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´╗┐Title: Froude's Essays in Literature and History - With Introduction by Hilaire Belloc
Author: Froude, James Anthony, 1818-1894
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Froude's Essays in Literature and History - With Introduction by Hilaire Belloc" ***

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Essays on History and Literature

By James Anthony Froude

London: J. M. Dent & Co.,


Arnold's Poems (Westminster Review, 1854)

Words about Oxford (Fraser's Magazine, 1850)

England's Forgotten Worthies (Westminster Review, 1852)

The Book of Job (Westminster Review, 1853)

The Lives of the Saints (Eclectic Review, 1852)

The Dissolution of the Monasteries (Fraser's Magazine, 1857)

The Philosophy of Christianity (The Leader, 1851)

A Plea for the Free Discussion of Theological Difficulties
(Fraser's Magazine, 1863)

Spinoza (Westminster Review, 1855)

Reynard the Fox (Fraser's Magazine, 1852)

The Commonplace Book of Richard Hilles (Fraser's Magazine, 1858)


Froude had this merit--a merit he shared with Huxley alone of
His contemporaries--that he imposed his convictions. He fought
against resistance. He excited (and still excites) a violent
animosity. He exasperated the surface of his time and was yet
too strong for that surface to reject him. This combative and
aggressive quality in him, which was successful in that it was
permanent and never suffered a final defeat should arrest any
one who may make a general survey of the last generation in letters.

It was a period with a vice of its own which yet remains to be
detected and chastised. In one epoch lubricity, in another
fanaticism, in a third dulness and a dead-alive copying of the
past, are the faults which criticism finds to attack. None of
these affected the Victorian era. It was pure--though tainted
with a profound hypocrisy; it was singularly free from violence
in its judgments; it was certainly alive and new: but it had this
grievous defect (a defect under which we still labour heavily)
that thought was restrained upon every side. Never in the history
of European letters was it so difficult for a man to say
what he would and to be heard. A sort of cohesive public spirit
(which was but one aspect of the admirable homogeneity of the
nation) glued and immobilised all individual expression. One
could float imprisoned as in a stream of thick substance: one
could not swim against it.

It is to be carefully discerned how many apparent exceptions to
this truth are, if they be closely examined, no exceptions at
all. A whole series of national defects were exposed and
ridiculed in the literature as in the oratory of that day; but
they were defects which the mass of men secretly delighted to
hear denounced and of which each believed himself to be free.

They loved to be told that they were of a gross taste in art,
for they connected such a taste vaguely with high morals and
with successful commerce. There was no surer way to a large
sale than to start a revolution in appreciation every five years,
and from Ruskin to Oscar Wilde a whole series of Prophets
attained eminence and fortune by telling men how something new
and as yet unknown was Beauty and something just past was to be
rejected, and how they alone saw truth while the herd around them
were blind. But no one showed us how to model, nor did any one
remark that we alone of all Europe had preserved a school of

So in politics our blunders were a constant theme; but no one
marked with citation, document, and proof the glaring progress
of corruption, or that, for all our enthusiasm, we never once
in that generation defended the oppressed against the oppressor.
There was a vast if unrecognised conspiracy, by which whatever
might have prevented those extreme evils from which we now suffer
was destroyed as it appeared. Efforts at a thorough purge were
dull, were libellous, were not of the "form" which the Universities
and the public schools taught to be sacred. They were rejected as
unreadable, or if printed, were unread. The results are with us to-day.

In such a time Froude maintained an opposing force, which was
not reforming nor constructive in any way, but which will obtain
the attention of the future historian, simply because it was an

It was an opposition of manner rather than of matter. The matter
of it was common enough even in Froude's chief decade of power.
The cause to which he gave allegiance was already winning when he
proceeded to champion it, and many a better man, one or two greater
men, were saying the same things as he; but they said such things
in a fashion that suggested no violent effort nor any demand for
resistance: it was the peculiar virtue of Froude that he touched
nothing without the virile note of a challenge sounding throughout
his prose. On this account, though he will convince our posterity
even less than he does ourselves, the words of persuasion, the
writings themselves will remain: for he chose the hardest wood in
which to chisel, knowing the strength of his hand.

What was it in him which gave him that strength, and
which permitted him, in an age that would tolerate no formative
grasp upon itself, to achieve a permanent fame? I will not
reply to this question by pointing to the popularity
of his History of England; the essays that follow will
afford sufficient material to answer it. He produced the
effect he did and remained in the eminence to which he
had climbed, first because his manner of thought was rigid
and of a hard edge; secondly, because he could use that
steel tool of a brain in a fashion that was general; he could
use it upon subjects and with a handling that was
comprehensible to great masses of his fellow-countrymen.

It is not certain that such a man with such interests would
have made his voice heard in any other society. It is
doubtful whether he will be translated with profit. His field
was very small, the points of his attack might all be found
contained in one suburban villa. But in our society his
grip and his intensity did fall, and fall of choice, upon such
matters as his contemporaries either debated or were ready
to debate. He therefore did the considerable thing we
know him to have done.

I say that his mind was rigid and of a close fibre: it was
a mind (to repeat the metaphor) out of which a strong
graying-tool could be forged. Its blade would not be
blunted: it could deal with its material. Of this character,
which I take to be the first essential in his achievement, the
few essays before us preserve an ample evidence.

Thus you will find throughout their pages the presence of
that dogmatic assertion which invariably proceeds from such
a mind, and coupled with such assertion is a continual
consciousness that his dogmas are dogmas: that he is asserting
unprovable things and laying down his axioms before he
begins his process of reasoning.

The contrary might be objected by some foreign observer,
or by some one who had a larger acquaintance with European
history than had he. I can imagine a French or an Irish
critic pointing to a mass of assertion with no corresponding
admission that it is assertion only: such a critic might quote
even from these few pages phrase after phrase in which
Froude poses as certain what are still largely matters of
debate. Thus upon page 144 he takes it for granted that
no miracles have been worked by contact with the bodies
of saints. He takes it for granted on page 161 that the
checking of monastic disorders, and the use of strong
language in connection with them, was peculiar to the
generation which saw at its close the dissolution of the
monasteries. He takes it for granted on page 125 that what
we call "manifestations" or what not,--spirit rappings,
table-turnings, and the rest--are deceptions of the senses to
which superstition alone would give credence.

He ridicules (upon p. 128) the tradition of St. Patrick which
all modern research has come to accept. He says downright
(upon pp. 186-187) that the Ancient world did not inquire
into the problem of evil. On p. 214 he will have it that the
ordinary man rejects, "without hesitation," the interference
of will with material causes. In other words, he asserts that
the ordinary man is a fatalist--for Froude knew very well
that between the fatalist and the believer in a possibility of
miracle there is no conceivable position. He will have it (on
p. 216) that a modern doctor always regards a "vision" as
an hallucination. On p. 217 he denies by implication the
stigmata of St. Francis--and so forth--one might multiply
the instances indefinitely. All Froude's works are full of
them, they are part and parcel of his method--but their
number is to no purport. One example may stand for all,
and their special value to our purpose is not that they are
mere assertions, but that they are assertions which Froude
must have known to be personal, disputable, and dogmatic.

He knew very well that the vast majority of mankind
accepted the virtue of relics, that intellects the equals of his
own rejected that determinism to which he was bound, and
that the Pagan world might be presented in a fashion very
different from his own. And in that perpetual--often gratuitous
--affirmation you have no sign of limitation in him but
rather of eagerness for battle.

It is an admirable fault or perhaps no fault at all, or if a
fault an appendage to the most considerable virtue a writer
of his day could have had: the virtue of courage.

See how he thrusts when he comes to lay down the law,
not upon what the narrow experience of readers understands
and agrees with him about, but upon some matter which he
knows them to have decided in a manner opposed to his own.
See how definite, how downright, and how clean are the
sentences in which he asserts that Christianity is Catholic
or nothing:--

". . . This was the body of death which philosophy detected
but could not explain, and from which Catholicism now
came forward with its magnificent promise of deliverance.

"The carnal doctrine of the sacraments, which they are
compelled to acknowledge to have been taught as fully in
the early Church as it is now taught by the Roman Catholics,
has long been the stumbling-block to Protestants. It was
the very essence of Christianity itself. Unless the body could
be purified, the soul could not be saved; or, rather, as from
the beginning, soul and flesh were one man and inseparable,
without his flesh, man was lost, or would cease to be. But
the natural organization of the flesh was infected, and unless
organization could begin again from a new original, no pure
material substance could exist at all. He, therefore, by whom
God had first made the world, entered into the womb of the
Virgin in the form (so to speak) of a new organic cell, and
around it, through the virtue of His creative energy, a
material body grew again of the substance of His mother,
pure of taint and clean as the first body of the first man when
it passed out under His hand in the beginning of all things."

Throughout his essay on the Philosophy of Christianity,
where he was maintaining a thesis odious to the majority of
his readers, he rings as hard as ever. The philosophy of
Christianity is frankly declared to be Catholicism and
Catholicism alone; the truth of Christianity is denied. It is called
a thing "worn and old" even in Luther's time (upon page 194),
and he definitely prophesies a period when "our posterity"
shall learn "to despise the miserable fabric which Luther
stitched together out of its tatters."

His judgments are short, violent, compressed. They are
not the judgments of balance. They are final not as a goal
reached is final, but as a death-wound delivered. He throws
out sentences which all the world can see to be insufficient
and thin, but whose sharpness is the sharpness of conviction
and of a striving determination to achieve conviction in others
---or if he fails in that, at least to leave an enemy smarting.
Everywhere you have up and down his prose those short
parentheses, those side sentences, which are strokes of offence.
Thus on page 199, "We hear---or we used to hear when the
High Church party were more formidable than they are," &c.;
or again, on page 210, "The Bishop of Natal" (Colenso)
has done such and such things, "coupled with certain
arithmetical calculations far which he has a special aptitude."
There are dozens of these in every book he wrote. They
wounded, and were intended to wound.

His intellect may therefore be compared, as I have compared
it, to an instrument or a weapon of steel, to a chisel
or a sword. It was hard, polished, keen, stronger than what
it bit into, and of its nature enduring. This was the first of
the characters that gave him his secure place in English

The second is his universality--the word is not over-exact,
but I can find no other. I mean that Froude was the exact
opposite of the sciolist and was even other than the student.
He was kneaded right into his own time and his own people.
The arena in which he fought was small, the ideas he combated
were few. He was not universal as those are universal
who appeal to any man in any country. But he was eager
upon these problems which his contemporaries wrangled over.
He was in tune with, even when he directly opposed, the
class from which he sprang, the mass of well-to-do Protestant
Englishmen of Queen Victoria's reign. Their furniture had
nothing shocking for him nor their steel engravings. He
took for granted their probity, their common sense, and their
reading. He knew what they were thinking about and
therefore all he did to praise or blame their convictions,
to soothe or to exasperate them, told. He could see the

Perpetually this looking at the world from the standpoint
of the men around him makes him say things that irritate
more particular and more acute minds than his own, but I
will maintain that in his case the fault was a necessary fault
and went with a power which permitted him to achieve the
sympathy which he did achieve. He talks of the "Celt"
and the "Saxon," and ascribes what he calls "our failures
in Ireland" to the "incongruity of character" between these
two imaginaries. He takes it for granted that "we are
something which divides us from mediaeval Christianity by
an impassable gulf." When he speaks of asceticism he must
quote "the hair shirt of Thomas a Becket." If he is speaking
of Oxford undergraduates one has "pleasant faces, cheerful
voices, and animal spirits," and at the end of the fine but
partial essay on Spinoza we have six lines which might come
bodily from a leader in the Daily Telegraph, or from any
copy of the Spectator picked up at random.

These are grave faults, but, I repeat, they are the faults of
those great qualities which gave him his position.

And side by side with such faults go an exceptional
lucidity, a good order within the paragraph and in the
succession of the paragraphs. A choice of subject suited to
his audience, an excision of that which would have bored or
bewildered it, a vividness of description wherewith to amuse
and a directness of conclusion wherewith to arrest his readers
--all these he had, beyond perhaps any of his contemporaries.

Occasionally that brotherhood in him leads him to faults
more serious. You get gross commonplace and utterly false
commonplace, of which when he came back to them (if
indeed he was a man who read his own works) he must
have been ashamed:--

"Persecutions come, and martyrdoms, and religious wars;
and, at last, the old faith, like the phoenix, expires upon its
altar, and the new rises out of the ashes.

"Such, in briefest outline, has been the history of religions,
natural and moral."

Or again, of poor old Oxford:--

"The increase of knowledge, and consequently of morality,
is the great aim of such a noble establishment as this; and
the rewards and honours dispensed there are bestowed in
proportion to the industry and good conduct of those who
receive them."

But the interesting point about these very lapses is that
they remain purely exceptional. They do not affect either
the tone of his writing or the value and intricacy of his
argument. They may be compared to those undignified
and valueless chips of conversational English that pop up
in the best rhetoric if it be the rhetoric of an enthusiastic
and wide man.

While, however, one is in the mood of criticism it is not
unjust to show what other lapses in him are connected
with this common sympathy of his and this very comprehension
of his class to which he owed his opportunity and
his effect.

Thus he is either so careless or so hurried as to use--
much too commonly--words which have lost all vitality,
and which are for the most part meaningless, but which go
the rounds still like shining flat sixpences worn smooth.
The word "practical" drops from his pen; he quotes "in a
glass darkly," and speaks of "a picture of human life"; the
walls of Oxford are "time-hallowed"; he enters a church
and finds in it "a dim religious light"; a man of Froude's
capacity has no right to find such a thing there. If he writes
the word "sin" the word "shame" comes tripping after.
It may be that he was a man readily caught by fatigue, or
it may bet it is more probable, that he thought it small
millinery to "travailler le verbe" At any rate the result
as a whole hangs to his identity of spirit with the thousands
for whom he wrote.

To this character of universality attach also faults not only
in his occasional choice of words but in his general style.

The word "style" has been so grossly abused during the
last thirty years that one mentions it with diffidence. Matthew
Arnold well said that when people came to him and asked
to be told how to write a good style he was unable to reply;
for indeed it is not a thing to be taught. It is a by-product,
though a necessary by-product, of good thinking. But when
Matthew Arnold went on to say that there was no such thing
as style except knowing clearly what you wanted to say, and
saying it as clearly as you could, he was talking nonsense.
There is such a thing as style. It is that combination of
rhythm, lucidity, and emphasis, which certainly must not
be consciously produced, but which if it arise naturally from
a man's pen and from his method of thought makes all the
difference between what is readable and what is not readable.
If any one doubt this let him compare the French Bible
with the English--both literal and lucid translations of the
same original; or again let him contrast the prose phrases of
Milton when he is dealing with the claims of the Church
in the Middle Ages with those of Mr. Bryce in the same

Now I say that just as the excellences of Froude's prose
proceeded from this universality of his so did the errors into
which that prose fell, and it is remarkable that these errors
are slips of detail. They proceed undoubtedly from rapid
writing and from coupling his scholarship with a very general
and ephemeral reading.

A few examples drawn from these essays will prove what
I mean. On the very first page, in the first line of the
second paragraph we have the word "often" coming after the
word "experience," instead of before it. He had written
"experience," he desired to qualify it, and he did not go back
to do what should always be done in plain English, and what
indeed distinguishes plain English from almost every other
language--to put the qualification before the thing qualified;
a peculiarly English mark in this, that it presupposes one's
having thought the whole thing out before writing it down.

On page 3 we have exactly the same thing; "A legend
not known unfortunately to general English readers." He
means of course, "unfortunately not known," but as the
sentence stands it reads as though he had meant to say,
somewhat clumsily, that the method in which English readers
knew the legend was not unfortunate.

He is again careless in the matter of repetitions, both of
the same word, and (what is a better test of ear) of rhymes
within the sentence: we have in one place "which seemed to
give a soul to those splendid donations to learning," and
further on in the same page "a priority in mortality."

On pages 34 and 35 you have "an intensely real conviction."
You are then told that "the most lawless men did
then really believe." Then that the American tribes were
in the eyes of the colonists "real worshippers" of the Devil,
and a few lines later we hear of "the real awfulness of the

The position of the relative is often as slipshod as the
position of the qualicative; thus you will find upon page 37
that the pioneers "grayed out the channels, and at last paved
them with their bones, through which the commerce and
enterprise of England has flowed out of all the world." This
sentence is quite deplorable; it has a singular verb after two
nominatives, and is so framed that one might imagine the
commerce and enterprise of our beloved country to have flown
through those hollow interior channels, with which, I believe,
our larger bones are provided, and in which is to be discovered
that very excellent substance, marrow.

It is singular that, while these obvious errors have excited
so little comment, Froude should have been blamed so often
and by such different authorities for weaknesses of the pen
from which he did not suffer, or which, if he did suffer from
them, at least he had in common with every other writer
of our time and perhaps less than most.

Thus, as an historian he has been accused of two faults
which have been supposed by those who are ill acquainted
with the history of letters to be correlative: a straining
for effect and an inaccuracy of detail. There is not one of
his contemporaries who less forced himself in description
than Froude. Often in Green, very often in Freeman and
always in Carlyle you feel that your author is deliberately
exciting his mind and your own. Violent colours are chosen
and peculiar emphasis--from this Froude was free. He was
an historian.

To the end Froude remained an historian, and an historian
he was born. If we regret that his history was not general,
and that he turned his powers upon such a restricted set of
phenomena, still we must rejoice that there was once in
modern England a man who could sum up the nature of
a great movement. He lacked the power of integration.

He was not an artist. But he possessed to an extraordinary
degree the power of synthesis. He was a craftsman, as the
modern jargon goes. There is not in the whole range of
English literature as excellent a summary of the way in
which the Divinity of our Lord fought its way into the
leading brains of Europe, as appears upon page 192 of this
book. It is as good as Boissier; there runs all through it
knowledge, proportion, and something which, had he been
granted a little more light, or been nurtured in an intellectual
climate a little more sunny, would have been vision itself:--

"The being who accomplished a work so vast, a work
compared to which the first creation appears but a trifling
difficulty, what could He be but God? Who but God could
have wrested His prize from a power which half the thinking
world believed to be His coequal and co-eternal adversary?
He was God. He was man also, for He was the second
Adam--the second starting-point of human growth. He was
virgin born, that no original impurity might infect the
substance which He assumed; and being Himself sinless, He
showed in the nature of His person after His resurrection,
what the material body would have been in all of us except
for sin, and what it will be when, after feeding on it in its
purity, the bodies of each of us are transfigured after its

There's a piece of historical prose which summarises,
teaches, and stamps itself finally upon the mind! Froude
saw that the Faith was the summit and the completion of
Rome. Had he written us a summary of the fourth and
fifth centuries--and had he written it just after reading some
dull fellow on the other side--what books we should have
had to show to the rival schools of the Continent!

Consider the sharp and almost unique judgment passed
upon Tacitus at the bottom of page 133 and the top of
page 134, or again, the excellent sub-ironic passages in which
he expresses the vast advantage of metaphysical debate:
which has all these qualities, that it is true, sober, exact,
and yet a piece of laughter and a contradiction of itself. It
is prose in three dimensions.

That pedantic charge of inaccuracy, with which I have
already dealt in another place, in connection with another
and perhaps a greater man, is not applicable to Froude. He
was hasty, and in his historical work the result certainly was
that he put down things upon insufficient evidence, or upon
evidence but half read; but even in his historical work (which
deals remember, with the most highly controversial part of
English history) he is as accurate as anybody else, except
perhaps Lingard. That the man was by nature accurate,
well read and of a good memory, appears continually throughout
this book, and the more widely one has read one's self,
the more one appreciates this truth.

For instance, there is often set down to Disraeli the remark
that his religion was "the religion of all sensible men." and
upon being asked what this religion might be, that Oriental
is said to have replied, "All sensible men keep that to
themselves." Now Disraeli could no more have made such a
witticism than he could have flown through the air; his
mind was far too extravagant for such pointed phrases.
Froude quotes the story (page 205 of this book) but rightly
ascribes it to Rogers, a very different man from Disraeli--
an Englishman with a mastery of the English language.

Look again at this remark upon page 20, "The happy allusion
of Quevedo to the Tiber was not out of place here:--the
fugitive is alone permanent.'" How many Englishmen know
that Du Bellay's immortal sonnet was but a translation of
Quevedo? You could drag all Oxford and Cambridge to-day
and not find a single man who knew it.

Note the care he has shown in quoting one of those hackneyed
phrases which almost all the world misquotes, "Que
mon nom soit fletri, pourvu que la France soit libre." Of a
hundred times that you may see those words of Danton's
written down, you will perhaps not see them once written
down exactly as they were said.

So it is throughout his work. Men still living in the
Universities accuse him vaguely of inexactitude as they will
accuse Jowett of ignorance, and these men, when one examines
them closely, are found to be ignorant of the French
language, to have read no philosophy between Aristotle and
Hobbes, and to issue above their signatures such errors of
plain dates and names as make one blush for English
scholarship and be glad that no foreigner takes our historical
school seriously.

There is always left to any man who deals with the writings
of Froude, a task impossible to complete but necessarily to be
attempted. He put himself forward, in a set attitude, to
combat and to destroy what he conceived to be--in the
moment of his attack--the creed of his countrymen. He was
so literary a man that he did this as much by accepting as by
denying, as much by dating from Elizabeth all we are as by
affirming unalterable material sequence and the falsity of
every transcendental acceptation. His time smelt him out
even when he flattered it most. Even when he wrote of the
Revenge the England of his day--luckily for him--thought
him an enemy.

Upon the main discussion of his life it is impossible to
pass a judgment, for the elements of that discussion are now
destroyed; the universities no longer pretend to believe.
And "free discussion" has become so free that the main
doctrines he assailed are no longer presented or read without
weariness in the class to which he appealed and from which
he sprang.

The sects, then, against which he set himself are dead:
but upon a much larger question which is permanent, and
which in a sort of groping way he sometimes handled,
something should be said here, which I think has never been
said before. He was perpetually upon the borderland of the
Catholic Church.

Between him and the Faith there stood no distance of space,
but rather a high thin wall; the high thin wall of his own
desperate conviction. If you will turn to page 209 of this
book you will see it said of the denial of the Sacrament
by the Reformers and of Ridley's dogma that it was bread
only "the commonsense of the country was of the same
opinion, and illusion was at an end." Froude knew that
the illusion was not at an end. He probably knew (for we
must continue to repeat that he was a most excellent historian)
that the "commonsense of the country" was, by the time
Ridley and the New English Church began denying the real
presence, and turning that denial into a dogma, profoundly
indifferent to all dogmas whatsoever. What "the common-sense
of the country" wanted was to keep out swarthy men,
chivalrous indeed but imperialists full of gold who owned
nearly all the earth, but who, they were determined, should
not own England.

Froude was fond of such assertions, his book is full of them,
and they are more than mere violence framed for combat;
they are in their curious way definite expressions of the man's
soul; for Froude was fond of that high thin wall, and liked
to build it higher. He was a dogmatic rationalist--one
hesitates to use a word which has been so portentously
misused. Renan before dying came out with one of his last
dogmas; it was to this effect, that there was not in the
Universe an intelligent power higher than the human mind.
Froude, had he lived in an atmosphere of perfectly free
discussion as Renan did, would have heartily subscribed to that

Why then do I say that he was perpetually on the borderland
of the Catholic Church? Because when he leaves for a
moment the phraseology and the material of his youth and of
his neighbourhood, he is perpetually striking that note of
interest, of wonder, and of intellectual freedom which is the
note of Catholicism.

Let any man who knows what Catholicism may be read
carefully the Essay on the Dissolution of the Monasteries,
and the Essay on the Philosophy of Christianity which succeeds
it in this book, but which was written six years before.
Let him remember that nothing Froude ever wrote was
written without the desire to combat some enemy, and, having
made allowance for that desire, let him decide whether one
shock, one experience, one revelation would not have whirled
him into the Church. He was, I think, like a man who has
felt the hands of a woman and heard her voice, who knows
them so thoroughly well that he can love, criticise, or despise
according to his mood; but who has never seen her face.

And he was especially near to the Church in this: that
having discussed a truth he was compelled to fight for it and
to wound actively in fighting, He was an agent, He did,
He saw that the mass of stuff clinging round the mind
of wealthy England was decaying, He turned with regret
towards the healthy visions of Europe and called them
illusions because they were not provable, and because all
provable things showed a flee other than that of the creed
and were true in another manner. He despised the cowardice
--for it is cowardice--that pretends to intellectual conviction
and to temporal evidence of the things of the soul. He saw
and said, and he was right in saying, that the City of God is
built upon things incredible.

"Incredibilia nec crederim, nisi me compelleret ecclesiae auctoritas"



The following is a list of the published works of J. A. Froude.
"Life of St. Neot" ("Lives of the English Saints," edited
by J. H. Newman), 1844. "Shadows of the Clouds" (Tales),
by Zeta (pseud.), 1847. "A Sermon (on 2 Cor. vii. 10) preached
at St. Mary's Church on the Death of the Rev. George May
Coleridge," 1847. Article on "Spinoza" (Oxford and Cambridge
Review), 1847. "The Nemesis of Faith" (Tale), 1849.
"England's Forgotten Worthies" (Westminster Review), 1852.
"Book of Job" (Westminster Review), 1853. "Poems of
Matthew Arnold" (Westminster Review), 1854. "Suggestions
on the Best Means of Teaching English History"
("Oxford Essays," &c.), 1855. "History of England," 12
vols., 1856-1870 "The Influence of the Reformation on the
Scottish Character," 1865. "Inaugural Address delivered to
the University of St. Andrews, March 19, 1869," 1869. "Short
Studies on Great Subjects," 1867, 2 vols., series 2-4, 1872-83
(articles from Fraser's Magazine, Westminster Review, &c.).
"The Cat's Pilgrimage," 1870 "Calvinism: Address at
St. Andrews," 1871. "The English in Ireland," 3 vols.,
1872-74. "Bunyan" ("English Men of Letters"), 1878. "Caesar:
a Sketch," 1879. "Two Lectures on South Africa," 1880.
"Thomas Carlyle" (a history of the first forty years of his
life, &c.), 2 vols., 1882. "Luther: a Short Biography," 1883.
"Thomas Carlyle" (a history of his life in London, 1834-80,
2 vols., 1884. "Oceana," 1886. "The English in the West
Indies," 1888. "Liberty and Property: an Address" [1888.]
"The Two Chiefs of Dunboy," 1889. "Lord Beaconsfield"
(a Biography), 1890. "The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon,"
1891. "The Spanish Story of the Armada," 1892. "Life
and Letters of Erasmus," 1894. "English Seamen in the
Sixteenth Century," 1895. "Lectures on the Council of Trent,"
1896. "My Relations with Carlyle," 1903.

Edited--"Carlyle's Reminiscences," 1882. "Mrs. Carlyle's
Letters," 1883.



Five years ago there appeared a small volume entitled
"The Strayed Reveller, and other Poems, by A." (The Strayed
Reveller, and other Poems. By A. London: 1849) It
was received we believe with general indifference. The
public are seldom sanguine with new poets; the exceptions
to the rule having been for the most part signal
mistakes; while in the case of "A." the inequality of
merit in his poems was so striking that even persons
who were satisfied that qualities were displayed in them
of the very highest kind, were yet unable to feel confidence
in the future of an author so unusually incapable,
as it appeared, of knowing when he was doing well and
when he was failing.

Young men of talent experience often certain musical
sensations, which are related to poetry as the fancy of a
boy for a pretty face is related to love; and the counterfeit
while it lasts is so like the reality as to deceive not
only themselves but even experienced lookers-on who
are not on their guard against the phenomenon. Time
in either case is requisite to test the quality both of the
substance and of the feeling, and we desired some
further evidence of A.'s powers before we could grant
him his rank as a poet; or even feel assured that he
could ultimately obtain it. There was passion, as in a
little poem called "Stagyrus," deep and searching; there
was unaffected natural feeling, expressed sweetly and
musically; in "The Sick King of Bokhara," in several
of the Sonnets and other fragmentary pieces, there was
genuine insight into life and whatever is best and noblest
in it;--but along with this, there was often an elaborate
obscurity, one of the worst faults which poetry can have;
and indications that the intellectual struggles which,
like all young men in our times, he was passing through,
were likely to issue in an indifferentism neither pleasing
nor promising.

The inequality in substance was not more remarkable
than the inequality in the mechanical expression of it.
"The Forsaken Merman" is perhaps as beautifully
finished as anything of the kind in the English language.
The story is exquisitely told, and word and metre so
carefully chosen that the harmony of sound and meaning
is perfect. The legend itself we believe is Norwegan.
It is of a King of the Sea who had married an earthly
maiden; and was at last deserted by her from some
scruples of conscience. The original features of it are
strictly preserved, and it is told indirectly by the old
Sea King to his children in a wild, irregular melody, of
which the following extract will convey but an imperfect
idea. It is Easter time, and the mother has left her sea
palace for the church on the hill side, with a promise to

"She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay.
'Children, dear, was it yesterday?
Children, dear, were we long alone?'
'The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.
Long prayers,' I said, 'in the world they say.
Come' I said, 'and we rose through the surf in the bay.
We went up the beach, by the sandy down,
Where the sea-stocks bloom to the white-walled town,
Through the narrow paved streets where all was still,
To the little gray church on the windy hill.
From the church came a murmur of folk at their prayers;
But we stood without in the cold blowing airs.

We climbed on the graves, on the stones worn with
And we gazed up the aisle, through the small leaded
She sate by the pillar, we saw her clear.
'Margaret! hist! come, quick, we are here!'
'Dear heart,' I said, 'we are long alone.'
'The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.'
'But, ah, she gave me never a look,
For her eyes were sealed to the holy book.
Loud prays the priest, shut stands the door.
Come away, children, call no more.
Come away, come down, call no more.'
Down, down, down,
Down to the depths of the sea.
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,
Singing most joyfully.
Hark what she sings: 'Oh, joy! oh, joy!
For the humming street, and the child with its toy;
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well;
For the wheel where I spun,
And the blessed light of the sun.'
And so she sings her fill,
Singing most joyfully,
Till the shuttle falls from her hand,
And the whizzing wheel stands still.
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand,
And over the sand at the sea,
And her eyes are set in a stare,
And anon there breaks a sigh,
And anon there drops a tear,
From a sorrow-clouded eye,
And a heart sorrow-laden,
A long, long sigh,
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden,
And the gleam of her golden hair."

Not less excellent, in a style wholly different, was A.'s
treatment (and there was this high element of promise
in A. that, with a given story to work upon, he was
always successful) of the AEgyptian legend of Mycerinus,
a legend not known unfortunately to general English
readers, who are therefore unable to appreciate the skill
displayed in dealing with it. We must make room for
one extract, however, in explanation of which it is only
necessary to say that Mycerinus, having learnt from the
oracle that being too just a king for the purposes of the
gods, who desired to afflict the AEgyptians, he was to
die after six more years, made the six years into twelve
by lighting his gardens all night with torches, and
revelled out what remained to him of life. We can give
no idea of the general conception of the poem, but as a
mere piece of description this is very beautiful.

"There by the river bank he wandered on,
From palm grove on to palm grove, happy trees,
Their smooth tops shining sunwards, and beneath
Burying their unsunned stems in grass and flowers;
Where in one dream the feverish time of youth
Might fade in slumber, and the feet of joy
Might wander all day long, and never tire:
Here came the king, holding high feast at morn,
Rose-crowned: and even when the sun went down,
A hundred lamps beamed in the tranquil gloom,
From tree to tree, all through the twinkling grove,
Revealing all the tumult of the feast,
Flushed guests, and golden goblets foamed with wine,
While the deep burnished foliage overhead
Splintered the silver arrows of the moon."

Containing as it did poems of merit so high as these,
it may seem strange that this volume should not have
received a more ready recognition; for there is no
excellence which the writer of the passages which we have
quoted could hereafter attain, the promise of which
would not be at once perceived in them. But the
public are apt to judge of books of poetry by the rule
of mechanism, and try them not by their strongest parts
but by their weakest; and in the present instance (to
mention nothing else) the stress of weight in the title
which was given to the collection was laid upon what
was by no means adequate to bearing it. Whatever be
the merits of the "Strayed Reveller" as poetry, it is
certainly not a poem in the sense which English people
generally attach to the word, looking as they do not
only for imaginative composition but for verse;--and
as certainly if the following passage had been printed
merely as prose, in a book which professed to be nothing
else, no one would have suspected that it was composed
of an agglutination of lines.

"The gods are happy; they turn on all sides their shining
eyes, and see below them earth and men. They see Tiresias
sitting staff in hand on the warm grassy Asopus bank, his
robe drawn over his old, sightless head, revolving inly the
doom of Thebes. They see the Centaurs in the upper glens
of Pelion, on the streams where the red-berried ashes fringe
the clear brown shallow pools; with streaming flanks and
heads reared proudly, snuffing the mountain wind. They
see the Scythian on the wide steppe, unharnessing his
wheeled house at noon; he tethers his beast down and
makes his meal, mare's milk and bread baked on the
embers; all around the boundless waving grass plains
stretch, thick starred with saffron and the yellow hollyhock
and flag-leaved isis flowers."

No one will deny that this is fine imaginative painting,
and as such poetical,--but it is the poetry of well
written, elegant prose. Instead of the recurring sounds,
whether of rhyme or similarly weighted syllables, which
constitute the outward form of what we call verse, we
have the careless grace of uneven, undulating sentences,
flowing on with a rhythmic cadence indeed, but free
from all constraint of metre or exactitude of form. It
may be difficult, perhaps it is impossible, to fix the
measure of license which a poet may allow himself
in such matters, but it is at least certain that the
greatest poets are those who have allowed themselves
the fewest of such liberties: in art as in morals,
and as in everything which man undertakes, true
greatness is the most ready to recognize and most
willing to obey those simple outward laws which have
been sanctioned by the experience of mankind, and
we suspect the originality which cannot move except
on novel paths.

This is but one of several reasons which explain the
apathy of the public on A.'s first appearance. There
was large promise, but the public require performance;
and in poetry a single failure overweighs a hundred
successes. It was possible that his mistakes were the
mistakes of a man whose face was in the right direction
--who was feeling his way, and who would ultimately
find it; but only time could decide if this were so; and
in the interval, the coldness of his reception would serve
to test the nature of his faculty.

So far we have spoken with reserve, for we have
simply stated the feelings with which we regarded this
little volume on first reading it; but the reserve is no
longer necessary, and the misgivings which we experienced
have not been justified. At the close of
last year another volume was published, again of
miscellaneous poems, which went beyond the most sanguine
hopes of A.'s warmest admirers. As before with "The
Strayed Revellers," so again with "Empedocles on
AEtna," (Empedocles on AEtna, and other Poems. By A. London:
1852) the piece de resistance was not the happiest selection.
But of the remaining pieces, and of all those
which he has more recently added, it is difficult to
speak in too warm praise. In the unknown A., we are
now to recognize a son of the late Master of Rugby, Dr.
Arnold. Like a good knight, we suppose he thought it
better to win his spurs before appearing in public with
so honoured a name; but the associations which belong
to it will suffer no alloy from him who now wears it.
Not only is the advance in art remarkable, in greater
clearness of effect, and in the mechanical handling of
words, but far more in simplicity and healthfulness
of moral feeling. There is no more obscurity, and no
mysticism; and we see everywhere the working of a
mind bent earnestly on cultivating whatever is highest
and worthiest in itself; of a person who is endeavouring,
without affectation, to follow the best things, to see
clearly what is good, and right, and true, and to fasten
his heart upon these. There is usually a period in the
growth of poets in which, like coarser people, they
mistake the voluptuous for the beautiful; but in Mr.
Arnold there is no trace of any such tendency; pure,
without effort, he feels no enjoyment and sees no beauty
in the atmosphere of the common passions; and in
nobleness of purpose, in a certain loftiness of mind
singularly tempered with modesty, he continually reminds
us of his father. There is an absence, perhaps,
of colour; it is natural that it should be so in the
earlier poems of a writer who proposes aims such as
these to himself; his poetry is addressed to the
intellectual, and not to the animal emotions; and to persons.
of animal taste, the flavour will no doubt be oversimple;
but it is true poetry--a true representation of
true human feeling. It may not be immediately popular,
but it will win its way in the long run, and has elements
of endurance in it which enable it to wait without
anxiety for recognition.

Among the best of the new poems is "Tristram and
Iseult." It is unlucky that so many of the subjects
should be so unfamiliar to English readers, but it is
their own fault if they do not know the "Mort d'Arthur."
We must not calculate, however, on too much knowledge
in such unpractical matters; and as the story is too
long to tell in this place, we take an extract which will
not require any. It is a picture of sleeping children as
beautiful as Sir Francis Chantrey's.

But they sleep in sheltered rest,
Like helpless birds in the warm nest
On the castle's southern side,
Where feebly comes the mournful roar
Of buffeting wind and surging tide,
Through many a room and corridor.
Full on the window the moon's ray
Makes their chamber as bright as day.
It shines upon the blank white walis,
And on the snowy pillow falls.
And on two angel heads doth play,
Turn'd to each other: the eyes closed,
The lashes on the cheek reposed.
Round each sweet brow the cap close set
Hardly lets peep the golden hair;
Through the soft opened lips the air
Scarcely moves the coverlet.
One little wandering arm is thrown
At random on the counterpane,
And often the fingers close in haste,
As if their baby owner chased
The butterflies again.
This stir they have and this alone,
But else they are so still--
Ah, you tired madcaps, you lie still;
But were you at the window now,
To look forth on the fairy sight
Of your illumined haunts by night,
To see the park glades where you play
Far lovelier than they are by day,
To see the sparkle on the eaves,
And upon every giant bough
Of those old oaks whose wan red leaves
Are jewelled with bright drops of rain--
How would your voices run again!
And far beyond the sparkling trees,
Of the castle park, one sees
The bare heath spreading clear as day,
Moor behind moor, far far away,
Into the heart of Brittany.
And here and there locked by the land
Long inlets of smooth glittering sea,
And many a stretch of watery sand,
All shining in the white moonbeams;
But you see fairer in your dreams."

This is very beautiful; a beautiful description of one
of the most beautiful objects in nature; but it is a
description which could never have been composed except by
a person whose mind was in tune with all innocent
loveliness, and who found in the contemplation of such
things not merely a passing emotion of pleasure but the
deepest and most exquisite enjoyment.

Besides "Tristram and Iseult," we select for especial
mention out of this second volume, "A Farewell,"
"Self-Dependence," "Morality "; two very highly-finished
pieces called "The Youth of Nature," and "The Youth
of Man," expressing two opposite states of feeling,
which we all of us recognize, and yet which, as far as
we know, have never before found their way into language;
and "A Summer Night," a small meditative
poem, containing one passage, which, although not
perfect--for, if the metre had been more exact, the
effect would, in our opinion, have been very much
enhanced--is, nevertheless, the finest that Mr. Arnold
has yet written.

And I. I know not if to pray
Still to be what I am, or yield and be
Like all the other men I see.
For most men in a brazen prison live,
Where in the sun's hot eye,
With heads bent o'er their toil, they languidly
Their minds to some unmeaning taskwork give,
Dreaming of nought beyond their prison wall;
And as, year after year,
Fresh products of their barren labour fall
From their tired hands, and rest
Never yet comes more near,
Gloom settles slowly down over their breast,
And while they try to stem
The waves of mournful thought by which they
are prest,
Death in their prison reaches them
Unfreed, having seen nothing still unblest.

And the rest, a few,
Escape their prison, and depart
On the wide ocean of life anew.
There the freed prisoner, where'er his heart
Listeth, will sail;
Nor does he know how there prevail,
Despotic on life's sea,
Trade winds that cross it from eternity.
Awhile he holds some false way, undebarred
By thwarting signs, and braves
The freshening wind and blackening waves.
And then the tempest strikes him, and between
The lightning bursts is seen
Only a driving wreck,
And the pale master on his spar-strewn deck
With anguished face and flying hair,
Grasping the rudder hard,
Still bent to make some port he knows not where,
Still standing for some false impossible shore.
And sterner comes the roar
Of sea and wind, and through the deepening gloom,
Fainter and fainter wreck and helmsman loom."

In these lines, in powerful and highly-sustained
metaphor, lies the full tragedy of modern life.

"Is there no life but these alone,
Madman or slave, must man be one?"

We disguise the alternative under more fairly-sounding
names, but we cannot escape the reality; and we know
not, after all, whether there is deeper sadness in a
broken Mirabeau or Byron, or in the contented prosperity
of a people who once knew something of noble
aspirations, but have submitted to learn from a practical
age that the business of life is to make money, and the
enjoyments of it what money can buy. A few are
ignobly successful; the many fail, and are miserable;
and the subtle anarchy of selfishness finds its issue in
madness and revolution. But we need not open this
painful subject. Mr. Arnold is concerned with the
effect of the system on individual persons; with the
appearance which it wears to young highly sensitive
men on their entry upon the world, with the choice of
a life before them; and it is happy for the world that
such men are comparatively rare, or the mad sort would
be more abundant than they are.

We cannot but think it unfortunate that this poem,
with several others of the highest merit, have been
omitted in the last edition, while others find a place
there, for which comparatively we care little. Uniformity
of excellence has been sacrificed to uniformity
of character, a subsidiary matter which in itself is of
slight importance, and which the public would never
quarrel for if they were treated with an ever pleasing
variety. As it is, we have still to search three volumes
for the best specimens of Mr. Arnold's powers, and
opportunities are still left for illmatured critics to make
extracts of an apparently inferior kind. There is a
remedy for this, however, in the future, and the necessary
sifting will no doubt get itself duly accomplished at
last. In the meantime, before noticing the late edition,
we have a few words to say about Empedocles, the
ground of objection to which we cannot think Mr. Arnold
adequately understands, although he has omitted it in
his present edition, and has given us his reasons for
doing so. Empedocles, as we all know, was a Sicilian
philosopher, who, out of discontent with life, or from
other cause, flung himself into the crater of Mount
AEtna. A discontent of this kind, Mr. Arnold tells
us, unrelieved by incident, hope, or resistance, is not
a fit subject for poetry. The object of poetry is to
please, and the spectacle of a man too weak to bear his
trials, and breaking under them, cannot be anything but
painful. The correctness of the portrait he defends;
and the fault, as he thinks, is not in the treatment, but
in the subject itself. Now it is true that as a rule poetry
is better employed in exhibiting the conquest over
temptations than the fall under them, and some escape
of this kind for the feelings must be provided in
tragedies, by the introduction of some powerful cause,
either of temptation acting on the will or of an external
force controlling the action, in order to explain and
reconcile us to the catastrophe. A mere picture of
imbecility is revolting simply; we cannot conceive ourselves
acting in the same way under the same circumstances,
and we can therefore feel neither sympathy with
the actor nor interest in his fate. But we must be
careful how we narrow our theories in such matters.
In Werther we have an instance of the same trial, with
the same issue as Mr. Arnold has described in Empedocles,
and to say that Werther was a mistake, is to
circumscribe the sphere of art by a definition which the
public taste will refuse to recognize. Nor is it true, in
spite of Schiller's authority, that "all art is dedicated to
enjoyment." Tragedy has other objects, the katharsis
or purifying of the emotions for instance, which, if we
are to continue to use words in their ordinary sense, is
something distinct from enjoyment, and not always reconcilable
with it. Whatever will excite interest in a
healthy, vigorous mind, that is a fair object of poetry,
and there is a painful as well as a pleasant interest; it
is an abuse of language to describe the sensations which
we experience on reading "Philoctetes" or "Hamlet" as
pleasant. They are not unmixedly painful, but surely
not pleasant.

It is not therefore the actual fate of Empedocles
which fails to interest us, but we are unable to feel that
Mr. Arnold's account of him is the true account. In
the absence of authentic material, the artist who hopes
to interest us in his fate must at least make the story
probable as he tells it; consistent in itself, with causes
clearly drawn out proportioned to the effects resulting
from them. And this it cannot be said that Mr. Arnold
has done. Powerful as is much of the language which
he places in the mouth of Empedocles, he has failed
to represent him as in a condition in which suicide
is the natural result. His trials, his disgusts, as far
as he exhibits them, are not more than man may
naturally be supposed able to bear, while of the impulses
of a more definite character there is no trace
at all. But a more grave deficiency still is, that among
all the motives introduced, there is not one to make the
climb of AEtna necessary or intelligible. Empedocles
on AEtna might have been Empedocles in his room
at Catana, and a dagger or a cup of hemlock would
have answered all purposes equally well with a plunge
in the burning crater. If the tradition of Empedocles
is a real story of a thing which really happened, we
may feel sure that some peculiar feeling connected
with the mountain itself, some mystical theory or local
tradition, led such a man as he was to such a means of

We turn from Empedocles, which perhaps it is scarcely
fair to have criticised, to the first poem in the latest
edition, "Sohrab and Rustum," (Poems. By Matthew Arnold.
A New Edition, London: 1853.) a poem which alone would have
settled the position which Mr. Arnold has a right to claim
as a poet, and which is remarkable for
its success in every point in which Empedocles appears
deficient. The story comes down out of remote Persian
antiquity; it is as old, perhaps it is older, than the tale
of Troy; and, like all old stories which have survived
the changes of so long a time, is in itself of singular
interest. Rustum, the Hercules of the East, fell in
with and loved a beautiful Tartar woman. He left her,
and she saw him no more; but in time a child was
born, who grew up with the princes of his mother's
tribe, and became in early youth distinguished in all
manly graces and noblenesses. Learning that he was the
son of the great Rustum, his object is to find his father,
and induce him, by some gallant action, to acknowledge
and receive him. War breaks out between the Tartars
and the Persians. The two armies come down upon
the Oxus, and Sohrab having heard that Rustum had
remained behind in the mountains, and was not present,
challenges the Persian chief. Rustum, unknown to
Sohrab, had in the meantime joined the army, and
against a warrior of Sohrab's reputation, no one could
be trusted to maintain the Persian cause except the old
hero. So by a sad perversity of fate, and led to it by
their very greatness, the father and the son meet in
battle, and only recognize each other when Sohrab is
lying mortally wounded. It is one of those terrible
situations which only the very highest power of poetry
can dwell upon successfully. If the right chord be not
touched to the exactest nicety, if the shock of the
incident in itself be not melted into pathos, and the
nobleness of soul in the two sufferers be not made to
rise above the cruel accident which crushes them, we
cannot listen to the poet. The story overwhelms and
absorbs us; we desire to be left alone with it and with
our own feelings, and his words about it become officious
and intrusive. Homer has furnished Mr. Arnold with
his model, and has taught him the great lesson that the
language on such occasions cannot be too simple and the
style too little ornamented. Perhaps it may be thought
that he has followed Homer's manner even too closely.
No one who has read "Mycerinus" and the "Forsaken
Metman" can doubt that Mr. Arnold can write richly
if he pleases. It is a little startling, therefore, to find
the opening of this poem simpler than one would make
it, even if telling it in prose to a child. As in the
"Iliad," the same words are repeated over and over
again for the same idea, without variation or attempt
at it; and although it may easily be that our taste is
spoiled by the high seasoning of the modern style, the
result is that it strikes the attention to an extent which
would have been better avoided. A perfect style does
not strike at all, and it is a matter in which the reader
ought to be considered even more than the abstract
right. We have soon, however, ceased to think of that;
the peculiarity which we have mentioned is confined to
the beginning, and the success of the treatment is best
proved by our forgetfulness, as we read on, of art and
artist language and manner, in the overpowering interest
of the story as it is drawn out before us. Extracts will
convey a poor idea of a poem in which the parts are so
wholly subordinate to the effect of the whole, and yet,
in spite of this disadvantage, we can justify at least
partially to our readers the opinions which we have
generally expressed.

We will take the scene of the recognition, when
Sohrab, lying wounded, and as yet ignorant of the name
of his adversary, has declared himself Rustum's son.
The father, at first incredulous and scornful, is led step
by step, through the mention of old names and times,
towards the anaguorisis, and after the most delicately
traced alternations of feeling, all doubt is ended by the
mark of the seal on Sohrab's arm which Rustum had
given to his mother.

"How say'st thou? [Sohrab says.] Is that sign the proper
Of Rustum's son, or of some other man's?
He spoke: but Rustum gazed, and gazed, and stood
Speechless; and then he uttered one sharp cry,
Oh, boy, thy father!"

This is the first hint to Sohrab who has been his foe.

"And his voice choked there,
And then a dark cloud pass'd before his eyes,
And his head swam, and he sank down to earth.
But Sohrab crawled to where he lay, and cast
His arms about his neck, and kiss'd his lips,
And with fond faltering fingers stroked his cheeks,
Trying to call him back to life: and life
Came back to Rustum; and he op'd his eyes;
And they stood wide with horrour: and he seized
In both his hands the dust which lay around,
And threw it on his face, and smirched his hair,
His hair, and face, and beard, and glittering arms:
And strong convulsive groanings shook his breast,
And his sobs choked him, and he clutched his sword
To draw it, and for ever let life out.
But Sohrab saw his thought, and held his hand,
And with a soothing voice he spoke, and said
'Father, forbear, for I but meet to-day
The doom that at my birth was written down
In Heaven, and thou art Heaven's unconscious hand.
Surely my heart cried out that it was thou,
When first I saw thee; and thy heart spoke too,
I know it; but Fate trod those promptings down
Under its iron heel; Fate, Fate engaged
The strife, and hurled me on my father's spear.
But let us speak no more of this: I find
My father: let me feel that I have found.
Come, sit beside me on this sand, and take
My head betwixt thy hands, and kiss my cheeks,
And wash them with thy tears, and say "My son!"
Quick: quick! for numbered are my sands of life,
And swift; for like the lightning to this field
I came, and like the wind I go away.
Sudden and swift, and like a passing wind:
But it was writ in Heaven that this should be.'
So said he: and his voice released the heart
Of Rustum; and his tears broke forth: he cast
His arms round his son's neck, and wept aloud,
And kiss'd him; and awe fell on both the hosts
When they saw Rustum's grief; and Ruksh, the
With his head bowing to the ground and mane
Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mute woe
First to the one, then to the other mov'd
His head, as if enquiring what their grief
Might mean; and from his dark compassionate
The big warm tears roll'd down and caked the

As a picture of human life in Homer's manner, we
cannot see why this passage, and indeed the whole poem,
should not be thought as good as any one of the
episodes in the "AEneid." We are not comparing Mr.
Arnold with Virgil: for it is one thing to have written
an epic and another to have written a small fragment;
but as a working up of a single incident it may rank
by the side of Nisus and Euryalus, and deeper chords
of feeling are touched in it than Virgil has ever

And this leads us to Mr Arnold's preface, and to the
account which he gives us of the object which he
proposes to himself in poetry: and our notice of this
must be brief, as our space is running to its conclusion.
He tells us, in a manner most feelingly instructive,
something of the difficulties which lie round a young
poet of the present day who desires to follow his art to
some genuine purpose; and what he says will remind
readers of Wordsworth of Professor Wilson's beautiful
letter to him on a very similar subject. Unhappily the
question is not one of poetry merely, but of far wider
significance. Not the poet only, but every one of us
who cannot be satisfied to tread with the crowd along
the broad road which leads--we used to know whither,
but desires "to cultivate," as Mr. Arnold says, "what is
best and noblest" in ourselves, are as sorely at a loss
as he is with his art. To find the best models,--that
indeed is the one thing for him and for us. But what
are they and where? and the answer to the aesthetic
difficulty lies as we believe in the solution of the moral
one. To say this, however, is of infinitely little service
for the practical direction of a living poet; and we are
here advised (and for present purposes no doubt wisely)
to fall back on the artists of classic antiquity. From
them better than from the best of the moderns, the
young poet will learn what art really is. He will learn
that before beginning to sing it is necessary to have
something to sing of, and that a poem is something else
than a collection of sweet musical sentences strung
together like beads or even jewels in a necklace. He
will learn that the subject is greater than the manner;
that the first is the one essential without a worthy
choice of which nothing can prosper. Above all, he
will learn that the restless craving after novelty, so
characteristic of all modern writing, the craving after
new plots, new stories, new ideas, is mere disease,
and that the true original genius displays itself not in
the fabrication of what has no existence, but in the
strength and power with which facts of history, or
stories existing so fixedly in the popular belief as to
have acquired so to say the character of facts, shall be
exhibited and delineated.

But while we allow with Mr. Arnold that the theory
will best be learnt from the ancients, we cannot allow,
as he seems to desire us to allow, that the practice of it
was confined to them, or recommend as he does the
disproportionate study, still less the disproportionate
imitation of them. All great artists at all times have followed
the same method, for greatness is impossible without it.
The Italian painters are never weary of the Holy
Family. The matter of Dante's poem lay before him
in the creed of the whole of Europe. Shakespeare has
not invented the substance of any one of his plays.
And the "weighty experience" and "composure of
judgment" with which the study of the ancients no
doubt does furnish "those who habitually practise it,"
may be obtained we believe by the study of the thoughts
of all great men of all ages; by the study of life in any
age, so that our scope be broad enough.

It is indeed idle nonsense to speak, as some critics
speak, of the "present" as alone having claims upon
the poet. Whatever is great, or good, or pathetic, or
terrible, in any age past or present, belongs to him, and
is within his proper province; but most especially, if he
is wise, he will select his subjects out of those which
time has sealed as permanently significant. It is not
easy in our own age to distinguish what has the
elements in it of enduring importance; and time is
wiser than we. But why dwell with such apparent
exclusiveness on classic antiquity, as if there was
no antiquity except the classic, and as if time were
divided into the eras of Greece and Rome and the
nineteenth century? The Hellenic poet sang of the
Hellenes, why should not the Teutonic poet sing of
the Teutons?

"Vixere fortes post Agamemnona."

And grand as are Achilles and Clytemnestra, they are
not grander than their parallels in the German epic
Criemhilda and Von Tronje Hagen. We do not
dream of prescribing to Mr. Arnold what subject he
should choose. Let him choose what interests himself
if he will interest his readers; and if he choose what is
really human, let it come from what age it will, human
hearts will answer to it. And yet it seems as if Teutonic
tradition, Teutonic feeling, and Teutonic thought had
the first claim on English and German poets. And
those among them will deserve best of the modern
world, and will receive the warmest welcome from it,
who will follow Shakespeare in modelling into forms of
beauty the inheritance which has come down to them
of the actions of their own race. So most faithfully,
if least directly, they will be treading in the steps
of those great poets of Greece whom they desire to
imitate. Homer and Sophocles did not look beyond
their own traditions and their own beliefs; they
found in these and these only their exclusive and
abundant material. Have the Gothic annals suddenly
become poor, and our own quarries become exhausted
and worthless?



Many long years had passed since I visited Oxford,--
some twenty-eight or more. I had friends among the
resident members of that venerable domicile of learning.
Pleasant had been the time that I had spent there, of
which intervening years had not diminished the remembrance
--perhaps heightened the tone of its colouring.
On many accounts I regarded that beautiful city with
affectionate veneration. There were more than local
attractions to render it interesting. There were the
recollections of those who ceased in the interval to be
denizens of this world. These could not but breathe
sadness over the noble edifices that recalled men,
conversations, and convivialities which, however long
departed, shadowed upon the mind its own inevitable
destiny. Again were those venerable buildings before
me in their architectural richness. There were tower,
and roof, and gateway, in all their variety of outline,
defined with the sharp light and shade peculiar to
ecclesiastical architecture. There were tufted groves
overshadowing the haunts of learning; and there, too,
was old Magdalen, which used to greet our sight so
pleasantly upon our approach to the city. I began
to fancy I had leaped no gulf of time since, for the
Cherwell ran on as of old. I felt that the happy allusion
of Quevedo to the Tiber was not out of place here,
"The fugitive is alone permanent." The same river ran
on as it had run on before, but the cheerful faces that
had been once reflected in its stream had passed away.
I saw things once familiar as I saw them before; but
"the fathers, where were they ?" I was in this respect
like one awaked from the slumber of an age, who found
himself a stranger in his own land.

I walked through High Street. I entered All Souls'
and came out quickly, for the quadrangle, or rather one
glance round it, was sufficient to put "the past to pain."
I went over the different sites, and even paced Christ
Church meadows. But I could not deceive myself for
a moment. There was an indescribable vacuum somewhere
that indicated there was no mode of making the
past the present. What had become of the pleasant
faces, the cheerful voices, the animal spirits, which
seemed in my eyes to give a soul to those splendid
donations of our forefathers to learning in years gone
by? That instinct--soul, spirit, whatever it be--which
animates and vivifies everything, and without which the
palace is not comparable to the hovel possessing it,--
that instinct or spirit was absent for me, at least. At
length I adjourned to the Star, somewhat moody, more
than half wishing I had not entered the city. I ordered
my solitary meal, and began ruminating, as we all do,
over the thousandth-time told tale of human destiny by
generation after generation. I am not sure I did not
greet with sullen pleasure a heavy, dark, dense mass of
cloud that at that moment canopied the city. The
mind finds all kinds of congenialities grateful at such
moments. Some drops of rain fell; then a shower,
tolerably heavy. I could not go out again as I intended
doing. I sat and sipped my wine, thinking of the fate
of cities,--of Nineveh the renowned, of the marbles
lately recovered from thence with the mysterious arrowheaded
characters. I thought that some future Layard
might exhume the cornices of the Oxford temples. The
deaths of cities were as inevitable as those of men. I
felt that my missing friends had only a priority in
mortality, and that the law of the Supreme existed to
be obeyed without man's questionings.

