Alas, in all of us this charlatan-element exists; and _might_ be developed, were the temptation strong enough. "Lead us not into temptation"! But it is fatal, I say, that it _be_ developed. The thing into which it enters as a cognizable ingredient is doomed to be altogether transitory; and, however huge it may _look_, is in itself small. Napoleon's working, accordingly, what was it with all the noise it made? A flash as of gunpowder wide-spread; a blazing-up as of dry heath. For an hour the whole Universe seems wrapt in smoke and flame; but only for an hour. It goes out: the Universe with its old mountains and streams, its stars above and kind soil beneath, is still there.
The Duke of Weimar told his friends always, To be of courage; this Napoleonism was _unjust_, a falsehood, and could not last. It is true doctrine. The heavier this Napoleon trampled on the world, holding it tyrannously down, the fiercer would the world's recoil against him be, one day. Injustice pays itself with frightful compound-interest. I am not sure but he had better have lost his best park of artillery, or had his best regiment drowned in the sea, than shot that poor German Bookseller, Palm! It was a palpable tyrannous murderous injustice, which no man, let him paint an inch thick, could make out to be other. It burnt deep into the hearts of men, it and the like of it; suppressed fire flashed in the eyes of men, as they thought of it,--waiting their day! Which day _came_: Germany rose round him.--What Napoleon _did_ will in the long-run amount to what he did justly; what Nature with her laws will sanction. To what of reality was in him; to that and nothing more. The rest was all smoke and waste. _La carriere ouverte aux talens_: that great true Message, which has yet to articulate and fulfil itself everywhere, he left in a most inarticulate state. He was a great _ebauche_, a rude-draught never completed; as indeed what great man is other? Left in _too_ rude a state, alas!
His notions of the world, as he expresses them there at St. Helena, are almost tragical to consider. He seems to feel the most unaffected surprise that it has all gone so; that he is flung out on the rock here, and the World is still moving on its axis. France is great, and all-great: and at bottom, he is France. England itself, he says, is by Nature only an appendage of France; "another Isle of Oleron to France." So it was by _Nature_, by Napoleon-Nature; and yet look how in fact--HERE AM I! He cannot understand it: inconceivable that the reality has not corresponded to his program of it; that France was not all-great, that he was not France. "Strong delusion," that he should believe the thing to be which _is_ not! The compact, clear-seeing, decisive Italian nature of him, strong, genuine, which he once had, has enveloped itself, half-dissolved itself, in a turbid atmosphere of French fanfaronade. The world was not disposed to be trodden down underfoot; to be bound into masses, and built together, as _he_ liked, for a pedestal to France and him: the world had quite other purposes in view! Napoleon's astonishment is extreme. But alas, what help now? He had gone that way of his; and Nature also had gone her way. Having once parted with Reality, he tumbles helpless in Vacuity; no rescue for him. He had to sink there, mournfully as man seldom did; and break his great heart, and die,--this poor Napoleon: a great implement too soon wasted, till it was useless: our last Great Man!
Our last, in a double sense. For here finally these wide roamings of ours through so many times and places, in search and study of Heroes, are to terminate. I am sorry for it: there was pleasure for me in this business, if also much pain. It is a great subject, and a most grave and wide one, this which, not to be too grave about it, I have named _Hero-worship_. It enters deeply, as I think, into the secret of Mankind's ways and vitalest interests in this world, and is well worth explaining at present. With six months, instead of six days, we might have done better. I promised to break ground on it; I know not whether I have even managed to do that. I have had to tear it up in the rudest manner in order to get into it at all. Often enough, with these abrupt utterances thrown out isolated, unexplained, has your tolerance been put to the trial. Tolerance, patient candor, all-hoping favor and kindness, which I will not speak of at present. The accomplished and distinguished, the beautiful, the wise, something of what is best in England, have listened patiently to my rude words. With many feelings, I heartily thank you all; and say, Good be with you all!
The present work is in some respects a sequel to the PIONEERS OF
ELECTRICITY, and it deals with the lives and principal achievements of
those distinguished men to whom we are indebted for the introduction of
the electric telegraph and telephone, as well as other marvels of