The main portion of the book consists of Mr. Robertson’s own letters, and his own accounts of himself; and we are allowed to see him, in a great degree at least, as he really was. The editor draws a moral, indeed, and tells us what we ought to think about what we see; but we can use our own judgment about that. And, as so often happens in real life, what we see both attracts and repels; it calls forth, successively and in almost equal measure, warm sympathy and admiration, and distinct and hearty disagreement. At least there is nothing of commonplace—of what is commonplace yet in our generation; though there is a good deal that bids fair to become commonplace in the next. It is the record of a genuine spontaneous character, seeking its way, its duty, its perfection, with much sincerity and elevation of purpose, and many anxieties and sorrows, and not, we doubt not, without much of the fruits that come with real self-devotion; a record disclosing a man with great faults and conspicuous blanks in his nature, one with whose principles, taste, or judgment we constantly find ourselves having a vehement quarrel, just after having been charmed and conciliated by some unexpectedly powerful or refined statement of an important truth. We cannot think, and few besides his own friends will think, that he had laid his hand with so sure an accuracy and with so much promise upon the clue which others had lost or bungled over. But there is much to learn in his thoughts and words, and there is not less to learn from his life. It is the life of a man who did not spare himself in fulfilling what he received as his task, who sacrificed much in order to speak his message, as he thought, more worthily and to do his office more effectually, and whose career touches us the more from the shadow of suffering and early death that hangs over its aspirations and activity. A book which fairly shows us such a life is not of less value because it also shows us much that we regret and condemn.
Mr. Robertson was brought up not only in the straitest traditions of the Evangelical school, but in the heat of its controversial warfare. His heart, when he was a boy, was set on entering the army; and one of his most characteristic points through life, shown in many very different forms, was his pugnacity, his keen perception of the “certaminis gaudia":—
“There is something of combativeness in me,” he writes, “which prevents the whole vigour being drawn out, except when I have an antagonist to deal with, a falsehood to quell, or a wrong to avenge. Never till then does my mind feel quite alive. Could I have chosen my own period of the world to have lived in, and my own type of life, it should be the feudal ages, and the life of a Cid, the redresser of wrongs.”
“On the other hand,” writes his biographer, “when he met men who despised Christianity, or who, like the Roman Catholics, held to doctrines which he believed untrue, this very