Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/165

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47
THE READING-CLUB.

nation and of the age. I had almost said, he set himself against nature, as if he had been a decree of God overriding all these other insuperable obstacles. That was his function. Mr. Phillips was not called to be a universal orator, any more than he was a universal thinker. In literature and in history he was widely read; in person most elegant; in manners most accomplished; gentle as a babe; sweet as a new-blown rose; in voice, clear and silvery. He was not a man of tempests; he was not an orchestra of a hundred instruments; he was not an organ, mighty and complex. The nation slept, and God wanted a trumpet, sharp, far-sounding, narrow, and intense; and that was Mr. Phillip. The long roll is not particularly agreeable in music or in times of peace; but it is better than flutes or harps when men are in a great battle, or are on the point of it. His eloquence was penetrating and alarming. He did not flow as a mighty gulf-stream; he did not dash upon the continent as the ocean does; he was not a mighty rushing river. His eloquence was a flight of arrows, sentence after sentence, polished, and most of them burning. He shot them one after the other, and where they struck they slew; always elegant, always awful. I think scorn in him was as fine as I ever knew it in any human being. He had that sublime sanctuary in his pride that made him almost insensitive to what would by other men be considered obloquy. It was as if he said every day, in himself, "I am not what they are firing at. I am not there, and I am not that. It is not against me. I am infinitely superior to what they think me to be. They do not know me." It was quiet and unpretentious, but it was there. Conscience and pride were the two concurrent elements of his nature. He lived to see the slave emancipated, but not by moral means.

He lived to see the sword cut the fetter. After this had taken place, he was too young to retire, though too old to gather laurels of literature, or to seek professional honors. The impulse of humanity was not at all abated. His soul still flowed on for the great under-masses of mankind; though, like the Nile, it split up into diverse mouths, and not all of them were navigable.

After a long and stormy life, his sun went down in glory. All the English-speaking people on the globe have written among the names that shall never die, the name of that scoffed, detested, mob-beaten Wendell Phillips. Bos-