Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 39.djvu/180

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138 Southern Historical Society Papers.

chance," certain it is that his place in the world's eye had been a very high one. and that his name would have been linked for all coming time with the greatest of that noble stock from which he sprung.

But the hard truth is, that the malice of fortune did deny him liis full "chance"" — his "heart's desire" — "most just and right desire" (in Shakespearian phrase) — and though many "honors," as the world counts "honors," came to him in his long life — professor in \irginia"s famous military school — president of a great university — degrees in plenty and honorary fellowships from universities and learned societies at home and abroad — who of us that often looked upon the sweet austerity of that patrician face, touched with gentle melancholy and tranquil dignity — who of us that did not divine that he himself, modest as he was touching his own abilities and deserts, felt in his "heart of heart" that his life was, what the French in pregnant fashion term, "Uiic vie manque!"

In the contemplation of his career, one cannot, indeed, escape the constant suggestion of the touch of tragedy, despite the lofty reflection of England's greatest laureate that the path of duty, firmly trod, is ever the way to real glory.

Consider: he came of a great race — his name was the synonym of all that was highest and noblest, not in A^irginia alone, but in the nation — he was a soldier of soldiers, and, despite the fact that he was heir to a great estate, bequeathed him by his maternal grandfather, Washington's adopted son, he had de- liberately chosen the stern profession of arms as the calling closest to his heart — no strange choice for the son of Robert E. Eee and the grandson of "Light Horse Harry."

In June, 1850, when not quite eighteen, he entered the United States ^Military Academy at West Point, and, after four years of severest study (during which time he received scarce a single mark of demerit, so punctilious was his observance of all rules (if discipline and duty"), in June, 1854, was graduated first in his class. Just twenty-five years earlier, his illustrious father had graduated there second in his class, though it must be al-