Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter XI: The Idol of the South: Tributes from other English scholars

The Document

Two or three years after this, Professor George Long, of England, a distinguished scholar, sent my father a copy of the second edition of his "Thoughts of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius." The first edition of this translation was pirated by a Northern publisher, who dedicated the book back to Emerson. This made Long very indignant, and he immediately brought out a second edition with the following prefatory note:

"...I have never dedicated a book to any man and if I dedicated this, I should choose the man whose name seemed to me most worthy to be joined to that of the Roman soldier and philosopher. I might dedicate the book to the successful general who is now the President of the United States, with the hope that his integrity and justice will restore peace and happiness, so far as he can, to those unhappy States which have suffered so much from war and the unrelenting hostility of wicked men. But as the Roman poet says,

"'Victrix causa deis placuit, sed victa Catoni;'

"And if I dedicated this little book to any man, I would dedicate it to him who led the Confederate armies against the powerful invader, and retired from an unequal contest defeated, but not dishonoured; to the noble Virginian soldier whose talents and virtues place him by the side of the best and wisest man who sat on the throne of the imperial Caesars."

These two nearly similar tributes came from the best cultured thought of England, and the London Standard, speaking more for the nation at large, says:

"A country which has given birth to men like him, and those who followed him, may look the chivalry of Europe in the face without shame; for the FATHERLANDS OF SIDNEY AND BAYARD NEVER PRODUCED A NOBLER SOLDIER, GENTLEMAN, AND CHRISTIAN THAN GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE."

In a letter to his old friend, Mr. H. Tutweiler, of Virginia, Professor Long sent the following message to my father, which, however, was never received by him, it having been sent to my mother only after his death:

"I did not answer General Lee's letter [one of thanks for the book, sent by Professor Long through Mr. Tutweiler], because I thought that he is probably troubled with many letters. If you should have occasion to write to him, I beg you will present to him my most respectful regards, and my hope that he will leave behind him some commentary to be placed on the same shelf with Caesar's. I am afraid he is too modest to do this. I shall always keep General lee's letter, and will leave it to somebody who will cherish the remembrance of a great soldier and a good man. If I were not detained here by circumstances, I would cross the Atlantic to see the first and noblest man of our days."

Another noble English gentleman, who had shown great kindness to the South and who was a warm admirer of General Lee, was the Honorable A. W. Beresford Hope. He, I think, was at the head of a number of English gentlemen who presented the superb statue of "Stonewall" Jackson by Foley to the State of Virginia. It now stands in the Capitol Square at Richmond, and is a treasure of which the whole Commonwealth may justly be proud. Through Mr. Hope, my father received a handsome copy of the Bible, and, in acknowledgement of Mr. Hope's letter, he wrote the following:

"Lexington, Virginia, April 16, 1866.

"Honourable A. W. Beresford Hope, Bedgebury Park, Kent, England

"Sir: I have received within a few days your letter of November 14, 1865, and had hoped that by this time it would have been followed by the copy of the Holy Scriptures to which you refer, that I might have known the generous donors, whose names, you state, are inscribed on its pages. Its failure to reach me will, I fear, deprive me of that pleasure, and I must ask the favour of you to thank them most heartily for their kindness in providing me with a book in comparison with which all others in my eyes are of minor importance, and which in all my perplexities has never failed to give me light and strength. Your assurance of the esteem in which I am held by a large portion of the British nation, as well as by those for whom you speak, is most grateful to my feelings, though I am aware that I am indebted to their generous natures, and not to my own merit, for their good opinion. I beg, sir, that you will accept my sincere thanks for the kind sentiments which you have expressed toward me, and my unfeigned admiration of your exalted character. I am, with great respect,

"Your most obedient servant,

"R. E. Lee."

Next: Chapter XII: Lee's Opinion upon the Late War

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Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee,, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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