The Faith of the Millions (2nd series)
by George Tyrrell
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Mrs. Humphrey Ward represents the furthest advance of this reform. She at least has spared no pains to acquaint herself with facts, to gather information, to verify statements. She is never guilty of the grotesque blunders that other high-class novelists fall into about Catholic beliefs, practices, and habits, simply because they are dealing with what is to their readers a terra incognita, and can, therefore, afford to be loose and inaccurate. An artistic conscientiousness which values truth and honesty in every detail, saves her from this too common snare. But it does not and cannot save her in the work of selection, synthesis, and interpretation of instances, which has to be guided, not by objective facts, but by subjective opinions and impressions. History written in a purely positivist spirit, ad narrandum, and in no sense ad docendum, is a chimerical notion by which Renan beguiled himself into thinking that his Vie de Jesus was a bundle of facts and nothing more. And Mrs. Humphrey Ward is no less beguiled, if she is unaware that in threading together, classifying and explaining the results of her conscientious observation and inquiry, she is governed by an a priori conception of Catholicism hardly different from that which inspired the author of "Father Clement." Hence, to us Catholics, though her evident desire to be critical and impartial is gratifying, yet her failure is none the less conspicuous. Dr. Johnson once observed, that what might be wonderful dancing for a dog would be a very poor performance for a Christian; and so, to us, "Helbeck" as a presentment of Catholic life is wonderful as coming from an outsider, and, perhaps, especially from Mrs. Humphrey Ward, but in itself it is grotesque enough—not through any culpable infidelity to facts, but through lack of the visual power, the guiding idea, whereby to read them aright.

In One Poor Scruple, Mrs. Wilfrid Ward brings to bear upon a somewhat similar task, an equal fidelity of observation supplemented by a first-hand, far wider, and more intimate experience of Catholics and their ways, and, above all, by that key which a share in their faith and beliefs alone furnishes to the right understanding of their conduct. Here too, no doubt, a contrary bias is to be suspected, nor is a purely, "positive" treatment of the subject conceivable or desirable. The view of an insider is as partial as the view of an outsider, though less viciously so; nor can we get at truth by the simple expedient of fitting the two together. The best witness is the rare individual who to an inside and experimental knowledge, adds the faculty of going outside and taking an objective and disinterested view. In truth this needs an amount of intellectual self-denial seldom realized to any great degree; but we venture to say that Mrs. Wilfrid Ward proves herself very worthy of confidence in this respect. There is certainly no artistic idealizing of Catholics, such as we are accustomed to in books written for the edification of the faithful. There is the same almost merciless realism which we find in "Helbeck" in dealing with certain trivialities and narrownesses of piety—defects common to all whom circumstances confine to a little world, but more incongruous and conspicuous as contrasted with the dignity of Catholic ideals. Without conscious departure from truth, Mrs. Humphrey Ward is evidently influenced in her selection and manipulation of facts by the impression of Catholicism she already possesses and wants to illustrate and convey; but Mrs. Wilfrid Ward has, we think, risen above this weakness very notably, and should accordingly merit greater attention.

It may well be that this judicial impartiality may meet with its usual reward of pleasing neither side altogether. Some will complain that she brings no idealizing love to her subject, and does little to bring out the greatness and glory of her religion. Yet this would be a hasty and ill-judging criticism; for our faith is no less to be commended for the restraint it exercises over the multitude of ordinary men and women, than for the effect it produces in souls of a naturally heroic type. That it should bring a certain largeness into the smallest life, that it should impart a strange stability to a naturally unstable and frivolous character; that it should check the worldly-minded with a sense of the superior claims of the other world—all this impresses us, if not with the sublimity or mystic beauty, at least with the solid reality and penetrating power of the Catholic faith.

The most loyal and deep-seated love needs not to shut its eyes to all defects and limitations, but can face them unchilled; and similarly there is often more faith and reverence and quiet enthusiasm in this seemingly cold and critical attitude towards the cause or party we love, than in the extravagant idealism that depends for its maintenance on an ignoring of things as they are.

Nothing perhaps is more unintelligible to the Protestant critic of Catholicism, nothing more needs to be brought out prominently, than the firm hold our religion can exercise over souls that are naturally irreligious.

This very phrase "naturally irreligious" will fall with a shock on sensitive Protestant ears; yet we use it advisedly. While all men are capable of faith and of substantial fidelity to the law of God, it is undeniable that but few are by natural inclination "religious" in the common acceptation of the term. As there is a poetic or mystical temperament, so also there is a religious temperament—not quite so rare, but still something exceptional.

We find it so in all ages, ancient and modern; in all religions, Christian and non-Christian—nay, even amid agnostics and unbelievers we often detect the now aimless, unused faculty. But most men have, naturally, no ardent spiritual sympathy with holiness, or mysticism, or heroism; their interests are elsewhere; and even where there are latent capacities of that kind, they are not usually developed until life's severest lessons have been learnt. Thus the young, who have just left the negative faith and innocence of the nursery behind them and stand inexperienced on the threshold of life, are not normally religious; whereas we naturally expect those who have passed through the ordeal, and been disillusioned, to begin to think about their souls, since there is nothing else left to think about.

Now, the Catholic religion clearly recognizes these facts of human nature, and accommodates herself to them. However frankly it may be acknowledged that a religious temperament—a certain complexus of mental, moral, and even physical dispositions—is a condition favourable to heroic sanctity, it must be emphatically denied that to be "religious," in the Protestant sense of the word, is requisite for salvation. And this denial the Church enforces by her recognition of the "religious state" [2] as an extraordinary vocation. The purpose of "orders" and "congregations" is to provide a suitable environment for people of a religious temperament whose circumstances permit them to attend to its development in a more exclusive and, as it were, professional way. Not, indeed, that all religious-minded persons do, or ought to, enter into that external state of life; nor that all who so enter are by temperament and sympathy fitted for it, but that the institution points to the Church's recognition of what is technically called the "way of perfection" as something exceptional and super-normal.

But the Church has a wider vocation than to provide hot-houses for the forcing of these rare exotics, whom the rough climate of a worldly life would either stunt or kill. Her first thought is for the multitudes of average humanity, who are not, and cannot be, in intelligent sympathy with many of the commands she lays upon them. They are but as children in religious matters—however cultivated they may chance to be in other concerns. From such souls God requires faith, and obedience to the commandments—a due, which, in certain rare crises, may mean heroism and martyrdom; but He does not expect of them that refinement of sanctity, that sustained attention to divine things, which depends so largely on one's natural cast of mind and disposition; and may even be found where the martyr's temper is altogether wanting. We recognize that there is certain serviceable, fustian, every-day piety, where, together with a great deal of spiritual coarseness, insensibility to venial sin and imperfection, there exists a firm faith that would go cheerfully to the stake rather than deny God, or offend Him in any grave point that might be considered a casus belli. And on the other hand a certain nicety of ethical discernment and delicacy of devotion, an anxiety about points of perfection, is a guarantee rather of the quality of one's piety than of its depth or strength. The saint is usually one whose piety excels both in quality and strength; the martyr is often enough a man of many imperfections and sins, veiling an unsuspected, deep-reaching faith. The day of persecution has ever been a day of revelation in this respect—a day when the seemingly perfect have been scattered like chaff before the wind, while the once thoughtless and careless have stood stubborn before the blast.

Protestantism of the Calvinistic or Puritan type shows little consciousness of the distinction we are insisting upon. It is disposed to draw a hard-and-fast line between the "converted" and the reprobate. Those who are not religious-minded, or who do not take a serious turn, are scarcely recognized as "saved" although they may not be convicted of any very flagrant or definite breach of the divine law. Their morality or their "good works" go for little if they do not experience that sense of goodness, or of being saved, which is called faith. Much stress is laid on "feeling good" and little value allowed to what we might call an unsympathetic and grudging keeping of God's law—however much more it may cost, from the very fact that it is in some way unsympathetic, and against the grain. The service of fear and reverence, which Catholicism regards as the basis and back-bone of love, is held to be abject and unworthy—almost sinful.

Hence it befalls that no place is found in the Protestant heaven for the great majority of ordinary people who do not feel a bit good or religious, who rather dislike going to church and keeping the commandments, and yet who keep them all the same, because they believe in God and fear His judgments and honour His law, and even love Him in the solid, undemonstrative way in which a naughty and troublesome child loves its parents.

That such a character as Madge Riversdale's should cover a small, firm core of faith and fear under a cortex of worldliness and frivolity; that religion should have such a hold on one so entirely irreligious by nature, is something quite inconceivable to a mind like, let us say, Mrs. Humphrey Ward's; and yet absolutely intelligible to the ordinary Catholic.

