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of might, the other by the good new plan of right: autocratdemocrat. They were alike in this—that both were intensely interesting personalities; both were moved by imagination; and both acquired remarkable power of expression. One used this power to carry out his own sometimes wise, sometimes selfish, purposes; to deceive and to dominate; the other for the expression of truth and the persuasion of his fellow
Napoleon's literary art was the making of phrases which pierced like a Corsican knife or tingled the blood like the call of a trumpet. His words went to their mark quick as a stroke of lightning. When he speaks it is as if an earthquake had passed under one's feet.
Lincoln's style is very differ
ent; heroic, appealing, gracious or humorous, it does not much startle as melt the heart. These men were alike in this, that they learned to express themselves by dint of long practice, and both in youth wrote much nonsense. Napoleon in his young days wrote romance and history; Lincoln wrote verse and composed speeches. Napoleon failed as a literary man; Lincoln certainly did not make any great success as a lyceum lecturer; in fact, his style was at its best only when his whole heart was enlisted.
Lincoln's style, at its best, is characterized by great simplicity and directness, which in themselves are artistic qualities. In addition there is an agreeable cadence, not overdone except in one curious instance,-a passage of the Second Inaugural,- where it deflects into actual rhythm and rhyme: Fondly do we hope-fervently do we
prayThat this mighty scourge of war may
speedily pass away.
This does not spoil, but it somewhat injures, one of the most memorable of his writings.
Then there is in Lincoln a quaintness, a homeliness and humor of illustration, along with a most engaging frankness and intellectual honesty. The reader has both an intellectual and moral satisfaction in the clearness and fairness of the statement.
All this affects agreeably the literary form, and helps to give Lincoln's style at times the charm of imaginative utterance; for imagination in literature is, essentially, the faculty of seeing clearly and the
art of stating clearly the actual reality. There was nothing of invention in Lincoln's imagination; his was the imagination that is implied in a strong realization of the truth of things in the mind of the writer or speaker.
When these letters and speeches of Lincoln were appearing in the papers as part of the news of the day, I wonder how many of us who were then living appreciated them from the literary point of view. I remember that at a certain period, some time after the war, I seemed for the first time to awake fully to the attraction of Lincoln's style. Beginning with the inimitable speech at Gettysburg, I reread many of his writings, and felt everywhere his genius for expression.
Where and how did Lincoln
gain this mastery of expression ? He said of himself:
The aggregate of all his schooling did not amount to one year. He was never in a college or academy as a student. What he has in the way of education he has picked up. After he was twenty-three and had separated from his father, he studied English grammar-imperfectly, of course, but so as to speak and write as well as he now does. He studied and nearly mastered the six books of Euclid since he was a member of Con. gress. He regrets his want of edu. cation and does what he can to supply the want.
As a boy at home we are told that he would write, and do sums in arithmetic, on the wooden shovel by the fireside, shaving off the used surface and beginning again. At nineteen it is recorded that he “had read every