This is the way the conversation between the Doctor of Divinity and the Doctor of Medicine was going on at the point where these notes take it up.
"Ubi tres medici, duo athei, you know, Doctor. Your profession has always had the credit of being lax in doctrine,—though pretty stringent in practice, ha! ha!"
"Some priest said that," the Doctor answered, dryly. "They always talked Latin when they had a bigger lie than common to get rid of."
"Good!" said the Reverend Doctor; "I'm afraid they would lie a little sometimes. But isn't there some truth in it, Doctor? Don't you think your profession is apt to see 'Nature' in the place of the God of Nature,—to lose sight of the great First Cause in their daily study of secondary causes?"
"I've thought about that," the Doctor answered, "and I've talked about it and read about it, and I've come to the conclusion that nobody believes in God and trusts in God quite so much as the doctors; only it isn't just the sort of Deity that some of your profession have wanted them to take up with. There was a student of mine wrote a dissertation on the Natural Theology of Health and Disease, and took that old lying proverb for his motto. He knew a good deal more about books than ever I did, and had studied in other countries. I'll tell you what he said about it. He said the old Heathen Doctor, Galen, praised God for his handiwork in the human body, just as if he had been a Christian, or the Psalmist himself. He said they had this sentence set up in large letters in the great lecture-room in Paris where he attended: I dressed his wound and God healed him. That was an old surgeon's saying. And he gave a long list of doctors who were not only Christians, but famous ones. I grant you, though, ministers and doctors are very apt to see differently in spiritual matters."
"That's it," said the Reverend Doctor; "you are apt to see 'Nature' where we see God, and appeal to 'Science' where we are contented with Revelation."
"We don't separate God and Nature, perhaps, as you do," the Doctor answered. "When we say that God is omnipresent and omnipotent and omniscient, we are a little more apt to mean it than your folks are. We think, when a wound heals, that God's presence and power and knowledge are there, healing it, just as that old surgeon did. We think a good many theologians, working among their books, don't see the facts of the world they live in. When we tell 'em of these facts, they are apt to call us materialists and atheists and infidels, and all that. We can't help seeing the facts, and we don't think it's wicked to mention 'em."
"Do tell me," the Reverend Doctor said, "some of these facts we are in the habit of overlooking, and which your profession thinks it can see and understand."
"That's very easy," the Doctor replied. "For instance: you don't understand or don't allow for idiosyncrasies as we learn to. We know that food and physic act differently with different people; but you think the same kind of truth is going to suit, or ought to suit, all minds. We don't fight with a patient because he can't take magnesia or opium; but you are all the time quarrelling over your beliefs, as if belief did not depend very much on race and constitution, to say nothing of early training."
"Do you mean to say that every man is not absolutely free to choose his beliefs?"
"The men you write about in your studies are, but not the men we see in the real world. There is some apparently congenital defect in the Indians, for instance, that keeps them from choosing civilization and Christianity. So with the Gypsies, very likely. Everybody knows that Catholicism or Protestantism is a good deal a matter of race. Constitution has more to do with belief than people think for. I went to a Universalist church, when I was in the city one day, to hear a famous man whom all the world knows, and I never saw such pews-full of broad shoulders and florid faces, and substantial, wholesome-looking persons, male and female, in all my life. Why, it was astonishing. Either their creed made them healthy, or they chose it because they were healthy. Your folks have never got the hang of human nature."
"I am afraid this would be considered a degrading and dangerous view of human beliefs and responsibility for them," the Reverend Doctor replied. "Prove to a man that his will is governed by something outside of himself, and you have lost all hold on his moral and religious nature. There is nothing bad men want to believe so much as that they are governed by necessity. Now that which is at once degrading and dangerous cannot be true."
"No doubt," the Doctor replied, "all large views of mankind limit our estimate of the absolute freedom of the will. But I don't think it degrades or endangers us, for this reason, that, while it makes us charitable to the rest of mankind, our own sense of freedom, whatever it is, is never affected by argument. Conscience won't be reasoned with. We feel that we can practically do this or that, and if we choose the wrong, we know we are responsible; but observation teaches us that this or that other race or individual has not the same practical freedom of choice. I don't see how we can avoid this conclusion in the instance of the American Indians. The science of Ethnology has upset a good many theoretical notions about human nature."
"Science!" said the Reverend Doctor, "science! that was a word the Apostle Paul did not seem to think much of, if we may judge by the Epistle to Timothy: 'Oppositions of science falsely so called.' I own that I am jealous of that word and the pretensions that go with it. Science has seemed to me to be very often only the handmaid of skepticism."
"Doctor!" the physician said, emphatically, "science is knowledge. Nothing that is not known properly belongs to science. Whenever knowledge obliges us to doubt, we are always safe in doubting. Astronomers foretell eclipses, say how long comets are to stay with us, point out where a new planet is to be found. We see they know what they assert, and the poor old Roman Catholic Church has at last to knock under. So Geology proves a certain succession of events, and the best Christian in the world must make the earth's history square with it. Besides, I don't think you remember what great revelations of himself the Creator has made in the minds of the men who have built up science. You seem to me to hold his human masterpieces very cheap. Don't you think the 'inspiration of the Almighty' gave Newton and Cuvier 'understanding'?"
The Reverend Doctor was not arguing for victory. In fact, what he wanted was to call out the opinions of the old physician by a show of opposition, being already predisposed to agree with many of them. He was rather trying the common arguments, as one tries tricks of fence merely to learn the way of parrying. But just here he saw a tempting opening, and could not resist giving a horne-thrust.
"Yes; but you surely would not consider it inspiration of the same kind as that of the writers of the Old Testament?"
