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day bungling carvers and gilders will not do. Our evening gilders must be more skilful than those who flashed and daubed away in the morning of life, and gilt with any tinsel the weather-cock for the morning sun.1
When I felt that it was more than probable that I should not recover, with a pulse above a hundred and twenty and at the entrance of my seventy-sixth year,'I was not alarmed. I felt ready to rise tranquil from the banquet of life, where I had been a happy guest; I confidently relied on the goodness of my Creator.2
NAPOLEON I. . . (1769–1821)
KNOW men I
and I can tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, the conquerors and the gods of other religions. The resemblance does not exist; the distance between Christianity and any other religion whatever is infinite.
. . In Lycurgus, Numa, Confucius, and Mahomet I see law-givers, but nothing which reveals the Deity. They did not themselves raise their pretensions so high. They surpassed others in their times, as I have done in mine. There is nothing about them which announces Divine beings; on the contrary, I see much likeness between them and myself.
It is not so with Christ. Everything in Him amazes me; His mind is beyond me, and His will confounds
1 From letter to Mrs. Ruxton (1825). 2 From letter to a friend (1843) after a dangerous illness.
There is no possible term of comparison between Him and anything of this world. He is a Being apart. His birth, His life, His death, the profundity of His doctrine, which reaches the height of difficulty, and which is yet its most admirable solution, the singularity of this mysterious Being, His empire, His course across ages and kingdoms-all is a prodigy, a mystery too deep, too sacred, and which plunges me into reveries from which I can find no escape; a mystery which is here, under my eyes, which I cannot deny, and neither can I explain. In short, and this is my
argument, there is not a God in Heaven, if any man could conceive and execute with full success the gigantic design of seizing upon the supreme worship by usurping the name of God. Jesus is the only one who has dared to do this. He is the only one who has said clearly, affirmed imperturbably, Himself of Himself, I am God, which is quite different from the affirmation I am a god. History mentions no other individual who qualified himself with the title of God, in the absolute sense. How, then, should a Jew to whose existence there is more testimony than to that of any of His contemporaries, He alone, the son of a carpenter, give Himself out as God Himself, for the Self-existent Being, for the Creator of all beings? He claims every kind of adoration, He builds His worship with His own hands, not with stones, but with men. And how was it that, by a prodigy surpassing all prodigies, He willed the love of men—that which it is most difficult in the world to obtain—and immediately succeeded ? From this I conclude His Divinity. Alexander, Cæsar, Hannibal, all failed. They conquered the world, but they were not able to obtain a friend. .
Now that I am at St. Helena-now that I am alone, nailed to this rock, who fights and conquers empires for me? What courtiers have I in my misfortune ? Does any one think of me? Does any one in Europe move for me? Who has remained faithful ? Where are my friends ? . . . Our existence has shone with all the brilliancy of the diadem and of sovereignty. . But reverses have come. By degrees the golden hues are effaced, the floods of misfortune and the outrages to which I am every day subjected carry away the last tints. Only the copper remains ... and soon I shall be dust. Such is the destiny of great men; of Cæsar and of Alexander; we are forgotten, and the name of a conqueror, like that of an emperor, is only the subject of a college theme. Our exploits come under the ferule of a pedant, who either praises or insults us. A few moments and this will be my fate; what will happen to myself? . . . I die prematurely, and my body will be returned to the earth to become pasture for worms. This is the destiny, now very near, of the great Napoleon."
ARTHUR, DUKE OF
(1769–1852) WHA THAT I am particularly anxious to remove from
your mind is the notion that I am a person without any sense of religion. If I am so, I am unpardonable, as I have opportunities to acquire, and have acquired, a good deal of knowledge on the subject.
Spoken to one of his generals at St. Helena.
I don't make much show or boast on the subject ; I have never
The consequence is that, in these days of boasting, I have been set down from time to time, and this even upon professional matters, upon which it might be imagined that from the commencement of my career I had been sufficiently tried. Then in private life I have been accused of every vice and enormity; and when those who live with me, and know every action of my life and every thought, testify that such charges are groundless, the charge is then brought, “Oh, he is a man without religion.” As I said before, I am not ostentatious about anything. I am not a “Bible Society man" upon principle, and I make no ostentatious display either of charity or of other Christian virtues, though I believe that, besides enormous sums given to hundreds and thousands who have positive claims upon me, there is not a charity of any description within my reach to which I am not a contributor.1
Perpetual benediction : not indeed
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise ;
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
To perish never;
Nor Man nor Boy,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
We will grieve not, rather find
In the faith that looks through death,
What manifold reason, my dear Sir George, have 1 From “Ode” (“Intimations of Immortality,” etc.), 1803-6.