The Church to us, is not what it is to the Protestant—a sort of pasture land in which we are at liberty to browse if we are piously disposed. It is not merely a convenient environment for the development of the religious faculty. She stands to us in the relation of shepherd, with a more than parental authority to feed and train our souls through infancy to maturity; that is, from the time when we do not know or like what is good for us, to the time when we begin to appreciate and spontaneously follow her directions. Just then as a child, however naturally recalcitrant and ill-disposed, retains a certain fundamental goodness and root of recovery so long as it acknowledges and obeys the authority of its father and mother; so the ordinary unreligious Catholic, who has been brought up to believe in the divine authority of the Church, finds therein all the protection that obedience offers to those who are incapable of self-government. "In Madge's eyes the woman who married an innocent divorcee was no more than his mistress." Had Madge been a pious Protestant she naturally might have examined the question of divorce on its own merits; she might have weighed the pros and cons of the problem; she might have consulted God in prayer, and have listened to this clergyman on one side; and to that, on the other: but eventually she would have been thrown upon herself; she would have had no one whose decision she was bound to obey. But wild and lawless as she is, yet being a Catholic there is one voice on earth which she fears to disbelieve or disobey. Looked at even from a human standpoint, the consensus of a world-wide, ancient, organized society like the Roman Church cannot but exert a powerful pressure on the minds of its individual members. It would need no ordinary rebellion of the will for a thoughtless girl to shake her mind so free of that influence as to live happily in the state of revolt. But where in addition to this the Church is viewed as speaking in the name of God, and as so representing Him on earth that her ban or blessing is inseparable from His, it is obvious that such a belief in her claims will give her a power for good over the unreligious majority analogous to that possessed by a parent over an untrained child—a power, that is, of discipline and external motive which serves to supplement or supply for the present defect of internal motive.

Thus it is that the Church reckons among her obedient children thousands of very imperfect and non-religious people for whom Protestantism can find no place among the elect.

Again, the solid faith of men with so little intellectual or emotional interest in religion as Squire Riversdale or Marmaduke Lemarchant is something very puzzling to the Protestant critic who, for the reasons just insisted on, can have nothing corresponding to it in his own experience. It is a psychological state of which his own religious system takes no account. Where there is no intermediating Church, the soul is either in direct and mystical union with God or else wholly estranged and indifferent. A man is either serious and religious-minded, or he is nothing. Like an untutored child, if he is not naturally good, there is no one to make him so. But when the Church is acknowledged as our tutor under God, as empowered by Him to lead us to Him; a middle condition is found of those who are not naturally disposed to religion, and yet who are submissive to that divine authority whose office it is to shape their souls to better sympathies. Riversdale is a far truer type of the Catholic country squire of the old school than the somewhat morbid and impossible Helbeck of Bannisdale. With her preconceived notions, Mrs. Humphrey Ward could not imagine any alternative between 'religious' and 'irreligious' in the Puritan sense. If Helbeck was to be a good Catholic at all he must of necessity be fanatically devoted to the propagation of the faith and offer his fortune and energies to the service of an unscrupulous clergy only too ready to play upon his credulous enthusiasm. His is represented as being naturally a religious and mystical soul, but blighted and narrowed through the influence of Catholicism. We are made to feel that the only thing the matter with him is his creed—"all those stifling notions of sin, penance, absolution, direction, as they were conventionalized in Catholic practice and chattered about by stupid and mindless people."

On the other hand, in Squire Riversdale and Marmaduke Lemarchant there is by nature nothing but healthy humanity, no mystic or religious strain whatever; they are not semi-ecclesiastics like Helbeck; and yet we feel that their prosaic lives are governed, restrained, and rectified by a deep-rooted faith in the authority of the Catholic Church. "The qualities most obvious are not those of the mystic, but of the manly out-of-door sportsman who may seem to be nothing more than a bluff Englishman who rides to the hounds and does his ordinary duties. Yet one of these red-coated cavaliers would, I have not the least doubt, if occasion called for it, show himself capable of the very highest heroism. Men of action, I should say, and not of reflection—a race of few words but of brave deeds."

It was just men of this unromantic type, men of solid but unostentatious faith, given wholly to the business of this life save for one sovereign secret reserve, who in time of persecution stood fast "ready any day to be martyred for the faith and to regard it as the performance of a simple duty and nothing to boast of." And if there is in the type a certain narrowness of sympathy and lack of intelligent interest which offends us, we may ask whether, with our human limitations, narrowness is not to some extent the price we pay for strength; whether where decision of judgment and energy of action is demanded, as in times of persecution, width of view and multiplicity of sympathies may not be a source of weakness. Contrast, for example, the character of Mark Fieldes with that of Marmaduke Lemarchant, and it will be clear that the strength and straightness of the latter is closely associated with the absence of that versatility of intellect and affection which make the former a more interesting but far less lovable and estimable personality. To see all sides and issues of a question, is a speculative, but not always a practical advantage; to have many diversified tastes and affections helps to enlarge our sympathies, but not to concentrate our energies.

Of course great minds and strong hearts can afford to be comprehensive without loss of depth and intensity; but our present interest is with ordinary mortals and average powers. A man who has all his life unreflectingly adopted the traditional principle that death is preferable to dishonour, that a lie is essentially dishonourable, will be far more likely to die for the truth, than one who has philosophized much about honour and veracity, and whose resolution is enfeebled by the consciousness of the weak and flimsy support which theory lends to these healthy and universally received maxims. And similarly those who have received the faith by tradition, who for years have assumed it in their daily conduct as a matter of course, in whom therefore it has become an ingrained psychological habit, who hold it, in what might be condemned as a narrow, unintellectual fashion, are just the very people who will fight and die for it, when its more cultivated and reflective professors waver, temporize, and fall away. Taking human nature as it is, who can doubt but that this is the way in which the majority are intended to hold their religious, moral, philosophical, and political convictions; that reflex thought is, must, and ought to be confined to a small minority whose function is slowly to shape and correct that great body of public doctrine by which the beliefs of the multitude are ruled? We do not mean to say that such prosaic "narrowness" as we speak of, is essential to strength; but only that a habit of theoretical speculation and a continual cultivation of delicate sensibility is a source of enervation which needs some compensating corrective. This corrective is found in the exalted idealism which characterizes the great saints and reformers, such as Augustine, or Francis, or Teresa, or Ignatius—souls at once mystical and energetically practical to the highest degree. It is something of this temper which is parodied in Alan Helbeck. But the Church's mission is not merely to those rare souls whose sympathy with her own mind and will is intelligent and spontaneous; but at least as much to the multitudes who have to be guided more or less blindly by obedience to tradition and authority, or else let wander as sheep having no shepherd. These considerations explain why One Poor Scruple seems to us so far truer a presentment of Catholic life than Helbeck of Bannisdale—the difference lying in the incommunicable advantage which an insider possesses over an outsider in understanding the spirit and principles by which the members of any social body are governed. Of all religions, Catholicism which represents the accumulated results of two thousand years' worldwide experience of human nature applied to the principles of the Gospel, is least likely to be comprehended by an outsider, however observant and fair-minded.

To those for whom the lawfulness of re-marriage for an innocent divorcee is, like the rest of their religious beliefs, a matter of opinion, the scruple of a character like Madge Riversdale is unthinkable and incredible. Such women do not trouble their heads about theological points; still less, make heroic sacrifices for their private and peculiar convictions. But those for whom the Church is a definite concrete reality—almost a person—governing and teaching with divine authority, will easily understand the firm grip she can and does exert on those who have no other internal principle of restraint; who would shake themselves free if they dared. Let those who despise the results of such a constraint be consistent and abolish all parental and tutorial control; all educative government of whatsoever description; nay, the imperious restraint of conscience itself, which is often obeyed but grudgingly.

While some features of this portrait of Catholic life are common to all its phases, others are peculiar to the aspect it presents in England, where Catholics being a small and weak minority are, so to say, self-conscious in their faith—continually aware that they are not as the rest of men; disposed therefore to be apologetic or aggressive or defensive. Again, the circumstance of their long exclusion from the social and intellectual life of their country is accountable for other undesirable peculiarities which Mrs. Wilfrid Ward sees no reason to spare.

We have not, however, attempted anything like a literary estimate of this interesting, altogether readable work, but have only endeavoured to draw attention to an important point, which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it illustrates very admirably.

May, 1899.


[Footnote 1: One Poor Scruple. By Mrs. Wilfrid Ward. London: Longmans, 1899.]

[Footnote 2: We do not mean to imply that there is any close etymological relation between these two uses of the term.]



The appearance of a work by the Hon. W. Gibson on The Abbe de Lamennais, and the Catholic Liberal Movement in France, invites us to a new attempt to grapple with a problem which has so far met with no satisfactory solution, and probably never will. Up to a certain point we seem to follow more or less intelligently the working of the restless soul of De Lamennais; but at the last and great crisis of his life we find all our calculations at fault; "we try to understand him; we wish that penetrating into the inmost recesses of his wounded soul, we could force it to yield up its secret, and once more sympathize with him, perhaps console him; but we cannot. He is an enigma, as impenetrable as the rocks on his native shore."

From whatever point of view the story of his life is regarded, it presents itself as a tragedy. The believing Catholic sees there the ruin of a vocation to such a work as only a few souls in the history of the Church are called to accomplish—a ruin desperate and deplorable in proportion to the force of the talents and energies diverted from the right path. The non-Catholic or unbeliever cannot fail to be moved by contemplating the fruitless struggles of a mind so keen, a heart so enthusiastic in the cause of light and liberty—struggles ending in failure, perplexity, confusion, and misery. But while we allow a large element of mystery in his character which will never be eliminated, yet as we return time after time to gaze upon the picture of his life, as a whole, and in its details, the seemingly discordant items begin quietly to drop into their places one after another, and to exhibit unnoticed connections; and the idea of his distinctive personality begins to shape itself into a coherent unity.

It is not our purpose here to summarize Mr. Gibson's admirable work, or to give even an outline of so well-known a history; but rather to attempt some brief criticism of the man himself, and incidentally of his views.

Temperament and early education are among the principal determinants of character; and certainly when we contrast Feli with his brother Jean, who presumably received the same home-training, we see how largely he was the creature of temperament. Jean was by nature the "good boy," tractable and docile; Feli, the unmanageable, the lawless, the violent. While Jean was dutifully learning his lessons to order, Feli, the obstreperous, imprisoned in the library, was feeding his tender mind with Diderot, Montaigne, Pascal, Voltaire, Rousseau, and similar diet, and at twelve exhibited such infidel tendencies as made it prudent to defer his first Communion for some ten years.

