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THE LATE MR. FREDERICK SINNETT.
Our obituary records the death of Mr. Frederick Sinnett, at the early age of thirty six. He was born at Hamburg, where he re- ceived his education, and acquired a know- ledge of the German language and of German literature, such as comparatively few English
men possess. Originally intended to follow his father's profession-that of an architect and surveyor-his natural tastes inclined him towards literature ; an inclination which was no doubt strengthened by the example of his mother, Mrs. Percy Sinnett, who is still living, and who is well known In the literary circles of London as an authoress and as a translator of German writers. To that city his family subsequently removed, and there the Subject of our notice attracted the at- tention and formed the acquaintance of Mr. J. S. Mill, and of some of the leading members of what was then known as the school of philosophical radicals. At this time, too, he acquired that thorough mastery of the principles of political economy which he subsequently turned to such excel- lent account in his writings ; while he ardently espousod those views of govern- ment by democracy which were after- wards developed by Mr. Mill in his Con- sidérations on Représentative Government. Be- fore he attained to manhood the seeds of consumption manifested themselves In his system, and he was advised to visit Australia in order to arrest the progress of that insidious disease. Accordingly he came out here about sixteen years ago, and after some time spent in the pursuit of his profession as a surveyor, and in explorations of the interior of South Australia, he connected himself with the colo- nial press. He was for some time editor of the Melbourne Herald. At a later period he joined The Argus staff; and in 1855 he originated Melbourne Punch, of which he con- tinued the editor for three years, at tho ex- piration of which term he was induced to undertake the editorship of the Geelong Daily News. Family reasons urged him to remove to Adelaide, where he was appointed shorthand writer to the Legislature, and where he en- gaged somewhat extensively in business pur- suits. He also conducted the Telegraph, an evening newspaper, besides contributing to the Wallet and other publications. In so doing, it is to be feared he overtaxed his powers both of body and mind ; and when, in response to an invitation from the conductors of this journal, he returned to Melbourne about twelve months ago, it was painfully evident that his strength had given away, and that the disease from which he died had made such ravages upon his frame as to discourage the expectation of his recovery. During the last eight weeks he was sinking gradually, and about four o'clock yesterday morning, he fell into a peaceful sleep, from which there was no waking in this
In speaking of him as a writer, we do so with reference to a period when his intellect was at its highest, and before the powers of his mind were impaired by dlsease. He com bined the logical with the imaginative faculty in a rare degree. No one could detect a fallacy or a flaw in reasoning more acutely, expose it more clearly, or demolish it more adroitly than he could. On the other hand, he could enliven and illustrate the dullest subjects with a ray of fancy or a flash of
humour. With humour, indeed, his mind
was saturated, and there was not a touch of
malice in it. He could wield the weapons of banter, sarcasm, and irony, without wound ing or irritating those against whom they were employed, therein reminding us of what has been said of Hood :-" With'all his sense of fun and ridicule and his abundant play fulness, he never lost his exquisite feeling for the beautiful. ... He took up cant, looked at it, laughed at it and over it till you almost pardoned its ugliness for the sake of the burning and brilliant light he threw around it." His versatility was not the least conspicuous of his qualities He could turn from writing a closely-reasoned and weighty dissertation on some problem of political science to the composition of a parody on a popular poem, an epigram, or a skit on some passing event, with the utmost facility. His ear for versification was almost faultless; and while he was in the habit of bracing his mind by the study of some of the great masters of modern philosophy, he en riched it by the intimate acquaintance he maintained with the writings of men like Tennyson, Ruskin, Goethe, and Schiller. His memory was stored, in fact, with passages fror his favourite English and German poets, and the wonder was, that so prolific a writer should have found time to be so diligent a student and should have succeeded in cultivating so retentive a memory. In matters of literature and art his taste was generally pure, and his judgment sound; and it is to be regretted that the exigencies of journalism should have necessitated the dispersion, as it were, of the powers of his mind over so wide a surface, with so little apparent result, when their con centration, under happier circumstances, upon the production of some durable work might have enabled him to acquire a
distinguished reputation aa a novelist, an essayist, or dramatist. For success in each of these departments of litera ture he possessed special qualifications; and hadhis life been spared, his ability might have seconded his ambition to achleve something "the world would not willingly let die." But all these possibilities have become part and parcel of the post ; and to use the words of the poet he waa most fond of citing- '
" Tho world which credits what Is done
Is cold to all that might have been."
Of tbe personal qualities of the deceased, those who knew him best will probably remember most affectionately his imper turbable good humour und buoyant cheerful ness. If the latter succumbed to a protracted and depressing illness, neither sickness nor calamity could destroy or even impair the former. It was partly the product of a kind heart and partly the result of genial views of the world and mankind. His conversatlon was as clever, as shrewd, and as humorous, as his writings; and while he made few enemies he conciliated the esteem of many friends; and especially endeared to him those who could penetrate the slight husk of shyness and reserve which may have prejudiced him in the eyes of superficial observers.