That cornered the Doctor, and he paused a moment before he replied. Then he raised his head, so as to command the Reverend Doctor's face through his spectacles, and said,—
"I did not say that. You are clear, I suppose, that the Omniscient spoke through Solomon, but that Shakspeare wrote without his help?"
The Reverend Doctor looked very grave. It was a bold, blunt way of putting the question. He turned it aside with the remark, that Shakspeare seemed to him at times to come as near inspiration as any human being not included among the sacred writers.
"Doctor," the physician began, as from a sudden suggestion, "you won't quarrel with me, if I tell you some of my real thoughts, will you?"
"Say on, my dear Sir, say on," the minister answered, with his most genial smile; "your real thoughts are just what I want to get at. A man's real thoughts are a great rarity. If I don't agree with you, I shall like to hear you."
The Doctor began; and in order to give his thoughts more connectedly, we will omit the conversational breaks, the questions and comments of the clergyman, and all accidental interruptions.
"When the old ecclesiastics said that where there were three doctors there were two atheists, they lied, of course. They called everybody that differed from them atheists, until they found out that not believing in God wasn't nearly so ugly a crime as not believing in some particular dogma; then they called them heretics, until so many good people had been burned under that name that it began to smell too strong of roasting flesh,—and after that infidels, which properly means people without faith, of whom there are not a great many in any place or time. But then, of course, there was some reason why doctors shouldn't think about religion exactly as ministers did, or they never would have made that proverb. It's very likely that something of the same kind is true now; whether it is so or not, I am going to tell you the reasons why it would not be strange, if doctors should take rather different views from clergymen about some matters of belief. I don't, of course, mean all doctors nor all clergymen. Some doctors go as far as any old New-England divine, and some clergymen agree very well with the doctors that think least according to rule.
"To begin with their ideas of the Creator himself. They always see him trying to help his creatures out of their troubles. A man no sooner gets a cut, than the Great Physician, whose agency we often call Nature, goes to work, first to stop the blood, and then to heal the wound, and then to make the scar as small as possible. If a man's pain exceeds a certain amount, he faints, and so gets relief. If it lasts too long, habit comes in to make it tolerable. If it is altogether too bad, he dies. That is the best thing to be done under the circumstances. So you see, the doctor is constantly in presence of a benevolent agency working against a settled order of things, of which pain and disease are the accidents, so to speak. Well, no doubt they find it harder than clergymen to believe that there can be any world or state from which this benevolent agency is wholly excluded. This may be very wrong; but it is not unnatural. They can hardly conceive of a permanent state of being in which cuts would never try to heal, nor habit render suffering endurable. This is one effect of their training.
"Then, again, their attention is very much called to human limitations. Ministers work out the machinery of responsibility in an abstract kind of way; they have a kind of algebra of human nature, in which friction and strength (or weakness) of material are left out. You see, a doctor is in the way of studying children from the moment of birth upwards. For the first year or so he sees that they are just as much pupils of their Maker as the young of any other animals. Well, their Maker trains them to pure selfishness. Why? In order that they may be sure to take care of themselves. So you see, when a child comes to be, we will say a year and a day old, and makes his first choice between right and wrong, he is at a disadvantage; for he has that vis a tergo, as we doctors call it, that force from behind, of a whole year's life of selfishness, for which he is no more to blame than a calf is to blame for having lived in the same way, purely to gratify his natural appetites. Then we see that baby grow up to a child, and, if he is fat and stout and red and lively, we expect to find him troublesome and noisy, and, perhaps, sometimes disobedient more or less; that's the way each new generation breaks its eggshell; but if he is very weak and thin, and is one of the kind that may be expected to die early, he will very likely sit in the house all day and read good books about other little sharp-faced children just like himself; who died early, having always been perfectly indifferent to all the out-door amusements of the wicked little red-cheeked children. Some of the little folks we watch grow up to be young women, and occasionally one of them gets nervous, what we call hysterical, and then that girl will begin to play all sorts of pranks,—to lie and cheat, perhaps, in the most unaccountable way, so that she might seem to a minister a good example of total depravity. We don't see her in that light. We give her iron and valerian, and get her on horseback, if we can, and so expect to make her will come all right again. By-and-by we are called in to see an old baby, three-score years and ten or more old. We find this old baby has never got rid of that first year's teaching which led him to fill his stomach with all he could pump into it, and his hands with everything he could grab. People call him a miser. We are sorry for him; but we can't help remembering his first year's training, and the natural effect of money on the great majority of those that have it. So while the ministers say he 'shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven' we like to remind them that 'with God all things are possible.'
"Once more, we see all kinds of monomania and insanity. We learn from them to recognize all sorts of queer tendencies in minds supposed to be sane, so that we have nothing but compassion for a large class of persons condemned as sinners by theologians, but considered by us as invalids. We have constant reasons for noticing the transmission of qualities from parents to offspring, and we find it hard to hold a child accountable in any moral point of view for inherited bad temper or tendency to drunkenness,—as hard as we should to blame him for inheriting gout or asthma. I suppose we are more lenient with human nature than theologians generally are. We know that the spirits of men and their views of the present and the future go up and down, with the barometer, and that a permanent depression of one inch in the mercurial column would affect the whole theology of Christendom.
