The latest of the publishers' small pocket volumes of "Beacon Biographies," edited by M. A. de Wolfe Howe, is a brief story of the life of the distinguished colored orator, Frederick Douglass, By Charles W. Chesnutt. Born in slavery of a slave mother and of a white father, whose name he never knew, Frederick Douglass, through the force of his natural and unquestioned abilities, achieved, and for a period of more than fifty years maintained, a conspicuous place among the world's notable men. At the age of 8 years his mother died, leaving him the chattel of an unkind master; and how, under great disadvantages, he gradually learned to read and write, when it was unlawful to teach a slave to do either; how he fretted under his chains and sometimes rose in rebellion, and how he finally escaped from servitude, and eight years after purchased his freedom with money contributed by his friends, are events in his life strongly appealing to the sympathies of the reader.
It was in 1838 that Douglass escaped from slavery and went to New York, where he married, and soon after removed for greater safety to New Bedford, Mass. In 1841 he addressed an anti-slavery convention in New Bedford and was made an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society, and the following year began to lecture on slavery. In 1846 he visited Great Britain and Ireland, where he was assisted to funds with which to purchase his freedom and establish a newspaper. From this time on he took an active part in public affairs, having received appointments as Councilor of the District of Columbia, Marshall of the District and Minister to Hayti. Douglass was a man of rare eloquence, discreet and temperate in discourse, and in his loftier moods speaking with the tongue of inspiration. "As few of the world's great men have ever had so checkered and diversified a career," says Henry Wilson, "so at least it may be plausibly claimed that no man represents in himself more conflicting ideas and interests. His life is in itself an epic which finds few to equal it in the realms of either romance or reality." It was, after all, says the author, "no misfortune for humanity that Frederick Douglass felt the iron hand of slavery, for his genius changed the drawbacks of color and condition into levers by which he raised himself and his people." (Boston: Small, Maynard & Co.; price, 75 cents.)