Famous Reviews
Editor: R. Brimley Johnson
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Nor ought we to marvel if all the contrivances in nature be not, as far as we can judge, absolutely perfect; and if some of them be abhorrent to our idea of fitness. We need not marvel at the sting of the bee causing the bee's own death; at drones being produced in such vast numbers for one single act, and with the great majority slaughtered by their sterile sisters; at the astonishing waste of pollen by our fir-trees; at the instinctive hatred of the queen-bee for her own fertile daughters; at ichneumonidae feeding within the live bodies of caterpillars; and at other such cases. The wonder indeed is, on the theory of natural selection, that more cases of the want of absolute perfection have not been observed.—p. 472.

We think that the real temper of this whole speculation as to nature itself may be read in these few lines. It is a dishonouring view of nature.

That reverence for the work of God's hands with which a true belief in the All-wise Worker fills the believer's heart is at the root of all great physical discovery; it is the basis of philosophy. He who would see the venerable features of Nature must not seek with the rudeness of a licensed roysterer violently to unmask her countenance; but must wait as a learner for her willing unveiling. There was more of the true temper of philosophy in the poetic fiction of the Pan-ic shriek, than in the atheistic speculations of Lucretius. But this temper must beset those who do in effect banish God from nature. And so Mr. Darwin not only finds in it these bungling contrivances which his own greater skill could amend, but he stands aghast before its mightier phenomena. The presence of death and famine seems to him inconceivable on the ordinary idea of creation; and he looks almost aghast at them until reconciled to their presence by his own theory that "a ratio of increase so high as to lead to a struggle for life, and as a consequence to natural selection entailing divergence of character and the extinction of less improved forms, is decidedly followed by the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals" (p. 490). But we can give him a simpler solution still for the presence of these strange forms of imperfection and suffering amongst the works of God.

We can tell him of the strong shudder which ran through all this world when its head and ruler fell. When he asks concerning the infinite variety of these multiplied works which are set in such an orderly unity, and run up into man as their reasonable head, we can tell him of the exuberance of God's goodness and remind him of the deep philosophy which lies in those simple words—"All thy works praise Thee, O God, and thy saints give thanks unto Thee." For it is one office of redeemed man to collect the inarticulate praises of the material creation, and pay them with conscious homage into the treasury of the supreme Lord.

* * * * *

It is by putting restraint upon fancy that science is made the true trainer of our intellect:—

"A study of the Newtonian philosophy," says Sedgwick, "as affecting our moral powers and capacities, does not terminate in mere negations. It teaches us to see the finger of God in all things animate and inaminate [Transcriber's note: sic], and gives us an exalted conception of His attributes, placing before us the clearest proof of their reality; and so prepares, or ought to prepare, the mind for the reception of that higher illumination which brings the rebellious faculties into obedience to the Divine will."—Studies of the University, p. 14.

It is by our deep conviction of the truth and importance of this view for the scientific mind of England that we have been led to treat at so much length Mr. Darwin's speculation. The contrast between the sober, patient, philosophical courage of our home philosophy, and the writings of Lamarck and his followers and predecessors, of MM. Demaillet, Bory de Saint Vincent, Virey, and Oken,[1] is indeed most wonderful; and it is greatly owing to the noble tone which has been given by those great men whose words we have quoted to the school of British science. That Mr. Darwin should have wandered from this broad highway of nature's works into the jungle of fanciful assumption is no small evil. We trust that he is mistaken in believing that he may count Sir C. Lyell as one of his converts. We know indeed the strength of the temptations which he can bring to bear upon his geological brother. The Lyellian hypothesis, itself not free from some of Mr. Darwin's faults, stands eminently in need for its own support of some such new scheme of physical life as that propounded here. Yet no man has been more distinct and more logical in the denial of the transmutation of species than Sir C. Lyell, and that not in the infancy of his scientific life, but in its full vigour and maturity.

[1] It may be worth while to exhibit to our readers a few of Dr. Oken's postulates or arguments as specimens of his views:— I wrote the first edition of 1810 in a kind of inspiration. 4. Spirit is the motion of mathematical ideas. 10. Physio-philosphy [Transcriber's note: sic] has to ... pourtray the first period of the world's development from nothing; how the elements and heavenly bodies originated; in what method by self-evolution into higher and manifold forms they separated into minerals, became finally organic, and in man attained self-consciousness. 42. The mathematical monad is eternal. 43. The eternal is one and the same with the zero of mathematics.

Sir C. Lyell devotes the 33rd to the 36th chapter of his "Principles of Geology" to an examination of this question. He gives a clear account of the mode in which Lamarck supported his belief of the transmutation of species; he interrupts the author's argument to observe that "no positive fact is cited to exemplify the substitution of some entirely new sense, faculty, or organ—because no examples were to be found"; and remarks that when Lamarck talks of "the effects of internal sentiment," etc., as causes whereby animals and plants may acquire new organs, he substitutes names for things, and with a disregard to the strict rules of induction, resorts to fictions.

He shows the fallacy of Lamarck's reasoning, and by anticipation confutes the whole theory of Mr. Darwin, when gathering clearly up into a few heads the recapitulation of the whole argument in favour of the reality of species in nature. He urges:—[Transcriber's note: numbering in original]

1. That there is a capacity in all species to accommodate themselves to a certain extent to a change of external circumstances.

4. The entire variation from the original type ... may usually be effected in a brief period of time, after which no further deviation can be obtained.

5. The intermixing distinct species is guarded against by the sterility of the mule offspring.

6. It appears that species have a real existence in nature, and that each was endowed at the time of its creation with the attributes and organization by which it is now distinguished.[1]

[1] "Principles of Geology," edit. 1853.

We trust that Sir C. Lyell abides still by these truly philosophical principles; and that with his help and with that of his brethren this flimsy speculation may be as completely put down as was what in spite of all denials we must venture to call its twin though less-instructed brother, the "Vestiges of Creation." In so doing they will assuredly provide for the strength and continually growing progress of British science.

Indeed, not only do all laws for the study of nature vanish when the great principle of order pervading and regulating all her processes is given up, but all that imparts the deepest interest in the investigation of her wonders will have departed too. Under such influences a man soon goes back to the marvelling stare of childhood at the centaurs and hippogriffs of fancy, or if he is of a philosophic turn, he comes like Oken to write a scheme of creation under "a sort of inspiration"; but it is the frenzied inspiration of the inhaler of mephitic gas. The whole world of nature is laid for such a man under a fantastic law of glamour, and he becomes capable of believing anything: to him it is just as probable that Dr. Livingstone will find the next tribe of negroes with their heads growing under their arms as fixed on the summit of the cervical vertebrae; and he is able, with a continually growing neglect of all the facts around him, with equal confidence and equal delusion, to look back to any past and to look on to any future.


[From The Quarterly Review, October, 1864]

Apologia pro Vita sua. By JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, D.D.

Few books have been published of late years which combine more distinct elements of interest than the "Apologia" of Dr. Newman. As an autobiography, in the highest sense of that word, as the portraiture, that is, and record of what the man was, irrespective of those common accidents of humanity which too often load the biographer's pages, it is eminently dramatic. To produce such a portrait was the end which the writer proposed to himself, and which he has achieved with a rare fidelity and completeness. Hardly do the "Confessions of St. Augustine" more vividly reproduce the old African Bishop before successive generations in all the greatness and struggles of his life than do these pages the very inner being of this remarkable man—"the living intelligence," as he describes it, "by which I write, and argue, and act" (p. 47). No wonder that when he first fully recognised what he had to do, he

shrank from both the task and the exposure which it would entail. I must, I said, give the true key to my whole life; I must show what I am, that it may be seen what I am not, and that the phantom may be extinguished which gibbers instead of me. I wish to be known as a living man, and not as a scarecrow which is dressed up in my clothes.... I will draw out, as far as may be, the history of my mind; I will state the point at which I began, in what external suggestion or accident each opinion had its rise, how far and how they were developed from within, how they grew, were modified, were combined, were in collision with each other, and were changed. Again, how I conducted myself towards them; and how, and how far, and for how long a time, I thought I could hold them consistently with the ecclesiastical engagements which I had made, and with the position which I filled.... It is not at all pleasant for me to be egotistical nor to be criticised for being so. It is not pleasant to reveal to high and low, young and old, what has gone on within me from my early years. It is not pleasant to be giving to every shallow or flippant disputant the advantage over me of knowing my most private thoughts, I might even say the intercourse between myself and my Maker. —pp. 47-51.