But a sun-burst took place, the shower ceased, all
became fresh and clear. I saw several gownsmen pass
down the street, and I sallied forth again. Several who
were in front of me, so full was I of old imaginings,
I thought might be old friends whom I should recognize.
How idle! I strolled to the Isis. It was all glitter and
gaiety. The sun shone out warmly and covered the
surface of the river with gold. Numerous skiffs of the
university-men were alive on the water, realizing the

"Some lightly o'er the current swim,
Some show their gaily gilded trim
Quick glancing to the sun."

Here was the repetition of an old performance, but
the actors were new. I too had once floated over that
glittering water, or lain up by the bank in conversation,
or reciting verses, or, perhaps, in that silent, dreamy
vacancy, in which the mind ruminates or rests folded
up within itself in the consciousness of its own immortality.

Here I must place a word or two in regard to the
censures cast upon this magnificent foundation of learning
relative to the extravagances of young collegians.
Let it be granted, as it is asserted by some, that there
is too much exclusiveness, and that there are improvements
to be recommended in some of the details of an
organization so ancient. It may be true to a certain
extent, for what under heaven is perfect? But a vast
mass of good is to be brought to bear on the other
hand. I cannot, therefore, agree in those censures
which journalism has cast upon the officers of the
university, as if they encouraged, or, at all events, did not
control, the vicious extravagance of young men. I am
expressing only an individual opinion, it is true; and
this may be a reason why it may be undervalued, when
the justice of a question is not the criterion by which
it is judged. All that such a foundation can be expected
to do is to render the advantages of learning
as accessible as possible, upon reasonable terms, that
genius, not wealth alone, may be able to avail itself of
its advantages. If the present sum be too high, let its
reduction be considered with a view to any practicable
change. The pecuniary resources of the collegian it
becomes no part of the duty of the university to control,
beyond the demands necessary for the main object
of instruction. As the circumstances of parents vary,
so will the pecuniary allowance made to their offspring.
It would be a task neither practicable nor justifiable
for the university to regulate the outlay of the collegian,
or, in fact, become the paymaster of his menus plaisirs.
Only let such a task be imagined in its enormity of
control, from the son of the nobleman with an allowance
of a thousand a year to one of a hundred and
fifty pounds. It is not in the college, but prior to the
arrival there of the youth, that he should be instructed
in the views his relations have in sending him, and be
taught that he must not ape the outlay and show of
those who have larger means. If a youth orders a
dozen coats within a time for which one only would
be found adequate, I do not see what his college has
to do with it. Youths entering the navy and army
are left in a much more extended field of temptation.
No time-hallowed walls shelter them. No salutary
college rules remind them of their moral duties, daily
and almost hourly. They go up and down the world
under their own guardianship, exposed to every sinister
influence, and with inclinations only restrained by their
own monitorship. The college discipline, even if it
extend not beyond college duties, is a perpetual
remembrancer of the high moral end for which the student is
placed within its precincts. His only allurement to
extravagance is the desire of vying with those who make
a greater display than himself, or else it arises from,
if possible, a less defensible motive, namely, that of
becoming himself an object of emulation to others. It
is not the duty of the college authorities to compensate
by their watchfulness the effects of a weak understanding,
or that lax principle, or the want of self-command,
of which the neglect of the parent or guardian has
been the cause. If the freshman is destitute of
self-dependence and self-restraint he must suffer from
the consequences. Not only in the navy and army is youth
exposed to temptations very far beyond the collegian,
but in the inns of court young men are left to take care
of themselves, in the midst of a great capital, without
any surveillance whatever. From these youths arise
excellent men of business. Most assuredly under the
surveillance of a college in smaller cities, and where
many heads of expense are from the nature of their
position wholly out of the question, it does seem singular
that such complaints should arise. It is true,
display is the vice of modern society among the old as
well as the young, and in both cases most dishonest
means are had recourse to sustain those appearances,
which are all the world looks to. It is possible, therefore,
that little efforts have been made to initiate youth,
prior to entering the universities, in that path of
self-denial and high-mindedness which are the safeguard
from vicious prodigality. They bring with them the
vices of their caste, whatever that caste may be. Youth
is imitative, and seldom a clumsy copyist, of the faults
of its elders, provided those faults are fashionable faults,
however unprincipled. However this may be, I must
protest against the universities being made answerable
for these doings. Attempts have been made, and failed,
in respect to manners and to credit; and have failed
clearly because they were impracticable, and, more than
that, better left alone. The university ought not to be
answerable in such cases, any more than the benchers
for the Temple students. It cannot be expected that
the noble quadrangles of our colleges are to become
something like poor-law prisons, and the regulations of
the night be extended over the day. The very existence
of the collegian, as such, implies something like
freedom, both mental and bodily. Learning that is
converted into a tyranny will never bring forth good
fruit. It is the duty of parents and schoolmasters to
impress upon the mind of youth that a seat of learning
is the home of an easy frugality rather than of prodigal
rivalry; that the university will only give degrees and
honours where there is industry and good moral conduct.
It is to be feared that youth, quitting the discipline
of the school, looks upon the university as the
place where he may indulge in his own wayward will,
and be as idle and indolent as he please. If this be
the case the university is not to blame for such lapses,
but a bad prior apprehension of duty, and a defective,
ill-directed education.

It is impossible to read the biographies of some of
our most celebrated men, and not to see that with
means scanty enough they were enabled to keep their
terms with honour, and in the end confer additional
celebrity upon the noble foundations where they had
studied. If such be the case, we have only the result
of personal good or ill conduct to explain the whole of
the affair. But enough on this subject.

But it is not the venerable appearance of University
College, hallowed by the associations of so many
centuries in age, nor Queen's opposite, nor All Souls',
nor any other of the colleges as mere buildings, that so
connect them with our feelings. We must turn the
mind from stone and wood to the humanity in connection
with them. It is that which casts over them
the "religious light," speaking so sadly and sweetly to
the heart. In University College we see the glorious
name of Alfred, and nearly a thousand years, with their
perished annals, point to it as the witness of their
departed successions. Who on seeing New College
does not recall William of Wykeham? and then, what
a roll of proud names own this renowned university
for their Alma Mater. The very stones "prate of the
whereabout" of things connected with the development
of great minds, and while we look without fatigue at
the gorgeous mass of buildings in this university, we
feel we are contemplating what carries an intimate
connexion, in object at least, with that all of man which
marches in the track of eternity. It is not mere antiquity,
therefore, on which our reverence for a great
seminary of learning is founded. Priority of existence
has no solid claims to our regard, except for that verde
antique which covers it, as it covers all things past.
good or indifferent; it is the connexion of the foundation
with the history of man--with the names that, like
the flowers called "immortals," bloom amid the wrecks
and desolateness with which the flood of ages strew the
rearway of humankind.

Of late there has been small response to feelings
such as these in the great world, for we have not been
looking much toward what is above us, nor discriminating
from meaner things those which approach to
heroic natures. We must abandon Mammon, politics,
and polemics, when we would approach the threshold
of elevated meditation--when we dwell on the illustrious
names of the past, and tread over the stones which they
trod. I never wandered along the banks of the sedgy
Cam, at that lone, twilight hour, when the dimness of
external objects tends most to concentrate the faculties
upon the immediate object of contemplation, but I
have fancied the shades of Bacon, Milton, or Locke,
to be near me, as the Indian fancies the shades of his
fathers haunt the old hunting-grounds of his race. I
know that these are heterodox feelings in the present
day. I know that he who speaks of Homer or Milton,
for example, is continually answered by the question,
"Who reads them now?" The truth being, perhaps,
that we are getting too far below them to relish their
superior standard in sterling merit. But there are still
in our universities, if not elsewhere, some who are
content to be the last of the Goths in the estimation
of the multitude, who cannot see the Isis, or Cherwell,
or the reedy Cam, without feelings of which the crowd
knows nothing; who can dream away an hour in the
avenue of Christ Church, and almost conjure spirits
from the depths of the grave to realize the pictures of
imagination, which are there always invested with purity
and holiness, so much do external things impress their
character on our imaginings. This is the true poetry
of life, neither found in the haunts of fashion, nor
among the denizens of Cornhill or St. Giles'. The good
and deep things of the mind, the search into the secrets
of nature, the sublimest truth, the purest philosophy of
which man has to boast, has proceeded from those who
were inhabitants of such seats of learning. It is
impossible to state the precise amount of assistance which
genius and learning may derive from the ease and peace
enjoyed in such a university. They are inestimable to
the student from association, tranquillity, and convenience.
The very "dim religious light" of college rooms
are solicitations to reflection. Then there are the
conveniences of first-rate professors, and access to the
writings of the learned in all ages. Thus some who
professed a distaste for a university life, have returned
to it again, and made it the arena where they have conquered
a lasting reputation--such, for example, was the
case with Gray the poet.

The increase of knowledge, and consequently of
morality, is the great aim of such a noble establishment
as this; and the rewards and honours dispensed there
are bestowed in proportion to the industry and good
conduct of those who receive them. If the offences of
freshmen outside the walls be unvisited by the university
from wariness in the offenders, or the impossibility of
controlling them, they are certain to meet with a just
estimation of their demerit here; and, as before noticed,
this is perhaps the best mode of repressing them. The
assistance derived by the industrious student from the
university itself is invaluable. The very locality is an
aid to progress. Where can there be places more
favourable for thought than those noble buildings,
ancient halls, and delightful walks? Everything invites
to contemplation. Magdalen always seemed to me as
if soliciting the student's presence in a peculiar manner.
A favourite resort of mine, at certain times, was the road
passing the Observatory, leading to Woodstock. But
of all the college walks, those of Magdalen were the
more impressive and attractive. It appeared to embody
the whole of the noble city in its own personification,
as a single word will sometimes express the pith of an
entire sentence. The "Mighty Tom" in the olden
time, even of Walter de Mapes, if its metal was then
out of the ore, never sounded (then perhaps not nine)
but the midnight hour, to that worthy archdeacon, with
more of the character of its locality, than the visual
aspect of Magdalen represents the beautiful city to one
in its entirety. It seems a sort of metonymy; Maudlin
put for Oxford. The walk is, after all, but a sober path,
worthy by association with one of the walks of Eden.
Yet it shows no gay foliage, nor "shade above shade
a woody theatre," such as is seen on a mountain
declivity. It is a simple shadowy walk--shadowy to
richness, cool, tranquil, redolent of freshness. There
the soul feels "private, inactive, calm, contemplative,"
linked to things that were and are not. The mellow
hue of time, not yet stricken by decay, clothes the
buildings of this college, which, compared with other
edifices more steeped in maturity of years, occupies,
as it were, a middle term in existence.

The variety of building in this city is amazing, and
would occupy a very considerable time to study even
imperfectly. At a little distance no place impresses the
mind more justly with its own lofty pretensions. The
towers, steeples, and domes, rising over the masses of
foliage beneath, which conceal the bodies of the edifices,
seen at the break of morning or at sunset, appear
in great beauty. Bathed in light, although not the
"alabaster tipped with golden spires" of the poet, for
even the climate of Oxford is no exception to the
defacement of nature's colouring, everywhere that coal
smoke ascends; but the tout ensemble is truly poetical
and magnificent.

Oriel still, they say, maintains its precedency of
teaching its students how to conduct themselves with a
view to university honours, and to the world's respect.
The preliminary examinations there have proved a
touchstone of merit, and elevated Oriel College into
something near the envy of every other in this country.
Worthy Oriel, the star of Oxford. "I don't know how
it is," said the Rev. C. C., walking down High Street one
day, "but Oriel College is all I envy Oxford. It is the
richest gem in the ephod of the high-priest (vice-chancellor)
of this university. I should like to steal
and transplant it to my Alma Mater among the fens."

There was formerly a Welsh harper in Oxford, whom
the collegians sometimes denominated King David.
He was the first of the Cymri brotherhood I ever heard
perform. Since that distant day I have often heard
those minstrels in their native land, particularly in
North Wales, at Bedd Gelert, Caernarvon, and other
places, but I confess I never was so much struck as by
this Oxford harper. He often played at the Angel,
where the university men used to group round him, for
he excited general admiration. His music was not of so
plaintive a character as that in his own land, or else the
scenery of the latter had some effect in saddening the
music there through association--perhaps this difference
was, after all, only in fancy.

Christchurch, the noblest of the churches! How
have I heard with delight its merry peal of bells, and the
deep resonance of the "Mighty Tom," that sounds with
no "friendly voice" the call home of the students still,
I presume, as it did so many years ago! There is a
long list of names, of no mean reputation, educated
here, since the rapacious Henry VIII. seized the
foundations, which had belonged to Cardinal Wolsey. The
gratitude of posterity, never very strong, has in the
present case preserved the remembrance of Wolsey,
if I recollect aright, by a statue of the proud man in
his cardinal's robes. The grove of trees belonging to
Christchurch, and the scenery accompanying the entire
buildings, are eminently impressive. Here, when divine
service is celebrating, there is a peculiar propriety, or
rather adaptation of the architecture to the feeling; the
trees, and every accompaniment, are suitable to the end.
There is religion or its sentiment addressing the mind
here through every sense. All that can raise devotion
in external appliances, combines in a wonderful manner;
and when the sound of the organ is reverberated deeply
along the vaulted roofs and walls, the effect was
indescribably fine. Christchurch walk or meadow is an
adjunct to this college, such as few places possess. I
have trod it with those who will never tread it again. I
have skimmed over its smooth shaven surface when life
seemed a vista of unmeasured years. Its very beauty
touches upon a melancholy chord, since it vibrates the
sound of time passed away with those who lie in dust in
distant climates, of whom memory alone is now the only
record that they were and are not.

I remember being told by an eminent, but aged
doctor in divinity, who had been the better part of his
life employed in the education of youth, that he had
kept an account of the history of all his pupils as far as
he could obtain it, and they were very numerous. From
his own tuition--and there were some celebrated names
amongst them--he traced them to the university, or to
professions of a more active nature than a sojourn
at the university would allow. To Oxford he had
sent the larger number of his pupils. "And afterwards,
doctor?" "Some came off nobly there: others
I heard of in distant parts of the globe in their country's
service: but it is the common tale with nearly all of
them--they are dead." What hosts, I often thought,
who had moved among, the deep shades of this university
until it became entwined with their earliest affections
--who had studied within those embattled walls until
the sight of them became almost a part of his existence
--what hosts of such have but served to swell the
waters of oblivion, and press the associations of a
common mortality upon the mind in the reflection on
this very truism! The late Sir Egerton Brydges--a
writer whose talents, though admitted, were never
received as they merited to have been by the world,
owing, perhaps, to an untoward disposition in other
respects--was of opinion that the calmness and
seclusion of a university were not best adapted for calling
forth the efforts of genius; but that adversity and some
struggling were necessary to bring out greatness of
character. He thought that praise enervated the mind,
and that to bear it required a much greater degree of
fortitude than to withstand censure. The consequence
of this would be, that the honours decreed in a
university must be pernicious to youth. This cannot be
conceded. Sir Egerton's notion may be just in relation to
himself, or to one or two temperaments irregularly constituted;
but a university exists not for the exceptions, but for the
many. How numerous is the list of those who, but for the
fostering care of Oxford or Cambridge, would have never been
known as the ornament and delight of their fellow-men!
How much more numerous is the list of those, whose abilities
not rising beyond the circle of social usefulness have lived
"obscure to fame," yet owe the pleasure they imparted
to their friends, and the beguilement of many troubles
inseparable from mortality, to the fruits of their university
studies, and to a partial unrolling before them of that
map of knowledge, which before those of loftier claims
and some hold upon fame had been more amply displayed!
In this view of the matter, the justness of
which cannot be contested, the utility of such foundations
is boundless. The effect upon the social body.--
I do not speak of polemics, but of the sound instruction
thus made available--cannot be estimated. In the midst
of fluctuating systems of instruction, it is something to
have a standard by which to test the measure of
knowledge imparted to youth. If accused of being
restricted in variety of knowledge, the perfection and
mastery in what is taught must be conceded to Oxford
and Cambridge. Perhaps there is too much reason to
fear, that without these foundations we should speedily
fall into a very superficial knowledge, indeed, of the
classical languages of antiquity. This would be to
exclude ourselves from an acquaintance with all past time,
except in monkish fiction and the feudal barbarism of
the Goths of the north.

There are, I verily believe, or I should rather say
there were, imbibed at the university so many attachments
at one time to words in place of things, that the
collegian in after life became liable to reproach upon
this head. Pedants are bred everywhere out of literature,
and the variety in verbiage once exhibited by some
university men has been justly condemned. But while
such word-worms were crawling here and there out of
the porches of our colleges, giants in acquirement were
striding over them in their petty convolutions. Their
intertwinings attracted the attention of the mere gazer,
who is always more stricken with any microcosmic
object that comes casually in the way and is embraced
at a glance, than with objects the magnitude of which
demand repeated examinations. But all this while the
great and glorious spring of knowledge was unpolluted.
The reign of mere verbiage passed away; the benefits
of the universities had never ceased to be imparted
the whole time. The key to the better stores of
knowledge was placed in the hands of every one who chose
to avail himself of its advantages. The minds of the
collegians were filled with an affection for the works of
the writers of antiquity, which have been the guide,
solace, and pleasure of the greatest and most accomplished
men since the Christian era commenced. Studies
will teach their own use in after life "by the wisdom
that is about them and above them, won by observation,"
as a great writer observes; but then there must be the

There seems of late years much less of that feeling
for poetry than once existed; the same may be observed
in respect to classical learning. Few now regard how
perished nations lived and passed away,--how men
thought, acted, and were moved, for example, in the
time of Pericles or the Roman Augustus. What are
they to us? What is blind Meonides to us, or that
Roman who wrote odes so beautifully--who understood
so well the philosophy of life and the poetry of life
at the spring of Bardusia? In the past generation, a
part of the adolescent being and of manhood extended
a kindly feeling towards them. We hear no admiration
of those immortal strains now. We must turn for
them to our universities. People are getting shy of them,
as rich men shirk poor friends. Are we in the declining
state, that of "mechanical arts and merchandize,"
to use Lord Bacon's phrase, and is our middle age of
learning past? Even then, thank Heaven, we have our
universities still, where we may, for a time at least,
enter and converse with the spirits of the good, that
"sit in the clouds and mock" the rest of the greedy
world. They will last our time--glorious mementos of
the anxiety of our forefathers for the preservation of
learning; hallowed by grateful recollections, by time,
renown, virtue, conquests over ignorance, imperishable
gratitude, a proud roll of mighty names in their sons,
and the prospect of continuing to be monuments of
glory to unborn generations. Long may Oxford and
Cambridge stand and brighten with years, though to
some they may not, as they do to me, exhibit a title to
the gratitude and admiration of Old England, to which
it would be difficult to point out worthy rivals.



The Reformation, the Antipodes, the American Continent,
the Planetary system, and the Infinite deep of
the Heavens have now become common and familiar
facts to us. Globes and orreries are the playthings of
our school-days; we inhale the spirit of Protestantism
with our earliest breath of consciousness; it is all but
impossible to throw back our imagination into the time
when, as new grand discoveries, they stirred every mind
which they touched with awe and wonder at the revelation
which God had sent down among mankind. Vast
spiritual and material continents lay for the first time
displayed, opening fields of thought and fields of
enterprise of which none could conjecture the limit. Old
routine was broken up. Men were thrown back on
their own strength and their own power, unshackled
to accomplish whatever they might dare. And although
we do not speak of these discoveries as the cause of
that enormous force of heart and intellect which
accompanied them (for they were as much the effect
as the cause, and one reacted on the other), yet at
any rate they afforded scope and room for the play
of powers which, without such scope, let them have
been as transcendent as they would, must have passed
away unproductive and blighted.

An earnest faith in the supernatural, an intensely
real conviction of the divine and devilish forces by
which the universe was guided and misguided, was
the inheritance of the Elizabethan age from Catholic
Christianity. The fiercest and most lawless men did
then really and truly believe in the actual personal
presence of God or the devil in every accident, or scene,
or action. They brought to the contemplation of the
new heaven and the new earth an imagination saturated
with the spiritual convictions of the old era, which
were not lost, but only infinitely expanded. The
planets whose vastness they now learnt to recognize
were, therefore, only the more powerful for evil or for
good; the tides were the breathing of Demogorgon;
and the idolatrous American tribes were real worshippers
of the real devil, and were assisted with the
full power of his evil army.

It is a form of thought which, however in a vague
and general way we may continue to use its phraseology,
has become, in its detailed application to life, utterly
strange to us. We congratulate ourselves on the
enlargement of our understanding when we read the
decisions of grave law-courts in cases of supposed
witchcraft; we smile complacently over Raleigh's story
of the island of the Amazons, and rejoice that we are
not such as he--entangled in the cobwebs of effete
and foolish superstition. The true conclusion is the
opposite of the conclusion which we draw. That
Raleigh and Bacon could believe what they believed,
and could be what they were notwithstanding, is to
us a proof that the injury which such mistakes can
inflict is unspeakably insignificant: and arising, as they
arose, from a never-failing sense of the real awfulness
and mystery of the world, and of the life of human
souls upon it, they witness to the presence in such
minds of a spirit, the loss of which not the most perfect
acquaintance with every law by which the whole creation
moves can compensate. We wonder at the grandeur,
the moral majesty, of some of Shakespeare's characters,
so far beyond what the noblest among ourselves can
imitate, and at first thought we attribute it to the
genius of the poet who has outstripped nature in his
creations; but we are misunderstanding the power
and the meaning of poetry in attributing creativeness
to it in any such sense; Shakespeare created, but only
as the spirit of nature created around him, working
in him as it worked abroad in those among whom he
lived. The men whom he draws were such men as he
saw and knew; the words they utter were such as he
heard in the ordinary conversations in which he joined.
At the Mermaid with Raleigh and with Sidney, and
at a thousand un-named English firesides, he found
the living originals for his Prince Hals, his Orlandos,
his Antonios, his Portias, his Isabellas. The closer
personal acquaintance which we can form with the
English of the age of Elizabeth, the more we are
satisfied that Shakespeare's great poetry is no more
than the rhythmic echo of the life which it depicts.

It was, therefore, with no little interest that we
heard of the formation of a society which was to employ
itself, as we understood, in republishing in accessible
form some, if not all, of the invaluable records compiled
or composed by Richard Hakluyt. Books, like everything
else, have their appointed death-day; the souls
of them, unless they be found worthy of a second birth
in a new body, perish with the paper in which they
lived, and the early folio Hakluyts, not from their
own want of merit, but from our neglect of them, were
expiring of old age. The five-volume quarto edition,
published in 1811, so little people then cared for the
exploits of their ancestors, was but of 270 copies;
it was intended for no more than for curious antiquaries,
or for the great libraries, where it could be
consulted as a book of reference; and among a people,
the greater part of whom had never heard Hakluyt's
name, the editors are scarcely to be blamed if it never
so much as occurred to them that general readers would
ever come to care to have it within their reach.

And yet those five volumes may be called the Prose
Epic of the modern English nation. They contain the
heroic tales of the exploits of the great men in whom
the new era was inaugurated; not mythic, like the
Iliads and the Eddas, but plain broad narratives of
substantial facts, which rival them in interest and
grandeur. What the old epics were to the royally or
nobly born, this modern epic is to the common people.
We have no longer kings or princes for chief actors, to
whom the heroism, like the dominion, of the world had
in time past been confined. But, as it was in the days
of the apostles, when a few poor fishermen from an
obscure lake in Palestine assumed, under the divine
mission, the spiritual authority over mankind, so, in
the days of our own Elizabeth, the seamen from the
banks of the Thames and the Avon, the Plym and the
Dart, self-taught and self-directed, with no impulse but
what was beating in their own royal hearts, went out
across the unknown seas fighting, discovering, colonizing,
and grayed out the channels, and at last paved them
with their bones, through which the commerce and
enterprise of England has flowed out over all the
world. We can conceive nothing, not the songs of
Homer himself, which would be read, among us at
least, with more enthusiastic interest than these plain
massive tales; and a people's edition of them in these
days, when the writings of Ainsworth and Eugene Sue
circulate in tens of thousands, would perhaps be the
most blessed antidote which could be bestowed upon
us. The heroes themselves were the men of the people
--the Joneses, the Smiths, the Davises, the Drakes;
and no courtly pen, with the one exception of Raleigh,
lent its polish or its varnish to set them off. In most
cases the captain himself, or his clerk or servant, or
some unknown gentleman volunteer, sat down and
chronicled the voyage which he had shared, and thus
inorganically arose a collection of writings which, with
all their simplicity, are for nothing more striking than
for the high moral beauty, warmed with natural feeling,
which displays itself through all their pages. With us,
the sailor is scarcely himself beyond his quarter-deck.
If he is distinguished in his profession, he is professional
merely; or if he is more than that, he owes it not to
his work as a sailor, but to independent domestic
culture. With them their profession was the school
of their nature, a high moral education which most
brought out what was most nobly human in them; and
the wonders of earth, and air, and sea, and sky, were a
real intelligible language in which they heard Almighty
God speaking to them.

That such hopes of what might be accomplished by
the Hakluyt Society should in some measure be disappointed,
is only what might naturally be anticipated
of all very sanguine expectation. Cheap editions are
expensive editions to the publisher, and historical
societies, from a necessity which appears to encumber
all corporate English action, rarely fail to do their work
expensively and infelicitously; yet, after all allowances
and deductions, we cannot reconcile ourselves to the
mortification of having found but one volume in the
series to be even tolerably edited, and that one to be
edited by a gentleman to whom England is but an
adopted country--Sir Robert Schomburgk. Raleigh's
"Conquest of Guiana," with Sir Robert's sketch of
Raleigh's history and character, form in everything but
its cost a very model of an excellent volume. For
every one of the rest we are obliged to say of them,
that they have left little undone to paralyze whatever
interest was reviving in Hakluyt, and to consign their
own volumes to the same obscurity to which time and
accident were consigning the earlier editions. Very
little which was really noteworthy escaped the industry
of Hakiuyt himself, and we looked to find reprints of
the most remarkable of the stories which were to be
found in his collection. They began unfortunately
with proposing to continue the work where he had
left it, and produce narratives hitherto unpublished
of other voyages of inferior interest, or not of English
origin. Better thoughts appear to have occurred
to them in the course of the work; but their evil
destiny overtook them before their thoughts could get
themselves executed. We opened one volume with
eagerness, bearing the title of "Voyages to the Northwest,"
in hope of finding our old friends Davis and
Frobisher, and we found a vast unnecessary Editor's
Preface; and instead of the voyages themselves, which
with their picturesqueness and moral beauty shine
among the fairest jewels in the diamond mine of
Hakluyt, an analysis and digest of their results,
which Milton was called in to justify in an inappropriate
quotation. It is much as if they had undertaken to
edit "Bacon's Essays," and had retailed
what they conceived to be the substance of them in
their own language; strangely failing to see that the
real value of the actions or the thought of remarkable
men does not lie in the material result which can be
gathered from them, but in the heart and soul of those
who do or utter them. Consider what Homer's
"Odyssey" would be, reduced into an analysis.

The editor of the "Letters of Columbus" apologizes
for the rudeness of their phraseology. Columbus, he
tells us, was not so great a master of the pen as of the
art of navigation. We are to make excuses for him.
We are put on our guard, and warned not to be
offended, before we are introduced to the sublime record
of sufferings under which his great soul was staggering
towards the end of its earthly calamities, where the
inarticulate fragments in which his thought breaks out
from him, are strokes of natural art by the side of
which the highest literary pathos is poor and meaningless.

And even in the subjects which they select they are
pursued by the same curious fatality. Why is Drake
to be best known, or to be only known, in his last
voyage? Why pass over the success, and endeavour to
immortalize the failure? When Drake climbed the tree
in Panama, and saw both oceans, and vowed that he
would sail a ship in the Pacific; when he crawled out
upon the cliffs of Terra del Fuego, and leaned his head
over the southernmost angle of the world; when he
scored a furrow round the globe with his keel, and
received the homage of the barbarians of the antipodes
in the name of the Virgin Queen; he was another man
from what he had become after twenty years of court
life and intrigue, and Spanish fighting, and gold-hunting.
There is a tragic solemnity in his end, if we take it as
the last act of his career; but it is his life, not his death,
which we desire--not what he failed to do, but what
he did.

But every bad has a worse below it, and more offensive
than all these is the editor of Hawkins's "Voyage to
the South Sea." The book is striking in itself; it is
not one of the best, but it is very good; and as it is
republished complete, if we read it through, carefully
shutting off Captain Bethune's notes with one hand,
we shall then find in it the same beauty which breathes
in the tone of all the writings of the period.

It is a record of misfortune, but of misfortune which
did no dishonour to him who sunk under it; and there
is a melancholy dignity in the style in which Hawkins
tells his story, which seems to say, that though he had
been defeated, and had never again an opportunity of
winning back his lost laurels, he respects himself still
for the heart with which he endured a shame which
would have broken a smaller man. It would have
required no large exertion of editorial self-denial to
have abstained from marring the pages with puns of
which Punch would be ashamed, and with the vulgar
affectation of patronage with which the sea captain of
the nineteenth century condescends to criticize and
approve of his half-barbarous precursor; but it must
have been a defect in his heart, rather than in his
understanding, which betrayed him into such an offence
as this which follows. The war of freedom of the
Araucan Indians is the most gallant episode in the
history of the New World. The Spaniards themselves
were not behindhand in acknowledging the chivalry before
which they quailed, and, after many years of ineffectual
attempts to crush them, they gave up a conflict which they
never afterwards resumed; leaving the Araucans alone,
of all the American races with which they came in
contact, a liberty which they were unable to tear from
them. It is a subject for an epic poem, and whatever
admiration is due to the heroism of a brave people
whom no inequality of strength could appal and no
defeats could crush, these poor Indians have a right to
demand of us. The story of the war was well known in
Europe: and Hawkins, in coasting the western shores of
South America, fell in with them, and the finest passage
in his book is the relation of one of the incidents of
the war.

"An Indian captain was taken prisoner by the Spaniards,
and for that he was of name, and known to have done
his devoir against them, they cut off his hands, thereby
intending to disenable him to fight any more against them.
But he, returning home, desirous to revenge this injury,
to maintain his liberty, with the reputation of his nation,
and to help to banish the Spaniard, with his tongue intreated
and incited them to persevere in their accustomed
valour and reputation, abasing the enemy and advancing
his nation; condemning their contraries of cowardliness.
and confirming it by the cruelty used with him and other
his companions in their mishaps; showing them his arms
without hands, and naming his brethren whose half feet
they had cut off, because they might be unable to sit on
horseback: with force arguing that if they feared them not.
they would not have used so great inhumanity--for fear
produceth cruelty, the companion of cowardice. Thus
encouraged he them to fight for their lives, limbs, and
liberty, choosing rather to die an honourable death fighting,
than to live in servitude as fruitless members of the
commonwealth. Thus using the office of a sergeant-major, and
having loaden his two stumps with bundles of arrows, he
succoured them who, in the succeeding battle, had their
store wasted; and changing himself from place to place,
animated and encouraged his countrymen with such comfortable
persuasions, as it is reported and credibly believed,
that he did more good with his words and presence,
without striking a stroke, than a great part of the army
did with fighting to the utmost."

It is an action which may take its place by the side
of the myth of Mucius Scaevola, or the real exploit of
that brother of the poet AEschylus, who, when the Persians
were flying from Marathon, clung to a ship till
both his hands were hewn away, and then seized it
with his teeth, leaving his name as a portent even in
the splendid calendar of Athenian heroes. Captain
Bethune, without call or need, making his notes merely,
as he tells us, from the suggestions of his own mind as
he revised the proof-sheets, informs us, at the bottom
of the page, that "it reminds him of the familiar

"For Widdrington I needs must wail,
As one in doleful dumps;
For, when his legs were smitten off,
He fought upon his stumps."

It must not avail him, that he has but quoted from the
ballad of Chevy Chase. It is the most deformed stanza *
of the modern deformed version which was composed
in the eclipse of heart and taste, on the restoration of
the Stuarts; and if such verses could then pass for
serious poetry, they have ceased to sound in any ear as
other than a burlesque; the associations which they
arouse are only absurd, and they could only have
continued to ring in his memory through their ludicrous
* Here is the old stanza. Let whoever is disposed to think us
too hard on Captain Bethune compare them.

"For Wetharrington my harte was wo,
That even he slayne sholde be;
For when both his leggis were hewen in to,
He knyied and fought on his knee."

Even Percy, who, on the whole, thinks well of the modern ballad,
gives up this stanza as hopeless.

When to these offences of the Society we add, that
in the long laboured appendices and introductions,
which fill up valuable space, which increase the
expense of the edition, and into reading which many
readers are, no doubt, betrayed, we have found nothing
which assists the understanding of the stories which
they are supposed to illustrate, when we have found what
is most uncommon passed without notice, and what is
most trite and familiar encumbered with comment: we
have unpacked our hearts of the bitterness which these
volumes have aroused in us, and can now take our leave
of them and go on with our own more grateful subject.

Elizabeth, whose despotism was as peremptory as that
of the Plantagenets, and whose ideas of the English
constitution were limited in the highest degree, was,
notwithstanding, more beloved by her subjects than
any sovereign before or since. It was because,
substantially, she was the people's sovereign; because it
was given to her to conduct the outgrowth of the
national life through its crisis of change, and the weight
of her great mind and her great place were thrown on
the people's side. She was able to paralyze the dying
efforts with which, if a Stuart had been on the throne,
the representatives of an effete system might have made
the struggle a deadly one; and the history of England
is not the history of France, because the inflexible will
of one person held the Reformation firm till it had
rooted itself in the heart of the nation, and could not
be again overthrown. The Catholic faith was no longer
able to furnish standing ground on which the English
or any other nation could live a manly and a godly
life. Feudalism, as a social organization, was not any
more a system under which their energies could have
scope to move. Thenceforward not the Catholic Church,
but any man to whom God had given a heart to feel
and a voice to speak, was to be the teacher to whom
men were to listen; and great actions were not to
remain the privilege of the families of the Norman
nobles, but were to be laid within the reach of the
poorest plebeian who had the stuff in him to perform
them. Alone, of all the sovereigns in Europe, Elizabeth
saw the change which had passed over the world. She
saw it, and saw it in faith, and accepted it. The
England of the Catholic Hierarchy and the Norman Baron,
was to cast its shell and to become the England of free
thought and commerce and manufacture, which was to
plough the ocean with its navies, and sow its colonies
over the globe; and the first thunder birth of these
enormous forces and the flash of the earliest achievements of
the new era roll and glitter through the forty years of the
reign of Elizabeth with a grandeur which, when once its
history is written, will be seen to be among the most
sublime phenomena which the earth as yet has witnessed.
The work was not of her creation; the heart of the
whole English nation was stirred to its depths; and
Elizabeth's place was to recognize, to love, to foster,
and to guide. The government originated nothing;
at such a time it was neither necessary nor desirable
that it should do so; but wherever expensive enterprises
were on foot which promised ultimate good, but no
immediate profit, we never fail to find among the lists
of contributors the Queen's Majesty, Burleigh, Leicester,
Walsingham. Never chary of her presence, for Elizabeth
could afford to condescend, when ships were fitting for
distant voyages in the river, the Queen would go down
in her barge and inspect. Frobisher, who was but a
poor sailor adventurer, sees her wave her handkerchief
to him from the Greenwich Palace windows, and he
brings her home a narwhal's horn for a present. She
honoured her people, and her people loved her; and
the result was that, with no cost to the government,
she saw them scattering the fleets of the Spaniards,
planting America with colonies, and exploring the most
distant seas. Either for honour or for expectation of
profit, or from that unconscious necessity by which a
great people, like a great man, will do what is right, and
must do it at the right time, whoever had the means to
furnish a ship, and whoever had the talent to command
one, laid their abilities together and went out to pioneer,
and to conquer, and take possession, in the name of
the Queen of the Sea. There was no nation so remote
but what some one or other was found ready to undertake
an expedition there, in the hope of opening a trade;
and let them go where they would, they were sure of
Elizabeth's countenance. We find letters written by
her, for the benefit of nameless adventurers, to every
potentate of whom she had ever heard, to the Emperors
of China, Japan, and India, the Grand Duke of Russia,
the Grand Turk, the Persian Sofee, and other unheardof
Asiatic and African princes; whatever was to be
done in England, or by Englishmen, Elizabeth assisted
when she could, and admired when she could not. The
springs of great actions are always difficult to analyze--
impossible to analyze perfectly--possible to analyze
only very proximately, and the force by which a man
throws a good action out of himself is invisible and
mystical, like that which brings out the blossom and
the fruit upon the tree. The motives which we find
men urging for their enterprises seem often insufficient
to have prompted them to so large a daring. They did
what they did from the great unrest in them which
made them do it, and what it was may be best measured
by the results, by the present England and America.
Nevertheless, there was enough in the state of the
world, and in the position of England, to have furnished
abundance of conscious motive, and to have stirred the
drowsiest routinier statesman.

Among material occasions for exertion, the population
began to outgrow the employment, and there
was a necessity for plantations to serve as an outlet.
Men who, under happier circumstances, might have
led decent lives, and done good service, were now
driven by want to desperate courses--"witness," as
Richard Hakluyt says, "twenty tall fellows hanged last
Rochester assizes for small robberies;" and there is an
admirable paper addressed to the Privy Council by
Christopher Carlile, Walsingham's son-in-law, pointing
out the possible openings to be made in or through.
such plantations for home produce and manufacture.

Far below all such prudential economics and mercantile
ambitions, however, lay a noble enthusiasm which
in these dull days we can hardly, without an effort,
realize. The life-and-death wrestle between the Reformation
and the old religion had settled in the last quarter
of the sixteenth century into a permanent struggle
between England and Spain. France was disabled.
All the help which Elizabeth could spare barely enabled
the Netherlands to defend themselves. Protestantism,
if it conquered, must conquer on another field; and by
the circumstances of the time the championship of the
Reformed faith fell to the English sailors. The sword
of Spain was forged in the gold-mines of Peru; the
legions of Alva were only to be disarmed by intercepting
the gold ships on their passage; and, inspired by an
enthusiasm like that which four centuries before had
precipitated the chivalry of Europe upon the East, the
same spirit which in its present degeneracy covers our
bays and rivers with pleasure yachts then fitted out
armed privateers, to sweep the Atlantic, and plunder
and destroy Spanish ships wherever they could meet

Thus, from a combination of causes, the whole force
and energy of the age was directed towards the sea.
The wide excitement and the greatness of the interests
at stake, raised even common men above themselves;
and people who in ordinary times would have been no
more than mere seamen, or mere money-making merchants,
appear before us with a largeness and greatness
of heart and mind in which their duties to God and
their country are alike clearly and broadly seen and felt
to be paramount to every other.

Ordinary English traders we find fighting Spanish war
ships in behalf of the Protestant faith; the cruisers of
the Spanish main were full of generous eagerness for the
conversion of the savage nations to Christianity; and
what is even more surprising, sites for colonization were
examined and scrutinized by such men in a lofty statesmanlike
spirit, and a ready insight was displayed by
them into the indirect effects of a wisely-extended
commerce on every highest human interest.

Again, in the conflict with the Spaniards, there was a
further feeling, a feeling of genuine chivalry, which was
spurring on the English, and one which must be well
understood and well remembered, if men like Drake,
and Hawkins, and Raleigh, are to be tolerably understood.
One of the English Reviews, a short time ago,
was much amused with a story of Drake having excommunicated
a petty officer as a punishment for some
moral offence; the reviewer not being able to see in
Drake, as a man, anything more than; a highly brave
and successful buccaneer, whose pretences to religion
might rank with the devotion of an Italian bandit to the
Madonna. And so Hawkins, and even Raleigh, are
regarded by superficial persons, who see only such outward
circumstances of their history as correspond with
their own impressions. The high nature of these men,
and the high objects which they pursued, will only rise
out and become visible to us as we can throw ourselves
back into their times and teach our hearts to feel as
they felt. We do not find in the language of the
voyagers themselves, or of those who lent them their
help at home, any of that weak watery talk of "protection
of aborigines," which as soon as it is translated
into fact becomes the most active policy for their
destruction, soul and body. But the stories of the
dealings of the Spaniards with the conquered Indians,
which were widely known in England, seem to have
affected all classes of people, not with pious passive
horror, but with a genuine human indignation. A
thousand anecdotes in detail we find scattered up and
down the pages of Hakluyt, who, with a view to make
them known, translated Peter Martyr's letters; and
each commonest sailor-boy who had heard them from
his childhood among the tales of his father's fire-side,
had longed to be a man, that he might go out and
become the avenger of a gallant and suffering people.
A high mission, undertaken with a generous heart;
seldom fails to make those worthy of it to whom it is
given; and it was a point of honour, if of nothing more,
among the English sailors, to do no discredit by their
conduct to the greatness of their cause. The high
courtesy, the chivalry of the Spanish nobles, so
conspicuous in their dealings with their European rivals, either
failed to touch them in their dealings with uncultivated
idolaters, or the high temper of the aristocracy was
unable to restrain or to influence the masses of the
soldiers. It would be as ungenerous as it would be untrue,
to charge upon their religion the grievous actions
of men who called themselves the armed missionaries of
Catholicism, when the Catholic priests and bishops
were the loudest in the indignation with which they
denounced them. But we are obliged to charge upon
it that slow and subtle influence so inevitably exercised
by any religion which is divorced from life, and converted
into a thing of form, or creed, or ceremony, or system,
which could permit the same men to be extravagant in
a sincere devotion to the Queen of Heaven, whose
entire lower nature, unsubdued and unaffected, was
given up to thirst of gold, and plunder, and sensuality.
If religion does not make men more humane than they
would be without it, it makes them fatally less so; and
it is to be feared that the spirit of the pilgrim fathers,
which had oscillated to the other extreme, and had
again crystallized into a formal antinomian fanaticism,
reproduced the same fatal results as those in which the
Spaniards had set them their unworthy precedent. But
the Elizabethan navigators, full without exception of
large kindness, wisdom, gentleness, and beauty, bear
names untainted, as far as we know, with a single crime
against the savages; and the name of England was as
famous in the Indian seas as that of Spain was
infamous. On the banks of the Oronooko there was
remembered for a hundred years the noble captain who
had come there from the great Queen beyond the seas;
and Raleigh speaks the language of the heart of his
country, when he urges the English statesmen to colonize
Guiana, and exults in the glorious hope of driving
the white marauder into the Pacific, and restoring the
Incas to the throne of Peru.

"Who will not be persuaded," he says, "that now at length
the great Judge of the world hath heard the sighs, groans,
and lamentations, hath seen the tears and blood of so many
millions of innocent men, women, and children, afflicted,
robbed, reviled, branded with hot irons, roasted, dismembered,
mangled, stabbed, whipped, racked, scalded with hot
oil, put to the strapado, ripped alive, beheaded in sport,
drowned, dashed against the rocks, famished, devoured by
mastiffs, burned, and by infinite cruelties consumed, and
purposeth to scourge and plague that cursed nation, and to
take the yoke of servitude from that distressed people, as
free by nature as any Christian."

Poor Raleigh! if peace and comfort in this world
were of much importance to him, it was in an ill day
that he provoked the revenge of Spain. The strength
of England was needed at the moment at its own door;
the Armada came, and there was no means of executing
such an enterprise. And afterwards the throne of
Elizabeth was filled by a Stuart, and Guiana was to be
no scene of glory for Raleigh; but, as later historians
are pleased to think, it was the grave of his reputation.

But the hope burned clear in him through all the
weary years of unjust imprisonment; and when he was
a grey-headed old man, the base son of a bad mother
used it to betray him. The success of his last enterprise
was made the condition under which he was to be
pardoned for a crime which he had not committed; and
its success depended, as he knew, on its being kept
secret from the Spaniards. James required of him on
his allegiance a detail of what he proposed, giving him
at the same time his word as a king that the secret should
be safe with him, and the next day it was sweeping out
of the port of London in the swiftest of the Spanish
ships, with private orders to the Governor of St. Thomas
to provoke a collision when Raleigh should arrive there,
which should afterwards cost him his heart's blood.

We modern readers may run rapidly over the series of
epithets under which he has catalogued the Indian
sufferings, hoping that they are exaggerated, seeing that
they are horrible, and closing our eyes against them with
swiftest haste; but it was not so when every epithet
suggested a hundred familiar facts; and some of these (not
resting on English prejudice, but on sad Spanish evidence,
which is too full of shame and sorrow to be
suspected) shall be given in this place, however old a
story it may be thought; because, as we said above, it
is impossible to understand the actions of these men,
unless we are familiar with the feelings of which their
hearts were full.

The massacres under Cortez and Pizarro, terrible as
they were, were not the occasion which stirred the
deepest indignation. They had the excuse of what
might be called, for want of a better word, necessity,
and of the desperate position of small bands of men in
the midst of enemies who might be counted by millions.
And in De Soto, when he burnt his guides in Florida
(it was his practice when there was danger of treachery,
that those who were left alive might take warning); or
in Vasco Nunnez, praying to the Virgin on the mountains
of Darien, and going down from off them into the
valleys to hunt the Indian caciques, and fling them alive
to his bloodhounds; there was, at least, with all this
fierceness and cruelty, a desperate courage which we
cannot refuse to admire, and which mingles with and
corrects our horror. It is the refinement of the Spaniards'
cruelty in the settled and conquered provinces, excused
by no danger and provoked by no resistance, the details
of which witness to the infernal coolness with which it
was perpetrated; and the great bearing of the Indians
themselves under an oppression which they despaired of
resisting, which raises the whole history to the rank of a
world-wide tragedy, in which the nobler but weaker
nature was crushed under a malignant force which was
stronger and yet meaner than itself. Gold hunting
and lust were the two passions for which the Spaniards
cared; and the fate of the Indian women was only more
dreadful than that of the men, who were ganged and
chained to a labour in the mines which was only to cease
with their lives, in a land where but a little before they
had lived a free contented people, more innocent of
crime than perhaps any people upon earth. If we can
conceive what our own feelings would be, if, in the
"development of the mammalia" some baser but more
powerful race than man were to appear upon this planet,
and we and our wives and children at our own happy
firesides were degraded from our freedom, and became
to them what the lower animals are to us, we can
perhaps realize the feelings of the enslaved nations of

As a harsh justification of slavery, it is sometimes
urged, that men who do not deserve to be slaves will
prefer death to the endurance of it; and that if they
prize their liberty, it is always in their power to assert
it in the old Roman fashion. Tried even by so hard a
rule, the Indians vindicated their right, and before
the close of the sixteenth century, the entire group of
the Western Islands in the hands of the Spaniards,
containing, when Columbus discovered them, many
millions of inhabitants, were left literally desolate from
suicide. Of the anecdotes of this terrible self-immolation,
as they were then known in England, here are a
few out of many.

The first is simple, and a specimen of the ordinary
method. A Yucaian cacique, who was forced with his
old subjects to labour in the mines, at last "calling
those miners into an house, to the number of ninety-
five, he thus debateth with them:"--

"'My worthy companions and friends, why desire we to
live any longer under so cruel a servitude? Let us now go
unto the perpetual seat of our ancestors, for we shall there
have rest from these intolerable cares and grievances which
we endure under the subjection of the unthankful. Go ye
before, I will presently follow you.' Having so spoken, he
held out whole handfuls of those leaves which take away life,
prepared for the purpose, and giving every one part thereof,
being kindled to suck up the fume; who obeyed his command,
the king and his chief kinsmen reserving the last
place for themselves."

We speak of the crime of suicide, but few persons
will see a crime in this sad and stately leave-taking of
a life which it was no longer possible to bear with
unbroken hearts. We do not envy the Indian, who,
with Spaniards before him as an evidence of the fruits
which their creed brought forth, deliberately exchanged
for it the old religion of his country, which could sustain
him in an action of such melancholy grandeur. But
the Indians did not always reply to their oppressors
with escaping passively beyond their hands. Here is a
story with matter in it for as rich a tragedy as OEdipus
or Agamemnon; and in its stern and tremendous
features, more nearly resembling them than any which
were conceived even by Shakespeare.

An officer named Orlando had taken the daughter
of a Cuban cacique to be his mistress. She was with
child by him, but, suspecting her of being engaged in
some other intrigue, he had her fastened to two wooden
spits, not intending to kill her, but to terrify her; and
setting her before the fire, he ordered that she should
be turned by the servants of the kitchen.

"The maiden, stricken with fear through the cruelty
thereof, and strange kind of torment, presently gave up the
ghost. The cacique her father, understanding the matter,
took thirty of his men and went to the house of the captain,
who was then absent, and slew his wife, whom he had
married after that wicked act committed, and the women
who were companions of the wife, and her servants every
one. Then shutting the door of the house, and putting fire
under it, he burnt himself and all his companions that
assisted him, together with the captain's dead family and

This is no fiction or poet's romance. It is a tale
of wrath and revenge, which in sober dreadful truth
enacted itself upon this earth, and remains among the
eternal records of the doings of mankind upon it. As
some relief to its most terrible features, we follow it with
a story which has a touch in it of diabolical humour.

The slave-owners finding their slaves escaping thus
unprosperously out of their grasp, set themselves to
find a remedy for so desperate a disease, and were
swift to avail themselves of any weakness, mental or
bodily, through which to retain them in life. One of
these proprietors being informed that a number of his
people intended to kill themselves on a certain day,
at a particular spot, and knowing by experience that
they were too likely to do it, presented himself there
at the time which had been fixed upon, and telling
the Indians when they arrived, that he knew their
intention, and that it was vain for them to attempt to
keep anything a secret from him, he ended with saying,
that he had come there to kill himself with them; that
as he had used them ill in this world, he might use
them worse in the next; "with which he did dissuade
them presently from their purpose." With what efficacy
such believers in the immortality of the soul were likely
to recommend either their faith or their God; rather,
how terribly all the devotion and all the earnestness
with which the poor priests who followed in the wake
of the conquerors laboured to recommend it were
shamed and paralyzed, they themselves too bitterly
lament. It was idle to send out governor after governor
with orders to stay such practices. They had but to
arrive on the scenes to become infected with the same
fever, or if any remnant of Castilian honour, or any
faintest echoes of the faith which they professed, still
flickered in a few of the best and noblest, they could
but look on with folded hands in ineffectual mourning;
they could do nothing without soldiers, and the soldiers
were the worst offenders. Hispaniola became a mere
desert; the gold was in the mines, and there were no
poor slaves left remaining to extract it. One means
which the Spaniards dared to employ to supply the
vacancy, brought about an incident which in its piteous
pathos exceeds any story we have ever heard. Crimes
and criminals are swept away by time, nature finds an
antidote for their poison, and they and their ill
consequences alike are blotted out and perish. If we do
not forgive them, at least we cease to hate them, as it
grows more clear to us that they injured none so deeply
as themselves. But the Theriodes kakia, the enormous
wickedness by which humanity itself has been outraged
and disgraced, we cannot forgive, we cannot cease to
hate that; the years roll away, but the tints of it remain
on the pages of history, deep and horrible as the day
on which they were entered there.

"When the Spaniards understood the simple opinion
of the Yucaian islanders concerning the souls of their
departed, which, after their sins purged in the cold northern
mountains should pass into the south, to the intent that,
leaving their own country of their own accord, they might
suffer themselves to be brought to Hispaniola, they did
persuade those poor wretches, that they came from those
places where they should see their parents and children,
and all their kindred and friends that were dead, and
should enjoy all kinds of delights with the embracements
and fruition of all beloved beings. And they, being infected
and possessed with these crafty and subtle imaginations,
singing and rejoicing left their country, and followed vain
and idle hope. But when they saw that they were deceived,
and neither met their parents nor any that they desired,
but were compelled to undergo grievous sovereignty and
command, and to endure cruel and extreme labour, they
either slew themselves, or, choosing to famish, gave up
their fair spirits, being persuaded by no reason or violence
to take food. So these miserable Yucaians came to their

It was once more as it was in the days of the
apostles. The New World was first offered to the
holders of the old traditions. They were the husbandmen
first chosen for the new vineyard, and blood and
desolation were the only fruits which they reared upon
it. In their hands it was becoming a kingdom not of
God, but of the devil, and a sentence of blight went
out against them and against their works. How fatally
it has worked, let modern Spain and Spanish America
bear witness. We need not follow further the history
of their dealings with the Indians. For their colonies,
a fatality appears to have followed all attempts at
Catholic colonization. Like shoots from an old decaying
tree which no skill and no care can rear, they were
planted, and for a while they might seem to grow; but
their life was never more than a lingering death, a
failure, which to a thinking person would outweigh in
the arguments against Catholicism whole libraries of
faultless calenas, and a consensus patrum unbroken
through fifteen centuries for the supremacy of St.

There is no occasion to look for superstitious causes
to explain it. The Catholic faith had ceased to be the
faith of the large mass of earnest thinking capable
persons; and to those who can best do the work, all
work in this world sooner or later is committed.
America was the natural home for Protestants; persecuted
at home, they sought a place where they might
worship God in their own way, without danger of
stake or gibbet, and the French Huguenots, as
afterwards the English Puritans, early found their way
there. The fate of a party of Coligny's people, who
had gone out as settlers, shall be the last of these
stories, illustrating, as it does in the highest degree,
the wrath and fury with which the passions on both
sides were boiling. A certain John Ribauk, with about
400 companions, had emigrated to Florida. They were
quiet inoffensive people, and lived in peace there several
years, cultivating the soil, building villages, and on the
best possible terms with the natives. Spain was at
the time at peace with France; we are, therefore, to
suppose that it was in pursuance of the great crusade,
in which they might feel secure of the secret, if not
the confessed, sympathy of the Guises, that a powerful
Spanish fleet bore down upon this settlement. The
French made no resistance, and they were seized and
flayed alive, and their bodies hung out upon the trees,
with an inscription suspended over them, "Not as
Frenchmen, but as heretics." At Paris all was sweetness
and silence. The settlement was tranquilly
surrendered to the same men who had made it the
scene of their atrocity; and two years later, 500 of
the very Spaniards who had been most active in the
murder were living there in peaceable possession, in
two forts which their relation with the natives had
obliged them to build. It was well that there were
other Frenchmen living, of whose consciences the Court
had not the keeping, and who were able on emergencies
to do what was right without consulting it. A certain
privateer named Dominique de Gourges, secretly armed
and equipped a vessel at Rochelle, and, stealing across
the Atlantic and in two days collecting a strong party
of Indians, he came down suddenly upon the forts,
and, taking them by storm, slew or afterwards hanged
every man he found there, leaving their bodies on the
trees on which they had hanged the Huguenots, with
their own inscription reversed against them,--"Not as
Spaniards, but as murderers." For which exploit, well
deserving of all honest men's praise, Dominique de
Gourges had to fly his country for his life; and, coming
to England, was received with honourable welcome by

It was at such a time, and to take their part amidst
such scenes as these, that the English navigators
appeared along the shores of South America, as the armed
soldiers of the Reformation, and as the avengers of
humanity; as their enterprise was grand and lofty, so
was the manner in which they bore themselves in all
ways worthy of it. They were no nation of saints,
in the modern sentimental sense of that word; they
were prompt, stern men--more ready ever to strike
an enemy than to parley with him; and, private
adventurers as they all were, it was natural enough
that private foolishness and private badness should be
found among them as among other mortals. Every
Englishman who had the means was at liberty to fit
out a ship or ships, and if he could produce tolerable
vouchers for himself, received at once a commission
from the Court. The battles of England were fought
by her children, at their own risk and cost, and they
were at liberty to repay themselves the expense of their
expeditions by plundering at the cost of the national
enemy. Thus, of course, in a mixed world, there were
found mixed marauding crews of scoundrels, who played
the game which a century later was played with such
effect by the pirates of Tortuga. But we have to
remark, first, that such stories are singularly rare; and
then, that the victims are never the Indians, never any
but the Spaniards or the French, when the English were
at war with them; and, on the whole, the conduct and
character of the English sailors, considering what they
were and the work which they were sent to do, present
us all through that age with such a picture of gallantry,
disinterestedness, and high heroic energy, as has never
been overmatched; the more remarkable, as it was
the fruit of no drill or discipline, no tradition, no
system, no organized training, but was the free native
growth of a noble virgin soil.

Before starting on an expedition, it was usual for the
crew and the officers to meet and arrange among themselves
a series of articles of conduct, to which they
bound themselves by a formal agreement, the entire
body itself undertaking to see to their observance. It
is quite possible that strong religious profession, and
even sincere profession, might be accompanied, as it
was in the Spaniards, with everything most detestable.
It is not sufficient of itself to prove that their actions
would correspond with it, but it is one among a number
of evidences; and, coming, as they come before us,
with hands clear of any blood but of fair and open
enemies, their articles may pass at least as indications
of what they were.

Here we have a few instances:--

Hawkins's ship's company was, as he himself informs
us, an unusually loose one. Nevertheless, we find them
"gathered together every morning and evening to serve
God;" and a fire on board which only Hawkins's presence
of mind prevented from destroying ship and crew
together, was made use of by the men as an occasion to
banish swearing out of the ship.

