This is interesting. It seems that James is stating that making a memorial for great deeds is lame and kinda sad. He quotes Talleyrand and seems to say that it is better to remember Laurent in our collective minds throughout the generations than to build a brick and stone monument. I like this quote and have to agree.
But then again, we will all not be here at some point and we may just need brick and mortar to help us ask who might be atop it. I was at the American School for the Deaf this last year and was told that some young students did not know there was a Laurent Clerc monument outside the front door. We can not blame them with all that is on their plate and their focus on the present. But because of that tall brick, mortar and bronze thing outside, a student or parent might stop for a moment and look, then Google.
“That action or that life is indeed of trifling importance which depends for its perpetuation in human records upon slab or pillar, obelisk or pyramid. It was the astute Talleyrand who said : " The sovereign has a little mind who seeks to go down to posterity by means of great public structures. It is to confide to masons and bricklayers the task of writing history." Great deeds are the living lights of history; their undying brightness shines in the darkness of the past, and sends rays of hope and encouragement down the vistas of the future. They contain within themselves the source of their own perpetual existence, needing no aid from the handiwork of man. But, on the other hand, the generation, community, or people that rears a memorial, perishable though it be, whose front catches and reflects this immortal light, shows its appreciation of what is true and noble and great. It discharges a sacred duty ; it performs a service to its day and generation in thus making the most prompt, the most public, and the most ample acknowledgment in its power of its obligations.”