Here is the task he set himself, and the task which he has performed. There is in these pages an absolute revealing of the hidden life in its acting, and its processes, which at times is almost startling, which is everywhere of the deepest interest. For the life thus revealed is well worthy of the pen by which it is portrayed. Of all those who, in these later years, have quitted the Church of England for the Roman communion —esteemed, honoured, and beloved, as were many of them—no one, save Dr. Newman, appears to us to possess the rare gift of undoubted genius.

That life, moreover, which anywhere and at any time must have marked its own character on his fellows, was cast precisely at the time and place most favourable for stamping upon others the impress of itself. The plate was ready to receive and to retain every line of the image which was thrown so vividly upon it. The history, therefore, of this life in its shifting scenes of thought, feeling, and purpose, becomes in fact the history of a school, a party, and a sect. From its effect on us, who, from without, judge of it with critical calmness, we can form some idea of what must be its power on those who were within the charmed ring; who were actually under the wand of the enchanter, for whom there was music in that voice, fascination in that eye, and habitual command in that spare but lustrous countenance; and who can trace again in this retrospect the colours and shadows which in those years which fixed their destiny, passed, though in less distinct hues, into their own lives, and made them what they are.

Again, in another aspect, the "Apologia" will have a special interest for most of our readers. Almost every page of it will throw some light upon the great controversy which has been maintained for these three hundred years, and which now spreads itself throughout the world, between the Anglican Church and her oldest and greatest antagonist, the Papal See....

The first names to which it introduces us indicate the widely-differing influences under which was formed that party within our Church which has acted so powerfully and in such various directions upon its life and teaching. They are those of Mr.—afterwards Archbishop—Whately and Dr. Hawkins, afterwards and still the Provost of Oriel College. To intercourse with both of whom Dr. Newman attributes great results in the formation of his own character: the first emphatically opening his mind and teaching him to use his reason, whilst in religious opinion he taught him the existence of a church, and fixed in him Anti-Erastian views of Church polity; the second being a man of most exact mind, who through a course of severe snubbing taught him to weigh his words and be cautious in his statements.

To an almost unknown degree, Oriel had at that time monopolised the active speculative intellect of Oxford. Her fellowships being open, whilst those of other Colleges were closed, drew to her the ablest men of the University: whilst the nature of the examination for her fellowships, which took no note of ordinary University honours, and stretched boldly out beyond inquiries as to classical and mathematical attainments in everything which could test the dormant powers of the candidates, had already impressed upon the Society a distinctive character of intellectual excellence. The late Lord Grenville used at this time to term an Oriel Fellowship the Blue Ribbon of the University; and, undoubtedly, the results of those examinations have been marvellously confirmed by the event, if we think to what an extent the mind, and opinions, and thoughts of England have been moulded by them who form the list of those "Orielenses," of whom it was said in an academic squib of the time, with some truth, flavoured perhaps with a spice of envy, that they were wont to enter the academic circle "under a flourish of trumpets." Such a "flourish" certainly has often preceded the entry of far lesser men than E. Coplestone, E. Hawkins, J. Davison, J. Keble, R. Whately, T. Arnold, E.B. Pusey, J. H. Newman, H. Froude, R. J. Wilberforce, S. Wilberforce, G. A. Denison, &c., &c.

Into a Society leavened with such intellectual influences as these, Dr. Newman, soon after taking his degree, was ushered. It could at this time have borne no distinctively devout character in its religious aspect. Rather must it have been marked by the opposite of this. Whately, whose powerful and somewhat rude intellect must almost have overawed the common room when the might of Davison had been taken from it, was, with all his varied excellences, never by any means an eminently devout, scarcely perhaps an orthodox man. All his earlier writings bristle with paradoxes, which affronted the instincts of simpler and more believing minds. Whately, accordingly, appears in these pages as "generous and warmhearted—particularly loyal to his friends" (p. 68); as teaching his pupil "to see with my own eyes and to walk with my own feet"; yet as exercising an influence over him (p. 69) which, "in a higher respect than intellectual advance, had not been satisfactory," under which he "was beginning to prefer intellectual excellence to moral, was drifting in the direction of liberalism"; a "dream" out of which he was "rudely awakened at the end of 1827, by two great blows—illness and bereavement" (p. 72).

Though this change in his views is traced by Dr. Newman to the action of these strictly personal causes of illness and bereavement, yet other influences, we suspect, were working strongly in the same direction. It is plain that, so far as regards early permanent impression on the character of his religious opinions, the influence of Whately was calculated rather to stir up reaction than to win a convert. "Whately's mind," he says himself (p. 68), "was too different from mine for us to remain long on one line." The course of events round him impelled him in the same direction, and furnished him with new comrades, on whom henceforth he was to act, and who were to react most powerfully on him. The torrent of reform was beginning its full rush through the land; and its turbulent waters threatened not only to drown the old political landmarks of the Constitution, but also to sweep away the Church of the nation. Abhorrence of these so-called liberal opinions was the electric current which bound together the several minds which speedily appeared as instituting and directing the great Oxford Church movement. Not that it was in any sense the offspring of the old cry of "the Church in danger." The meaning of that alarm was the apprehension of danger to the emoluments or position of the Church as the established religion in the land. From the very first the Oxford movement pointed more to the maintenance of the Church as a spiritual society, divinely incorporated to teach certain doctrines, and do certain acts which none other could do, than to the preservation of those temporal advantages which had been conferred by the State. From the first there was a tendency to undervalue these external aids, which made the movement an object of suspicion to thorough Church-and-State men. This suspicion was repaid by the members of the new school with a return of contempt. They believed that in struggling for the temporal advantages of the Establishment, men had forgotten the essential characteristics of the Church, and had been led to barter their divine birthright for the mess of pottage which Acts of Parliament secured them. Thus we find Dr. Newman remembering his early Oxford dislike of "the bigoted two-bottle orthodox." He records (p. 73) the characteristic mode in which on the appearance of the first symptoms of his "leaving the clientela" of Dr. Whately he was punished by that rough humorist. "Whately was considerably annoyed at me; and he took a humorous revenge, of which he had given me due notice beforehand.... He asked a set of the least intellectual men in Oxford to dinner, and men most fond of port; he made me one of the party; placed me between Provost this and Principal that, and then asked me if I was proud of my friends" (p. 73). It is easy to conceive how he liked them. He had, indeed, though formerly a supporter of Catholic Emancipation, "acted with them in opposing Mr. Peel's re-election in 1829, on 'simple academical grounds,' because he thought that a great University ought not to be bullied even by a great Duke of Wellington" (p. 172); but he soon parted with his friends of "two-bottle orthodoxy," and joined the gathering knot of men of an utterly different temper, who "disliked the Duke's change of policy as dictated by liberalism" (p. 72).

This whole company shared the feelings which even yet, after so many years and in such altered circumstances, break forth from Dr. Newman like the rumblings and smoke of a long extinct volcano, in such utterances as this: "The new Bill for the suppression of the Irish Sees was in prospect, and had filled my mind. I had fierce thoughts against the Liberals. It was the success of the Liberal cause which fretted me inwardly. I became fierce against its instruments and its manifestations. A French vessel was at Algiers; I would not even look at the tricolor" (97). This was the temper of the whole band. Most of these men appear in Dr. Newman's pages; and from their common earnestness and various endowments a mighty band they were.

* * * * *

Here then was the band which have accomplished so much; which have failed in so much; which have added a new party-name to our vocabulary; which have furnished materials for every scribbling or declaiming political Protestant, from the writer of the Durham Letter down to Mr. Whalley and Mr. Harper; which aided so greatly in reawakening the dormant energies of the English Church; which carried over to the ranks of her most deadly opponent some of the ablest and most devoted of her sons. The language of these pages has never varied concerning this movement. We have always admitted its many excellences—we have always lamented its evils. As long ago as in 1839, whilst we protested openly and fully against what we termed at the time the "strange and lamentable" publication of Mr. Froude's "Remains,"[1] we declared our hope that "the publication of the Oxford Tracts was a very seasonable and valuable contribution to the cause both of the Church and the State." And in 1846, even after so many of our hopes had faded away, we yet spoke in the same tone of "this religious movement in our Church," as one "from which, however clouded be the present aspect, we doubt not that great blessings have resulted and will result, unless we forfeit them by neglect or wilful abuse."[2]

[1] "Quarterly Review," vol. lxiii, p. 551. [2] Ibid., vol. lxxviii, p. 24.