"Ministers talk about the human will as if it stood on a high look-out, with plenty of light, and elbow-room reaching to the horizon. Doctors are constantly noticing how it is tied up and darkened by inferior organization, by disease, and all sorts of crowding interferences, until they get to look upon Hottentots and Indians—and a good many of their own race—as a kind of self-conscious blood-clocks with very limited power of self-determination. That's the tendency, I say, of a doctor's experience. But the people to whom they address their statements of the results of their observation belong to the thinking class of the highest races, and they are conscious of a great deal of liberty of will. So in the face of the fact that civilization with all it offers has proved a dead failure with the aboriginal races of this country,—on the whole, I say, a dead failure,—they talk as if they knew from their own will all about that of a Digger Indian! We are more apt to go by observation of the facts in the case. We are constantly seeing weakness where you see depravity. I don't say we're right; I only tell what you must often find to be the fact, right or wrong, in talking with doctors. You see, too, our notions of bodily and moral disease, or sin, are apt to go together. We used to be as hard on sickness as you were on sin. We know better now. We don't look at sickness as we used to, and try to poison, it with everything that is offensive,—burnt toads and earth-worms and viper-broth, and worse things than these. We know that disease has something back of it which the body isn't to blame for, at least in most cases, and which very often it is trying to get rid of. Just so with sin. I will agree to take a hundred new-born babes of a certain stock and return seventy-five of them in a dozen years true and honest, if not 'pious' children. And I will take another hundred, of a different stock, and put them in the hands of certain Ann-Street teachers, and seventy-five of them will be thieves and liars at the end of the same dozen years. I have heard of an old character, Colonel Jaques, I believe it was, a famous cattle-breeder, who used to say he could breed to pretty much any pattern he wanted to. Well, we doctors see so much of families, how the tricks of the blood keep breaking out, just as much in character as they do in looks, that we can't help feeling as if a great many people hadn't a fair chance to be what is called 'good,' and that there isn't a text in the Bible better worth keeping always in mind than that one, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.'
"As for our getting any quarter at the hands of theologians, we don't expect it, and have no right to. You don't give each other any quarter. I have had two religious books sent me by friends within a week or two. One is Mr. Brownson's; he is as fair and square as Euclid; a real honest, strong thinker, and one that knows what he is talking about,—for he has tried all sorts of religions, pretty much. He tells us that the Roman Catholic Church is the one 'through which alone we can hope for heaven.' The other is by a worthy Episcopal rector, who appears to write as if he were in earnest, and he calls the Papacy the 'Devil's Masterpiece,' and talks about the 'Satanic scheme' of that very Church 'through which alone,' as Mr. Brownson tells us, 'we can hope for heaven'! What's the use in our caring about hard words after this,—'atheists,' heretics, infidels, and the like? They're, after all, only the cinders picked up out of those heaps of ashes round the stumps of the old stakes where they used to burn men, women, and children for not thinking just like other folks. They'll 'crock' your fingers, but they can't burn us.
"Doctors are the best-natured people in the world, except when they get fighting with each other. And they have some advantages over you. You inherit your notions from a set of priests that had no wives and no children, or none to speak of, and so let their humanity die out of them. It didn't seem much to them to condemn a few thousand millions of people to purgatory or worse for a mistake of judgment. They didn't know what it was to have a child look up in their faces and say 'Father!' It will take you a hundred or two more years to get decently humanized, after so many centuries of dehumanizing celibacy.
"Besides, though our libraries are, perhaps, not commonly quite so big as yours, God opens one book to physicians that a good many of you don't know much about,—the Book of Life. That is none of your dusty folios with black letters between pasteboard and leather, but it is printed in bright red type, and the binding of it is warm and tender to every touch. They reverence that book as one of the Almighty's infallible revelations. They will insist on reading you lessons out of it, whether you call them names or not. These will always be lessons of charity. No doubt, nothing can be more provoking to listen to. But do beg your folks to remember that the Smithfield fires are all out, and that the cinders are very dirty and not in the least dangerous. They'd a great deal better be civil, and not be throwing old proverbs in the doctors' faces, when they say that the man of the old monkish notions is one thing and the man they watch from his cradle to his coffin is something very different."
* * * * *
It has cost a good deal of trouble to work the Doctor's talk up into this formal shape. Some of his sentences have been rounded off for him, and the whole brought into a more rhetorical form than it could have pretended to, if taken as it fell from his lips. But the exact course of his remarks has been followed, and as far as possible his expressions have been retained. Though given in the form of a discourse, it must be remembered that this was a conversation, much more fragmentary and colloquial than it seems as just read.
The Reverend Doctor was very far from taking offence at the old physician's freedom of speech. He knew him to be honest, kind, charitable, self-denying, wherever any sorrow was to be alleviated, always reverential, with a cheerful trust in the great Father of all mankind. To be sure, his senior deacon, old Deacon Shearer,—who seemed to have got his Scripture-teachings out of the "Vinegar Bible," (the one where Vineyard is misprinted Vinegar, which a good many people seem to have adopted as the true reading,)—his senior deacon had called Dr. Kittredge an "infidel." But the Reverend Doctor could not help feeling, that, unless the text, "By their fruits ye shall know them," were an interpolation, the Doctor was the better Christian of the two. Whatever his senior deacon might think about it, he said to himself that he shouldn't be surprised if he met the Doctor in heaven yet, inquiring anxiously after old Deacon Shearer.
He was on the point of expressing himself very frankly to the Doctor, with that benevolent smile on his face which had sometimes come near giving offence to the readers of the "Vinegar" edition, but he saw that the physician's attention had been arrested by Elsie. He looked in the same direction himself, and could not help being struck by her attitude and expression. There was something singularly graceful in the curves of her neck and the rest of her figure, but she was so perfectly still that it seemed as if she were hardly breathing. Her eyes were fixed on the young girl with whom Mr. Bernard was talking. He had often noticed their brilliancy, but now it seemed to him that they appeared dull, and the look on her features was as of some passion which had missed its stroke. Mr. Bernard's companion seemed unconscious that she was the object of this attention, and was listening to the young master as if he had succeeded in making himself very agreeable.