"With a general consent of all our company, it was
ordained that there should be a palmer or ferula which should
be in the keeping of him who was taken with an oath; and
that he who had the palmer should give to every one that
he took swearing, a palmads with it and the femla; and
whosoever at the time of evening or morning prayer was
found to have the palmer, should have three blows given
him by the captain or the master; and that he should still
be bound to free himself by taking another, or else to run
in danger of continuing the penalty, which, being executed
a few days, reformed the vice, so that in three days together
was not one oath heard to be sworn."

The regulations for Luke Fox's voyage commenced

"For as much as the good success and prosperity of every
action doth consist in the due service and glorifying of God,
knowing that not only our being and preservation, but the
prosperity of all our actions and enterprises do immediately
depend on His Almighty goodness and mercy; it is

"First, that all the company, as well officers as others,
shall duly repair every day twice at the call of the bell to
hear public prayers to be read, such as are authorized by the
church, and that in a godly and devout manner, as good
Christians ought.

"Secondly, that no man shall swear by the name of God,
or use any profane oath, or blaspheme His holy name."

To symptoms such as these, we cannot but attach a
very different value when they are the spontaneous growth
of common minds, unstimulated by sense of propriety
or rules of the service, or other official influence lay or
ecclesiastic, from what we attach to the somewhat similar
ceremonials in which, among persons whose position is
conspicuous, important enterprises are now and then

We have said as much as we intend to say of the
treatment by the Spaniards of the Indian women. Sir
Walter Raleigh is commonly represented by historians
as rather defective, if he was remarkable at all, on the
moral side of his character. Yet Raleigh can declare
proudly, that all the time he was on the Oronooko,
"neither by force nor other means had any of his men
intercourse with any woman there;" and the narrator of
the incidents of Raleigh's last voyage acquaints his
correspondent "with some particulars touching the
government of the fleet, which, although other men in
their voyages doubtless in some measure observed, yet
in all the great volumes which have been written
touching voyages, there is no precedent of so godly
severe and martial government, which not only in itself
is laudable and worthy of imitation, but is also fit to be
written and engraven on every man's soul that coveteth
to do honour to his country."

Once more, the modern theory of Drake is, as we
said above, that he was a gentleman-like pirate on a
large scale, who is indebted for the place which he fills
in history to the indistinct ideas of right and wrong
prevailing in the unenlightened age in which he lived.
and who therefore demands all the toleration of our
own enlarged humanity to allow him to remain there.
Let us see how the following incident can be made to
coincide with this hypothesis:--

A few days after clearing the channel on his first great
voyage, he fell in with a small Spanish ship, which he
took for a prize. He committed the care of it to a
certain Mr. Doughtie, a person much trusted by, and
personally very dear to him, and this second vessel was
to follow him as a tender.

In dangerous expeditions into unknown seas, a second
smaller ship was often indispensable to success; but
many finely-intended enterprises were ruined by the
cowardice of the officers to whom such ships were
entrusted; who shrank as danger thickened, and again
and again took advantage of darkness or heavy weather
to make sail for England and forsake their commander.
Hawkins twice suffered in this way; so did Sir Humfrey
Gilbert; and, although Drake's own kind feeling for
his old friend has prevented him from leaving an exact
account of his offence, we gather from the scattered hints
which are let fall, that he, too, was meditating a similar
piece of treason. However, it may or may not have
been thus. But when at Port St Julien, "our General,"
says one of the crew,--

"Began to inquire diligently of the actions of Mr. Thomas
Doughtie, and found them not to be such as he looked for,
but tending rather to contention or mutiny, or some other
disorder, whereby, without redresse, the success of the
voyage might greatly have been hazarded. Whereupon the
company was called together and made acquainted with
the particulars of the cause, which were found, partly by Mr.
Doughtie's own confession, and partly by the evidence of
the fact, to be true, which, when our General saw, although
his private affection to Mr. Doughtie (as he then, in the
presence of us all, sacredly protested) was great, yet the
care which he had of the state of the voyage, of the
expectation of Her Majesty, and of the honour of his country,
did more touch him, as indeed it ought, than the private respect
of one man; so that the cause being thoroughly heard, and
all things done in good order as near as might be to the
course of our law in England, it was concluded that Mr.
Doughtie should receive punishment according to the
quality of the offence. And he, seeing no remedy but
patience for himself, desired before his death to receive the
communion, which he did at the hands of Mr. Fletcher, our
minister, and our General himself accompanied him in that
holy action, which, being done, and the place of execution
made ready, he, having embraced our General, and taken
leave of all the company, with prayers for the Queen's
Majesty and our realm, in quiet sort laid his head to the
block, where he ended his life. This being done, our
General made divers speeches to the whole company,
persuading us to unity, obedience, love, and regard of our
voyage, and for the better confirmation thereof, willed every
man the next Sunday following to prepare himself to receive
the communion, as Christian brethren and friends ought to
do, which was done in very reverent sort, and so with good
contentment every man went about his business."

The simple majesty of this anecdote can gain nothing
from any comment which we might offer upon it. The
crew of a common English ship organizing, of their own
free motion, on that wild shore, a judgment hall more
grand and awful than any most elaborate law court,
with its ermine and black cap, and robes of ceremony
for mind as well as body, is not to be reconciled with
the pirate theory, which we may as well henceforth put
away from us.

Of such stuff were the early English navigators; we
are reaping the magnificent harvest of their great
heroism; and we may see once more in their history
and in what has arisen out of it, that on these deep
moral foundations, and on none others, enduring
prosperities, of what kind so-ever, politic or religious,
material or spiritual, are alone in this divinely-governed
world permitted to base themselves and grow. Whereever
we find them they are still the same. In the courts
of Japan or of China, fighting Spaniards in the Pacific,
or prisoners among the Algerines, founding colonies
which by and by were to grow into enormous transatlantic
republics, or exploring in crazy pinnaces the
fierce latitudes of the Polar seas, they are the same
indomitable God-fearing men whose life was one great
liturgy. "The ice was strong, but God was stronger,"
says one of Frobisher's men, after grinding a night and
a day among the icebergs, not waiting for God to come
down and split them, but toiling through the long hours,
himself and the rest fending off the vessel with poles
and planks, with death glaring at them out of the ice
rocks, and so saving themselves and it. Icebergs were
strong, Spaniards were strong, and storms, and corsairs,
and rocks, and reefs, which no chart had then noted--
they were all strong, but God was stronger, and that was
all which they cared to know.

Out of the vast number it is difficult to make wise
selections, but the attention floats loosely over
generalities, and only individual men can seize it and hold
it fast. We shall attempt to bring our readers face to
face with some of these men; not, of course, to write
their biographies, but to sketch the details of a few
scenes, in the hope that they may tempt those under
whose eyes they may fall to look for themselves to
complete the perfect figure.

Some two miles above the port of Dartmouth, once
among the most important harbours in England, on a
projecting angle of land which runs out into the river
at the head of one of its most beautiful reaches, there
has stood for some centuries the Manor House of
Greenaway. The water runs deep all the way to it from
the sea, and the largest vessels may ride with safety
within a stone's throw of the windows. In the latter
half of the sixteenth century there must have met, in
the hall of this mansion, a party as remarkable as could
have been found anywhere in England. Humfrey and
Adrian Gilbert, with their half-brother, Walter Raleigh,
here, when little boys, played at sailors in the reaches of
Long Stream; in the summer evenings doubtless rowing
down with the tide to the port, and wondering at the
quaint figure-heads and carved prows of the ships which
thronged it; or climbing on board, and listening, with
hearts beating, to the mariners' tales of the new earth
beyond the sunset; and here in later life, matured men,
whose boyish dreams had become heroic action, they
used again to meet in the intervals of quiet, and the
rock is shown underneath the house where Raleigh
smoked the first tobacco. Another remarkable man, of
whom we shall presently speak more closely, could not
fail to have made a fourth at these meetings. A sailor
boy of Sandwich, the adjoining parish, John Davis,
showed early a genius which could not have escaped
the eye of such neighbours, and in the atmosphere of
Greenaway he learned to be as noble as the Gilberts,
and as tender and delicate as Raleigh. Of this party,
for the present we confine ourselves to the host and
owner, Humfrey Gilbert, knighted afterwards by Elizabeth.
Led by the scenes of his childhood to the sea
and to sea adventures, and afterwards, as his mind
unfolded, to study his profession scientifically, we find
him as soon as he was old enough to think for himself,
or make others listen to him, "amending the great
errors of naval sea cards, whose common fault is to
make the degree of longitude in every latitude of one
common bigness;" inventing instruments for taking
observations, studying the form of the earth, and
convincing himself that there was a north-west passage, and
studying the necessities of his country, and discovering
the remedies for them in colonization and extended
markets for home manufactures, and insisting with so
much loudness on these important matters that they
reached the all-attentive ears of Walsingham, and
through Walsingham were conveyed to the Queen.
Gilbert was examined before the Queen's Majesty and
the Privy Council, the record of which examination he
has himself left to us in a paper which he afterwards
drew up, and strange enough reading it is. The most
admirable conclusions stand side by side with the
wildest conjectures; and invaluable practical discoveries,
among imaginations at which all our love for him cannot
hinder us from smiling; the whole of it from first to last
saturated through and through with his inborn nobility
of nature.

Homer and Aristotle are pressed into service to prove
that the ocean runs round the three old continents, and
America therefore is necessarily an island. The gulf
stream which he had carefully observed, eked out
by a theory of the primum mobile, is made to demonstrate
a channel to the north, corresponding to Magellan's
Straits in the south, he believing, in common with
almost every one of his day, that these straits were
the only opening into the Pacific, the land to the
south being unbroken to the Pole. He prophecies a
market in the East for our manufactured linen and

"The Easterns greatly prizing the same, as appeareth
in Hester where the pomp is expressed of the great
King of India, Ahasuerus, who matched the coloured
clothes wherewith his houses and tents were apparelled,
with gold and silver, as part of his greatest treasure."

These and other such arguments were the best
analysis which Sir Humfrey had to offer of the spirit
which he felt to be working in him. We may think
what we please of them. But we can have but one
thought of the great grand words with which the
memorial concludes, and they alone would explain the
love which Elizabeth bore him:--

"Never, therefore, mislike with me for taking in hand any
laudable and honest enterprise, for if through pleasure
or idleness we purchase shame, the pleasure vanisheth,
but the shame abideth for ever.

"Give me leave, therefore, without offence, always to
live and die in this mind: that he is not worthy to live
at all that, for fear or danger of death, shunneth his
country's service and his own honour, seeing that death
is inevitable and the fame of virtue immortal, wherefore
in this behalf routare vel lintere sperno."

Two voyages which he undertook at his own cost,
which shattered his fortune, and failed, as they naturally
might, since inefficient help or mutiny of subordinates,
or other disorders, are inevitable conditions under which
more or less great men must be content to see their great
thoughts mutilated by the feebleness of their instruments,
did not dishearten him, and in June, 1583, a last
fleet of five ships sailed from the port of Dartmouth,
with commission from the Queen to discover and take
possession from latitude 45^0 to 50^0 north--a voyage not
a little noteworthy, there being planted in the course of
it the first English colony west of the Atlantic. Elizabeth
had a foreboding that she would never see him again.
She sent him a jewel as a last token of her favour, and
she desired Raleigh to have his picture taken before he

The history of the voyage was written by a Mr.
Edward Hayes, of Dartmouth, one of the principal
actors in it, and as a composition it is more remarkable
for fine writing than any very commendable thought in
the author. But Sir Humfrey's nature shines through the
infirmity of his chronicler; and in the end, indeed, Mr.
Hayes himself is subdued into a better mind. He had
lost money by the voyage, and we will hope his higher
nature was only under a temporary eclipse. The fleet
consisted (it is well to observe the ships and the size of
them) of the Delight, 120 tons; the barque Raleigh, 200
tons (this ship deserted off the Land's End); the Golden
Hinde and the Swallow, 40 tons each; and the Squirrel,
which was called the frigate, 10 tons. For the uninitiated
in such matters, we may add, that if in a vessel
the size of the last, a member of the Yacht Club would
consider that he had earned a dub-room immortality if
he had ventured a run in the depth of summer from
Cowes to the Channel Islands.

"We were in all," says Mr. Hayes, "260 men, among
whom we had of every faculty good choice. Besides,
for solace of our own people, and allurement of the savages,
we were provided of music in good variety, not omitting
the least toys, as morris dancers, hobby horses, and
May-like conceits to delight the savage people."

The expedition reached Newfoundland without accident.
St. John's was taken possession of, and a colony
left there, and Sir Humfrey then set out exploring along
the American coast to the south; he himself doing all
the work in his little 10-ton cutter, the service being too
dangerous for the larger vessels to venture on. One of
these had remained at St. John's. He was now accompanied
only by the Delight and the Golden Hinde, and
these two keeping as near the shore as they dared, he
spent what remained of the summer, examining every
creek and bay, marking the soundings, taking the bearings
of the possible harbours, and risking his life, as
every hour he was obliged to risk it in such a service, in
thus leading, as it were, the forlorn hope in the conquest
of the New World. How dangerous it was we shall
presently see. It was towards the end of August.

"The evening was fair and pleasant, yet not without
token of storm to ensue, and most part of this Wednesday
night, like the swan that singeth before her death, they in
the Delight continued in sounding of drums and trumpets
and fifes, also winding the cornets and haughtboys, and
in the end of their jollity left with the battell and ringing
of doleful knells."

Two days after came the storm; the Delight struck
upon a bank, and went down in sight of the other vessels,
which were unable to render her any help. Sir Humfrey's
papers, among other things, were all lost in her; at the
time considered by him an irreparable misfortune. But
it was little matter; he was never to need them. The
Golden Hinde and the Squirrel were now left alone of the
five ships. The provisions were running short, and the
summer season was closing. Both crews were on short
allowance; and with much difficulty Sir Humfrey was
prevailed upon to be satisfied for the present with what
he had done, and to lay off for England.

"So upon Saturday, in the afternoon, the 31st of
August, we changed our course, and returned back for
England, at which very instant, even in winding about,
there passed along between us and the land, which we
now forsook, a very lion, to our seeming, in shape, hair,
and colour; not swimming after the manner of a beast
by moving of his feet, but rather sliding upon the water
with his whole body, except his legs, in sight, neither yet
diving under and again rising as the manner is of whales,
porpoises, and other fish, but confidently showing himself
without hiding, notwithstanding that we presented
ourselves in open view and gesture to amaze him. Thus
he passed along, turning his head to and fro, yawning
and gaping wide, with ougly demonstration of long teeth
and glaring eyes; and to bidde us farewell, coming fight
against the Hinde, he sent forth a horrible voice, roaring
and bellowing as doth a lion, which spectacle we all beheld
so far as we were able to discern the same, as men prone
to wonder at every strange thing. What opinion others
had thereof, and chiefly the General himself, I forbear to
deliver. But he took it for Bonum Omen, rejoicing that he
was to war against such an enemy if it were the devil."

We have no doubt that he did think it was the devil;
men in those days believing really that evil was more
than a principle or a necessary accident, and that in all
their labour for God and for right, they must make their
account to have to fight with the devil in his proper person.
But if we are to call it superstition, and if this were
no devil in the form of a roaring lion, but a mere great
seal or sea-lion, it is a more innocent superstition to
impersonate so real a power, and it requires a bolder
heart to rise up against it and defy it in its living terror,
than to sublimate it away into a philosophical principle,
and to forget to battle with it in speculating on its origin
and nature. But to follow the brave Sir Humfrey,
whose work of fighting with the devil was now over, and
who was passing to his reward. The 2nd of September
the General came on board the Golden Hinde "to make
merry with us." He greatly deplored the loss of his
books and papers; and Mr. Hayes considered that the
loss of manuscripts could not be so very distressing,
and that there must have been something behind, certain
gold ore, for instance, which had perished also--
considerations not perhaps of particular value. He was
full of confidence from what he had seen, and talked
with all eagerness and warmth of the new expedition
for the following spring. Apocryphal gold-mines still
occupying the minds of Mr. Hayes and others, who were
persuaded that Sir Humfrey was keeping to himself some
such discovery which he had secretly made, and they
tried hard to extract it from him. They could make
nothing, however, of his odd ironical answers, and their
sorrow at the catastrophe which followed is sadly blended
with disappointment that such a secret should have
perished. Sir Humfrey doubtless saw America with
other eyes than theirs, and gold-mines richer than
California in its huge rivers and savannahs.

"Leaving the issue of this good hope (about the gold),"
continues Mr. Hayes, "to God, who only knoweth the truth
thereof, I will hasten to the end of this tragedy, which must
be knit up in the person of our General, and as it was God's
ordinance upon him, even so the vehement persuasion of
his friends could nothing avail to divert him from his wilful
resolution of going in his frigate; and when he was
entreated by the captain, master, and others, his well-wishers
in the Hinde, not to venture, this was his answer--'I will
not forsake my little company going homewards, with whom
I have passed so many storms and perils.'"

Albeit, thinks the writer, who is unable to comprehend
such high gallantry, there must have been something on
his mind of what the world would say of him, "and it
was rather rashness than advised resolution to prefer
the wind of a vain report to the weight of his own life,"
for the writing of which sentence we will trust the
author, either in this world or the other, has before this
done due penance and repented of it.

Two-thirds of the way home they met foul weather
and terrible seas, "breaking short and pyramid-wise."
Men who had all their lives "occupied the sea" had
never seen it more outrageous. "We had also upon
our mainyard an apparition of a little fire by night,
which seamen do call Castor and Pollux."

"Monday, the ninth of September, in the afternoon, the
frigate was near cast away oppressed by waves, but at that
time recovered, and giving forth signs of joy, the General,
sitting abaft with a book in his hand, cried unto us in the
Hinde so often as we did approach within hearing, 'We
are as near to heaven by sea as by land,' reiterating the
same speech, well beseeming a soldier resolute in Jesus
Christ, as I can testify that he was. The same Monday
night, about twelve of the clock, or not long after, the frigate
being a-head of us in the Golden Hinde, suddenly her lights
were out, whereof as it were in a moment we lost the sight;
and withal our watch cried, 'The General was cast away,'
which was too true."

So stirbt ein Held. It was a fine end for a mortal
man. We will not call it sad or tragic, but heroic and
sublime; and if our eyes water as we write it down,
it is not with sorrow, but with joy and pride.

"Thus faithfully," concludes Mr. Hayes (in some degree
rising above himself), "I have related this story, wherein
some spark of the knight's virtues, though he be
extinguished, may happily appear; he remaining resolute to a
purpose honest and godly as was this, to discover, possess,
and reduce unto the service of God and Christian piety,
those remote and heathen countries of America. Such is
the infinite bounty of God, who from every evil deriveth good,
that fruit may grow in time of our travelling in these
North-Western lands (as has it not grown?), and the crosses,
turmoils, and afflictions, both in the preparation and
execution of the voyage, did correct the intemperate humours
which before we noted to be in this gentleman, and made
unsavoury and less delightful his other manifold virtues.

"Thus as he was refined and made nearer unto the image
of God, so it pleased the Divine will to resume him unto
Himself, whither both his and every other high and noble
mind have always aspired."

Such was Sir Humfrey Gilbert; we know but little
more of him, and we can only conjecture that he
was still in the prime of his years when the Atlantic
swallowed him. Like the gleam of a landscape lit
suddenly for a moment by the lightning, these few
scenes flash down to us across the centuries; but what
a life must that have been of which this was the
conclusion! He was one of a race which have ceased to
be. We look round for them, and we can hardly
believe that the same blood is flowing in our veins.
Brave we may still be, and strong perhaps as they,
but the high moral grace which made bravery and
strength so beautiful is departed from us for ever.

Our space is sadly limited for historical portrait
painting; but we must find room for another of that
Greenaway party whose nature was as fine as that of
Gilbert, and who intellectually was more largely gifted.
The latter was drowned in 1583. In 1585 John Davis
left Dartmouth on his first voyage into the Polar seas;
and twice subsequently he went again, venturing in
small ill-equipped vessels of thirty or forty tons into the
most dangerous seas. These voyages were as remarkable
for their success as for the daring with which they
were accomplished, and Davis's epitaph is written on the
map of the world, where his name still remains to
commemorate his discoveries. Brave as he was, he is
distinguished by a peculiar and exquisite sweetness of
nature, which, from many little facts of his life, seems to
have affected every one with whom he came in contact
in a remarkable degree. We find men, for the love of
Master Davis, leaving their firesides to sail with him,
without other hope or motion; and silver bullets were
cast to shoot him in a mutiny; the hard rude natures of
the mutineers being awed by something in his carriage
which was not like that of a common man. He has
written the account of one of his northern voyages
himself; one of those, by the by, which the Hakluyt
Society have mutilated; and there is an imaginative
beauty in it, and a rich delicacy of expression, which is
a true natural poetry, called out in him by the first sight
of strange lands and things and people.

To show what he was, we should have preferred, if
possible, to have taken the story of his expedition into
the South Seas, in which, under circumstances of singular
difficulty, he was deserted by Candish, under whom
he had sailed; and after inconceivable trials, from famine,
mutiny, and storm, ultimately saved himself and his
ship, and such of the crew as had chosen to submit to
his orders. But it is a long history, and will not admit
of being mutilated. As an instance of the stuff of which
it was composed, he ran back in the black night in a
gale of wind through the Straits of Magellan, by a chart
which he had made with the eye in passing up. His
anchors were lost or broken; the cables were parted.
He could not bring up the ship; there was nothing for
it but to run, and he carried her safe through along
a channel often not three miles broad, sixty miles
from end, and twisting like the reaches of a river.
For the present, however, we are forced to content
ourselves with a few sketches out of the north-west
voyages. Here is one, for instance, which shows how
an Englishman could deal with the Indians. Davis had
landed at Gilbert's Sound, and gone up the country
exploring. On his return, he found his crew loud in
complaints of the thievish propensities of the natives,
and urgent to have an example made of some of them.
On the next occasion he fired a gun at them with blank
cartridge; but their nature was still too strong for them.

"Seeing iron," he says, "they could in no case forbear
stealing; which, when I perceived, it did but minister
to me occasion of laughter to see their simplicity, and I
willed that they should not be hardly used, but that our
company should be more diligent to keep their things,
supposing it to be very hard in so short a time to make
them know their evils."

In his own way, however, he took an opportunity of
administering a lesson to them of a more wholesome
kind than could be given with gunpowder and bullets
Like the rest of his countrymen, he believed the savage
Indians in their idolatries to be worshippers of the devil.
"They are witches," he says; "they have images in
great store, and use many kinds of enchantments."
And these enchantments they tried on one occasion to
put in force against himself and his crew.

"Being on shore on the 4th day of July, one of them
made a long oration, and then kindled a fire, into which
with many strange words and gestures he put divers things,
which we supposed to be a sacrifice. Myself and certain
of my company standing by, they desired us to go into
the smoke. I desired them to go into the smoke, which
they would by no means do. I then took one of them
and thrust him into the smoke, and willed one of my
company to tread out the fire, and spurn it into the sea,
which was done to show them that we did contemn their

It is a very English story--exactly what a modern
Englishman would do; only, perhaps, not believing that
there was any real devil in the case, which makes a
difference. However, real or not real, after seeing him
patiently put up with such an injury, we will hope the
poor Greenlander had less respect for the devil than

Leaving Gilbert's Sound, Davis went on to the north-west,
and in lat. 63^0 fell in with a barrier of ice, which
he coasted for thirteen days without finding an opening.
The very sight of an iceberg was new to all his crew;
and the ropes and shrouds, though it was midsummer,
becoming compassed with ice,--

"The people began to fall sick and faint-hearted--
whereupon, very orderly, with good discretion, they
entreated me to regard the safety of mine own life, as well
as the preservation of theirs; and that I should not,
through overbouldness, leave their widows and fatherless
children to give me bitter curses.

"Whereupon, seeking counsel of God, it pleased His
Divine Majesty to move my heart to prosecute that which
I hope shall be to His glory, and to the contentation of
every Christian mind."

He had two vessels, one of some burthen, the other a
pinnace of thirty tons. The result of the counsel which
he had sought was, that he made over his own large
vessel to such as wished to return, and himself "thinking
it better to die with honour than to return with
infamy," went on, with such volunteers as would follow
him, in a poor leaky cutter, up the sea now called
Davis's Straits, in commemoration of that adventure,
4^0 north of the furthest known point, among storms and
icebergs, by which the long days and twilight nights
alone saved him from being destroyed, and, coasting
back along the American shore, discovered Hudson's
Straits, supposed then to be the long-desired entrance
into the Pacific. This exploit drew the attention of
Walsingham, and by him Davis was presented to
Burleigh, "who was also pleased to show him great
encouragement." If either these statesmen or Elizabeth
had been twenty years younger, his name would have
filled a larger space in history than a small corner of the
map of the world; but if he was employed at all in the
last years of the century, no vales sacer has been found
to celebrate his work, and no clue is left to guide us.
He disappears; a cloud falls over him. He is known
to have commanded trading vessels in the Eastern seas,
and to have returned five times from India. But the
details are all lost, and accident has only parted the
clouds for a moment to show us the mournful setting
with which he, too, went down upon the sea.

In taking out Sir Edward Michellthorne to India, in
1604, he fell in with a crew of Japanese, whose ship
had been burnt, drifting at sea, without provisions, in
a leaky junk. He supposed them to be pirates, but he
did not choose to leave them to so wretched a death,
and took them on board, and in a few hours, watching
their opportunity, they murdered him.

As the fool dieth, so dieth the wise, and there is no
difference; it was the chance of the sea, and the ill
reward of a humane action--a melancholy end for such
a man--like the end of a warrior, not dying Epaminondas-like
on the field of victory, but cut off in some poor
brawl or ambuscade. But so it was with all these men.
They were cut off in the flower of their days, and few
indeed of them laid their bones in the sepulchres of their
fathers. They knew the service which they had chosen,
and they did not ask the wages for which they had not
laboured. Life with them was no summer holyday, but
a holy sacrifice offered up to duty, and what their
Master sent was welcome. Beautiful is old age--beautiful
as the slow-dropping mellow autumn of a rich glorious
summer. In the old man, nature has fulfilled her work;
she loads him with her blessings; she fills him with
the fruits of a well-spent life; and, surrounded by his
children and his children's children, she rocks him
softly away to a grave, to which he is followed with
blessings. God forbid we should not call it beautiful.
It is beautiful, but not the most beautiful. There is
another life, hard, rough, and thorny, trodden with
bleeding feet and aching brow; the life of which the
cross is the symbol; a battle which no peace follows,
this side the grave; which the grave gapes to finish,
before the victory is won; and--strange that it should
be so--this is the highest life of man. Look back
along the great names of history; there is none whose
life has been other than this. They to whom it has
been given to do the really highest work in this earth--
whoever they are, Jew or Gentile, Pagan or Christian,
warriors, legislators, philosophers, priests, poets, kings,
slaves--one and all, their fate has been the same--the
same bitter cup has been given to them to drink; and
so it was with the servants of England in the sixteenth
century. Their life was a long battle, either with the
elements or with men, and it was enough for them to
fulfil their work, and to pass away in the hour when
God had nothing more to bid them do. They did not
complain, and why should we complain for them?
Peaceful life was not what they desired, and an
honourable death had no terrors for them. Theirs was
the old Grecian spirit, and the great heart of the
Theban poet lived again in them:--

thanein d' oisin anagka
ti ke tis ananumon geras en skoto
kathemenos epsoi matan, apanton
kalon ammoros

"Seeing" in Gilbert's own brave words, "that death
is inevitable, and the fame of virtue is immortal;
wherefore in this behalf mutare vel timere sperno."

In the conclusion of these light sketches we pass
into an element different from that in which we have
been lately dwelling. The scenes in which Gilbert and
Davis played out their high natures were of the kind
which we call peaceful, and the enemies with which
they contended were principally the ice and the wind,
and the stormy seas and the dangers of unknown and
savage lands; we shall close amidst the roar of cannon,
and the wrath and rage of battle. Hume, who alludes
to the engagement which we are going to describe,
speaks of it in a tone which shows that he looked at it
as something portentous and prodigious; as a thing to
wonder at--but scarcely as deserving the admiration
which we pay to actions properly within the scope of
humanity--and as if the energy which was displayed in
it was like the unnatural strength of madness. He
does not say this, but he appears to feel it; and he
scarcely would have felt it, if he had cared more deeply
to saturate himself with the temper of the age of which
he was writing. At the time all England and all the
world rang with the story. It struck a deeper terror,
though it was but the action of a single ship, into the
hearts of the Spanish people--it dealt a more deadly
blow upon their fame and moral strength, than the
destruction of the Armada itself; and in the direct
results which arose from it, it was scarcely less
disastrous to them. Hardly, as it seems to us, if the most
glorious actions which are set like jewels in the history
of mankind are weighed one against the other in the
balance, hardly will those 300 Spartans who in the
summer morning sate "combing their long hair--for
death" in the passes of Thermopylae, have earned a
more lofty estimate for themselves than this one crew
of modern Englishmen.

In August, 1591, Lord Thomas Howard, with six
English line-of-battle ships, six victuallers, and two or
three pinnaces, were lying at anchor under the Island
of Florez. Light in ballast and short of water, with
half their men disabled by sickness, they were unable
to pursue the aggressive purpose on which they had been
sent out. Several of the ships' crews were on shore:
the ships themselves "all pestered and rommaging,"
with everything out of order. In this condition they
were surprised by a Spanish fleet consisting of 53
men-of-war. Eleven out of the twelve English ships obeyed
the signal of the Admiral, to cut or weigh their anchors
and escape as they might. The twelfth, the Revenge,
was unable for the moment to follow; of her crew of
190, 90 being sick on shore, and, from the position
of the ship, there was some delay and difficulty in
getting them on board. The Revenge was commanded
by Sir Richard Grenville, of Bideford, a man well
known in the Spanish seas, and the terror of the Spanish
sailors; so fierce he was said to be, that mythic
stories passed from lip to lip about him, and, like Earl
Talbot or Coeur de Lion, the nurses at the Azores
frightened children with the sound of his name. "He
was of great revenues," they said, "of his own inheritance,
but of unquiet mind, and greatly affected to
wars," and from his uncontrollable propensities for
blood-eating, he had volunteered his services to the
Queen; "of so hard a complexion was he, that I (John
Huighen von Linschoten, who is our authority here,
and who was with the Spanish fleet after the action)
have been told by divers credible persons who stood
and beheld him, that he would carouse three or four
glasses of wine, and take the glasses between his teeth
and crush them in pieces and swallow them down."
Such he was to the Spaniard. To the English he was a
goodly and gallant gentleman, who had never turned his
back upon an enemy, and was remarkable in that
remarkable time for his constancy and daring. In this
surprise at Florez he was in no haste to fly. He first
saw all his sick on board and stowed away on the
ballast, and then, with no more than 100 men left him
to fight and work the ship, he deliberately weighed,
uncertain, as it seemed at first, what he intended to do.
The Spanish fleet were by this time on his weather bow,
and he was persuaded (we here take his cousin Raleigh's
beautiful narrative and follow it in his words) "to cut
his mainsail and cast about, and trust to the sailing of
the ship."

"But Sir Richard utterly refused to turn from the enemy,
alledging that he would rather choose to die than to
dishonour himself, his country, and her Majesty's ship,
persuading his company that he would pass through their two
squadrons in spite of them, and enforce those of Seville to
give him way, which he performed upon diverse of the foremost,
who, as the mariners term it, sprang their luff, and fell
under the lee of the Revenge. But the other course had
been the better: and might right well have been answered in
so great an impossibility of prevailing: notwithstanding, out
of the greatness of his mind, he could not be persuaded."

The wind was light; the San Philip, "a huge highcarged
ship" of 1500 tons, came up to windward of
him, and, taking the wind out of his sails, ran aboard

"After the Revenge was entangled with the San Philip,
four others boarded her, two on her larboard and two on
her starboard. The fight thus beginning at three o'clock in
the afternoon continued very terrible all that evening. But
the great San Philip, having received the lower tier of the
Revenge, shifted herself with all diligence from her sides,
utterly misliking her first entertainment. The Spanish ships
were filled with soldiers, in some 200, besides the mariners,
in some 500, in others 800. In ours there were none at all,
besides the mariners, but the servants of the commander
and some few voluntary gentlemen only. After many interchanged
vollies of great ordnance and small shot, the
Spaniards deliberated to enter the Revenge, and made
divers attempts, hoping to force her by the multitude of
their armed soldiers and musketeers; but were still repulsed
again and again, and at all times beaten back into their own
ship or into the sea. In the beginning of the fight the
George Noble, of London, having received some shot through
her by the Armadas, fell under the lee of the Revenge, and
asked Sir Richard what he would command him; but being
one of the victuallers, and of small force, Sir Richard bade
him save himself and leave him to his fortune."

A little touch of gallantry, which we should be
glad to remember with the honour due to the brave
English heart who commanded the George Noble; but
his name has passed away, and his action is an in
memoriam, on which time has effaced the writing.
All that August night the fight continued, the stars
rolling over in their sad majesty, but unseen through the
sulphur clouds which hung over the scene. Ship
after ship of the Spaniards came on upon the Revenge,
"so that never less than two mighty galleons were at
her side and aboard her," washing up like waves upon a
rock, and failing foiled and shattered back amidst the
roar of the artillery. Before morning fifteen several
armadas had assailed her, and all in vain; some had
been sunk at her side; and the rest, "so ill approving
of their entertainment, that at break of day they
were far more willing to hearken to a composition, than
hastily to make more assaults or entries." "But as the
day increased so our men decreased, and as the light
grew more and more, by so much the more grew our
discomfort, for none appeared in sight but enemies,
save one small ship called the Pilgrim, commanded
by Jacob Whiddon, who hovered all night to see the
success, but in the morning bearing with the Revenge
was hunted like a hare among many ravenous hounds--
but escaped."

All the powder in the Revenge was now spent, all
her pikes were broken, 40 out of her 100 men killed,
and a great number of the rest wounded. Sir Richard,
though badly hurt early in the battle, never forsook
the deck till an hour before midnight; and was then
shot through the body while his wounds were being
dressed, and again in the head; and his surgeon was
killed while attending on him. The masts were lying
over the side, the rigging cut or broken, the upper
works all shot in pieces, and the ship herself, unable to
move, was settling slowly in the sea; the vast fleet of
Spaniards lying round her in a ring like dogs round a
dying lion, and wary of approaching him in his last
agony. Sir Richard seeing that it was past hope,
having fought for fifteen hours, and "having by
estimation eight hundred shot of great artillery through
him," "commanded the master gunner, whom he knew
to be a most resolute man, to split and sink the ship,
that thereby nothing might remain of glory or victory
to the Spaniards; seeing in so many hours they were
not able to take her, having had above fifteen hours
time, above ten thousand men, and fifty-three men-of-war
to perform it withal; and persuaded the company,
or as many as he could induce, to yield themselves
unto God and to the mercy of none else; but as they
had, like valiant resolute men, repulsed so many
enemies, they should not now shorten the honour of
their nation by prolonging their own lives for a few
hours or a few days."

The gunner and a few others consented. But such
daimonie arete was more than could be expected of
ordinary seamen. They had dared do all which did
become men, and they were not more than men, at
least than men were then. Two Spanish ships had
gone down, above 1500 men were killed, and the
Spanish Admiral could not induce any one of the
rest of his fleet to board the Revenge again,
"doubting lest Sir Richard would have blown up himself
and them knowing his dangerous disposition." Sir Richard
lying disabled below, the captain finding the Spaniards
as ready to entertain a composition as they could be
to offer it, gained over the majority of the surviving
crew; and the remainder then drawing back from
the master gunner, they all, without further consulting
their dying commander, surrendered on honourable
terms. If unequal to the English in action, the
Spaniards were at least as courteous in victory. It is
due to them to say, that the conditions were faithfully
observed. And "the ship being marvellous unsavourie,"
Alonzo de Bacon, the Spanish Admiral, sent his boat
to bring Sir Richard on board his own vessel.

Sir Richard, whose life was fast ebbing away, replied,
that "he might do with his body what he list, for that
he esteemed it not; and as he was carried out of the
ship he swooned, and reviving again, desired the company
to pray for him."

The Admiral used him with all humanity, "commending
his valour and worthiness, being unto them a
rare spectacle and a resolution seldom approved." The
officers of the rest of the fleet, too, John Higgins tells
us, crowded round to look at him, and a new fight
had almost broken out between the Biscayans and the
"Portugals," each claiming the honour of having boarded
the Revenge.

"In a few hours Sir Richard, feeling his end approaching,
showed not any sign of faintness, but spake these words
in Spanish, and said, 'Here die I, Richard Grenville, with
a joyful and quiet mind, for that I have ended my life
as a true soldier ought to do that hath fought for his
country, queen, religion, and honour. Whereby my soul
most joyfully departeth out of this body, and shall always
leave behind it an everlasting fame of a valiant and true
soldier that hath done his duty as he was bound to do.'
When he had finished these or other such like words,
he gave up the ghost with great and stout courage, and
no man could perceive any sign of heaviness in him."

Such was the fight at Florez, in that August of 1591,
without its equal in such of the annals of mankind as
the thing which we call history has preserved to us;
scarcely equalled by the most glorious fate which the
imagination of Barrere could invent for the Vengeur;
nor did it end without a sequel awful as itself.
Sea battles have been often followed by storms, and
without a miracle; but with a miracle, as the Spaniards
and the English alike believed, or without one, as we
moderns would prefer believing, "there ensued on this
action a tempest so terrible as was never seen or heard
the like before." A fleet of merchantmen joined the
armada immediately after the battle, forming in all 140
sail; and of these 140, only 32 ever saw Spanish harbour.
The rest all foundered, or were lost on the Azores.
The men-of-war had been so shattered by shot as to be
unable to carry sail, and the Revenge herself, disdaining
to survive her commander, or as if to complete his own
last baffled purpose, like Samson, buried herself and
her 200 prize crew under the rocks of St. Michael's.

"And it my well be thought and presumed," says John
Huyghen, "that it was no other than a just plague purposely
sent upon the Spaniards; and that it might be truly said,
the taking of the Revenge was justly revenged on them;
and not by the might of force of man, but by the power
of God. As some of them openly said in the Isle of
Terceira, that they believed verily God would consume
them, and that he took part with the Lutherans and heretics
... saying further, that so soon as they had thrown
the dead body of the Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Grenville
overboard, they verily thought that as he had a devilish
faith and religion, and therefore the devil loved him, so
he presently sunk into the bottom of the sea and down
into hell, where he raised up all the devils to the revenge
of his death, and that they brought so great a storm and
torments upon the Spaniards, because they only maintained
the Catholic and Romish religion. Such and the like
blasphemies against God they ceased not openly to utter."


The question will one day be asked, how it has been
that, in spite of the high pretensions of us English to a
superior reverence for the Bible, we have done so little
in comparison with our continental contemporaries
towards arriving at a proper understanding of it? The
books named below * form but a section of a long list
which has appeared in the last few years on the Book of
Job alone; and this book has not received any larger
share of attention than the others, either of the Old or
the New Testament. Whatever be the nature or the
origin of these books, (and on this point there is much
difference of opinion among the Germans as among
ourselves,) they are all agreed, orthodox and unorthodox,
that at least we should endeavour to understand them;
and that no efforts can be too great, either of research
or criticism, to discover their history, or elucidate their
* I. Die poetischen Bucher des Alten Bundes. Erklart von
Heinrich Ewald. Gottingen: bei Vanderhoeck und Ruprecht.
2. Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuck zum Alten Testament.
Zweite Lieferund. Hiob Von Ludwig Hirzel. Zweite Auflage,
durchgesehen von Dr. Justus Olshausen. Leipzig. 1852.
3. Quaestionum in Jobeidos locos vexatos Specimen. Von D.
Hermannus Hupfeld. Halis Saxonum. 1853.

We shall assent, doubtless, eagerly, perhaps noisily
and indignantly, to so obvious a truism; but our own
efforts in the same direction will not bear us out. The
able men in England employ themselves in matters of a
more practical character; and while we refuse to avail
ourselves of what has been done elsewhere, no book,
or books, which we produce on the interpretation of
Scripture acquire more than a partial or an ephemeral
reputation. The most important contribution to our
knowledge on this subject which has been made in
these recent years, is the translation of the "Library
of the Fathers," by which it is about as rational to
suppose that the analytical criticism of modern times
can be superseded, as that the place of Herman and
Dindoff could be supplied by an edition of the old

It is, indeed, reasonable that, as long as we are
persuaded that our English theory of the Bible, as a whole,
is the right one, we should shrink from contact with
investigations, which, however ingenious in themselves,
are based on what we know to be a false foundation.
But there are some learned Germans whose orthodoxy
would pass examination at Exeter Hail; and there are
many subjects, such, for instance, as the present, on
which all their able men are agreed in conclusions that
cannot rationally give offence to any one. For the
Book of Job, analytical criticism has only served to clear
up the uncertainties which have hitherto always hung
about it. It is now considered to be, beyond all doubt,
a genuine Hebrew-original, completed by its writer
almost in the form in which it now remains to us. The
questions on the authenticity of the Prologue and
Epilogue, which once were thought important, have given
way before a more sound conception of the dramatic
unity of the entire poem; and the volumes before us
contain merely an inquiry into its meaning, bringing, at
the same time, all the resources of modern scholarship
and historical and mythological research to bear upon
the obscurity of separate passages. It is the most difficult
of all the Hebrew compositions--many words occurring
in it, and many thoughts, not to be found elsewhere in
the Bible. How difficult our translators found it may be
seen by the number of words which they were obliged
to insert in italics, and the doubtful renderings which
they have suggested in the margin. One instance of
this, in passing, we will notice in this place--it will be
familiar to everyone as the passage quoted at the opening
of the English burial service, and adduced as one of
the doctrinal proofs of the resurrection of the body: "I
know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand
at the latter day upon the earth; and though, after my
skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see
God." So this passage stands in the ordinary version.
But the words in italics have nothing answering to
them in the original--they were all added by the
translators to fill out their interpretation; and for in
my flesh, they tell us themselves in the margin that we
may read (and, in fact, we ought to read, and must read)
"out of," or "without" my flesh. It is but to write
out the verses omitting the conjectural additions, and
making that one small, but vital correction, to see how
frail a support is there for so large a conclusion; "I
know that my Redeemer liveth, and shall stand at the
latter... upon the earth; and after my skin...
destroy this...; yet without my flesh I shall see
God." If there is any doctrine of a resurrection here,
it is a resurrection precisely not of the body, but of the
spirit. And now let us only add that the word translated
Redeemer is the technical expression for the
"avenger of blood"; and that the second paragraph
ought to be rendered--"and one to come after me (my
next of kin, to whom the avenging my injuries belongs)
shall stand upon my dust," and we shall see how much
was to be done towards the mere exegesis of the text.
This is an extreme instance, and no one will question
the general beauty and majesty of our translation; but
there are many mythical and physical allusions scattered
over the poem, which, in the sixteenth century, there
were positively no means of understanding; and perhaps,
too, there were mental tendencies in the translators
themselves which prevented them from adequately
apprehending even the drift and spirit of it. The form
of the story was too stringent to allow such tendencies
any latitude; but they appear, from time to time,
sufficiently to produce serious confusion. With these
recent assistances, therefore, we propose to say something
of the nature of this extraordinary book--a
book of which it is to say little to call it unequalled
of its kind, and which will, one day, perhaps, when it
is allowed to stand on its own merits, be seen towering
up alone, far away above all the poetry of the
world. How it found its way into the Canon, smiting as
it does through and through the most deeply-seated
Jewish prejudices, is the chief difficulty about it now;
to be explained only by a traditional acceptance among
the sacred books, dating back from the old times of the
national greatness, when the minds of the people were
hewn in a larger type than was to be found among
the pharisees of the great synagogue. But its authorship,
its date, and its history, are alike a mystery to
us; it existed at the time when the Canon was composed;
and this is all that we know beyond what we
can gather out of the language and the contents of the
poem itself.

Before going further, however, we must make room
for a few remarks of a very general kind. Let it have
been written when it would, it marks a period in which
the religious convictions of thinking men were passing
through a vast crisis; and we shall not understand it
without having before us clearly something of the
conditions which periods of such a kind always and
necessarily exhibit.

The history of religious speculation appears in extreme
outline to have been of the following kind. We
may conceive mankind to have been originally launched
into the universe with no knowledge either of themselves
or of the scene in which they were placed; with
no actual knowledge, but distinguished from the rest
of the creation by a faculty of gaining knowledge;
and first unconsciously, and afterwards consciously and
laboriously, to have commenced that long series of
experience and observation which has accumulated in
thousands of years to what we now see around us.
Limited on all sides by conditions which they must
have felt to be none of their own imposing, and finding
everywhere forces working, over which they had no
control, the fear which they would naturally entertain
of these invisible and mighty agents, assumed, under
the direction of an idea which we may perhaps call
inborn and inherent in human nature, a more generous
character of reverence and awe. The laws of the outer
world, as they discovered them, they regarded as the
decrees, or as the immediate energies of personal beings;
and as knowledge grew up among them, they looked
upon it not as knowledge of nature, but of God, or the
gods. All early paganism appears, on careful examination,
to have arisen out of a consecration of the first
rudiments of physical or speculative science. The
twelve labours of Hercules are the labours of the sun,
of which Hercules is an old name, through the twelve
signs. Chronos, or time, being measured by the apparent
motion of the heavens, is figured as their child;
Time, the universal parent, devours its own offspring,
yet is again itself in the high faith of a human soul,
conscious of its power and its endurance, supposed to
be baffled and dethroned by Zeus, or life; and so on
through all the elaborate theogonies of Greece and
Egypt. They are no more than real insight into real
phenomena, allegorized as time went on, elaborated by
fancy, or idealized by imagination, but never losing
their original character.

Thus paganism, in its very nature, was expansive,
self-developing, and, as Mr. Hume observed, tolerant;
a new god was welcomed to the Pantheon as a new
scientific discovery is welcomed by the Royal Society;
and the various nations found no difficulty in interchanging
their divinities--a new god either representing
a new power not hitherto discovered, or one with which
they were already familiar under a new name. With
such a power of adaptation and enlargement, if there had
been nothing more in it than this, such a system might
have gone on accommodating itself to the change of
times, and keeping pace with the growth of human
character. Already in its later forms, as the unity of
nature was more clearly observed, and the identity of
it throughout the known world, the separate powers
were subordinating themselves to a single supreme
king; and, as the poets had originally personified the
elemental forces, the thinkers were reversing the earlier
process, and discovering the law under the person.
Happily or unhappily, however, what they could do
for themselves they could not do for the multitude.
Phoebus and Aphrodite had been made too human to
be allegorized. Humanized, and yet, we may say,
only half-humanized, retaining their purely physical
nature, and without any proper moral attribute at
all, these gods and goddesses remained, to the many,
examples of sensuality made beautiful; and, as soon
as right and wrong came to have a meaning, it was
impossible to worship any more these idealized
despisers of it. The human caprices and passions
which served at first to deepen the illusion, justly
revenged themselves. Paganism became a lie, and

In the meantime, the Jews (and perhaps some other
nations, but the Jews chiefly and principally) had been
moving forward along a road wholly different. Breaking
early away from the gods of nature, they advanced along
the line of their moral consciousness; and leaving the
nations to study physics, philosophy, and art, they
confined themselves to man and to human life. Their
theology grew up round the knowledge of good and
evil, and God, with them, was the supreme Lord of the
world, who stood towards man in the relation of a ruler
and a judge. Holding such a faith, to them the toleration
of paganism was an impossibility; the laws of
nature might be many, but the law of conduct was one;
there was one law and one king; and the conditions
under which He governed the world, as embodied in the
Decalogue or other similar code, were looked upon as
iron and inflexible certainties, unalterable revelations
of the will of an unalterable Being. So far there was
little in common between this process and the other;
but it was identical with it in this one important
feature, that moral knowledge, like physical, admitted
of degrees; and the successive steps of it were only
purchaseable by experience. The dispensation of the
law, in the language of modern theology, was not the
dispensation of grace, and the nature of good and evil
disclosed itself slowly as men were able to comprehend
it. Thus, no system of law or articles of belief were or
could be complete and exhaustive for all time. Experience
accumulates; new facts are observed, new forces
display themselves, and all such formulae must necessarily
be from period to period broken up and moulded
afresh. And yet the steps already gained are a treasure
so sacred, so liable are they at all times to be attacked
by those lower and baser elements in our nature which
it is their business to hold in check, that the better pan
of mankind have at all times practically regarded their
creed as a sacred total to which nothing may be added,
and from which nothing may be taken away; the suggestion
of a new idea is resented as an encroachment,
punished as an insidious piece of treason, and resisted
by the combined forces of all common practical understandings,
which know too well the value of what they
have, to risk the venture upon untried change. Periods
of religious transition, therefore, when the advance has
been a real one, always have been violent, and probably
will always continue to be so. They to whom the precious
gift of fresh light has been given are called upon
to exhibit their credentials as teachers in suffering for it.
They, and those who oppose them, have alike a sacred
cause; and the fearful spectacle arises of earnest,
vehement men, contending against each other as for their
own souls, in fiery struggle. Persecutions come, and
martyrdoms, and religious wars; and, at last, the old
faith, like the phoenix, expires upon its altar, and the
new rises out of the ashes.

Such, in briefest outline, has been the history of
religions, natural and moral; the first, indeed, being in
no proper sense a religion at all, as we understand
religion; and only assuming the character of it in the
minds of great men whose moral sense had raised them
beyond their time and country, and who, feeling the
necessity of a real creed, with an effort and with
indifferent success, endeavoured to express, under the
systems which they found, emotions which had no
proper place there.

Of the transition periods which we have described
as taking place under the religion which we call moral,
the first known to us is marked at its opening by the
appearance of the Book of Job, the first fierce collision
of the new fact with the formula which will not stretch
to cover it.

The earliest phenomenon likely to be observed connected
with the moral government of the world is the
general one, that on the whole, as things are constituted,
good men prosper and are happy, bad men fail and are
miserable. The cause of such a condition is no mystery,
and lies very near the surface. As soon as men combine
in society, they are forced to obey certain laws under
which alone society is possible, and these laws, even in
their rudest form, approach the laws of conscience. To
a certain extent, every one is obliged to sacrifice his
private inclinations; and those who refuse to do so are
punished, or are crushed. If society were perfect, the
imperfect tendency would carry itself out till the two
sets of laws were identical; but perfection so far has
been only in Utopia, and as far as we can judge by
experience hitherto, they have approximated most
nearly in the simplest and most rudimentary forms of
life. Under the systems which we call patriarchal, the
modern distinctions between sins and crimes had no
existence. All gross sins were offences against society,
as it then was constituted, and, wherever it was possible,
were punished as being so; chicanery and those subtle
advantages which the acute and unscrupulous can take
over the simple, without open breach of enacted statutes,
were only possible under the complications of more
artificial polities; and the oppression or injury of man
by man was open, violent, obvious, and therefore easily
understood. Doubtless, therefore, in such a state of
things, it would, on the whole, be true to experience,
that, judging merely by outward prosperity or the
reverse, good and bad men would be rewarded and
punished as such in this actual world; so far, that is,
as the administration of such rewards and punishments
was left in the power of mankind. But theology could
not content itself with general tendencies. Theological
propositions then, as much as now, were held to be
absolute, universal, admitting of no exceptions, and
explaining every phenomenon. Superficial generalizations
were construed into immutable decrees; the God
of this world was just and righteous, and temporal
prosperity or wretchedness were dealt out by him
immediately by his own will to his subjects, according
to their behaviour. Thus the same disposition towards
completeness which was the ruin of paganism, here, too,
was found generating the same evils; the half truth
rounding itself out with falsehoods. Not only the
consequence of ill actions which followed through
themselves, but the accidents, as we call them, of nature,
earthquakes, storms, and pestilences, were the ministers
of God's justice, and struck sinners only with
discriminating accuracy. That the sun should shine alike
on the evil and the good was a creed too high for the
early divines, or that the victims of a fallen tower were
no greater offenders than their neighbours. The
conceptions of such men could not pass beyond the
outward temporal consequence; and, if God's hand was not
there it was nowhere. We might have expected that
such a theory of things could not long resist the
accumulated contradictions of experience; but the same
experience shows also what a marvellous power is in us
of thrusting aside phenomena which interfere with our
cherished convictions; and when such convictions are
consecrated into a creed which it is a sacred duty to
believe, experience is but like water dropping upon a
rock, which wears it away, indeed, at last, but only in
thousands of years. This theory was and is the central
idea of the Jewish polity, the obstinate toughness of
which has been the perplexity of Gentiles and Christians
from the first dawn of its existence; it lingers among
ourselves in our Liturgy and in the popular belief; and
in spite of the emphatic censure of Him after whose
name we call ourselves, is still the instant interpreter
for us of any unusual calamity, a potato blight, a famine,
or an epidemic: such vitality is there in a moral faith,
though now, at any rate, contradicted by the experience
of all mankind, and at issue even with Christianity

At what period in the world's history misgivings about
it began to show themselves it is now impossible to
say; it was at the close, probably, of the patriarchal
period, when men who really thought must have found
it palpably shaking under them. Indications of such
misgivings are to be found in the Psalms, those especially
passing under the name of Asaph; and all through
Ecclesiastes there breathes a spirit of deepest and
saddest scepticism. But Asaph thrusts his doubts aside,
and forces himself back into his old position; and the
scepticism of Ecclesiastes is confessedly that of a man
who had gone wandering after enjoyment; searching
after pleasures--pleasures of sense and pleasures of
intellect--and who, at last, bears reluctant testimony
that, by such methods, no pleasures can be found which
will endure; that he had squandered the power which
might have been used for better things, and had only
strength remaining to tell his own sad tale as a warning
to mankind. There is nothing in Ecclesiastes like the
misgivings of a noble nature. The writer's own personal
happiness had been all for which he had cared; he had
failed, as all men gifted as he was gifted are sure to
fail, and the lights of heaven had been extinguished
by the disappointment with which his own spirit was

Utterly different from these, both in character and
in the lesson which it teaches, is the Book of Job. Of
unknown date, as we said, and unknown authorship, the
language impregnated with strange idioms and strange
allusions, unjewish in form, and in fiercest hostility with
Judaism, it hovers like a meteor over the old Hebrew
literature, in it, but not of it, compelling the
acknowledgment of itself by its own internal majesty, yet
exerting no influence over the minds of the people,
never alluded to, and scarcely ever quoted, till at last
the light which it had heralded rose up full over the
world in Christianity.

The conjectures which have been formed upon the
date of it are so various, that they show of themselves
on how slight a foundation the best of them must
rest. The language is no guide, for although unquestionably
of Hebrew origin, it bears no analogy to any of the
other books in the Bible; while, of its external history,
nothing is known at all, except that it was received into
the Canon at the time of the great synagogue. Ewald
decides, with some confidence, that it belongs to the
great prophetic period, and that the writer was a
contemporary of Jeremiah. Ewald is a high authority
in these matters, and this opinion is the one which
we believe is now commonly received among biblical
scholars. In the absence of proof, however, (and the
reasons which he brings forward are really no more than
conjectures) these opposite considerations may be of
moment. It is only natural that at first thought we
should ascribe the grandest poem in a literature to the
time at which the poetry of the nation to which it
belongs was generally at its best: but, on reflection,
the time when the poetry of prophecy is the richest, is
not likely to be favourable to compositions of another
kind. The prophets wrote in an era of decrepitude,
dissolution, sin, and shame, when the glory of Israel
was filling round them into ruin, and their mission,
glowing as they were with the ancient spirit, was to
rebuke, to warn, to threaten, and to promise. Finding
themselves too late to save, and only, like Cassandra,
despised and disregarded, their voices rise up singing
the swan song of a dying people, now falling away in
the wild wailing of despondency over the shameful and
desperate present, now swelling in triumphant hope
that God will not leave them forever, and in his own
time will take his chosen to himself again. But such a
period is an ill-occasion for searching into the broad
problems of human destiny; the present is all-important
and all-absorbing; and such a book as that of Job
could have arisen only out of an isolation of mind, and
life, and interest, which we cannot conceive of as

The more it is studied, the more the conclusion
forces itself upon us that, let the writer have lived when
he would, in his struggle with the central falsehood of
his own people's creed, he must have divorced himself
from them outwardly as well as inwardly; that he
travelled away into the world, and lived long, perhaps
all his matured life, in exile. Everything about the
book speaks of a person who had broken free from
the narrow littleness of "the peculiar people." The
language, as we said, is full of strange words. The
hero of the poem is of strange land and parentage, a
Gentile certainly, not a Jew. The life, the manners,
the customs, are of all varieties and places--Egypt,
with its river and its pyramids, is there; the description
of mining points to Phoenicia; the settled life in cities,
the nomad Arabs, the wandering caravans, the heat of
the tropics, and the ice of the north, all are foreign to
Canaan, speaking of foreign things and foreign people.
No mention, or hint of mention, is there throughout
the poem, of Jewish traditions or Jewish certainties.
We look to find the three friends vindicate themselves,
as they so well might have done, by appeals to the
fertile annals of Israel, to the Flood, to the cities of the
plain, to the plagues of Egypt, or the thunders of Sinai.
But of all this there is not a word; they are passed by
as if they had no existence; and instead of them, when
witnesses are required for the power of God, we have
strange un-Hebrew stories of the eastern astronomic
mythology, the old wars of the giants, the imprisoned
Orion, the wounded dragon, "the sweet influences of
the seven stars," and the glittering fragments of the
sea-snake Rahab trailing across the northern sky.
Again, God is not the God of Israel, but the father of
mankind; we hear nothing of a chosen people, nothing
of a special revelation, nothing of peculiar privileges;
and in the court of heaven there is a Satan, not the
prince of this world and the enemy of God, but the
angel of judgment, the accusing spirit whose mission
was to walk to and fro over the earth, and carry up to
heaven an account of the sins of mankind. We cannot
believe that thoughts of this kind arose out of Jerusalem
in the days of Josiah. In this book, if anywhere, we
have the record of some aner polutropos who, like the
old hero of Ithaca,

pollon anthropon iden astea kai voon egno
polla d' hog'en tonto tathen algea hon kata thumon,
arnumenos psuchen

but the scenes, the names, and the incidents, are all
contrived as if to baffle curiosity, as if, in the very form
of the poem, to teach us that it is no story of a single
thing which happened once, but that it belongs to
humanity itself, and is the drama of the trial of man,
with Almighty God and the angels as the spectators
of it.

