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My Father’s Memoir
by [?]


“I praised the dead which are already dead, more than the living which are yet alive.”


23 RUTLAND STREET, 15th August, 1860.

MY DEAR FRIEND,–When, at the urgent request of his trustees and family, and in accordance with what I believe was his own wish, you undertook my father’s Memoir, it was in a measure on the understanding that I would furnish you with some domestic and personal details. This I hoped to have done but was unable.

Though convinced more than ever how little my hand is needed, I will now endeavor to fulfil my promise. Before doing so, however, you must permit me to express our deep gratitude to you for this crowning proof of your regard for him

“Without whose life we had not been;”

to whom for many years you habitually wrote as “My father,” and one of whose best blessings, when he was “such an one as Paul the aged,” was to know that you were to him “mine own son in the gospel.”

With regard to the manner in which you have done this last kindness to the dead, I can say nothing more expressive of our feelings, and, I am sure, nothing more gratifying to you, than that the record you have given of my father’s life, and of the series of great public questions in which he took part, is done in the way which would have been most pleasing to himself–that which, with his passionate love of truth and liberty, his relish for concentrated, just thought and expression, and his love of being loved, he would have most desired, in any one speaking of him after he was gone. He would, I doubt not, say, as one said to a great painter, on looking at his portrait, “It is certainly like, but it is much better looking;” and you might well reply as did the painter, “It is the truth, told lovingly”–and all the more true that it is so told. You have, indeed, been enabled to speak the truth, or as the Greek has it, {aletheuein en agape}–to truth it in love.

I have over and over again sat down to try and do what I promised and wished–to give some faint expression of my father’s life; not of what he did or said or wrote–not even of what he was as a man of God and a public teacher; but what he was in his essential nature–what he would have been had he been anything else than what he was, or had lived a thousand years ago.

Sometimes I have this so vividly in my mind that I think I have only to sit down and write it off, and do it to the quick. “The idea of his life,” what he was as a whole, what was his self, all his days, would,–to go on with words which not time or custom can ever wither or make stale,–

“Sweetly creep
Into my study of imagination;
And every lovely organ of his life
Would come apparelled in more precious habit–
More moving delicate, and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of my soul,
Than when he lived indeed,”

as if the sacredness of death and the bloom of eternity were on it; or as you may have seen in an untroubled lake, the heaven reflected with its clouds, brighter, purer, more exquisite than itself; but when you try to put this into words, to detain yourself over it, it is by this very act disturbed, broken and bedimmed, and soon vanishes away, as would the imaged heavens in the lake, if a pebble were cast into it, or a breath of wind stirred its face. The very anxiety to transfer it, as it looked out of the clear darkness of the past, makes the image grow dim and disappear.