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Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

 Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

In many other letters at this time and later on, especially in oneto Professor Minor, who had been appointed with him upon a board bythe Educational Society of Virginia, did he urge the importance ofeducation for the present and future safety, welfare, and prosperityof the country. Among the many tokens of respect and admiration, love,and sympathy which my father received from all over the world, therewas one that touched him deeply. It was a "Translation of Homer'sIliad by Philip Stanhope Worsley, Fellow of Corpus Christi College,Oxford, England," which the talented young poet and author sent him,through the General's nephew, Mr. Edward Lee Childe, of Paris, aspecial friend of Mr. Worsley. I copy the latter's letter to Mr.Childe, as it shows some of the motives influencing him in thededication of his work:

"My Dear Friend: You will allow me in dedicating this work to you,to offer it at the same time as a poor yet not altogether unmeaningtribute of my reverence for your brave and illustrious uncle, GeneralLee. He is the hero, like Hector of the Iliad, of the most gloriouscause for which men fight, and some of the grandest passages in thepoem come to me with yet more affecting power when I remember hislofty character and undeserved misfortunes. The great names that yourcountry has bequeathed from its four lurid years of national life asexamples to mankind can never be forgotten, and among these none willbe more honoured, while history endures, by all true hears, than thatof your noble relative. I need not say more, for I know you must beaware how much I feel the honour of associating my work, howeverindirectly, with one whose goodness and genius are alike so admirable.Accept this token of my deepest sympathy and regard, and believe me,

"Ever most sincerely yours,

"P. S. Worsley."

On the fly-leaf of the volume he sent my father was written thefollowing beautiful inscription:

"To General Lee,The most stainless of living commandersand, except in fortune, the greatest,this volume is presentedwith the writer's earnest sympathyand respectful admiration'... oios yap epveto Idiov Ektwp.'

Iliad VI--403,"

and just beneath, by the same hand, the following beautiful verses:

"The grand old bard that never dies,
Receive him in our English tongue!
I send thee, but with weeping eyes,
The story that he sung.

"Thy Troy is fallen,--thy dear land
Is marred beneath the spoiler's heel--
I cannot trust my trembling hand
To write the things I feel.

"Ah, realm of tears!--but let her bear
This blazon to the end of time:
No nation rose so white and fair,
None fell so pure of crime.

"The widow's moan, the orphan's wail,
Come round thee; but in truth be strong!
Eternal Right, though all else fail,
Can never be made Wrong.

"An Angel's heart, an angel's mouth,
Not Homer's, could alone for me
Hymn well the great Confederate South--
Virginia first, and LEE.

"P. W."

His letter of thanks, and the one which he wrote later, when he heardof the ill health of Mr. Worsley--both of which I give here--showvery plainly how much he was pleased:

"Lexington, Virginia, February 10, 1866.

"Mr. P. Worsley.

"My Dear Sir: I have received the copy of your translation of theIliad which you so kindly presented to me. Its perusal has been myevening's recreation, and I have never more enjoyed the beauty andgrandeur of the poem than as recited by you. The translation is astruthful as powerful, and faithfully represents the imagery and rhythmof the bold original. The undeserved compliment in prose and verse,on the first leaves of the volume, I received as your tribute to themerit of my countrymen, who struggled for constitutional government.

"With great respect,

"Your obedient servant,

"R. E. Lee."

"Lexington, Virginia, March 14, 1866.

"My Dear Mr. Worsley: In a letter just received from my nephew, Mr.Childe, I regret to learn that, at his last accounts from you, youwere greatly indisposed. So great is my interest in your welfarethat I cannot refrain, even at the risk of intruding upon your sickroom,from expressing my sincere sympathy in your affliction. I trust,however, that ere this you have recovered and are again in perfecthealth. Like many of your tastes and pursuits, I fear you may confineyourself too closely to your reading. Less mental labour and moreof the fresh air of Heaven might bring to you more comfort, and to yourfriends more enjoyment, even in the way in which you now delight them.Should a visit to this distracted country promise you any recreation,I hope I need not assure you how happy I should be to see you atLexington. I can give you a quiet room, and careful nursing, and ahorse that would delight to carry you over our beautiful mountains.I hope my letter informing you of the pleasure I derived from theperusal of your translation of the Iliad, in which I endeavoured toexpress my thanks for the great compliment you paid me in itsdedication, has informed you of my high appreciation of the work.

"Wishing you every happiness in this world, and praying that eternalpeace may be your portion in that to come, I am most truly, Yourfriend and servant,

"R. Lee."

That winter, my father was accustomed to read aloud in the long eveningsto my mother and sisters "The Grand Old Bard," equally to his own andhis listeners' enjoyment.