No reader can have failed to have been struck with
the simplicity of the opening. Still, calm, and most
majestic, it tells us everything which is necessary to be
known in the fewest possible words. The history of
Job was probably a tradition in the east; his name, like
that of Priam in Greece, the symbol of fallen greatness,
and his misfortunes the problem of philosophers. In
keeping with the current belief, he is described as a
model of excellence, the most perfect and upright man
upon the earth, "and the same was the greatest man in
all the east." So far, greatness and goodness had gone
hand in hand together, as the popular theory required.
The details of his character are brought out in the
progress of the poem. He was "the father of the
oppressed, and of those who had none to help them."
When he sat as a judge in the market-places,
"righteousness clothed him" there, and "his justice was
a robe and a diadem." He "broke the jaws of the
wicked and plucked the spoil out of his teeth;" and,
humble in the midst of his power, he "did not despise
the cause of his manservant, or his maidservant, when
they contended with him," knowing (and amidst those
old people where the multitude of mankind were
regarded as the born slaves of the powerful, to be carved
into eunuchs or polluted into concubines at their
master's pleasure, it was no easy matter to know it)
knowing "that He who had made him had made
them," and one "had fashioned them both in the
womb." Above all, he was the friend of the poor,
"the blessing of him that was ready to perish came
upon him," and he "made the widow's heart to sing
for joy."

Setting these characteristics of his daily life by the
side of his unaffected piety, as it is described in the first
chapter, we have a picture of the best man who could
then be conceived; not a hard ascetic, living in haughty
or cowardly isolation, but a warm figure of flesh and
blood, a man full of all human loveliness, and to whom,
that no room might be left for any possible Calvinistic
falsehood, God himself bears the emphatic testimony,
"that there was none like him upon the earth, a perfect
and upright man, who feared God and eschewed evil."
If such a person as this, therefore, could be made
miserable, necessarily the current belief of the Jews
was false to the root; and tradition furnished the fact
that he had been visited by every worst calamity.
How was it then to be accounted for? Out of a thousand
possible explanations, the poet introduces a single
one. He admits us behind the veil which covers the
ways of Providence, and we hear the accusing angel
charging Job with an interested piety, and of being
obedient because it was his policy. "Job does not
serve God for nought," he says; "strip him of his
splendour, and see if he will care for God then.
Humble him into poverty and wretchedness, so only
we shall know what is in his heart." The cause thus
introduced is itself a rebuke to the belief which, with
its "rewards and punishments," immediately fostered
selfishness; and the poem opens with a double action,
on one side to try the question whether it is possible for
man to love God disinterestedly--the issue of which
trial is not foreseen or even foretold, and we watch the
progress of it with an anxious and fearful interest--on
the other side, to bring out in contrast to the truth
which we already know, the cruel falsehood of the
popular faith, to show how, instead of leading men to
mercy and affection, it hardens their heart, narrows their
sympathies, and enhances the trials of the sufferer, by
refinements which even Satan had not anticipated. The
combination of evils, as blow falls on blow, suddenly,
swiftly, and terribly, has all the appearance of a purposed
visitation (as indeed it was;) if ever outward incidents
might with justice be interpreted as the immediate
action of Providence, those which fell on Job might be
so interpreted. The world turns disdainfully from the
fallen in the world's way; but far worse than this, his
chosen friends, wise, good, pious men, as wisdom and
piety were then, without one glimpse of the true cause
of his sufferings, see in them a judgment upon his secret
sins. He becomes to them an illustration, and even
(such are the paralogisms of men of this description) a
proof of their theory "that the prosperity of the wicked
is but for a while;" and instead of the comfort and help
which they might have brought him, and which in the
end they were made to bring him, he is to them no
more than a text for the enunciation of solemn falsehood.
And even worse again, the sufferer himself had been
educated in the same creed; he, too, had been taught
to see the hand of God in the outward dispensation;
and feeling from the bottom of his heart, that he, in
his own case, was a sure contradiction of what he had
learnt to believe, he himself finds his very faith in God
shaken from its foundation. The worst evils which
Satan had devised were distanced far by those which
had been created by human folly.

The creed in which Job had believed was tried and
found wanting, and, as it ever will be when the facts of
experience come in contact with the inadequate formula,
the true is found so mingled with the false, that they
can hardly be disentangled, and are in danger of being
swept away together.

A studied respect is shown, however, to this orthodoxy;
even while it is arraigned for judgment. It may be
doubtful whether the writer purposely intended it. He
probably cared only to tell the real truth; to say for
it the best which could be said, and to produce as its
defenders the best and wisest men whom in his experience
he had known to believe and defend it. At any
rate, he represents the three friends, not as a weaker
person would have represented them, as foolish, obstinate
bigots, but as wise, humane, and almost great men,
who, at the outset, at least, are animated only by the
kindest feelings, and speak what they have to say with
the most earnest conviction that it is true. Job is
vehement, desperate, reckless. His language is the
wild, natural outpouring of suffering. The friends, true
to the eternal nature of man, are grave, solemn, and
indignant, preaching their half truth, and mistaken only
in supposing that it is the whole; speaking, as all such
persons would speak, and still do speak, in defending
what they consider sacred truth, against the assaults
of folly and scepticism. How beautiful is their first

"Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil
which was come upon him, they came every one from his
own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite,
and Zophar the Naamathite, for they had made an appointment
together to come to mourn with him and to comfort
him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off and knew
him not, they lifted up their voices and wept, and they
rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their
heads towards heaven. So they sate down with him upon
the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a
word unto him, for they saw that his grief was very great."

What a picture is there! What majestic tenderness!
His wife had scoffed at his faith, bidding him leave
"God and die." His acquaintance had turned from
him. He "had called his servant, and he had given him
no answer." Even the children in their unconscious
cruelty had gathered round and mocked him, as he lay
among the ashes. But "his friends sprinkle dust towards
heaven, and sit silently by him, and weep for him seven
days and seven nights upon the ground." That is, they
were true hearted, truly loving, devout, religious men,
and yet they with their religion, were to become the
instruments of the most poignant sufferings, and the
sharpest temptations, which he had to endure. So it
was, and is, and will be,--of such materials is this human
life of ours composed.

And now, remembering the double action of the
drama, the actual trial of Job, the result of which is
uncertain, and the delusion of these men which is, at
the outset, certain, let us go rapidly through the dialogue.
Satan's share in the temptation had already been overcome.
Lying sick in the loathsome disease which had
been sent upon him, his wife, in Satan's own words, had
tempted Job, to say, "Farewell to God," think no more
of God or goodness, since this was all which came of it;
and Job had told her, that she spoke as one of the
foolish women. He "had received good at the hand of
the Lord, and should he not receive evil?" But now,
when real love and real affection appear, his heart melts
in him; he loses his forced self-composure, and bursts
into a passionate regret that he had ever been born.
In the agony of his sufferings, hope of better things had
died away. He does not complain of injustice; as yet,
and before his friends have stung and wounded him, he
makes no questioning of Providence,--but why was life
given to him at all, if only for this? And sick in mind
and sick in body, but one wish remains to him, that
death will come quickly and end all. It is a cry from
the very depths of a single and simple heart. But for
such simplicity and singleness his friends could not give
him credit; possessed beforehand with their idea, they
see in his misery only a fatal witness against him; such
calamities could not have befallen a man, the justice of
God would not have permitted it, unless they had been
deserved. Job had sinned and he had suffered, and
this wild passion was but impenitence and rebellion.

Being as certain that they were right in this opinion
as they were that God Himself existed, that they should
speak what they felt was only natural and necessary;
and their language at the outset is all which would be
dictated by the tenderest sympathy. Eliphaz opens,
the oldest and most important of the three, in a soft,
subdued, suggestive strain, contriving in every way to
spare the feelings of the sufferer, to the extreme, to
which his real love will allow him. All is general,
impersonal, indirect, the rule of the world, the order of
Providence. He does not accuse Job, but he describes
his calamities, and leaves him to gather for himself the
occasion which had produced them, and then passes
off, as if further to soften the blow, to the mysterious
vision in which the infirmity of mortal nature had been
revealed to him, the universal weakness which involved
both the certainty that Job had shared in it, and the
excuse for him, if he would confess and humble himself:
the blessed virtue of repentance follows, and the
promise that all shall be well.

This is the note on which each of the friends strikes
successively, in the first of the three divisions into
which the dialogue divides itself, but each with
increasing peremptoriness and confidence, as Job, so far from
accepting their interpretation of what had befallen him,
hurls it from him in anger and disdain. Let us observe
(what the Calvinists make of it they have given us no
means of knowing,) he will hear as little of the charges
against mankind, as of charges against himself. He will
not listen to the "corruption of humanity," because in
the consciousness of his own innocency, he knows that
it is not corrupt: he knows it, and we know it, the
divine sentence upon him having been already passed.
He will not acknowledge his sin, he cannot repent, for
he knows not of what to repent. If he could have
reflected calmly, he might have foreseen what they
would say. He knew all that as well as they: it was
the old story which he had learnt, and could repeat, if
necessary, as well as any one: and if it had been no
more than a philosophical discussion, touching himself
no more nearly than it touched his friends, he might
have allowed for the tenacity of opinion in such matters,
and listened to it and replied to it with equanimity.
But as the proverb says, "it is ill-talking between a full
man and a fasting:" and in him such equanimity would
have been but Stoicism or the affectation of it, and
unreal as the others' theories. Possessed with the
certainty that he had not deserved what had befallen
him, harassed with doubt, and worn out with pain and
unkindness, he had assumed (and how natural that he
should assume it), that those who loved him would not
have been hasty to believe evil of him, that he had
been safe in speaking to them as he really felt, and that
he might look to them for something warmer and more
sympathizing than such dreary eloquence. So when the
revelation comes upon him of what was passing in them,
he attributes it (and now he is unjust to them) to a
falsehood of heart, and not to a blindness of under-
standing. Their sermons, so kindly intended, roll past
him as a dismal mockery. They had been shocked
(and how true again is this to nature) at his passionate
cry for death. "Do ye reprove words?" he says,
"and the speeches of one that is desperate, which
are as wind?" It was but poor friendship and narrow
wisdom. He had looked to them for pity, for comfort,
and love. He had longed for it as the parched caravans
in the desert for the water-streams, and "his brethren
had dealt deceitfully with him," as the brooks, which
in the cool winter roll in a full turbid stream; "what
time it waxes warm they vanish, when it is hot they are
consumed out of their place. The caravans of Tema
looked for them, the companies of Sheba waited for
them. They were confounded because they had hoped.
They came thither and there was nothing." If for once
these poor men could have trusted their hearts, if for
once they could have believed that there might be
"more things in heaven and earth" than were dreamt
of in their philosophy--but this is the one thing which
they could not do, which the theologian proper never
has done or will do. And thus whatever of calmness or
endurance, Job alone, on his ash-heap, might have
conquered for himself, is all scattered away; and as the
strong gusts of passion sweep to and fro across his heart,
he pours himself out in wild fitful music, so beautiful
because so true, not answering them or their speeches,
but now flinging them from him in scorn, now appealing
to their mercy, or turning indignantly to God; now
praying for death; now in perplexity doubting whether,
in some mystic way which he cannot understand, he
may not, perhaps after all, really have sinned, and
praying to be shown it; and, then, staggering further into
the darkness, and breaking out into upbraidings of the
Power which has become so dreadful an enigma to him.
"Thou inquirest after my iniquity, thou searchest after
my sin, and thou knowest that I am not wicked. Why
didst thou bring me forth out of the womb? Oh, that
I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me.
Cease, let me alone. It is but a little while that I have
to live. Let me alone, that I may take comfort a little
before I go, whence I shall not return to the land of
darkness and the shadow of death." In what other
poem in the world is there pathos so deep as this?
With experience so stern as his, it was not for Job to
be calm, and self-possessed, and delicate in his words.
He speaks not what he knows, but what he feels; and
without fear the writer allows him to throw it out all
genuine as it rises, not overmuch caring how nice ears
might be offended, but contented to be true to the real
emotion of a genuine human heart. So the poem runs
on to the end of the first answer to Zophar.

But now with admirable fitness, as the contest goes
forward, the relative position of the speakers begins to
change. Hitherto Job only had been passionate; and
his friends temperate and collected. Now, however,
shocked at his obstinacy, and disappointed wholly in
the result of their homilies, they stray still further from
the truth in an endeavour to strengthen their position,
and, as a natural consequence, visibly grow angry. To
them Job's vehement and desperate speeches are
damning evidence of the truth of their suspicion. Impiety
is added to his first sin, and they begin to see in him
a rebel against God. At first they had been contented
to speak generally; and much which they had urged
was partially true: now they step forward to a direct
application, and formally and personally accuse himself.
Here their ground is positively false; and with
delicate art it is they who are now growing passionate,
and wounded self-love begins to show behind their zeal
For God; while in contrast to them, as there is less
and less truth in what they say, Job grows more and
more collected. For a time it had seemed doubtful
how he would endure his trial. The light of his faith
was burning feebly and unsteadily; a little more and
it seemed as if it might have utterly gone out; but at
last the storm was lulling; as the charges are brought
personally home to him, the confidence in his own real
innocence rises against them. He had before known
that he was innocent, now he feels the strength which
lies in it, as if God were beginning to reveal Himself
within him, to prepare the way for the after outward
manifestation of Himself.

The friends, as before, repeat one another with but
little difference; the sameness being of course
intentional, as showing that they were not speaking for
themselves, but as representatives of a prevailing opinion.
Eliphaz, again, gives the note which the others follow.
Hear this Calvinist of the old world. "Thy own mouth
condemneth thee, and thine own lips testify against thee.
What is man that he should be clean, and he that is
born of a woman that he should be righteous? Behold,
he putteth no trust in his saints. Yea, the heavens are
not clean in his sight; how much more abominable
and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?"
Strange, that after all these thousands of years, we
should still persist in this degrading confession, as a
thing which it is impious to deny, and impious to
attempt to render otherwise, when scripture itself, in
language so emphatic, declares that it is a lie. Job is
innocent, perfect, righteous. God Himself bears witness
to it. It is Job who is found at last to have spoken
truth, and the friends to have sinned in denying it.
And he holds fast by his innocency, and with a generous
confidence puts away the misgivings which had begun
to cling to him. Among his complainings he had
exclaimed, that God was remembering upon him the
sins of his youth--not denying them--knowing well,
that he, like others, had gone astray before he had
learnt to control himself, but feeling that at least in an
earthly father it is unjust to visit the faults of childhood
on the matured man; feeling that he had long, long
shaken them off from him, and they did not even
impair the probity of his after life. But now these
doubts, too, pass away in the brave certainty that God
is not less just than man. As the denouncings grow
louder and darker, he appeals from his narrow judges to
the Supreme Tribunal, calls on God to hear him and to
try his cause--and, then, in the strength of this appeal
his eye grows clearer still. His sickness is mortal: he
has no hope in life, and death is near, but the intense
feeling that justice must and will be done, holds to him
closer and closer. God may appear on earth for him;
or if that be too bold a hope, and death finds him as he
is--what is death, then? God will clear his memory
in the place where he lived; his injuries will be righted
over his grave; while for himself, like a sudden gleam of
sunlight between clouds, a clear, bright hope beams up,
that he too, then, in another life, if not in this, when his
skin is wasted off his bones, and the worms have done
their work on the prison of his spirit, he, too, at last
may then see God; may see Him, and have his pleadings heard.

With such a hope, or even the shadow of one, he
turns back to the world again to look at it. Facts
against which he had before closed his eyes he allows
and confronts, and he sees that his own little experience
is but the reflection of a law. You tell me, he seems to
say, that the good are rewarded, and that the wicked
are punished, that God is just, and that this is always
so. Perhaps it is, or will be, but not in the way which
you imagine. You have known me, you have known
what my life has been; you see what I am, and it is no
difficulty to you. You prefer believing that I, whom
you call your friend, am a deceiver or a pretender,
to admitting the possibility of the falsehood of your
hypothesis. You will not listen to my assurance, and
you are angry with me because I will not lie against
my own soul, and acknowledge sins which I have not
committed. You appeal to the course of the world in
proof of your faith, and challenge me to answer you.
Well, then, I accept your challenge. The world is not
what you say. You have told me what you have seen
of it. I will tell you what I have seen.

"Even while I remember I am afraid, and trembling
taketh hold upon my flesh. Wherefore do the wicked
become old, yea, and are mighty in power. Their seed
is established in their sight with them, and their offspring
before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither
is the rod of God upon them. Their bull gendereth and
faileth not; their cow calveth and casteth not her calf.
They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their
children dance. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice
at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth,
and in a moment go down into the grave. Therefore they
say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge
of thy ways. What is the Almighty that we should
serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray to

Will you quote the weary proverb? Will you say
that "God layeth up his iniquity for his children?"
(our translators have wholly lost the sense of this
passage, and endeavour to make Job acknowledge
what he is steadfastly denying). Well, and what
then? What will he care? "Will his own eye see
his own fall? Will he drink the wrath of the
Almighty? What are the fortunes of his house to
him if the number of his own months is fulfilled?"
One man is good and another wicked, one is happy
and another is miserable. In the great indifference of
nature they share alike in the common lot. "They
lie down alike in the dust, and the worms cover them."
Ewald, and many other critics, suppose that Job was
hurried away by his feelings to say all this; and that
in his calmer moments he must have felt that it was
untrue. It is a point on which we must decline
accepting even Ewald's high authority. Even then
in those old times it was beginning to be terribly true.
Even then the current theory was obliged to bend to
large exceptions; and what Job saw as exceptions we
see round us everywhere. It was true then, it is
infinitely more true now, that what is called virtue in
the common sense of the word, still more that nobleness,
godliness, or heroism of character in any form
whatsoever, have nothing to do with this or that man's
prosperity, or even happiness. The thoroughly vicious
man is no doubt wretched enough; but the worldly,
prudent, self-restraining man, with his five senses,
which he understands how to gratify with tempered
indulgence, with a conscience satisfied with the hack
routine of what is called respectability, such a man
feels no wretchedness; no inward uneasiness disturbs
him, no desires which he cannot gratify; and this though
he be the basest and most contemptible slave of his
own selfishness. Providence will not interfere to punish
him. Let him obey the laws under which prosperity
is obtainable, and he will obtain it; let him never fear
He will obtain it, be he base or noble. Nature is
indifferent; the famine, and the earthquake, and the
blight, or the accident, will not discriminate to strike
him. He may insure himself against those in these
days of ours: with the money perhaps which a better
man would have given away, and he will have his
reward. He need not doubt it.

And again, it is not true, as optimists would persuade
us, that such prosperity brings no real pleasure.
A man with no high aspirations who thrives and makes
money, and envelops himself in comforts, is as happy
as such a nature can be. If unbroken satisfaction
be the most blessed state for a man (and this certainly
is the practical notion of happiness) he is the happiest
of men. Nor are those idle phrases any truer, that
the good man's goodness is a never-ceasing sunshine;
that virtue is its own reward. &c. &c. If men truly
virtuous care to be rewarded for it, their virtue is but
a poor investment of their moral capital. Was Job
so happy then on that ash-heap of his, the mark of the
world's scorn, and the butt for the spiritual archery
of the theologian, alone in his forlorn nakedness, like
some old dreary stump which the lightning has scathed,
rotting away in the wind and the rain? Happy! if
happiness be indeed what we men are sent into this
world to seek for, those hitherto thought the noblest
among us were the pitifullest and wretchedest. Surely
it was no error in Job. It was that real insight which
once was given to all the world in Christianity;
however we have forgotten it now. He was learning to
see that it was not in the possession of enjoyment,
no, nor of happiness itself, that the difference lies
between the good and the bad. True, it might be
that God sometimes, even generally, gives such happiness
in, gives it as what Aristotle calls an epigignomenon
telos, but it is no part of the terms on which He admits
us to His service, still less is it the end which we may
propose to ourselves on entering His service. Happiness
He gives to whom He will, or leaves to the angel
of nature to distribute among those who fulfil the laws
upon which it depends. But to serve God and to
love Him is higher and better than happiness, though
it be with wounded feet, and bleeding brow, and hearts
loaded with sorrow. Into this high faith Job is rising,
treading his temptations under his feet, and finding
in them a ladder on which his spirit rises. Thus he
is passing further and ever further from his friends,
soaring where their imaginations cannot follow him.
To them he is a blasphemer whom they gaze at with
awe and terror. They had charged him with sinning,
on the strength of their hypothesis, and he has answered
with a deliberate denial of it. Losing now all mastery
over themselves, they pour out a torrent of mere
extravagant invective and baseless falsehoods, which
in the calmer outset they would have blushed to think
of. They know no evil of Job, but they do not hesitate
now to convert conjecture into certainty, and specify
in detail the particular crimes which he must have
committed. He ought to have committed them, and
so he had; the old argument then as now.--"Is not
thy wickedness great?" says Eliphaz. "Thou hast
taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and
stripped the naked of their clothing; thou hast not
given water to the weary, and thou hast withholden
bread from the hungry;" and so on through a series
of mere distracted lies. But the time was past when
words like these could make Job angry. Bildad follows
them up with an attempt to frighten him by a picture
of the power of that God whom he was blaspheming;
but Job cuts short his harangue, and ends it for him
in a spirit of loftiness which Bildad could not have
approached; and then proudly and calmly rebukes
them all, no longer in scorn and irony, but in high
tranquil self-possession. "God forbid that I should
justify you," he says; "till I die I will not remove my
integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and
will not let it go. My heart shall not reproach me
so long as I live."

So far all has been clear, each party, with increasing
confidence, having insisted on their own position, and
denounced their adversaries. A difficulty now rises,
which, at first sight, appears insurmountable. As the
chapters are at present printed, the entire of the
twenty-seventh is assigned to Job, and the verses from the
eleventh to the twenty-third are in direct contradiction
to all which he has maintained before, are, in fact, a
concession of having been wrong from the beginning.
Ewald, who, as we said above, himself refuses to allow
the truth of Job's last and highest position, supposes
that he is here receding from it, and confessing what an
over precipitate passion had betrayed him into denying.
For many reasons, principally because we are satisfied
that Job said then no more than the real fact, we cannot
think Ewald right; and the concessions are too large
and too inconsistent to be reconciled even with his own
general theory of the poem. Another solution of the
difficulty is very simple, although, it is to be admitted,
that it rather cuts the knot than unties it. Eliphaz and
Bildad have each spoken a third time; the symmetry
of the general form requires that now Zophar should
speak; and the suggestion, we believe, was first made by
Dr. Kennicott, that he did speak, and that the verses
in question belong to him. Any one who is accustomed
to MSS. will understand easily how such a mistake,--
if it be one,--might have arisen. Even in Shakespeare,
the speeches in the early editions are, in many instances,
wrongly divided, and assigned to the wrong persons.
It might have arisen from inadvertence; it might have
arisen from the foolishness of some Jewish transcriber,
who resolved, at all costs, to drag the book into harmony
with Judaism, and make Job unsay his heresy.
This view has the merit of fully clearing up the obscurity;
another, however, has been suggested by Eichorn, who
originally followed Kennicott, but discovered, as he
supposed, a less violent hypothesis, which was equally
satisfactory. He imagines the verses to be a summary
by Job of his adversaries' opinions, as if he said--
"Listen now; you know what the facts are as well as
I, and yet you maintain this;" and then passed on with
his indirect reply to it. It is possible that Eichorn
may be right--at any rate, either he is right, or else
Dr. Kennicott is. Certainly, Ewald is not. Taken as
an account of Job's own conviction, the passage
contradicts the burden of the whole poem. Passing it by,
therefore, and going to what immediately follows, we
arrive at what, in a human sense, is the final climax--
Job's victory and triumph. He had appealed to God,
and God had not appeared; he had doubted and fought
against his doubts, and, at last, had crushed them down.
He, too, had been taught to look for God in outward
judgments; and when his own experience had shown
him his mistake, he knew not where to turn. He had
been leaning on a braised reed, and it had run into his
hand, and pierced him. But as soon as in the speeches
of his friends he saw it all laid down in its weakness and
its false conclusions--when he saw the defenders of it
wandering further and further from what he knew to
be true, growing every moment, as if from a consciousness
of the unsoundness of their standing ground, more
violent, obstinate, and unreasonable, the scales fell more
and more from his eyes--he had seen the fact that the
wicked might prosper, and in learning to depend upon
his innocency he had felt that the good man's support
was there, if it was anywhere; and at last, with all his
heart, was reconciled to it. The mystery of the outer
world becomes deeper to him, but he does not any
more try to understand it. The wisdom which can
compass that, he knows, is not in man; though man
search for it deeper and harder than the miner searches
for the hidden treasures of the earth; and the wisdom
which alone is possible to him, is resignation to

"Where, he cries, shall wisdom be found, and where is
the place of understanding. Man knoweth not the price
thereof, neither is it found in the land of the living. The
depth said, it is not with me; and the sea said, it is not in
me. It is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from
the fowls of the air.* God understandeth the way thereof,
and He knoweth the place thereof [He, not man, understands
the mysteries of the world which He has made].
And unto man He said, Behold the fear of the Lord,
that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding."

* An allusion, perhaps, to the old bird auguries. The birds, as the
inhabitants of the air, were supposed to be the messengers between
heaven and earth.

Here, therefore, it might seem as if all was over.
There is no clearer or purer faith possible for man; and
Job had achieved it. His evil had turned to good;
and sorrow had severed for him the last links which
bound him to lower things. He had felt that he could
do without happiness, that it was no longer essential,
and that he could live on, and still love God, and cling
to Him. But he is not described as of preternatural, or
at all Titanic nature, but as very man, full of all human
tenderness and susceptibility. His old life was still
beautiful to him. He does not hate it, because he can
renounce it; and now that the struggle is over, the
battle fought and won, and his heart has flowed over in
that magnificent song of victory, the note once more
changes: he turns back to earth, to linger over those
old departed days, with which the present is so hard a
contrast; and his parable dies away in a strain of
plaintive, but resigned melancholy. Once more he
throws himself on God, no longer in passionate
expostulation, but in pleading humility.+ And then comes
(perhaps, as Ewald says, it could not have come before)
the answer out of the whirlwind. Job had called on
Him had prayed that He might appear, that he might
plead his cause with Him; and now He comes, and
what will Job do? He comes not as the healing
spirit in the heart of man; but, as Job had at first
demanded, the outward God, the Almighty Creator of
the universe, and clad in the terrors and the glory of it.
Job, in his first precipitancy, had desired to reason with
Him on His government. The poet, in gleaming lines,
describes for an answer the universe as it then was
known, the majesty and awfulness of it; and then asks
whether it is this which he requires to have explained to
him, or which he believes himself capable of conducting.
The revelation acts on Job as the sign of the Macrocosmos
on the modern Faust; but when he sinks
crushed, it is not as the rebellious upstart, struck down
in his pride--for he had himself, partially at least,
subdued his own presumption--but as a humble penitent,
struggling to overcome his weakness. He abhors
himself for his murmurs, and "repents in dust and
ashes." It will have occurred to every one that the
secret which has been revealed to the reader is not, after
all, revealed to Job or to his friends, and for this plain
reason: the burden of the drama is not that we do, but
that we do not, and cannot, know the mystery of the
government of the world, that it is not for man to seek
it, or for God to reveal it. We, the readers, are, in this
one instance, admitted behind the scenes--for once, in
this single case because it was necessary to meet the
received theory by a positive fact, which contradicted it.
But the explanation of one case need not be the explanation
of another; our business is to do what we know
to be right, and ask no questions. The veil which in the
Egyptian legend lay before the face of Isis, is not to be
raised; and we are not to seek to penetrate secrets
which are not ours.

+ The speech of Elihu, which lies between Job's last words and
God's appearance, is now decisively pronounced by Hebrew scholars
not to be genuine. The most superficial reader will have been
perplexed by the introduction of a speaker to whom no allusion is
made, either in the prologue or the epilogue; by a long dissertation,
which adds nothing to the progress of the argument; proceeding
evidently on the false hypothesis of the three friends, and
betraying not the faintest conception of the real cause of Job's
suffering. And the suspicions which such an anomaly would naturally
suggest are now made certainties, by a fuller knowledge of the
language, and the detection of a different hand. The interpolator
has unconsciously confessed the feeling which allowed him to take
so great a liberty. He, too, possessed with the old Jew theory, was
unable to accept in its fulness so great a contradiction to it; and,
missing the spirit of the poem, he believed that God's honour could
still be vindicated in the old way. "His wrath was kindled" against
the friends, because they could not answer Job; and against Job
because he would not be answered; and conceiving himself "full
of matter," and "ready to burst like new bottles," he could not
contain himself, and delivered into the text a sermon on the Theodice,
such, we suppose, as formed the current doctrine of the time in
which he lived.

While, however, God does not condescend to justify
His ways to man, He gives judgment on the past
controversy. The self-constituted pleaders for Him, the
acceptors of His person, were all wrong; and Job, the
passionate, vehement, scornful, misbelieving Job, he
had spoken the truth; he at least had spoken facts, and
they had been defending a transient theory as an
everlasting truth.

"And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these
words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, my
wrath is kindled against thee and against thy two friends;
for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my
servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven
bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job; and
offer for yourselves a burnt-offering. And my servant Job
shall pray for you, and him will I accept. Lest I deal with
you after your folly, for that ye have not spoken of me the
thing which is right, like my servant Job."

One act of justice remains. Knowing as we do, the
cause of Job's sufferings, and that as soon as his trial
was over, it was no longer operative, our sense of fitness
could not be satisfied unless he were indemnified outwardly
for his outward sufferings. Satan is defeated,
and his integrity proved; and there is no reason why
the general law should be interfered with, which makes
good men happy; or why obvious calamities, obviously
undeserved, should remain any more unremoved. Perhaps,
too, a deeper lesson still lies below his restoration
--something perhaps of this kind. Prosperity, enjoyment,
happiness, comfort, peace, whatever be the name
by which we designate that state in which life is to our
own selves pleasant and delightful, as long as they are
sought or prized as things essential, so far have a
tendency to disennoble our nature, and are a sign that
we are still in servitude and selfishness. Only when
they lie outside us, as ornaments merely to be worn or
laid aside as God pleases, only then may such things
be possessed with impunity. Job's heart in early times
had clung to them more than he knew, but now he was
purged clean, and they were restored because he had
ceased to need them.

Such in outline is this wonderful poem. With the
material of which it is woven we have not here been
concerned, although it is so rich and pregnant, that we
might with little difficulty construct out of it a
complete picture of the world as then it was: its life,
knowledge, arts, habits, superstitions, hopes, and fears.
The subject is the problem of all mankind, and the
composition embraces no less wide a range. But what we are
here most interested upon, is the epoch which it marks
in the progress of mankind, as the first recorded struggle
of a new experience with an established orthodox
belief. True, for hundreds of years, perhaps for a
thousand, the superstition against which it was directed
continued; when Christ came it was still in its vitality.
Nay, as we saw, it is alive, or in a sort of mock life,
among us at this very day. But even those who
retained their imperfect belief had received into their
canon a book which treated it with contumely and
scorn, so irresistible was the lofty majesty of truth.

In days like these, when we hear so much of progress,
it is worth while to ask ourselves, what advances
we have made further in the same direction? and once
more, at the risk of some repetition, let us look at the
position in which this book leaves us. It had been
assumed, that man if he lived a just and upright life,
had a right to expect to be happy. Happiness, "his
being's end and aim," was his legitimate and covenanted
reward. If God therefore was just, such a man would
be happy; and inasmuch as God was just, the man who
was not happy had not deserved to be. There is no
flaw in this argument; and if it is unsound, the fallacy
can only lie in the supposed right to happiness. It is
idle to talk of inward consolations. Job felt them, but
they were not everything. They did not relieve the
anguish of his wounds; they did not make the loss of
his children, or his friends' unkindness, any the less
painful to him.

The poet, indeed, restores him in the book; but in
life it need not have been so. He might have died upon
his ash-heap as thousands of good men have died, and
will die again in misery. Happiness, therefore, is not
what we are to look for. Our place is to be true to the
best which we know, to seek that and do that; and if
by "virtue its own reward" he meant that the good
man cares only to continue good, desiring nothing more;
then it is true and noble. But if virtue be valued,
because it is politic, because in pursuit of it will be
found most enjoyment and fewest sufferings, then it is
not noble any more, and it is turning the truth of God
into a lie. Let us do right, and whether happiness come
or unhappiness is no very mighty matter. If it come,
life will be sweet; if it do not come, life will be bitter
--bitter, not sweet, and yet to be borne. On such a
theory alone is the government of this world intelligibly
just. The well-being of our souls depends only on
what we are, and nobleness of character is nothing
else but steady love of good, and steady scorn of evil.
The government of the world is a problem while the
desire of selfish enjoyment survives, and when justice
is not done according to such standard (which will not
be till the day after doomsday, and not then), self-loving
men will still ask, why? and find no answer. Only to
those who have the heart to say, we can do without
that, it is not what we ask or desire, is there no secret.
Man will have what he deserves, and will find what is
really best for him, exactly as he honestly seeks for it.
Happiness may fly away, pleasure pall or cease to be
obtainable, wealth decay, friends fail or prove unkind,
and fame turn to infamy; but the power to serve God
never fails, and the love of Him is never rejected.

Most of us, at one time or other of our lives, have
known something of love--of that only pure love in
which no self is left remaining. We have loved as
children, we have loved as lovers; some of us have
learnt to love a cause, a faith, a country; and what love
would that be which existed only with a prudent view
to after-interests. Surely, there is a love which exults
in the power of self-abandonment, and can glory in the
privilege of suffering for what is good. Que mon nom
soit fletri, pourvu que la France soit libre, said Danton;
and those wild patriots who had trampled into scorn
the faith in an immortal life in which they would be
rewarded for what they were suffering, went to their
graves as beds, for the dream of a people's liberty.
Shall we, who would be thought reasonable men, love
the living God with less heart than these poor men
loved their phantom? Justice is done; the balance is
not deranged. It only seems deranged, as long as we
have not learnt to serve without looking to be paid
for it.

Such is the theory of life which is to be found in the
Book of Job; a faith which has flashed up in all times
and all lands, wherever noble men were to be found,
and which passed in Christianity into the acknowledged
creed of half the world. The cross was the new symbol,
the divine sufferer the great example, and mankind
answered to the call, because the appeal was not to
what was poor and selfish in them, but to whatever of
best and bravest was in their nature. The law of
reward and punishment was superseded by the law of love.
Thou shalt love God and thou shalt love man; and that
was not love--man knew it once--which was bought by
the prospect of reward. Times are changed with us
now. Thou shalt love God and thou shalt love man, in
the hands of a poor Paley, are found to mean no more
than, Thou shalt love thyself after an enlightened
manner. And the same base tone has saturated not
only our common feelings, but our Christian theologies
and our Antichristian philosophies. A prudent regard
to our future interests, an abstinence from present
unlawful pleasures, because they will entail the loss of
greater pleasure by-and-by, or perhaps be paid for with
pain, this is called virtue now; and the belief that such
beings as men can be influenced by any feelings nobler
or better, is smiled at as the dream of enthusiasts
whose hearts have outrun their understandings. Indeed,
he were but a poor lover whose devotion to his mistress
lay resting on the feeling that a marriage with her would
conduce to 'his own after comforts. That were a poor
patriot who served his country for the hire which his
country would give to him. And we should think but
poorly of a son who thus addressed his earthly father:
"Father, on whom my fortunes depend, teach me to
do what pleases thee, that I, obeying thee in all things
may obtain those good things which thou hast promised
to give to thy obedient children." If any of us who have
lived in so poor a faith venture, by-and-by, to put in
our claims, Satan will be likely to say of us (with better
reason than he did of Job) "Did they serve God for
nought, then? Take their reward from them, and they
will curse Him to His face." If Christianity had never
borne itself more nobly than this, do we suppose that
those fierce Norsemen who had learnt, in the fiery
warsongs of the Edda, of what stuff the hearts of heroes are
composed, would have fashioned their sword-hilts into
crosses, and themselves into a crusading chivalry? Let
us not dishonour our great fathers with the dream of it.
The Christians, like the stoics and the epicureans, would
have lived their little day among the ignoble sects of an
effete civilization, and would have passed off and been
heard of no more. It was in another spirit that those
first preachers of righteousness went out upon their
warfare with evil. They preached, not enlightened
prudence, but purity, justice, goodness; holding out no
promises in this world except of suffering as their great
master had suffered, and rejoicing that they were counted
worthy to suffer for His sake. And that crown of glory
which they did believe to await them in a life beyond
the grave, was no enjoyment of what they had surrendered
in life, was not enjoyment at all in any sense
which human thought or language can attach to the
words; as little like it as the crown of love is like it,
which the true lover looks for when at last he obtains
his mistress. It was to be with Christ--to lose
themselves in Him.

How all this nobleness ebbed away, and Christianity
became what we know it, we are partially beginning to
see. The living spirit organized for itself a body of
perishable flesh: not only the real gains of real
experience, but mere conjectural hypotheses current at the
day for the solution of unexplained phenomena, became
formulae and articles of faith; again, as before, the living
and the dead were bound together, and the seeds of
decay were already planted on the birth of a constructed
polity. But there was another cause allied to this, and
yet different from it, which, though a law of human
nature itself, seems now-a-days altogether forgotten. In
the rapid and steady advance of our knowledge of
material things, we are apt to believe that all our
knowledge follows the same law, that it is merely generalized
experience, that experience accumulates daily, and,
therefore, that "progress of the species," in all senses, is an
obvious and necessary fact. There is something which
is true in this view mixed with a great deal which is
false. Material knowledge, the physical and mechanical
sciences, make their way from step to step, from experiment
to experiment, and each advance is secured and
made good, and cannot again be lost; one generation
takes up the general sum of experience where the last
laid it down, adds to it what it has the opportunity of
adding, and leaves it with interest to the next. The
successive positions, as they are gained, require nothing
for the apprehension of them but an understanding
ordinarily cultivated. Prejudices have to be encountered,
but prejudices of opinion merely, not prejudices of
conscience or prejudices of self-love, like those which
beset our progress in the science of morality, Here we
enter upon conditions wholly different, conditions in
which age differs from age, man differs from man, and
even from himself, at different moments. We all have
experienced times when, as we say, we should not know
ourselves; some, when we fall below our average level;
some, when we are lifted above it, and put on, as it were,
a higher nature. At such intervals as these last,
(unfortunately, with most of us, of rare occurrence,) many
things become clear to us, which before were hard
sayings; propositions become alive which, usually, are
but dry words. Our hearts seem purer, our motives
loftier; our purposes, what we are proud to acknowledge
to ourselves. And, as man is unequal to himself, so
is man to his neighbour, and period to period. The
entire method of action, the theories of human life which
in one area prevail universally, to the next are
unpractical and insane, as those of this next would have seemed
mere baseness to the first, if the first could have
anticipated them. One, we may suppose, holds some "greatest
nobleness principle," the other some "greatest happiness
principle;" and then their very systems of axioms
will contradict one another; their general conceptions
and their detailed interpretations, their rules, judgments,
opinions, practices, will be in perpetual and endless
contradiction. Our minds take shape from our hearts,
and the facts of moral experience do not teach their own
meaning, but submit to many readings, according to the
power of eye which we bring with us.

The want of a clear perception of so important a
feature about us, leads to many singular contradictions.
A believer in popular Protestantism, who is also a
believer in progress, ought, if he were consistent, to
regard mankind as growing every day in a more
and more advantageous position with respect to the
trials of life; and yet if he were asked whether it is
easier for him to "save his soul" in the nineteenth
century than it would have been in the first or second,
or whether the said soul is necessarily better worth
saving, he would be perplexed for an answer. There
is hardly one of us who, in childhood, has not felt like
the Jews to whom Christ spoke, that if he had "lived
in the days of the fathers," if he had had their
advantages, he would have found duty a much easier matter;
and some of us in mature life have felt that, in old
Athens, or old republican Rome, in the first ages of
Christianity, in the Crusades or at the Reformation,
there was a contagious atmosphere of general nobleness,
in which we should have been less troubled with the
little feelings which cling about us now. At any rate,
it is at these rare epochs only that real additions are
made to our moral knowledge. At such times, new
truths are, indeed, sent down among us, and, for periods
longer or shorter, may be seen to exercise an ennobling
influence on mankind. Perhaps what is gained on
these occasions is never entirely lost. The historical
monuments of their effects are at least indestructible;
and, when the spirit which gave them birth reappears,
their dormant energy awakens again.

But it seems from our present experience of what,
in some at least of its modern forms, Christianity has
been capable of becoming, that there is no doctrine in
itself so pure, but what the poorer nature which is in
us can disarm and distort it, and adapt it to its own
littleness. The once living spirit dries up into formulae,
and formula whether of mass-sacrifice or vicarious
righteousness, or "reward and punishment," are
contrived ever so as to escape making over high demands
on men. Some aim at dispensing with obedience
altogether, and those which insist on obedience rest
the obligations of it on the poorest of motives. So
things go on till there is no life left at all; till, from
all higher aspirations we are lowered down to the love
of self after an enlightened manner; and then nothing
remains but to fight the battle over again. The once
beneficial truth has become, as in Job's case, a cruel
and mischievous deception, and the whole question of
life and its obligations must again be opened.

It is now some three centuries since the last of such
reopenings. If we ask ourselves how much during
this time has been actually added to the sum of our
knowledge in these matters, what--in all the thousands
upon thousands of sermons and theologies, and philosophies
with which Europe has been deluged--has been
gained for mankind beyond what we have found in this
very book of Job for instance; how far all this has
advanced us in the "progress of humanity," it were
hard, or rather it is easy to answer. How far we have
fallen below, let Paley and the rest bear witness; but
what moral question can be asked which admits now
of a nobler solution than was offered two, perhaps three
thousand years ago? The world has not been standing
still, experience of man and life has increased, questions
have multiplied on questions, while the answers of the
established teachers to them have been growing every
day more and more incredible. What other answers
have there been? Of all the countless books which
have appeared, there has been only one of enduring
importance, in which an attempt is made to carry on
the solution of the great problem. Job is given over
into Satan's hand to be tempted; and though he shakes
he does not fall. Taking the temptation of Job for his
model, Goethe has similarly exposed his Faust to trial,
and with him the tempter succeeds. His hero falls
from sin to sin, from crime to crime; he becomes a
seducer, a murderer, a betrayer, following recklessly
his evil angel wherever he chooses to lead him; and
yet, with all this, he never wholly forfeits our sympathy.
In spite of his weakness his heart is still true to his
higher nature; sick and restless, even in the delirium
of enjoyment, he always longs for something better, and
he never can be brought to say of evil that it is good.
And, therefore, after all, the devil is balked of his prey;
in virtue of this one fact, that the evil in which he
steeped himself remained to the last hateful to him,
Faust is saved by the angels ... And this indeed,
though Goethe has scarcely dealt with it satisfactorily,
is a vast subject. It will be eagerly answered for the
established belief, that such cases are its especial
province. All men are sinners, and it possesses the
blessed remedy for sin. But, among the countless
numbers of those characters so strangely mixed among
us, in which the dark and the bright fibres cross like
a meshwork; characters at one moment capable of
acts of heroic nobleness, at another, hurried by
temptation into actions which even common men may deplore,
how many are there who have never availed themselves
of the conditions of reconciliation as orthodoxy proffers
them, and of such men what is to be said? It was
said once of a sinner that to her "much was forgiven
for she loved much." But this is language which
theology has as little appropriated as the Jews could
appropriate the language of Job. It cannot recognise
the nobleness of the human heart. It has no balance
in which to weigh the good against the evil; and when
a great Burns, or a Mirabeau comes before it, it can
but tremblingly count up the offences committed, and
then, looking to the end, and finding its own terms
not to have been complied with, it faintly mutters its
anathema. Sin only it can apprehend and judge; and
for the poor acts of struggling heroism, "Forasmuch as
they were not done, &c., &c., it doubts not but they
have the nature of sin." [See the Thirteenth Article.]

Something of the difficulty has been met by Goethe,
but it cannot be said that he has resolved it; or at
least that he has furnished others with a solution which
may guide their judgment. In the writer of the Book
of Job there is an awful moral earnestness before which
we bend as in the presence of a superior being. The
orthodoxy against which he contended is not set aside
or denied; he sees what truth is in it; only he sees
more than it, and over it, and through it. But in
Goethe, who needed it more, inasmuch as his problem
was more delicate and difficult, the moral earnestness is
not awful, is not even high. We cannot feel that in
dealing with sin he entertains any great horror of it;
he looks on it as a mistake, as undesirable, but scarcely
as more. Goethe's great powers are of another kind;
and this particular question, though in appearance the
primary subject of the poem, is really only secondary.
In substance Faust is more like Ecclesiastes than it
is like Job, and describes rather the restlessness of a
largely-gifted nature which, missing the guidance of
the heart, plays experiments with life, trying knowledge,
pleasure, dissipation, one after another, and hating them
all; and then hating life itself as a weary, stale, flat,
unprofitable mockery. The temper exhibited here will
probably be perennial in the world. But the remedy
for it will scarcely be more clear under other circumstances
than it is at present, and lies in the disposition
of the heart, and not in any propositions which can
be addressed to the understanding. For that other
question how rightly to estimate a human being; what
constitutes a real vitiation of character, and how to
distinguish, without either denying the good or making
light of the evil; how to be just to the popular theories.
and yet not to blind ourselves to their shallowness and
injustice-that is a problem for us, for the solution of
which we are at present left to our ordinary instinct,
without any recognized guidance whatsoever.

Nor is this the only problem which is in the same
situation. There can scarcely be a more startling
contrast between fact and theory, than the conditions under
which practically positions of power and influence are
distributed among us, the theory of human worth which
the necessities of life oblige us to act upon and the
theory which we believe that we believe. As we look
around among our leading men, our statesmen, our
legislators, the judges on our bench, the commanders of
our armies, the men to whom this English nation commits
the conduct of its best interests, profane and
sacred, what do we see to be the principles which guide
our selection? How entirely do they lie beside and
beyond the negative tests? and how little respect do we
pay to the breach of this or that commandment in comparison
with ability? So wholly impossible is it to
apply the received opinions on such matters to practice,
to treat men known to be guilty of what theology calls
deadly sins, as really guilty of them, that it would
almost seem we had fallen into a moral anarchy; that
ability alone is what we regard, without any reference
at all, except in glaring and outrageous cases, to moral
disqualifications. It is invidious to mention names of
living men; it is worse than invidious to drag out of
their graves men who have gone down into them with
honour, to make a point for an argument. But we
know, all of us, that among the best servants of our
country, there have been, and there are many, whose
lives will not stand scrutiny by the negative tests, and
who do not appear very greatly to repent, or to have
repented of their sins according to recognized methods.

Once more, among our daily or weekly confessions,
which we are supposed to repeat as if we were all of us
at all times in precisely the same moral condition, we
are made to say that we have done those things which
we ought not to have done, and to have left undone
those things which we ought to have done. An earthly
father to whom his children were day after day to
make this acknowledgment would be apt to inquire
whether they were trying to do better, whether at any
rate they were endeavouring to learn; and if he were
told that although they had made some faint attempts
to understand the negative part of their duty, yet that
of the positive part, of those things which they ought
to do, they had no notions at all, and had no idea that
they were under obligation to form any, he would come
to rather strange conclusions about them. But really
and truly, what practical notions of duty have we
beyond that of abstaining from committing sins? Not
to commit sin, we suppose, covers but a small part of
what is expected of us. Through the entire tissue of
our employments there runs a good and a bad. Bishop
Butler tells us, for instance, that even of our time there
is a portion which is ours, and a portion which is our
neighbour's; and if we spend more of it on personal
interests than our own share, we are stealing. This
sounds strange doctrine; we prefer rather making vague
acknowledgments, and shrink from pursuing them into
detail. We say vaguely, that in all we do we should
consecrate ourselves to God, and our own lips condemn
us; for which among us cares to learn the way to do it.
The devoir of a knight was understood in the courts of
chivalry, the lives of heroic men, pagan and Christian,
were once held up before the world as patterns
of detailed imitation; and now, when such ideals are
wanted more than ever, Protestantism unhappily stands
with a drawn sword on the threshold of the inquiry,
and tells us that it is impious. The law has been fulfilled
for us in condescension to our inherent worthlessness,
and our business is to appropriate another's righteousness,
and not, like Titans, to be scaling Heaven
by profane efforts of our own. Protestants, we know
very well, will cry out in tones loud enough at such a
representation of their doctrines. But we know also,
that unless men may feel a cheerful conviction that they
can do right if they try, that they can purify themselves,
can live noble and worthy lives, unless this is set before
them as the thing which they are to do, and can succeed
in doing, they will not waste their energies on what they
know beforehand will end in failure, and if they may
not live for God they will live for themselves.

And all this while the whole complex frame of society
is a meshwork of duty woven of living fibre, and the
condition of its remaining sound is, that every thread of
it of its own free energy shall do what it ought. The
penalties of duties neglected are to the full as terrible
as those of sins committed; more terrible perhaps,
because more palpable and sure. A lord of the land,
or an employer of labour, supposes that he has no duty
except to keep what he calls the commandments in his
own person, to go to church, and to do what he will
with his own,--and Irish famines follow, and trade
strikes, and chartisms, and Paris revolutions. We look
for a remedy in impossible legislative enactments, and
there is but one remedy which will avail, that the thing
which we call public opinion learn something of the
meaning of human nobleness, and demand some approximation
to it. As things are we have no idea of
what a human being ought to be. After the first
rudimental conditions we pass at once into meaningless
generalities; and with no knowledge to guide our
judgment, we allow it to be guided by meaner principles;
we respect money, we respect rank, we respect ability--
character is as if it had no existence.

In the midst of this loud talk of progress, therefore,
in which so many of us at present are agreed to believe,
which is, indeed, the common meeting point of
all the thousand sects into which we are split, it is
with saddened feelings that we see so little of it in
so large a matter. Progress there is in knowledge;
and science has enabled the number of human
beings capable of existing upon this earth to be indefinitely
multiplied. But this is but a small triumph
if the ratio of the good and bad, the wise and the
foolish, the full and the hungry remains unaffected.
And we cheat ourselves with words when we conclude
out of our material splendour an advance of the race.
One fruit only our mother earth offers up with pride
to her maker--her human children made noble by their
life upon her; and how wildly on such matters we now
are wandering let this one instance serve to show. At
the moment at which we write, a series of letters are
appearing in the Times newspaper, letters evidently of
a man of ability, and endorsed in large type by the
authorities of Printing House Square, advocating the
establishment of a free Greek state with its centre at
Constantinople, on the ground that the Greek character
has at last achieved the qualities essential for the
formation of a great people, and that endued as it is with
the practical commercial spirit, and taking everywhere
rational views of life, there is no fear of a repetition
from it of the follies of the age of Pericles. We should
rather think there was not: and yet the writer speaks
without any appearance of irony, and is saying what
he obviously means.

In two things there is progress--progress in knowledge
of the outward world, and progress in material
wealth. This last, for the present, creates, perhaps,
more evils than it relieves; but suppose this difficulty
solved, suppose the wealth distributed, and every
peasant living like a peer--what then? If this is all,
one noble soul outweighs the whole of it. Let us follow
knowledge to the outer circle of the universe, the eye
will not be satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.
Let us build our streets of gold, and they will hide as
many aching hearts as hovels of straw. The well-being
of mankind is not advanced a single step. Knowledge
is power, and wealth is power; and harnessed, as in
Plato's fable, to the chariot of the soul, and guided
by wisdom, they may bear it through the circle of the
stars. But left to their own guidance, or reined by a
fool's hand, they may bring the poor fool to Phaeton's
end, and set a world on fire. One real service, and
perhaps only one, knowledge alone and by itself will
do for us--it can explode existing superstitions. Everything
has its appointed time, superstition like the rest;
and theologies, that they may not overlive the period
in which they can be of advantage to mankind, are
condemned, by the conditions of their being, to weave
a body for themselves out of the ideas of the age
of their birth; ideas which, by the advance of knowledge,
are seen to be imperfect or false. We cannot
any longer be told that there must be four inspired
gospels--neither more nor less--because there are
four winds and four elements. The chemists now
count some sixty elements, ultimately, as some of
them think, reducible into one; and the gospel, like
the wind, may blow from every point under heaven.
But effectual to destroy old superstitions, whether
it is equally successful in preventing others from
growing in their place, is less certain and obvious..
In these days of table-turnings, mesmerisms, spirit-
rappings, odyle fluids, and millenarian pamphlets selling
80,000 copies among our best-educated classes, we
must be allowed to doubt.

Our one efficient political science hinges on selfinterest,
and the uniform action of motives among the
masses of mankind--of selfish motives reducible to
system. Such philosophies and such sciences would
but poorly explain the rise of Christianity, of
Mahometanism, or of the Reformation. They belong to ages
of comparative poverty of heart, when the desires of
men are limited to material things; when men are
contented to labour, and eat the fruit of their labour, and
then lie down and die. While such symptoms remain
among us, our faith in progress may remain unshaken;
but it will be a faith which, as of old, is the substance
of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


If the enormous undertaking of the Bollandist editors
had been completed, it would have contained the
histories of 25,000 saints. So many the catholic
church acknowledged and accepted as her ideals; as
men, who had not only done her honour by the
eminence of their sanctity, but who had received while
on earth an openly divine recognition of it in gifts of
supernatural power. And this vast number is but a
selection; the editors chose only out of the mass before
them what was most noteworthy and trustworthy, and
what was of catholic rather than of national interest.
It is no more than a fraction of that singular mythology
which for so many ages delighted the Christian world,
which is still held in external reverence among the
Romanists, and of which the modern historians,
provoked by its feeble supernaturalism, and by the entire
absence of critical ability among its writers to distinguish
between fact and fable, have hitherto failed to speak a
reasonable word. Of the attempt in our own day to
revive an interest in them we shall say little in this
place. They have no form or beauty to give them
attraction in themselves; and for their human interest,
the broad atmosphere of the world suited ill with these
delicate plants which had grown up under the shadow
of the convent wall; they were exotics, not from
another climate, but from another age; the breath of
scorn fell on them, and having no root in the hearts
and beliefs of men any more, but only in the
sentimentalities and make-beliefs, they withered and sank. And
yet, in their place as historical phenomena they are as
remarkable as any of the pagan mythologies; to the
full as remarkable, perhaps far more so, if the length
and firmness of hold they once exercised on the
conviction of mankind is to pass for anything in the
estimate--and to ourselves they have a near and
peculiar interest, as spiritual facts in the growth of the
catholic faith.

Philosophy has rescued the old theogonies from
ridicule; their extravagancies, even the most grotesque
of them, can be now seen to have their root in an idea,
often a deep one, representing features of natural history
or of metaphysical speculation--and we do not laugh
at them any more. In their origin, they were the
consecration of the first-fruits of knowledge; the
expression of a real reverential belief. Then time did its
work on them; knowledge grew and they could not
grow; they became monstrous and mischievous, and
were driven out by Christianity with scorn and indignation.
But it is with human institutions, as it is with
men themselves; we are tender with the dead when
their power to hurt us has passed away; and as Paganism
can never more be dangerous, we have been able to
command a calmer attitude towards it, and to detect
under its most repulsive features sufficient latent
elements of genuine thought to satisfy us that even
in their darkest aberrations men are never wholly given
over to falsehood and absurdity. When philosophy has
done for mediaeval mythology what it has done for
Hesiod and for the Edda, we shall find in it at least
as deep a sense of the awfulness and mystery of life,
and we shall find also a moral element there which at
their best they never had. The lives of the saints
are always simple, often childish, seldom beautiful;
yet, as Goethe observed, if without beauty they are
always good.