Of course Dick Venner had not mistaken the game that was going on. The schoolmaster meant to make Elsie jealous,—and he had done it. That's it: get her savage first, and then come wheedling round her,—a sure trick, if he isn't headed off somehow. But Dick saw well enough that he had better let Elsie alone just now, and thought the best way of killing the evening would be to amuse himself in a little lively talk with Mrs. Blanche Creamer, and incidentally to show Elsie that he could make himself acceptable to other women, if not to herself.
The Doctor presently went up to Elsie, determined to engage her in conversation and get her out of her thoughts, which he saw, by her look, were dangerous. Her father had been on the point of leaving Helen Darley to go to her, but felt easy enough when he saw the old Doctor at her side, and so went on talking. The Reverend Doctor, being now left alone, engaged the Widow Rowens, who put the best face on her vexation she could, but was devoting herself to all the underground deities for having been such a fool as to ask that pale-faced thing from the Institute to fill up her party.
There is no space left to report the rest of the conversation. If there was anything of any significance in it, it will turn up by-and-by, no doubt. At ten o'clock the Reverend Doctor called Miss Letty, who had no idea it was so late; Mr. Bernard gave his arm to Helen; Mr. Richard saw to Mrs. Blanche Creamer; the Doctor gave Elsie a cautioning look, and went off alone, thoughtful; Dudley Venner and his daughter got into their carriage and were whirled away. The Widow's gambit was played, and she had not won the game.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Reminiscences of the late Thomas Assheton Smith, Esq.; or, The Pursuits of an English Country-Gentleman. By Sir J.E. EARDLEY-WILMOT. London: Murray. 1860.
We are somewhat doubtful whether Charles Lamb would have included this handsome volume in a list of books. It is evidently the work of an eager sportsman, one learned in all the minutiae of the chase. Much of it is taken up with enthusiastic description of Mr. Smith's favorite horses and hounds, of the astonishing qualities of Rory O'More, of the splendid runs made by Fireship and Lightboat, of the notable improvement made in the Suffolk pack by Mr. Smith's judicious system of crossing. All this part of the book will doubtless interest any English gentleman who delights in pink and buckskins, and will especially please those who recollect the famous Tom Smith, as he was called, when,
"on a morning Ruddy as health, he rode into the field And then pursued the chase,"
over and through swamp, hedge, and ditch, with that dare-devil speed and recklessness that won for him the reputation of being the best rider, the hardest seat, and the first sportsman in all England.
And even to us, who never chased the fox nor ever crossed a thoroughbred, this portion of the work is not without a certain interest; for we take a species of pleasure in hearing or learning the technical terms of any art, trade, or pursuit whatsoever, and not often to American eyes comes the chance of becoming acquainted with the huntsman, the whipper-in, the ride to cover, and the eager, toilsome, dangerous chase.
Still we cannot help regarding the over-abundance of these things as not only a blemish in the book as a work of art, which indeed it scarcely pretends to be, but also as a hindrance to the attainment of its object, which is the vindication of Mr. Smith's character from certain charges made against it by the "Times" and other London newspapers, which spoke but slightingly of him, pronouncing him to have been a mere fox-hunting squire, and nothing more.
To contradict these and similar aspersions, his widow put all of Mr. Smith's correspondence into the hands of his warm friend, Sir J.E. Eardley-Wilmot, and left to him the task of defending the name and fame of her husband. These memoirs are the result, and we are of opinion, that, with the exception of the superabundant cricketing and hunting technicalities before mentioned, the work has been exceedingly well performed. The book is written in an unambitious, straightforward, gentlemanly style, that carries conviction with it; and as we rise from a perusal of it, with occasional stoppings, we feel that the "Times" correspondent has now at least no excuse for harsh judgment of Mr. Smith, and that, if he was a reckless rider and a mighty hunter, he was also very much more and better.
Thomas Assheton Smith was born of sturdy and right English stock, as the following anecdote makes patent. His father opposed the building of the Menai Bridge, did not believe, in fact, that it could be built, considered the ferry good enough, and declared, that, if it should be finished, he for one would never set foot upon it. The possibility of building a bridge having been demonstrated to Mr. Smith by the completed structure, he, for the remainder of his life, when his occasions took him across the strait, made use of a boat. Other such anecdotes are told of him, setting forth his obstinacy and courage in a strong light, so that we are not surprised when we are informed that his son had a stern temper and was somewhat dictatorial in the field. We could have accounted for Tom Smith's severe countenance, though we had never heard of that two hours' battle at Eton, of which the school-traditions yet speak, when he fought a drawn fight with Jack Musters, who, the Squire always declared, spoiled his beauty for him. Neither do we wonder when we hear that he fought a six-foot carter in the street and beat him, or that, when nearly eighty years of age, he jumped off his horse and put up his hands to a farm-laborer who had insulted him, or that, when he ran as candidate for Parliament, for Nottingham, and was hissed and groaned in that radical city, he stepped down from the hustings and proposed a set-to with any voter in the crowd. This was good crowing, but the old cock had taught him.
From Eton young Smith was removed to Oxford, where we are told he often rode out with the hounds and began his practice of keeping close up to them at the risk of his own and his horse's neck. Clearly the subject of these memoirs was not intended to shine in the schools and wisely did not make the attempt. Leaving college, Mr. Smith for a few years devoted himself to the improvement of his horses and hounds, and, as the author says, to "creating a new country near Salisbury Plain." The thread of his life is then followed down to the death of his father and his entrance upon the manifold duties of a large landed proprietor, owner of immense quarries, and landlord of some hundreds of tenants,—the pursuits, in short, of an English country-gentleman. Here is the real interest of the book. It is interesting to note the difference between this country-squire and that typical country-squire with which the plays and novels of the last hundred and fifty years have made us familiar. We all know him. Purple with Port, beef-witted, tyrannical, intolerant, ignorant, never happy unless when on horseback or drunk, nor looking happy then.
