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THE influences which help to shape human destiny Tare many and varied. At some period in the early history of two lives, beginning their course separately, one of them, by coming into contact with the other, is quickened into deeper vitality, and the germ of a great and unthought-of future is formed. Lives touch each other, and thenceforth, like meeting waters, their onward course is destined, and flows through deeper and broader channels.
Among the most commanding of human influences is that of woman. As mother, or sister, or wife we find her, at every period of a man's existence, occupying a prominent part as his guide, comforter, and friend. Not unfrequently it happens that the influence of a sister is the greatest, and that to which a career is due. Especially is this so when the mother dies whilst the brother and sister are young. The influence of the wife, all-powerful though it may be, is of a later date, when character and conduct have to a great extent become formed, and the tendency of genius settled. When the sister's companionship gives place to that of the wife, a career may have become developed. In this way the most dominant power may remain unrevealed; and the blossoming and perfection of character may never be traced to their original source.
Many pleasant stories of affection between brothers and sisters, and of their inspiration of each other, have been told; and many more have existed among those who have lived unhistoric lives, and whose annals are recorded only among memories which linger round lonely hearths. Lovely and pleasant in their saddened lives were Charles and Mary Lamb. The way in which they were each devoted to the other, and in which they were bound up in each other's well-being to the complete forgetfulness of self, suggests a pleasing and pathetic picture of fraternal fidelity, while it reveals a domestic history the most touching and tragic the world has known.
We have a companion picture, but a more happy and pleasant one, in the lives of William and Dorothy Wordsworth.
The culture and well-being of a nation depend largely upon the character, purity, and progress of its literature. To no class of writers has the world been more indebted than to its poets — those "rare souls, whose thoughts enrich the blood of the world.” It was well said by one of these : “Poetry has been to me its own exceeding great reward. It has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoy
ments; it has endeared solitude ; and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me."
Among those who have permanently elevated and enriched our English literature during the present century, none is entitled to a more honored place than is William Wordsworth, our greatest laureate ; and none of the influences which entered into his life, and served to build up his great career, and to complete his great work, can fail to be of interest. And of all the world's benefactors — of all who in any of the primary departments, have achieved most signal distinction, has none been more indebted to the aid of another, than was Wordsworth to the devoted aid and the constraining and softening power of his sister.
In many respects there is a marked similarity between the lives of Charles and Mary Lamb and those of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. The burden of the story of each is that of a brother's and sister's love. But there is also a great difference. While one is the tale of an elder sister's affection, and of the brother's self-sacrifice for the tender care of her during periods of nature's saddest affliction, the other tells how a younger sister consecrated her life to her brother's greatest good, relinquishing for herself every thing outside him in such a way that she became absorbed in his own existence. But as a self-sacrificing love always brings its own reward, the poet's sister attained hers. She is for all time identified and associated with her brother, who, with a grateful love, has “ crowned her for immortality.” As Mr. Paxton