And as a phenomenon, let us not deceive ourselves
on its magnitude. The Bollandists were restricted on
many sides. They took only what was in Latin--while
every country in Europe had its own home-growth in its
own language--and thus many of the most characteristic
of the lives are not to be found at all in their collection.
And again, they took but one life of each saint, composed
in all cases late, and compiled out of the mass of
various shorter lives which had grown up in different
localities out of popular tradition; so that many of their
longer productions have an elaborate literary character,
with an appearance of artifice which, till we know how
they came into existence, might blind us to the vast
width and variety of the traditionary sources from which
they are drawn. In the twelfth century there were
sixty-six lives extant of St. Patrick alone; and that in a
country where every parish had its own special saint and
special legend of him. These sixty-six lives may have
contained (Mr. Gibbon says must have contained) at
least as many thousand lies. Perhaps so. To severe
criticism, even the existence of a single apostle, St.
Patrick, appears problematical. But at least there is
the historical fact, about which admits of no mistake,
that they did grow up in some way or other, that they
were repeated, sung, listened to, written, and read; that
these lives in Ireland, and all over Europe and over
the earth, wherever the catholic faith was preached,
stories like these sprang out of the heart of the people,
and grew and shadowed over the entire believing mind
of the catholic world. Wherever church was founded,
or soil was consecrated for the long resting-place of
those who had died in the faith; wherever the sweet
bells of convent or of monastery were heard in the
evening air, charming the unquiet world to rest and
remembrance of God, there rested the memory of some
apostle who had laid the first stone, there was the
sepulchre of some martyr whose relics reposed beneath
the altar, of some confessor who had suffered there for
his Master's sake, of some holy ascetic who in silent
self-chosen austerity had woven a ladder there of prayer
and penance, on which the angels were believed to have
ascended and descended. It is not a phenomenon of
an age or of a century; it is characteristic of the history
of Christianity. From the time when the first preachers
of the faith passed out from their homes by that quiet
Galilean lake, to go to and fro over the earth, and
did their mighty work, and at last disappeared and
were not any more seen, these sacred legends began
to grow. Those who had once known them, who had
drawn from their lips the blessed message of light and
life, one and all would gather together what fragments
they could find of their stories. Rumours blew in from
all the winds. They had been seen here, had been
seen there, in the farthest corners of the earth, preaching,
contending, suffering, prevailing. Affection did not
stay to scrutinize. As when some member of a family
among ourselves is absent in some far place from which
sure news of him comes slowly and uncertainly; if he
has been in the army, on some dangerous expedition,
or at sea, or anywhere where real or imaginary dangers
stimulate anxiety; or when one is gone away from us
altogether--fallen perhaps in battle--and when the story
of his end can be collected but fitfully from strangers
who only knew his name, but had heard him nobly
spoken of; the faintest threads are caught at; reports,
the vagueness of which might be evident to indifference,
are to love strong grounds of confidence, and "trifles
light as air" establish themselves as certainties;--so,
in those first Christian communities, travellers came
through from east and west; legions on the march, or
caravans of wandering merchants; and one had been
in Rome and seen Peter disputing with Simon Magus;
another in India, where he had heard St. Thomas
preaching to the Brahmins; a third brought with him
from the wilds of Britain, a staff which he had cut, as
he said, from a thorn tree, the seed of which St. Joseph
had sown there, and which had grown to its full size in
a single night, making merchandize of the precious
relic out of the credulity of the believers. So the
legends grew, and were treasured up, and loved, and
trusted; and alas! all which we have been able to do
with them is to call them lies, and to point a shallow
moral on the impostures and credulities of the early
catholic. An atheist could not wish us to say more;
if we can really believe that the Christian church was
made over, in its very cradle to lies and to the father of
lies, and was allowed to remain in his keeping, so to
say, till yesterday, he will not much trouble himself
with any faith which after such an admission we may
profess to entertain. For as this spirit began in the
first age in which the church began to have a history;
so it continued so long as the church as an integral
body retained its vitality; and only died out in the
degeneracy which preceded, and which brought on the
Reformation. For fourteen hundred years these stories
held their place, and rang on from age to age, from
century to century; as the new faith widened its
boundaries and numbered ever more and more great
names of men and women who had fought and died for
it, so long their histories living in the hearts of those for
whom they laboured, laid hold of them and filled them,
and the devout imagination, possessed with what was
often no more than the rumour of a name, bodied it out
into life, and form, and reality. And doubtless, if we
try them by any historical canon, we have to say that
quite endless untruths grew in this way to be believed
among men; and not believed only, but held sacred,
passionately and devotedly; not filling the history
books only, not only serving to amuse and edify the
refectory, or to furnish matter for meditation in the
cell, but claiming days for themselves of special
remembrance, entering into liturgies and inspiring prayers,
forming the spiritual nucleus of the hopes and fears of
millions of human souls.

From the hard barren standing ground of the fact
idolater, what a strange sight must be that still mountain
peak on the wild west Irish shore, where for more
than ten centuries, a rude old bell and a carved chip
of oak have witnessed, or seemed to witness, to the
presence long ago there of the Irish apostle; and in the
sharp crystals of the trap rock a path has been worn
smooth by the bare feet and bleeding knees of the
pilgrims, who still, in the August weather, drag their
painful way along it as they have done for a thousand
years. Doubtless the "Lives of the Saints" are full of
lies. Are then none in the Iliad? in the legends
of AEneas? Were the stories sung in the liturgy of
Eleusis all so true? so true as fact? Are the songs of
the Cid or of Siegfried? We say nothing of the lies
in these, but why? Oh, it will be said, but they are
fictions, they were never supposed to be true. But
they were supposed to be true, to the full as true as the
Legenda Aurea. Oh then, they are poetry; and besides,
they have nothing to do with Christianity. Yes, that is
it; they have nothing to do with Christianity. It has
grown such a solemn business with us, and we bring
such long faces to it, that we cannot admit or conceive
to be at all naturally admissible such a light companion
as the imagination. The distinction between secular
and religious has been extended even to the faculties;
and we cannot tolerate in others the fulness and freedom
which we have lost or rejected for ourselves. Yet it has
been a fatal mistake with the critics. They found
themselves off the recognized ground of Romance and
Paganism, and they failed to see the same principles
at work, though at work with new materials. In the
records of all human affairs, it cannot be too often
insisted on that two kinds of truth run for ever side by
side, or rather, crossing in and out with each other, form
the warp and the woof of the coloured web which we
call history. The one, the literal and external truths
corresponding to the eternal and as yet undiscovered
laws of fact: the other, the truth of feeling and of
thought, which embody themselves either in distorted
pictures of the external, or in some entirely new creation;
sometimes moulding and shaping real history, sometimes
taking the form of heroic biography, of tradition, or
popular legend; sometimes appearing as recognized
fiction in the epic, the drama, or the novel. It is
useless to tell us that this is to confuse truth and
falsehood. We are stating a fact, not a theory, and if it
makes truth and falsehood difficult to distinguish, that
is nature's fault, not ours. Fiction is only false, when
it is false, not to fact, else how could it be fiction? but
when it is--to law. To try it by its correspondence to
the real is wretched pedantry; we create as nature
creates, by the force which is in us, which refuses to
be restrained; we cannot help it, and we are only false
when we make monsters, or when we pretend that our
inventions are fact, when we substitute truths of one kind
for truths of another; when we substitute,--and again we
must say when we intentionally substitute;--whenever
persons, and whenever facts seize strongly hold of the
imagination, (and of course when there is anything
remarkable in them they must and will do so,) invention
glides into the images as they form in us; it must, as it
ever has, from the first legends of a cosmogony, to the
written life of the great man who died last year or century,
or to the latest scientific magazine. We cannot relate
facts as they are, they must first pass through ourselves,
and we are more or less than mortal if they gather nothing
in the transit. The great outlines alone lie around us
as imperative and constraining; the detail we each fill
up variously according to the turn of our sympathies,
the extent of our knowledge, or our general theories of
things, and therefore it may be said that the only
literally true history possible, is the history which mind
has left of itself in all the changes through which it has

Suetonius is to the full as extravagant and superstitious
as Surius, and Suetonius was most laborious
and careful, and was the friend of Tacitus and Pliny;
Suetonius gives us prodigies, when Surius has miracles,
but that is all the difference; each follows the form of
the supernatural which belonged to the genius of his
age. Plutarch writes a life of Lycurgus with details of
his childhood, and of the trials and vicissitudes of his
age; and the existence of Lycurgus is now quite as
questionable as that of St. Patrick or of St. George of

No rectitude of intention will save us from mistakes.
Sympathies and antipathies are but synonyms of prejudice,
and indifference is impossible. Love is blind,
and so is every other passion; love believes eagerly what
it desires; it excuses or passes lightly over blemishes, it
dwells on what is beautiful, while dislike sees a tarnish
on what is brightest, and deepens faults into vices. Do
we believe that all this is a disease of unenlightened
times, and that in our strong sunlight only truth can
get received: then let us contrast the portrait for
instance of Sir Robert Peel as it is drawn in the Free
Trade Hall, at Manchester, at the county meeting, and
in the Oxford Common Room. It is not so. Faithful
and literal history is possible only to an impassive spirit;
it is impossible to man, until perfect knowledge and
perfect faith in God shall enable him to see and endure
every fact in its reality; until perfect love shall kindle
in him under its touch the one just emotion which
is in harmony with the eternal order of all things.

How far we are in these days from approximating
to such a combination we need not here insist. Criticism
in the hands of men like Niebuhr seems to have
accomplished great intellectual triumphs: and in
Germany and France and among ourselves we have our
new schools of the philosophy of history; yet their real
successes have hitherto only been destructive; when
philosophy reconstructs, it does nothing but project its
own idea; when it throws off tradition, it cannot work
without a theory, and what is a theory but an imperfect
generalization caught up by a predisposition? what
is Comte's great division of the eras, but a theory, and
facts but as day in his hands which he can mould to
illustrate it, as every clever man will find facts to be,
let his theory be what it will. Intellect can destroy but
it cannot make alive again,--call in the creative faculties,
call in Love, Idea, Imagination, and we have living
figures, but we cannot tell whether they are figures which
ever lived before. Alas, the high faith in which Love
and Intellect can alone unite in their fulness, has not
yet found utterance in modern historians.

The greatest man who has as yet given himself to
the recording of human affairs is, beyond question,
Cornelius Tacitus. Alone in Tacitus a serene calmness
of insight was compatible with intensity of feeling; he
took no side; he may have been Imperialist, he may
have been Republican, but he has left no sign whether
he was either: he appears to have sifted facts with
scrupulous integrity; to administer his love, his scorn,
his hatred, according only to individual merit, and these
are rather felt by the reader in the life-like clearness of
his portraits than expressed in words by himself. Yet
such a power of seeing into things was only possible to
him, because there was no party left with which he
could determinedly side, and no wide spirit alive in
Rome through which he could feel; the spirit of Rome,
the spirit of life had gone away to seek other forms, and
the world of Tacitus was a heap of decaying institutions;
a stage where men and women, as they themselves were
individually base or noble, played over their
little parts. Life indeed was come into the world, was
working in it, and silently shaping the old dead corpse
into fresh and beautiful being; Tacitus alludes to it
once only in one brief scornful chapter; and the most
poorly gifted of those forlorn biographers whose
unreasoning credulity was piling up the legends of St. Mary
and the Apostles which now drive the ecclesiastical
historian to despair, knew more, in his divine hope and
faith, of the real spirit which had gone out among
mankind, than the keenest and gravest intellect which
ever set itself to contemplate them.

And now having in some degree cleared the ground
of difficulties, let us go back to the Lives of the Saints.
If Bede tells us lies about St. Cuthbert, we will disbelieve
his stories, but we will not call Bede a liar, even
though he prefaces his life with a declaration that he has
set down nothing but what he has ascertained on the
clearest evidence. We are driven to no such alternative;
our canons of criticism are different from Bede's, and
so are our notions of probability. Bede would expect
a priori, and would therefore consider as sufficiently
attested by a consent of popular tradition, what the
oaths of living witnesses would fail to make credible to
a modern English jury. We will call Bede a liar only
if he put forward his picture of St. Cuthbert, as a
picture of a life which he considered admirable and
excellent, as one after which he was endeavouring to
model his own, and which he held up as a pattern of
imitation, when in his heart he did not consider it
admirable at all, when he was making no effort at the
austerities which he was lauding. The histories of the
Saints are written as ideals of a Christian life; they
have no elaborate and beautiful forms; single and
straightforward as they are,--if they are not this they
are nothing. For fourteen centuries the religious mind
of the catholic world threw them out as its form of
hero worship, as the heroic patterns of a form of human
life which each Christian within his own limits was
endeavouring to realize. The first martyrs and
confessors were to those poor monks what the first Dorian
conquerors were in the war songs of Tyrtaeus, what
Achilles and Ajax and Agamemnon and Diomed were
wherever Homer was sung or read; or in more modern
times what Turpin was in the court of Charlemagne or
the Knights of the Round Table in the halls of the
Norman castles. This is what they were; and the
result is that immense and elaborate hagiology. As
with the battle heroes too, the inspiration lies in the
universal idea; the varieties of character (with here and
there an exception) are slight and unimportant; as
examples they were for universal human imitation.
Lancelot or Tristram were equally true to the spirit of
chivalry; and Patrick on the mountain or Antony in
the desert are equal models of patient austerity. The
knights fight with giants, enchanters, robbers, unknightly
nobles, or furious wild beasts; the Christians fight with
the world, the flesh, and the devil. The knight leaves
the comforts of home in quest of adventures, the saint
in quest of penance, and on the bare rocks or in
desolate wildernesses subdues the devil in his flesh with
prayers and sufferings, and so alien is it all to the whole
thought and system of the modern Christian, that he
either rejects such stories altogether as monks' impostures,
or receives them with disdainful wonder, as one
more shameful form of superstition with which human
nature has insulted heaven and disgraced itself.

Leaving, however, for the present, the meaning of
monastic asceticism, it seems necessary to insist that
there really was such a thing; there is no doubt about
it. If the particular actions told of each saint are not
literally true, as belonging to him, abundance of men
did for many centuries lead the sort of life which they
are said to have led. We have got a notion that the
friars were a snug, comfortable set, after all; and the
life in a monastery pretty much like that in a modern
university, where the old monks' language and affectation
of unworldliness does somehow contrive to co-exist
with as large a mass of bodily enjoyment as man's
nature can well appropriate; and very likely this was
the state into which many of the monasteries had fallen
in the fifteenth century. It had begun to be, and it
was a symptom of a very rapid disorder in them,
promptly terminating in dissolution; but long, long ages
lay behind the fifteenth century, in which wisely or
foolishly these old monks and hermits did make themselves
a very hard life of it; and the legend only exceeded
the reality, in being a very slightly idealized
portrait of it. We are not speaking of the miracles; that
is a wholly different question. When men knew little
of the order of nature, whatever came to pass without
an obvious cause was at once set down to influences
beyond nature and above it; and so long as there were
witches and enchanters, strong with the help of the bad
powers, of course the especial servants of God would
not be left without graces to outmatch and overcome
the devil. And there were many other reasons why the
saints should work miracles. They had done so under
the old dispensation, and there was no obvious reason
why Christians should be worse off than Jews. And
again, although it be true, in the modern phrase, which
is beginning to savour a little of cant, that the highest
natural is the highest supernatural, it is not everybody
that is able to see that; natural facts permit us to be
so easily familiar with them, that they have an air of
commonness; and when we have a vast idea to express,
there is always a disposition to the extraordinary. But
the miracles are not the chief thing; nor ever were they
so. Men did not become saints by working miracles,
but they worked miracles because they had become
saints; and the instructiveness and value of their lives
lay in the means which they had used to make themselves
what they were: and as we said, in this part of
the business there is unquestionable basis of truth--
scarcely even exaggeration. We have documentary evidence,
which has been passed through the sharp ordeal
of party hatred, of the way some men (and those,
men of vast mind and vast influence in their day, not
mere ignorant fanatics,) conducted themselves, where
myth has no room to enter. We know something of
the hair-shirt of Thomas a Becket, and other uneasy
penances of his; and there was another poor monk,
whose asceticism imagination could not easily outrun:
that was he who, when the earth's mighty ones were
banded together to crush him under their armed heels,
spoke but one little word; and it fell among them like
the spear of Cadmus; the strong ones turned their hands
against each other, and the armies melted away; and
the proudest monarch of the earth lay at that monk's
threshold three winter nights in the scanty clothing of
penance, suing miserably for forgiveness. Or again,
to take a fairer figure: there is a poem extant, the
genuineness of which we believe has not been challenged,
composed by Columbkill, commonly called St.
Columba. He was a hermit in Aran, a rocky island in
the Atlantic, outside Galway Bay; from which he was
summoned, we do not know how, but in a manner
which appeared to him to be a divine call, to go away
and be bishop of Iona. The poem is a "Farewell to
Aran," which he wrote on leaving it; and he lets us
see something of a hermit's life there. "Farewell," he
begins (we are obliged to quote from memory), "a long
farewell to thee, Aran of my heart. Paradise is with
thee, the garden of God within the sound of thy bells.
The angels love Aran. Each day an angel comes there
to join in its services." And then he goes on to
describe his "dear cell," and the holy happy hours
which he had spent there, "with the wind whistling
through the loose stones, and the sea spray hanging on
his hair." Aran is no better than a wild rock. It is
strewed over with the ruins which may still be seen of
the old hermitages; and at their best they could have
been but such places as sheep would huddle under in
a storm, and shiver in the cold and wet which would
pierce through to them.

Or, if written evidence be too untrustworthy, there
are silent witnesses which cannot lie, that tell the same
touching story. Whoever loiters among the ruins of a
monastery will see, commonly leading out of the cloisters,
rows of cellars half under-ground, low, damp, and
wretched-looking; an earthen floor, bearing no trace of
pavement; a roof from which the mortar and the damp
keep up (and always must have kept up) a perpetual
ooze: for a window a narrow slip in the wall, through
which the cold and the wind find as free an access as
the light. Such as they are, a well-kept dog would
object to accept a night's lodging in them; and if they
had been prison cells, thousands of philanthropic tongues
would have trumpeted out their horrors. The stranger
perhaps supposes that they were the very dungeons of
which he has heard such terrible things. He asks his
guide, and his guide tells him they were the monks'
dormitories. Yes; there on that wet soil, with that
dripping roof above them, was the self-chosen home of
those poor men. Through winter frost, through rain
and storm, through summer sunshine, generation after
generation of them, there they lived and prayed, and at
last lay down and died.

It is all gone now--gone as if it had never been; and
it was as foolish as, if the attempt had succeeded, it
would have been mischievous, to revive a devotional
interest in the Lives of the Saints. It would have
produced but one more unreality in an age already too full
of such. No one supposes we should have set to work
to live as they lived; that any man, however earnest in
his religion, would have gone looking for earth floors
and wet dungeons, or wild islands to live in, when he
could get anything better. Either we are wiser, or more
humane, or more self-indulgent; at any rate we are
something which divides us from mediaeval Christianity by an
impassable gulf which this age or this epoch will not see
bridged over. Nevertheless, these modern hagiologists,
however wrongly they went to work at it, had detected,
and were endeavouring to fill, a very serious blank in
our educational system; a very serious blank indeed,
and one which, somehow, we must contrive to get filled
if the education of character is ever to be more than a
name with us. To try and teach people how to live
without giving them examples in which our rules are
illustrated, is like teaching them to draw by the rules of
perspective, and of light and shade, without designs to
study them in; or to write verse by the laws of rhyme
and metre without song or poem in which rhyme and
metre are seen in their effects. It is a principle
which we have forgotten, and it is one which the old
Catholics did not forget. We do not mean that they
set out with saying to themselves "we must have
examples, we must have ideals;" very likely they never
thought about it at all; love for their holy men, and a
thirst to know about them, produced the histories; and
love unconsciously working gave them the best for
which they could have wished. The boy at school at
the monastery, the young monk disciplining himself as
yet with difficulty under the austerities to which he had
devoted himself, the old halting on toward the close of
his pilgrimage, all of them had before their eyes, in the
legend of the patron saint, a personal realization of all
they were trying after; leading them on, beckoning to
them, and pointing, as they stumbled among their
difficulties, to the marks which his own footsteps had
left, as he had trod that hard path before them. It was
as if the church was for ever saying to them:--"You
have doubts and fears, and trials and temptations
outward and inward; you have sinned, perhaps, and
feel the burden of your sin. Here was one who, like
you, in this very spat, under the same sky, treading the
same soil, among the same hills and woods and rocks
and riven, was tried like you, tempted like you, sinned
like you; but here he prayed, and persevered, and did
penance, and washed out his sins; he fought the fight,
he vanquished the evil one, he triumphed, and now he
reigns a saint with Christ in heaven. The same ground
which yields you your food, once supplied him; he
breathed and lived, and felt, and died here; and now,
from his throne in the sky, he is still looking down
lovingly on his children, making intercession for you
that you may have grace to follow him, that by-and-by
he may himself offer you at God's throne as his own."
It is impossible to measure the influence which a
personal reality of this kind must have exercised on the
mind, thus daily and hourly impressed upon it through
a life; there is nothing vague any more, no abstract
excellences to strain after; all is distinct, personal,
palpable. It is no dream. The saint's bones are
under the altar; nay, perhaps, his very form and features
undissolved. Under some late abbot the coffin may have
been opened and the body seen without mark or taint
of decay. Such things have been, and the emaciation
of a saint will account for it without a miracle. Daily
some incident of his story is read aloud, or spoken of,
or preached upon. In quaint beautiful forms it lives in
light in the long chapel windows; and in the summer
matins his figure, lighted up in splendour, gleams down
on them as they pray, or streams in mysterious shadowy
tints along the pavement, clad, as it seems, in soft
celestial glory, and shining as he shines in heaven.
Alas, alas, where is it all gone?

We are going to venture a few thoughts on the wide
question, what possibly may have been the meaning of
so large a portion of the human race and so many
centuries of Christianity having been surrendered and
seemingly sacrificed to the working out this dreary
asceticism. If right once, then it is right now; if now
worthless, then it could never have been more than
worthless; and the energies which spent themselves on
it were like corn sown upon the rock, or substance given
for that which is not bread. We supposed ourselves
challenged recently for our facts. Here is an enormous
fact which there is no evading. It is not to be slurred
over with indolent generalities, with unmeaning talk of
superstition, of the twilight of the understanding, of
barbarism, and of nursery credulity; it is matter for the
philosophy of history, if the philosophy has yet been
born which can deal with it; one of the solid,
experienced facts in the story of mankind which must be
accepted and considered with that respectful deference
which all facts claim of their several sciences, and
which will certainly not disclose its meaning (supposing
it to have a meaning) except to reverence, to sympathy,
to love. We must remember that the men who wrote
these stories, and who practised these austerities, were
the same men who composed our liturgies, who built
our churches and our cathedrals--and the gothic cathedral
is, perhaps, on the whole, the most magnificent
creation which the mind of man has as yet thrown out
of itself. If there be any such thing as a philosophy
of history, real or possible, it is in virtue of there being
certain progressive organizing laws in which the fretful
lives of each of us are gathered into and subordinated in
some larger unity. Thus age is linked on to age, as we
are moving forward, with an horizon for ever expanding
and advancing. And if this is true, the magnitude of
any human phenomenon is a criterion of its importance,
and definite forms of thought working through long
historic periods imply an effect of one of these vast laws.
--imply a distinct step in human progress; something
previously unrealized is being lived out, and rooted into
the heart of mankind. Nature never half does her
work. She goes over it, and over it, to make assurance
sure, and makes good her ground with wearying
repetition. A single section of a short paper is but a
small space to enter on so vast an enterprise, nevertheless,
a few very general words shall be ventured as a
suggestion of what this monastic or saintly spirit may
possibly have meant.

First, as the spirit of Christianity is antagonistic to
the world whatever form the spirit of the world assumes,
the ideals of Christianity will of course be their opposite;
as one verges into one extreme the other will
verge into the contrary. In those rough times the law
was the sword; animal might of arm, and the strong
animal heart which guided it, were the excellences
which the world rewarded, and monasticism, therefore,
in its position of protest, would be the destruction and
abnegation of the animal. The war hero in the
battle or the tourney yard might be taken as the apotheosis
of the fleshly man, the saint in the desert of the
spiritual. But this is slight, imperfect, and if true at all
only partially so. The animal and the spiritual are not
contradictories; they are the complements in the perfect
character; and in the middle ages, as in all ages of
genuine earnestness, interfused and penetrated each
other. There were warrior saints and saintly warriors;
and those grand old figures which sleep cross-legged in
the cathedral aisles were something higher than only
one more form of the beast of prey. Monasticism
represented something more positive than a protest against
the world. We believe it to have been the realization
of the infinite loveliness and beauty of personal purity.

In the earlier civilization, the Greeks, however
genuine their reverence for the gods, do not seem to
have supposed any part of their duty to the gods to
consist in keeping their bodies untainted. Exquisite as
was their sense of beauty, of beauty of mind as well as
beauty of form, with all their loftiness and their nobleness,
with their ready love of moral excellence in some
of its manifestations, as fortitude, or devotion to liberty
and to home, they had little or no idea of what we
mean by morality. With a few rare exceptions, pollution,
too detestable to be even named among ourselves,
was of familiar and daily occurrence among their
greatest men; was no reproach to philosopher or to statesman;
and was not supposed to be incompatible, and
was not, in fact, incompatible with any of those especial
excellences which we so admire in the Greeks.

Among the Romans (that is, the early Romans of
the republic), there was a sufficiently austere morality.
A public officer of state, whose business was to inquire
into the private lives of the citizens, and to punish
offences against morals, is a phenomenon which we
have seen only once on this planet. There was never
a people before, and there has been none since, with
sufficient virtue to endure it. But the Roman morality
is not lovely for its own sake, nor excellent in itself.
It is obedience to law, practised and valued, loved
for what resulted from it, for the strength and rigid
endurance which it gave, but not loved for itself. The
Roman nature was fierce, rugged, almost brutal; and
it submitted to restraint as stern as itself, as long as
the energy of the old spirit endured. But as soon as
the energy grew slack, when the religion was no
longer believed, and taste, as it was called, came in,
and there was no more danger to face, and the world
was at their feet, all was swept away as before a whirlwind;
there was no loveliness in virtue to make it
desired, and the Rome of the Censors presents, in its
later age, a picture of enormous sensuality, of the
coarsest animal desire, with means unlimited to gratify
it. In Latin literature, as little as in the Greek, is
there any sense of the beauty of purity. Moral essays
on temperance we may find, and praise enough of the
wise man whose passions and whose appetites are
trained into obedience to reason. But this is no more
than the philosophy of the old Roman life, which got
itself expressed in words when men were tired of the
reality; it involves no sense of sin. If sin could be
indulged without weakening our self-command, or without
hurting other people, Roman philosophy would have
nothing to say against it.

The Christians stepped far out beyond philosophy;
without speculating on the why, they felt that indulgence
of animal passion did, in fact, pollute them,
and so much the more, the more it was deliberate.
Philosophy, gliding into Manicheism, divided the forces
of the universe, giving the spirit to God, but declaring
matter to be eternally and incurably evil; and looking
forward to the time when the spirit should be emancipated
from the body, as the beginning of, or as the
return to, its proper existence, took no especial care
what became the meanwhile of its evil tenement of
flesh. If it sinned, sin was its element; it could
not do other than sin; purity of conduct could not
make the body clean, and no amount of bodily
indulgence could shed a taint upon the spirit--a very
comfortable doctrine, and one which, under various
disguises, has appeared a good many times on the
earth. But Christianity, shaking it all off, would
present the body to God as a pure and holy sacrifice,
as so much of the material world conquered from the
appetites and lusts, and from the devil whose abode
they were. This was the meaning of the fastings and
scourgings, the penances and night-watchings; it was
this which sent St. Anthony to the tombs and set
Simeon on his pillar, to conquer the devil in the flesh,
and keep themselves, if possible, undefiled by so much
as one corrupt thought.

And they may have been absurd and extravagant;
when the feeling is stronger than the judgment, men
are very apt to be so. If, in the recoil from
Manicheism, they conceived that a body of a saint
thus purified had contracted supernatural virtue and
could work miracles, they had not sufficiently attended
to the facts, and so far are not unexceptionable witnesses
to them. Nevertheless they did their work, and in
virtue of it we are raised to a higher stage, we are lifted
forward a mighty step which we can never again retrace.
Personal purity is not the whole for which we have to
care, it is but one feature in the ideal character of man.
The monks may have thought it was all, or more nearly
all than it is; and therefore their lives may seem to us
poor, mean, and emasculate. Yet it is with life as it is
with science; generations of men have given themselves
exclusively to single branches, which, when mastered,
form but a little section in a cosmic philosophy; and in
life, so slow is progress, it may take a thousand years
to make good a single step. Weary and tedious enough
it seems when we cease to speak in large language, and
remember the numbers of individual souls who have
been at work at it; but who knows whereabouts we
are in the duration of the race? Are we crawling out
of the cradle, or are we tottering into the gave?
In nursery, in schoolroom, or in opening manhood?
Who knows? It is enough for us to be sure of our
steps when we have taken them, and thankfully to
accept what has been done for us. Henceforth it is
impossible for us to give our unmixed admiration to
any character which moral shadows overhang. Henceforth
we require not greatness only, but goodness; and
not that goodness only which begins and ends in conduct
correctly regulated, but that love of goodness, that
keen pure feeling for it, which resides in a conscience
as sensitive and susceptible as woman's modesty.

So much for what seems to us the philosophy of this
matter. If we are right, it is no more than a first
furrow in the crust of a soil, which hitherto the
historians have been contented to leave in its barrenness.
If they are conscientious enough not to trifle
with the facts, as they look back on them from the
easiness of modern Christianity which has ceased to
demand any heavy effort of self-sacrifice, they either
revile the superstition or pity the ignorance which made
such large mistakes on the nature of religion--and, loud
in their denunciations of priestcraft and of lying wonders,
they point their moral with pictures of the ambition of
mediaeval prelacy or the scandals of the annals of the
papacy. For the inner life of all those millions of
immortal souls who were struggling, with such good or
bad success as was given them, to carry Christ's cross
along their journey in this earth of ours, they set it by,
pass it over, dismiss it out of history, with some poor
common-place simper of sorrow or of scorn. It will
not do. Mankind have not been so long on this planet
altogether, that we can allow so large a chasm to be
scooped out of their spiritual existence.

We intended to leave our readers with something
lighter than all this in the shape of literary criticism
and a few specimen extracts; both of which must now,
however, be necessarily brief--we are running out our
space. Whoever is curious to study the lives of the
saints in their originals, should rather go anywhere than
to the Bollandists, and universally never read a late life
when he can command an early one, for the genius in
them is in the ratio of their antiquity, and, like riverwater,
is most pure nearest to the fountain head. We
are lucky in possessing several specimens of the mode
of their growth in late and early lives of the same saints,
and the process in all is similar. Out of the lives of
St. Bride three are left; out of the sixty-six of
St. Patrick, there are eight; the first of each belonging
to the sixth century, the latest to the thirteenth. The
first are in verse; they belong to a time when there
was no one to write such things, and were popular in
form and popular in their origin--the flow is easy, the
style graceful and natural; but the step from poetry to
prose is substantial as well as formal; the imagination is
ossified, and the exuberance of legendary creativeness
we exchange for the hard dogmatic record of fact without
reality, and fiction without grace. The marvellous
in the poetical lives is comparatively slight; the after
miracles being composed frequently out of a mistake of
poets' metaphors for literal truth. There is often real,
genial, human beauty in the old verse. The first two
stanzas, for instance, of St. Bride's Hymn are of high
merit, as may, perhaps, be imperfectly seen in a

"Bride the queen, she loved not the world;
She floated on the waves of the world
As the sea-bird floats upon the billow.

Such sleep she slept as the mother sleeps
In the far land of her captivity,
Mourning for her child at home."

What a picture is there of the strangeness and yearning
of the poor human soul in this earthly pilgrimage.
The poetical "Life of St. Patrick," too, is full of fine,
wild, natural imagery. The boy is described as a
shepherd on the hills of Down, and there is a legend,
well told, of the angel Victor coming to him, and leaving
a gigantic foot-print on a rock from which he
sprang into heaven. The legend, of course, rose from
some remarkable natural feature of the spot; but, as
it is told here, a shadowy unreality hangs over it, and
it is doubtful whether it is more than a vision of the
boy. But in the prose all is crystalline; the story
is drawn out, with a barren prolixity of detail, into a
series of angelic visitations. And again, when Patrick
is described, as the after apostle, raising the dead Celts
to life, the metaphor cannot be left in its natural force,
and we have a long weary list of literal deaths and
literal raisings. And so in many ways the freshness
and individuality is lost with time. The larger saints
swallowed up the smaller and appropriated their exploits;
chasms were supplied by an ever ready imagination;
and, like the stock of good works laid up for
general use, there was a stock of miracles ever ready
when any defect was to be supplied. So it was that,
after the first impulse, the progressive fire of a saint
rolled on like a snow-ball down a mountain-side, gathering
up into itself whatever lay in its path, fact or legend,
appropriate or inappropriate, sometimes real jewels of
genuine old tradition, sometimes the debris of the old
creeds and legends of heathenism; and on, and on, till
at length it reached the bottom, and was dashed in
pieces on the Reformation.

One more illustration--one which shall serve as evidence
of what the really greatest, most vigorous, minds
in the twelfth century could accept as possible or probable,
and which they could relate (on what evidence we
do not know) as really ascertained facts. We remember
something of St. Artselm: both as a statesman and as
a theologian, he was unquestionably the ablest man of
his time alive in Europe. Here is a story which he
tells of a certain Cornish St. Kieran. The saint with
thirty of his companions, was preaching within the
frontiers of a lawless pagan prince; and, disregarding
all orders to be quiet or to leave the country, continued
to agitate, to threaten, and to thunder even in the ears
of the prince himself. Things took their natural course.
Disobedience provoked punishment. A guard of soldiers
was sent, and the saint and his little band were decapitated.
The scene of the execution was a wood, and the
heads and trunks were left lying there for the wolves
and the wild birds.

"But now a miracle, such as was once heard of before in
the church in the person of the holy Denis, was again
wrought by divine providence to preserve the bodies of
his saints from profanation. The trunk of Kieran rose
from the ground, and selecting first his own head, and
carrying it to a stream, and there carefully washing it, and
afterwards performing the same sacred office for each of
his companions, giving each body its own head, he dug
graves for them and buried them, and last of all buried

It is even so. So it stands written in a life claiming
Anselm's authorship; and there is no reason why the
authorship should not be his. Out of the heart come
the issues of evil and of good, and not out of the
intellect or the understanding. Men are not good or bad,
noble or base--thank God for it!--as they judge well
or ill of the probabilities of nature, but as they love
God and hate the devil. And yet it is instructive.
We have heard grave good men--men of intellect and
influence--with all the advantages of modern science,
learning, experience; men who would regard Anselm
with sad and serious pity; yet tell us stories, as having
fallen within their own experience, of the marvels of
mesmerism, to the full as ridiculous (if anything is ridiculous)
as this of the poor decapitated Kieran.

"Mutato nomine de te
Fabula narratur."

We see our natural faces in the glass of history, and
turn away and straightway forget what manner of men
we are. The superstition of science scoffs at the
superstition of faith.


To be entirely just in our estimate of other ages is not
difficult--it is impossible. Even what is passing in
our presence we see but through a glass darkly. The
mind as well as the eye adds something of its own,
before an image, even of the clearest object, can be
painted upon it,

And in historical inquiries, the most instructed
thinkers have but a limited advantage over the most
illiterate. Those who know the most, approach least
to agreement. The most careful investigations are
diverging roads--the further men travel upon them, the
greater the interval by which they are divided. In
the eyes of David Hume, the history of the Saxon
Princes is "the scuffling of kites and crows." Father
Newman would mortify the conceit of a degenerate
England by pointing to the sixty saints and the hundred
confessors who were trained in her royal palaces for the
Calendar of the Blessed. How vast a chasm yawns
between these two conceptions of the same era!
Through what common term can the student pass from
one into the other?

Or, to take an instance yet more noticeable. The
history of England scarcely interests Mr. Macaulay
before the Revolution of the seventeenth century. To
Lord John Russell, the Reformation was the first outcome
from centuries of folly and ferocity; and Mr.
Hallam's more temperate language softens, without
concealing, a similar conclusion. These writers have all
studied what they describe. Mr. Carlyle has studied the
same subject with power at least equal to theirs, and to
him the greatness of English character was waning with
the dawn of English literature; the race of heroes was
already failing. The era of action was yielding before
the era of speech.

All these views may seem to ourselves exaggerated;
we may have settled into some moderate via media,
or have carved out our own ground on an original
pattern; but if we are wise, the differences in other
men's judgments will teach us to be diffident. The
more distinctly we have made history bear witness
in favour of our particular opinions, the more we
have multiplied the chances against the truth of our
own theory.

Again, supposing that we have made a truce with
"opinions," properly so called; supposing we have
satisfied ourselves that it is idle to quarrel upon points
on which good men differ, and that it is better to attend
rather to what we certainly know; supposing that, either
from superior wisdom, or from the conceit of superior
wisdom, we have resolved that we will look for human
perfection neither exclusively in the Old World nor
exclusively in the New--neither among Catholics nor
Protestants, among Whigs or Tories, heathens or
Christians--that we have laid aside accidental differences
and determined to recognize only moral distinctions, to
love moral worth, and to hate moral evil, wherever we
find them;--even supposing all this, we have not much
improved our position--we cannot leap from our

Eras, like individuals, differ from one another in
the species of virtue which they encourage. In one
age, we find the virtues of the warrior, in the next of
the saint. The ascetic and the soldier in their turn
disappear; an industrial era succeeds, bringing with it
the virtues of common sense, of grace, and refinement.
There is the virtue of energy and command, there is
the virtue of humility and patient suffering. All these
are different, and all are, or may be, of equal moral
value; yet, from the constitution of our minds, we are
so framed that we cannot equally appreciate all; we
sympathize instinctively with the person who most
have been especially cultivated. Further, if we leave
out of sight these refinements, and content ourselves
with the most popular conceptions of morality, there is
this immeasurable difficulty--so great, yet so little
considered,--that goodness is positive as well as negative,
and consists in the active accomplishment of certain
things which we are bound to do, as well as in the
abstaining from things which we are bound not to do.
And here the warp and woof vary in shade and pattern.
Many a man, with the help of circumstances may pick
his way clear through life, never having violated one
prohibitive commandment, and yet at last be fit only
for the place of the unprofitable servant--he may not
have committed either sin or crime, yet never have felt
the pulsation of a single unselfish emotion. Another,
meanwhile, shall have been hurried by an impulsive
nature into fault after fault, shall have been reckless,
improvident, perhaps profligate, yet be fitter after all
for the kingdom of Heaven than the Pharisee--fitter,
because against the catalogue of faults there could
perhaps be set a fairer list of acts of comparative
generosity and self-forgetfulness--fitter, because to those
who love much, much is forgiven. Fielding had no
occasion to make Blifil, behind his decent coat, a traitor
and a hypocrite. It would have been enough to have
coloured him in and out alike in the steady hues of
selfishness, afraid of offending the upper powers as he
was afraid of offending Allworthy,--not from any love
for what was good, but solely because it would be
imprudent--because the pleasure to be gained was not
worth the risk of consequences. Such a Blifil would
have answered the novelist's purpose--he would still
have been a worse man in the estimation of some of us
than Tom Jones.

So the truth is; but unfortunately it is only where
accurate knowledge is stimulated by affection, that we
are able to feel it. Persons who live beyond our own
circle, and still more persons who have lived in another
age, receive what is called justice, not charity; and
justice is supposed to consist in due allotments of censure
for each special act of misconduct, leaving merit
unrecognized. There are many reasons for this harsh
method of judging. We must decide of men by what
we know, and it is easier to know faults than to know
virtues. Faults are specific, easily described, easily
appreciated, easily remembered. And again, there is,
or may be, hypocrisy in virtue; but no one pretends to
vice who is not vicious. The bad things which can be
proved of a man we know to be genuine. He was a
spendthrift, he was an adulterer, he gambled, he fought
a duel. These are blots positive, unless untrue, and
when uncorrected tinge the whole character.

This also is to be observed in historical criticism.
All men feel a necessity of being on some terms with
their conscience, at their own expense, or at another's.
If they cannot part with their faults, they will at least
call them by their right name when they meet with such
faults elsewhere; and thus, when they find accounts of
deeds of violence or sensuality, of tyranny, of injustice
of man to man, of great and extensive suffering, or any
of those other misfortunes which the selfishness of men
has at various times occasioned, they will vituperate the
doers of such things, and the age which has permitted
them to be done, with the full emphasis of virtuous
indignation, while all the time they are themselves
doing things which will be described, with no less
justice, in the same colour, by an equally virtuous

Historians are fond of recording the supposed sufferings
of the poor in the days of serfdom and villanage;
yet the records of the strikes of the last ten years, when
told by the sufferers, contain pictures no less fertile
in tragedy. We speak of famines and plagues under
the Tudors and Stuarts; but the Irish famine, and
the Irish plague of 1847, the last page of such horrors
which has yet been turned over, is the most horrible
of all We can conceive a description of England
during the year which has just closed over us, true in
all its details, containing no one statement which can
be challenged, no single exaggeration which can be
proved. And this description, if given without the
correcting traits, shall make ages to come marvel why
the Cities of the Plain were destroyed, and England
was allowed to survive. The frauds of trusted men,
high in power and high in supposed religion; the whole-sale
poisonings; the robberies; the adulteration of food
--nay, of almost everything exposed for sale--the cruel
usage of women--children murdered for the burial fees
--life and property insecure in open day in the open
streets--splendour such as the world never saw before
upon earth, with vice and squalor crouching under its
walls--let all this be written down by an enemy, or
let it be ascertained hereafter by the investigation of
a posterity which desires to judge us as we generally
have judged our forefathers, and few years will show
darker in the English annals than the year which has
so lately closed behind us. Yet we know, in the honesty
of our hearts, how unjust such a picture would be. Our
future advocate, if we are so happy as to find one,
may not be able to disprove a single article in the
indictment--and yet we know that, as the world goes,
he will be right if he marks the year with a white stroke
--as one in which, on the whole, the moral harvest
was better than an average.

Once more: our knowledge of any man is always
inadequate--even of the unit which each of us calls
himself; and the first condition under which we can
know a man at all is, that he be in essentials something
like ourselves; that our own experience be an interpreter
which shall open the secrets of his experience;
and it often happens, even among our contemporaries,
that we are altogether baffled. The Englishman and
the Italian may understand each other's speech, but
the language of each other's ideas has still to be learnt.
Our long failures in Ireland have risen from a radical
incongruity of character which has divided the Celt
from the Saxon. And again, in the same country,
the Catholic will be a mystery to the Protestant, and the
Protestant to the Catholic. Their intellects have been
shaped in opposite moulds; they are like instruments
which cannot be played in concert. In the same way,
but in a far higher degree, we are divided from the
generations which have preceded us in this planet--we
try to comprehend a Pericles or a Caesar--an image rises
before us which we seem to recognize as belonging to
our common humanity. There is this feature which
is familiar to us--and this--and this. We are full of
hope; the lineaments, one by one, pass into clearness;
when suddenly the figure becomes enveloped in a
cloud--some perplexity crosses our analysis, baffling it
utterly; the phantom which we have evoked dies away
before our eyes, scornfully mocking our incapacity to
master it.

The English antecedent to the Reformation are nearer
to us than Greeks or Romans; and yet there is a large
interval between the baron who fought at Barnet field,
and his polished descendant at a modern levee. The
scale of appreciation and the rule of judgment--the
habits, the hopes, the fears, the emotions--have utterly

In perusing modern histories, the present writer has
been struck dumb with wonder at the facility with
which men will fill in chasms in their information with
conjecture; will guess at the motives which have
prompted actions; will pass their censures, as if all
secrets of the past lay out on an open scroll before
them. He is obliged to say for himself that, wherever
he has been fortunate enough to discover authentic
explanations of English historical difficulties, it is rare
indeed that he has found any conjecture, either of his
own or of any other modern writer, confirmed. The
true motive has almost invariably been of a kind which
no modern experience could have suggested.

Thoughts such as these form a hesitating prelude to
an expression of opinion on a controverted question.
They will serve, however, to indicate the limits within
which the said opinion is supposed to be hazarded.
And in fact, neither in this nor in any historical
subject is the conclusion so clear that it can be
enunciated in a definite form. The utmost which can
be safely hazarded with history is to relate honestly
ascertained facts, with only such indications of a judicial
sentence upon them as may be suggested in the form in
which the story is arranged.

Whether the monastic bodies of England, at the time
of their dissolution, were really in that condition of moral
corruption which is laid to their charge in the Act of
Parliament by which they were dissolved, is a point
which it seems hopeless to argue. Roman Catholic,
and indeed almost all English, writers who are not
committed to an unfavourable opinion by the ultra-
Protestantism of their doctrines--seem to have agreed
of late years that the accusations, if not false, were
enormously exaggerated. The dissolution, we are told,
was a predetermined act of violence and rapacity; and
when the reports and the letters of the visitors are
quoted in justification of the Government, the discussion
is closed with the dismissal of every unfavourable
witness from the court, as venal, corrupt, calumnious--
in fact, as a suborned liar. Upon these terms the
argument is easily disposed of; and if it were not that
truth is in all matters better than falsehood, it would
be idle to reopen a question which cannot be justly
dealt with. No evidence can affect convictions which
have been arrived at without evidence--and why should
we attempt a task which it is hopeless to accomplish?
It seems necessary, however, to reassert the actual state
of the surviving testimony from time to time, if it be
only to sustain the links of the old traditions; and the
present paper will contain one or two pictures of a
peculiar kind, exhibiting the life and habits of those
institutions, which have been lately met with chiefly
among the unprinted Records. In anticipation of any
possible charge of unfairness in judging from isolated
instances, we disclaim simply all desire to judge--all
wish to do anything beyond relating certain ascertained
stories. Let it remain, to those who are perverse
enough to insist upon it, an open question whether
the monasteries were more corrupt under Henry VIII.
than they had been four hundred years earlier. The
dissolution would have been equally a necessity; for no
reasonable person would desire that bodies of men
should have been maintained for the only business of
singing masses, when the efficacy of masses was no
longer believed. Our present desire is merely this--to
satisfy ourselves whether the Government, in discharging
a duty which could not be dispensed with, condescended
to falsehood in seeking a vindication for
themselves which they did not require; or whether
they had cause really to believe the majority of the
monastic bodies to be as they affirmed--whether, that
is to say, there really were such cases either of flagrant
immorality, neglect of discipline, or careless waste and
prodigality, as to justify the general censure which was
pronounced against the system by the Parliament and
the Privy Council.

Secure in the supposed completeness with which
Queen Mary's agents destroyed the Records of the
visitation under her father, Roman-catholic writers have
taken refuge in a disdainful denial; and the Anglicans,
who for the most part (while contented to enjoy the
fruits of the Reformation) detest the means by which
it was brought about, have taken the same view.
Bishop Latimer tells us that, when the Report of the
visitors of the abbeys was read in the Commons
House, there rose from all sides one long cry of "Down
with them." But Bishop Latimer, in the opinion of
High Churchmen, is not to be believed. Do we produce
letters of the visitors themselves, we are told that
they are the slanders prepared to justify a preconceived
purpose of spoliation. No witness, it seems, will be
admitted unless it be the witness of a friend. Unless
some enemy of the Reformation can be found to confess
the crimes which made the Reformation necessary, the
crimes themselves are to be regarded as unproved.
This is a hard condition. We appeal to Wolsey.

Wolsey commenced the suppression. Wolsey first
made public the infamies which disgraced the Church;
while, notwithstanding, he died the devoted servant of
the Church. This evidence is surely admissible? But
no: Wolsey, too, must be put out of court. Wolsey was
a courtier and a timeserver. Wolsey was a tyrant's
minion. Wolsey was--in short, we know not what
Wolsey was--or what he was not. Who can put confidence
in a charlatan? Behind the bulwarks of such
objections, the champion of the abbeys may well believe
himself secure.

And yet, unreasonable though these demands may be,
it happens, after all, that we are able partially to gratify
them. It is strange that of all extant accusations
against any one of the abbeys, the heaviest is from a
quarter which even Lingard himself would scarcely call
suspicious. No picture left us by Henry's visitors
surpasses, even if it equals, a description of the condition
of the Abbey of St. Albans, in the last quarter of
the fifteenth century, drawn by Morton, Henry VII.'s
Minister, Cardinal Archbishop, Legate of the Apostolic
See, in a letter addressed by him to the Abbot of St.
Albans himself.

We must request our reader's special attention for
the next two pages.

In the year 1489, Pope Innocent VIII.--moved with
the enormous stories which reached his ear of the
corruption of the houses of religion in England--granted a
commission to the Archbishop of Canterbury to make
inquiries whether these stories were true, and to proceed
to correct and reform as might seem good to him. The
regular clergy were exempt from episcopal visitation,
except under especial directions from Rome. The
occasion had appeared so serious as to make extraordinary
interference necessary.

On the receipt of the Papal commission, Cardinal
Morton, among other letters, wrote the following:--

"John, by Divine permission. Archbishop of Canterbury,
Primate of all England, Legate of the Apostolic
See, to William, Abbot of the Monastery of St. Albans,

"We have received certain letters under lead, the copies
whereof we herewith send you, from our most holy Lord
and Father in Christ, Innocent, by Divine Providence
Pope, the eighth of that name. We therefore, John, the
Archbishop, the visitor, reformer, inquisitor, and judge
therein mentioned, in reverence for the Apostolic See,
have taken upon ourselves the burden of enforcing the
said commission; and have determined that we will
proceed by, and according to, the full force, tenour, and
effect of the same.

"And it has come to our ears, being at once publicly
notorious and brought before us upon the testimony of
many witnesses worthy of credit, that you, the abbot
afore-mentioned, have been of long time noted and
diffamed, and do yet continue so noted, of simony, of
usury, of dilapidation and waste of the goods, revenues,
and possessions of the said monastery, and of certain
other enormous crimes and excesses hereafter written.
In the rule, custody, and administration of the goods,
spiritual and temporal, of the said monastery, you are
so remiss, so negligent, so prodigal, that whereas the
said monastery was of old times founded and endowed
by the pious devotion of illustrious princes of famous
memory, heretofore kings of this land, the most noble
progenitors of our most serene Lord and King
that now is, in order that true religion might flourish
there, that the name of the Most High, in whose honour
and glory it was instituted, might be duly celebrated

"And whereas, in days heretofore the regular observance
of the said rule was greatly regarded, and hospitality
was diligently kept;

"Nevertheless, for no little time, during which you
have presided in the same monastery, you and certain
of your fellow monks and brethren (whose blood, it is
feared, through your neglect, a severe Judge will require
at your hand) have relaxed the measure and form of
religious life; you have laid aside the pleasant yoke of
contemplation, and all regular observances; hospitality,
alms, and those other offices of piety which of old time
were exercised and ministered therein have decreased,
and by your faults, your carelessness, your neglect and
deed, do daily decrease more and more, and cease
to be regarded--the pious vows of the founders are
defrauded of their just intent; the antient rule of your
order is deserted; and not a few of your fellow monks
and brethren, as we most deeply grieve to learn, giving
themselves over to a reprobate mind, laying aside the
fear of God, do lead only a life of lasciviousness--nay,
as is horrible to relate, be not afraid to defile the holy
places, even the very churches of God, by infamous
intercourse with nuns, &c.

"You yourself, moreover, among other grave enormities
and abominable crimes whereof you are guilty, and for
which you are noted and diffamed, have, in the first
place, admitted a certain married woman, named
Elena Germyn, who has separated herself without just
cause from her husband, and for some time past has
lived in adultery with another man, to be a nun or sister
in the house or Priory of Pray, lying, as you pretend,
within your jurisdiction. You have next appointed the
same woman to be prioress of the said house,
notwithstanding that her said husband was living at the time,
and is still alive. And finally, Father Thomas Sudbury,
one of your brother monks, publicly, notoriously,
and without interference or punishment from you, has
associated, and still associates, with this woman as an
adulterer with his harlot.

"Moreover, divers other of your brethren and fellow
monks have resorted, and do resort, continually to her
and other women at the same place, as to a public
brothel or receiving house, and have received no
correction therefore.

"Nor is Pray the only house into which you have
introduced disorder. At the nunnery of Sapwell, which
you also contend to be under your jurisdiction, you
change the prioresses and superiors again and again at
your own will and caprice. Here, as well as at Pray,
you depose those who are good and religious; you
promote to the highest dignities the worthless and the
vicious. The duties of the order are cast aside, virtue
is neglected; and by these means so much cost and
extravagance has been caused, that to provide means for
your indulgence you have introduced certain of your
brethren to preside in their houses under the name
of guardians, when in fact they are no guardians, but
thieves and notorious villains; and with their help you
have caused and permitted the goods of the same priories
to be dispensed, or to speak more truly to be dissipated,
in the above-described corruptions and other enormous
and accursed offences. Those places once religious are
rendered and reputed as it were profane and impious;
and by your own and your creatures' conduct are so
impoverished as to be reduced to the verge of ruin.

"In like manner, also, you have dealt with certain other
cells of monks, which you say are subject to you, even
within the monastery of the glorious proto-martyr, Alban
himself. You have dilapidated the common property;
you have made away with the jewels; the copses, the
woods, the underwood, almost all the oaks and other
forest trees, to the value of eight thousand marks and
more, you have made to be cut down without distinction,
and they have by you been sold and alienated. The
brethren of the abbey, some of whom, as is reported,
are given over to all the evil things of the world, neglect
the service of God altogether. They live with harlots
and mistresses publicly and continuously, within the
precincts of the monastery and without. Some of them,
who are covetous of honour and promotion, and desirous
therefore of pleasing your cupidity, have stolen and
made away with the chalices and other jewels of the
church. They have even sacrilegiously extracted the
precious stones from the very shrine of St. Alban; and
you have not punished these men, but have rather
knowingly supported and maintained them. If any of
your brethren be living justly and religiously, if any be
wise and virtuous, these you straightway depress and
hold in hatred ... You ..."

But we need not transcribe further this overwhelming
document. It pursues its way through mire and filth
to its most lame and impotent conclusion. After all
this, the abbot was not deposed; he was invited merely
to reconsider his doings, and if possible amend them.
Such was Church discipline, even under an extraordinary
commission from Rome. But the most incorrigible
Anglican will scarcely question the truth of a picture
drawn by such a hand; and it must be added that this
one unexceptionable indictment lends at once assured
credibility to the reports which were presented fifty
years later, on the general visitation. There is no
longer room for the presumptive objection that charges
so revolting could not be true. We see that in their
worst form they could be true, and the evidence of
Legh and Leghton, of Rice and Bedyll, as it remains
in their letters to Cromwell, must be shaken in detail,
or else it must be accepted as correct. We cannot
dream that Archbishop Morton was mistaken, or was
misled by false information. St. Albans was no obscure
priory in a remote and thinly-peopled county. The
Abbot of St. Albans was a peer of the realm, taking
precedence of bishops, living in the full glare of notoriety,
within a few miles of London. The archbishop had
ample means of ascertaining the truth; and, we may be
sure, had taken care to examine his ground before he
left on record so tremendous an accusation. This story
is true--as true as it is piteous. We will pause a
moment over it before we pass from this, once more to
ask our passionate Church friends whether still they will
persist that the abbeys were no worse under the Tudors
than they had been in their origin, under the Saxons,
or under the first Norman and Plantagenet kings. No,
indeed, it was not so. The abbeys which towered in
the midst of the English towns, the houses clustered at
their feet like subjects round some majestic queen, were
images indeed of the civil supremacy which the Church
of the Middle Ages had asserted for itself; but they
were images also of an inner spiritual sublimity, which
had won the homage of grateful and admiring nations.

The heavenly graces had once descended upon the
monastic orders, making them ministers of mercy,
patterns of celestial life, breathing witnesses of the
power of the Spirit in renewing and sanctifying the
heart. And then it was that art and wealth and genius
poured out their treasures to raise fitting tabernacles for
the dwelling of so divine a soul. Alike in the village
and the city, amongst the unadorned walls and lowly
roofs which closed in the humble dwellings of the laity,
the majestic houses of the Father of mankind and of
his especial servants rose up in sovereign beauty. And
ever at the sacred gates sat Mercy, pouring out relief
from a never-failing store to the poor and the suffering;
ever within the sacred aisles the voices of holy men
were pealing heavenwards in intercession for the sins of
mankind; and such blessed influences were thought to
exhale around those mysterious precincts, that even the
poor outcasts of society--the debtor, the felon, and the
outlaw--gathered round the walls as the sick men
sought the shadow of the apostle, and lay there sheltered
from the avenging hand, till their sins were washed from
off their souls. The abbeys of the middle ages floated
through the storms of war and conquest, like the ark
upon the waves of the flood, in the midst of violence
remaining inviolate, through the awful reverence which
surrounded them. The abbeys, as Henry's visitors
found them, were as little like what they once had been,
as the living man in the pride of his growth is like the
corpse which the earth makes haste to hide for ever.