But the "glorious gains" of the nineteenth century have come to fox-hunters as well as to other men, and Squire Smith is a very much ameliorated Squire Western, though we see plain enough evidence that the original stock is the same in both. Both are good Tories, hate the French, and would fight for the Church; but we are sure that Squire Western considers a curate as but a poor creature, and we fear Squire Smith has not any Puritanical reverence for the clergy,—for curates, at least; for we are told, that, when the Reverend Mr. T. Dyson preached his first sermon, the Squire walked up to him in the church-porch, and, clapping him on the back, said to the young parson, "Well done, my boy! you shall have a mount on Rory next Tuesday for this!" But we do not think that Squire Western would have been liberal or politic enough to have given land and money to several neighboring congregations of Dissenters, or that he would have given away to his quarrymen several thousand acres of good land together with building-materials. Nor have we such faith in the ability of the Georgian Squire as to believe that he, from his own observation and acute reasoning on facts which he had noticed when a boy in school, would ever have given to the world the famous wave-line bow to be a pattern on which all nations should model their vessels. Yet this our Victorian Squire has done, and he loses no credit by the fact that Mr. Scott Russell, the great naval architect, had at nearly the same time, working from entirely different premises, arrived at the same result.
Mr. Smith seems to us well worth knowing as the type of a great class of Englishmen,—that class to which the author of "School-Days at Rugby" gives the comprehensive patronymic of Brown,—a class bold, honest, energetic, not too affectionate, not too intellectual, perhaps, but, by virtue of their strength of hand, head, and will, and their inborn honesty of soul, the masters in some important respects of all the men that live.
Essays and Reviews. The Second Edition. London: 1860. 8vo. pp. 434.
The second English and the first American edition of the volume bearing the modest title given above have followed quickly its original publication. The title-page, indicating only the form of the matter in the volume, compels a reference to the table of contents in order to learn its substance. From this it appears that the Essays and Reviews are seven in number, each by a different author, and that they treat chiefly of topics connected with the study of Scripture,—the only one not directly indicating its relation to this study by its title being the first, on "The Education of the World," by the Reverend Frederick Temple, Head Master of Rugby School. The names of several of the authors, those, for instance, of the late Baden Powell, of Dr. Rowland Williams, and of Mr. Jowett, Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford, are well known as among those of the most advanced and ablest leaders of thought in the most liberal section of the English Church. It is not strange that a volume to which such men have contributed should have excited a general and deep interest among all who are interested in the present position of scholarship in England and of thought in regard to the most important subjects which can occupy the intellects of men.
Whatever expectations the announcement of the volume excited are well supported by its contents. It is the most important contribution made during the present generation in England to the establishment of a sound religious philosophy, and to the advance of religious truth. Whatever opposition some of the speculations contained in it may excite, whether the main views of its authors be accepted or not, (and in this notice we do not propose to consider whether they be true or not,) the principles upon which their opinions and speculations are based are so incontrovertible, and the learning and ability with which they are supported are so great, that the work must inevitably produce a lasting effect upon the tendency of thought in respect to the subjects it embraces and must lead to the reconsideration of many prevalent opinions. It is a book at once to start doubts in the minds of those attached to established forms and bound by ancient creeds, and to quiet doubts in those who have been perplexed in the bewilderments of modern metaphysical philosophy or have found it difficult to reconcile the truths established by science with their faith in the Christian religion. It is a book which serves as a landmark of the most advanced point to which religious thought has yet reached, and from which to take a new observation and departure.
The most striking external characteristic of these Essays is, that, having been "written in entire independence of each other, and without concert or comparison," they, without exception, present a close similarity in spirit and in tone. All of them are distinguished by a union of freedom with reverence, as rare as it is remarkable, in treating of subjects peculiarly likely to suffer from being handled in a conventional manner, and usually discussed with exaggerated freedom or with superstitious reverence. In tone and temper they leave nothing to be desired; they are neither hot with zeal nor rash with controversial eagerness; but they are calm without coldness, earnest without extravagance. The fairness and candor displayed in them, the freedom from party-prejudice or bias, the clearness in the statement of difficulties, the honesty in the recognition of the limits of present knowledge, all indicate most clearly the growth of a worthy spirit in the treatment of subjects which have too often heretofore been fields for the exhibition of narrowness, intolerance, and bigotry. Such a book is not only an honor to the men engaged in its production, but of happy augury for the future progress of truth.
The topics which these Essays discuss are of as much interest in America as in England, to those outside the English Church as to those within it. But, at the same time, most of the Essays (and this consideration is not a satisfactory one) are of a kind which it would seem could have been produced only in England, and there only within the limits of the Church. In America we have no body of men capable of work so different in its parts, and, at the same time, exhibiting such soundness and extent of scholarship, such liberality of opinion, such disciplined habits of thought. Any single Essay in the volume might, perhaps, without any extravagance of supposition, have been the work of some American scholar; but the difficulty would be to find here seven writers each capable of producing one of the Essays. The intellectual discipline of English methods of study and of English institutions still produces a greater number of men capable of the highest sort of work, than the methods in vogue and the institutions established here. We have thinkers who venture as pioneers into the uncleared wilderness. Their vigorous blows bring down many an old tree moss-grown with errors, and their ploughs for the first time turn the soil covered with the fallen leaves of decayed beliefs; but we fail in our supply of those men who are to follow the pioneers and do the higher and more lasting constructive work of civilization. Now, as in past times, we must be content, so far as we may, to have this work done for us by the thinkers and scholars of other lands. But how long is this to last? Is the same sort of makeshift to be allowed in the processes of American thought, which in the expanse of our territory we have allowed in the processes of material labor?
