LIFE OF FREDERICK ROBERTSON
Life and Letters of Frederick W. Robertson. Edited by Stopford A.
Brooke. Guardian, 15th November 1865.
If the proof of a successful exhibition of a strongly marked and original character be that it excites and sustains interest throughout, that our tastes are appealed to and our judgments called forth with great strength, that we pass continuously and rapidly, as we read, from deep and genuine admiration to equally deep and genuine dissent and disapprobation, that it allows us to combine a general but irresistible sense of excellence growing upon us through the book with an under-current of real and honest dislike and blame, then this book in a great measure satisfies the condition of success. It is undeniable that in what it shows us of Mr. Robertson there is much to admire, much to sympathise with, much to touch us, a good deal to instruct us. He is set before us, indeed, by the editor, as the ideal of all that a great Christian teacher and spiritual guide, all that a brave and wise and high-souled man, may be conceived to be. We cannot quite accept him as an example of such rare and signal achievement; and the fault of the book is the common one of warm-hearted biographers to wind their own feelings and those of their readers too high about their subject; to talk as if their hero’s excellences were unknown till he appeared to display them, and to make up for the imperfect impression resulting from actual facts and qualities by insisting with overstrained emphasis on a particular interpretation of them. The book would be more truthful and more pleasing if the editor’s connecting comments were more simply written, and made less pretension to intensity and energy of language. Yet with all drawbacks of what seem to us imperfect taste, an imperfect standard of character, and an imperfect appreciation of what there is in the world beyond a given circle of interests, the book does what a biography ought to do—it shows us a remarkable man, and it gives us the means of forming our own judgment about him. It is not a tame panegyric or a fancy picture.