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THE

CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.

JANUARY, 1864.

ART. I.-WEISS'S LIFE OF THEODORE PARKER.

Life and Correspondence of THEODORE PARKER, Minister of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society, Boston. By JOHN WEISS. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 2 vols.

THE three and a half years that have passed since the announcement of Theodore Parker's death have been very favorable to the calm and just judgment of the man. Religious asperities are awed and soothed when a human spirit has passed behind the veil, and its acts are tried by that Tribunal from which there is no appeal. Time justifies that passionate conviction with which he bore his part in the great conflicts of the day; and the fires of the bloody revolution he predicted have already melted down those boundaries which divided him most sharply from the sympathies of his countrymen. The extraordinarily rich and full record of his life which has just been given to the public will be read with a softened feeling by many who had been strangers to the real spirit of the man; while it is its highest praise to say, that it embalms the dearest recollections, and justifies the warmest admiration, and rounds with a better knowledge the vivid yet partial impression had of him by his friends.

In attempting to revive a few of these impressions, we bear our testimony at the outset to the remarkable fidelity, skill, and beauty of the biography which Mr. Weiss has put into our hands. It is perhaps easy to imagine a record of such a life which should present the facts of it with perfect transparency and candor, - distorted by no personal emotion, col-5TH S. VOL. XIV. NO. I.

VOL. LXXVI.

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ored by no chromatic rays of passion or prejudice,—an image accurately wrought out, from the material gathered in such singular abundance, with the absolute sincerity of an artist who fashions a portrait-bust. If Mr. Weiss had been content with this, he would have rendered a very high service; and we could justly have asked nothing more. But he has given us, besides, a series of pictures of extraordinary richness and felicity; he has entered with keen and affectionate appreciation into the spirit of the life which was his study; along with an absolute and passionless freedom from bias as to his judgment of the scenes which he has traced, there is a delicacy of instinct rather than skill, that moves with frank ease among them, and reproduces each phase of controversy in terms which Mr. Parker's heartiest opponents can hardly deny to be scrupulously fair. Whether as a personal biography, a chapter of contemporary history, or as an independent work of art, we rate this book in the very highest order of literary achievement.

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It was a difficult question of method which was presented, in arranging and reproducing the immense mass of material which has been fused into this memoir, a question which Mr. Weiss has met with great skill. A few introductory pages, with the help of a brief fragment of autobiography, bring before us the Lexington homestead, the vigorous cheer of country life, the fair-haired boy, youngest of eleven, so eager and tender-hearted, held from a cruel impulse by what his mother reverently taught him was "the voice of God in the soul of man," or, later, "the bloom in the down of his young cheeks competing with the fruit as he jogged down the road" to carry his father's peaches to the market, the sturdy youth, trained to all busy and helpful ways, and, when he left home to teach school or make a visit, hiring a man "to take his place and work on the farm" till he was twentyone, the early studies, when "he threw himself upon the tree of knowledge, almost fierce to feed or to assimilate," the life at Cambridge; and the entering upon his ministry, in opinion little, if at all, differing from most about him, but with an intense, almost haughty resolution to achieve the work which seemed to him at once so indefinite and so great.

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Then the very deliberate change and growth of his opinions, with the earlier steps of controversy that put him at once so widely apart from his former friends; the year in Europe, with its busy observation and correspondence; and the later story of his ministry in Boston, with that great and everwidening circle of influence which he spread about him through lectures and correspondence: - so far we have a clear, simple, straightforward narrative. The second volume of the "Life" begins with a more full and elaborate account of his habits of study and his unfinished plans of intellectual labor; then a hundred and seventy-five pages record that war of fifteen years against slavery, in which Mr. Parker's position was so central and so commanding; then the narrative is given of the intense overwork of his later years, leading so surely, through many a warning, to the fatal assaults of sickness; then the final journey, when the eager intellect and will struggled with constancy so pathetic against weariness and pain, till the hour came of rest beneath the cypresses of Florence.

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We shall gratefully use and occasionally quote this noble memoir; while we claim the privilege of gathering up, out of our own memory and heart, a few personal impressions of the man. The personal acquaintance of all who have known Mr. Parker in the later years of his life at least must have begun with an impression of the exceeding richness and powerfulness of his nature, the wealth of life exuberant in him. Physically, his build was rugged, strong, hardy, and indomitable. On long, exhausting journeys, on foot or otherwise, after the nerve or muscle of all his companions was flagged and weary, and late into the day or night, he would go on just as cheerily, as strong in step and high in spirit, with argument or anecdote or fun to keep up their failing courage by the way, a type of the man always, in the battle and in the journey of his life. In mere hard muscular farm-work there were few day-laborers, it was said, who could keep up with him. That it was so intellectually is perhaps the best-known fact about him. A hard day's work as student he combined with whatever other work he had to as a schoolmaster when he was young studying eight

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hours of the night after the labor and heat of the day; as a theological student achieving immense courses of reading, with some little work of critical editing besides, ten times the amount in bulk needed to make even a very faithful scholar by the ordinary standard; as a parish minister working up, by hard and careful accumulation, that wealth of reading, particularly in the dry and bulky critical learning of the day, so very striking even in his earliest work; as a city preacher, a controversialist, a lecturer, a political pamphleteer, and a champion widely known on the platform of all the reforms of the day, still making himself an authority, to all who chose to consult him, on almost every point of scientific discovery or current critical erudition that might happen to be brought up. It was out of the sheer amplitude and abundance of such a nature that he so clung to personal friendships, and so gave himself to causes and to deeds; that, in the midst of · his immense book-lore, his heart so opened in love to natural things, that he thought even of an insect tenderly, and knew (as we have been told, with perhaps some friendly exaggeration) every bird and wild-flower in New England. The warmth and strong affectionateness of nature which he combined with the mental force and the natural self-assertion and the love of wielding influence upon others, are characteristic of every strong and positive mind. It is very rarely that a man's intellectual effort seems so merely the exuberance of intellectual strength. Not that it was so precisely. We know, from his own account of it, how carefully, 'even from childhood, his mind had been put in training,* so as to use its resources confidently and promptly, — a training which served him through all his manhood, and how hard and regularly and constantly he worked to keep that great reservoir of knowledge full. But, in general, we were aware only of the abundance of the waters, and the power with which they flowed from such a height. Even when suffering severe pain, and only half able to work, he would lay hold of topics of knowledge or thought, and develop them with the

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*We have heard him tell how his father compelled him, at eight years old, to give his childish analysis and judgment of Plutarch's Cicero, before allowing him to read another of the Lives.

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