The publication of these "Essays and Reviews" marks, as we believe, an epoch in the history of thought in England. They will stand as the monument of the reaction of the best minds against the "Tractarian" movement on the one hand, and against the skeptical tendencies of much of the science and philosophy of recent times on the other. For while, at Oxford and elsewhere, a strong current has set back against the unimpeded progress of truth, while the attempt has been made, and not without a transient success, to rivet old fetters upon the hearts and intellects of men, another school, borrowing their metaphysics from Germany, and their notions of Christianity from the common creeds, have set up science in opposition to faith, and have treated religion, with more or less openness, as if it were a worn-out superstition. The essential value of this book is, that its various Essays are virtually an attempt—how far successful each reader must judge for himself—to show that the Christian religion is no fixed and formalized set of doctrines, but an expansive and fluent faith, adapting itself to the new needs of every generation and of each individual; not opposed to the teachings of science, but, when properly understood, entirely harmonious with them, and drawing continually fresh support from them; having nothing to fear from the progress of knowledge and the increase of light, but everything to gain; welcoming truth, whencesoever it may come, whatsoever it may be, whithersoever it may lead.
Beside the topics of thought treated of in this volume, it suggests incidentally many others of peculiar interest. As an indication of the present condition of English scholarship, it is full of encouragement for the future. For more than a century there has been very little deep, original, and productive study of the Scriptures in England. A new impulse has now been given to it. What will be its effect, and the effect of the liberalized and more tolerant spirit of which it is a proof, upon the constitution of the English Church can be foreseen but in part. It is certain that it must lead to great changes, and to a virtual breaking-down of many of the most confining sectarian barriers. No Articles and no Creeds can stand for many generations as the authoritative expressions of belief, after the character of the compulsion which they exercise is understood, after the history of sectarian differences is fairly stated, after the interpretation of Scripture is placed upon a sound basis, and the nature of Christianity and the object of the teachings of Christ are thus brought home to the intellects and the hearts of men.
A Journey in the Back-Country. By FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED. Author of "A Journey in the Seaboard Slave-States," "A Journey in Texas," "Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England," etc. New York: Mason Brothers. 1860. pp. xvi., 492.
Mr. Olmsted is no ordinary traveller for amusement or adventure. He leaves home to instruct himself through his own eyes and ears concerning matters of general interest about which no trustworthy information was to be found in books. Looking at Slavery merely as an economist, with no political or moral prepossessions to mislead his judgment, he went to study for himself its workings and results as a form of labor, we might almost say, so cool-headed is he, as an application of forces, rather than as a social or political phenomenon. Self-possessed and wary, almost provokingly unsympathetic in his report of what he saw, pronouncing no judgment on isolated facts, and drawing no undue inferences from them, he has now generalized his results in a most interesting and valuable book. No more important contributions to contemporary American history have been made than in this volume and the two that preceded it. We know of no book that offers a parallel to them, except Arthur Young's "Travels in France." To discuss the question of Slavery without passion or even sentiment seemed an impossibility; yet Mr. Olmsted has shown that it can be done, and, having no theory to bolster, has contrived to tell us what he saw, and not what he went to see,—the rarest achievement among travellers. Without the charm of style, he has the truthfulness of Herodotus.
We do not forget that there was wisdom as well as wit in Dr. Johnson's sarcastic classification of facts with donkeys. The great majority of so-called facts, and especially those detailed by travellers, are of no consequence whatever to man or beast. What is it to us that Mr. A. has been condescending enough to look at the Venus of Milo, or that Mr. B., with more time than he knows what to do with already on his hands, must steal a couple of good working hours from Carlyle, worth probably five guineas apiece? That Hannibal crossed the Alps was something; that Goethe did was and is also of some consequence; but the transit of Mr. Anarithmon Smith need cause no excitement in the observatories. That a man has found out, by laborious counting, which is the middle word in the New Testament, is pretty sure to get into the newspapers as a remarkable fact; that he had discovered its central thought, and made it the keystone to knit together his else incomplete outward and inward lives, would hardly be esteemed of so much consequence. Facts are such different things, especially to different persons! The truth is, that we should distinguish between real facts and the mere images of facts, though the newspapers teach us to confound them, putting side by side, as they do, Garibaldi's entry into Naples and Dennis McQuigley's into the lock-up.
The man who gives us a really new fact deserves to be classed with him who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before, for it contains the germinal principle of knowledge. We owe a large debt in this kind to Mr. Olmsted. He tells us much of what he saw, little of what he thought. He has good eyes, and that something behind them that makes a good observer. As respects the South, he has the advantage of being at once native and foreigner, so that what is merely American does not divide his attention with what is local and peculiar. Making entries in his diary before impressions have had time to cool, he has preserved even the dialect of those with whom he talked, and thus given a lively reality to his narrative.
Nearly one-half of Mr. Olmsted's present volume is devoted to a discussion of the conclusions to be drawn from the mass of observations he has thus far collected. His views are entitled to the more consideration that the tone of his mind is so dispassionate. He finds himself compelled to give his verdict against Slavery, whether it be considered morally, politically, or economically. We cannot but think that the reading of his book will do great good in opening the minds of many to a perception that the agitation of the Slavery question is not a mere clash of unthinking prejudices between North and South, that Slavery itself is not a matter of purely local concern, but that it interests all parts of the Republic equally. It is certainly of paramount importance that we should understand the practical workings of a system which is converting what by natural increase will soon constitute a majority of the population in the fairest portion of our territory into a vast planting, hoeing, and cotton-picking machine.