The history of the progress of the movement lies scattered through these pages. All that we can collect concerning its first intention confirms absolutely Mr. Perceval's Statements, 1843, that it was begun for two leading objects: "first, the firm and practical maintenance of the doctrine of the apostolical succession.... secondly, the preservation in its integrity of the Christian doctrine in our Prayerbooks."[1] Its unity of action was shaken by the first entrance of doubts into its leader's mind. His retirement from it tended directly to break it up as an actual party. But it would be a monstrous error to suppose that the influence of this movement was extinguished when its conductors were dispersed as a party. So far from it, the system of the Church of England took in all the more freely the elements of truth which it had all along been diffusing, because they were no longer scattered abroad by the direct action of an organised party under ostensible chiefs. Where, we may ask, is not at this moment the effect of that movement perfectly appreciable within our body? Look at the new-built and restored churches of the land; look at the multiplication of schools; the greater exactness of ritual observance; the higher standard of clerical life, service, and devotion; the more frequent celebrations; the cathedrals open; the loving sisterhoods labouring, under episcopal sanction, with the meek, active saintliness of the Church's purest time; look—above all, perhaps—at the raised tone of devotion and doctrine amongst us, and see in all these that the movement did not die, but rather flourished with a new vigour when the party of the movement was so greatly broken up. It is surely one of the strangest objections which can be urged against a living spiritual body, that the loss of many of its foremost sons still left its vital strength unimpaired. Yet this was Dr. Newman's objection, and his witness, fourteen years ago, when he complained of the Church of England, that though it had given "a hundred educated men to the Catholic Church, yet the huge creature from which they went forth showed no consciousness of its loss, but shook itself, and went about its work as of old time."[2]

[1] "Collection of Papers connected with the Theological Movement of 1833." By the Hon. and Rev. A.P. Perceval. 1843. Second Edition. [2] "Lectures on Anglican Difficulties," p. 9.

As the unity of the party was broken up, the fire which had burned hitherto in but a single beacon was scattered upon a thousand hills. Nevertheless, the first breaking up of the party was eminently disheartening to its living members. But it was not by external violence that it was broken, but by the development within itself of a distinctive Romeward bias. Dr. Newman lays his hand upon a particular epoch in its progress, at which, he says, it was crossed by a new set of men, who imparted to it that leaning to Romanism which ever after perceptibly beset it. "A new school of thought was rising, as is usual in such movements, and was sweeping the original party of the movement aside, and was taking its place" (p. 277). This is a curious instance of self-delusion. He was, as we maintain, throughout, the Romanising element in the whole movement. But for him it might have continued, as its other great chiefs still continue, the ornament and strength of the English Church. These younger men, to whom he attributes the change, were, in fact, the minds whom he had consciously or unconsciously fashioned and biassed. Some of them, as is ever the case, had outrun their leader. Some of them were now, in their sensitive spiritual organism, catching the varying outline of the great leader whom they almost worshipped, and beginning at once to give back his own altering image. Instead of seeing in their changing minds this reflection of himself, he dwelt upon it as an original element, and read in its presence an indication of its being the will of God that the stream should turn its flow towards the gulf to which he himself had unawares, it may be, directed its waters. Those who remember how at this time he was followed will know how easily such a result might follow his own incipient change. Those who can still remember how many often involuntarily caught his peculiar intonation—so distinctively singular, and therefore so attractive in himself and so repulsive in his copyists —will understand how the altering fashion of the leader's thoughts was appropriated with the same unconscious fidelity.

One other cause acted powerfully on him and on them to give this bias to the movement, and that was the bitterness and invectives of the Liberal party. Dr. Newman repeatedly reminds us that it was the Liberals who drove him from Oxford. The four tutors—the after course of one of whom, at least, was destined to display so remarkable a Nemesis—and the pack who followed them turned by their ceaseless baying the noble hart who led the rest towards this evil covert. He and they heard incessantly that they were Papists in disguise: men dishonoured by professing one thing and holding another; until they began to doubt their own fidelity, and in that doubt was death. Nor was this all. The Liberals ever (as is their wont), most illiberal to those who differ from them, began to use direct academic persecution; until, in self-distrust and very weariness, the great soul began to abandon the warfare it had waged inwardly against its own inclinations and the fascinations of its enemy, and to yield the first defences to the foe. It will remain written, as Dr. Newman's deliberate judgment, that it was the Liberals who forced him from Oxford. How far, if he had not taken that step, he might have again shaken off the errors which were growing on him—how far therefore in driving him from Oxford they drove him finally to Rome—man can never know.

In the new light thrown upon it from the pages of the "Apologia," we see with more distinctness than was ever shown before, how greatly this tendency to Rome, which at last led astray so many of the masters of the party, was infused into it by the single influence of Dr. Newman himself. We do not believe that, in spite of his startling speeches, the bias towards Rome was at all as strong even in H. Froude himself. Let his last letter witness for him:—"If," he says, "I was to assign my reasons for belonging to the Church of England in preference to any other religious community, it would be simply this, that she has retained an apostolical clergy, and enacts no sinful terms of communion; whereas, on the other hand, the Romanists, though retaining an apostolical clergy, do exact sinful terms of communion."[1] This was the tone of the movement until it was changed in Dr. Newman. We believe that in tracing this out we shall be using these pages entirely as their author intended them to be used. They were meant to exhibit to his countrymen the whole secret of his moral and spiritual anatomy; they were intended to prove that he was altogether free from that foul and disgraceful taint of innate dishonesty, the unspoken suspicion of which in so many quarters had so long troubled him; the open utterance of which, from the lips of a popular and respectable writer, was so absolutely intolerable to him. From that imputation it is but bare justice to say he does thoroughly clear himself. The post-mortem examination of his life is complete; the hand which guided the dissecting-knife has trembled nowhere, nor shrunk from any incision. All lies perfectly open, and the foul taint is nowhere. And yet, looking back with the writer on the changes which this strange narrative records, from his subscribing, in 1828, towards the first start of the "Record" newspaper to his receiving on the 9th of October, 1845, at Littlemore, the "remarkable-looking man, evidently a foreigner, shabbily dressed in black,"[2] who received him into the Papal Communion, we see abundant reason, even without the action of that prevalent suspicion of secret dishonesty somewhere, which in English minds inevitably connects itself with the spread of Popery, for the widely-diffused impression of that being true which it is so pleasant to find unfounded.

[1] "Collection of Papers, &c." p. 16. [2] "Historical Notes of the Tractarian Movement," by Canon Oakley. Dublin Review, No. v, p. 190.

From first to last these pages exhibit the habit of Dr. Newman's mind as eminently subjective. It might almost be described as the exact opposite of that of S. Athanasius: with a like all-engrossing love for truth; with ecclesiastical habits often strangely similar; with cognate gifts of the imperishable inheritance of genius, the contradiction here is almost absolute. The abstract proposition, the rightly-balanced proposition, is everything to the Eastern, it is well-nigh nothing to the English Divine. When led by circumstances to embark in the close examination of Dogma, as in his "History of the Arians," his Nazarite locks of strength appear to have been shorn, and the giant, at whose might we have been marvelling, becomes as any other man. The dogmatic portion of this work is poor and tame; it is only when the writer escapes from dogma into the dramatic representation of the actors in the strife that his powers reappear. For abstract truth it is true to us that he has no engrossing affection: his strength lay in his own apprehension of it, in his power of defending it when once it had been so apprehended and had become engrafted into him; and it is to this as made one with himself, and to his own inward life as fed and nourished by it, that he perpetually reverts.

