select the construction which he desired, I have not thought I should show honour to him by retaining anything verbally unskilful. To a certain cautious extent, I account myself to be a translator , as well as a reporter , and in undertaking so delicate a duty, I am happy to announce that I have received Kossuth's written approval and thanks. Mere quaintness of expression I have by no means desired entirely to remove, where it involved nothing grotesque, obscure, or monotonous. In several passages where I imperfectly understood the thought, I have had the advantage of Kossuth's personal explanations, which have enabled me to clear up the defective report, or real obscurities of his words.

Nevertheless I have to confess my conviction, that nothing can wholly compensate for the want of systematic revision by the author himself; which his great occupations have made impossible. The mistakes in the reports of the speeches are sometimes rather subtle, and have not roused my suspicion. Of this I have been, made disagreeably sensible, by several errata communicated to me by Kossuth in the first great speech at New York, here marked as No... Continue reading book >>

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