Part 5 out of 5
prolificness amidst surroundings which would have paralyzed most men
into stark sterility admits of ready elucidation. Besides being
endowed with great physical vigor and enjoying uninterrupted health.
Fuller never wasted a moment, was an unweariable student at odd hours,
and moreover supplemented the advantage of a matchless memory by the
strictest observance of method. Taken for all in all, he was without
question one of the most remarkable of Englishmen--not of his own age
merely, but of all bygone ages. "Next to Shakespeare," says Coleridge,
"I am not certain whether Thomas Fuller, beyond all other writers,
does not excite in me the sense and emotion of the marvelous....
Fuller was incomparably the most sensible, the least prejudiced, great
man of an age that boasted a galaxy of great men." Others among his
countrymen have been more learned, and others have surpassed him in
this or that special faculty, but the whole that we have in him it
would be hard to find a parallel to. Culeridge emphasizes the equity
of his judgment; and this point is one regarding which there can be no
diversity of opinion. As to his wit, granting that its quality may
here and there be somewhat inferior, still, it has probably never been
surpassed in quantity by any one man. It has the laudable character,
too, of being nearly always impersonal, and while it amuses it almost
in equal measure instructs. Had Fuller, with his mental agility and
his mastery of incisive diction, been poisoned with the bile of Swift,
it is terrible to think what a repertory of biting sarcasms and
envenomed repartees he might have transmitted for the study and
imitation of cynics and sneerers. Bitterer enemies no man ever had to
contend against; and unenviable indeed must have been their
disappointment at finding themselves wholly impotent to discompose his
sage and large-hearted serenity. So impressive, withal, is his spirit
of toleration and benevolence that a diligent reader of his pages is,
as it were, perforce imbued by it. Indeed, we know of few writers whom
we can point to with more confidence as calculated, in antidote to the
fret and chafe inseparable from existence in our day, to induce a tone
of repose and resignation in ourselves, and a disposition to take
charity as our watchword in our dealings with others.
From Fuller we pass to Fuller's new biographer, the only biographer he
has hitherto had that at all deserves the appellation. A completer
life-history than that which Mr. Bailey has produced is of rare
occurrence in English literature. There was no motive for his keeping
back anything that is known of Fuller; and he has really enabled us to
form wellnigh as distinct an idea of the portly and cheery old divine
as if we had known him in the flesh. Faithful to rigid justice while
reproducing the warmly eulogistic judgments which have been passed on
Fuller, especially in this century, he has given us a circumstantial
account of the censures which were denounced on him by microscopic and
malevolent criticasters and Dryasdusts among his contemporaries. Some
of the censures referred to were grounded on the multitudinous
dedications in which Fuller indulged; and, in truth, it strikes one as
rather singular to find, as in his _Church History_, not only every
book, but every section of a book, prefaced by a long string of
compliments addressed to a separate dedicatee. But these dedications
meant money, and Fuller was poor. Furthermore, if in his necessity he
flattered, his flattery was, for the most part, of a kind not
irreconcilable with due self-respect on the part of the flatterer. It
is a very different thing from the nauseous adulation to which
Dryden--to name but one out of numerous kindred offenders--consented
to abase himself. As auxiliary to a full understanding of Fuller in
his social relations, his dedications are now of prime value. Though
many of them are inscribed to persons else quite unknown to fame, with
a good number of them it is otherwise; and they serve, by the
information which they embody, to show that Fuller was on terms of
familiar intimacy with a whole host of notabilities in Church and
State. Of these personages, and so of many others with whom Fuller
associated, Mr. Bailey, heedful of the adage _noscitur a sociis_, has
compiled very satisfactory sketches, derived in all cases from the
most trustworthy authorities. In addition to a Life of Fuller, he has
thus gone far to give us a sort of biographical dictionary of the
leading men, political and ecclesiastical, who rallied round the
unfortunate First Charles, and who used their most strenuous diligence
to save his desperate cause from shipwreck.
One who has already made acquaintance with Fuller's writings must feel
animated, under the guidance of the new light now thrown upon them, to
renew that acquaintance; and he to whom the wise and witty old worthy
is as yet a stranger must, unless obdurately insensible, be moved to a
suspicion that he ought to remain a stranger no longer. To Mr. Bailey
we are beholden alike for a biography of the first excellence, and for
a sterling contribution to the history of an era which possesses
undying interest for every Englishman, be he conservative, liberal or
republican; and for every intelligent American as well. We are given
to understand that the author has now in contemplation the publishing
of Fuller's sermons, of which there has never been a collective
edition, and of which several are among the rarest books in our
language. The design is one which challenges the furtherance of every
lover of good literature; and the _Life_, which, in parting, we
emphatically commend to our readers, should avail to secure for it the
encouragement it unquestionably merits.
* * * * *
The Greville Memoirs: A Journal of the Reigns of King George
IV. and King William IV. By Charles C.F. Greville.
Bric-a-Brac Series. New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Co.
The Bhagavad Gita. Translated from the Sanskrit by J. Cockburn
Thompson. Chicago: Religio--Philosophical Publishing House. S.S.
A Practical and Critical Grammar of the English Language. By Noble
Butler. Louisville, Ky.: J.P. Morton & Co.
The Puddleford Papers; or, Humors of the West. By H.H. Riley. Boston:
Lee & Shepard.
Critical and Historical Essays. Contributed by Lord Macaulay. New
York: Albert Mason.
For Better or Worse. By Jennie Cunningham Croley. Boston: Lee &
Three Essays on Religion. By John Stuart Mill. New York: Henry Holt &
The Babes in the Wood. By James De Mille. Boston: W.F. Gill & Co.
School of Singing. By F.W. Root. Chicago: George F. Root & Sons.
Treasure-Trove. Central Falls, R.I.: E.L. Freeman & Co.
Our Helen. By Sophie May. Boston; Lee & Shepard.