All this is the more remarkable because he conceives himself to have been, even from early youth, peculiarly devoted to dogma in the abstract; he returns continually to this idea, confounding, as we venture to conceive, his estimate of the effect of truth when he received it, on himself, with truth as it exists in the abstract. And as this affected him in regard to dogma, so it reached to his relations to every part of the Church around him. It led him to gather up in a dangerous degree, into the person of his "own Bishop," the deference due to the whole order. "I did not care much for the Bench of Bishops, nor should I have cared much for a Provincial Council.... All these matters seemed to me to be jure ecclesiastico; but what to me was jure divino was the voice of my Bishop in his own person. My own Bishop was my Pope."—(p. 123.) His intense individuality had substituted the personal bond to the individual for the general bond to the collective holders of the office: and so when the strain became violent it snapped at once. This doubtless natural disposition seems to have been developed, and perhaps permanently fixed, as the law of his intellectual and spiritual being, by the peculiarities of his early religious training. Educated in what is called the "Evangelical" school, early and consciously converted, and deriving his first religious tone, in great measure, from the vehement but misled Calvinism, of which Thomas Scott, of Aston Sandford, was one of the ablest and most robust specimens, he was early taught to appreciate, and even to judge of, all external truth mainly in its ascertainable bearings on his own religious experience. In many a man the effect of this teaching is to fix him for life in a hard, narrow, and exclusive school of religious thought and feeling, in which he lives and dies profoundly satisfied with himself and his co-religionists, and quite hopeless of salvation for any beyond the immediate pale in which his own Shibboleth is pronounced with the exactest nicety of articulation. But Dr. Newman's mind was framed upon a wholly different idea, and the results were proportionally dissimilar. With the introvertive tendency which we have ascribed to him, was joined a most subtle and speculative intellect, and an ambitious temper. The "Apologia" is the history of the practical working out of those various conditions. His hold upon any truth external to and separate from himself, was so feeble when placed in comparison with his perception of what was passing within himself, that the external truth was always liable to corrections which would make its essential elements harmonize with what was occurring within his own intellectual or spiritual being. We think that we can distinctly trace in these pages a twofold consequence from all this: first, an inexhaustible mutability in his views on all subjects; and secondly, a continually recurring temptation to entire scepticism as to everything external to himself. Every page gives illustrations of the first of these. He votes for what was called Catholic Emancipation, and is drifting into the ranks of liberalism. But the external idea of liberty is very soon metamorphosed, in his view, from the figure of an angel of light into that of a spirit of darkness; first, by his academical feeling that a great University ought not to be bullied even by a great Duke, and then by the altered temper of his own feelings, as they are played upon by the alternate vibrations of the gibes of "Hurrell Froude," and the deep tones of Mr. Keble's ministrelsy.

The history of his religious alternations is in exact keeping with all this. At every separate stage of his course, he constructs for himself a tabernacle in which for a while he rests. This process he repeats with an incessant simplicity of renewed commencements, which is almost like the blind acting of instinct leading the insect, which is conscious of its coming change, to spin afresh and afresh its ever-broken cocoon. He is at one time an Anglo-Catholic, and sees Antichrist in Rome; he falls back upon the Via Media—that breaks down, and left him, he says (p. 211), "very nearly a pure Protestant"; and again he has a "new theory made expressly for the occasion, and is pleased with his new view" (p. 269); he then rests in "Samaria" before he finds his way over to Rome. For the time every one of these transient tabernacles seems to accomplish its purpose. He finds certain repose for his spirit. Whilst sheltered by it, all the great unutterable phenomena of the external world are viewed by him in relation to himself and to his home of present rest. The gourd has grown up in a night, and shelters him by its short-lived shadow from the tyrannous rays of the sunshine. But some sudden irresistible change in his own inward preceptions alters everything. The idea shoots across his mind that the English Church is in the position of the Monophysite heretics of the fifth century (p. 209). At once all his views of truth are changed. He moves on to a new position; pitches anew his tent; builds himself up a new theory; and finds the altitudes of the stars above him, and the very forms of the heavenly constellations, change with the change of his earthly habitation.

* * * * *

In October the final step is taken, and in the succeeding January the mournful history is closed in the following most touching words:—

Jan. 20, 1846.—You may think how lonely I am. Obliviscere populum tuum et domum patris tui, has been in my ears for the last twelve hours. I realize more that we are leaving Littlemore, and it is like going on the open sea.

I left Oxford for good on Monday, February 23, 1846. On the Saturday and Sunday before, I was in my house at Littlemore simply by myself, as I had been for the first day or two when I had originally taken possession of it. I slept on Sunday night at my dear friend's, Mr. Johnson's, at the Observatory. Various friends came to see the last of me—Mr. Copeland, Mr. Church, Mr. Buckle, Mr. Pattison, and Mr. Lewis. Dr. Pusey, too, came up to take leave of me; and I called on Dr. Ogle, one of my very oldest friends, for he was my private tutor when I was an undergraduate. In him I took leave of my first College, Trinity, which was so dear to me, and which held on its foundation so many who have been kind to me, both when I was a boy and all through my Oxford life. Trinity had never been unkind to me. There used to be much snapdragon growing on the walls opposite my freshman's rooms there, and I had for years taken it as the emblem of my own perpetual residence, even unto death, in my University.

On the morning of the 23rd I left the Observatory. I have never seen Oxford since, excepting its spires, as they are seen from the railway.

What an exceeding sadness is gathered up in these words! And yet the impress of this time left upon some of Dr. Newman's writings seems, like the ruin which records what was the violence of the throes of the long-passed earthquake, even still more indicative of the terrible character of the struggle through which at this time he passed. We have seen how keenly he felt the suspicious intrusions upon his privacy which haunted his last years in the Church of England. But in "Loss and Gain" there is a yet more expressive exhibition of the extremity of that suffering. He denies as "utterly untrue" the common belief that he "introduced friends or partisans into the tale"; and of course he is to be implicitly believed. And yet ONE there is whom no one who reads the pages can for a moment doubt is there, and that is Dr. Newman himself. The weary, unresting, hunted condition of the leading figure in the tale, with all its accompaniment of keen, flashing wit, always seemed to us the history of those days when a well-meant but impertinent series of religious intrusions was well-nigh driving the wise man mad.

We have followed out these steps thus in detail, not only because of their intense interest as an autobiography, but also because the narrative itself seems to throw the strongest possible light on the mainly-important question how far this defection of one of her greatest sons does really tend to weaken the argumentative position of the English Church in her strife with Rome. What has been said already will suffice to prove that in our opinion no such consequence can justly follow from it. We acknowledge freely the greatness of the individual loss. But the causes of that defection are, we think, clearly shown to have been the peculiarities of the individual, not the weakness of the side which he abandoned. His steps mark no path to any other. He sprang clear over the guarding walls of the sheepfold, and opened no way through them for other wanderers. Men may have left the Church of England because their leader left it; but they could not leave it as he left it, or because of his reasons for leaving it. In truth, he appears never to have occupied a thoroughly real Church-of-England position. He was at first, by education and private judgment, a Calvinistic Puritan; he became dissatisfied with the coldness and barrenness of this theory, and set about finding a new position for himself, and in so doing he skipped over true, sound English Churchmanship into a course of feeling and thought allied with and leading on to Rome. Even the hindrances which so long held him back can scarcely be said to have been indeed the logical force of the unanswerable credentials of the English Church. On the contrary they were rather personal impressions, feelings, and difficulties. His faithful, loving nature made him cling desperately to early hopes, friendships, and affections. Even to the end Thomas Scott never loses his hold upon him. His narrative is not the history of the normal progress of a mind from England to Rome; it is so thoroughly exceptional that it does not seem calculated to seduce to Rome men governed in such high matters by argument and reason rather than by impulse and feeling. We do not therefore think that the mere fact of this secession tells with any force against that communion whose claims satisfied to their dying day such men as Hooker and Andrewes, and Ussher and Hammond, and Bramhall and Butler.

But, beyond this, his present view of the English Church appears to be incompatible with that fierce and internecine hostility to the claim upon the loyalty of her children which is really essential to clear the act of perverting others from her ranks from the plainest guilt of schism. It is not merely that the nobleness and tenderness of his nature make his tone so unlike that of many of those who have taken the same step with himself. It is not that every provocation—and how many they have been!—every misunderstanding—and they have been all but universal; every unworthy charge or insinuation—down to those of Professor Kingsley, failed to embitter his feelings against the communion he has deserted and the friends whom he has left. It is not this to which we refer, for this is personal to himself, and the fruit of his own generosity and true greatness of soul. But we refer to his calm, deliberate estimate of the forsaken Church. He says, indeed, that since his change he has "had no changes to record, no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment. I never had one doubt" (p. 373). But, as we have seen already, this was always the temporary condition in which every new phase of opinion landed him. He was always able to build up these tabernacles of rest. The difference between this and those former resting-places is clear. In those he was still a searcher after truth: he needed and required conviction, and a new conviction might shake the old comfort. But his present resting-place is built upon the denial of all further enquiry. "I have," he says (p. 374), "no further history of religious opinions to narrate": and some following words show how entirely it is this abandonment of the idea of the actual conviction of truth for the blind admission of the dictates of a despotic external authority on which he rests.

