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(The Biographical Magazine.)
“We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths ;
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This is not the place for an Essay, or we might dilate on the uses of Biography. We might expatiate on the comparative influence of the ideal and the actual, of the dramatis persone in fiction and the veritable man in history. We might contrast in their results law and theory, with life and action --- virtue mirrored in precepts, with virtue incarnated in the individual – intellect portrayed in metaphysical disquisition, with intellect enthroned and inspiring — vice blackened in words, with vice breathing its own loathesome air— ignorance inveighed against, with ignorance bearing its own reproach, and suffering its own inherent ills; we might do all this, and then point to the BIOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE, and leave the reader to draw a practical conclusion. But there would be impropriety in such a course, for however successfully we might plead in behalf of Biography, we could not presume to say that the pages of this periodical are illustrative of all its excellences. Yet we do not undervalue our position; we have at least a task to perform, and opportunities to improve. To interest or inform is something, but to hang the memory with portraitures that warn or encourage is more. We want no hero-worship; but inspiring associations force themselves upon us, when we contemplate the illustrious. There is truth in Longfellow's words, interpreted in their highest sense :
" Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime,
Footprints on the sands of time;
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
Seeing may take heart again.
With a heart for any fate;
Learn to labour and to wait."
The BIOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE, though exclusively devoted to one species of composition, allows of diversity of style and thought. There is nothing more varied in its aspects than character; to trace it through the maze of interchanging motives, to look into its depths, or watch it bursting into action, is an ever fruitful study. There are many questions associated with it continually arising. We ask ourselves, How long is a subjection to any given habits and circumstances requisite, 'to produce a character in harmony with them; and how far, and in what position, is the natural disposition capable of modifying their effect? Or, again, How far is it possible to change a character once formed, and in what period and condition of life is it most
We inquire, moreover, into the influences that mould and make the man: what influences most powerfully affect, and what produce any particular style of individual. We then, perhaps, attempt to discover the amount of influence, which in turn a developed character exerts — the kind of influence — and what character exercises the greatest. Hence we are often led to speculate on the relative excellence of different characters, and on the legitimate position their exemplars should occupy in our estimation. These, and kindred subjects, occur to the writer of Biography ; many a train of thought he must leave for his readers to pursue. Our aim in every sketch is to give a correct idea of the man as he lived and thought. Between our design and our execution, there may be a wide disparity; but in again completing another period of labour, we anticipate the future. Our aim remains the same; our efforts to realise it will be redoubled. Our . object brings before us every species of circumstance and person; and by the principles of intellectual and moral truth, we would test every claim.