From first to last, whether we consider his childish waywardness and outbreaks of violent passion, which persevered in a less childish form through manhood; or the fits of intense depression and melancholy, alternating with spells of high nerve-tension and feverish excitement; or the restlessness and impatient energy which showed themselves always and everywhere, and at times drove him like a wild man into the woods, "seeking rest and finding none;" or the prophetic, not to say, the fanatical strain which breaks out in so much of his writing, especially in the Paroles d'un Croyant,—in all alike there is evident that predominance of the imaginative and emotional elements which, combined with intellectual gifts, constitute genius as commonly understood. For such a character the training which would suffice for half a dozen good little Jeans would be wholly inadequate. So much fire and feeling ill submits to the yoke of self-restraint in matters moral or intellectual. The mind is apt to be fascinated by the brilliant pictures of the imagination and to become a slave to the tyranny of a fixed idea; while the strength of passionate desire paralyzes the power of free deliberation. It is precisely this self-restraint, the fruit of a careful education given and responded to, that we miss in De Lammenais both in his moral character and in his mind. Peace and tranquillity of soul are essential to successful thinking, more especially in philosophy; and in proportion as a brilliant imagination is a help, it is also a danger if let run riot. At times, wearied out with himself, he seems to have felt the need of retreat and quiet; but he was almost as constitutionally incapable of keeping still, as certain modern statesmen in their retirement from public life. We smile when we hear him in the violent first fervour of his conversion, talking about becoming a Trappist, and, later, a Jesuit. He knew himself better when he shrank so long and persistently from the yoke of priesthood, and when, having yielded against his truer instincts to the indiscreet zeal of pious friends, he experienced an agony of repugnance at his first Mass. With different antecedents he might have profited by the yoke, but as things stood it could but gall him.

In spite of Mr. Gibson's contention to the contrary, it can hardly be maintained that De Lamennais was well educated in the strict sense of the expression. The evidence he adduces points to a marvellous diversity of interests, and even to close and careful reading. But on the whole he was self-taught, and a self-taught man is never educated. Without intercourse with other living minds, education is impossible. This is indeed hoisting De Lammenais with his own petard. For, according to "Traditionalism," the mind is paralyzed by isolation, and can be duly developed only in society. An overweening self-confidence and slight regard for the labours of other thinkers usually characterizes self-taught genius. This it was that led him to cut all connection with the philosophy of the past, and to attempt to build up, single-handed, a new system to supplant that which had been the fruit of the collective mind-labour of centuries. "I shall work out," he writes calmly to the Abbe Brute, "a new system for the defence of Christianity against infidels and heretics, a very simple system, in which the proofs will be so rigorous that unless one is prepared to give up the right of saying I am, it will be necessary to say Credo to the very end." Only a man with a very slight and superficial acquaintance with the endeavours of previous apologists, and the extreme difficulty of the problem, could speak with such portentous self-confidence. And the result bears out this remark. For grand and imposing as is the structure of the Essai sur l'Indifference, it rests on fallacies so patent that none but a man of no philosophical training could have failed to perceive them. Here it is that the self-taught man comes to grief and often misses the mere truisms of traditional teaching.

Doubtless ecclesiastical philosophy and theology was then more than ever painfully fossilized, and altogether lifeless and out of sympathy with the spirit of the age. It needed to be quickened, adapted and applied to modern exigencies. The undue intrusion of metaphysics into the domain of positive knowledge needed checking; the value of consensus communis as a criterion required to be insisted on, defended, and exactly defined. With characteristic impetuosity, De Lamennais, like Comte, must bundle metaphysics out of doors altogether as a merely provisional but illusory synthesis, necessary for the human intellect in its adolescence, but to be discarded in its maturity; and thereupon he proceeds to erect his system of Traditionalism mid-air, quite unconscious that in clearing away metaphysics he has deprived the structure of its only possible foundation. But this is the man all over. Because there is a truth in Traditionalism, therefore, it is the whole and only truth; because metaphysics alone can do little, it is therefore unnecessary and worthless. Had he spent but a fraction of the time and trouble he gave to the elaboration of his own system, in a liberal and critical study of that which he desired to supersede, his genius might have accomplished a work for the Church which is still halting badly on its way to perfection. One feels something like anger in contemplating such hot-headed zeal standing continually in its own light, and frustrating with perverse ingenuity the very end which it was most desirous to realize. For no one can deny that from his first conversion to his unhappy death De Lamennais was dominated by the highest and noblest and most unselfish motives; that he was a man of absolute sincerity of purpose.

His earliest enthusiasm was for the defence and exaltation of the Catholic Faith, for the liberation of the Church from the bonds of nationalism and Erastianism. Even those who repudiate altogether the extreme Ultramontanism of De Maistre and De Lamennais must allow their conception to be one of the boldest and grandest which has inspired the mind of man. He realized more vividly than many that the cause of the Church and of society, of Catholicism and humanity, were one and the same. It was the very intensity and depth of his convictions that made him so importunate in pressing them on others, so intolerant of delay, so infuriated by opposition. For indeed nothing is more common than to find a thousand selfishnesses co-existing and interfering with a dominant unselfishness, lessening or totally destroying its fruitfulness for good. A man who is unselfish enough to devote his fortune to charity will not necessarily be free from faults which may more than undo the good he proposes.

The same hastiness of thought which moved him to a wholesale, indiscriminate condemnation of metaphysics, led him to conclude that because hitherto no happy adjustment of the relations between Church and State had been devised, there could be no remedy save in their total severance. Doubtless such a severance would be better, if Gallicanism were the only alternative; or if the Church's liberty and efficiency were to be seriously curtailed. A superficial glance might fancy a fundamental discrepancy in this matter, as well as in the questions of toleration, and of the freedom of the press, between the official teaching of Gregory XVI. and Pius IX., and that of Leo XIII. But a closer inspection shows no alteration of principle, and only a recognition of altered circumstances, either necessitating a connivance at inevitable evils, or totally changing the aspect of the question. But De Lamennais should have learnt from his own teaching that liberty does not mean the independence of isolation, but the full enjoyment of all the means necessary for perfect self-development; that it does not mean the weakness of dissociation, but the strength of a perfectly organized association for mutual help and protection. And this holds good, not for individuals alone, but for societies, and for Church and State. Aiming at one common end, the perfection of humanity, they cannot but gain by association and lose by dissociation. Each is weaker even, in its own sphere, apart from the other. It is an unreal abstraction that splits man into two beings—a body and a soul; that draws a clean, hard-and-fast line between his temporal and eternal welfare; that commits the former interest to one society, the latter to another, absolutely distinct and unconnected. But all this holds true only in the hypothesis of a nation of Christians or Theists.

When a large fraction of the community has ceased to believe in Christianity and the Church, the demands of justice and reason are different. It may well be allowed that, to determine the exact relation of the Catholic Church and Christian State, and the law of their organization into one complex society, is a problem for whose perfect solution we must wait the further development of the ideas of ecclesiastical and civil society. But to wait for growth of subjective truth was just what De Lamennais could not do. He saw that past solutions of the problem had been unsuccessful; that in most cases the Church was eventually drawn into bondage under the State as its creature and instrument in the cause of tyranny and oppression; that it was insensibly permeated with the local and national spirit, differentiated from Catholic Christendom, and severed from the full influence of its head, the Vicar of Christ. The independence of the Church he rightly judged to be the great safeguard of the people against the tyranny of their temporal rulers. In the face of that world-wide spiritual society, whose voice was at once the voice of humanity and the voice of God, he felt that "iniquity would stop its mouth," and injustice be put to shame. Yet all this seemed to him impossible so long as the Church depended on the State for temporalities, and because he could devise no form of association that would be guarantee against all abuses, he therefore insisted on total, severance, not merely as expedient for the present pressure, but as a divine and eternal principle.

When, therefore, it seemed to him that Gregory XVI. had condemned Ultramontanism, it was, to De Lamennais, as though he had condemned the cause of the Church and of humanity, and thrown the weight of his authority into that of Gallicanism. Here again we see how his mental intensity and impatience reduced him to the dilemma which found solution in his apostasy. Holding as he did to the Papal infallibility in a form far more extreme than that subsequently approved by the Vatican Council, he was bound in consistency to accept the Pope's decision as infallible in respect to its expediency and in all its detail. Thus it seemed to him that the ideal for which he had lived was shattered by a self-inflicted blow. The infallible voice of humanity had declared against the cause of humanity. He found himself compelled, in virtue of his principles, to choose between two alternatives. Either the cause of humanity, as he conceived it, was not the cause of God; or else the Pope was not the Vicar of Christ and the divinely-appointed guardian of that cause. But of the two denials the former was now to him the least tolerable. "Catholicism," he said, "was my life, because it was that of humanity." Sacramenta, propter homines; the Church was made for man, and not man for the Church. Given the dilemma, who shall blame his choice? But the dilemma was purely subjective and imaginary. Though truths are never irreconcilable, the exaggerations of truth may well be so.

Had he possessed that intellectual patience in perplexity, without which not only faith, but true science, is impossible, he would have been driven not to apostasy, but to a careful re-sifting of his views, issuing, perhaps, in a reconciliation of apparently adverse positions, or at all events in a confession of subjective, uncertainty and confusion. Faith, in the wider sense of the word, would have bid him to believe, without seeing, what we have lived to see under Leo XIII.