* * * * *

There is another deeply interesting question raised by Dr. Newman's work, on which, if our limits did not absolutely prevent, we should be glad to enter. We mean the present position of the Church of Rome with that great rationalistic movement with which we, too, are called to contend. Everywhere in Europe this contest is proceeding, and the relations of the Church of Rome towards it are becoming daily more and more embarrassed. Mr. Ffoulkes tells us that "the 'Home and Foreign Review' is the only publication professing to emanate from Roman Catholics in this country that can be named in the same breath with the leading Protestant Reviews."[1] Since he wrote these words its course has been closed by Pontifical authority. M. Montalembert has barely escaped censure with the payment of the penalty—so heavy to his co-religionists—of an enforced silence; and Dr. Newman "interprets recent acts of authority as tying the hands of a controversialist such as I should be,"[2] and so is prevented completing the great work which has occupied so much of his thoughts, and which promised, more than any other work this country is likely to see, to set some limiting boundary line between the provinces of a humble faith in Revelation and an ardent love of advancing science. This is an evil inflicted by Rome on this whole generation. But in truth, whenever the mind of Christendom is active, the attitude of the Papal communion before this new enemy is that of a startled, trembling minaciousness, which invites the deadly combat it can so ill maintain.

[1] "Union Review," ix, 294. [2] "Apol." 405.

These facts are patent to every one who knows anything whatever of the present state of religious thought throughout Roman Catholic Europe. Almost every one knows further that the struggle between those who would subject all science and all the actings of the human mind to the authority of the Church, and those who would limit the exercise of that authority more or less to the proper subject-matter of theology, is rife and increasing. The words of, perhaps, the ablest living member of the Roman Catholic communion have rung through Europe, and many a heart in all religious communions has been saddened by the thought of Dr. Doellinger's virtual censure. And yet it is at such a time as this that Dr. Manning ventures to put forth his "Letters to a Friend," painting all as peace, unanimity, and obedient faith within the Roman Church; all dissension, unbelief, and letting slip of the ancient faith within our own communion. Surely such are not the weapons by which the cause of God's truth can be advanced!

But we must bring our remarks on the "Apologia" to a close.

Some lessons there are, and those great ones, which this book is calculated to instil into members of our own communion. Pre-eminently it shows the rottenness of that mere Act-of-Parliament foundation on which some, now-a-days, would rest our Church. Dr. Newman suggests, more than once, that such a course must rob us of all our present strength. Dr. Manning sings his paean with wild and premature delight, as if the evil was already accomplished. In his first letter he triumphed in the silence of Convocation, but that silence has since been broken. A solemn synodical judgment, couched in the most explicit language, has condemned the false teaching which had been our Church's scandal. But because a "very exalted person in the House of Lords"[1] (p. 4), with an ignorance or an ignoring of law, as was shown in the debate, which was simply astonishing, chose, in a manner which even Dr. Manning condemns, to assert, without a particle of real evidence, that the Convocation had exceeded its legitimate powers, Dr. Manning is in ecstasies. The "very exalted person" becomes "a righteous judge, a learned judge, a Daniel come to judgment—yea, a Daniel." These shouts of joy ought to be enough to show men where the real danger lies. Our present position is impregnable. But if we abandon it for the new one proposed to us by the Rationalist party, how shall we be able to stand? How could a national religious Establishment which should seek to rest its foundations—not on God's Word; on the ancient Creeds; on a true Apostolic ministry; on valid Sacraments; on a living, even though it be an obscured, unity with the Universal Church, and so on the presence with her of her Lord, and on the gifts of His Spirit—but upon the critical reason of individuals, and the support of Acts of Parliament—ever stand in the coming struggle? How could it meet Rationalism on the one hand? How could it withstand Popery on the other? After such a fatal change its career might be easily foreshadowed. Under the assaults of Rationalism, it would year by year lose some parts of the great deposit of the Catholic faith. Under the attacks of Rome, it would lose many of those whom it can ill spare, because they believe most firmly in the verities for which she is ready to witness. Thus it might continue until our ministry were filled with the time-serving, the ignorant, and the unbelieving; and, when this has come to pass, the day of final doom cannot be far distant. How such evils are to be averted is the anxious question of the present day. The great practical question seems to us to be that to which we have before this alluded,[2]—How the Supreme Court of Appeal can be made fitter for the due discharge of its momentous functions? We cannot enter here upon that great question. But solved it must be, and solved upon the principles of the great Reformation statutes of our land, which maintain, in the supremacy of the Crown, our undoubted nationality; which, besides maintaining this great principle of national life, save us from all the terrible practical evils of appeals to Rome, and yet which maintain the spirituality of the land, as the guardians under God of the great deposit of the Faith, in the very terms in which the Catholic Church of Christ has from the beginning received, and to this day handed down in its completeness, the inestimable gift.

[1] Hansard's "House of Lord's Debates," July 15, 1864 [2] "Quarterly Review," vol. cxv. p. 560


[From The Quarterly Review, July, 1814]

Waverley; or, 'tis Sixty Years since. 3 vols. 12mo. Edinburgh, 1814.

We have had so many occasions to invite our readers' attention to that species of composition called Novels, and have so often stated our general views of the principles of this very agreeable branch of literature, that we shall venture on the consideration of our present subject with but a few observations, and those applicable to a class of novels, of which it is a favourable specimen.

The earlier novelists wrote at periods when society was not perfectly formed, and we find that their picture of life was an embodying of their own conceptions of the "beau ideal."—Heroes all generosity and ladies all chastity, exalted above the vulgarities of society and nature, maintain, through eternal folios, their visionary virtues, without the stain of any moral frailty, or the degradation of any human necessities. But this high-flown style went out of fashion as the great mass of mankind became more informed of each other's feelings and concerns, and as a nearer intercourse taught them that the real course of human life is a conflict of duty and desire, of virtue and passion, of right and wrong; in the description of which it is difficult to say whether uniform virtue or unredeemed vice would be in the greater degree tedious and absurd.

The novelists next endeavoured to exhibit a general view of society. The characters in Gil Blas and Tom Jones are not individuals so much as specimens of the human race; and these delightful works have been, are, and ever will be popular, because they present lively and accurate delineations of the workings of the human soul, and that every man who reads them is obliged to confess to himself, that in similar circumstances with the personages of Le Sage and Fielding, he would probably have acted in the way in which they are described to have done.

From this species the transition to a third was natural. The first class was theory—it was improved into a generic description, and that again led the way to a more particular classification—a copying not of man in general, but of men of a peculiar nation, profession, or temper, or, to go a step further—of individuals.

Thus Alcander and Cyrus could never have existed in human society—they are neither French, nor English, nor Italian, because it is only allegorically that they are men. Tom Jones might have been a Frenchman, and Gil Blas an Englishman, because the essence of their characters is human nature, and the personal situation of the individual is almost indifferent to the success of the object which the author proposed to himself: while, on the other hand, the characters of the most popular novels of later times are Irish, or Scotch, or French, and not in the abstract, men.—The general operations of nature are circumscribed to her effects on an individual character, and the modern novels of this class, compared with the broad and noble style of the earlier writers, may be considered as Dutch pictures, delightful in their vivid and minute details of common life, wonderfully entertaining to the close observer of peculiarities, and highly creditable to the accuracy, observation and humour of the painter, but exciting none of those more exalted feelings, giving none of those higher views of the human soul which delight and exalt the mind of the spectator of Raphael, Correggio, or Murillo.

But as in a gallery we are glad to see every style of excellence, and are ready to amuse ourselves with Teniers and Gerard Dow, so we derive great pleasure from the congenial delineations of Castle Rack-rent and Waverley; and we are well assured that any reader who is qualified to judge of the illustration we have borrowed from a sister art, will not accuse us of undervaluing, by this comparison, either Miss Edgeworth or the ingenious author of the work now under consideration. We mean only to say, that the line of writing which they have adopted is less comprehensive and less sublime, but not that it is less entertaining or less useful than that of their predecessors. On the contrary, so far as utility constitutes merit in a novel, we have no hesitation in preferring the moderns to their predecessors. We do not believe that any man or woman was ever improved in morals or manners by the reading of Tom Jones or Peregrine Pickle, though we are confident that many have profited by the Tales of Fashionable Life, and the Cottagers of Glenburnie.