The official letters which reveal the condition into
which the monastic establishments had degenerated, are
chiefly in the Cotton Library, and a large number of
them have been published by the Camden Society.
Besides these, however, there are in the Rolls House
many other documents which confirm and complete the
statements of the writers of those letters. There is a
part of what seems to have been a digest of the Black
Book--an epitome of iniquities, under the title of the
Compendium Compertorum. There are also reports
from private persons, private entreaties for inquiry,
depositions of monks in official examinations, and other
similar papers, which, in many instances, are too offensive
to be produced, and may rest in obscurity, unless
contentious persons compel us to bring them forward.
Some of these, however, throw curious light on the
habits of the time, and on the collateral disorders which
accompanied the more gross enormities. They show
us, too, that although the dark tints predominate, the
picture was not wholly black; that as just Lot was in
the midst of Sodom, yet was unable by his single presence
to save the guilty city from destruction, so in the
latest era of monasticism, there were types yet lingering
of an older and fairer age, who, nevertheless, were not
delivered, like the patriarch, but perished most of them
with the institution to which they belonged. The
hideous exposure is not untinted with fairer lines; and
we see traits here and there of true devotion, mistaken
but heroic.

Of these documents two specimens shall be given
in this place, one of either kind; and both, so far as
we know, new to modern history. The first is so
singular, that we print it as it is found--a genuine
antique, fished up, in perfect preservation, out of the
wreck of the old world.

About eight miles from Ludlow, in the county of
Herefordshire, once stood the Abbey of Wigmore.
There was Wigmore Castle, a stronghold of the Welsh
Marches, now, we believe, a modern, well-conditioned
mansion; and Wigmore Abbey, of which we do not
hear that there are any remaining traces. Though now
vanished, however, like so many of its kind, three
hundred years ago the house was in vigorous existence;
and when the stir commenced for an inquiry, the
proceedings of the abbot of this place gave occasion to
a memorial which stands in the Rolls collection as

*Rolls House MS., Miscellaneous Papers, First Series. 356.

"Articles to be objected against John Smart, Abbot
of the Monastery of Wigmore, in the county of Hereford,
to be exhibited to the Right Honourable Lord Thomas
Cromwell, the Lord Privy Seal and Vicegerent to the
King's Majesty.

"1. The said abbot is to be accused of simony, as well
for taking money for advocation and putations of benefices,
as for giving of orders, or, more truly, selling
them, and that to such persons which have been
rejected elsewhere, and of little learning and light

"2. The said abbot hath promoted to orders many
scholars, when all other bishops did refrain to give any
for certain good ordinances devised by the King's Majesty
and his Council for the common weal of this realm.
Then resorted to the said abbot, scholars out of all
parts, whom he would promote to orders by sixty at a
time, and sometimes more, and otherwhiles less. And
sometimes the said abbot would give orders by night
within his chamber; and otherwise in the church early
in the morning, and now and then at a chapel out of
the abbey. So that there be many unlearned and light
priests made by the said abbot, and in the diocese of
Llandaff, and in the places afore named--a thousand,
as it is esteemed, by the space of this seven years he
hath made priests, and received not so little money of
them as a thousand pounds for their orders.

"3. Item, that the said abbot now of late, when he
could not be suffered to give general orders, weekly for
the most part doth give orders by pretence of
dispensation; and by that colour he promoteth them to orders
by two and three, and takes much money of them,
both for their orders and for to purchase their
dispensations after the time he hath promoted them to
their orders.

"4. Item, the said abbot hath hurt and dismayed his
tenants by putting them from their leases, and by
enclosing their commons from them, and selling and utter
wasting of the woods that were wont to relieve and
succour them.

"5. Item, the said abbot hath sold corradyes, to the
damage of the said monastery.

"6. Item, the said abbot hath alienate and sold the
jewels and plate of the monastery, to the value of five
hundred marks, to purchase of the Bishop of Rome his
bulls to be a bishop, and to annex the said abbey to his
bishopric, to that intent that he should not for his
misdeeds be punished, or deprived from his said abbey.

"7. Item, that the said abbot, long after that other
bishops had renounced the Bishop of Rome, and professed
them to the King's Majesty, did use, but more
verily usurped, the office of a bishop by virtue of his
first bulls purchased from Rome, till now of late, as it
will appear by the date of his confirmation, if he have

"8. Item, that he the said abbot hath lived viciously,
and kept to concubines divers and many women that
is openly known.

"9. Item, that the said abbot doth yet continue his
vicious living, as it is known, openly.

"10. Item, that the said abbot hath spent and wasted
much of the goods of the said monastery upon the
foresaid women.

"11. Item, that the said abbot is malicious and very
wrathful, not regarding what he saith or doeth in his
fury or anger.

"12. Item, that one Richard Gyles bought of the abbot
and convent of Wigmore a corradye, and a chamber for
him and his wife for term of their lives; and when the
said Richard Gyles was aged and was very weak, he
disposed his goods, and made executors to execute his
will. And when the said abbot now being perceived
that the said Richard Gyles was rich, and had not
bequested so much of his goods to him as he would have
had, the said abbot then came to the chamber of the
said Richard Gyles, and put out thence all his friends
and kinsfolk that kept him in his sickness; and then
the said abbot set his brother and other of his servants
to keep the sick man; and the night next coming after
the said Richard Gyles's coffer was broken, and thence
taken all that was in the same, to the value of forty
marks; and long after the said abbot confessed, before
the executors of the said Richard Gyles, that it was his

"13. Item, that the said abbot, after he had taken
away the goods of the said Richard Gyles, used daily
to reprove and check the said Richard Gyles, and
inquire of him where was more of his coin and money;
and at the last the said abbot thought he lived too long,
and made the sick man, after much sorry keeping, to
be taken from his feather-bed, and laid upon a cold
mattress, and kept his friends from him to his death.

"15. Item, that the said abbot consented to the death
and murdering of one John Tichhill, that was slain at
his procuring, at the said monastery, by Sir Richard
Cubley, canon and chaplain to the said abbot; which
canon is and ever hath been since that time chief of
the said abbot's council; and is supported to carry
crossbowes, and to go whither he lusteth at any time,
to fishing and hunting in the king's forests, parks, and
chases; but little or nothing serving the quire, as other
brethren do, neither corrected of the abbot for any
trespass he doth commit.

"16. Item, that the said abbot hath been perjured oft,
as is to be proved, and is proved; and as it is supposed,
did not make a true inventory of the goods, chattels,
and jewels of his monastery to the King's Majesty and
his council.

"17. Item, that the said abbot hath infringed all the
king's injunctions which were given him by Doctor
Cave to observe and keep; and when he was denounced
in pleno capilula to have broken the same, he would
have put in prison the brother as did denounce him to
have broken the same injunctions, save that he was let
by the convent there.

"18. Item, that the said abbot hath openly preached
against the doctrine of Christ, saying he ought not to
love his enemy, but as he loves the devil; and that he
should love his enemy's soul, but not his body.

"19. Item, that the said abbot hath taken but small
regard to the good-living of his household.

"20. Item, that the said abbot hath had and hath yet
a special favour to misdoers and manquellers, thieves,
deceivers of their neighbours, and by them [is] most
ruled and counselled.

"21. Item, that the said abbot hath granted leases of
farms and advocations first to one man, and took his
fine, and also hath granted the same lease to another
man for more money; and then would make to the last
taker a lease or writing, with an antedate of the first
lease, which hath bred great dissension among gentlemen
--as Master Blunt and Master Moysey, and other takers
of such leases--and that often.

"22. Item, the said abbot having the contrepaynes of
leases in his keeping, hath, for money, raised out the
number of years mentioned in the said leases, and writ
a fresh number in the former taker's lease, and in the
contrepayne thereof, to the intent to defraud the taker
or buyer of the residue of such leases, of whom he hath
received the money.

"23. Item, the said abbot hath not, according to the
foundation of his monastery, admitted freely tenants
into certain alms-houses belonging to the said monastery;
but of them he hath taken large fines, and some of
them he hath put away that would not give him fines:
whither poor, aged, and impotent people were wont to
be freely admitted, and [to] receive the founder's alms
that of the old customs [were] limited to the same--
which alms is also diminished by the said abbot.

"24. Item, that the said abbot did not deliver the
bulls of his bishopric, that he purchased from Rome,
to our sovereign lord the king's council till long after
the time he had delivered and exhibited the bulls of
his monastery to them.

"25. Item, that the said abbot hath detained and yet
doth detain servants' wages; and often when the said
servants hath asked their wages, the said abbot hath
put them into the stocks, and beat them.

"26. Item, the said abbot, in times past, hath had a
great devotion to ride to Llangarvan, in Wales, upon
Lammas-day, to receive pardon there; and on the even
he would visit one Mary Hawle, an old acquaintance
of his, at the Welsh Poole; and on the morrow ride to
the foresaid Llangarvan, to be confessed and absolved,
and the same night return to company with the said
Mary Hawle, at the Welsh Poole aforesaid, and Kateryn,
the said Mary Hawle her first daughter, whom the said
abbot long hath kept to concubine, and had children
by her, that he lately married at Ludlow. And [there
be] others that have been taken out of his chamber and
put in the stocks within the said abbey, and others that
have complained upon him to the king's council of the
Marches of Wales; and the woman that dashed out
his teeth, that he would have had by violence, I will not
name now, nor other men's wives, lest it would offend
your good lordship to read or hear the same.

"27. Item, the said abbot doth daily embezzle, sell,
and convey the goods, and chattels, and jewels of the
said monastery, having no need so to do; for it is
thought that he hath a thousand marks or two thousand
lying by him that he hath gotten by selling of orders,
and the jewels and plate of the monastery and corradyes;
and it is to be feared that he will alienate all the rest,
unless your good lordship speedily make redress and
provision to let the same.

"28. Item, the said abbot was accustomed yearly to
preach at Leyntwarden on the Festival of the Nativity
of the Virgin Mary, where and when the people were
wont to offer to an image there, and to the same the
said abbot in his sermons would exhort them and
encourage them. But now the oblations be decayed,
the abbot, espying the image then to have a cote of
silver plate and gilt, hath taken away of his own
authority the said image, and the plate turned to his
own use; and left his preaching there, saying it is no
manner profit to any man, and the plate that was
about the said image was named to be worth forty

"29. Item, the said abbot hath ever nourished enmity
and discord among his brethren; and hath not
encouraged them to learn the laws and the mystery of
Christ. But he that least knew was most cherished
by him; and he hath been highly displeased and [hath]
disdained when his brothers would say that 'it is God's
precept and doctrine that ye ought to prefer before your
ceremonies and vain constitutions.' This saying was
high disobedient, and should be grievously punished;
when that lying, obloquy, flattery, ignorance, derision,
contumely, discord, great swearing, drinking, hypocrisy,
fraud, superstition, deceit, conspiracy to wrong their
neighbour, and other of that kind, was had in special
favour and regard. Laud and praise be to God that
hath sent us the true knowledge. Honour and long
prosperity to our sovereign lord, and his noble council
that teaches to advance the same. Amen.

"By John Lee, your faithful bedeman, and canon of
the said monastery of Wigmore.

"Postscript. My good lord, there is in the said abbey
a cross of fine gold and precious stones, whereof one
diamond was esteemed by Doctor Booth, Bishop of
Hereford, worth a hundred marks. In that cross is
enclosed a piece of wood, named to be of the cross
that Christ died upon, and to the same hath been
offering. And when it should be brought down to the
church from the treasury, it was brought down with
lights, and like reverence as should have been done
to Christ Himself. I fear lest the abbot upon Sunday
next, when he may enter the treasury, will take away
the said cross and break it, or turn it to his own use,
with many other precious jewels that be there.

"All these articles afore written be true as to the
substance and true meaning of them, though peradventure
for haste and lack of counsel some words be
set amiss or out of their place. That I will be ready
to prove forasmuch as lies in me, when it shall like your
honourable lordship to direct your commission to men
(or any man) that will be indifferent and not corrupt
to sit upon the same, at the said abbey, where the
witnesses and proofs be most ready and the truth is
best known, or at any other place where it shall be
thought most convenient by your high discretion and

The statutes of Provisors, commonly called Premunire
statutes, which forbade all purchases of bulls
from Rome under penalty of outlawry, have been
usually considered in the highest degree oppressive;
and more particularly the public censure has fallen
upon the last application of those statutes, when, on
Wolsey's fall, the whole body of the clergy were laid
under a premunire, and only obtained pardon on payment
of a serious fine. Let no one regret that he has
learnt to be tolerant to Roman Catholics as the nineteenth
century knows them. But it is a spurious
charity, which, to remedy a modern injustice, hastens to
its opposite; and when philosophic historians indulge
in loose invective against the statesmen of the Reformation,
they show themselves unfit to be trusted with the
custody of our national annals. The Acts of Parliament
speak plainly of the enormous abuses which had
grown up under these bulls. Yet even the emphatic
language of the statutes scarcely prepares us to find an
abbot able to purchase with jewels stolen from his own
convent a faculty to confer holy orders, though he had
never been consecrated bishop, and to make a thousand
pounds by selling the exercise of his privileges. This
is the most flagrant case which has fallen under the eyes
of the present writer. Yet it is but a choice specimen
out of many. He was taught to believe, like other
modern students of history, that the papal dispensations
for immorality, of which we read in Fox and other
Protestant writers, were calumnies, but he has been
forced against his will to perceive that the supposed
calumnies were but the plain truth; he has found
among the records--for one thing, a list of more than
twenty clergy in one diocese who had obtained licences
to keep concubines [Tanner MS. 105, Bodleian Library,
Oxford]. After some experience, he advises
all persons who are anxious to understand the English
Reformation to place implicit confidence in the Statute
Book. Every fresh record which is brought to light
is a fresh evidence in its favour. In the fluctuations of
the conflict there were parliaments, as there were
princes, of opposing sentiments; and measures were
passed, amended, repealed, or censured, as Protestants
and Catholics came alternately into power. But whatever
were the differences of opinion, the facts on either
side which are stated in an Act of Parliament may be
uniformly trusted. Even in the attainders for treason
and heresy we admire the truthfulness of the details
of the indictments, although we deplore the prejudice
which at times could make a crime of virtue.

We pass on to the next picture. Equal justice, or
some attempt at it, was promised, and we shall perhaps
part from the friends of the monasteries on better terms
than they believe. At least, we shall add to our own
history and to the Catholic martyrology a story of
genuine interest.

We have many accounts of the abbeys at the time
of their actual dissolution. The resistance or acquiescence
of superiors, the dismissals of the brethren, the
sale of the property, the destruction of relics, &c., are
all described. We know how the windows were taken
out, how the glass appropriated, how the "melter"
accompanied the visitors to run the lead upon the roofs,
and the metal of the bells into portable forms. We
see the pensioned regulars filing out reluctantly, or
exulting in their deliverance, discharged from their vows,
furnished each with his "secular apparel," and his purse
of money, to begin the world as he might. These
scenes have long been partially known, and they were
rarely attended with anything remarkable. At the
time of the suppression, the discipline of several years
had broken down opposition, and prepared the way for
the catastrophe. The end came at last, but as an issue
which had been long foreseen.

We have sought in vain, however, for a glimpse
into the interior of the houses at the first intimation
of what was coming--more especially when the great
blow was struck which severed England from obedience
to Rome, and asserted the independence of the Anglican
Church. Then, virtually, the fate of the monasteries was
decided. As soon as the supremacy was vested in the
crown, inquiry into their condition could no longer be
escaped or delayed; and then, through the length and
breadth of the country, there must have been rare dismay.
The account of the London Carthusians is indeed
known to us, because they chose to die rather than
yield submission where their consciences forbade them;
and their isolated heroism has served to distinguish
their memories. The Pope, as head of the Universal
Church, claimed the power of absolving subjects from
their allegiance to their king. He deposed Henry.
He called on foreign princes to enforce his sentence;
and, on pain of excommunication, commanded the
native English to rise in rebellion. The king, in
selfdefence, was compelled to require his subjects to
disclaim all sympathy with these pretensions, and to
recognize no higher authority, spiritual or secular,
than himself within his own dominions. The regular
clergy throughout the country were on the Pope's side,
secretly or openly. The Charter-house monks, however,
alone of all the order had the courage to declare their
convictions, and to suffer for them. Of the rest, we
only perceive that they at last submitted; and since
there was no uncertainty as to their real feelings, we
have been disposed to judge them hardly as cowards.
Yet we who have never been tried, should perhaps be
cautious in our censures. It is possible to hold an
opinion quite honestly, and yet to hesitate about dying
for it. We consider ourselves, at the present day,
persuaded honestly of many things; yet which of them
should we refuse to relinquish if the scaffold were the
alternative, or at least seem to relinquish, under silent

And yet, in the details of the struggle at the
Charterhouse, we see the forms of mental trial which must have
repeated themselves among all bodies of the clergy
wherever there was seriousness of conviction. If the
majority of the monks were vicious and sensual, there
was still a large minority labouring to be true to their
vows; and when one entire convent was capable of
sustained resistance, there must have been many where
there was only just too little virtue for the emergency,
where the conflict between interest and conscience was
equally genuine, though it ended the other way. Scenes
of bitter misery there must have been--of passionate
emotion wrestling ineffectually with the iron resolution
of the Government: and the faults of the Catholic party
weigh so heavily against them in the course and progress
of the Reformation, that we cannot willingly lose the
few countervailing tints which soften the darkness of the
case against them.

Nevertheless, for any authentic account of the abbeys
at this crisis, we have hitherto been left to our
imagination. A stern and busy Administration had little leisure
to preserve records of sentimental struggles which led to
nothing. The Catholics did not care to keep alive the
recollection of a conflict in which, even though with
difficulty, the Church was defeated. A rare accident
only could have brought down to us any fragment of a
transaction which no one had an interest in remembering.
That such an accident has really occurred, we
may consider as unusually fortunate. The story in
question concerns the abbey of Woburn, and is as

At Woburn, as in many other religious houses, there
were representatives of both the factions which divided
the country; perhaps we should say of three--the
sincere Catholics, the Indifferentists, and the Protestants.
These last, so long as Wolsey was in power, had been
frightened into silence, and with difficulty had been able
to save themselves from extreme penalties. No sooner,
however, had Wolsey fallen, and the battle commenced
with the Papacy, than the tables turned, the persecuted
became persecutors--or at least threw off their disguise,
and were strengthened with the support of the large
class who cared only to keep on the winning side. The
mysteries of the faith came to be disputed at the
public tables; the refectories rang with polemics; the
sacred silence of the dormitories was broken for the first
time by lawless speculation. The orthodox might have
appealed to the Government: heresy was still forbidden
by law, and if detected, was still punished by the stake.
But the orthodox among the regular clergy adhered
to the Pope as well as to the faith, and abhorred the
sacrilege of the Parliament as deeply as the new opinions
of the Reformers. Instead of calling in the help of the
law, they muttered treason in secret; and the Reformers,
confident in the necessities of the times, sent reports to
London of their arguments and conversations. The
authorities in the abbey were accused of disaffection;
and a commission of inquiry was sent down towards the
end of the spring of 1536, to investigate. The
depositions taken on this occasion are still preserved; and
with the help of them, we can leap over three centuries
of time, and hear the last echoes of the old monastic
life in Woburn Abbey dying away in discord.

Where party feeling was running so high, there were
of course passionate arguments. The Act of Supremacy,
the spread of Protestantism, the power of the Pope, the
state of England--all were discussed; and the possibilities
of the future, as each party painted it in the
colours of his hopes. The brethren, we find, spoke
their minds in plain language, sometimes condescending
to a joke.

Brother Sherborne deposes that the sub-prior "on
Candlemas-day last past (February 2, 1536), asked him
whether he longed not to be at Rome where all his
bulls were?" Brother Sherborne answered that "his
bulls had made so many calves, that he had burned
them. Whereunto the sub-prior said he thought there
were more calves now than there were then."

Then there were long and furious quarrels about "my
Lord Privy Seal" (Cromwell), to one party the incarnation
of Satan, to the other the delivering angel. Nor did
matters mend when from the minister they passed to the

Dan John Croxton being in "the shaving-house" one
day with certain of the brethren having their tonsures
looked to, and gossiping, as men do on such occasions,
one "Friar Lawrence did say that the King was dead."
Then said Croxton, "thanks be to God, his Grace is in
good health, and I pray God so continue him;" and
said further to the said Lawrence, "I advise thee to
leave thy babbling." Croxton, it seems, had been among
the suspected in earlier times. Lawrence said to him,
"Croxton, it maketh no matter what thou sayest, for
thou art one of the new world." Whereupon hotter still
the conversation proceeded. "Thy babbling tongue,"
Croxton said, "will turn us all to displeasure at length."
"Then," quoth Lawrence, "neither thou nor yet any
of us all shall do well as long as we forsake our head of
the Church, the Pope." "By the mass!" quoth Croxton,
"I would thy Pope Roger were in thy belly, or thou in
his, for thou art a false perjured knave to thy Prince."
Whereunto the said Lawrence answered, saying, "By the
mass, thou liest! I was never sworn to forsake the Pope
to be our head, and never will be." "Then," quoth
Croxton, "thou shall be sworn spite of thine heart one
day, or I will know why nay."

These and similar wranglings may be taken as
specimens of the daily conversation at Woburn, and we
can perceive how an abbot with the best intentions
would have found it difficult to keep the peace. There
are instances of superiors in other houses throwing down
their command in the midst of the crisis in flat despair,
protesting that their subject brethren were no longer
governable. Abbots who were inclined to the Reformation
could not manage the Catholics; Catholic abbots
could not manage the Protestants; indifferent abbots
could not manage either the one or the other. It would
have been well for the Abbot of Woburn--or well as far
as this world is concerned--if he, like one of these, had
acknowledged his incapacity, and had fled from his

His name was Robert Hobbes. Of his age and
family, history is silent. We know only that he held his
place when the storm rose against the Pope; that, like
the rest of the clergy, he bent before the blast, taking
the oath to the King, and submitting to the royal
supremacy, but swearing under protest, as the phrase went,
with the outward, and not with the inward man--in fact,
perjuring himself. Though infirm, so far, however, he
was too honest to be a successful counterfeit, and from
the jealous eyes of the Neologians of the abbey he could
not conceal his tendencies. We have significant evidence
of the espionage which was established, over all
suspected quarters, in the conversations and trifling
details of conduct on the part of the abbot, which were
reported to the Government.

In the summer of 1534, orders came that the Pope's
name should be rased out wherever it was mentioned
in the Mass books. A malcontent, by name
Robert Salford, deposed that "he was singing mass
before the abbot at St. Thomas's altar within the
monastery, at which time he rased out with his knife the
said name out of the canon." The abbot told him to
"take a pen and strike or cross him out." The saucy
monk said those were not the orders. They were to
rase him out. "Well, well," the abbot said, "it will
come again one day." "Come again, will it?" was the
answer. "If it do, then we will put him in again; but
I trust I shall never see that day." The mild abbot
could remonstrate, but could not any more command;
and the proofs of his malignant inclinations were
remembered against him for the ear of Cromwell.

In the general injunctions, too, he was directed to
preach against the Pope, and to expose his usurpation;
but he could not bring himself to obey. He shrank
from the pulpit; he preached but twice after the visitation,
and then on other subjects, while in the prayer
before the sermon he refused, as we find, to use the
prescribed form. He only said, "You shall pray for
the spirituality, the temporality, and the souls that be
in the pains of purgatory; and did not name the King
to be supreme head of the Church in neither of the
said sermons, nor speak against the pretended authority
of the Bishop of Rome."

Again, when Paul the Third, shortly after his election,
proposed to call a general council at Mantua, against
which, by advice of Henry the Eighth, the Germans
protested, we have a glimpse how eagerly anxious
English eyes were watching for a turning tide. "Hear
you," said the abbot one day, "of the Pope's holiness
and the congregation of bishops, abbots, and princes
gathered to the council at Mantua? They be gathered
for the reformation of the universal Church; and here
now we have a book of the excuse of the Germans,
by which we may know what heretics they be, for if
they were Catholics and true men as they pretend to be,
they would never have refused to come to a general

So matters went with the abbot for some months
after he had sworn obedience to the King. Lulling his
conscience with such opiates as the casuists could provide
for him, he watched anxiously for a change, and
laboured with but little reserve to hold his brethren to
their true allegiance.

In the summer of 1535, however, a change came over
the scene, very different from the outward reaction for
which he was looking: a better mind woke in the
abbot; he learnt that in swearing what he did not
mean with reservations and nice distinctions, he had
lied to Heaven and lied to man: that to save his
miserable life he had perilled his soul. When the oath
of supremacy was required of the nation, Sir Thomas
More, Bishop Fisher, and the monks of the Charterhouse,
mistaken, as we believe, in judgment, but true
to their consciences, and disdaining evasion or subterfuge,
chose, with deliberate nobleness, rather to die than
to perjure themselves. This is no place to enter on
the great question of the justice or necessity of those
executions; but the story of the so-called martyrdoms
convulsed the Catholic world. The Pope shook upon
his throne; the shuttle of diplomatic intrigue stood
still; diplomatists who had lived so long in lies that
the whole life of man seemed but a stage pageant, a
thing of show and tinsel, stood aghast at the revelation
of English sincerity, and a shudder of great awe ran
through Europe. The fury of party leaves little room
for generous emotion, and no pity was felt for these
men by the English Protestants. The Protestants knew
well that if these same sufferers could have had their
way, they would themselves have been sacrificed by
hecatombs; and as they had never experienced mercy,
so they were in turn without mercy. But to the
English Catholics, who believed as Fisher believed,
but who had not dared to suffer as Fisher suffered, his
death and the death of the rest acted as a glimpse of
the judgment day. Their safety became their shame
and terror: and in the radiant example before them of
true faithfulness, they saw their own falsehood and their
own disgrace. So it was with Father Forest, who had
taught his penitents in confession that they might perjure
themselves, and who now sought a cruel death in
voluntary expiation; so it was with Whiting, the Abbot
of Glastonbury; so with others whose names should be
more familiar to us than they are; and here in Woburn
we are to see the feeble but genuine penitence of Abbot
Hobbes. He was still unequal to immediate martyrdom,
but he did what he knew might drag his death upon
him if disclosed to the Government, and surrounded by
spies he could have had no hope of concealment.

"At the time," deposed Robert Salford, "that the
monks of the Charter-house, with other traitors, did
suffer death, the abbot did call us into the Chapterhouse,
and said these words:--'Brethren, this is a
perilous time, such a scourge was never heard since
Christ's passion. Ye hear how good men suffer the
death. Brethren, this is undoubted for our offences.
Ye read, so long as the children of Israel kept the
commandments of God, so long their enemies had no
power over them, but God took vengeance of their
enemies. But when they broke God's commandments,
then they were subdued by their enemies, and so be we.
Therefore let us be sorry for our offences. Undoubted
He will take vengeance of our enemies; I mean those
heretics that causeth so many good men to suffer thus.
Alas, it is a piteous case that so much Christian blood
should be shed. Therefore, good brethren, for the
reverence of God, every one of you devoutly pray, and
say this Psalm, "O God, the heathen are come into
thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled,
and made Jerusalem a heap of stones. The dead bodies
of thy servants have they given to be meat to the fowls
of the air, and the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of
the field. Their blood have they shed like water on
every side of Jerusalem, and there was no man to bury
them. We are become an open scorn unto our enemies,
a very scorn and derision unto them that are round
about us. Oh, remember not our old sins, but have
mercy upon us, and that soon, for we are come to great
misery. Help us, oh God of our salvation, for the glory
of thy name. Oh, be merciful unto our sins for thy
name's sake. Wherefore do the heathen say, Where is
now their God?" Ye shall say this Psalm,' repeated
the abbot, 'every Friday, after the litany, prostrate,
when ye lie upon the high altar, and undoubtedly God
will cease this extreme scourge.' And so," continues
Salford, significantly, "the convent did say this aforesaid
Psalm until there were certain that did murmur at
the saying of it, and so it was left."

The abbot, it seems, either stood alone, or found but
languid support; even his own familiar friends whom
he trusted, those with whom he had walked in the
house of God, had turned against him; the harsh air of
the dawn of a new world choked him; what was there
for him but to die. But his conscience still haunted
him: while he lived he must fight on, and so, if
possible, find pardon for his perjury. The blows in
those years fell upon the Church thick and fast. In
February, 1536, the Bill passed for the dissolution of
the smaller monasteries; and now we find the sub-prior
with the whole fraternity united to accuse him, so that
the abbot had no one friend remaining.

"He did again call us together," says the next deposition,
"and lamentably mourning for the dissolving
the said houses, he enjoined us to sing 'Salvator mundi,
salva nos omnes,' every day after lauds; and we murmured
at it, and were not content to sing it for such
cause; and so we did omit it divers days, for which
the abbot came unto the chapter, and did in manner
rebuke us, and said we were bound to obey his
commandment by our profession, and so did command us to
sing it again with the versicle 'Let God arise, and let
his enemies be scattered. Let them also that hate him
flee before him.' Also he enjoined us at every mass
that every priest did sing, to say the collect, 'Oh God,
who despisest not the sighing of a contrite heart.'
And he said if we did this with good and true devotion,
God would so handle the matter, that it should be to
the comfort of all England, and so show us mercy as
he showed unto the children of Israel. And surely,
brethren, there will come to us a good man that will
rectify these monasteries again that be now supprest,
because 'God can of these stones raise up children to

"Of these stones," perhaps, but less easily of the stonyhearted
monks, who with pitiless smiles watched the
abbot's sorrow, which should soon bring him to his

Time passed on, and as the world grew worse, so the
abbot grew more lonely. Lonely and unsupported, he
was unequal to the last effort of repentance, but he
slowly strengthened himself for the trial. As Lent
came on, the season brought with it a more special call
to effort, which he did not fail to recognize. The
conduct of the fraternity sorely disturbed him. They
preached against all which he most loved and valued,
in language purposely coarse; and the mild sweetness
of the rebukes which he administered, showed plainly
on which side lay, in the abbey of Woburn, the larger
portion of the spirit of his Master and theirs. Now,
when the passions of those times have died away, and
we can look back with more indifferent eyes, how
touching is the following. There was one Sir William,
curate of Woburn chapel, whose tongue, it seems,
was rough beyond the rest. The abbot met him
one day, and spoke to him. "Sir William," he said,
"I hear tell ye be a great railer. I marvel that ye rail
so. I pray you teach my cure the scripture of God, and
that may be to edification. I pray you leave such railing.
Ye call the pope a bear and a banson. Either he
is a good man or an ill. Domino suo stat aut cadit.
The office of a bishop is honourable. What edifying is
this to rail? Let him alone."

But they would not let him alone, nor would they
let the abbot alone. He grew "somewhat acrased," they
said, vexed with feelings of which they had no experience.
He fell sick, sorrow and the Lent discipline
weighing upon him. The brethren went to see him in
his room, Brother Dan Woburn among the rest, who
said that he asked him how he did, and received for
answer, "I would that I had died with the good men
that died for holding with the pope. My conscience,
my conscience doth grudge me every day for it." Life
was fast losing its value for him. What was life to him
or any man when bought with a sin against his soul?
"If he be disposed to die, for that matter," the
insolent Croxton said, "he may die as soon as he will."

All Lent he fasted and prayed; and his illness grew
upon him; and at length in Passion week he thought
all was over, and that he was going away. On Passion
Sunday he called the brethren about him, and as they
stood round his bed, with their cold, hard eyes, "he
exhorted them all to charity," he implored them "never
to consent to go out of their monastery; and if it
chanced them to be put from it, they should in no
wise forsake their habit." After these words, "being in
a great agony, he rose out of his bed, and cried out and
said, 'I would to God, it would please him to take me
out of this wretched world; and I would I had died
with the good men that have suffered death heretofore,
for they were quickly out of their pain.'" * Then, half
wandering, he began to mutter to himself aloud the
thoughts which had been working in him in his
struggles; and quoting St. Bernard's words about the
pope, he exclaimed, "Tu quis es. Primatu Abel,
gubernatione Noah, auctoritate Moses, judicatu Samuel
potestate Petrus, unctione Christus. Aliae ecclesiae
habent super se pastores. Tu pastor pastorum es."

* Meaning, as he afterwards said, More and Fisher and the

Let it be remembered that this is no sentimental
fiction begotten out of the brain of some ingenious
novelist, but the record of the true words and sufferings
of a genuine child of Adam, labouring in a trial too
hard for him.

He prayed to die, and in good time death was to
come to him; but not, after all, in the sick bed, with
his expiation but half completed. A year before, he
had thrown down the cross, when it was offered him.
He was to take it again; the very cross which he had
refused. He recovered. He was brought before the
council; with what result, there are no means of knowing.
To admit the papal supremacy when officially
questioned was high treason. Whether he was constant,
and received some conditional pardon, or whether his
heart again for the moment failed him--whichever he
did--the records are silent. This only we ascertain of
him: that he was not put to death under the statute of
supremacy. But two years later, when the official list
was presented to the parliament of those who had
suffered for their share in "the Pilgrimage of Grace,"
among the rest we find the name of Robert Hobbes,
late Abbot of Woburn. To this solitary fact we can
add nothing. The rebellion was put down, and in the
punishment of the offenders there was unusual leniency;
not more than thirty persons were executed, although
forty thousand had been in arms. Those only were
selected who had been most signally implicated. But
they were all leaders in the movement; the men of
highest rank, and therefore greatest guilt. They died
for what they believed their duty; and the king and
council did their duty in enforcing the laws against
armed insurgents. He for whose cause each supposed
themselves to be contending, has long since judged
between them; and both parties perhaps now see all
things with clearer eyes than was permitted to them
on earth.

We too can see more distinctly in a slight degree.
At least we will not refuse the Abbot Hobbes some
memorial, brief though it be. And although twelve
generations of Russells--all loyal to the Protestant
ascendancy--have swept Woburn clear of Catholic
associations, they, too, in these later days, will not regret
to see revived the authentic story of its last abbot.


"We should do our utmost to encourage the Beautiful, for the
Useful encourages itself."--GOETHE.

A Moss rose-bud hiding her face among the leaves one
hot summer morning, for fear the sun should injure her
complexion, happened to let fall a glance towards her
roots, and to see the bed in which she was growing.
What a filthy place! she cried. What a home they
have chosen for me! I, the most beautiful of flowers,
fastened down into so detestable a neighbourhood! She
threw her face into the air; thrust herself into the
hands of the first passer-by who stopped to look at her,
and escaped in triumph, as she thought, into the centre
of a nosegay. But her triumph was short-lived: in a
few hours she withered and died.

I was reminded of this story when hearing a living
thinker of some eminence once say that he considered
Christianity to have been a misfortune. Intellectually it
was absurd, and practically an offence, over which he
stumbled; and it would have been far better for mankind,
he thought, if they could have kept clear of superstition,
and followed on upon the track of the Grecian
philosophy, so little do men care to understand the
conditions which have made them what they are, and which
has created for them that very wisdom in which they
themselves are so contented. But it is strange, indeed, that
a person who could deliberately adopt such a conclusion
should trouble himself any more to look for truth. If
a mere absurdity could make its way out of a little
fishing village in Galilee, and spread through the whole
civilized world; if men are so pitiably silly, that in an
age of great mental activity their strongest thinkers
should have sunk under an absorption of fear and folly,
should have allowed it to absorb into itself whatever of
heroism, of devotion, self-sacrifice, and moral nobleness
there was among them; surely there were nothing better
for a wise man than to make the best of his time, and
to crowd what enjoyment he can find into it, sheltering
himself in a very disdainful Pyrrhonism from all care for
mankind or for their opinions. For what better test of
truth have we than the ablest men's acceptance of it;
and if the ablest men eighteen centuries ago deliberately
accepted what is now too absurd to reason upon, what
right have we to hope that with the same natures, the
same passions, the same understandings, no better proof
against deception, we, like they, are not entangled in
what, at the close of another era, shall seem again
ridiculous? The scoff of Cicero at the divinity of Liber
and Ceres (bread and wine) may be translated literally by
the modern Protestant; and the sarcasms which Clement
and Tertullian flung at the Pagan creed, the modern
sceptic returns upon their own. Of what use is it to
destroy an idol when another, or the same in another
form takes immediate possession of the vacant pedestal?

But it is not so. Ptolemy was not perfect, but
Newton had been a fool if he had scoffed at Ptolemy.
Newton could not have been without Ptolemy, nor
Ptolemy without the Chaldees; and as it is with the
minor sciences, so far more is it with the science of
sciences--the science of life, which has grown through
all the ages from the beginning of time. We speak of
the errors of the past. We, with this glorious present
which is opening on us, we shall never enter on it,
we shall never understand it, till we have learnt to see
in that past, not error but instalment of truth, hard
fought-for truth, wrung out with painful and heroic
effort. The promised land is smiling before us, but
we may not pass over into possession of it while the
bones of our fathers who laboured through the
wilderness lie bleaching on the sands, or a prey to the
unclean birds; we must gather them and bury them,
and sum up their labours, and inscribe the record of
their actions on their tombs as an honourable epitaph.
If Christianity really is passing away, if it has done its
work, and if what is left of it is now holding us back
from better things, it is not for our bitterness but for
our affectionate acknowledgment, not for our heaping
contempt on what it is, but for our reverent and patient
examination of what it has been, that it will be content
to bid us farewell, and give us God speed on our
further journey.

In the Natural History of Religions certain broad
phenomena perpetually repeat themselves; they rise in
the highest thought extant at the time of their origin;
the conclusions of philosophy settle into a creed; art
ornaments it, devotion consecrates it, time elaborates it.
It grows through a long series of generations into the
heart and habits of the people; and so long as no
disturbing cause interferes, or so long as the idea at the
centre of it survives; a healthy, vigorous, natural life
shoots beautifully up out of it. But at last the idea
becomes obsolete; the numbing influence of habit
petrifies the spirit in the outside ceremonial, while quite
new questions rise among the thinkers, and ideas enter
into new and unexplained relations. The old formula
will not serve; but new formulae are tardy in appearing;
and habit and superstition cling to the past, and policy
vindicates it, and statecraft upholds it forcibly as
serviceable to order, till, from the combined action of folly,
and worldliness, and ignorance, the once beautiful
symbolism becomes at last no better than "a whited
sepulchre full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."
So it is now. So it was in the era of the Caesars, out of
which Christianity arose; and Christianity, in the form
which it assumed at the close of the Arian controversy,
was the deliberate solution which the most powerful
intellects of that day could offer of the questions which
had grown out with the growth of mankind, and on
which Paganism had suffered shipwreck.

Paganism, as a creed, was entirely physical. When
Paganism rose men had not begun to reflect upon
themselves, or the infirmities of their own nature. The
bad man was a bad man--the coward a coward--the
liar a liar--individually hateful and despicable. But in
hating and despising such unfortunates, the old Greeks
were satisfied to have felt all that was necessary about
them; and how such a phenomenon as a bad man came
to exist in this world, they scarcely cared to inquire.
There is no evil spirit in the mythology as an antagonist
of the gods. There is the Erinnys as the avenger of
monstrous villanies; a Tartarus where the darkest
criminals suffer eternal tortures. But Tantalus and
Ixion are suffering for enormous crimes, to which the
small wickedness of common men offers no analogy.
Moreover, these and other such stories are but curiously
ornamented myths, representing physical phenomena.
But with Socrates a change came over philosophy; a
sign--perhaps a cause--of the decline of the existing
religion. The study of man superseded the study of
nature: a purer Theism came in with the higher ideal
of perfection, and sin and depravity at once assumed an
importance the intensity of which made every other
question insignificant. How man could know the good
and yet choose the evil; how God could be all pure and
almighty, and yet evil have broken into his creation,
these were the questions which thenceforth were the
perplexity of every thinker. Whatever difficulty there
might be in discovering how evil came to be, the leaders
of all the sects agreed at last upon the seat of it--whether
matter was eternal, as Aristotle thought, or created, as
Plato thought, both Plato and Aristotle were equally
satisfied that the secret of all the shortcomings in this
world lay in the imperfection, reluctancy, or inherent
grossness of this impracticable substance. God would
have everything perfect, but the nature of the element
in which He worked in some way defeated His purpose.
Death, disease, decay, clung necessarily to everything
which was created out of it; and pain, and want, and
hunger, and suffering. Worse than all, the spirit in its
material body was opposed and borne down, its aspirations
crushed, its purity tainted by the passions and
appetites of its companion, the fleshly lusts which waged
perpetual war against it.

Matter was the cause of evil, and thenceforth the
question was how to conquer it, or at least how to set
free the spirit from its control.

The Greek language and the Greek literature spread
behind the march of Alexander: but as his generals
could only make their conquests permanent by largely
accepting the Eastern manner, so philosophy could only
make good its ground by becoming itself Orientalised.

The one pure and holy God whom Plato had painfully
reasoned out for himself had existed from immemorial
time in the traditions of the Jews, while the Persians
who had before taught the Jews at Babylon the existence
of an independent evil being now had him to
offer to the Greeks as their account of the difficulties
which had perplexed Socrates. Seven centuries of
struggle, and many hundred thousand folios were the
results of the remarkable fusion which followed. Out
of these elements, united in various proportions, rose
successively the Alexandrian philosophy, the Hellenists,
the Therapeute, those strange Essene communists, with
the innumerable sects of Gnostic or Christian heretics.
Finally, the battle was limited to the two great rivals,
under one or other of which the best of the remainder
had ranged themselves m Manicheism and Catholic
Christianity: Manicheism in which the Persian, Catholicism
in which the Jewish element most preponderated.
It did not end till the close of the fifth century, and it
ended then rather by arbitration than by a decided
victory which either side could claim. The Church
has yet to acknowledge how large a portion of its
enemy's doctrines it incorporated through the mediation
of Augustine before the field was surrendered to it. Let
us trace something of the real bearings of this section
of the world's oriental history, which to so many
moderns seems no better than an idle fighting over
words and straws.

Facts witnessing so clearly that the especial strength
of evil lay, as the philosophers had seen, in matter, so
far it was a conclusion which both Jew and Persian
were ready to accept. The naked Aristotelic view of
it being most acceptable to the Persian, the Platonic to
the Hellenistic Jew. But the purer theology of the Jew
forced him to look for a solution of the question which
Plato had left doubtful, and to explain how evil
crept into matter. He could not allow that what God
had created could be of its own nature imperfect. God
made it very good; some other cause had broken in to
spoil it. Accordingly, as before he had reduced the
independent Arimanes, whose existence he had learnt
at Babylon, into a subordinate spirit; so now, not
questioning the facts of disease, of death, of pain, of
the infirmity of the flesh which the natural strength of
the spirit was unable to resist, he accounted for them
under the supposition that the first man had deliberately
sinned, and by his sin had brought a curse upon the
whole material earth, and upon all which was fashioned
out of it. The earth was created pure and lovely--a
garden of delight of its own free accord, loading itself
with fruit and flower, and everything most exquisite
and beautiful. No bird or beast of prey broke the
eternal peace which reigned over its hospitable surface.
In calm and quiet intercourse, the leopard lay down by
the kid, the lion browsed beside the ox, and the
corporeal frame of man, knowing neither decay, nor death,
nor unruly appetite, nor any change or infirmity, was
pure as the pure immortal substance of the unfallen
angels. But with the fatal apple all this fair scene
passed away, and creation as it seemed was hopelessly
and irretrievably ruined. Adam sinned--no matter
how--he sinned; the sin was the one terrible fact:
moral evil was brought into the world by the only
creature who was capable of committing it. Sin entered
in, and death by sin; death and disease, storm and
pestilence, earthquake and famine. The imprisoned
passions of the wild animals were let loose, and earth
and air became full of carnage; worst of all, maws
animal nature came out in gigantic strength, the carnal
lusts, unruly appetites, jealousies, hatred, rapine, and
murder; and then the law, and with it, of course,
breaches of the law, and sin on sin. The seed of Adam
was infected in the animal change which had passed
over his person, and every child, therefore, thenceforth
naturally engendered in his posterity, was infected with
the curse which he had incurred. Every material
organization thenceforward contained in itself the
elements of its own destruction, and the philosophic
conclusions of Aristotle were accepted and explained by
theology. Already, in the popular histories, those who
were infected by disease were said to be bound by
Satan; madness was a "possession" by his spirit, and
the whole creation from Adam till Christ groaned and
travailed under Satan's power. The nobler nature in
man still made itself felt; but it was a slave when it
ought to command. It might will to obey the higher
law, but the law in the members was over strong for it
and bore it down. This was the body of death which
philosophy detected but could not explain, and from
which Christianity now came forward with its magnificent
promise of deliverance.

The carnal doctrine of the sacraments which they
are compelled to acknowledge to have been taught as
fully in the early Church as it is now taught by the
Roman Catholics, has long been the stumbling-block
to Protestants. It was the very essence of Christianity
itself. Unless the body could be purified, the soul
could not be saved; or, rather, as from the beginning,
soul and flesh were one man and inseparable, without
his flesh, man was lost, or would cease to be. But the
natural organization of the flesh was infected, and unless
organization could begin again from a new original, no
pure material substance could exist at all. He, therefore,
by whom God had first made the world, entered
into the womb of the Virgin in the form (so to speak)
of a new organic cell, and around it, through the virtue
of His creative energy, a material body grew again of
the substance of his mother, pure of taint and clean as
the first body of the first man when it passed out under
His hand in the beginning of all things. In Him thus
wonderfully born was the virtue which was to restore
the lost power of mankind. He came to redeem man;
and, therefore, he took a human body, and he kept it
pure through a human life, till the time came when it
could be applied to its marvellous purpose. He died,
and then appeared what was the nature of a material
human body when freed from the limitations of sin.
The grave could not hold it, neither was it possible
that it should see corruption. It was real, for the
disciples were allowed to feel and handle it. He ate and
drank with them to assure their senses. But space had
no power over it, nor any of the material obstacles
which limit an ordinary power. He willed and his
body obeyed. He was here, He was there. He was
visible, He was invisible. He was in the midst of his
disciples and they saw Him, and then He was gone,
whither who could tell? At last He passed away to
heaven; but while in heaven, He was still on earth.
His body became the body of His Church on earth, not
in metaphor, but in fact. His very material body, in
which and by which the faithful would be saved. His
flesh and blood were thenceforth to be their food.
They were to eat it as they would eat ordinary meat.
They were to take it into their system, a pure material
substance, to leaven the old natural substance and
assimilate it to itself. As they fed upon it it would
grow into them, and it would become their own real
body. Flesh grown in the old way was the body of
death, but the flesh of Christ was the life of the world,
over which death had no power. Circumcision availed
nothing, nor uncircumcision--but a new creature--this
new creature, which the child first put on in baptism,
being born again into Christ of water and the spirit.
In the Eucharist he was fed and sustained and going
on from strength to strength, and ever as the nature of
his body changed, being able to render a more complete
obedience, he would at last pass away to God through
the gate of the grave, and stand holy and perfect in the
presence of Christ. Christ had indeed been ever present
with him; but because while life lasted some
particles of the old Adam would necessarily cling to
him, the Christian's mortal eye on earth cannot see
Him. Hedged in by "his muddy vesture of decay,"
his eyes, like the eyes of the disciples of Emmaus, are
holden, and only in faith he feels Him. But death,
which till Christ had died had been the last victory of
evil, in virtue of His submission to it, became its own
destroyer, for it had power only over the tainted
particles of the old substance, and there was nothing
needed but that these should be washed away and the
elect would stand out at once pure and holy, clothed
in immortal bodies, like refined gold, the redeemed
of God.

The being who accomplished a work so vast, a work
compared to which the first creation appears but a
trifling difficulty, what could He be but God? God
Himself! Who but God could have wrested His prize
from a power which half the thinking world believed to
be His coequal and coeternal adversary. He was God.
He was man also, for He was the second Adam--the
second starting point of human growth. He was virgin
born, that no original impurity might infect the substance
which He assumed; and being Himself sinless, He
showed in the nature of His person, after His resurrection,
what the material body would have been in all of
us except for sin, and what it will be when, after feeding
on it in its purity, the bodies of each of us are
transfigured after its likeness. Here was the secret of the
spirit which set St. Simeon on his pillar and sent St.
Anthony to the tombs--of the night watches, the weary
fasts, the penitential scourgings, and life-long austerities
which have been alternately the glory and the reproach
of the mediaeval saints. They would overcome their
animal bodies, and anticipate in life the work of death
in uniting themselves more completely to Christ by
the destruction of the flesh which lay as a veil between
themselves and Him.

And such, I believe, to have been the central idea of
the beautiful creed which, for 1800 years, has tuned the
heart and formed the mind of the noblest of mankind.
From this centre it radiated out and spread, as time
went on, into the full circle of human activity, flinging
its own philosophy and its own peculiar grace over the
common detail of the common life of all of us. Like
the seven lamps before the Throne of God, the seven
mighty angels, and the seven stars, the seven sacraments
shed over us a never ceasing stream of blessed influence.
First there are the priests, a holy order set
apart and endowed with mysterious power, representing
Christ and administering his gifts. Christ, in his
twelfth year, was presented in the temple, and first
entered on His father's business; and the baptized
child, when it has grown to an age to become conscious
of its vow and of its privilege, again renews it in full
knowledge of what it undertakes, and receives again
sacramentally a fresh gift of grace to assist it forward on
its way. In maturity it seeks a companion to share its
pains and pleasures; and, again, Christ is present to
consecrate the union. Marriage, which outside the
church only serves to perpetuate the curse and bring
fresh inheritors of misery into the world, He made holy
by His presence at Cana, and chose it as the symbol to
represent His own mystic union with His church.

Even saints cannot live without at times some spot
adhering to them. The atmosphere in which we breathe
and move is soiled, and Christ has anticipated our wants.
Christ did penance forty days in the wilderness, not to
subdue His own flesh, for that which was already perfect
did not need subduing, but to give to penance a cleansing
virtue to serve for our daily or our hourly ablution.

Christ consecrates our birth; Christ throws over us
our baptismal robe of pure unsullied innocence. He
strengthens us as we go forward. He raises us when
we fall. He feeds us with the substance of His own
most precious body. In the person of His minister he
does all this for us, in virtue of that which in His own
person he actually performed when a man living on
this earth. Last of all, when all is drawing to its close
with us, when life is past, when the work is done, and
the dark gate is near, beyond which the garden of an
eternal home is waiting to receive us, His tender care
has not forsaken us. He has taken away the sting of
death, but its appearance is still terrible; and He will
not leave us without special help at our last need. He
tried the agony of the moment; and He sweetens the
cup for us before we drink it. We are dismissed to the
grave with our bodies anointed with oil, which He made
holy in His last anointing before his passion, and then
all is over. We lie down and seem to decay--to decay
--but not all. Our natural body decays, the last
remains of which we have inherited from Adam, but
the spiritual body, that glorified substance which has
made our life, and is our real body as we are in Christ,
that can never decay, but passes off into the kingdom
which is prepared for it; that other world where there
is no sin, and God is all in all! Such is the Philosophy
of Christianity. It was worn and old when Luther
found it. Our posterity will care less to respect Luther
for rending it in pieces, when it has learnt to despise
the miserable fabric which he stitched together out of
its tatters.



In the ordinary branches of human knowledge or inquiry,
the judicious questioning of received opinions has been
the sign of scientific vitality, the principle of scientific
advancement, the very source and root of healthy progress
and growth. If medicine had been regulated
three hundred years ago by Act of Parliament; if there
had been Thirty-nine Articles of Physic, and every
licensed practitioner had been compelled, under pains
and penalties, to compound his drugs by the prescriptions
of Henry the Eighth's physician, Doctor Butts, it
is easy to conjecture in what state of health the people
of this country would at present be found. Constitutions
have changed with habits of life, and the treatment of
disorders has changed to meet the new conditions.
New diseases have shown themselves of which Doctor
Butts had no cognizance; new continents have given
us plants with medicinal virtues previously unknown;
new sciences, and even the mere increase of recorded
experience, have added a thousand remedies to those
known to the age of the Tudors. If the College of
Physicians had been organized into a board of orthodoxy.
and every novelty of treatment had been regarded as a
crime against society, which a law had been established
to punish, the hundreds who die annually from preventible
causes would have been thousands and tens of thousands.

Astronomy is the most perfect of the sciences. The
accuracy of the present theory of the planetary move
merits is tested daily and hourly by the most delicate
experiments, and the legislature, if it so pleased, might
enact the first principles of these movements into a
statute, without danger of committing the law of
England to falsehood. Yet, if the legislature were to
venture on any such paternal procedure, in a few years
gravitation itself would be called in question, and the
whole science would wither under the fatal shadow.
There are many phenomena still unexplained to give
plausibility to scepticism; there are others more easily
formularized for working purposes in the language of
Ptolemy; and there would be reactionists who would
invite us to return to the safe convictions of our
forefathers. What the world has seen the world may
see again; and were it once granted that astronomy
were something to be ruled by authority, new Popes
would imprison new Galileos; the knowledge already
acquired would be strangled in the cords which were
intended to keep it safe from harm, and deprived of
the free air on which its life depends it would dwindle
and die.

A few years ago, an Inspector of Schools--a Mr.
Jellinger Symonds--opening, perhaps for the first time,
an elementary book on astronomy, came on something
which he conceived to be a difficulty in the theory of
lunar motion. His objection was on the face of it
plausible. The true motions of the heavenly bodies are
universally the opposite of the apparent motions. Mr.
Symonds conceived that the moon could not revolve on
its axis, because the same side of it was continually
turned towards the earth; and if it were connected with
the earth by a rigid bar--which, as he thought, would
deprive it of power of rotation--the relative aspects of
the two bodies would remain unchanged. He sent
his views to the Times. He appealed to the common
sense of the world, and common sense seemed to be
on his side. The men of science were of course right;
but a phenomenon, not entirely obvious, had been
hitherto explained in language which the general reader
could not readily comprehend. A few words of elucidation
cleared up the confusion: we do not recollect whether
Mr. Symonds was satisfied or not; but most of us who
had before received what the men of science told us
with an unintelligent and languid assent, were
set thinking for ourselves, and as a result of the
discussion, exchanged a confused idea for a clear one.

It was an excellent illustration of the true claims
of authority and of the value of open inquiry. The
ignorant man has not as good a right to his own opinion
as the instructed man. The instructed man, however
right he may be, must not deliver his conclusions as
axioms, and merely insist that they are true. The one
asks a question, the other answers it, and all of us are
the better for the business.

Now let us suppose the same thing to have happened,
when the only reply to a difficulty was an appeal to the
Astronomer Royal, where the rotation of the moon was
an article of salvation decreed by the law of the land,
and where all persons admitted to hold office under the
State were required to subscribe to it. The Astronomer
Royal--as it was, if we remember right, he was a little
cross about it--would have brought an action against
Mr. Symonds in the Court of Arches; Mr. Symonds
would have been deprived of his inspectorship--for, of
course, he would have been obstinate in his heresy;
the world outside would have had an antecedent presumption
that truth lay with the man who was making
sacrifices for it, and that there was little to be said in
the way of argument for what could not stand without
the help of the law. Everybody could understand the
difficulty; not everybody would have taken the trouble
to attend to the answer. Mr. Symonds would have
been a Colenso, and a good many of us would have
been convinced in our secret hearts that the moon as
little turned on its axis as the drawing-room table.

As it is in idea essential to a reverence for truth to
believe in its capacity for self-defence, so practically in
every subject except one, errors are allowed free room
to express themselves, and that liberty of opinion which
is the life of knowledge, as surely becomes the death of
falsehood. A method--the soundness of which is so
evident that to argue in favour of it is almost absurd--
might be expected to have been applied as a matter of
course to the one subject on which mistake is supposed
to be fatal, where to come to wrong conclusions is held
to be a crime for which the Maker of the universe has
neither pardon nor pity. Yet many reasons, not difficult
to understand, have long continued to exclude
theology from the region where free discussion is
supposed to be applicable. That so many persons have a
personal interest in the maintenance of particular views,
would of itself be fatal to fair argument. Though they
know themselves to be right, yet right is not enough for
them unless there is might to support it, and those who
talk most of faith show least that they possess it. But
there are deeper and more subtle objections. The
theologian requires absolute certainty, and there are no
absolute certainties in science. The conclusions of
science are never more than in a high degree probable;
they are no more than the best explanations of phenomena
which are attainable in the existing state of
knowledge. The most elementary laws are called laws
only in courtesy. They are generalizations which are
not considered likely to require modification, but which
no one pretends to be in the nature of the cause
exhaustively and ultimately true. As phenomena become
more complicated, and the data for the interpretation
of them more inadequate, the explanations offered are
put forward hypothetically, and are graduated by the
nature of the evidence. Such modest hesitation is
altogether unsuited to the theologian, whose certainty
increases with the mystery and obscurity of his matter;
his convictions admit of no qualification; his truth is
sure as the axioms of geometry; he knows what he
believes, for he has the evidence in his heart; if he
inquire, it is with a foregone conclusion, and serious
doubt with him is sin. It is in vain to point out to him
the thousand forms of opinions for each of which the
same internal witness is affirmed. The Mayo peasant,
crawling with bare knees over the flint points on Croagh
Patrick, the nun prostrate before the image of St. Mary,
the Methodist in the spasmodic extasy of a revival, alike
are conscious of emotions in themselves which correspond
to their creed: the more passionate--or, as some would
say--the more unreasoning the piety, the louder and
more clear is the voice within. But these varieties are
no embarrassment to the theologian. He finds no fault
with the method which is identical in them all. Whatever
the party to which he himself belongs, he is equally
satisfied that he alone has the truth; the rest are under
illusions of Satan.