This seems to be the intellectual aspect of his defection, though of course there were many accelerating causes at work. Perhaps if Gregory XVI. had met his appeal with a few words of simple explanation and advice, instead of with that mysterious reticence which is falsely supposed to be the soul of diplomacy, the issue might have been as happy as it was miserable. De Lamennais himself, in his Affaires de Rome, makes the same remark in so many words. Again, the illiberal and ungenerous persecution of his triumphant adversaries, who endeavoured to goad him into some open act of rebellion in order to bring him under still heavier condemnation, can scarcely have failed to embitter and harden a soul naturally disposed to pessimism and melancholy. Nor can we omit from the influences at work upon him, that dramatic instinct which makes a mediocre and colourless attitude impossible for those who are strongly under its influence. Perhaps no nation is more governed by it than the French, with their partiality for tableaux and sensation; and in De Lamennais its presence was most marked, as the pages of his Paroles will witness. In the Too Late with which he received the overtures of Pius IX.; in the studied sensationalism of his funeral arrangements, and in many other minute points, we are made sensible that if his life culminated in a tragedy, the tragic aspect of it was not altogether displeasing to him. Still it would be a grievous slur on so great a character to suppose that such a weakness could have had any considerable part in his steady and deliberate refusal to see a priest at the last. This is sufficiently accounted for by the fact that he believed he could not be absolved without accepting the condemnation of his own views, and so abandoning the cause of humanity. While under the spell of his imaginary dilemma, he was constrained to follow the rule for a perplexed conscience, and to choose what seemed to him the less of two evils.

After his ideal had been destroyed, and the Church could no longer be for him the Saviour of the Nations, he threw himself without reserve into the cause of humanity and liberty. But his aims were now almost entirely destructive and revolutionary. His enthusiasm was rather a hatred of the things that were, than an ardent zeal for the things that ought to be; and the bitter elements in his character become more and more accentuated as he finds himself gradually thrust aside and forgotten—cast off by the Church, ignored by the revolution. Even his friends, with one or two exceptions, dropped off one by one; some fleeing like rats from a sinking ship, others perplexed at his obstinacy or offended by his violence; others removed by death or distance; and we see him in his old age poor and lonely, and intensely unhappy.

When dangerously ill in 1827, he exclaimed, on being told that it was a fine night, "For my peace, God grant that it may be my last." The prayer was not heard, for, as he felt on his recovery, God had a great work for him to do. How that work was done we have just seen. Feli de Lamennais, who would have been buried as a Christian in 1827, was buried as an infidel in 1854.

It is vain to contend that he was not a man of prayer. That he had a keen discernment in spiritual things is evident from his Commentary on the Imitation and his other spiritual writings, as well as from the testimony of his young disciples at La Chenaie, to whom he was not merely a brilliant teacher, a most affectionate friend and father, but also a trusted guide in the things of God. Yet this would be little had we not also assurance of his personal and private devoutness.

All this would make his unfortunate ending a stumbling-block to those who cannot acquiesce in the fact that in every soul tares and wheat in various proportions grow side by side, and that which growth is to be victorious is not possible to predict with certainty; who deem it impossible that one who ends ill could ever have lived well; or that one who loses his faith, or any other virtue, could ever at any time have really possessed it. There is indeed some kind of double personality in us all which is perhaps more observable in strongly-marked characters like De Lamennais, where, so to say, the bifurcating lines are produced further. Proud men have occasional moods of genuine humility; and habitual bitterness is allayed by intervals of sweetness; and conversely, there are ugly streaks in the fairest marble.

And as to the fate of that restless soul, who shall dare to speak dogmatically? We cling gladly to the story of the tear that stole down his face in death, and would fain see in it some confirmation of the view according to which the soul receives in that crucial hour a final choice based on the collective experience of its mortal life. We would hope that as there is a baptism of blood or of charity, so there may perhaps be some uncovenanted absolution for one who so earnestly loved mankind at large, and especially the poor and the oppressed; who in his old age and misery was found by their sick-bed; who willed to be with them in his death and burial. And yet we feel something of that agonizing uncertainty which forced from the aged Abbe Jean the bitter cry, "Feli, Feli, my brother!"

Jan. 1897.



"What pains me most," writes the late Sir Joseph Crowe in the Nineteenth Century for October, 1896, "is to think that the art of Fra Filippo, the loose fish, and seducer of holy women, looks almost as pure, and is often quite as lovely as that of Fra Giovanni Angelico of Fiesole." And indeed, if the fact be admitted, it cannot but be a shock to all those high-minded thinkers who have committed themselves unreservedly to the view that personal sanctity and elevation of character in the artist is an essential condition for the production of any great work of art, and especially of religious art. As regards the fact, we need not concern ourselves very long. If Rio and others, presumably biassed by the same theory, are inclined to see Lippi's moral depravity betrayed in every stroke of his brush, yet the more general and truer verdict accords him a place among the great masters of his age, albeit beneath Angelico and some others. Beyond all doubt it must be allowed that even in point of spirituality and heavenliness of expression, he stands high above numbers of artists of pure life and blameless reputation; and this fact leaves us face to face with the problem already suggested as to the precise connection between high morality and high art—if any.

Plainly a good man need not be a good artist. Must a good artist be a good man? I suppose from a vague feeling in certain minds that it ought to be so, there rises a belief that it must be so, and that it is so; and from this belief a disposition to see that it is so, and to read facts accordingly. Prominent among the advocates of this view is Mr. Ruskin in his treatment of the relation of morality to art. He holds "that the basis of art is moral; that art cannot be merely pleasant or unpleasant, but must be lawful or unlawful, that every legitimate artistic enjoyment is due to the perception of moral propriety, that every artistic excellence is a moral virtue, every artistic fault is a moral vice; that noble art can spring only from noble feeling, that the whole system of the beautiful is a system of moral emotions, moral selections, and moral appreciation; and that the aim and end of art is the expression of man's obedience to God's will, and of his recognition of God's goodness." [1]

But a man who can characterize a vulgar pattern as immoral, plainly uses the term "morality" in some transcendental, non-natural sense, and therefore cannot be regarded as an exponent of the precise theory referred to. Still, as this larger idea of morality includes the lesser and more restricted, we may consider Mr. Ruskin and his disciples among those to whom the case of Lippo Lippi and many another presents a distinct difficulty. "Many another," for the principle ought to extend to every branch of fine art; and we should be prepared to maintain that there never has been, or could have been, a truly great musician, or sculptor, or poet, who was not also a truly good man. In a way the position is defensible enough; for one can, in every contrary instance, patch up the artist's character or else pick holes in his work. Who is to settle what is a truly great work or a truly good man. But a position may be quite defensible, yet obviously untrue. Again, if by great art we mean that which is subordinated to some great and good purpose, we are characterizing it by a goodness which is extrinsic to it, and is not the goodness of art itself, as such. If the end of fine art is to teach, then its goodness must be estimated by the matter and manner of its teaching, and a "moral pocket-handkerchief" must take precedence of many a Turner. Yet it would even then remain questionable whether a good and great moral teacher is necessarily a good man. In truth, a good man is one who obeys his conscience, and whose conscience guides him right. If, in defect of the latter condition, we allow that a man is good or well-meaning, it is because we suppose that his conscience is erroneous inculpably, and that he is faithful to right order as far as he understands it. But one who sees right and wills wrong is in no sense good, but altogether bad. Allowing that for the solution of some delicate moral problems a certain height of tone and keenness of insight inseparable from habitual conscientiousness is necessary, yet mere intellectual acumen, in the absence of any notably biassing influence, suffices to give us as great a teacher as Aristotle, who, if exonerated from graver charges, offers no example of astonishing elevation of heart at all proportioned to the profundity of his genius. We do not deny that in the case of free assent to beliefs fraught with grave practical consequences, the moral condition of the subject has much to do with the judgments of the intellect. But first principles and their logical issues belong to the domain of necessary truth; while in other matters a teacher may accept current maxims and sentiments with which he has no personal sympathy, and weave from all these a whole system of excellent and orthodox moral teaching. And if one may be a good moralist and a bad man, why a fortiori may one not be a good artist and a bad man? If vice does not necessarily dim the eye to ethical beauty, why should it blind it to aesthetic beauty? In order to get at a solution we must fix somewhat more definitely the notion of fine art and its scope.

I think it is in a child's book called The Back of the North Wind, that a poet is somewhat happily and simply defined as a person who is glad about something and wants to make other people glad about it too. Yet mature reflection shows two flaws in this definition. First of all, the theme of poetry, or any other fine art, need not always be gladsome, but can appeal to some other strong emotion, provided it be high and noble. The tragedian is one who is thrilled with awe and sorrow, and strives to excite a like thrill in others. Again, though the craving for sympathy hardly ever fails to follow close on the experience of deep feeling; and though, as we shall presently see, fine art is but an extension of language whose chief end is intercommunion of ideas, yet this altruist end of fine art is not of its essence, but of its superabundance and overflow. Expression for expression's sake is a necessity of man's spiritual nature, in solitude no less than in society. To speak, to give utterance to the truth that he sees, and to the strong emotions that stir within his heart, is that highest energizing in which man finds his natural perfection and his rest. His soul is burdened and in labour until it has brought forth and expressed to its complete satisfaction the word conceived within it. Nor is it only within the mind that he so utters himself in secret self-communing; for he is not a disembodied intelligence, but one clothed with body and senses and imagination. His medium of expression is not merely the spiritual substance of the mind, but his whole complex being. Nor has he uttered his "word" to his full satisfaction till it has passed from his intellect into his imagination, and thence to his lips, his voice, his features, his gesture. And when the mind is more vigorous and the passion for utterance more intense, he will not be at rest while there is any other medium in which he can embody his conception, be it stone, or metal, or line, or colour, or sound, or measure, or imagery, which under his skilled hand can be made to shadow out his hidden thought and emotion. We cannot hold with Max Mueller and others, who make thought dependent and consequent on language.

