Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/39

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written in m> unkind or unloving spirit of one whom, in life, we hon- ored, and whose memory is still dear to us; the danger is elsewhere. It is two-fold: that we may be supposed to have assigned to Premiss a higher order of abilities than he possessed; and, in the second plan-, that we have presented for undistinguishing admiration, a character, some of the elements of which do not deserve to be ad- mired or imitated and, indeed, which are of most perilous example, especially to warm-blooded youth. As to the first objection, we feel sure that we are not mistaken, and even did we distrust our own judgment, we would be confirmed by Sharkey, Boyd, Williamson, Guion, Quitman, to say nothing of the commendations of Clay, Webster and Calhoun, "the immortal three," whose opinions as to Prentiss' talents would be considered extravagant if they did not carry with them the imprimatur of their own great names. But we confess to the danger implied in the second suggestion. With all our admiration for Prentiss much as his memory is endeared to us, however, the faults of his character and the irregularities of his life may be palliated by the peculiar circumstances which pressed upon idiosyncracies of his temper and mind almost as peculiar as those circumstances it cannot be denied, and it ought not to be concealed, that the influence of Prentiss upon men, especially upon the young men of his time and association, was hurtful. True, he had some attributes worthy of unlimited admiration, and he did some things which the best men might take as examples for imitation. He was a noble, whole-souled, magnanimous man, as pure of honor, as lofty in chivalric bearing as the heroes of romance; but, mixed with these brilliant qualities were vices of mind and habit, which those fascinat- ing graces rendered doubly dangerous, for vice is more easily copied than virtue, and in the partnership between virtue and vice, vice sub- sidizes virtue to its uses. Prentiss lacked regular, self-denying, systematic application. He accomplished a great deal, but not a great deal for his capital; if he did more than most men, he did less than the task of such a man ; if he gathered much, he wasted and scattered more. He wanted the great essential of a true, genuine, moral greatness; these were not above his intellect above his strong array of strong powers and glittering faculties above the fierce hosts of passion in his soul a presiding spirit of duty. Life was no trust to him; it was a thing to be enjoyed a bright holiday season, a gala day, to be spent freely and carelessly, a gift to be decked out with brilliant deeds and eloquent words and all the gewgaws of fancy, and to be laid down bravely when the evening star should succeed the