Again, we hear--or we used to hear when the High
Church party were more formidable than they are at
present--much about "the right of private judgment."
Why, the eloquent Protestant would say, should I pin
my faith upon the Church? the Church is but a
congregation of fallible men, no better able to judge
than I am. I have a right to my own opinion. It
sounds like a paradox to say that free discussion is
interfered with by a cause which, above all others,
would have been expected to further it; but this in
fact has been the effect, because it tends to remove the
grounds of theological belief beyond the province of
argument. No one talks of "a right of private judgment."
in anything but religion; no one but a fool
insists on his "right to his own opinion" with his
lawyer or his doctor. Able men who have given their
time to special subjects, are authorities upon it to be
listened to with deference, and the ultimate authority
at any given time is the collective general sense. Of the
wisest men living in the department to which they
belong. The utmost "right of private judgment" which
anybody claims in such cases, is the choice of the
physician to whom he will trust his body, or of
counsel to whom he will commit the conduct of his
cause. The expression, as it is commonly used, implies
a belief that in matters of religion, the criteria of truth
are different in kind from what prevail elsewhere, and
the efforts which have been made to bring the notion
into harmony with common sense and common subjects,
have not been very successful. The High Church
party used to say, as a point against the Evangelicals,
that either "the right of private judgment" meant
nothing, or it meant that a man had a right to be in the
wrong. "No," said a writer in the Edinburgh Review
"it means only that if a man chooses to be in the wrong,
no one else has a right to interfere with him. A man
has no right to get drunk in his own house, but the
policeman may not force a way into his house and
prevent him." The illustration fails of its purpose. In
the first place, the Evangelicals never contemplated a
wrong use of the thing; they meant merely that they
had a right to their own opinions as against the Church.
They did not indeed put forward their claim quite so
nakedly; they made it general, as sounding less invidious;
but nobody ever heard an Evangelical admit a High Churchman
or a Catholic's right to be a Catholic.

But, secondly, society has a most absolute right to
prevent all manner of evil--drunkenness, and the rest
of it, if it can--only in doing so, society must not use
means which would create a greater evil than it would
remedy. As a man can by no possibility be doing
anything but most foul wrong to himself in getting
drunk, society does him no wrong, but rather does him
the greatest benefit if it can possibly keep him sober;
and in the same way, as a false belief in serious
matters is among the greatest of misfortunes, so to drive
it out of a man, by the whip, if it cannot be managed by
persuasion, is an act of brotherly love and affection,
provided the belief really and truly is false, and you
have a better to give him in the place of it. The
question is not what to do, but merely "how to do it;"
although Mr. Mill, in his love of "liberty," thinks
otherwise. Mr. Mill demands for every man a right to say
out his convictions in plain language, whatever they
may be; and so far as he means that there should be no
Act of Parliament to prevent him, he is perfectly just
in what he says. But when Mr. Mill goes from Parliament
to public opinion, when he lays down as a general
principle that the free play of thought is unwholesomely
interfered with by society, he would take away the sole
protection which we possess from the inroads of any
kind of folly. His dread of tyranny is so great, that
he thinks a man better off with a false opinion of his
own than with a right opinion inflicted upon him from
without; while for our own part we should be grateful
for tyranny or for anything else which would perform
so useful an office for us.

Public opinion may be unjust at particular times
and on particular subjects; we believe it to be both
unjust and unwise on the matter of which we are at
present speaking: But on the whole, it is like the
ventilation of a house, which keeps the air pure; much
in this world has to be taken for granted, and we cannot
be for ever arguing over our first principles. If a man
persists in talking of what he does not understand, he
is put down; if he sports loose views on morals at a
decent dinner party, the better sort of people fight shy
of him, and he is not invited again; if he profess himself
a Buddhist, a Mahometan, it is assumed that he has not
adopted those beliefs on serious conviction but
rather in wilful levity and eccentricity which does not
deserve to be tolerated. Men have no right to make
themselves bores and nuisances; and the common sense
of mankind inflicts wholesome inconveniences on those
who carry their "right of private judgment" to any
such extremities. It is a check, the same in kind as
that which operates so wholesomely in the Sciences.
Mere folly is extinguished in contempt; objections
reasonably urged obtain a hearing and are reasonably
met. New truths, after encountering sufficient opposition
to test their value, make their way into general reception.

A further cause which has operated to prevent theology
from obtaining the benefit of free discussion is the
interpretation popularly placed upon the constitution of
the Church Establishment. For fifteen centuries of its
existence, the Christian Church was supposed to be
under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit, which
miraculously controlled its decisions, and precluded the
possibility of error. This theory broke down at the
Reformation, but it left behind it a confused sense that
theological truth was in some way different from other
truth; and partly on grounds of public policy, partly
because it was supposed to have succeeded to the obligations
and the rights of the Papacy, the State took upon
itself to fix by statute the doctrines which should be
taught to the people. The distractions created by
divided opinions were then dangerous. Individuals did
not hesitate to ascribe to themselves the infallibility
which they denied to the Church. Everybody was
intolerant upon principle, and was ready to cut the throat
of an opponent whom his arguments had failed to
convince. The State, while it made no pretensions
to Divine guidance, was compelled to interfere in
self-protection; and to keep the peace of the realm, and
to prevent the nation from tearing itself in pieces, a
body of formulas was enacted, for the time broad and
comprehensive, within which opinion might be allowed
convenient latitude, while forbidden to pass beyond the

It might have been thought that in abandoning for
itself, and formally denying to the Church its pretensions
to immunity from error, the State could not have
intended to bind the conscience. When this or that
law is passed, the subject is required to obey it, but he
is not required to approve of the law as just. The
Prayer-Book and the Thirty-nine Articles, so far as
they are made obligatory by Act of Parliament, are as
much laws as any other statute. They are a rule to
conduct; it is not easy to see why they should be
more; it is not easy to see why they should have been
supposed to deprive clergymen of a right to their
opinions, or to forbid discussion of their contents. The
judge is not forbidden to ameliorate the law which he
administers. If in discharge of his duty he has to
pronounce a sentence which he declares at the same time
that he thinks unjust, no indignant public accuses him
of dishonesty, or requires him to resign his office. The
soldier is asked no questions as to the legitimacy of the
war on which he is sent to fight; nor need he throw
up his commission if he think the quarrel a bad one.
Doubtless, if a law was utterly iniquitous--if a war
was unmistakably wicked--honourable men might feel
uncertain what to do, and would seek some other
profession rather than continue instruments of evil. But
within limits, and in questions of detail, where the
service is generally good and honourable, we leave
opinion its free play, and exaggerated scrupulousness
would be folly or something worse. Somehow or other,
however, this wholesome freedom is not allowed to the
clergyman. The idea of absolute inward belief has
been substituted for that of obedience; and the man
who, in taking orders, signs the Articles and accepts
the Prayer-Book, does not merely undertake to use the
services in the one, and abstain from contradicting to
his congregation the doctrines contained in the other;
but he is held to promise what no honest man, without
presumption, can undertake to promise, that he will
continue to think to the end of his life as he thinks
when he makes his engagement.

It is said that if his opinions change, he may resign,
and retire into lay communion. We are not prepared
to say that either the Convocation of 1562, or the
Parliament which afterwards endorsed its proceedings, knew
exactly what they meant, or did not mean; but it is
quite clear that they did not contemplate the alternative
of a clergyman's retirement. If they had, they would
have provided means by which he could have abandoned
his orders, and not have remained committed for life to
a profession from which he could not escape. If the
popular theory of subscription be true, and the Articles
are articles of belief, a reasonable human being, when
little more than a boy, pledges himself to a long series
of intricate and highly-difficult propositions of abstruse
divinity. He undertakes never to waver or doubt,
never to allow his mind to be shaken, whatever the
weight of argument or evidence brought to bear upon
him. That is to say, he promises to do what no man
living has a right to promise to do. He is doing, on
the authority of Parliament, precisely what the Church
of Rome required him to do on the authority of a

If a clergyman--in trouble amidst the abstruse subjects
with which he has to deal, or unable to reconcile
some new-discovered truth of science with the established
formulas--puts forward his perplexities; if he
ventures a doubt of the omniscience of the statesmen
and divines of the sixteenth century, which they themselves
disowned, there is an instant cry to have him
stifled, silenced, or trampled down; and if no longer
punished in life and limb, to have him deprived of the
means on which life and limb can be supported, while
with ingenious tyranny he is forbidden to maintain
himself by any other occupation.

So far have we gone in this direction, that when
the Essays and Reviews appeared, it was gravely said
--and said by men who had no professional antipathy
to them--that the writers had broken their faith.
Laymen were free to say what they pleased on such
subjects; clergymen were the hired exponents of the
established opinions, and were committed to them in
thought and word. It was one more anomaly where
there were enough already. To say that the clergy,
who are set apart to study a particular subject, are to
be the only persons unpermitted to have an independent
opinion upon it, is like saying that lawyers must take
no part in the amendment of the statute-book, that
engineers must be silent upon mechanism, and if an
improvement is wanted in the art of medicine, physicians
may have nothing to say to it.

These causes would perhaps have been insufficient
to repress free inquiry, if there had been on the part
of the really able men among us a determination to
break the ice; in other words, if theology had preserved
the same commanding interest for the more powerful
minds with which it affected them three hundred years
ago. But on the one hand, a sense, half serious, haft
languid, of the hopelessness of the subject has produced
an indisposition to meddle with it; on the other, there
has been a creditable reluctance to disturb by discussion
the minds of the uneducated or half-educated, to whom
the established religion is simply an expression of the
obedience which they owe to Almighty God, on the
details of which they think little, and are therefore
unconscious of its difficulties, while in general it is the
source of all that is best and noblest in their lives and

This last motive no doubt deserves respect, but the
force which it once possessed it possesses no longer.
The uncertainty which once affected only the more
instructed extends now to all classes of society. A
superficial crust of agreement, wearing thinner day by
day, is undermined everywhere by a vague misgiving;
and there is an unrest which will be satisfied only when
the sources of it are probed to the core. The Church
authorities repeat a series of phrases which they are
pleased to call answers to objections; they treat the
most serious grounds of perplexity as if they were
puerile and trifling; while it is notorious that for a
century past extremely able men have either not known
what to say about them, or have not said what they
thought. On the Continent the peculiar English view
has scarcely a single educated defender. Even in
England the laity keep their judgment in suspense,
or remain warily silent.

"What religion are you, Mr. Rogers?" said a lady once.

"What religion, madam? I am of the religion of
all sensible men."

"And what is that?" she asked.

"All sensible men, madam, keep that to themselves."

If Mr. Rogers had gone on to explain himself, he
would have said perhaps that when the opinions of
those best able to judge are divided, the questions at
issue are doubtful. Reasonable men who are unable to
give them special attention withhold their judgment,
while those who are able, form their conclusions with
diffidence and modesty. But theologians will not
tolerate diffidence; they demand absolute assent, and will
take nothing short of it; and they affect therefore to
drown in foolish ridicule whatever troubles or displeases
them. The Bishop of Oxford talks in the old style of
punishment. The Archbishop of Canterbury refers us
to Usher as our guide in Hebrew chronology. The
objections of the present generation of "infidels," he
says, are the same which have been refuted again and
again, and are such as a child might answer. The
young man just entering upon the possession of his
intellect, with a sense of responsibility for his belief,
and more anxious for truth than for success in life,
finds when he looks into the matter that the Archbishop
has altogether misrepresented it; that in fact,
like other official persons, he had been using merely a
stereotyped form of words, to which he attached no
definite meaning. The words are repeated year after
year, but the enemies refuse to be exorcised. They
come and come again from Spinoza and Lessing to
Strauss and Renan. The theologians have resolved no
single difficulty; they convince no one who is not
convinced already; and a Colenso coming fresh to the
subject, with no more than a year's study, throws the
Church of England into convulsions.

If there were any real danger that Christianity would
cease to be believed, it would be no more than a
fulfilment of prophecy. The state in which the Son of
Man would find the world at his coming he did not say
would be a state of faith. But if that dark time is ever
literally to come upon the earth, there are no present
signs of it. The creed of eighteen centuries is not
about to fade away like an exhalation, nor are the new
lights of science so exhilarating that serious persons
can look with comfort to exchanging one for the other.
Christianity has abler advocates than its professed
defenders, in those many quiet and humble men and
women who in the light of it and the strength of it
live holy, beautiful, and self-denying lives. The God
that answer by fire is the God whom mankind will
acknowledge; and so long as the fruits of the Spirit
continue to be visible in charity, in self-sacrifice, in
those graces which raise human creatures above
themselves, and invest them with that beauty of holiness
which only religion confers, thoughtful persons will
remain convinced that with them in some form or other
is the secret of truth. The body will not thrive on
poison, or the soul on falsehood; and as the vital
processes of health are too subtle for science to follow;
as we choose our food, not by the most careful chemical
analysis, but by the experience of its effects upon the
system; so when a particular belief is fruitful in
nobleness of character, we need trouble ourselves very little
with scientific demonstrations that it is false. The
most deadly poison may be chemically undistinguishable
from substances which are perfectly innocent. Prussic
acid, we are told, is formed of the same elements,
combined in the same proportions, as gum-arabic.

What that belief is for which the fruits speak thus
so positively, it is less easy to divine. Religion from
the beginning of time has expanded and changed with
the growth of knowledge. The religion of the prophets
was not the religion which was adapted to the hardness
of heart of the Israelites of the Exodus. The Gospel
set aside the Law; the creed of the early Church was
not the creed of the middle ages, any more than the
creed of Luther and Cranmer was the creed of St.
Bernard and Aquinas. Old things pass away, new
things come in their place; and they in their turn grow
old, and give place to others; yet in each of the many
forms which Christianity has assumed in the world,
holy men have lived and died, and have had the witness
of the Spirit that they were not far from the truth. It
may be that the faith which saves is the something held
in common by all sincere Christians, and by those
as well who should come from the east and the west,
and sit down in the kingdom of God, when the children
of the covenant would be cast out. It may be that the
true teaching of our Lord is overlaid with doctrines;
and theology, when insisting on the reception of its
huge catena of formulas, may be binding a yoke upon
our necks which neither we nor our fathers were able
to bear.

But it is not the object of this article to put forward
either this or any other particular opinion. The writer
is conscious only that he is passing fast towards the dark
gate which soon will close behind him. He believes
that some kind of sincere and firm conviction on these
things is of infinite moment to him, and, entirely
diffident of his own power to find his way towards such
a conviction, he is both ready and anxious to disclaim
"all right of private judgment" in the matter. He wishes
only to learn from those who are able to teach him.
The learned prelates talk of the presumptuousness of
human reason; they tell us that doubts arise from the
consciousness of sin and the pride of the unregenerate
heart. The present writer, while he believes generally
that reason, however inadequate, is the best faculty to
which we have to trust, yet is most painfully conscious
of the weakness of his own reason; and once let the
real judgment of the best and wisest men be declared;
let those who are most capable of forming a sound
opinion, after reviewing the whole relations of science,
history, and what is now received as revelation, tell us
fairly how much of the doctrines popularly taught they
conceive to be adequately established, how much to be
uncertain, and how much, if anything, to be mistaken;
there is scarcely perhaps a single serious inquirer who
would not submit with delight to a court which is the
highest on earth.

Mr. Mansell tells us that in the things of God reason
is beyond its depth, that the wise and the unwise are on
the same level of incapacity, and that we must accept
what we find established, or we must believe nothing.
We presume that this dilemma itself is a conclusion of
reason. Do what we will, reason is and must be our
ultimate authority; and were the collective sense of
mankind to declare Mr. Mansell right, we should submit
to that opinion as readily as to another. But the
collective sense of mankind is less acquiescent. He
has been compared to a man sitting on the end of a
plank and deliberately sawing off his seat. It seems
never to have occurred to him that, if he is right, he has
no business to be a Protestant. What Mr. Mansell says
to Professor Jowett, Bishop Gardiner in effect replied
to Frith and Ridley. Frith and Ridley said that
transubstantiation was unreasonable; Gardiner answered
that there was the letter of Scripture of it, and that the
human intellect was no measure of the power of God.
Yet the Reformers somehow believed, and Mr. Mansell
by his place in the Church of England seems to agree
with them, that the human intellect was not so wholly
incompetent. It might be a weak guide, but it was
better than none; and they declared on grounds of mere
reason, that Christ being in heaven and not on earth,
'it was contrary to the truth for a natural body to be in
two places at once.' The common sense of the country
was of the same opinion, and the illusion was at an

There have been "Aids to Faitti" produced lately, and
"Replies to the Seven Essayists," "Answers to Colenso,"
and much else of the kind. We regret to say that they
have done little for us. The very life of our souls is at
issue in the questions which have been raised, and we
are fed with the professional commonplaces of the
members of a close guild, men holding high office in
the Church, or expecting to hold high office there; in
either case with a strong temporal interest in the defence
of the institution which they represent. We desire to
know what those of the clergy think whose love of truth
is unconnected with their prospects in life; we desire
to know what the educated laymen, the lawyers, the
historians, the men of science, the statesmen think; and
these are for the most part silent, or confess themselves
modestly uncertain. The professional theologians alone
are loud and confident; but they speak in the old angry
tone which rarely accompanies deep and wise convictions.
They do not meet the real difficulties; they
mistake them, misrepresent them, claim victories over
adversaries with whom they have never even crossed
swords, and leap to conclusions with a precipitancy at
which we can only smile. It has been the unhappy
manner of their class from immemorial time; they call
it zeal for the Lord, as if it were beyond all doubt that
they were on God's side, as if serious inquiry after truth
was something which they were entitled to resent. They
treat intellectual difficulties as if they deserved rather
to be condemned and punished than considered and
weighed, and rather stop their ears and run with one
accord upon any one who disagrees with them than
listen patiently to what he has to say.

We do not propose to enter in detail upon the
particular points which demand re-discussion. It is
enough that the more exact habit of thought which
science has engendered, and the closer knowledge of
the value and nature of evidence, has notoriously made
it necessary that the grounds should be reconsidered
on which we are to believe that one country and one
people was governed for sixteen centuries on principles
different from those which we now find to prevail
universally. One of many questions, however, shall
be briefly glanced at, on which the real issue seems
habitually to be evaded.

Much has been lately said and written on the authenticity
of the Pentateuch and the other historical books
of the Old Testament. The Bishop of Natal has thrown
out in a crude form the critical results of the inquiries
of the Germans, coupled with certain arithmetical
calculations, for which he has a special aptitude. He
supposes himself to have proved that the first five books
of the Bible are a compilation of uncertain date, full of
inconsistencies and impossibilities. The apologists have
replied that the objections are not absolutely conclusive,
that the events described in the book of Exodus might
possibly, under certain combinations of circumstances,
have actually taken place; and they then pass to the
assumption that because a story is not necessarily false,
therefore it is necessarily true. We have no intention of
vindicating Dr. Colenso. His theological training makes
his arguments very like those of his opponents, and he and
Dr. M'Call may settle their differences between themselves.
The question is at once wider and simpler than
any which has been raised in that controversy. Were it
proved beyond possibility of error that the Pentateuch was
written by Moses, that those and all the books of the 01d
and New Testaments were really the work of the writers
whose names they bear; were the Mosaic cosmogony in
harmony with physical discoveries; and were the supposed
inconsistencies and contradictions shown to have no
existence except in Dr. Colenso's imagination--we should
not have advanced a single step towards making good the
claim put forward for the Bible, that it is absolutely and
unexceptionably true in all its parts. The "genuineness
and authenticity" argument is irrelevant and needless.
The clearest demonstration of the human authorship of
the Pentateuch proves nothing about its immunity from
errors. If there are no mistakes in it, it was not the
workmanship of man; and if it was inspired by the
Holy Spirit, there is no occasion to show that the hand
of Moses was the instrument made use of. To the
most excellent of contemporary histories, to histories
written by eye-witnesses of the facts which they describe,
we accord but a limited confidence. The highest
intellectual competence, the most admitted truthfulness,
immunity from prejudice, and the absence of temptation
to mis-state the truth; these things may secure general
credibility, but they are no guarantee for minute and
circumstantial exactness. Two historians, though with
equal gifts and equal opportunities, never describe events
in exactly the same way. Two witnesses in a court of
law, while they agree in the main, invariably differ in
some particulars. It appears as if men could not relate
facts precisely as they saw or as they heard them. The
different parts of a story strike different imaginations
unequally; and the mind, as the circumstances pass
through it, alters their proportions unconsciously, or
shifts the perspective. The credit which we give to
the most authentic work of a man has no resemblance
to that universal acceptance which is demanded for
the Bible. It is not a difference of degree: it is a
difference in kind; and we desire to know on what
ground this infallibility, which we do not question, but
which is not proved, demands our belief. Very likely
the Bible is thus infallible. Unless it is, there can be
no moral obligation to accept the facts which it records:
and though there may be intellectual error in denying
them, there can be no moral sin. Facts may be better
or worse authenticated; but all the proofs in the world
of the genuineness and authenticity of the human handiwork
cannot establish a claim upon the conscience. It
might be foolish to question Thucydides' account of
Pericles, but no one would call it sinful. Men part with
all sobriety of judgment when they come on ground of
this kind. When Sir Henry Rawlinson read the name
of Sennacherib on the Assyrian marbles, and found
allusions there to the Israelites in Palestine, we were told
that a triumphant answer had been found to the cavils
of sceptics, and a convincing proof of the inspired truth
of the Divine Oracles. Bad arguments in a good cause
are a sure way to bring distrust upon it. The Divine
Oracles may be true, and may be inspired; but the
discoveries at Nineveh certainly do not prove them so.
No one supposes that the Books of Kings or the
prophesies of Isaiah and Ezekiel were the work of men
who had no knowledge of Assyria or the Assyrian
Princes. It is possible that in the excavations at
Carthage some Punic inscription may be found
confirming Livy's account of the battle of Cannae; but
we shall not be obliged to believe therefore in the
inspiration of Livy, or rather (for the argument
comes to that) in the inspiration of the whole Latin

We are not questioning the fact that the Bible is
infallible; we desire only to be told on what evidence
that great and awful fact concerning it properly rests.
It would seem, indeed, as if instinct had been wiser
than argument--as if it had been felt that nothing
short of this literal and close inspiration could preserve
the facts on which Christianity depends. The history
of the early world is a history everywhere of marvels.
The legendary literature of every nation upon earth
tells the same stories of prodigies and wonders, of the
appearances of the gods upon earth, and of their intercourse
with men. The lives of the saints of the
Catholic Church, from the time of the Apostles till the
present day, are a complete tissue of miracles
resembling and rivalling those of the Gospels. Some of
these stories are romantic and imaginative; some clear,
literal, and prosaic: some rest on mere tradition; some
on the sworn testimony of eye-witnesses; some are
obvious fables; some are as well authenticated as facts
of such a kind can be authenticated at all. The
Protestant Christian rejects every one of them--rejects
them without inquiry--involves those for which there
is good authority and those for which there is none
or little in one absolute, contemptuous, and sweeping
denial. The Protestant Christian feels it more likely,
in the words of Hume, that men should deceive or
be deceived, than that the laws of nature should be
violated. At this moment we are beset with reports of
conversations with spirits, of tables miraculously lifted,
of hands projected out of the world of shadows into
this mortal life. An unusually able, accomplished
person, accustomed to deal with common-sense facts, a
celebrated political economist, and notorious for
business-like habits, assured this writer that a certain
mesmerist, who was my informant's intimate friend,
had raised a dead girl to life. We should believe the
people who tell us these things in any ordinary matter:
they would be admitted in a court of justice as good
witnesses in a criminal case, and a jury would hang a
man on their word. The person just now alluded to is
incapable of telling a wilful lie; yet our experience of
the regularity of nature on one side is so uniform, and
our experience of the capacities of human folly on the
other is so large, that when they tell us these wonderful
stories, most of us are contented to smile; we
do not care so much as to turn out of our way to
examine them.

The Bible is equally a record of miracles; but as
from other histories we reject miracles without hesitation,
so of those in the Bible we insist on the universal
acceptance: the former are all false, the latter are all
true. It is evident that, in forming conclusions so
sweeping as these, we cannot even suppose that we are
being guided by what is called historical evidence.
Were it admitted that as a whole the miracles of the
Bible are better authenticated than the miracles of the
saints, we should be far removed still from any large
inference, that in the one set there is no room for
falsehood, in the other no room for truth. The writer or
writers of the Books of Kings are not known. The
books themselves are in fact confessedly taken from older
writings which are lost; and the accounts of the great
prophets of Israel are a counterpart, curiously like, of
those of the mediaeval saints. In many instances the
authors of the lives of these saints were their
companions and friends. Why do we feel so sure that what
we are told of Elijah or Elisha took place exactly as we
read it? Why do we reject the account of St. Columba
or St. Martin as a tissue of idle fable? Why should
not God give a power to the saint which he had given
to the prophet? We can produce no reason from the
nature of things, for we know not what the nature of
things is; and if down to the death of the Apostles the
ministers of religion were allowed to prove their
commission by working miracles, what right have we, on
grounds either of history or philosophy, to draw a clear
line at the death of St. John, to say that before that
time all such stories were true, and after it all were

There is no point on which Protestant controversialists
evade the real question more habitually than on
that of miracles. They accuse those who withhold that
unreserved and absolute belief which they require for
all which they accept themselves, of denying that
miracles are possible. That they assume to be the
position taken up by the objector, and proceed easily to
argue that man is no judge of the power of God. Of
course he is not. No sane man ever raised his narrow
understanding into a measure of the possibilities of the
universe; nor does any person with any pretensions to
religion disbelieve in miracles of some kind. To pray
is to expect a miracle. When we pray for the recovery
of a sick friend, for the gift of any blessing, or the
removal of any calamity, we expect that God will do
something by an act of his personal will which otherwise
would not have been done--that he will suspend
the ordinary relations of natural cause and effect; and
this is the very idea of a miracle. The thing we pray
for may be given us, and no miracle may have taken
place. It may be given to us by natural causes, and
would have occurred whether we had prayed or not.
But prayer itself in its very essence implies a belief in
the possible intervention of a power which is above
nature. The question about miracles is simply one of
evidence--whether in any given case the proof is so
strong that no room is left for mistake, exaggeration,
or illusion, while more evidence is required to establish
a fact antecedently improbable than is sufficient for a
common occurrence.

It has been said recently by "A Layman," in a letter
to Mr. Maurice, that the resurrection of our Lord is as
well authenticated as the death of Julius Caesar. It is
far better authenticated, unless we are mistaken in
supposing the Bible inspired; or if we admit as evidence
that inward assurance of the Christian, which would
make him rather die than disbelieve a truth so dear to
him. But if the layman meant that there was as much
proof of it, in the sense in which proof is understood in
a court of justice, he could scarcely have considered
what he was saying. Julius Caesar was killed in a
public place, in the presence of friend and foe, in a
remarkable but still perfectly natural manner. The
circumstances were minutely known to all the world, and
were never denied or doubted by any one. Our Lord,
however, seems purposely to have withheld such public
proof of his resurrection as would have left no room for
unbelief. He showed himself, "not to all the people"
--not to his enemies, whom his appearance would have
overwhelmed--but "to witnesses chosen before;" to
the circle of his own friends. There is no evidence
which a jury could admit that he was ever actually dead.
So unusual was it for persons crucified to die so soon,
that Pilate, we are told, "marvelled." The subsequent
appearances were strange, and scarcely intelligible.
Those who saw him did not recognize him till he was
made known to them in the breaking of bread. He
was visible and invisible. He was mistaken by those
who were most intimate with him for another person;
nor do the accounts agree which are given by the
different Evangelists. Of investigation in the modern
sense (except in the one instance of St. Thomas, and
St. Thomas was rather rebuked than praised,) there
was none, and could be none. The evidence offered
was different in kind, and the blessing was not to those
who satisfied themselves of the truth of the fact by a
searching inquiry, but who gave their assent with the
unhesitating confidence of love.

St. Paul's account of his own conversion is an
instance of the kind of testimony which then worked
the strongest conviction. St. Paul, a fiery fanatic on a
mission of persecution, with the midday Syrian sun
streaming down upon his head, was struck to the
ground, and saw in a vision our Lord in the air. If
such a thing were to occur at the present day, and if a
modern physician were consulted about it, he would
say without hesitation, that it was an effect of an
over-heated brain, and that there was nothing in it
extraordinary or unusual. If the impression left by the
appearance had been too strong for such an explanation
to be satisfactory, the person to whom it occurred,
especially if he was a man of St. Paul's intellectual
stature, would have at once examined into the facts
otherwise known, connected with the subject of what
he had seen. St. Paul had evidently before disbelieved
our Lord's resurrection, had disbelieved it fiercely and
passionately; we should have expected that he would at
once have sought for those who could best have told
him the details of the truth. St. Paul, however, did
nothing of the kind. He went for a year into Arabia,
and when at last he returned to Jerusalem, he rather
held aloof from those who had been our Lord's
companions, and who had witnessed his ascension.
He saw Peter, he saw James; "of the rest of the
apostles saw he none." To him evidently the proof of
the resurrection was the vision which he had himself
seen. It was to that which he always referred when
called on for a defence of his faith.

Of evidence for the resurrection in the common
sense of the word there may be enough to show that
something extraordinary occurred; but not enough,
unless we assume the fact to be true on far other
grounds, to produce any absolute and unhesitating
conviction; and inasmuch as the resurrection is the
keystone of Christianity, the belief in it must be something
far different from that suspended judgment in which
history alone would leave us.

Human testimony, we repeat, under the most
favourable circumstances imaginable, knows nothing of
"absolute certainty;" and if historical facts are bound
up with the creed, and if they are to be received with
the same completeness as the laws of conscience, they
rest, and must rest, either on the divine truth of
Scripture, or on the divine witness in ourselves. On human
evidence, the miracles of St. Teresa and St. Francis of
Assisi are as well established as those of the New

M. Ernest Renan has recently produced an account
of the Gospel story which, written as it is by a man of
piety, intellect, and imagination, is spreading rapidly
through the educated world. Carrying out the principles
with which Protestants have swept modern
history clear of miracles to their natural conclusions,
he dismisses all that is miraculous from the life of our
Lord, and endeavours to reproduce the original Galilean
youth who lived, and taught, and died in Palestine
eighteen hundred years ago. We have no intention of
reviewing M. Renan. He will be read soon enough by
many who would better consider their peace of mind
by leaving him alone. For ourselves we are unable
to see by what right, if he rejects the miraculous part
of the narrative, he retains the rest; the imagination
and the credulity which invent extraordinary incidents
invent ordinary incidents also; and if the divine
element in the life is legendary, the human may be
legendary also. But there is one lucid passage in the
introduction which we commend to the perusal of
controversial theologians:--

No miracle such as those of which early histories are full
has taken place under conditions which science can accept.
Experience shows, without exception, that miracles occur
only in times and in countries in which miracles are believed
in, and in the presence of persons who are disposed to
believe them. No miracle has ever been performed before
an assemblage of spectators capable of testing its reality.
Neither uneducated people, nor even men of the world,
have the requisite capacity; great precautions are needed,
and a long habit of scientific research. Have we not seen
men of the world in our own time become the dupes of the
most childish and absurd illusions? And if it be certain
that no contemporary miracles will bear investigation, is it
not possible that the miracles of the past, were we able to
examine into them in detail, would be found equally to
contain an element of error? It is not in the name of this
or that philosophy, it is in the name of an experience which
never varies that we banish miracles from history. We do
not say a miracle is impossible, we say only that no miracle
has ever yet been proved. Let a worker of miracles come
forward to-morrow with pretensions serious enough to
deserve examination. Let us suppose him to announce
that he is able to raise a dead man to life. What would be
done? A committee would be appointed, composed of
physiologists, physicians, chemists, and persons accustomed
to exact investigation; a body would then be selected which
the committee would assure itself was really dead; and a
place would be chosen where the experiment was to take
place. Every precaution would be taken to leave no
opening for uncertainty; and if, under those conditions, the
restoration to life was effected, a probability would be
arrived at which would be almost equal to certainty. An
experiment, however, should always admit of being repeated.
What a man has done once he should be able to do again,
and in miracles there can be no question of ease or difficulty.
The performer would be requested to repeat the operation
under other circumstances upon other bodies; and if he
succeeded on every occasion, two points would be established:
first, that there may be in this world such things as
supernatural operations; and, secondly, that the power to
perform them is delegated to, or belongs to, particular

But who does not perceive that no miracle was ever
performed under such conditions as these?

We have quoted this passage because it expresses
with extreme precision and clearness the common-sense
principle which we apply to all supernatural stories of
our own time, which Protestant theologians employ
against the whole cycle of Catholic miracles, and which
M. Renan is only carrying to its logical conclusions in
applying to the history of our Lord, if the Gospels are
tried by the mere tests of historical criticism. The
Gospels themselves tell us why M. Renan's conditions
were never satisfied. Miracles were not displayed in
the presence of sceptics to establish scientific truths,
When the adulterous generation sought after a sign,
the sign was not given; nay, it is even said that in the
presence of unbelief our Lord was not able to work
miracles. But science has less respect for that
undoubting and submissive willingness to believe; and it
is quite certain that if we attempt to establish the truth
of the New Testament on the principles of Paley, if
with Professor Jowett "we interpret the Bible as any
other book," the element of miracle which has
evaporated from the entire surface of human history will
not maintain itself in the sacred ground of the Gospels,
and the facts of Christianity will melt in our hands like
a snow-ball.

Nothing less than a miraculous history can sustain
the credibility of miracles, and nothing could be more
likely if revelation be a reality and not a dream than
that the history containing it should be saved in its
composition from the intermixture of human infirmity.
This is the position in which instinct long ago taught
Protestants to entrench themselves, and where alone
they can hope to hold their ground: once established
in these lines, they were safe and unassailable, unless it
could be demonstrated that any fact or facts related in
the Bible were certainly untrue.

Nor would it be necessary to say any more upon the
subject. Those who believed Christianity would admit
the assumption; those who disbelieved Christianity
would repudiate it. The argument would be narrowed
to that plain and single issue, and the elaborate
treatises upon external evidence would cease to bring
discredit upon the cause by their feebleness. Unfortunately--
and this is the true secret of our present distractions--it
seems certain that in some way or other
this belief in inspiration itself requires to be revised.
We are compelled to examine more precisely what we
mean by the word. The account of the creation of
man and the world which is given in Genesis, and
which is made by St. Paul the basis of his theology,
has not yet been reconciled with facts which science
knows to be true. Death was in the world before
Adam's sin, and unless Adam's age be thrust back to a
distance which no ingenuity can torture the letter of
Scripture into recognizing, men and women lived and
died upon the earth whole millenniums before the Eve
of Sacred History listened to the temptation of the
snake. Neither has any such deluge as that from which,
according to the received interpretation, the ark saved
Noah, swept over the globe within the human period.
We are told that it was not God's purpose to anticipate
the natural course of discovery: as the story of the
creation was written in human language, so the details
of it may have been adapted to the existing state of
human knowledge. The Bible it is said was not intended
to teach men science, but to teach them what
was necessary for the moral training of their souls. It
may be that this is true. Spiritual grace affects the
moral character of men, but leaves their intellect
unimproved. The most religious men are as liable as atheists
to ignorance of ordinary facts, and inspiration may be
only infallible when it touches on truths necessary to
salvation. But if it be so, there are many things in
the Bible which must become as uncertain as its geology
or its astronomy. There is the long secular history of
the Jewish people. Let it be once established that there
is room for error anywhere, and we have no security for
secular history. The inspiration of the Bible is the
foundation of our whole belief; and it is a grave matter
if we are uncertain to what extent it reaches, or how
much and what it guarantees to us as true. We cannot
live on probabilities. The faith in which we can live
bravely and die in peace must be a certainty, so far as
it professes to be a faith at all, or it is nothing. It may
be that all intellectual efforts to arrive at it are in vain;
that it is given to those to whom it is given, and withheld
from those from whom it is withheld. It may be that
the existing belief is undergoing a silent modification,
like those to which the dispensations of religion have
been successively subjected; or, again, it may be that to
the creed as it is already established there is nothing to
be added, and nothing any more to be taken from it.
At this moment, however, the most vigorous minds
appear least to see their way to a conclusion; and
notwithstanding all the school and church building, the
extended episcopate, and the religious newspapers, a
general doubt is coming up like a thunderstorm against
the wind, and blackening the sky. Those who cling
most tenaciously to the faith in which they were
educated yet confess themselves perplexed. They know
what they believe; but why they believe it, or why they
should require others to believe, they cannot tell or
cannot agree. Between the authority of the Church
and the authority of the Bible, the testimony of history
and the testimony of the Spirit, the ascertained facts
of science and the contradictory facts which seem to
be revealed, the minds of men are tossed to and fro,
harassed by the changed attitude in which scientific
investigation has placed us all towards accounts of
supernatural occurrences. We thrust the subject aside;
we take refuge in practical work; we believe perhaps
that the situation is desperate and hopeless of
improvement; we refuse to let the question be disturbed. But
we cannot escape from our shadow, and the spirit of
uncertainty will haunt the world like an uneasy ghost,
till we take it by the throat like men.

We return then to the point from which we set out.
The time is past for repression. Despotism has done
its work; but the day of despotism is gone, and the
only remedy is a full and fair investigation. Things
will never right themselves if they are let alone. It
is idle to say peace when there is no peace; and the
concealed imposthume is more dangerous than an open
wound. The law in this country has postponed our
trial, but cannot save us from it; and the questions
which have agitated the Continent are agitating us at
last. The student who twenty years ago was contented
with the Greek and Latin fathers and the Anglican
divines, now reads Ewald and Renan. The Church
authorities still refuse to look their difficulties in the
face: they prescribe for mental troubles the established
doses of Paley and Pearson; they refuse dangerous
questions as sinful, and tread the round of commonplace
in placid comfort. But it will not avail. Their
pupils grow to manhood, and fight the battle for
themselves, unaided by those who ought to have stood by
them in their trial, and could not or would not; and
the bitterness of those conflicts and the end of most of
them in heart-broken uncertainty or careless indifference,
is too notorious to all who care to know about
such things.

We cannot afford year after year to be distracted
with the tentative scepticism of essayists and reviewers.
In a healthy condition of public opinion such a book as
Bishop Colenso's would have passed unnoticed, or rather
would never have been written, for the difficulties with
which it deals would have been long ago met and disposed
of. When questions rose in the early and middle
ages of the Church, they were decided by councils of
the wisest: those best able to judge met together, and
compared their thoughts, and conclusions were arrived
at which individuals could accept and act upon. At
the beginning of the English Reformation, when
Protestant doctrine was struggling for reception, and the
old belief was merging in the new, the country was
deliberately held in formal suspense. Protestants and
Catholics were set to preach on alternate Sundays in
the same pulpit; the subject was discussed freely in the
ears of the people, and at last, when all had been said
on both sides, Convocation and Parliament embodied
the result in formulas. Councils will no longer answer
the purpose; the clergy have no longer a superiority of
intellect or cultivation; and a conference of prelates
from all parts of Christendom, or even from all departments
of the English Church, would not present an
edifying spectacle. Parliament may no longer meddle
with opinions unless it be to untie the chains which it
forged three centuries ago. But better than Councils,
better than sermons, better than Parliament, is that
free discussion through a free press which is the best
instrument for the discovery of truth, and the most
effectual means for preserving it.

We shall be told, perhaps, that we are beating the
air, that the press is free, and that all men may and
do write what they please. It is not so. Discussion
is not free so long as the clergy who take any side but
one are liable to be prosecuted and deprived of their
means of living; it is not free so long as the expression
of doubt is considered as a sin by public opinion and as
a crime by the law. So far are we from free discussion
that the world is not yet agreed that a free discussion
is desirable; and till it be so agreed, the substantial
intellect of the country will not throw itself into the
question. The battle will continue to be fought by
outsiders, who suffice to disturb a repose which they
cannot restore; and that collective voice of the national
understanding, which alone can give back to us a peaceful
and assured conviction, will not be heard.


Benedicti de Spinoza Tractatus de Deo et Homine ejusque Felicitate
Lineamenta Alque Annotationes ad Traclatum Theologico
Politicum. Edidit et illustravit EDWARDUS BOEHMER. Halae
ad Salam. J. F. Lippert. 1852.

This little volume is one evidence among many of the
interest which continues to be felt by the German
students in Spinoza. The actual merit of the book
itself is little or nothing; but it shows the industry
with which they are gleaning among the libraries of
Holland for any traces of him which they can recover;
and the smallest fragments of his writings are acquiring
that factitious importance which attaches to the
most insignificant relics of acknowledged greatness.
Such industry cannot be otherwise than laudable, but
we do not think it at present altogether wisely directed.
Nothing is likely to be brought to light which will much
illustrate Spinoza's philosophy. He himself spent the
better part of his life in working the language in which
he expressed it clear of ambiguities; and such earlier
draughts of his system as are supposed still to be extant
in MS., and a specimen of which M. Boehmer believes
himself to have discovered, contribute only obscurity
to what is in no need of additional difficulty. Of
Spinoza's private history, on the contrary, rich as it
must have been, and abundant traces of it as must be
extant somewhere in his own and his friends' correspondence,
we know only enough to feel how vast a
chasm remains to be filled. It is not often that any
man in this world lives a life so well worth writing as
Spinoza lived; not for striking incidents or large events
connected with it; but because (and no sympathy with
his peculiar opinions disposes us to exaggerate his
merit) he was one of the very best men whom these
modern times have seen. Excommunicated, disinherited,
and thrown upon the world when a mere boy
to seek his livelihood, he resisted the inducements
which on all sides were urged upon him to come forward
in the world; refusing pensions, legacies, money
in many forms, he maintained himself with grinding
glasses for optical instruments, an art which he had
been taught in early life, and in which he excelled the
best workmen in Holland; and when he died, which
was at the early age of forty-four, the affection with
which he was regarded showed itself singularly in the
endorsement of a tradesman's bill which was sent in to
his executors, in which he was described as M. Spinoza
of "blessed memory."

The account which remains of him we owe not to
an admiring disciple, but to a clergyman, to whom his
theories were detestable; and his biographer allows that
the most malignant scrutiny had failed to detect a
blemish in his character,--that except so far as his opinions
were blameable, he had lived to all outward appearances free
from fault. We desire, in what we are going to say of him,
to avoid offensive collision with even popular prejudices,
and still more with the earnest convictions
of serious persons: our business is to relate
what he was, and leave others to form their own conclusions.
But one lesson there does seem to lie in such
a life of such a man,--a lesson deeper than any which is
to be found in his philosophy,--that wherever there is
genuine and thorough love for good and goodness, no
speculative superstructure of opinion can be so extravagant
as to forfeit those graces which are promised
not to clearness of intellect, but to purity of heart. In
Spinoza's own beautiful language,--"justitia et caritas
unicum et certissimum verae fidei Catholicae signurn est,
et veri Spiritus sancti fructus: et ubicumque haec reperiuntur,
ibi Christus re verg est, et ubicumque haec
desunt deest Christus. Solo namque Christi Spiritu duci
possumus in amorem justitiae et caritatis." We may
deny his conclusions; we may consider his system of
thought preposterous and even pernicious, but we
cannot refuse him the respect which is the right of
all sincere and honourable men. We will say, indeed,
as much as this, that wherever and on whatever
questions good men are found ranged on opposite sides,
one of three alternatives is always true:--either that
the points of disagreement are purely speculative and
of no moral importance, or that there is a misunderstanding
of language, and the same thing is meant
under difference of words, or else that the real truth is
something different from what is held by any of the
disputants, and that each is representing some important
element which the other ignores or forgets. In either
case, a certain calmness and good temper is necessary,
if we would understand what we disagree with, or would
oppose it with success. Spinoza's influence over European
thought is too great to be denied or set aside, and
if his doctrines be false in part, or false altogether, we
cannot do their work more surely than by calumny or
misrepresentation--a most obvious truism, which no
one now living will deny in words, and which a century
or two hence perhaps will begin to produce some effects
upon the popular judgment.

Bearing it in mind, then, ourselves, as far as we are
able, we propose to examine the Pantheistic philosophy
in the first and only logical form which as yet it has
assumed. Whatever may have been the case with his
disciples, in the author of this system there was no
unwillingness to look closely at it, or follow it out
to its conclusions; and whatever other merits or demerits
belong to Spinoza, at least he has done as
much as with language can be done to make himself
thoroughly understood--a merit in which it cannot be
said that his followers have imitated him--Pantheism,
as it is known in England, being a very synonym of
vagueness and mysticism.

The fact is, that both in friend and enemy alike,
there has been a reluctance to see Spinoza as he really
was. The Herder and Schleiermacher school have
claimed him as a Christian--a position which no little
disguise was necessary to make tenable; the orthodox
Protestants and Catholics have called him an Atheist
--which is still more extravagant; and even a man
like Novalis, who, it might have been expected, would
have had something reasonable to say, could find no
better name for him than a Colt trunkner Mann--a
God intoxicated man; an expression which has been
quoted by everybody who has since written upon the
subject, and which is about as inapplicable as those
laboriously pregnant sayings usually are. With due
allowance for exaggeration, such a name would describe
tolerably the Transcendental mystics, a Toler, a
Boehmen, or a Swedenborg; but with what justice can
it be applied to the cautious, methodical Spinoza, who
carried his thoughts about with him for twenty years,
deliberately shaping them, and who gave them at last
to the world in a form more severe than with such
subjects had ever been so much as attempted? With
him, as with all great men, there was no effort after
sublime emotions. A plain, practical person, his object
in philosophy was only to find a rule on which he
could depend to govern his own actions and his
own judgment: and his treatises contain no more
than the conclusions at which he arrived in this purely
personal search, and the grounds on which he rested

We cannot do better than follow his own account of
himself as he has given it in the opening of his
unfinished Tract, "De Emendatione Intellectas." His
language is very beautiful, but elaborate and full; and,
as we have a long journey before us, we must be
content to epitomize it.

Looking round him on his entrance into life, and
asking himself what was his place and business in it,
he turned for examples to his fellow-men, and found
little that he could venture to imitate. Whatever they
professed, they all really guided themselves by their
different notions of what they thought desirable; and
these notions themselves resting on no more secure
foundation than a vague, inconsistent experience, the
experience of one not being the experience of another,
men were all, so to say, rather playing experiments with
life than living, and the larger portion of them miserably
failing. Their mistakes arising, as it seemed to Spinoza,
from inadequate knowledge, things which at one time
looked desirable disappointing expectation when obtained,
and the wiser course concealing itself often
under an uninviting exterior, he desired to substitute
certainty for conjecture, and endeavour to find, by
some surer method, where the real good of man lay.
All this may sound very Pagan, and perhaps it is so.
We must remember that he had been brought up a
Jew, and had been driven out of the Jews' communion;
his mind was therefore in contact with the bare facts of
life, with no creed or system lying between them and
himself as the interpreter of it. Some true account of
things, however, he thought it likely that there must
be, and the question was, how to find it. Of all forms
of human thought, but one, he reflected, would admit
of the certainty which he required--the mathematical;
and, therefore, if certain knowledge were attainable at
all, it must be looked for under the mathematical or
demonstrative method; by tracing from ideas clearly
conceived the consequences which were formally involved
in them. The question was, therefore, of these
ideas, these verae ideae, as he calls them,--what were they,
and how were they to be obtained: if they were to
serve as the axioms of his system, they must, he felt,
be self-evident truths, of which no proof was required;
and the illustration which he gives of the character of
such ideas is ingenious and Platonic.

In order to produce any mechanical instrument, he
says, we require others with which to manufacture it;
and others again to manufacture those; and it would
seem thus as if the process must be an infinite one,
and as if nothing could ever be made at all. Nature,
however, has provided for the difficulty in creating of
her own accord certain rude instruments, with the help
of which we can make others better; and others again
with the help of those. And so he thinks it must be
with the mind, and there must be somewhere similar
original instruments provided also as the first outfit of
intellectual enterprise. To discover them, he examines
the various senses in which men are said to know
anything, and he finds that these senses resolve themselves
into three, or, as he elsewhere divides it, four:--
We know a thing,

i. Ex mero auditu: because we have heard it from some
person or persons whose veracity we have no reason to question.
ii. Ab experientia vaga: from general experience: for instance,
all facts or phenomena which come to us through our senses as
phenomena, but of the causes of which we are ignorant.

2. These two in Ethics are classed together.

As we have correctly conceived the laws of such
phenomena, and see them following in their sequence
m the order of nature.

3. Ex scientia intuitiva: which alone is absolutely clear
and certain.

To illustrate these divisions, suppose it be required
to find a fourth proportional which shall stand to the
third of three numbers as the second does to the first.
The merchant's clerk knows his rule; he multiplies the
second into the third and divides by the first. He
neither knows nor cares to know why the result is the
number which he seeks, but he has learnt the fact that
it is so, and he remembers it.

A person a little wiser has tried the experiment in
a variety of simple cases; he has discovered the rule by
induction, but still does not understand it.

A third has mastered the laws of proportion mathematically,
as he has found them in Euclid or other geometrical treatise.

A fourth with the plain numbers of 1, 2, and 3,
sees for himself by simple intuitive force that 1:2 = 3:6.

Of these several kinds of knowledge the third and
fourth alone deserve to be called knowledge, the others
being no more than opinions more or less justly
founded. The last is the only real insight, although
the third, being exact in its form, may be depended
upon as a basis of certainty. Under this last, as
Spinoza allows, nothing except the very simplest truths
non nisi simplicissimae veritates can be perceived, but,
such as they are, they are the foundation of all after
science; and the true ideas, the verae ideae, which are
apprehended by this faculty of intuition, are the
primitive instruments with which nature has furnished us.
If we ask for a test by which to distinguish them, he
has none to give us. "Veritas," he says to his friends,
in answer to their question, "veritas index sui est et
falsi. Veritas se ipsam patefacit." These original
truths are of such a kind that they cannot without
absurdity even be conceived to be false; the opposites
of them are contradictions in terms:--"Ut sciam me
scire necessario debeo prius scire. Hinc pater quod
certitudo nihil est praeter ipsam essentiam objectivam.
...Cum itaque veritas nullo egeat signo, sed sufficiat
habere essentiam rerum objectivam, aut quod idem
est ideas, ut omne tollatur dubium; hint sequitur quod
vera non est methodus, signum veritatis quaerere post
acquisitionem idearum; sed quod vera methodus est
via, et ipsa vetitas, aut essentiae objectivae rerum, aut
ideae (omnia illa idem significant) debito ordine quaerantur."
(De Emend. Intell.)

The opinion of this Review on reasonings of such
a kind has been too often expressed to require us now
to say how insecure they appear to us. When we remember
the thousand conflicting opinions, the truth
of which their several advocates have as little doubted
as they have doubted their own existence, we require
some better evidence than a mere feeling of certainty;
and Aristotle's less pretending canon promises a safer
road. Ho pasi dokei, "what all men think," says Aristotle,
touto einai phamen, "this we say is,"--"and if you will not
have this to be a fair ground of conviction, you will
scarcely find one which will serve you better." We are
to see, however, what these idete are which Spinoza
offers as self-evident. All will turn upon that; for, of
course, if they are self-evident, if they do produce
conviction, nothing more is to be said; but it does,
indeed, appear strange to us that Spinoza was not
staggered as to the validity of his canon, when his
friends, every one of them, so floundered and stumbled
among what he regarded as his simplest propositions,
requiring endless signa veritalis, and unable for a long
time even to understand their meaning, far less to
"recognize them as elementary certainties." Modern
readers may, perhaps, be more fortunate. We produce
at length the definitions and axioms of the first book
of the "Ethica," and they may judge for themselves:--


1. By a thing which is causa sui, its own cause, I mean a
thing the essence of which involves the existence of it, or a
thing which cannot be conceived of except as existing.
2. I call a thing finite, suo genere, when it can be
circumscribed by another (or others) of the same nature, e.g.
a given body is called finite, because we can always conceive
another body larger than it; but body is not circumscribed
by thought, nor thought by body.
3. By substance I mean what exists in itself and is conceived
of by itself; the conception of which, that is, does
not involve the conception of anything else as the cause
of it.
4. By attribute I mean whatever the intellect perceives of
substance as constituting the essence of substance.
5. Mode is an affection of substance, or is that which is
in something else, by and through which it is conceived.
6. God is a being absolutely infinite; a substance consisting
of infinite attributes, each of which expresses His
eternal and infinite essence.


I say absolutely infinite, not infinite suo genere, for of
what is infinite sua genere only, the attributes are not
infinite but finite; whereas what is infinite absolutely contains
in its own essence everything by which substance can be
expressed and which involves no impossibility.

7. That thing is "free" which exists by the sole necessity
of its own nature, and is determined in its operation by
itself only. That is "not free" which is called into existence
by something else, and is determined in its operation
according to a fixed and definite method.
8. Eternity is existence itself, conceived as following
necessarily and solely from the definition of the thing which
is eternal.


Because existence of this kind is conceived as an eternal
verity, and, therefore, cannot be explained by duration, even
though the duration be without beginning or end.

So far the definitions; then follow the


1. All things that exist, exist either of themselves or in
virtue of something else.
2. What we cannot conceive of as existing in virtue of
something else, we must conceive through and in itself.
3. From a given cause an effect necessarily follows, and
if there be no given cause no effect can follow.
4. Things which have nothing in common with each other
cannot be understood through one another; i.e. the
conception of one does not involve the conception of the other.
5. To understand an effect implies that we understand
the cause of it.
6. A true idea is one which corresponds with its ideate.
7. The essence of anything which can be conceived as
non-existent does not involve existence.

Such is our metaphysical outfit of simple ideas with
which to start upon our enterprise of learning, the larger
number of which, so far from being simple, must be
absolutely without meaning to persons whose minds are
undisciplined in metaphysical abstraction, and which
become only intelligible propositions as we look back
upon them after having become acquainted with the
system which they are supposed to contain.

Although, however, we may justly quarrel with such
unlooked-for difficulties, the important question, after
all, is not of their obscurity but of their truth. Many
things in all the sciences are obscure to an unpractised
understanding, which are true enough and clear
enough to people acquainted with the subjects, and
may be fairly laid as foundations of a scientific system,
although rudimentary students must be contented to
accept them upon faith. Of course it is entirely
competent to Spinoza, or to any one, to define the terms
which he intends to use just as he pleases, provided
it be understood that any conclusions which he derives
out of them apply only to the ideas so defined, and not
to any supposed object existing which corresponds with
them. Euclid defines his triangles and circles, and
discovers that to figures so described certain properties
previously unknown may be proved to belong; but as
in nature there are no such things as triangles and
circles exactly answering the definition, his conclusions,
as applied to actually existing objects, are either not
true at all or only proximately so. Whether it be
possible to bridge over the gulf between existing things
and the abstract conception of them, as Spinoza attempts
to do, we shall presently see. It is a royal road to
certainty if it be a practicable one, but we cannot say
that we ever met any one who could say honestly
Spinoza had convinced him; and power of demonstration,
like all other powers, can be judged only
by its effects. Does it prove? does it produce conviction?
If not, it is nothing. We need not detain
our readers among these abstractions. The real power
of Spinozism does not lie so remote from ordinary
appreciation, or we should long ago have heard the last
of it. Like all other systems which have attracted
followers, it addresses itself not to the logical intellect
but to the imagination, which it affects to set aside.
We refuse to submit to the demonstrations by which
it thrusts itself upon our reception, but regarding it
as a whole, as an attempt to explain the nature of the
world, of which we are a part, we can still ask ourselves
how far the attempt is successful. Some account of
these things we know that there must be, and the
curiosity which asks the question regards itself, of
course, as competent in some degree to judge of the
answer to it. Before proceeding, however, to regard
this philosophy in the aspect in which it is really
powerful, we must clear our way through the fallacy
of the method.

The system is evolved in a series of theorems in
severely demonstrative order out of the definitions and
axioms which we have translated. To propositions 1--6
we have nothing to object; they will not, probably,
convey any very clear ideas, but they are so far purely
abstract, and seem to follow (as far as we can speak
of "following," in such subjects), by fair reasoning.
"Substance is prior in nature to its affections."
"Substances with different attributes have nothing in
common," and therefore "one cannot be the cause of the
other." "Things really distinct are distinguished by
difference either of attribute or mode (there being
nothing else by which they can be distinguished), and
therefore, because things modally distinguished do not
qua substance differ from one another, there cannot be
more than one substance of the same attribute; and
therefore (let us remind our readers that we are among
what Spinoza calls notiones simplicissimas), since there
cannot be two substances of the same attribute and
substances of different attributes cannot be the cause
one of the other, it follows that no substances can be
produced by another substance."

The existence of substance, he then concludes, is
involved in the nature of the thing itself. Substance
exists. It does and must. We ask, why? and we
are answered, because there is nothing capable of
producing it, and therefore it is self-caused; i.e. by
the first definition the essence of it implies existence
as part of the idea. It is astonishing that Spinoza
should not have seen that he assumes the fact that
substance does exist in order to prove that it must. If
it cannot be produced and exists, then, of course, it
exists in virtue of its own nature. But supposing it
does not exist, supposing it is all a delusion, the proof
falls to pieces, unless we fall back on the facts of
experience, on the obscure and unscientific certainty that
the thing which we call the world, and the personalities
which we call ourselves, are a real substantial
something. Conscious of the infirmity of his demonstration,
he winds round it and round it, adding proof to proof,
but never escaping the same vicious circle: substance
exists because it exists, and the ultimate experience of
existence, so far from being of that clear kind which
can be accepted as an axiom, is the most confused of all
our sensations. What is existence? and what is that
something which we say exists? Things--essences--
existences; these are but the vague names with which
faculties, constructed only to deal with conditional
phenomena, disguise their incapacity. The world
in the Hindoo legend rested upon the back of the
tortoise. It was a step between the world and nothingness,
and served to cheat the imagination with ideas
of a fictitious resting-place.