For it is evident, on a moment's introspection, that thought makes language for itself to live in, just as a snail makes its own shell or a soul makes its own body. Who has not felt the anguish of not being able to find a word to hit off his thought exactly?—which surely means that the thought was already there unclothed, awaiting its embodiment. As the soul disembodied is not man, so thought not clothed in language is not perfect human thought. Its essence is saved, but not its substantial, or at least its desirable, completeness. A man thinks more fully, more humanly, who thinks not with his mind alone, but with his imagination, his voice, his tongue, his pen, his pencil. If, therefore, solitary contemplative thought is a legitimate end in itself; if it is that ludus, or play of the soul, which is the highest occupation of man, a share in the same honour must be allowed to its accompanying embodiment; to the music which delights no ear but the performer's; to poetry, to painting, to sculpture done for the joy of doing, and without reference to the good of others communicating in that joy. And if the Divine Artist, whose lavish hand fills everything with goodness; who pours out the treasures of His love and wisdom in every corner of our universe; of whose greatness man knows not an appreciable fraction; who "does all things well" for the very love of doing and of doing well; who utters Himself for the sake of uttering, not only in His eternal, co-equal, all-expressive Word, but also in the broken, stammering accents of a myriad finite words or manifestations—if this Divine Artist teaches us anything, it is that man, singly or collectively, is divinest when he finds rest and joy in utterance for its own sake, in "telling the glory of God and showing forth His handiwork," or, as Catholic doctrine puts it, in praise; for praise is the utterance of love, and love is joy in the truth.

As most of the useful arts perfect man's executive faculties, and thus are said to improve upon, while in a certain sense they imitate nature; so the fine arts extend and exalt man's faculty of expression, or self-utterance, regarded not precisely as useful and propter aliud; but as pleasurable and propter se. Even the most uncultivated savage finds pleasure in some discordant utterance of his subjective frame of mind; and it is really hard to find any tribe so degraded as to show no rudiment of fine art, no sign of reflex pleasure in expression, and of inventiveness in extending the resources nature has provided us with for that end.

The artist as such aims at self-expression for its own sake. It is a necessity of his nature, an outpouring of pent-up feeling, as much as is the song of the lark. Of course we are speaking of the true creative artist, and not of the laborious copyist. If he subordinates his work as a means to some further end; if his aim is morality or immorality, truth or error, pleasure or pain; if it is anything else than the embodiment or utterance of his own soul, so far he is acting riot as an artist, but as a minister of morality, or truth, or pleasure, or their contraries. If we keep this idea steadily in view, we can see how much truth, or how little, is contained in the various theories of fine art which have been advanced from the earliest times. We can see how truly art is a [Greek: mimaesis] an imitating of realities; not that art-objects are, as Plato supposes, faint and defective representations, vicegerent species of the external world, whose beauty is but the transfer and dim reflection of the beauty of nature. Were it so, then the mirror, or the camera, were the best of all artists. As expression, fine art is the imitation of the soul within; of outward realities as received into the mind and heart of the artist, in their ideal and emotional setting. The artist gives word or expression to what he sees; but what he sees is within him. His work is self-expression. We can from this infer where to look for a solution of the controversy between idealism and realism. We can also see how, owing to the essential disproportion between the material and sensible media of expression which art uses, and the immaterial and spiritual realities it would body forth, its utterances must always be symbolic, never literal. We can see how needlessly they embarrass themselves who deny the name of fine art to any work whose theme is not beautiful, or which is not morally didactic. Finally, we can see that if fine art be but an extension of language, there can be no immediate connection between art as art, and general moral character; no more reason for supposing that skilful and beautiful self-utterance is incompatible with immorality, than that its absence is incompatible with sanctity.

Yet, as a matter of fact, and rightly, we judge of art not merely as art, or as expression; but we look to that which is expressed, to the inner soul which is revealed to us, to the "matter" as well as to the "form." And it maybe questioned whether our estimate of a work is not rather determined in most cases by this non-artistic consideration. Obviously it is possible in our estimate of a landscape, to be drawn away from the artistic to the real beauty; from its merits as a "word," or expression, to the merits of the thing signified. And still more naturally is our admiration drawn from the artist's self-utterance, to the self which he endeavours to utter, and we are brought into sympathy with his thought and feeling. Much of the fascination exercised over us by art, which precisely as art is rude and imperfect in many ways, is to be ascribed to this source. Though here we must remember that the soul is often more truly and artistically betrayed by the simple lispings of childhood than by the ornate and finished eloquence of a rhetorician.

It is in regard to the matter expressed, rather than to the mode of expression, that we have a right to look for a difference between such men as Lippo Lippi and Fra Angelico. According to a man's inner tone and temperament and character, will be the impression produced upon him by the objects of his contemplation. These will determine him largely in the choice of his themes, and in the aspect under which he will treat them. Obviously in many cases there are noble themes of art for whose appreciation no particular delicacy of moral or religious taste is required. There is no reason why such a subject as the Laocoon should make a different impression on a saint and on a profligate. It appeals to the tragic sense, which may be as highly developed in one as in the other. But if the Annunciation be the theme, we can well understand how differently it will impress a man of lively and cultured faith, a contemplative and mystic, with an appreciative and effective love of reverence and purity; and another whose faith is a formula, whose life is impure, frivolous, worldly. Why then is there not a more distinctly marked inferiority in the religious art of Lippi to that of Angelico? Why does it look "almost as pure," and "often quite as lovely"? Two very clear reasons offer themselves in reply. First of all, the art of such a man as Angelico falls far more hopelessly short of his ideal. Most of the beauties which such a soul would find in the contemplation of Mary, or of Gabriel, are spiritual, moral, non-aesthetic, and can embody themselves in form and feature only most imperfectly. Given equal skill in expression, equal command of words, one man can say all that he feels, and more, while another is tortured with a sense of much more to be uttered, were it not unutterable. Perhaps it is in some hint of this hidden wealth of unuttered meaning that skilled eyes find in Angelico what they can never find in Lippi. A second reason might be found in the external influence exerted on the artist by society, its requirements, fashions, and conventions. It is plain that Lippi, left to himself, would never have chosen religious themes as such: it is equally plain, that having chosen them, he would naturally try to emulate and eclipse what was most admired in the great works of his predecessors and contemporaries. It would need little more than a familiar acquaintance with the great models, together with the artist's discriminating observance, for a man of Lippi's talent to catch those lines and shades of form and feature which hint at, rather than express, the inward purity, the reverence, the gentleness, with which he himself was so little in sympathy.

No doubt, were two such men equally skilled in all the arts of expression, in language, in verse, in song and music, in sculpture and painting, and acting, their general treatment of religious themes would be more glaringly different; but within the comparatively narrow limits of painting, we cannot reasonably expect more than we actually find.

The saint, as such, and the artist, as such, are occupied with different facets of the world; the former with its moral, the latter with its aesthetic beauty. Even were the artist formally to recognize that all the beauty in nature is but the created utterance of the Divine thought and love, and that the real, though unknown, term of his abstraction is not the impersonal symbol, but the person symbolized; yet it is not enough for sanctity or morality to be attracted to God viewed simply as the archetype of aesthetic beauty. On the other hand, one may be drawn, through the love of moral beauty in creatures, of justice, and mercy, and liberality, and truthfulness, to the love of God as their archetype, and yet be perfectly obtuse to aesthetic beauty; and thus again we see that high aestheticism is compatible with low morality, and conversely. Doubtless when produced to infinity, all perfections are seen to converge and unite in God, but short of this, they retain their distinctness and opposition. At the same time, it cannot for a moment be denied that keenness of moral, and of aesthetic perception, act and react upon one another. He gains much morally whose eyes are opened to the innumerable traces of the Divine beauty with which he is surrounded, and there are aesthetic joys which are necessarily unknown to a soul which is selfish and gross—still more to a soul from which the glories of revealed religion are hidden, either through unbelief or sluggish indifference. Yet, on the whole, it may be said that sanctity is benefited by art more than art is by sanctity, especially where we deal with so limited a medium of expression as painting. And so it seems to us that, after all, there is nothing to surprise or pain us in the fact that "the art of a Fra Filippo, the loose fish, looks almost as pure, and is often quite as lovely as that of Fra Giovanni Angelico of Fiesoli."

Dec. 1896.


[Footnote 1: Vernon Lee, Belcaro.]



There are few books more difficult to estimate than those in which M. Huysman sets forth the story of a conversion generally supposed to bear no very distant resemblance to his own. It would be easy to find excellent reasons for a somewhat sweeping condemnation of his work, and others as excellent for a most cordial approval; and, indeed, we find critics more than usually at variance with one another in its regard. To be judged justly, these books must be judged slowly. The source of perplexity is to be found in the fact that the author, who has recently passed from negation to Catholicism, carries with him the language, the modes of thought, the taste and temper of the literary school of which he was, and, in so many of his sympathies, is still a pupil, a school which regards M. Zola as one of its leading lights. En Route, and its sequels, portray in the colours of realism, in the language of decadence, the conversion of a realist, nay, of a decadent, to mysticism and faith. "The voice indeed is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau," and according as the critic centres his attention too exclusively on one or the other, such will his judgment be.