We have heard Waverley called a Scotch Castle Rack-rent; and we have ourselves alluded to a certain resemblance between these works; but we must beg leave to explain that the resemblance consists only in this, that the one is a description of the peculiarities of Scottish manners as the other is of those of Ireland; and that we are far from placing on the same level the merits and qualities of the works. Waverley is of a much higher strain, and may be safely placed far above the amusing vulgarity of Castle Rack-rent, and by the side of Ennui or the Absentee, the best undoubtedly of Miss Edgeworth's compositions.

* * * * *

We shall conclude this article, which has grown to an immoderate length, by observing what, indeed, our readers must have already discovered, that Waverley, who gives his name to the story, is far from being its hero, and that in truth the interest and merit of the work is derived, not from any of the ordinary qualities of a novel, but from the truth of its facts, and the accuracy of its delineations.

We confess that we have, speaking generally, a great objection to what may be called historical romance, in which real and fictitious personages, and actual and fabulous events are mixed together to the utter confusion of the reader, and the unsettling of all accurate recollections of past transactions; and we cannot but wish that the ingenious and intelligent author of Waverley had rather employed himself in recording historically the character and transactions of his countrymen Sixty Years since, than in writing a work, which, though it may be, in its facts, almost true, and in its delineations perfectly accurate, will yet, in sixty years hence, be regarded, or rather, probably, disregarded, as a mere romance, and the gratuitous invention of a facetious fancy.


[From The Quarterly Review, January, 1817]

Tales of My Landlord. 4 vols. 12mo. Third Edition. Blackwood, Edinburgh. John Murray, London. 1817.

These Tales belong obviously to a class of novels which we have already had occasion repeatedly to notice, and which have attracted the attention of the public in no common degree,—we mean Waverley, Guy Mannering, and the Antiquary, and we have little hesitation to pronounce them either entirely, or in a great measure, the work of the same author. Why he should industriously endeavour to elude observation by taking leave of us in one character, and then suddenly popping out upon us in another, we cannot pretend to guess without knowing more of his personal reasons for preserving so strict an incognito that has hitherto reached us. We can, however, conceive many reasons for a writer observing this sort of mystery; not to mention that it has certainly had its effect in keeping up the interest which his works have excited.

We do not know if the imagination of our author will sink in the opinion of the public when deprived of that degree of invention which we have been hitherto disposed to ascribe to him; but we are certain that it ought to increase the value of his portraits, that human beings have actually sate for them. These coincidences between fiction and reality are perhaps the very circumstances to which the success of these novels is in a great measure to be attributed: for, without depreciating the merit of the artist, every spectator at once recognizes in those scenes and faces which are copied from nature an air of distinct reality, which is not attached to fancy-pieces however happily conceived and elaborately executed. By what sort of freemasonry, if we may use the term, the mind arrives at this conviction, we do not pretend to guess, but every one must have felt that he instinctively and almost insensibly recognizes in painting, poetry, or other works of imagination, that which is copied from existing nature, and that he forthwith clings to it with that kindred interest which thinks nothing which is human indifferent to humanity. Before therefore we proceed to analyse the work immediately before us, we beg leave briefly to notice a few circumstances connected with its predecessors.

Our author has told us it was his object to present a succession of scenes and characters connected with Scotland in its past and present state, and we must own that his stories are so slightly constructed as to remind us of the showman's thread with which he draws up his pictures and presents them successively to the eye of the spectator. He seems seriously to have proceeded on Mr. Bays's maxim—"What the deuce is a plot good for, but to bring in fine things?"—Probability and perspicuity of narrative are sacrificed with the utmost indifference to the desire of producing effect; and provided the author can but contrive to "surprize and elevate," he appears to think that he has done his duty to the public. Against this slovenly indifference we have already remonstrated, and we again enter our protest. It is in justice to the author himself that we do so, because, whatever merit individual scenes and passages may possess, (and none have been more ready than ourselves to offer our applause), it is clear that their effect would be greatly enhanced by being disposed in a clear and continued narrative. We are the more earnest in this matter, because it seems that the author errs chiefly from carelessness. There may be something of system in it, however: for we have remarked, that with an attention which amounts even to affectation, he has avoided the common language of narrative, and thrown his story, as much as possible, into a dramatic shape. In many cases this has added greatly to the effect, by keeping both the actors and action continually before the reader, and placing him, in some measure, in the situation of the audience at a theatre, who are compelled to gather the meaning of the scene from what the dramatis personae say to each other, and not from any explanation addressed immediately to themselves. But though the author gain this advantage, and thereby compel the reader to think of the personages of the novel and not of the writer, yet the practice, especially pushed to the extent we have noticed, is a principal cause of the flimsiness and incoherent texture of which his greatest admirers are compelled to complain. Few can wish his success more sincerely than we do, and yet without more attention on his own part, we have great doubts of its continuance.

In addition to the loose and incoherent style of the narration, another leading fault in these novels is the total want of interest which the reader attaches to the character of the hero. Waverley, Brown, or Bertram in Guy Mannering, and Lovel in the Antiquary, are all brethren of a family; very amiable and very insipid sort of young men. We think we can perceive that this error is also in some degree occasioned by the dramatic principle upon which the author frames his plots. His chief characters are never actors, but always acted upon by the spur of circumstances, and have their fates uniformly determined by the agency of the subordinate persons. This arises from the author having usually represented them as foreigners to whom every thing in Scotland is strange,—a circumstance which serves as his apology for entering into many minute details which are reflectively, as it were, addressed to the reader through the medium of the hero. While he is going into explanations and details which, addressed directly to the reader, might appear tiresome and unnecessary, he gives interest to them by exhibiting the effect which they produce upon the principal person of his drama, and at the same time obtains a patient hearing for what might otherwise be passed over without attention. But if he gains this advantage, it is by sacrificing the character of the hero. No one can be interesting to the reader who is not himself a prime agent in the scene. This is understood even by the worthy citizen and his wife, who are introduced as prolocutors in Fletcher's Knight of the Burning Pestle. When they are asked what the principal person of the drama shall do?—the answer is prompt and ready—"Marry, let him come forth and kill a giant." There is a good deal of tact in the request. Every hero in poetry, in fictitious narrative, ought to come forth and do or say something or other which no other person could have done or said; make some sacrifice, surmount some difficulty, and become interesting to us otherwise than by his mere appearance on the scene, the passive tool of the other characters.

The insipidity of this author's heroes may be also in part referred to the readiness with which the twists and turns his story to produce some immediate and perhaps temporary effect. This could hardly be done without representing the principal character either as inconsistent or flexible in his principles. The ease with which Waverley adopts and after forsakes the Jacobite party in 1745 is a good example of what we mean. Had he been painted as a steady character, his conduct would have been improbable. The author was aware of this; and yet, unwilling to relinquish an opportunity of introducing the interior of the Chevalier's military court, the circumstances of the battle of Preston-pans, and so forth, he hesitates not to sacrifice poor Waverley, and to represent him as a reed blown about at the pleasure of every breeze: a less careless writer would probably have taken some pains to gain the end proposed in a more artful and ingenious manner. But our author was hasty, and has paid the penalty of his haste.

We have hinted that we are disposed to question the originality of these novels in point of invention, and that in doing so, we do not consider ourselves as derogating from the merit of the author, to whom, on the contrary, we give the praise due to one who has collected and brought out with accuracy and effect, incidents and manners which might otherwise have slept in oblivion. We proceed to our proofs.[1]

[1] It will be readily conceived that the curious MSS. and other information of which we have availed ourselves were not accessible to us in this country; but we have been assiduous in our inquiries; and are happy enough to possess a correspondent whose researches on the spot have been indefatigable, and whose kind, and ready communications have anticipated all our wishes.

