Buckle’s History Of Civilization -- By: Heman Lincoln
BSac 20:78 (April 1863) p. 279
Buckle’s History Of Civilization1
The recent death of Mr. Buckle took the world by surprise. In the prime of life, possessed of an ample fortune, and free from the cares and hardships which cut short the days of many literary men, he might have been expected to reach the green old age enjoyed so often by English scholars and statesmen. When Lord Macaulay, after a long and brilliant career in literature and statesmanship, announced his purpose “to write the history of England from the accession of king James the Second down to a time which is within the memory of men still living,” his most hopeful readers doubted if the work, postponed to so late a period of life, would ever be completed. But when Mr. Buckle, in his thirty-fifth year, published the first volume of his great work, and announced that several others were in a state of forwardness, men of letters anticipated that, like Hume and Gibbon, he would give to the world a κτημὰ ἐς ἀεί, a work, by its originality and learning, sure of immortality. The grave has closed over both historians, and the work of each is unfinished; but Lord Macaulay has left a classic torso, beautiful in incompleteness; Mr. Buckle has left only a gigantic fragment, suggestive, like the fossil rib of a mastodon, of vast stature and prodigious strength.
The story of his life, told in this country for the first time since his decease, gives the clue to the singular defects of his character and his History. He was an insatiable reader from his childhood, like John Milton; and like Milton, too, was blessed with an indulgent father, proud of his abilities, and willing to release him from care and toil, and leave him to
BSac 20:78 (April 1863) p. 280
woo the muses at his own sweet will. But, unlike Milton, he escaped the severe discipline of English schools and universities, and was left, at the early age of fourteen, to consult his own tastes in study, without the guidance or control of wise teachers. Such a method of study yielded its natural fruits. The undisciplined boy grew up to manhood, with an overweening confidence in self, and a hearty contempt for men and institutions beyond the range of his personal sympathies. The intense dogmatism of his history is a natural sequel to his distorted education. Two or three years on the lower forms of Rugby or Eton, with a constrained submission to older boys, and to monitors and teachers, or the experience of men and life gained by a competition with equals at Cambridge or Oxford, might have supplemented original mental defects, and made him a wiser man and a more discriminating historian. Mr. Coleridge always confessed a great obligation to one...
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