That his works have commanded attention, and awakened keen interest among members of the most varying and opposite schools of thought, is an undeniable fact which at all events proves them to be worth careful consideration.

The story of a soul's passage from darkness to light, of its wanderings, vacillations, doubts, and temptations, must necessarily exercise a strong fascination over all minds of a reflective cast: "The development of a soul!" says Browning, "little else is worth study. I always thought so; you, with many known and unknown to me, think so; others may one day think so." [1] It is from this attraction of soul to soul that the Pilgrim's Progress, together with many kindred works, derives its spell; and indeed it is to this that all that is best and greatest in art owes its power and immortal interest. Here, however, is one reason why The Cathedral [2] can never be so attractive as En Route, ministering as it does but little to that deepest and most insatiable curiosity concerning the soul and its sorrows. It portrays but little perceptible movement, little in the way of violent revulsion and conflict; the spiritual growth which it registers is mostly underground, a strengthening and spreading of the roots. It deals with a period of quiet healing and convalescence after a severe surgical operation; with the "illuminative" stage of conversion—for there is scarcely any doubt that the three volumes correspond to the "purgative," "illuminative," and "unitive" ways respectively.

Between pulling down and building up—both sensational processes, especially the former—there intervenes a sober time of planning and surveying, a quiet taking of information before entering on a new campaign of action. When the affections have been painfully and violently uprooted from earth, then first is the mind sufficiently free from the bias of passion and base attachments to be instructed and illuminated with profit in the things concerning its peace, and to be prepared for the replanting of the affections in the soil of Heaven. The arid desert, with its seemingly aimless wanderings, intervenes between the exodus from Egypt and the entrance into the Land of Promise.

Dealing with this stage of the process of conversion, The Cathedral is comparatively monotonous and barren of spiritual incident. What removes it still further from all chances of anything like popularity in this country is the extent to which it is occupied with matters of purely archaeological and artistic interest, and more especially with the mystical symbolism of the middle ages as chronicled in every detail of the great Cathedral of Chartres. Little as may be the enthusiasm for such lore in France, it is far less in England, where the people have for three centuries been out of all touch with the Catholic Church, and therefore with whatever modicum of mediaevalism she still preserves as part of her heritage from the past. Architecturally we appreciate our dismantled cathedrals to some extent, but their symbolism is far less understood than even the language and theology of the schools, while the study of it meets as much sympathy as would the study of heraldry in a modern democracy. Yet we may say that the bulk of the book consists of an inventory of every symbolic detail in architecture, in sculpture, in painting, in glass-colouring, to be found at Chartres; to which is added a careful elaboration of the symbolism of beasts, flowers, colours, perfumes, all very dreary reading for the uninitiated, and to be criticized only by the expert.

Little scope as the plan of the book offers for any variety or display of character, being mainly occupied with erudite monologue, put sometimes into the mouth of Durtal, sometimes into that of the Abbe Plomb, yet the personalities of these two, as well as those of Geversin, Madame Bavoil, and Madame Mesurat, stand out very vividly, and make us wish for that fuller acquaintance with them which a little more movement and incident would have afforded.

But what will give most offence, and tend to alienate a certain amount of intelligent and valuable sympathy, is the violence, and even the coarseness, with which the author, or at least his hero, handles, not only the opinions, but the very persons of those from whom he differs; the intemperance of his invective, the narrow intolerance and absolute self-confidence with which he sits in judgment on men and things.

As a matter of fact, this is rather a defect of style and expression than of the inner sentiment. It is part and parcel of the realist temper to blurt out the thought in all the clothing or nakedness with which it first surges up into consciousness, before it has been submitted to the censorship of reason; in a word, to do its thinking aloud, or on paper; to give utterance not to the tempered and mature judgment—the last result of refinement and correction, but to display the whole process and working by which it was reached. As it is part of M. Zola's art to linger lovingly over each little horror of some slaughter-house scene, until the whole lives for us again as in a cinematograph, so M. Huysman, engaged in the portrayal of a spiritual conflict, spares us no link in the chain of causes by which the final result is produced; he bares the brain, and exposes its workings with all the scientific calmness of the vivisector.

Whether we like or dislike this realism, we must allow for it in forming our judgment on these volumes, nor must we treat as final and approved opinions what are often the mere spontaneous suggestions and first thoughts of the mind, the oscillations through which it settles down to rest. Over and over again we shall find that Durtal subsequently raises the very objection to his own view that was on our lips at the first reading of it.

But even making such allowance, it none the less remains a matter of regret that one who, with perhaps some justice, considers that in point of art-appreciation "the Catholic public is still a hundred feet beneath the profane public," and chides them for "their incurable lack of artistic sense," who speaks of "the frightful appetite for the hideous which disgraces the Church of our day," who himself in many ways, in a hundred passages of sublime thought, of tender piety, of lyrical poesy, has proved beyond all cavil his delicacy of sentiment, his exquisite niceness in matters of taste, his reverence for what is chaste and beautiful, should at times be so deplorably unfaithful to his better instincts, so forgetful of the close and inseparable alliance between restraint and elegance. What can be weaker or uglier, more unbecoming an artist, more becoming a fish-wife, than his description of Lochner's picture of the Virgin: "The neck of a heifer, and flesh like cream or hasty-pudding, that quivers when it is touched;" or of the picture of St. Ursula's companions, by the same hand: "Their squab noses poking out of bladders of lard that did duty for their faces;" not to speak of the characterization of a "Sacred Heart" too revolting to reproduce? Surely when, after having reviled M. Tissot almost personally, he describes his works as painted with "muck, wine-sauce, and mud," it is difficult not to answer with a tu quoque as far as this word-painting is concerned—difficult not to see here some morbid and "frightful appetite for the hideous" struggling with the healthy appetite for better things.

However lame and ridiculous an artist's utterance may be, yet there is a certain reverence sometimes due to what he is endeavouring to say, and even to his desire to say it. We do not think it very witty or tasteful or charitable to laugh at a man because he stammers; still less do we overwhelm him with the coarsest abuse. One may well shudder at most presentments of the Sacred Heart, but even apart from all consideration for the artist, a certain reverence for the idea there travestied and unintentionally dishonoured, should forbid our insulting what after all is so nearly related to that idea, and in the eyes of the untaught very closely identified with it.

But an occasional trespass of this kind, however offensive, is not enough to detract materially from the value of so much that is meritorious; nor again will that outspoken treatment of delicate topics (less observable in The Cathedral than in En Route), which makes the book undesirable for many classes of readers, prevent its due appreciation on the part of others—unless we are going to put the Sacred Scriptures on the Index. In this vexed question, M. Huysman takes what seems the more robust and healthy view, but he appears to be quite unaware how many difficulties it involves; and consequently lashes out with his usual intemperance against the contrary tradition, which is undeniably well represented. It is not as though the advocates of the "flight" policy in regard to temptations against this particular virtue were ignorant of the general principle which undoubtedly holds as regards all other temptations, and bids us turn and face the dog that barks at our heels. This counsel is as old as the world. But from the earliest time a special exception has been made to it in the one case of impurity by those who have professedly spoken in the light of experience rather than of a priori inference. Both views are encompassed with difficulty, nor does any compromise suggest itself.

What seems to us one of the most interesting points raised by the story of Durtal's spiritual re-birth and development is the precise relation between the Catholic religion and fine art.

God has not chosen to save men by logic; so neither has He chosen to save them by fine art. If the "election" of the Apostolic Church counted but few scribes or philosophers among its members—and those few admitted almost on sufferance—we may also be sure that the followers of the Galilean fishermen were not as a body distinguished by a fastidious criticism in matters of fine art. In after ages, when the Church asserted herself and moulded a civilization more or less in accordance with her own exigencies and ideals, it is notorious how she made philosophy and art her own, and subjected them to her service; but whether in so doing she in any way departed from the principles of Apostolic times is what interests us to understand.

There is certainty no more unpardonable fallacy than that of "Bible Christians," who assume that the Church in the Apostolic age had reached its full expansion and expression, and therefore in respect of polity, liturgy, doctrinal statement and discipline must be regarded as an immutable type for all ages and countries; from which all departure is necessarily a corruption. They take the flexible sapling and compare it with aged knotty oak, and shake their heads over the lamentable unlikeness: "That this should be the natural outgrowth of that! O tempora, O mores!"

Like every organism, in its beginning, the Church was soft-bodied and formless in all these respects; but she had within her the power of fashioning to herself a framework suited to her needs, of assuming consistency and definite shape in due time. The old bottles would not serve to hold the new wine, but this did not mean that new bottles were not to be sought. Because the philosophy, the art, the polity of the age in which she was born were already enlisted in the service of other ideas and inextricably associated with error in the minds of men, it was needful for her at first to dissociate herself absolutely from the use of instruments otherwise adaptable in many respects to her own ends, and to wait till she was strong enough to alter them and use them without fear of scandal and misinterpretation.

The Church is many-tongued; but though she can deliver her message in any language, yet she is not for that reason independent of language in general. There is no way to the human ear and heart but through language of some kind or another. It is not her mission to teach languages, but to use the languages she finds to hand for the expression of the truths, the facts, the concrete realities to which her dogmas point. This does not deny that one language may not be more flexible, more graphic than any other, more apt to express the facts of Heaven as well as those of earth. It only denies that any one is absolutely and exclusively the best.

