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Elbert Hubbard is dead, or should we say, has gone on his last Little Journey to the Great Beyond. But the children of his fertile brain still live and will continue to live and keep fresh the memory of their illustrious forebear.
Fourteen years were consumed in the preparation of the work that ranks today as Elbert Hubbard's masterpiece. In Eighteen Hundred Ninety-four, the series of Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great was begun, and once a month for fourteen years, without a break, one of these little pilgrimages was given to the world. These little gems have been accepted as classics and will live. In all there are one hundred eighty Little Journeys that take us to the homes of the men and women who transformed the thought of their time, changed the course of empire, and marked the destiny of civilization. Through him, the ideas, the deeds, the achievements of these immortals have been given to the living present and will be sent echoing down the centuries.
Hubbard's Little Journeys to the homes of these men and women have not been equaled since Plutarch wrote his forty-six parallel lives of the Greeks and Romans. And these were given to the world before the first rosy dawn of modern civilization had risen to the horizon. Without dwelling upon their achievements, Plutarch, with a trifling incident, a simple word or an innocent jest, showed the virtues and failings of his subject. As a result, no other books from classical literature have come down through the ages to us with so great an influence upon the lives of the leading men of the world. Who can recount the innumerable biographies that begin thus: "In his youth, our subject had for his constant reading, Plutarch's Lives, etc."? Emerson must have had in mind this silent, irresistible force that shaped the lives of the great men of these twenty centuries when he declared, "All history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons."
Plutarch lived in the time of Saint Paul, and wrote of the early Greeks and Romans. After two thousand years Hubbard appeared, to bridge the centuries from Athens, in the golden age of Pericles, to America, in the wondrous age of Edison. With the magic wand of genius he touched the buried mummies of all time, and from each tomb gushed forth a geyser of inspiration.
Hugh Chalmers once remarked that, if he were getting out a Blue Book of America, he would publish Elbert Hubbard's subscription-lists. Whether we accept this authoritative statement or not, there is no doubt that the pen of this immortal did more to stimulate the best minds of the country than any other American writer, living or dead. Eminent writers study Hubbard for style, while at the same time thousands of the tired men and women who do the world's work read him for inspiration. Truly, this man wielded his pen like an archangel.
Not only as a writer does this many-sided genius command our admiration, but in many chosen fields, in all of which he excelled. As an institution, the Roycroft Shops would reflect credit upon the business acumen of the ablest men that America has produced in the field of achievement. The industry, it would seem, was launched to demonstrate the practicality of the high principles and philosophy preached by its founder, not only by the printed page, but from the platform. Right here let it be noted that, as a public speaker, Hubbard appeared before more audiences than any other lecturer of his time who gave the platform his undivided attention. Where, one asks in amazement, did this remarkable man find the inspiration for carrying forward his great work? It is no secret. It was drawn from his own little pilgrimages to the haunts of the great. Again like Plutarch, these miniature biographies were composed for the personal benefit of the writer. It was his own satisfaction and moral improvement that inspired the work.
Following Hubbard's tragic death, the announcement was made from East Aurora that "The Philistine" Magazine would be discontinued—Hubbard had gone on a long journey and might need his "Philistine." Besides, who was there to take up his pen? It was also a beautiful tribute to the father from the son.
The same spirit of devotion has prompted The Roycrofters to issue their Memorial Edition of the "Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great." In no other way could they so fittingly perpetuate the memory of the founder of their institution as to liberate the influence that was such an important factor in molding the career of his genius. If he should cast a backward glance, he would nod his approval. If there is to be a memorial, certainly let it be a service to mankind. He would have us all tap the same source from which he drew his inspiration.
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