Mr. Olmsted's qualifications as a traveller are so remarkable that we cannot help wishing that he would make a journey through New England and make us as thoroughly acquainted with its internal condition as we ought to be. We believe there is no book of the kind since that of President Dwight, and that gives us little of the sort of information we desire. It is an insight into the manners, modes of life, and ways of thinking that is of value; and Mr. Olmsted, who goes about, like Chaucer's Somner,
"Ever inquiring upon everything,"
is just the person to supply a great want in our literature. We know less of the domestic habits of a large part of our population than of those of the Saxons in the time of Alfred. But for a few glimpses which we get from Dunton, Madam Knight, the Rev. Jacob Bailey, and the Proceedings of Synods, we should be little better acquainted with the New Englanders of the century following the Restoration than with the primitive Aryans. Bailey's account of his voyage to England is the best contemporary testimony to the truth of Smollett's pictures of sea-life that we ever met with, and we cannot sufficiently regret that the whole of his journal during his college-life was not published. Mr. Olmsted would be sure of a grateful recognition from posterity, if he would do for New England what he has done for the South. We might not be flattered by his report, but we could not fail to be benefited by it. It would, perhaps, lead to the establishment of home missions among the Bad-Bread and Foul-Air tribes, who make more wretched captives for life and kill more children than the French and Indians together ever dreamed of.
Sketches of Parisian Life. The Greatness and Decline of Cesar Birotteau. From the French of HONORE DE BALZAC. Translated by O.W. WIGHT and F.B. GOODRICH. New York: Rudd & Carleton, 130 Grand Street. 1860. pp. 387.
We are very glad to see this beginning of a translation of Balzac, or de Balzac, as he chose to christen himself. Without intending an exact parallel, he might be called the Fielding of French Literature,—intensely masculine, an artist who works outward from an informing idea, a satirist whose humor will not let him despise human nature even while he exposes its weaknesses. The story of Caesar Birotteau is well-chosen as an usher to the rest, for it is eminently characteristic, though it does not show the higher imaginative qualities of the author. It is one of the severest tests of genius to draw an ordinary character so humanly that we learn to love and respect it in spite of a thorough familiarity with its faults and absurdities. In this respect Balzac's "Birotteau" is a masterpiece. The translation, as far as we have had time to look into it, seems a very easy, spirited, and knowing one. The translators have overcome the difficulties of slang with great skill, rendering by equivalent vulgarisms which give the spirit where the letter would be unintelligible. We object, however, to a phrase like "vest-pocket," where we find it in the narrative, and not in the mouth of one of the personages. It is tailor's English, which is as bad as peddler's French. But this is a trifle where there is so much to commend in essentials, and we hope the translators will be encouraged to go on in a work so excellently begun.
Home Ballads and Poems. By JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1800. pp. 206.
The natural product of a creed which ignores the aesthetical part of man and reduces Nature to a uniform drab would seem to have been Bernard Barton. His verse certainly infringed none of the superstitions of the sect; for from title-page to colophon, there was no sin either in the way of music or color. There was, indeed, a frugal and housewifely Muse, that brewed a cup, neither cheering unduly nor inebriating, out of the emptyings of Wordsworth's teapot. How that little busy B. improved each shining hour, how neatly he laid his wax, it gives us a cold shiver to think of,—ancora ci raccappriccia! Against a copy of verses signed "B.B.," as we remember them in the hardy Annuals that went to seed so many years ago, we should warn our incautious offspring as an experienced duck might her brood against a charge of B.B. shot. It behooves men to be careful; for one may chance to suffer lifelong from these intrusions of cold lead in early life, as duellists sometimes carry about all their days a bullet from which no surgery can relieve them. Memory avenges our abuses of her, and, as an awful example, we mention the fact that we have never been able to forget certain stanzas of another B.B., who, under the title of Boston Bard, whilom obtained from newspaper-columns that concession which gods and men would unanimously have denied him.
George Fox, utterly ignoring the immense stress which Nature lays on established order and precedent, got hold of a half-truth which made him crazy, as half-truths are wont. But the inward light, whatever else it might be, was surely not of that kind "that never was on land or sea." There has been much that was poetical in the lives of Quakers, little in the men themselves. Poetry demands a richer and more various culture, and, however good we may find such men as John Woolman and Elias Boudinot, they make us feel painfully that the salt of the earth is something very different, to say the least, from the Attic variety of the same mineral. Let Armstrong and Whitworth and James experiment as they will, they shall never hit on a size of bore so precisely adequate for the waste of human life as the journal of an average Quaker. Compared with it, the sandy intervals of Swedenborg gush with singing springs, and Cotton Mather is a very Lucian for liveliness.