It is no very great violence to include rhetoric, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, ritual, and every form of decorative art in the category of language and to bring them under the same general laws, since even philosophy may to a large extent be treated in the same way. Christ has not commissioned His Church to teach science or philosophy, nor has He given her an infallible magisterium in matters of fine art. She uses what she finds in use and endeavours with the imperfect implements, the limited colours, the coarse materials at her disposal to make the picture of Christ and His truth stand out as faithful to reality as possible; and—to press the illustration somewhat crudely—as what is rightly black, in a study in black and white, may be quite wrongly black in polychrome; so what the Church approves according to one convention, she may condemn according to another. May we not apply to her what Durtal says of our Lady: "She seems to have come under the semblance of every race known to the middle ages; black as an African, tawny as a Mongolian;"—"she unveils herself to the children of the soil ... these beings with their rough-hewn feelings, their shapeless ideas, hardly able to express themselves"? The more we study the visions and apparitions with which saints have been favoured and the revelations which have been vouchsafed to them, the more evident is it that they are spoken to in their own language, appealed to through their own imagery. Indeed, were it not so, how could they understand? Our Lady is the all-beautiful for every nation, but the type of human beauty is not the same for all. The Madonna of the Ethiopian might be a rather terrifying apparition in France or Italy.

There is no art too rough or primitive, or even too vulgar, for the Church to disdain, if it offers the only medium of conveying her truth to certain minds. Though custom has made it classical, her liturgical language, whether Latin or Greek, when first assumed, was that of the mob—about as elegant as we consider the dialects of the peasantry. She did not use plain-chaunt for any of those reasons which antiquarians and ecclesiologists urge in its favour now-a-days, but because it was the only music then in vogue. Even to-day the breeziest popular melodies in the East are suggestive of the Oratio Jeremiae. Her vestments (even Gothic vestments!) were once simply the "Sunday best" of the fashion of those days. If to-day these things have a different value and excellence, it is in obedience to the law by which what is "romantic" in one age becomes "classical" in the next, or what is at first useful and commonplace becomes at last ceremonial and symbolic; and by which the common tongue of the vulgar comes by mere process of time to be archaic and stately. To "create" ancient custom and ritual on a sudden, or to resuscitate abruptly that which has lapsed into oblivion, is, to say the least, a very Western idea, akin to the pedantry of trying to restore Chaucer's English to common use. Nascitur non fit, is the law in all such matters.

While we assert the Church's independence of any one in particular of these means of self-expression, her indifference to style and mode of speech so long as substantial fidelity is secured, we must not deny that some of them are, of their own nature, more apt to her purpose than others and allow a fuller revelation of her sense; and that in proportion as her influence is strong in the world she tends to modify human thought and language, to leaven philosophy and fine art, so as to form by a process of selection and refusal, and in some measure even to create, an ever richer and more flexible medium of utterance.

In this sense we can with some caution speak of "Catholic art" in music, architecture, and painting, so far, that is, as we can determine the extent and nature of the Church's action, and therefore the tendency of her influence in the way of stimulus and restraint with regard to subject and treatment. We do not unjustly discern an author's style as a personal element distinct from the language and phraseology of which no item is his own. The manner in which he uses that language, his selections and refusals make, in union with the borrowed elements, a tongue that may be called his, in an exclusive sense. The Church, too, has her style, which, though difficult to discern amid her use of a Pentecostal variety of languages, is no doubt always the same—at least in tendency.

Salvation-Army worship is certainly not of the Church's style, but I do not think, were there no absolute irreverence and scandal to be feared, that she would hesitate to use such a language, were it the only one understood by such a people. St. Francis Xavier's "catechisms" were often hardly less uncouth. Still, her whole tendency would be towards restraint, order, and exterior reverence. Again, the stoical coldness and formalism of a liturgical worship, centered round no soul-stirring mystery of Divine love where there can be feeling so strong as to need the restraint of liturgy and ritual, has still less of the Church's style about it. For she is human, not merely in her reason and self-restraint, but in the fulness of her passion and enthusiasm; and restraint is only beautiful and needful where there is something to restrain.

We are now in a position to consider the surface objection that will present itself to many a reader concerning Durtal's conversion. "He has been converted," it will be said, "by a fallacy. He has identified the Catholic religion with the cause of plain-chaunt and Gothic architecture, and of all that is, or that he considers to be, best in art. He has laid hold not of Catholicism, but of its merest accessories, which it might shake off any day, and him along with them. Indeed, he scarcely makes any pretence at being in sympathy with the Catholicism of to-day, which he regards as almost entirely philistine and degenerate, if we except La Trappe and Solesmes and a few other corners where the old observances linger on. 'It was so ugly, so painfully adorned with images, that only by shutting his eyes could Durtal endure to remain in Notre Dame de la Breche.' Yes, but what sort of convert is this who is so insensible to substantials, so morbidly sensitive about mere accidentals? We come to the Church for the true faith and the sacraments, not for 'sensations.' In fine, Durtal has not observed the route prescribed by the apologetics for reaching the door of the sheep-fold, but has climbed over in his own way, like a thief and a robber; he has not (as a recent critic says of him) tombe entre les bras maternals de l'Eglise selon toutes les regles."

Without for a moment denying one of the legitimate claims of scientific apologetic, we may at once dismiss the idea that it pretends to represent a process through which the mind of the convert to Christianity either does or ought necessarily to pass. Its sole purport is to show that if it is not always possible to synthetize Christianity with the current philosophy, science, and history of the day, at least no want of harmony can be positively demonstrated. As secular beliefs and opinions are continually shifting, so too apologetic needs continual adjustment: and as that of a century back is useless to us now, so will ours be in many ways inadequate a century hence. It is fitting for the Church at large that she should in each age and country have a suitable apologetic, taking cognizance of the latest developments of profane knowledge. It is needful for her public honour in the eyes of the world that she should not seem to be in contradiction with truth, but that either the apparent truth should be proved questionable, or else that her own teaching should be shown to be compatible with it. But in no sense is such apologetic always a necessity for the individual, still less a safe or adequate basis for a solid conversion, which in that case would be shaken by every new difficulty unthought of before.

Our subjective faith in the Church must be like the faith of the disciples of Christ, an entirely personal relation; an act of implicit trust based on no lean argument or chain of reasoning, but on the irresistible spell, the overmastering impression created upon us by a character manifested in life, action, speech, even in manner; as impossible to state in its entirety and as impossible to doubt as are our reasons for loving or loathing, for trusting or fearing.

No doubt we hear of men of intellect and learning "reading" or "reasoning" themselves into the Church; but others as able have read and reasoned along the same line, and yet have not come; for in truth, reason at the most can set free a force of attraction created by motives other than reason.

What this attraction is in each case is impossible to specify accurately—"Ask me and I know not," one might say, "do not ask me and I know." Each soul is hooked with its own bait, called by its own name, drawn in its own way; and as the attractiveness of Christ is virtually infinite in its multiformity, so is that of His Church, nor is there a more unpardonable narrowness than that of insisting that others shall be drawn in the same way as we ourselves, or not at all.

Let it also be noticed that a very prolonged and minute intimacy is not always necessary in order that we should feel the spell of personality. Much depends on our own gifts of sympathy, insight and apprehension, on the simplicity and strength of the personality in question, on the nature of the incidents by which it is disclosed to us. We know one man in a moment, another only after years of intimacy, while others in regard to the same individuals might experience the converse. We must not then suppose that because in one case the impression is the result of slowly-accumulated observations, and in another the work of an instant, it is less trustworthy in the latter instance than in the former. It may be, or it may not be. St. Augustine needed years to feel the spell that one word, nay, one glance from Christ cast upon St. Peter. Nor again is it always in some striking and notable crisis that a character reveals itself abruptly, but often in the merest nuance—a manner, an intonation, something quite unintentional, unpremeditated. We know well, if we know ourselves at all, how irresistible is the impression created on us at times by such trifles, and yet how more than reasonable it often is.

Who shall say, then, that to an eye and heart attuned to quick sympathy, any indication is too small to betray the inward spirit and character of the Catholic Church, or to magnetize a soul and render it restless, until it obeys her attraction and rests in union with her?

To a sensitively artistic temperament such as Durtal's, the indications of the Church's "style," revealed in her influence upon art, in her creations, in her selections and refusals, would be eloquent of her whole character and ethos; it would be to him what the very tone of Christ's voice was to the Baptist, or what His glance was to Peter, or what His silence was to Pilate. We have known too many instances of deep-seated and entire conviction, based on seemingly as little or less, to wish for one moment to indulge in any foolish rationalizing or to question the possibility or probability of God's drawing souls to Himself by such methods.

We must, however, remember that it is not merely by the Church's mediaeval art that Durtal is attracted, but still more by that mysticism which created it, and by which it was served and fostered in return. Mysticism must necessarily excite the sympathy of one who is in devout pursuit of the highest and most spiritual forms of aesthetic beauty. Whatever be the long-sought and never-to-be-forgotten definition of the Beautiful, of this much at least a mere process of induction will assure us, that men count things beautiful in the measure that they are released from the grossness, formlessness, and heaviness of matter, and by their delicacy, shapeliness, and unearthliness, betray the influence of that principle which is everywhere in conflict with matter and is called spirit. Man at his best is most at home, where at his worst he is least at home, namely, in the world of those super-realities which are touched and felt by the soul, but refuse to be pictured or spoken in the language of the five senses. A hard, "common-sense," labour-and-wages religion, such as is consonant with the utilitarianism of a commercial civilization, could never appeal to a temperament like Durtal's.

