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To the many attached friends of his earlier years, the occurrence of whose names in the following pages makes it unnecessary to mention them more particularly here, I would also take this opportunity of expressing my deep obligations, not only for the readiness with which they have given me access to all letters and information that I could require, but still more for the active interest which they have taken in lightening my responsibility and labour, and for the careful and most valuable criticism to which some of them have allowed me to subject the whole or the greater part of this work. Lastly, his pupils will perceive the unsparing use I have made of their numerous contributions. I had at one time thought of indicating the various distinct authorities from which the chapter on his “School Life at Rugby” has been compiled, but I found that this would be impracticable. The names of some of those who have most aided me will be found in the Correspondence. To those many others, who are not there mentioned —and may I here be allowed more especially to name my younger schoolfellows, with whom I have become acquainted chiefly through the means of this work, and whose recollections, as being the most recent and the most lively, have been amongst the most valuable that I have received I would here express my warmest thanks for the more than assistance which they have rendered me. Great as has been the anxiety and difficulty of this undertaking, it has been relieved by nothing so much as the assurance which I have received through their co-operation, that I was not mistaken in the estimate I had formed of our common friend and master, and that the influence of his teaching and example continues and will continue to produce the fruits which he would most have desired to see.
The Correspondence has been selected from the mass of letters preserved, in many cases, in almost unbroken series from first to last. One large class— those to the parents of his pupils—I have been unable to procure, and possibly they could not have been made available for the present work. Another numerous body of letters—those which were addressed to scientific or literary men on questions connected with his edition of Thucydides or his History, I have omitted, partly as thinking them too minute to occupy space wanted for subjects of more general importance; partly because their substance or their results have for the most part been incorporated into his published works. To those which appear in the present collection, something of a fragmentary character has been imparted by the necessary omission, wherever it was possible, of repetitions, such as must necessarily occur in letters written to different persons at the same time,-of allusions which would have been painful to living individuals,—of domestic details, which, however characteristic, could not have been published without a greater infringement on privacy than is yet possible, -of passages which, without further explanation than could be given, would certainly have been misunderstood. Still, enough remains to give in his own words, and in his own manner, what he thought and felt on the subjects of most interest to him. And though the mode of expression must be judged by the relation in which he stood to those whom he ad
dressed, and with the usual and just allowance for the familiarity and unreservedness of epistolary intercourse, yet, on the whole, the Letters represent (except where they correct themselves) what those who knew him best believe to have been his deliberate convictions and his habitual feelings.
The object of the Narrative has been to state so much as would enable the reader to enter upon the Letters with a correct understanding of their writer in his different periods of life, and his different sphere of action. In all cases where it was possible, his opinions and plans have been given in his own words, and in no case, whether in speaking of what he did or intended to do, from mere conjecture of my own or of any one else. Wherever the narrative has gone into greater detail, as in the chapter on his “ School Life at Rugby,” it has been where the Letters were comparatively silent, and where details alone would give to those who were most concerned a true representation of his views and actions.
In conclusion, it will be obvious that to have mixed up any judgment of my own, either of praise or censure, with the facts or the statements contained in this work, would have been wholly irrelevant. The only question which I have allowed myself to ask in each particular act or opinion that has come before me, has been not whether I approved or disapproved of it, but whether it was characteristic of him. To have assumed the office of a judge, in addition to that of a narrator or editor, would have increased the responsibility, already great, a hundredfold; and in the present case, the vast importance of many of the questions discussed the insufficient time and knowledge which I had at command—the almost filial relation in which I stood towards him—would have rendered it absolutely impossible, even had it not been effectually precluded by the nature of the work itself. For similar reasons, I have abstained from giving any formal account of his general character. He was one of a class whose whole being, intellectual, moral, and spiritual, is like the cloud of
“Which moveth altogether, if it move at all,”
and whose character, therefore, is far better expressed by their own words and deeds, than by the representation of others. Lastly, I would also hope that the plan, which I have thus endeavoured to follow, will in some measure compensate for the many deficiencies, which I have vainly endeavoured to remedy in the execution of the task which I have undertaken. Some, indeed, there must be, who will painfully feel the contrast, which probably always exists in the case of any remarkable man, between the image of his inner life, as it was known to those nearest and dearest to him, and the outward image of a written biography, which can rarely be more than a faint shadow of what they cherish in their own recollections—the one representing what he was -the other only what he thought and did; the one formed in the atmosphere which he had himself created,--the other necessarily accommodating itself to the public opinion to which it is mainly addressed. But even to these and much more to readers in general—it is my satisfaction to reflect that any untrue or imperfect impression of his thoughts and feelings which may be gathered from my account of them will be sufficiently corrected by his own representation of them in his Letters, and that the attention will not be diverted by any extraneous comments or inferences from the lessons which will be best learned from the mere record itself of his life and teaching.