Yet this dry Quaker stem has fairly blossomed at last, and Nature, who can never be long kept under, has made a poet of Mr. Whittier as she made a General of Greene. To make a New England poet, she had her choice between Puritan and Quaker, and she took the Quaker. He is, on the whole, the most representative poet that New England has produced. He sings her thoughts, her prejudices, her scenery. He has not forgiven the Puritans for hanging two or three of his co-sectaries, but he admires them for all that, calls on his countrymen as
"Sons of men who sat in council with their Bibles round the board, Answering Charles's royal mandate with a stern 'Thus saith the Lord,'"
and at heart, we suspect, has more sympathy with Miles Standish than with Mary Dyer. Indeed,
"Sons of men who sat in meeting with their broadbrims o'er their brow, Answering Charles's royal mandate with a thee instead of thou,"
would hardly do. Whatever Mr. Whittier may lack, he has the prime merit that he smacks of the soil. It is a New England heart he buttons his strait-breasted coat over, and it gives the buttons a sharp strain now and then. Even the native idiom crops out here and there in his verses. He makes abroad rhyme with God, law with war, us with curse, scorner with honor, been with men, beard with shared. For the last two we have a certain sympathy as archaisms, but with the rest we can make no terms whatever,—they must march out with no honors of war. The Yankee lingo is insoluble in poetry, and the accent would give a flavor of essence-pennyr'y'l to the very Beatitudes. It differs from Lowland Scotch as a patois from a dialect.
But criticism is not a game of jerk-straws, and Mr. Whittier has other and better claims on us than as a stylist. There is true fire in the heart of the man, and his eye is the eye of a poet. A more juicy soil might have made him a Burns or a Beranger for us. New England is dry and hard, though she have a warm nook in her, here and there, where the magnolia grows after a fashion. It is all very nice to say to our poets, "You have sky and wood and waterfall and men and women,—in short, the entire outfit of Shakspeare; Nature is the same here as elsewhere"; and when the popular lecturer says it, the popular audience gives a stir of approval. But it is all bosh, nevertheless. Nature is not the same here, and perhaps never will be, as in lands where man has mingled his being with hers for countless centuries, where every field is steeped in history, every crag is ivied with legend, and the whole atmosphere of thought is hazy with the Indian summer of tradition. Nature without an ideal background is nothing. We may claim whatever merits we like, (and our orators are not too bashful,) we may be as free and enlightened as we choose, but we are certainly not interesting or picturesque. We may be as beautiful to the statistician as a column of figures, and dear to the political economist as a social phenomenon; but our hive has little of that marvellous Bee-bread that can transmute the brain to finer issues than a gregarious activity in hoarding. The Puritans left us a fine estate in conscience, energy, and respect for learning; but they disinherited us of the past. Not a single stage-property of poetry did they bring with them but the good old Devil, with his graminivorous attributes, and even he could not stand the climate. Neither horn nor hoof nor tail of him has been seen for a century. He is as dead as the goat-footed Pan, whom he succeeded, and we tenderly regret him.
Mr. Whittier himself complains somewhere of
"The rigor of our frozen sky,"
and he seems to have been thinking of our clear, thin, intellectual atmosphere, the counterpart of our physical one, of which artists complain that it rounds no edges. We have sometimes thought that his verses suffered from a New England taint in a too great tendency to metaphysics and morals, which may be the bases on which poetry rests, but should not be carried too high above-ground. Without this, however, he would not have been the typical New England poet that he is. In the present volume there is little of it. It is more purely objective than any of its forerunners, and is full of the most charming rural pictures and glimpses, in which every sight and sound, every flower, bird, and tree, is neighborly and homely. He makes us see
"the old swallow-haunted barns, Brown-gabled, long, and full of seams Through which the moted sunlight streams, And winds blow freshly in to shake The red plumes of the roosted cocks And the loose hay-mow's scented locks,"—
"the cattle-yard With the white horns tossing above the wall,"—
the spring-blossoms that drooped over the river,
"Lighting up the swarming shad:"—
"the bulged nets sweeping shoreward With their silver-sided haul."
Every picture is full of color, and shows that true eye for Nature which sees only what it ought, and that artistic memory which brings home compositions and not catalogues. There is hardly a hill, rock, stream, or sea-fronting headland in the neighborhood of his home that he has not fondly remembered. Sometimes, we think, there is too much description, the besetting sin of modern verse, which has substituted what should be called wordy-painting for the old art of painting in a single word. The essential character of Mr. Whittier's poetry is lyrical, and the rush of the lyric, like that of a brook, allows few pictures. Now and then there may be an eddy where the feeling lingers and reflects a bit of scenery, but for the most part it can only catch gleams of color that mingle with the prevailing tone and enrich without usurping on it. This volume contains some of the best of Mr. Whittier's productions in this kind. "Skipper Ireson's Ride" we hold to be by long odds the best of modern ballads. There are others nearly as good in their way, and all, with a single exception, embodying native legends. In "Telling the Bees," Mr. Whittier has enshrined a country superstition in a poem of exquisite grace and feeling. "The Garrison of Cape Ann" would have been a fine poem, but it has too much of the author in it, and to put a moral at the end of a ballad is like sticking a cork on the point of a sword. It is pleasant to see how much our Quaker is indebted for his themes to Cotton Mather, who belabored his un-Friends of former days with so much bad English and worse Latin. With all his faults, that conceited old pedant contrived to make one of the most entertaining books ever written on this side the water, and we wonder that no one should take the trouble to give us a tolerably correct edition of it. Absurdity is common enough, but such a genius for it as Mather had is a rare and delightful gift.
This last volume has given us a higher conception of Mr. Whittier's powers. We already valued as they deserved his force of faith, his earnestness, the glow and hurry of his thought, and the (if every third stump-speaker among us were not a Demosthenes, we should have said Demosthenean) eloquence of his verse; but here we meet him in a softer and more meditative mood. He seems a Berserker turned Carthusian. The half-mystic tone of "The Shadow and the Light" contrasts strangely, and, we think, pleasantly, with the war-like clang of "From Perugia." The years deal kindly with good men, and we find a clearer and richer quality in these verses where the ferment is over and the rile has quietly settled. We have had no more purely American poet than Mr. Whittier, none in whom the popular thought found such ready and vigorous expression. The future will not fail to do justice to a man who has been so true to the present.
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