* * * * *

The traditions and manners of the Scotch were so blended with superstitious practices and fears, that the author of these novels seems to have deemed it incumbent on him, to transfer many more such incidents to his novels, than seem either probable or natural to an English reader. It may be some apology that his story would have lost the national cast, which it was chiefly his object to preserve, had this been otherwise. There are few families of antiquity in Scotland, which do not possess some strange legends, told only under promise of secrecy, and with an air of mystery; in developing which, the influence of the powers of darkness is referred to. The truth probably is, that the agency of witches and demons was often made to account for the sudden disappearance of individuals and similar incidents, too apt to arise out of the evil dispositions of humanity, in a land where revenge was long held honourable—where private feuds and civil broils disturbed the inhabitants for ages—and where justice was but weakly and irregularly executed. Mr. Law, a conscientious but credulous clergyman of the Kirk of Scotland, who lived in the seventeenth century, has left behind him a very curious manuscript, in which, with the political events of that distracted period, he has intermingled the various portents and marvellous occurrences which, in common with his age, he ascribed to supernatural agency. The following extract will serve to illustrate the taste of this period for the supernatural. When we read such things recorded by men of sense and education, (and Mr. Law was deficient in neither), we cannot help remembering the times of paganism, when every scene, incident, and action, had its appropriate and presiding deity. It is indeed curious to consider what must have been the sensations of a person, who lived under this peculiar species of hallucination, believing himself beset on all hands by invisible agents; one who was unable to account for the restiveness of a nobleman's carriage horses otherwise than by the immediate effect of witchcraft: and supposed that the sage femme of the highest reputation was most likely to devote the infants to the infernal spirits, upon their very entrance into life.

* * * * *

To the superstitions of the North Britons must be added their peculiar and characteristic amusements; and here we have some atonement to make to the memory of the learned Paulus Pleydell, whose compotatory relaxations, better information now inclines us to think, we mentioned with somewhat too little reverence. Before the new town of Edinburgh (as it is called) was built, its inhabitants lodged, as is the practice of Paris at this day, in large buildings called lands, each family occupying a story, and having access to it by a stair common to all the inhabitants. These buildings, when they did not front the high street of the city, composed the sides of little, narrow, unwholesome closes or lanes. The miserable and confined accommodation which such habitations afforded, drove men of business, as they were called, that is, people belonging to the law, to hold their professional rendezvouses in taverns, and many lawyers of eminence spent the principal part of their time in some tavern of note, transacted their business there, received the visits of clients with their writers or attornies, and suffered no imputation from so doing. This practice naturally led to habits of conviviality, to which the Scottish lawyers, till of very late years, were rather too much addicted. Few men drank so hard as the counsellors of the old school, and there survived till of late some veterans who supported in that respect the character of their predecessors. To vary the humour of a joyous evening many frolics were resorted to, and the game of high jinks was one of the most common.[1] In fact, high jinks was one of the petits jeux with which certain circles were wont to while away the time; and though it claims no alliance with modern associations, yet, as it required some shrewdness and dexterity to support the characters assumed for the occasion, it is not difficult to conceive that it might have been as interesting and amusing to the parties engaged in it, as counting the spots of a pack of cards, or treasuring in memory the rotation in which they are thrown on the table. The worst of the game was what that age considered as its principal excellence, namely, that the forfeitures being all commuted for wine, it proved an encouragement to hard drinking, the prevailing vice of the age.

[1] We have learned, with some dismay, that one of the ablest lawyers Scotland ever produced, and who lives to witness (although in retirement) the various changes which have taken place in her courts of judicature, a man who has filled with marked distinction the highest offices of his profession, tush'd (pshaw'd) extremely at the delicacy of our former criticism. And certainly he claims some title to do so, having been in his youth not only a witness of such orgies as are described as proceeding under the auspices of Mr. Pleydell, but himself a distinguished performer.

On the subject of Davie Gellatley, the fool of the Baron of Bradwardine's family, we are assured there is ample testimony that a custom, referred to Shakespeare's time in England, had, and in remote provinces of Scotland, has still its counterpart, to this day. We do not mean to say that the professed jester with his bauble and his party-coloured vestment can be found in any family north of the Tweed. Yet such a personage held this respectable office in the family of the Earls of Strathemore within the last century, and his costly holiday dress, garnished with bells of silver, is still preserved in the Castle of Glamis. But we are assured, that to a much later period, and even to this moment, the habits and manners of Scotland have had some tendency to preserve the existence of this singular order of domestics. There are (comparatively speaking) no poor's rates in the country parishes of Scotland, and of course no work-houses to immure either their worn out poor or the "moping idiot and the madman gay," whom Crabbe characterizes as the happiest inhabitants of these mansions, because insensible of their misfortunes. It therefore happens almost necessarily in Scotland, that the house of the nearest proprietor of wealth and consequence proves a place of refuge for these outcasts of society; and until the pressure of the times, and the calculating habits which they have necessarily generated had rendered the maintenance of a human being about such a family an object of some consideration, they usually found an asylum there, and enjoyed the degree of comfort of which their limited intellect rendered them susceptible. Such idiots were usually employed in some simple sort of occasional labour; and if we are not misinformed, the situation of turn-spit was often assigned them, before the modern improvement of the smoke-jack. But, however employed, they usually displayed towards their benefactors a sort of instinctive attachment which was very affecting. We knew one instance in which such a being refused food for many days, pined away, literally broke his heart, and died within the space of a very few weeks after his benefactor's decease. We cannot now pause to deduce the moral inference which might be derived from such instances. It is however evident, that if there was a coarseness of mind in deriving amusement from the follies of these unfortunate beings, a circumstance to the disgrace of which they were totally insensible, their mode of life was, in other respects, calculated to promote such a degree of happiness as their faculties permitted them to enjoy. But besides the amusement which our forefathers received from witnessing their imperfections and extravagancies, there was a more legitimate source of pleasure in the wild wit which they often flung around them with the freedom of Shakespeare's licensed clowns. There are few houses in Scotland of any note or antiquity where the witty sayings of some such character are not occasionally quoted at this very day. The pleasure afforded to our forefathers by such repartees was no doubt heightened by their wanting the habits of more elegant amusement. But in Scotland the practice long continued, and in the house of one of the very first noblemen of that country (a man whose name is never mentioned without reverence) and that within the last twenty years, a jester such as we have mentioned stood at the side-table during dinner, and occasionally amused the guests by his extemporaneous sallies. Imbecility of this kind was even considered as an apology for intrusion upon the most solemn occasions. All know the peculiar reverence with which the Scottish of every rank attend on funeral ceremonies. Yet within the memory of most of the present generation, an idiot of an appearance equally hideous and absurd, dressed, as if in mockery, in a rusty and ragged black coat, decorated with a cravat and weepers made of white paper in the form of those worn by the deepest mourners, preceded almost every funeral procession in Edinburgh, as if to turn into ridicule the last rites paid to mortality.

It has been generally supposed that in the case of these as of other successful novels, the most prominent and peculiar characters were sketched from real life. It was only after the death of Smollet, that two barbers and a shoemaker contended about the character of Strap, which each asserted was modelled from his own: but even in the lifetime of the present author, there is scarcely a dale in the pastoral districts of the southern counties but arrogates to itself the possession of the original Dandie Dinmont. As for Baillie Mac Wheeble, a person of the highest eminence in the law perfectly well remembers having received fees from him.

* * * * *

Although these strong resemblances occur so frequently, and with such peculiar force, as almost to impress us with the conviction that the author sketched from nature, and not from fancy alone; yet we hesitate to draw any positive conclusion, sensible that a character dashed off as the representative of a certain class of men will bear, if executed with fidelity to the general outlines, not only that resemblance which he ought to possess as "knight of the shire," but also a special affinity to some particular individual. It is scarcely possible it should be otherwise. When Emery appears on the stage as a Yorkshire peasant, with the habit, manner, and dialect peculiar to the character, and which he assumes with so much truth and fidelity, those unacquainted with the province or its inhabitants see merely the abstract idea, the beau ideal of a Yorkshireman. But to those who are intimate with both, the action and manner of the comedian almost necessarily recall the idea of some individual native (altogether unknown probably to the performer) to whom his exterior and manners bear a casual resemblance. We are therefore on the whole inclined to believe, that the incidents are frequently copied from actual occurrences, but that the characters are either entirely fictitious, or if any traits have been borrowed from real life, as in the anecdote which we have quoted respecting Invernahyle, they have been carefully disguised and blended with such as are purely imaginary. We now proceed to a more particular examination of the volumes before us.

They are entitled "Tales of my Landlord": why so entitled, excepting to introduce a quotation from Don Quixote, it is difficult to conceive: for Tales of my Landlord they are not, nor is it indeed easy to say whose tales they ought to be called. There is a proem, as it is termed, supposed to be written by Jedediah Cleishbotham, the schoolmaster and parish clerk of the village of Gandercleugh, in which we are given to understand that these Tales were compiled by his deceased usher, Mr. Peter Pattieson, from the narratives or conversations of such travellers as frequented the Wallace Inn, in that village. Of this proem we shall only say that it is written in the quaint style of that prefixed by Gay to his Pastorals, being, as Johnson terms it, "such imitation as he could obtain of obsolete language, and by consequence in a style that was never written nor spoken in any age or place."