Doubtless Catholic Christianity admits of being apprehended under the narrower and grosser aspect, which however inadequate and unworthy, is not absolutely false. The Jews were suffered to believe not merely that God rewards the just and punishes the wicked—which is eternally true—but that He does so in this life, which is true only with qualification; and that He rewards them with temporal prosperity and adversity—which is hardly true at all. Catholic truth, in itself the same, can only be received according to the recipient's capacity and sensitiveness. What one age or country is alive to, another may be dead to; nor can we pretend that here all is progress and no regress, unless we are prepared to say that in no respect have we anything to learn from the past. The Ignatian meditation on the "Kingdom of Christ" evoked heroic response in an age impregnated with the sentiments of chivalry, but to-day it needs to be adapted to a great extent, and some have vainly hoped to gather grapes from a thistle by substituting a parable drawn from some soul-stirring commercial enterprise—a colossal speculation in cheese.

Whatever signs there may be of a reaction, yet the whole temper and spirit of our age is unfavourable to that mysticism which is the very choicest flower of the Catholic religion. The blame is not with the seed, but with the soil. Even where least of all we should look for such indifference, among those who have built up the sepulchres and shrines of the great masters of mysticism, we sometimes observe a profound distrust for what is esteemed an unpractical, unhealthy kind of piety, while every preference is given to what is definite and tangible in the way of little methods and industries, multitudinous practices, lucrative prayers, in a word, to what a critic already quoted describes as les petitesses des cerveaux etroits et les anguleuses routines. [3]

It is one of the narrownesses of Durtal himself to ascribe all this to the wilful perversity of a person or persons unknown, and not to see in it the inevitable result of the vulgarizing tendency of modern life upon the masses. Things being as they are, surely it is better that the Church should do the little she can than do nothing at all. The "meditative mind" is incompatible with the rush and worry of a busy life, especially where educational methods substitute information for reflection, and so kill the habit, and eventually the faculty, of thought in so many cases. But if the higher prayer is impossible, the lower is possible and profitable. Again, if the liturgical sense has in a great measure become extinct among the faithful owing to the unavoidable disuse of the public celebration of the Church's worship, it is well that they should be allowed devotions accommodated to their limited capacity. As the Church would never dream of expecting a keen sympathy with her higher dogmas, her mystical piety, her artistic symbolism, her transcendent liturgy, on the part of a newly-converted tribe of savages, so neither is she impatient with the civilized Philistine, but is willing to speak to him in a language all his own, hoping indeed to tune his tongue one day to something less uncouth. None can sympathize more cordially than the writer does with Durtal in his horror of unauthorized devotions, of insufferable vernacular litanies, of nerveless and sickly hymns, of interminable "acts of consecration" void of a single definite idea, more especially when these things are brought into the very sanctuary itself, with stole and cope and every apparent endeavour to fix the responsibility on the Universal Church. But if the Church is willing to go in rags to save those who are in rags, she is only using her invariable economy. We know well the sort of robe that befits her dignity, and no doubt it is this contrast that makes the trial of her present humiliation more difficult for us to bear.

We do not for a moment allow that the difference between bad taste and good is merely relative, or that a language or art which is externally vulgar can ever be the adequate and appropriate expression of the Catholic religion, whose tendency when unimpeded is ever to refine and purify. But it is perhaps another narrowness to suppose that a reform can only be effected by a return to the past, to mediaeval symbolism and music and architecture. No effort of the kind has ever met with more than seeming success. What is consciously imitated from the past is not the same as that natural growth which it imitates, and which was as congenial to those days as it is uncongenial to ours. It is all the difference between the Mass ceremonial in a Ritualist church and in a Catholic church—the historical sense is violated in one case and satisfied in the other.

What is once really dead can never revive in the same form—at best we get a cast from the dead face. No doubt the old music and the old symbolism always will have a beauty of antiquity that can never belong to the new; but it was not this beauty—the beauty of death, of autumn leaves, that made them once popular, but the beauty of fresh green life and flexibility. The effort to make antiquity popular is almost a contradiction in terms. What we may hope for at most is an improvement in the aesthetic tastes of the Catholic public which comes from freer and healthier surroundings, from saner ideas and wider opportunities of education and liberal culture. When they begin to speak a richer language, the Church will take that language and find in it a fuller expression of her mind than she can in the present patois; she will be able again to say to them in other words, as yet unknown, what she said to the middle ages in Gregorian chaunt and Gothic cathedral. She, who in virtue of her Pentecostal gift of tongues, speaks in sundry times and divers manners, may in due season find words as eloquent of her heart and mind as those which she spoke to Durtal in the aisles of Chartres and in the cadences of Solesmes.

July, 1898.


[Footnote 1: Introduction to Sordello.]

[Footnote 2: The Cathedral. By M.T.K. Huysman. Translated by Clare Bell.]

[Footnote 3: R. P. Pacher, S.J., De Dante a Verlaine.]



The paradoxes of one generation are the common-places of the next; what the savants of to-day whisper in the ear, the Hyde Park orators of to-morrow will bawl from their platforms. Moreover, it is just when its limits begin to be felt by the critical, when its pretended all-sufficingness can no longer be maintained, that a theory or hypothesis begins to be popular with the uncritical and to work its irrevocable ill-effects on the general mind. In this, as in many other matters, the lower orders adopt the abandoned fashions of their betters, though with less of the well-bred taste which sometimes in the latter makes even absurdity graceful. In this way it has come to pass that at the very moment in which a reaction against the irreligious or anti-religious philosophy of a couple of generations ago is making itself felt in the study, the spreading pestilence of negation and unbelief has gained and continues to gain possession of the street. Some fifty years ago religion and even Christianity, seemed to the sanguine eyes of Catholics so firmly rooted in England that the recovery of the country to their faith depended almost entirely on the settlement of the Anglo-Roman controversy; to which controversy they accordingly devoted, and, in virtue of the still unexhausted impetus of that effort, do still devote their energies, almost exclusively. But together with a dawning consciousness that times and conditions have considerably changed, there is growing up in certain quarters a feeling that we too shall have to make some modifications in order to adapt ourselves to the altered circumstances. It is becoming increasingly evident that even could the said Anglo-Roman controversy be settled by some argument so irresistibly evident as to leave no locus standi to the opponents of the Petrine claims, yet the number of those Anglicans who admit the historical, critical, philosophical, and theological assumptions upon which the controversy is based and which are presumed as common ground, is so small and dwindling that, were they all gained to the Church, we should be still a "feeble folk" in the face of that tidal wave of unbelief whose gathering force bids fair to sweep everything before it. Also the lingering impression left from "Tractarian" days as to the intellectual pre-eminence of the Catholicizing party in the Anglican Church, which pre-eminence might make amends for their numerical insignificance, is gradually giving way to the recognition of the sobering fact that at present that party in no exclusive sense represents the cultivated intellect of the country. It is no disrespect to that party to say that while scholarship and intelligence are therein well represented by scattered individuals, yet it is cumbered, like most religious movements after they have streamed some distance from their source, with a majority of those whose adhesion has little or no pretence to an intellectual basis; and whose occasional accession to the Catholic Church is almost entirely their own gain.

To give the last decisive push to those who are already toppling over the border-line that divides England from Rome, to reap and gather-in the harvest already ripe for the sickle, is a useful, a necessary, and a charitable work; one that calls for a certain kind of patient skill not to be underestimated; but there is a wider and perhaps more fruitful field whose soil is as yet scarcely broken. It may even be asserted with only seeming paradox that the best religious intelligence of the country is to be found in the camp of negation rather than in that of affirmation; among Broad Churchmen, Nonconformists, Unitarians, and Positivists, rather than among those who seek rest in the unstable position of a modified Catholicism. The very instability and difficulty of that position elicits much ingenuity from its theological defenders, though it also divides their counsels not a little; nor do we quarrel with them for affirming instead of denying, but for not affirming enough. But this attempt at compromise, this midway abortion of the natural growth of an idea, even were it justifiable as sometimes happens when legitimate issues are obscured through failure of evidence, repels the great multitude of religious thinkers who are not otherwise sufficiently drawn towards Catholicism to care to examine these claims. To say that there is no logical alternative between Rome and Agnosticism is a sufficiently shallow though popular sophism. At most it means that from certain given premisses one or other of those conclusions must follow syllogistically—a statement that would be more interesting were the said premisses indisputable and admitted by all the world. Still it may be allowed that a criticism of these premisses, which is a third alternative, opens up to religious thought a number of roads, all of which lead away from, rather than towards the extreme Anglican position, and hence that the more searching religious intelligence of the country is as adverse to that position—and for the same reasons—as it is to our own. And by the "religious intelligence" I mean all that intelligence that is interested in the religious problem; be that interest hostile or friendly; be it, in its issue, negative or constructive. For it must not be forgotten that the enemies of a truth are as interested in it as its friends; or that the friendliest interest, the strongest "wish to believe," may at times issue in reluctant negation. So far then as the great mass of religious intelligence in this country is not "Anglo-Catholic" in its sympathies; and so far as it is chiefly on the "Anglo-Catholic" section that we make any perceptible impression, the conversion of England, for what depends on our own efforts, does not seem to be as imminent a contingency as it would appear to be in the eyes of those foreign critics for whom Lord Halifax is the type of every English Churchman and the English Church co-extensive with the nation—save for a small irreclaimable residue of Liberals and Freemasons.

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