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ful execution of justice upon evil-doers, coupled with a stern and rigorous concession of all that is right in the law of nature and of God to every man. All that is necessary for the protection of life and limb, and liberty and property—all that constitutes human freedom—this, and nothing less than this, will be the remedy for the evil of which the Minister of the Interior complains.
I look very hopefully to what may be the effect of this meeting. Do not let us overrate it. If we believe that this meeting will have done the work, and that we may cease to speak, its effect will not be what we desire. Let us not underrate it either. I believe that all through the United Kingdom there will be a response to this meeting. Manchester and Birmingham have begun; and wheresoever the English tongue is spoken throughout the world, that which your lordship has said so eloquently and so powerfully will be known. I believe at the very moment we are assembled here, a meeting of the same kind is assembled in New York; and what passes here will be translated into every language of Europe, and will pass even the frontiers of Russia. Like the light and the air, it cannot be excluded, and wheresoever there is human sympathy, the declarations that are made here and elsewhere will meet with a response that will tend to put an end to these horrible atrocities.
There is a book, my lord, which is common to the race of Israel and to us Christians. That book is a bond between us, and in that book I read that the people of Israel are the eldest people upon the earth. Russia, and Austria, and England are of yesterday compared with the imperishable people which, with an inextinguishable life and immutable traditions, and faith in God and in the laws of God, scattered as it is all over the world, passing through the fires unscathed, trampled into the dust, and yet never combining with the dust into which it is trampled, lives still a witness and a warning to us. We are in the bonds of brotherhood with it. The New Testament rests upon the Old. They believe in half of that for which we would give our lives. Let us then acknowledge that we unite in a common sympathy. I read in that book these words, "I am angry with a great anger with the wealthy nations that are at ease, because I was a little angry with Israel, and they helped forward the affliction." That is, my people were scattered; they suffered unknown and unimaginable sufferings, and the nations of the world that dwelt at ease and were wealthy, and had power in their hands, helped forward a very weighty affliction which was upon them all.
My lord, I only hope this—that not one man in England who calls himself a civilized or Christian man will have it in his heart to add by a single word to that which this great and ancient and noble people suffer; but that we shall do all we can by labor, by speech, and by prayer to lessen if it be possible, or at least to keep ourselves from sharing in sympathy with these atrocious deeds.
[Address by Brander Matthews, author, Professor of American literature in Columbia University, New York City (born in New
Orleans, La., February 21, 1852; ), delivered before the National
Educational Association, July 8, 1896.]
The history of mankind is little more than the list of the civilizations that have arisen one on the ruin of the other, the Roman supplanting the Greek, as the Assyrian had been ousted by the Babylonian. The life of each of these successive civilizations was proportioned to the vitality of the ideas by which it was animated; and we cannot estimate it or even understand it except in so far as we are able to grasp these underlying principles. What the ideas were which dominated these vanished civilizations it is for us to discover for ourselves as best we may by a study of all the records they left behind them, and especially by a reverent examination of their laws, their arts, and their writings in so far as these have been preserved to us. Of all these relics of peoples now dead and gone, none is so instructive as literature, and none is so interesting; by its aid we are enabled to reconstruct the past, as we are also helped to understand the present.
Of the literatures which thus explain to us our fellow man as he was and as he is, three seem to me preeminent, standing out and above the others not only by reason of the greater number of me of genius who have illustrated them, but also by reason of their own more persistent strength and their own broader variety. These three literatures are the Greek, the French, and the English.
There are great names in the other modern languages, no doubt—the names of Dante and of Cervantes and of Goethe, than which, indeed, there are none greater. In French literature, however, and in English there are not wanting names as mighty as these. Fortunately, the possession of genius is not the privilege of any one language, of any one country, or of any one century. Where French literature and English can claim superiority over Italian, Spanish, and German is rather in sustaining a higher average of excellence for a longer period of time. The literature of the Italian language, of the Spanish, and of the German has no such bead-roll of writers of the first rank as illustrates the literature of the French and of the English. There is perhaps no more manly instrument of precision than the Latin language, none which better repays the struggle for its mastery; but Latin literature, if not secondrate, when tried by the loftiest standards, is at least secondary, being transplanted from Greece, and lacking resolute roots in its own soil. Nor is any dispute possible as to the high value of Hebrew literature; as Coleridge declared, with characteristic insight, "sublimity is Hebrew by birth "; but Hebrew literature has not the wide range of the Greek, nor its impeccable beauty.
"Art is only form," said George Sand; and Goethe declared that the "highest operation of art is form-giving." If we accept these sayings, there is no need to dwell on the supreme distinction of Greek literature, for it is only in Greek that we find the undying perfection of form. It is there only that we have clear and deep thought always beautifully embodied. Indeed, truth and beauty govern Greek literature so absolutely that, old as it is, it seems to us ever fresh and eternally young. After two thousand years and more it strikes us to-day as startlingly modern. Thoreau—whose own phrase was often Attic in its delicate precision—Thoreau asked: "What are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles that are not decayed." Nevertheless, the world has kept restlessly moving since the fall of Athens, and mankind has developed needs that the Greeks knew not. As Moliere puts it, pithily, "The ancients are the ancients, and we are the men of to-day." There are questions in America now, and not a few of them, undreamed of in Sparta; and for the answers to these it is vain to go to Greek literature, modern as it may be in so many ways.
French literature has not a little of the moderation and of the charm of Greek literature. It is not violent; it is not boisterous, even; it is never freakish. It has balance and order and a broad sanity. It has an unfailing sense of style. It has lightness of touch, and it has also and always intellectual seriousness. The literature is like the language; and Voltaire declared that what was not clear was not French. And the language itself is the fit instrument of the people who use it and who have refined it for their needs—a people logical beyond all others, gifted in mathematics, devoid of hypocrisy, law-abiding, governed by the social instinct, inheritors of the Latin tradition and yet infused with the Celtic spirit.
To those of us who are controlled by the Anglo-Saxon ideals, whether or not we come of English stock, to those of us who adhere to Anglo-Saxon conventions, no other literature can serve as a better corrective of our inherited tendencies than the French. The chief characteristic of English literature is energy, power often ill-restrained, vigor often superabundant. From the earliest rude warsongs of the stalwart Saxon fighters who were beginning to make the English language, to the latest short story setting forth the strife of an American mining camp, there is never any lack of force in English literature. There is always the Teutonic boldness and rudeness—the Teutonic readiness to push forward and to shoulder the rest of the world out of the way—the Teutonic independence that leads every man to fight for his own hand, like the smith in Scott's story. What we do not discover in English literature, with all its overmastering vitality, is economy of effort, the French self-control, the Greek sense of form.
French literature and English literature have existed side by side for many centuries, each of them influencing the other now and again, and yet each of them preserving its own individuality, always and ever revealing the dominant characteristics of the people speaking its language. We need not attempt to weigh them one against the other, and to measure them with a foot rule, and to declare which is the greater. Equal they may be in the past and in the present; equal in the future they are not likely to