* * * * *

We have given these details partly in compliance with the established rules which our office prescribes, and partly in the hope that the authorities we have been enabled to bring together might give additional light and interest to the story. From the unprecedented popularity of the work, we cannot flatter ourselves that our summary has made any one of our readers acquainted with events with which he was not previously familiar. The causes of that popularity we may be permitted shortly to allude to; we cannot even hope to exhaust them, and it is the less necessary that we should attempt it, since we cannot suggest a consideration which a perusal of the work has not anticipated in the minds of all our readers.

One great source of the universal admiration which this family of Novels has attracted, is their peculiar plan, and the distinguished excellence with which it has been executed. The objections that have frequently been stated against what are called Historical Romances, have been suggested, we think, rather from observing the universal failure of that species of composition, than from any inherent and constitutional defect in the species of composition itself. If the manners of different ages are injudiciously blended together,—if unpowdered crops and slim and fairy shapes are commingled in the dance with volumed wigs and far-extending hoops,—if in the portraiture of real character the truth of history be violated, the eyes of the spectator are necessarily averted from a picture which excites in every well regulated and intelligent mind the hatred of incredulity. We have neither time nor inclination to enforce our remark by giving illustrations of it. But if those unpardonable sins against good taste can be avoided, and the features of an age gone by can be recalled in a spirit of delineation at once faithful and striking, the very opposite is the legitimate conclusion: the composition itself is in every point of view dignified and improved; and the author, leaving the light and frivolous associates with whom a careless observer would be disposed to ally him, takes his seat on the bench of the historians of his time and country. In this proud assembly, and in no mean place of it, we are disposed to rank the author of these works; for we again express our conviction—and we desire to be understood to use the term as distinguished from knowledge—that they are all the offspring of the same parent. At once a master of the great events and minuter incidents of history, and of the manners of the times he celebrates, as distinguished from those which now prevail,—the intimate thus of the living and of the dead, his judgment enables him to separate those traits which are characteristic from those that are generic; and his imagination, not less accurate and discriminating than vigorous and vivid, presents to the mind of the reader the manners of the times, and introduces to his familiar acquaintance the individuals of his drama as they thought and spoke and acted. We are not quite sure that any thing is to be found in the manner and character of the Black Dwarf which would enable us, without the aid of the author's information, and the facts he relates, to give it to the beginning of the last century; and, as we have already remarked, his free-booting robber lives, perhaps, too late in time. But his delineation is perfect. With palpable and inexcusable defects in the denouement, there are scenes of deep and overwhelming interest; and every one, we think, must be delighted with the portrait of the Grandmother of Hobbie Elliott, a representation soothing and consoling in itself, and heightened in its effect by the contrast produced from the lighter manners of the younger members of the family, and the honest but somewhat blunt and boisterous bearing of the shepherd himself.

The second tale, however, as we have remarked, is more adapted to the talents of the author, and his success has been proportionably triumphant. We have trespassed too unmercifully on the time of our gentle readers to indulge our inclination in endeavouring to form an estimate of that melancholy but, nevertheless, most attractive period in our history, when by the united efforts of a corrupt and unprincipled government, of extravagant fanaticism, want of education, perversion of religion, and the influence of ill-instructed teachers, whose hearts and understandings were estranged and debased by the illapses of the wildest enthusiasm, the liberty of the people was all but extinguished, and the bonds of society nearly dissolved. Revolting as all this is to the Patriot, it affords fertile materials to the Poet. As to the beauty of the delineation presented to the reader in this tale, there is, we believe, but one opinion: and we are persuaded that the more carefully and dispassionately it is contemplated, the more perfect will it appear in the still more valuable qualities of fidelity and truth. We have given part of the evidence on which we say this, and we will again recur to the subject. The opinions and language of the honest party are detailed with the accuracy of a witness; and he who could open to our view the state of the Scottish peasantry, perishing in the field or on the scaffold, and driven to utter and just desperation, in attempting to defend their first and most sacred rights; who could place before our eyes the leaders of these enormities, from the notorious Duke of Lauderdale downwards to the fellow mind that executed his behest, precisely as they lived and looked,—such a chronicler cannot justly be charged with attempting to extenuate or throw into the shade the corruptions of a government that soon afterwards fell a victim to its own follies and crimes.

Independently of the delineation of the manners and characters of the times to which the story refers, it is impossible to avoid noticing, as a separate excellence, the faithful representation of general nature. Looking not merely to the litter of novels that peep out for a single day from the mud where they were spawned, but to many of more ambitious pretensions—it is quite evident that in framing them, the authors have first addressed themselves to the involutions and developement of the story, as the principal object of their attention; and that in entangling and unravelling the plot, in combining the incidents which compose it, and even in depicting the characters, they sought for assistance chiefly in the writings of their predecessors. Baldness, and uniformity, and inanity are the inevitable results of this slovenly and unintellectual proceeding. The volume which this author has studied is the great book of Nature. He has gone abroad into the world in quest of what the world will certainly and abundantly supply, but what a man of great discrimination alone will find, and a man of the very highest genius will alone depict after he has discovered it. The characters of Shakespeare are not more exclusively human, not more perfectly men and women as they live and move, than those of this mysterious author. It is from this circumstance that, as we have already observed, many of his personages are supposed to be sketched from real life. He must have mixed much and variously in the society of his native country; his studies must have familiarized him to systems of manners now forgotten; and thus the persons of his drama, though in truth the creatures of his own imagination, convey the impression of individuals who we are persuaded must exist, or are evoked from their graves in all their original freshness, entire in their lineaments, and perfect in all the minute peculiarities of dress and demeanour.

* * * * *

Admitting, however, that these portraits are sketched with spirit and effect, two questions arise of much more importance than any thing affecting the merits of the novels—namely, whether it is safe or prudent to imitate, in a fictitious narrative, and often with a view to a ludicrous effect, the scriptural style of the zealots of the seventeenth century; and secondly, whether the recusant presbyterians, collectively considered, do not carry too reverential and sacred a character to be treated by an unknown author with such insolent familiarity.

On the first subject, we frankly own we have great hesitation. It is scarcely possible to ascribe scriptural expressions to hypocritical or extravagant characters without some risk of mischief, because it will be apt to create an habitual association between the expression and the ludicrous manner in which it is used, unfavourable to the reverence due to the sacred text. And it is no defence to state that this is an error inherent in the plan of the novel. Bourdaloue, a great authority, extends this restriction still farther, and denounces all attempts to unmask hypocrisy by raillery, because in doing so the satirist is necessarily compelled to expose to ridicule the religious vizard of which he has divested him. Yet even against such authority it may be stated, that ridicule is the friend both of religion and virtue, when directed against those who assume their garb, whether from hypocrisy or fanaticism. The satire of Butler, not always decorous in these particulars, was yet eminently useful in stripping off their borrowed gravity and exposing to public ridicule the affected fanaticism of the times in which he lived. It may also be remembered, that in the days of Queen Anne a number of the Camisars or Huguenots of Dauphine arrived as refugees in England, and became distinguished by the name of the French prophets. The fate of these enthusiasts in their own country had been somewhat similar to that of the Covenanters. Like them, they used to assemble in the mountains and desolate places, to the amount of many hundreds, in arms, and like them they were hunted and persecuted by the military. Like them, they were enthusiasts, though their enthusiasm assumed a character more decidedly absurd. The fugitive Camisars who came to London had convulsion-fits, prophesied, made converts, and attracted the public attention by an offer to raise the dead. The English minister, instead of fine and imprisonment and other inflictions which might have placed them in the rank and estimation of martyrs, and confirmed in their faith their numerous disciples, encouraged a dramatic author to bring out a farce on the subject which, though neither very witty nor very delicate, had the good effect of laughing the French prophets out of their audience and putting a stop to an inundation of nonsense which could not have failed to disgrace the age in which it appeared. The Camisars subsided into their ordinary vocation of psalmodic whiners, and no more was heard of their sect or their miracles. It would be well if all folly of the kind could be so easily quelled: for enthusiastic nonsense, whether of this day or of those which have passed away, has no more title to shelter itself under the veil of religion than a common pirate to be protected by the reverence due to an honoured and friendly flag.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse