Biographical Study of A.W. Kinglake HTML version

It is just eleven years since Kinglake passed away, and his life has not yet been separately
memorialized. A few years more, and the personal side of him would be irrecoverable,
though by personality, no less than by authorship, he made his contemporary mark. When
a tomb has been closed for centuries, the effaced lineaments of its tenant can be re-
coloured only by the idealizing hand of genius, as Scott drew Claverhouse, and Carlyle
drew Cromwell. But, to the biographer of the lately dead, men have a right to say, as Saul
said to the Witch of Endor, "Call up Samuel!" In your study of a life so recent as
Kinglake's, give us, if you choose, some critical synopsis of his monumental writings,
some salvage from his ephemeral and scattered papers; trace so much of his youthful
training as shaped the development of his character; depict, with wise restraint, his
political and public life: but also, and above all, re-clothe him "in his habit as he lived,"
as friends and associates knew him; recover his traits of voice and manner, his
conversational wit or wisdom, epigram or paradox, his explosions of sarcasm and his
eccentricities of reserve, his words of winningness and acts of kindness: and, since one
half of his life was social, introduce us to the companions who shared his lighter hour and
evoked his finer fancies; take us to the Athenaeum "Corner," or to Holland House, and
flash on us at least a glimpse of the brilliant men and women who formed the setting to
his sparkle; "dic in amicitiam coeant et foedera jungant."
This I have endeavoured to do, with such aid as I could command from his few remaining
contemporaries. His letters to his family were destroyed by his own desire; on those
written to Madame Novikoff no such embargo was laid, nor does she believe that it was
intended. I have used these sparingly, and all extracts from them have been subjected to
her censorship. If the result is not Attic in salt, it is at any rate Roman in brevity. I send it
forth with John Bunyan's homely aspiration:
And may its buyer have no cause to say,
His money is but lost or thrown away.