A Book of Golden Deeds

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Excerpt As the most striking lines of poetry are the most hackneyed, because they have grown to be the common inheritance of all the world, so many of the most noble deeds that earth can show have become the best known, and enjoyed their full meed of fame. Therefore it may be feared that many of the events here detailed, or alluded to, may seem trite to those in search of novelty; but it is not for such that the collection has been made. It is rather intended as a treasury for young people, where they may find minuter particulars than their abridged histories usually afford of the soul-stirring deeds that give life and glory to the record of events; and where also other like actions, out of their ordinary course of reading, may be placed before them, in the trust that example may inspire the spirit of heroism and self-devotion. For surely it must be a wholesome contemplation to look on actions, the very essence of which is such entire absorption in others that self is forgotten; the object of which is not to win promotion, wealth, or success, but simple duty, mercy, and loving-kindness. These are the actions wrought, 'hoping for nothing again', but which most surely have their reward. The authorities have not been given, as for the most part the narratives lie on the surface of history. For the description of the Coliseum, I have, however, been indebted to the Abbé Gerbet's Rome Chrétienne; for the Housewives of Lowenburg, and St. Stephen's Crown, to Freytag's Sketches of German Life; and for the story of George the Triller, to Mr. Mayhew's Germany. The Escape of Attalus is narrated (from Gregory of Tours) in Thierry's 'Lettres sur l'Histoire de France;' the Russian officer's adventures, and those of Prascovia Lopouloff , the true Elisabeth of Siberia, are from M. le Maistre; the shipwrecks chiefly from Gilly's 'Shipwrecks of the British Navy;' the Jersey Powder Magazine from the Annual Registrer, and that at Ciudad Rodrigo, from the traditions of the 52nd Regiment. There is a cloud of doubt resting on a few of the tales, which it may be honest to mention, though they were far too beautiful not to tell. These are the details of the Gallic occupation of Rome, the Legend of St. Genevieve, the Letter of Gertrude von der Wart, the stories of the Keys of Calais, of the Dragon of Rhodes, and we fear we must add, both Nelson's plan of the Battle of the Nile, and likewise the exact form of the heroism of young Casabianca, of which no two accounts agree. But it was not possible to give up such stories as these, and the thread of truth there must be in them has developed into such a beautiful tissue, that even if unsubstantial when tested, it is surely delightful to contemplate. Some stories have been passed over as too devoid of foundation, in especial that of young Henri, Duke of Nemours, who, at ten years old, was said to have been hung up with his little brother of eight in one of Louis XI's cages at Loches, with orders that two of the children's teeth should daily be pulled out and brought to the king. The elder child was said to have insisted on giving the whole supply of teeth, so as to save his brother; but though they were certainly imprisoned after their father's execution, they were released after Louis's death in a condition which disproves this atrocity. The Indian mutiny might likewise have supplied glorious instances of Christian self-devotion, but want of materials has compelled us to stop short of recording those noble deeds by which delicate women and light-hearted young soldiers showed, that in the hour of need there was not wanting to them the highest and deepest 'spirit of self-sacrifice.' At some risk of prolixity, enough of the surrounding events has in general been given to make the situation comprehensible, even without knowledge of the general history. This has been done in the hope that these extracts may serve as a mother's storehouse for reading aloud to her boys, or that they may be found useful for short readings to the intelligent, though uneducated classes. NOVEMBER 17, 1864.   WHAT IS A GOLDEN DEED? We all of us enjoy a story of battle and adventure....
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