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threw him into doubt. A really remarkable career was that of Renan; and as he was one of France's ablest literary men, his narrative is almost as remarkable as the career itself. He was a Breton, born and bred in the strictest ancient Catholic faith and intended for the priesthood. Doubts never entered his head until his manhood. Then he wrestled with them anxiously, broke wholly from his Church, and wrote his renowned books dealing with Jesus and with all the Biblical story in strictly historic fashion, as one might with any other ancient man and ancient book. He suffered from considerable antagonism, perhaps from persecution, but bravely resolved to be cheerful, and to believe as much as he could both of religion and of the essential goodness of his fellowmen. He ended by winning high literary distinction, and declared himself to be in his home life, his public life, and his religion, the happiest of men. Perhaps he really believed it.
Far different was the attitude of that mighty Russian genius Tolstoi. He too wrote a somewhat fragmentary narrative of his own life. In it we see the ceaseless struggle of a mind to understand itself and also to satisfy itself somewhere among religious beliefs. That was an evil Russia indeed in whic Tolstoi began to write in the 1850's. A narrow and selfseeking upper class supported a wealthy and obviously corrupted church, and the peasant was ground helplessly between the two, while an independent thinker could find no place to set his foot or rest his head. Against this system Tolstoi, single-handed, waged a wonderful battle. First he made a religion, found it for himself, dug up a new “Primitive Christianity,” as he called it, from amid the crumbling sumptuousness of the Russian Church. Then, having made a faith, he taught it to a nation, a blind and stupid nation wrapped in a widespread garment of craven superstition, of faith in endless omens, which they miscalled Religion. Whatever Russia may at length achieve in the field of thought and modern effort, Tolstoi stands as the fundamental mover, the true achiever, of it all.
Other Russians too began to enter the particular literary field of autobiography-women as well as men. If we look behind Tolstoi for earlier Russian narratives of self, we are driven far back to the great Empress Catherine--and she was
not a Russian but a German. But after Tolstoi the name of the Russian autobiographer is legion.
Most important among such works, at least to western eyes, stand out the two women's narratives of Sonia Kovalevsky and Marie Bashkirtseff. Mme. Kovalevsky was an anomaly, a scientific and mathematical genius born in a woman's body in a country and an age where woman's education was still a thing undreamed. It is pathetic enough to read of her struggles, with their climax of the sacrifice of happiness for education's sake-she married a stranger to win the liberty which marriage allowed. Yet it is still more pathetic to read the vivid pictures of her lonesome and mistaught childhood, to see thus from the inside the Russian aristocratic household, to realize its essential childishness, its essential "goodness" in the midst of its barbarity. From Sonia's childhood eyes one could almost establish the theory of Rousseau and many another eighteenth century philosopher, that human nature in the rough, unrepressed by civilization, is naturally good.
Something of this same naïve picture of crude Russian life, we glimpse from the pages of Mlle. Bashkirtseff, but less vividly. We face here a genius as narrow as that of Mme. Kovalevsky was broad, an outlook upon life as intensely personal as that of the other was universal. Mlle. Bashkirtseff is all passion, and desire, and ambition, and so sees life only through her own emotions. She died in 1884 aged only twenty-four; and when her brief autobiography was soon afterward given to the world, it achieved a fame which made it the most talked of book for years. Poor child, the fame she would have given her life for, came to her all unknown and only after her death! The book is probably the most honest, complete and convincing picture of a woman's emotions which our whole series has to offer.
Another noted narrative also comes to us from the eastern parts of Europe, from a man who was still living when the great European war blocked and confused our sources of information. This was the noted Hungarian traveler and scholar, Arminius Vambery. Vambery first became widely known in the 1860's as a young Hungarian peasant of such power and such intense thirst for knowledge and adventure that he began by mastering most of the languages of the
Mohammedan East and then, disguising himself as a Mohammedan, traveled unsuspected through worlds where no earlier European had ventured. He thus became a pioneer explorer of the East; and his story of his adventures parallels the picture of Eastern life presented in an earlier volume by Marie Asmar, the Babylonian princess.
From these writers of far-off lands let us turn now to those of Britain and America. Many very interesting autobiographies have been given to our world in the last twenty years, some of them looking as far back as Tolstoi's, some dealing with most recent times. It would be impossible as yet to select among them and say, “These will live; these die." Many of them are of men still or very recently active among us. We can only mention here, and not reprint, such works as Roosevelt's autobiography, the life of Booker T. Washington, or of Jacob Riis.
Yet there are some among these recent books whose place is already too well established to be doubted. For example there are the works of Sir Archibald Geikie, the great Scotch geologist, the dean of English science, the head of her world of learning. Geikie wrote no separate autobiography; but in his pleasantly familiar books on geology he is always breaking into personal narrative. From his books it is thus easy to cull the manful story of his hard-working and enthusiastic life.
Nor would any gathering of great autobiographies be complete without that simple, somber, wonderful book by Oscar Wilde, the De Profundis. The sin and shame of Wilde have long been known to all men who cared to read of them. It would be a better thing if this book, written from his prison cell, were as widely known instead. It confesses, it explains, it looks earnestly and manfully beyond the sin and beyond man's punishment to ask, “What next?” and to answer as best it may. Many critics have declared Wilde's De Profundis to be among the great and permanent books of our age.
In America also there have appeared in recent years two most unusual autobiographies which should be known to every reader, and which have done and must yet do incalculable good. These are the Hitting the Dark Trail by Clement Hawkes, and A Mind That Found Itself by Clifford ers. Hitting the Dark Trail is a tale of blindness and lameness, so
bravely, so cheerfully borne, that it must shame complaint out of the heart of every able-bodied man, a story of success won by such resolute effort against such enormous discouragement, that no "slacker" could read it understandingly and remain a slacker.
Stranger still is the story of A Mind That Found Itself. An able, earnest, highly educated man became temporarily insane. When he recovered, he remembered all his deluded imaginings and traced them to their sources. His book thus showing insanity from the inside, has been a revelation to the world. Its explanation of the mistakes made in treating the insane has led to valuable reforms; its hateful picture of brutal abuses inflicted in secret has swept much of them away. And perhaps best of all, its assurance of the occasional happiness and flashes of understanding among the insane has done much to hearten and console those who have some loved one suffering the dread affliction.
Narratives like those of Wilde and Hawkes and Beers are splendidly fitted to help every reader, and so splendidly fitted to close our present series. Its purpose has been to take our readers over an enormous field of human thought, not touching every stone on the way, but condensing within the limits of practical human reading all the wonderful world of human nature. It is the library of knowledge of our fellowmen.