"If any one affirms," says Spinoza, "that he has a clear,
distinct--that is to say, a true idea of substance, but that
nevertheless he is uncertain whether any such substance
exist, it is the same as if he were to affirm that he had a
true idea, but yet was uncertain whether it was not false.
Or if he says that substance can be created, it is like saying
that a false idea can become a true idea--as absurd a thing
as it is possible to conceive; and therefore the existence
of substance, as well as the essence of it, must be
acknowledged as an eternal verity."

It is again the same story. He speaks of a clear idea
of substance; but he has not proved that such an idea
is within the compass of the mind. A man's own
notion that he sees clearly, is no proof that he really
sees clearly; and the distinctness of a definition in
itself is no evidence that it corresponds adequately with
the object of it. No doubt a man who professes to
have an idea of substance as an existing thing, cannot
doubt, as long as he has it, that substance so exists.
It is merely to say that as long as a man is certain of
this or that fact, he has no doubt of it. But neither
his certainty nor Spinoza's will be of any use to a man
who has no such idea, and who cannot recognize the
lawfulness of the method by which it is arrived at.

From the self-existing substance it is a short step to
the existence of God. After a few more propositions
following one another with the same kind of coherence,
we arrive successively at the conclusions that there is
but one substance, that this substance being necessarily
existent, it is also infinite, and that it is therefore
identical with the Being who had been previously defined
as the "Ens absolute perfectum," consisting of infinite
"attributes, each of which expresses His eternal and
infinite essence." Demonstrations of this kind were the
characteristics of the period. Des Cartes had set the
example of constructing them, and was followed by
Cudworth, Clerke, Berkeley, and many others besides
Spinoza. The inconclusiveness of their reasoning may
perhaps be observed most readily in the strangely
opposite conceptions formed by all these writers of the
nature of that Being whose existence they nevertheless
agreed, by the same method, to gather each out of their
ideas. It is important, however, to examine it carefully,
for it is the very key-stone of the Pantheistic system.
As stated by Des Cartes, the argument stands something
as follows:--God is an all-perfect Being,--perfection
is the idea which we form of him: existence is
a mode of perfection, and therefore God exists. The
sophism we are told is only apparent; existence is
part of the idea; it is as much involved in it, as the
equality of all lines drawn from the centre to the
circumference of a circle is involved in the idea of a circle,
and a non-existent all-perfect Being is as inconceivable
as a quadrilateral triangle. It is sometimes answered
that in this way we may prove the existence of anything,
--Titans, Chimaeras, or the Olympian Gods; we have
but to define them as existing, and the proof is
complete. But in this objection there is really nothing of
weight; none of these beings are by hypothesis absolutely
perfect, and, therefore, of their existence we can
conclude nothing. With greater justice, however, we
may say, that of such terms as perfection and existence
we know too little to speculate in this way. Existence
may be an imperfection for all we can tell; we know
nothing about the matter. Such arguments are but endless
petilianes principii, like the self-devouring serpent
resolving themselves into nothing. We wander round
and round them, in the hope of finding some tangible
point at which we can seize their meaning; but we
are presented everywhere with the same impracticable
surface, from which our grasp glides off ineffectual.

The idea, however, lying at the bottom of the conviction,
which obviously Spinoza felt upon the matter,
is stated with sufficient distinctness in one of his letters.
"Nothing is more clear," he writes to his pupil De
Vries, "than that, on the one hand, everything which
exists is conceived by or under some attribute or other;
that the more reality, therefore, a being or thing has,
the more attributes must be assigned to it;" "and
conversely," (and this he calls his argumentum palmarium
in proof of the existence of God,) "the more
attributes I assign to a thing, the more I am forced to
conceive it as existing." Arrange the argument how we
please, we shall never get it into a form clearer than
this:--The more perfect a thing is, the more it must
exist (as if existence could admit of more or less); and
therefore the all-perfect Being must exist absolutely.
There is no flaw, we are told, in the reasoning; and if
we are not convinced, it is solely from the confused
habits of our own minds.

It may seem to some persons that all arguments are
good when on the right side, and that it is a gratuitous
impertinence to quarrel with the proofs of a conclusion
which it is so desirable that all should receive. As yet,
however, we are but inadequately acquainted with the
idea attached by Spinoza to the word perfection, and
if we commit ourselves to this logic, it may lead us out
to some unexpected consequences. Obviously all such
reasonings presume, as a first condition, that we men
possess faculties capable of dealing with absolute ideas;
that we can understand the nature of things external
to ourselves as they really are in their absolute relation
to one another, independent of our own conception.
The question immediately before us is one which can
never be determined. The truth which is to be proved
is one which we already believe; and if, as we believe
also, our conviction of God's existence is, like that of
our own existence, intuitive and immediate, the grounds
of it can never adequately be analysed; we cannot say
exactly what they are, and therefore we cannot say
what they are not; whatever we receive intuitively, we
receive without proof; and stated as a naked proposition,
it must involve necessarily a petitio principii. We
have a right, however, to object at once to an
argument in which the conclusion is more obvious than the
premises; and if it lead on to other consequences
which we disapprove in themselves, we reject it without
difficulty or hesitation. We ourselves believe that God
is, because we experience the control of a "power"
which is stronger than we; and our instincts teach us
so much of the nature of that power as our own
relation to it requires us to know. God is the being to
whom our obedience is due; and the perfections which
we attribute to Him are those moral perfections which
are the proper object of our reverence. Strange to say,
the perfections of Spinoza, which appear so clear to
him, are without any moral character whatever; and
for men to speak of the justice of God, he tells us, is
but to see in Him a reflection of themselves: as if a
triangle were to conceive of Him as eminenter triangularis,
or a circle to give Him the property of circularity.

Having arrived, however, at existence, we soon find
ourselves among ideas, which at least are intelligible, if
the character of them is as far removed as before from
the circle of ordinary thought. Nothing exists except
substance, the attributes under which substance is ex
expressed, and the modes or affections of those attributes.
There is but one substance self-existent, eternal, necessary,
and that is the absolutely Infinite all-perfect Being.
Substance cannot produce substance; and, therefore,
there is no such thing as creation, and everything which
exists, is either an attribute of Him, or an affection of
some attribute of Him, modified in this manner or in
that. Beyond Him there is nothing, and nothing like
Him or equal to Him; He therefore alone in Himself
is absolutely free, uninfiuenced by anything, for nothing
is except Himself; and from Him and from His supreme
power, essence, intelligence (for all these words mean the
same thing) all things have necessarily flowed, and will
and must flow on for ever, in the same manner as from
the nature of a triangle it follows, and has followed, and
will follow from eternity to eternity, that the angles of it
are equal to two right angles. It would seem as if the
analogy were but an artificial play upon words, and that
it was only metaphorically that in mathematical demonstration
we speak of one thing as following from another.
The properties of a curve or a triangle are what they are
at all times, and the sequence is merely in the order in
which they are successively known to ourselves. But
according to Spinoza, this is the only true sequence;
and what we call the universe, and all the series of
incidents upon it, are involved formally and mathematically
in the definition of God.

Each attribute is infinite suo genere; and it is time
that we should know distinctly the meaning which
Spinoza attaches to that important word. Out of the
infinite number of the attributes of God two only are
known to us--"extension," and "thought," or "mind."
Duration, even though it be without beginning or end,
is not an attribute; it is not even a real thing. It has
no relation to being conceived mathematically, in the
same way as it would be absurd to speak of circles or
triangles as any older to-day than they were at the
beginning of the world. These and everything of the
same kind are conceived, as Spinoza rightly says, sub
quadam specie aeternitatis. But extension, or substance
extended, and thought, or substance perceiving, are real,
absolute, and objective. We must not confound extension
with body, for though body be a mode of extension,
there is extension which is not body, and it is infinite
because we cannot conceive it to be limited except
by itself---or, in other words, to be limited at all. And
as it is with extension, so it is with mind, which is also
infinite with the infinity of its object. Thus there is no
such thing as creation, and no beginning or end. All
things of which our faculties are cognizant under one or
other of these attributes are produced from God, and in
Him they have their being, and without Him they would
cease to be.

Proceeding by steps of rigid demonstration in this
strange logic, (and most admirably indeed is the form of
the philosophy adapted to the spirit of it,) we learn that
God is the only causa libera; that no other thing or
being has any power of self-determination: all move by
fixed laws of causation, motive upon motive, act upon
act; there is no free will, and no contingency; and
however necessary it may be for our incapacity to consider
future things as in a sense contingent (see Tractat.
Theol. Polit. cap. iv. sec. 4), this is but one of the
thousand convenient deceptions which we are obliged
to employ with ourselves. God is the causa immanens
omnium; He is not a personal being existing apart from
the universe; but Himself in His own reality, He is
expressed in the universe, which is His living garment.
Keeping to the philosophical language of the term,
Spinoza preserves the distinction between natura
nalurans and natura naturala. The first is being in
itself, the attributes of substance as they are conceived
simply and alone; the second is the infinite series of
modifications which follow out of the properties of these
attributes. And thus all which is, is what it is by an
absolute necessity, and could not have been other than
it is. God is free, because no causes external to
Himself have power over Him; and as good men are
most free when most a law to themselves, so it is no
infringement on God's freedom to say that He must have
acted as He has acted, but rather He is absolutely free
because absolutely a law Himself to Himself.

Here ends the first book of the Ethics, the book
which contains, as we said, the nolianes simplicissimas,
and the primary and rudimental deductions from them.
his Dei naturam, Spinoza says in his lofty confidence,
ejusque proprietates explicui. But as if conscious that
his method will never convince, he concludes this portion
of his subject with an analytical appendix; not to explain
or apologize, but to show us clearly, in practical detail,
the position into which he has led us. The root, we are
told, of all philosophical errors, lies in our notion of final
causes; we invert the order of nature, and interpret
God's action through our own; we speak of His intentions,
as if he were a man; we assume that we are
capable of measuring them, and finally erect ourselves,
and our own interests, into the centre and criterion of
all things. Hence arises our notion of evil. If the
universe be what this philosophy has described it, the
perfection which it assigns to God is extended to
everything, and evil is of course impossible; there is no
shortcoming either in nature or in man; each person
and each thing is exactly what it has the power to be,
and nothing more. But men imagining that all things
exist on their account, and perceiving their own interests,
bodily and spiritual, capable of being variously affected,
have conceived these opposite influences to result from
opposite and contradictory powers, and call what contributes
to their advantage good, and whatever obstructs
it evil. For our convenience we form generic conceptions
of human excellence, as archetypes after which to
strive, and such of us as approach nearest to such
archetypes are supposed to be virtuous, and those who
are most remote from them to be wicked. But such
generic abstractions are but entia imaginationis, and
have no real existence. In the eyes of God each thing
is what it has the means of being. There is no rebellion
against Him, and no resistance of His will; in truth,
therefore, there neither is nor can be such a thing as a
bad action in the common sense of the word. Actions
are good or bad, not in themselves, but as compared
with the nature of the agent; what we censure in men,
we tolerate and even admire in animals, and as soon as
we are aware of our mistake in assigning to the former
a power of free volition, our notion of evil as a positive
thing will cease to exist.

"If I am asked," concludes Spinoza, "why then all mankind
were not created by God, so as to be governed solely
by reason? it was because, I reply, there was to Him no
lack of matter to create all things from the highest to the
lowest grade of perfection; or, to speak more properly,
because the laws of His nature were ample enough to
suffice for the production of all things which can be conceived
by an Infinite Intelligence."

It is possible that readers who have followed us so far
will now turn away with no disposition to learn more
philosophy which issues in such conclusions; and
resentful perhaps that it should have been ever laid
before them at all, in language so little expressive of
aversion and displeasure. We must claim however, in
Spinoza's name, the right which he claims for himself.
His system must be judged as a whole; and whatever we
may think ourselves would be the moral effect of it if it
were generally received, in his hands and in his heart it
is worked into maxims of the purest and loftiest morality.
And at least we are bound to remember that some
account of this great mystery of evil there must be; and
although familiarity with commonly-received explanations
may disguise from us the difficulties with which they too,
as well as that of Spinoza, are embarrassed, such difficulties
none the less exist; the fact is the grand perplexity,
and for ourselves we acknowledge that of all theories
about it Spinoza's would appear to us the least irrational,
if our conscience did not forbid us to listen to it. The
objections, with the replies to them, are well drawn out
in the correspondence with William de Blyenburg; and
it will be seen from this with how little justice the denial
of evil as a positive thing can be called equivalent to
denying it relatively to man, or to confusing the moral
distinctions between virtue and vice.

"We speak," writes Spinoza, in answer to Blyenburg,
who had urged something of the kind, "we speak of this
or that man having done a wrong thing, when we compare
him with a general standard of humanity; but inasmuch
as God neither perceives things in such abstract manner,
nor forms to himself such kind of generic definitions, and
since there is no more reality in anything than God has
assigned to it, it follows, surely, that the absence of good
exists only in respect of man's understanding, not in respect
of God's."

"If this be so," then replies Blyenburg, "bad men fulfil
God's will as well as good."

"It is true," Spinoza answers, "they fulfil it, yet not as the
good nor as well as the good, nor are they to be compared
with them. The better a thing or a person be, the more
there is in him of God's spirit, and the more he expresses
God's will; while the bad, being without that divine love
which arises from the knowledge of God, and through which
alone we are called (in respect of our understandings) his
servants, are but as instruments in the hand of the artificer,
--they serve unconsciously, and are consumed in their

Spinoza, after all, is but stating in philosophical
language the extreme doctrine of Grace: and St. Paul,
if we interpret his real belief by the one passage so
often quoted, in which he compares us to "clay in the
hands of the potter, who maketh one vessel to honour
and another to dishonour," may be accused with justice
of having held the same opinion. If Calvinism be
pressed to its logical consequences, it either becomes
an intolerable falsehood, or it resolves itself into the
philosophy of Spinoza. It is monstrous to call evil
a positive thing, and to assert that God has
predetermined it,--to tell us that he has ordained what
he hates, and hates what he has ordained. It is
incredible that we should be without power to obey
him except through his free grace, and yet be held
responsible for our failures when that grace has been
withheld. And it is idle to call a philosopher
sacrilegious who has but systematized the faith which so
many believe, and cleared it of its most hideous features.

At all events, Spinoza flinches from nothing, and disguises
no conclusions either from himself or from
his readers. We believe that logic has no business with
such questions; that the answer to them
lies in the conscience and not in the intellect,--that
it is practical merely, and not speculative. Spinoza
thinks otherwise; and he is at least true to the
guide which he has chosen. Blyenburg presses him
with instances of horrid crime, such as bring home
to the heart the natural horror of it. He speaks of
Nero's murder of Agrippina, and asks if God can
be called the cause of such an act as that.

"God," replies Spinoza, calmly, "is the cause of all things
which have reality. If you can show that evil, errors,
crimes express any real things, I agree readily that God is
the cause of them; but I conceive myself to have proved
that what constitutes the essence of evil is not a real thing
at all, and therefore that God cannot be the cause of it.
Nero's matricide was not a crime, in so far as it was a
positive outward act. Orestes also killed his mother; and we
do not judge Orestes as we judge Nero. The crime of the
latter lay in his being without pity, without obedience,
without natural affection,--none of which things express any
positive essence, but the absence of it: and therefore God
was not the cause of these, although he was the cause of
the act and the intention.

"But once for all," he adds, "this aspect of things will
remain intolerable and unintelligible as long as the common
notions of free will remain unimproved."

And of course, and we shall all confess it, if these
notions are as false as he supposes them, and we have
no power to be anything but what we are, there neither
is nor can be such a thing as moral evil; and what we
call crimes will no more involve a violation of the will
of God, they will no more impair his moral attributes
if we suppose him to have willed them, than the same
actions, whether of lust, ferocity, or cruelty, in the
inferior animals. There will be but, as Spinoza says,
an infinite gradation in created things, the poorest life
being more than none, the meanest active disposition
something better than inertia, and the smallest exercise
of reason better than mere ferocity. Moral evil need
not disturb us, if--if we can be nothing but what we are,
if we are but as clay.

The moral aspect of the matter will be more clear
as we proceed. We pause, however, to notice one
difficulty of a metaphysical kind, which is best disposed
of in passing. Whatever obscurity may lie about the
thing which we call Time (philosophers not being able
to agree what it is, or whether properly it is anything),
the words past, present, future do undoubtedly convey
some definite idea with them: things will be which
are not yet, and have been which are no longer. Now
if everything which exists be a necessary mathematical
consequence from the nature or definition of the One
Being, we cannot see how there can be any time but
the present, or how past and future have room for a
meaning. God is, and therefore all properties of him
are, just as every property of a circle exists in it as
soon as the circle exists. We may if we like, for
convenience, throw our theorems into the future, and say,
e.g. that if two lines in a circle cut each other, the
rectangle under the parts of the one will equal that
under the parts of the other. But we only mean in
reality that these rectangles are equal; and the future
relates only to our knowledge of the fact. Allowing,
however, as much as we please, that the condition of
England a hundred years hence lies already in embryo
in existing causes, it is a paradox to say that such
condition exists already in the sense in which the properties
of the circle exist; and yet Spinoza insists on
the illustration.

It is singular that he should not have noticed the
difficulty; not that either it or the answer to it (which
no doubt would have been ready enough) are likely to
interest any person except metaphysicians, a class of
thinkers, happily, which is rapidly diminishing.

We proceed to more important matters--to Spinoza's
detailed theory of Nature chiefly as exhibited in man
and in man's mind, a theory which for its bold ingenuity
is the most remarkable which on this dark subject has
ever been proposed. Whether we can believe it or
not, is another question; yet undoubtedly it provides
an answer for every difficulty; it accepts with equal
welcome the extremes of materialism and of spiritualism:
and if it be the test of the soundness of a philosophy
that it will explain phenomena and reconcile difficulties,
it is hard to account for the fact that a system
which bears such a test so admirably, should nevertheless
be so incredible as it is.

Most people have heard of the "Harmonie Pre-etablie"
of Leibnitz; it is borrowed without acknowledgment
from Spinoza, and adapted to the Leibnitzian
system. "Man," says Leibnitz, "is composed of mind
and body; but what is mind and what is body, and
what is the nature of their union? Substances so
opposite in kind, it is impossible to suppose can affect
one another; mind cannot act on matter, or matter upon
mind; and the appearance of such mutual action of
them on each other is an appearance only and a delusion."
A delusion so general, however, required to be accounted
for; and Leibnitz accounted for it by supposing that God
in creating a world, composed of material and spiritual
phenomena, ordained from the beginning that these
several phenomena should proceed in parallel lines side
by side in a constantly corresponding harmony. The sense
of seeing results, it appears to us, from the formation of
a picture upon the retina. The motion of the arm or
the leg appears to result from an act of will; but in either
case we mistake coincidence for causation. Between
substances so wholly alien there can be no intercommunion;
and we only suppose that the object seen
produces the idea, and that the desire produces the
movement, because the phenomena of matter and the
phenomena of spirit are so contrived as to flow always
in the same order and sequence. This hypothesis, as
coming from Leibnitz, has been, if not accepted, at
least listened to respectfully; because while taking it
out of its proper place, he contrived to graft it upon
Christianity; and succeeded, with a sort of speculative
legerdemain, in making it appear to be in harmony with
revealed religion. Disguised as a philosophy of Predestination,
and connected with the Christian doctrine
of Retribution, it steps forward with an air of unconscious
innocence, as if interfering with nothing
which Christians generally believe. And yet, leaving
as it does no larger scope for liberty or responsibility
than when in the hands of Spinoza,* Leibnitz, in our
opinion, has only succeeded in making it infinitely more
revolting. Spinoza could not regard the bad man as
an object of Divine anger and a subject of retributory
punishment. He was not a Christian, and made no
pretension to be considered such; and it did not occur
to him to regard the actions of a being which, both
with Leibnitz and himself, is (to use his own expression)
an automaton spirituale, as deserving a fiery indignation
and everlasting vengeance.


* Since these words were written a book [Refutation lnedite
de Spinoza. Par Leibnitz. Precedee d'une Memoire,
par Foucher de Carell. Paris. 1854.] has appeared in Paris
by an able disciple of Leibnitz, which, although it does not lead
us to modify the opinion expressed in them, yet obliges us to give
our reasons for speaking as we do. M. de Careil has discovered
in the library at Hanover a MS. in the handwriting of Leibnitz,
containing a series of remarks on the book of a certain John
Wachter. It does not appear who this John Wachter was, nor
by what accident he came to have so distinguished a critic. If we
may judge by the extracts at present before us, he seems to have
been an absurd and extravagant person, who had attempted to
combine the theology of the Cabbala with the very little which
he was able to understand of the philosophy of Spinoza; and, as
far as he is concerned, neither his writings nor the reflections upon
them are of interest to any human being. The extravagance of
Spinoza's followers, however, furnished Leibnitz with an
opportunity of noticing the points on which he most disapproved of
Spinoza himself; and these few notices M. de Caroil has now
for the first time published as "The Refutation of Spinoza. by
Leibnitz." They are exceedingly brief and scanty; and the writer
of them would assuredly have hesitated to describe an imperfect
criticism by so ambitious a title. The modern editor, however,
must be allowed the privilege of a worshipper, and we will not
quarrel with him for an exaggerated estimate of what his master
had accomplished. We are indebted to his enthusiasm for what
is at least a curious discovery, and we will not qualify the gratitude
which he has earned by industry and good will. At the same
time, the notes themselves confirm the opinion which we have
always entertained, that Leibnitz did not understand Spinoza.
Leibnitz did not understand him, and the followers of Leibnitz
do not understand him now. If he were no more than what he
is described in the book before us.--if his metaphysics were
"miserable," if his philosophy was absurd, and he himself nothing
more than a second-rate disciple of Descartes,--we can assure
M. de Caroil that we should long ago have heard the last of him.

There must be something else, something very different from
this, to explain the position which he holds in Germany, or the
fascination which his writings exerted over such minds as those
of Lessing or of Goethe; and the fact of so enduring an influence is
more than a sufficient answer to mere depreciating criticism. This.
however, is not a point which there is any use in pressing. Our
present business is to justify the two assertions which we have
made. First, that Leibnitz conceived his "Theory of the Harmonic
Pre-etablie" from Spinoza, without acknowledgment; and,
secondly, that this theory is quite as inconsistent with religion as
is that of Spinoza, and only differs from it in disguising its real

First for the "Harmonic Pre-etablie." Spinoza's "Ethics"
appeared in 1677; and we know that they were read by Leibnitz.
In 1696, Leibnitz announced as a discovery of his own, a Theory
of "The Communication of Substances," which he illustrates in
the following manner:--

"Vous ne comprenez pas, dites-vous, comment je pourrois prouver
ce que j'ai ovance touchant la communication, ou l'harmonie de
deux suhstances aussi differentes que l'ame et le corps? Il est
vrai que je crois en avoir trouve le moyen; et voici comment je
pretends vous satisfaire. Figurez-vous deux horologes ou montres
qui s'accordent parfaitement. Or cela se pent faire de trots
manieres. La 1^0 consiste dans une influence mutuelle. La 2^0 est
d'y artocher un ouvrier hobile qui les redresse, et lea mette d'accord
a tous moments. La 3^0 eat de fabriquer ces deux pendules avec taut
d'art et de justesse, qu'on se puisse assurer de leur accord dana
la suite. Menez maintenant l'ame et le corps a la place de ces
deux pendules; leur accord pent arriver par l'une de ces trois
manieres. La voye d'influence eat celle de la philosophic vulgaire;
mais comme l'on ne sauroit concevoir des particules materielles
qui putssent passer d'une de ces substances dana l'autre, il faut
abandonner ce sentiment. La voye de l'assistance continuelle du
Createur est celle du systeme des causes occasionnelles; mais je
tiens que c'est fake intervenir Deus ex machina dans une chose
naturelle et ordinaire, ou selon la raison il ne doit concourir, que
de la maniere qu'il concourt a toutes les autres choses naturelles.
Ainsi il ne reste que mon hypothese; c'est-a-dire que la voye de
l'harmonie. Dieu a fait des le commencement chacune de ces
deux substances de telle nature, qu'en ne suivant que ces propres
loix qu'elle a recues avec son etre, elle s'accorde pourtant avec
l'autre tout comme s'il y avoit une influence mutuelle, ou comme
si Dieu y mettoit toujours la main au de-la de son coneours general.
Apres cela je n'ai pas besoin de rien prouver a moins qu'on ne
veuille exiger que je prouve que Dieu est assez habile pout se servir
de cette artifice," &c.--leibnitz Opera, p. 133. Berlin edition,

Leibnitz, as we have said, attempts to reconcile his system with
Christianity, and therefore, of course, this theory of the relation of
mind and body wears a very different aspect under his treatment
from what it wears under that of Spinoza. But Spinoza and
Leibnitz both agree in this one peculiar conception in which they differ
from all other philosophers before or after them--that mind and
body have no direct communication with each other, and that the
phenomena of them merely correspond. M. de Carell says they
both borrowed it from Descartes; but that is impossible. Descartes
held no such opinion, it was the precise point of disagreement at
which Spinoza parted from him: and therefore, since in point of
date Spinoza had the advantage of Leibnitz, and we know that
Leibnitz was acquainted with his writings, we must either suppose
that he was directly indebted to Spinoza for an obligation which
he ought to have acknowledged, or else, which is extremely
improbable, that having read Spinoza and forgotten him, he afterwards
reoriginated for himself one of the most singular and peculiar
notions which was ever offered to the belief of mankind.

So much for the first point, which, after all, is but of little
moment. It is more important to ascertain whether, in the hands
of Leibnitz, this theory can be any better reconciled with what is
commonly meant by religion; whether, that is, the ideas of
obedience and disobedience, merit and demerit, judgment and retribution,
have any proper place under it. Spinoza makes no pretension to
anything of the kind, and openly declares that these ideas are
ideas merely, and human mistakes. Leibnitz, in opposition to
him, endeavours to re-establish them in the following manner. It
is true he conceives that the system of the universe has been
arranged and predetermined from the moment at which it was
launched into being; from the moment at which God selected it,
with all its details, as the best which could exist; but it is
carried on by the action of individual creatures (monads as he calls
them) which, though necessarily obeying the laws of their existence.
yet obey them with a "character of spontaneity," which although
"automata," are yet voluntary agents; and therefore, by the
consent of their hearts to their actions, entitle themselves to moral
praise or moral censure. The question is, whether by the mere
co-existence of these opposite qualifies in the
monad man, he has proved that such qualities can coexist. In
our opinion, it is like speaking of a circular ellipse, or of a
quadrilateral triangle. There is a plain dilemma in these matters from
which no philosophy can extricate itself. If man can incur guilt,
their actions might be other than they are. If they cannot act
otherwise than they do, they cannot incur guilt. So at least it
appears to us; yet, in the darkness of our knowledge, we would
not complain merely of a theory, and if our earthly life were all
in all, and the grave remained the extreme horizon of our hopes
and fears, the "Harmonic Pre-etablie," might be tolerated as
credible, and admired as ingenious and beautiful. It is when
forcibly attached to a creed of the future, with which it has no
natural connection, that it assumes its repulsive features. The
world may be in the main good; while the good, from the
unknown condition of its existence, may be impossible without some
intermixture of evil; and although Leibnitz was at times staggered
even himself by the misery and wickedness which he witnessed,
and was driven to comfort himself with the reflection that this
earth might be but one world in the midst of the universe, and
perhaps the single chequered exception in an infinity of stainless
globes, yet we would not quarrel with a hypothesis because it was
imperfect; it might pass as a possible conjecture on a dark subject,
when nothing better than conjecture was attainable.

But as soon as we are told that the evil in these "automata"
of mankind, being, as it is, a necessary condition of this world
which God has called into being, is yet infinitely detestable to
God; that the creatures who suffer under the accursed necessity
of committing sin are infinitely guilty in God's eyes, for doing
what they have no power to avoid, and may therefore be justly
punished in everlasting fire; our hearts recoil against the paradox.

No disciple of Leibnitz will maintain, that unless he had found
this belief in an eternity of penal retribution an article of the
popular creed, such a doctrine would have formed a natural appendage
of his system; and if M. de Careil desires to know why the
influence of Spinoza, whose genius he considers so insignificant,
has been so deep and so enduring, while Leibnitz has only secured
for himself a mere admiration of his talents, it is because Spinoza
was not afraid to be consistent, even at the price of the world's
reprobation, and refused to purchase the applause of his own age
at the sacrifice of the singleness of his heart.

"Deus," according to Spinoza's definition, "est ens
constans infinitis attributis quorum unumquodque aeternam et
infinitam essentiam exprimit." Under each of these attributes
infinita sequuntur, and everything which an infinite intelligence
can conceive, and an infinite power can produce,--everything
which follows as a possibility out of the divine nature,--all
things which have been, and are, and will be,--find expression
and actual existence, not under one attribute only,
but under each and every attribute. Language is so
ill adapted to such a system, that even to state
it accurately is all but impossible, and analogies can
only remotely suggest what such expressions mean.
But it is as if it were said that the same thought might
be expressed in an infinite variety of languages; and
not in words only, but in action, in painting, in sculpture,
in music, in any form of any kind which can be
employed as a means of spiritual embodiment. Of all
these infinite attributes two only, as we said, are known
to us,--extension and thought. Material phenomena
are phenomena of extension; and to every modification
of extension an idea corresponds under the attribute of
thought. Out of such a compound as this is formed
man, composed of body and mind; two parallel and
correspondent modifications eternally answering one
another. And not man only, but all other beings and
things are similarly formed and similarly animated;
the anima or mind of each varying according to the
complicity of the organism of its material counterpart.
Although body does not think, nor affect the mind's
power of thinking; and mind does not control body,
nor communicate to it either motion or rest or any influence
from itself, yet body with all its properties is the
object or ideate of mind; whatsoever body does mind
perceives, and the greater the energizing power of the
first, the greater the perceiving power of the second.
And this is not because they are adapted one to the
other by some inconceivable preordinating power, but
because mind and body are una et eatlent res, the one
absolute being affected in one and the same manner,
but expressed under several attributes; the modes and
affections of each attribute having that being for their
cause, as he exists under that attribute of which they
are modes and no other; idea being caused by idea,
and body affected by body; the image on the retina
being produced by the object reflected upon it, the idea
or image in our minds by the idea of that object, &c. &c.

A solution so remote from all ordinary ways of
thinking on these matters is so difficult to grasp, that
one can hardly speak of it as being probable, or as
being improbable. Probability extends only to what
we can imagine as possible, and Spinoza's theory seems
to lie beyond the range within which our judgment can
exercise itself; in our own opinion, indeed, as we have
already said, the entire subject is one with which we
have no business; and the explanation of it, if it is
ever to be explained to us, is reserved till we are in
some other state of existence. We do not disbelieve
Spinoza because what he suggests is in itself incredible.
The chances may be millions to one against his being
right, yet the real truth, if we knew it, would be probably
at least as strange as his conception of it. But we are
firmly convinced that of these questions, and all like
them, practical answers only lie within the reach of
human faculties; and that in all such "researches into
the absolute" we are on the road which ends nowhere.

Among the difficulties, however, most properly akin
to this philosophy itself, there is one most obvious, viz.,
that if the attributes of God be infinite, and each
particular thing is expressed under them all, then mind
and body express but an infinitesimal portion of the
nature of each of ourselves; and this human nature
exists (i.e., there exists corresponding modes of substance)
in the whole infinity of the divine nature under
attributes differing each from each, and all from mind
and all from body. That this must be so, follows
obviously from the definition of the Infinite Being, and
the nature of the distinction between the two attributes
which are known to us; and if this be so, why does
not the mind perceive something of all these other
attributes? The objection is well expressed by a
correspondent (Letter 67):--"It follows from what you
say," he writes to Spinoza, "that the modification which
constitutes my mind, and that which constitutes my
body, although it be one and the same modification, yet
must be expressed in an infinity of ways; one way by
thought, a second way by extension, a third by some
attribute unknown to me, and so on to infinity; the
attributes being infinite in number, and the order and
connection of modes being the same in them all; why,
then, does the mind perceive the modes of but one
attribute only?"

Spinoza's answer is curious: unhappily a fragment
of his letter only is extant, so that it is too brief to be

"In reply to your difficulty," he says, "although each
particular thing be truly in the Infinite mind, conceived
in Infinite modes, the Infinite idea answering to all
these cannot constitute one and the same mind of any
single being, but must constitute Infinite minds. No
one of all these Infinite ideas has any connection with

He means, we suppose, that God's mind only perceives,
or can perceive, things under their Infinite expression,
and that the idea of each several mode, under
whatever attribute, constitutes a separate mind.

We do not know that we can add anything to this
explanation; the difficulty lies in the audacious sweep
of the speculation itself; we will however attempt an
illustration, although we fear it will be to illustrate
obscurum tier obscurius. Let A B C D be four out of
the Infinite number of the Divine attributes. A the
attribute of mind; B the attribute of extension; C and
D other attributes, the nature of which is not known
to us. Now A, as the attribute of mind, is that which
perceives all which takes place under B C and D, but it
is only as it exists in God that it forms the universal
consciousness of an attributes at once. In its modifications
it is combined separately with the modifications of
each, constituting in combination with the modes of
each attribute a separate being. As forming the mind
of B, A perceives what takes place in B, but not what
takes place in C or D. Combined with B, it forms the
soul of the human body, and generally the soul of all
modifications of extended substance; combined with C,
it forms the soul of some other analogous being;
combined with D, again of another; but the combinations
are only in pairs, in which A is constant. A and B
make one being, A and C another, A and D a third;
but B will not combine with C, nor C with D; each
attribute being, as it were, conscious only of itself.
And therefore, although to those modifications of mind
and extension which we call ourselves there are
corresponding modifications under C and D, and generally
under each of the Infinite attributes of God; each of
ourselves being in a sense Infinite, nevertheless we
neither have nor can have any knowledge of ourselves
in this Infinite aspect; our actual consciousness
being limited to the phenomena of sensible experience.

English readers, however, are likely to care little for
all this; they will look to the general theory, and judge
of it as its aspect affects them. And first, perhaps,
they will be tempted to throw aside as absurd the
notion that their bodies go through the many operations
which they experience them to do, undirected by
their minds; it is a thing they may say at once
preposterous and incredible. And no doubt on the first
blush it sounds absurd, and yet, on second thoughts,
it is less so than it seems; and though we could not
persuade ourselves to believe it, absurd in the sense
of having nothing to be said for it, it certainly is not.
It is far easier, for instance, to imagine the human
body capable by its own virtue, and by the laws of
material organisation, of building a house, than of
thinking; and yet men are allowed to say that the
body thinks, without being regarded as candidates for
a lunatic asylum. We see the seed shoot up into
stem and leaf and throw out flowers; we observe it
fulfilling processes of chemistry more subtle than were
ever executed in Liebig's laboratory, and producing
structures more cunning than man can imitate. The
bird builds her nest, the spider shapes out its delicate
web and stretches it in the path of his prey; directed
not by calculating thought, as we conceive ourselves
to be, but by some motive influence, our ignorance of
the nature of which we disguise from ourselves, and
call it instinct, but which we believe at least to be
some property residing in the organisation; and we
are not to suppose that the human body, the most
complex of all material structures, has slighter powers
in it than the bodies of a seed, a bird, or an insect.
Let us listen to Spinoza himself:--

"There can be no doubt," he says, "that this hypothesis
is true, but unless I can prove it from experience, men
will not, I fear, be induced even to reflect upon it calmly,
so persuaded are they that it is by the mind only that their
bodies are set in motion. And yet what body can or cannot
do no one has yet determined; body, i.e., by the law of its
own nature, and without assistance from mind. No one
has so probed the human frame as to have detected all its
functions and exhausted the list of them: and there are
powers exhibited by animals far exceeding human sagacity;
and again, feats are performed by somnambulists on which
in the waking state the same persons would never venture
--itself a proof that body is able to accomplish what mind
can only admire. Men say that mind moves body, but how
it moves it they cannot tell, or what degree of motion it can
impart to it; so that, in fact, they do not know what they
say, and are only confessing their own ignorance in specious
language. They will answer me, that whether or not they
understand how it can be, yet that they are assured by plain
experience that unless mind could perceive, body would be
altogether inactive; they know that it depends on the mind
whether the tongue speak or not. But do they not equally
experience that if their bodies are paralysed their minds
cannot think? That if their bodies are asleep their minds
are without power? That their minds are not at all times
equally able to exert themselves even on the same subject,
but depend on the state of their bodies? And as for
experience proving that the members of the body can be
controlled by the mind, I fear experience proves very much
the reverse. But it is absurd, they rejoin, to attempt to
explain from the mere laws of body such things as pictures,
or palaces, or works of art; the body could not build a
church unless mind directed it. I have shown, however,
that we do not vet know what body can or cannot do, or
what would naturally follow from the structure of it; that
we experience in the feats of somnambulists something
which antecedently to that experience would have seemed
incredible. This fabric of the human body exceeds infinitely
any contrivance of human skill, and an infinity of
things, as I have already proved, ought to follow from it."

We are not concerned to answer this reasoning,
although if the matter were one the debating of which
could be of any profit, it would undoubtedly have its
weight, and would require to be patiently considered.
Life is too serious, however, to be wasted with impunity
over speculations in which certainty is impossible, and
in which we are trifling with what is inscrutable.

Objections of a far graver kind were anticipated by
Spinoza himself, when he went on to gather out of his
philosophy "that the mind of man being part of the
Infinite intelligence, when we say that such a mind
perceives this thing or that, we are, in fact, saying that
God perceives it, not that he is Infinite, but as he is
represented by the nature of this or that idea; and
similarly, when we say that a man does this or that
action, we say that God does it not qua he is Infinite,
but qua he is expressed in that man's nature." "Here,"
he says, "many readers will no doubt hesitate, and
many difficulties will occur to them in the way of such
a supposition." Undoubtedly there was reason enough
to form, such an anticipation. As long as the Being
whom he so freely names remains surrounded with the
associations which in this country we bring with us out
of our child years, not all the logic in the world would
make us listen to language such as this. It is not so--
we know it, and it is enough. We are well aware
of the phalanx of difficulties which lie about our ordinary
theistic conceptions. They are quite enough, if religion
depended on speculative consistency, and not in
obedience of life, to perplex and terrify us. What are
we? what is anything? If it be not divine, what is it
then? If created--out of what is it created? and how
created--and why? These questions, and others far
more momentous which we do not enter upon here,
may be asked and cannot be answered; but we cannot
any the more consent to Spinoza on the ground that he
alone consistently provides an answer; because, as we
have said again and again, we do not care to have them
answered at all. Conscience is the single tribunal to
which we will be referred, and conscience declares
imperatively that what he says is not true. But of
all this it is painful to speak, and as far as possible we
designedly avoid it. Pantheism is not Atheism, but the
Infinite Positive and the Infinite Negative are not so
remote from one another in their practical bearings;
only let us remember that we are far indeed from the
truth if we think that God to Spinoza was nothing else
but that world which we experience. It is but one of
infinite expressions of Him, a conception which makes
us giddy in the effort to realize it.

We have arrived at last at the outwork of the whole
matter in its bearings upon life and human duty. It
was in the search after this last, that Spinoza, as we
said, travelled over so strange a country, and we now
expect his conclusions. To discover the true good
of man, to direct his actions to such ends as will secure
to him real and lasting felicity, and by a comparison of
his powers with the objects offered to them, to ascertain
how far they are capable of arriving at these objects,
and by what means they can best be trained towards
them--is the aim which Spinoza assigns to philosophy.
"Most people," he adds, "deride or vilify their nature;
it is a better thing to endeavour to understand it; and
however extravagant it may be thought in me to do so, I
propose to analyse the properties of that nature as if it
were a mathematical figure." Mind, being, as we have
seen, nothing else than the idea corresponding to this
or that affection of body; we are not, therefore, to
think of it as a faculty, but simply and merely as an act.
There is no general power called intellect, any more
than there is any general abstract volition, but only hic
et ille intellectus et haec et illa volitio, and again, by
the word Mind, is understood not merely acts of will
or intellect, but all forms also of consciousness of
sensation or emotion. The human body being composed
of many small bodies, the mind is similarly composed
of many minds, and the unity of body and of mind
depends on the relation which the component portions
maintain towards each other. This is obviously the
case with body, and if we can translate metaphysics into
common experience, it is equally the case with mind.
There are pleasures of sense and pleasures of intellect;
a thousand tastes, tendencies, and inclinations form our
mental composition; and evidently since one contradicts
another, and each has a tendency to become dominant,
it is only in the harmonious equipoise of their several
activities, in their due and just subordination, that any
unity of action or consistency of feeling is possible. After
a masterly analysis of all these tendencies (the most
complete by far which has ever been made by any moral
philosopher), Spinoza arrives at the principles under
which such unity and consistency can be obtained as the
condition upon which a being so composed can look for
any sort of happiness. And these principles, arrived at
as they are by a route so different, are the same, and are
proposed by Spinoza as being the same, as those of the
Christian Religion.

It might seem impossible in a system which binds
together in so inexorable a sequence the relations of
cause and effect, to make a place for the action of human
self-control; but consideration will show, that however
vast the difference between those who deny and those
who affirm the liberty of the will (in the sense in which the
expression is usually understood), it is not a difference
which affects the conduct or alters the practical bearings
of it. It is quite possible that conduct may be determined
by laws; laws as absolute as those of matter;
and yet that the one as well as the other may be brought
under control by a proper understanding of those laws.
Now, experience seems plainly to say, that while all our
actions arise out of desire--that whatever we do, we do
for the sake of something which we wish to be or to
obtain--we are differently affected towards what is
proposed to us as an object of desire, in proportion as
we understand the nature of such object in itself and in
its consequences. The better we know the better we
act, and the fallacy of all common arguments against
necessitarianism lies in the assumption that it leaves
no room for self-direction; whereas it merely insists
in exact conformity with experience on the conditions
under which self-determination is possible. Conduct,
according to the necessitarian, depends on knowledge.
Let a man certainly know that there is poison in the
cup of wine before him, and he will not drink it. By
the law of cause and effect, his desire for the wine is
overcome by the fear of the pain or the death which will
follow; and so with everything which comes before him.
Let the consequences of any action be clear, definite,
and inevitable, and though Spinoza would not say that
the knowledge of them will be absolutely sufficient to
determine the conduct (because the clearest knowledge
may be overborne by violent passion), yet it is the best
which we have to trust to, and will do much if it cannot
do all. On this hypothesis, after a diagnosis of the various
tendencies of human nature, called commonly the
passions and affections, he returns upon the nature of
our ordinary knowledge to derive out of it the means for
their control: all these tendencies of themselves seek
their own objects--seek them blindly and immoderately;
and all the mistakes, and all the unhappinesses
of life, arise from the want of due understanding of these
objects, and a just subordination of the desire for them.
His analysis is remarkably clear; but it is too long for
us to enter upon it; the important thing being the
character of the control which is to be exerted. And to
arrive at this, he employs a distinction of great practical
utility, and which is peculiarly his own. Following his
tripartite division of knowledge, he finds all kinds of
it arrange themselves under one of two classes, and to
be either adequate or inadequate. By adequate knowledge
he means not necessarily what is exhaustive and
complete, but what, as far as it goes, is distinct and
unconfused: by inadequate, what we know merely as
fact either derived from our own sensations, or from the
authority of others; but of the connexion of which
with other facts, of the causes, effects, or meaning of
which we know nothing. We may have an adequate
idea of a circle, though we are unacquainted with all the
properties which belong to it; we conceive it distinctly
as a figure generated by the rotation of a line, one end
of which is stationary. Phenomena, on the other
hand, however made known to us--phenomena of the
senses, and phenomena of experience, as long as they
remain phenomena merely, and unseen in any higher
relation--we can never know except as inadequately.
We cannot tell what outward things are, by coming in
contact with certain features of them. We have a very
imperfect acquaintance even with our own bodies, and
the sensations which we experience of various kinds
rather indicate to us the nature of these bodies themselves
than of the objects which affect them. Now it is
obvious that the greater part of mankind act only upon
knowledge of this latter kind. The amusements, even
the active pursuits of most of us, remain wholly within
the range of uncertainty; and, therefore, necessarily are
full of hazard and precariousness: little or nothing issues
as we expect; we look for pleasure and we find pain;
we shun one pain and find a greater; and thus arises the
ineffectual character which we so complain of in life--
the disappointments, failures, mortifications which form
the material of so much moral meditation on the vanity
of the world. Much of all this is inevitable from the
constitution of our nature. The mind is too infirm
to be entirely occupied with higher knowledge. The
conditions of life oblige us to act in many cases which
cannot be understood by us except with the utmost
inadequacy; and the resignation to the higher will which has
determined all things in the wisest way, is imperfect in
the best of us. Yet much is possible, if not all; and,
although through a large tract of life "there comes one
event to all, to the wise and to the unwise," "yet
wisdom excelleth folly as far as light excelleth darkness."
The phenomena of experience by inductive experiment,
and just and careful consideration, arrange themselves
under laws uniform in their operation, and furnishing a
guide to the judgment; and over all things, although
the interval must remain unexplored for ever, because
what we would search into is Infinite, may be seen
the beginning of all things, the absolute eternal God.
"Mens humana," Spinoza continues, "quaedam agit,
quaedam vero patitur." In so far as it is influenced by
inadequate ideas, "eatenus patitur"--it is passive and
in bondage, it is the sport of fortune and caprice: in so
far as its ideas are adequate, "eatenus agit"--it is
active, it is itself. While we are governed by outward
temptations, by the casual pleasures, the fortunes or the
misfortunes of life, we are but instruments, yielding
ourselves to be acted upon as the animal is acted on by
its appetites, or the inanimate matter by the laws which
bind it--we are slaves--instruments, it may be, of some
higher purpose in the order of nature, but in ourselves
nothing; instruments which are employed for a special
work, and which are consumed in effecting it. So far,
on the contrary, as we know clearly what we do, as we
understand what we are, and direct our conduct not by
the passing emotion of the moment, but by a grave,
clear, and constant knowledge of what is really good, so
far we are said to act--we are ourselves the spring of
our own activity--we desire the genuine well-being of
our entire nature, and that we can always find, and it
never disappoints us when found.

All things desire life, seek for energy, and fuller and
ampler being. The component parts of man, his various
appetites and passions, are seeking for this while
pursuing each its own immoderate indulgence; and it is the
primary law of every single being that it so follows what
will give it increased vitality. Whatever will contribute
to such increase is the proper good of each; and the
good of man as a united being is measured and
determined by the effect of it upon his collective powers.
The appetites gather power from their several objects of
desire; but the power of the part is the weakness of
the whole; and man as a collective person gathers life,
being, and self-mastery only from the absolute good,--
the source of all real good, and truth, and energy,--
that is, God. The love of God is the extinction of all
other loves and all other desires; to know God, as far
as man can know him, is power, self-government, and
peace. And this is virtue, and this is blessedness.
Thus, by a formal process of demonstration, we are
brought round to the old conclusions of theology; and
Spinoza protests that it is no new doctrine which he is
teaching, but that it is one which in various dialects
has been believed from the beginning of the world.
It is a necessary consequence of the simple propositions
that happiness depends on the consistency and
coherency of character, and that such coherency can only
be given by the knowledge of the One Being, to know
whom is to know all things adequately, and to love
whom is to have conquered every other inclination.
The more entirely our minds rest on Him, the more
distinctly we regard all things in their relation to Him,
the more we cease to be under the dominion of external
things; we surrender ourselves consciously to do His will,
and as living men and not as passive things we become the
instruments of His power. When the true nature and
true causes of our affections become clear to us, they
have no more power to influence us. The more we
understand, the less can feeling sway us; we know that
all things are what they are, because they are so
constituted that they could not be otherwise, and we cease
to be angry with our brother, we cease to hate him; we
shall not fret at disappointment, nor complain of fortune,
because no such thing as fortune exists; and if we are
disappointed it is better than if we had succeeded, not
perhaps for ourselves, yet for the universe. We cannot
fear, when nothing can befall us except what God,
wills, and we shall not violently hope when the future,
whatever it be, will be the best which is possible.
Seeing all things in their place in the everlasting order,
Past and Future will not affect us. The temptation of
present pleasure will not overcome the certainty of
future pain, for the pain will be as sure as the pleasure,
and we shall see all things under a rule of adamant.
The foolish and the ignorant are led astray by the idea
of contingency, and expect to escape the just issues of
their actions: the wise man will know that each action
brings with it its inevitable consequences, which even
God cannot change without ceasing to be Himself.

In such a manner, through all the conditions of
life, Spinoza pursues the advantages which will accrue
to man from the knowledge of God, God and man
being what his philosophy has described them. It
cannot be denied that it is most beautiful; although
much of its beauty is perhaps due to associations which
have arisen out of Christianity, and which in the
system of pantheism have no proper abiding place.
Retaining, indeed, all that is beautiful in Christianity,
he even seems to have relieved himself of the more
fearful features of the general creed. He acknowledges
no hell, no devil, no positive and active agency
at enmity with God; but sees in all things infinite
gradations of beings, all in their way obedient, and all
fulfilling the part allotted to them. Doubtless a pleasant
exchange and a grateful deliverance, if only we
could persuade ourselves that a hundred pages of
judiciously arranged demonstrations could really and
indeed have worked it for us. If we could indeed
believe that we could have the year without its winter,
day without night, sunlight without shadow. Evil is
unhappily too real a thing to be so disposed of.

Yet if we cannot believe Spinoza's system taken in
its entire completeness, yet we may not blind ourselves
to the beauty of his practical rule of life, or the
disinterestedness and calm nobility which pervades it. He
will not hear of a virtue which desires to be rewarded.
Virtue is the power of God in the human soul, and that
is the exhaustive end of all human desire. "Beatitudo
non est virtutis pretium, sed ipsa virtus. Nihil aliud
est quam ipsa animi acquiescentia, quae ex Dei intuitiva
cognitione oritur." And the same spirit of generosity
exhibits itself in all his conclusions. The ordinary
objects of desire, he says, are of such a kind that for
one man to obtain them is for another to lose them;
and this alone would suffice to prove that they are not
what any man should labour after. But the fullness of
God suffices for us all, and he who possesses this good
desires only to communicate it to every one, and to
make all mankind as happy as himself. And again:--
"The wise man will not speak in society of his neighbour's
faults, and sparingly of the infirmity of human
nature; but he will speak largely of human virtue and
human power, and of the means by which that nature
can best be perfected, so to lead men to put away that
fear and aversion with which they look on goodness,
and learn with relieved hearts to love and desire it."
And once more:--"He who loves God will not desire
that God should love him in return with any partial or
particular affection, for that is to desire that God for his
sake should change his everlasting nature and become
lower than himself."

One grave element, indeed, of a religious faith would
seem in such a system to be necessarily wanting. Where
individual action is resolved into the modified activity
of the Universal Being, all absorbing and all evolving,
the individuality of the personal man would at best
appear but an evanescent and unreal shadow. Such
individuality, however, as we now possess, whatever it
be, might continue to exist in a future state as really as
it exists in the present, and those to whom it belongs
might be anxious naturally for its persistence. And yet
it would seem that if the soul be nothing except the idea
of a body actually existing, when that body is decomposed
into its elements, the soul corresponding to it must
accompany it into an answering dissolution. And this,
indeed, Spinoza in one sense actually affirms, when he
denies to the mind any power of retaining consciousness
of what has befallen it in life, "nisi durante corpore."
But Spinozism is a philosophy full of surprises; and our
calculations of what must belong to it are perpetually
baffled. The imagination, the memory, the senses,
whatever belongs to inadequate perception, perish
necessarily and eternally; and the man who has been
the slave of his inclinations, who has no knowledge of
God, and no active possession of himself, having in life
possessed no personality, loses in death the appearance
of it with the dissolution of the body.

Nevertheless, there is in God an idea expressing the
essence of the mind, united to the mind as the mind is
united to the body, and thus there is in the soul
something of an everlasting nature which cannot utterly
perish. And here Spinoza, as he often does in many of
his most solemn conclusions, deserts for a moment the
thread of his demonstrations, and appeals to the
consciousness. In spite of our non-recollection of what
passed before our birth, in spite of all difficulties from
the dissolution of the body, "Nihilo minus," he says,
"sentimus experimurque nos aeternos esse. Nam mens
non minus res illas sentit quas intelligendo concipit,
quam quas in memoria habet. Mentis enim oculi quibus
res videt observatque sunt ipsae demonstrationes."

This perception, immediately revealed to the mind,
falls into easy harmony with the rest of the system. As
the mind is not a faculty, but an act or acts,--not a
power of perception, but the perception itself,--in its
high union with the highest object (to use the metaphysical
language which Coleridge has made popular and
perhaps partially intelligible), the object and the subject
become one; a difficult expression, but the meaning of
which (as it bears on our present subject) may be
something of this kind:--If knowledge be followed as it ought
to be followed, and all objects of knowledge be regarded
in their relations to the One Absolute Being, the knowledge
of particular outward things, of nature, or life, or
history, becomes in fact, knowledge of God; and the
more complete or adequate such knowledge, the more
the mind is raised above what is perishable in the
phenomena to the idea or law which lies beyond them.
It learns to dwell exclusively upon the eternal, not upon
the temporary; and being thus occupied with the everlasting
laws, and its activity subsisting in its perfect
union with them, it contracts in itself the character of
the objects which possess it. Thus we are emancipated
from the conditions of duration; we are liable even to
death only quatenus patimur, as we are passive things
and not active intelligences; and the more we possess
such knowledge and are possessed by it, the more
entirely the passive is superseded by the active--so that
at last the human soul may "become of such a nature
that the portion of it which will perish with the body in
in comparison with that of it which shall endure, shall
be insignificant and nullius momenti." (Eth v. 38.)

Such are the principal features of a philosophy, the
influence of which upon Europe, direct and indirect, it
is not easy to over-estimate. The account of it is far
from being an account of the whole of Spinoza's labours;
his "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus" was the forerunner
of German historical criticism; the whole of which has
been but the application of principles laid down in that
remarkable work. But this was not a subject on which,
upon the present occasion, it was desirable to enter, and
we have designedly confined ourselves to the system
which is most associated with the name of its author.
It is this which has been really powerful, which has
stolen over the minds even of thinkers who imagine
themselves most opposed to it. It has appeared in the
absolute Pantheism of Schelling and Hegel, in the
Pantheistic Christianity of Herder and Schleiermacher.
Passing into practical life it has formed the strong
shrewd judgment of Goethe, while again it has been
able to unite with the theories of the most extreme

It lies too, perhaps (and here its influence has been
unmixedly good) at the bottom of that more reverent
contemplation of nature which has caused the success of
our modern landscape painting, which inspired
Wordsworth's poetry, and which, if ever physical science is
to become an instrument of intellectual education, must
first be infused into the lessons of nature; the sense of
that "something" interfused in the material world--

"Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;--
A motion and a spirit, which impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things."

If we shrink from regarding the extended universe,
with Spinoza, as an actual manifestation of Almighty
God, we are unable to rest in the mere denial that it is
this. We go on to ask what it is, and we are obliged to
conclude thus much at least of it, that every smallest
being was once a thought in his mind; and in the study
of what he has made we are really and truly studying
a revelation of himself.

It is not here, it is not on the physical, it is rather on
the moral side, that the point of main offence is lying;
in that excuse for evil and for evil men which the
necessitarian theory will furnish, disguise it in what
fair-sounding words we will. So plain this is that
common-sense people, and especially English people,
cannot bring themselves even to consider the question
without impatience, and turn disdainfully and angrily
from a theory which confuses their plain instincts of right
and wrong. Although, however, error on this side is
infinitely less mischievous than on the other, no vehement
error can exist in this world with impunity; and it does
appear that in our common view of these matters we
have closed our eyes to certain grave facts of experience,
and have given the fatalist a vantage ground
of real truth which we ought to have considered and
allowed. At the risk of tediousness we shall enter
briefly into this unpromising ground. Life and the
necessities of life are our best philosophers if we will
only listen honestly to what they say to us; and dislike
the lesson as we may, it is cowardice which refuses to
hear it.

The popular belief is, that right and wrong lies before
every man, and that he is free to choose between them,
and the responsibility of choice rests with himself. The
fatalist's belief is that every man's actions are
determined by causes external and internal over which he
has no power, leaving no room for any moral choice
whatever. The first is contradicted by plain facts; the
second by the instinct of conscience. Even Spinoza allows
that for practical purposes we are obliged to regard the
future as contingent, and ourselves as able to influence
it; and it is incredible that both our inward convictions
and our outward conduct should be built together upon
a falsehood. But if, as Butler says, whatever be the
speculative account of the matter, we are practically
forced to regard ourselves as free, this is but half the
truth, for it may be equally said that practically we are
forced to regard each other as not free; and to make
allowance, every moment, for influences for which we
cannot hold each other personally responsible. If not,
--if every person of sound mind (in the common
acceptation of the term) be equally able at all times to
act right if only he will,--why all the care which we
take of children? why the pains to keep them from
bad society? why do we so anxiously watch their
disposition, to determine the education which will best
answer to it? Why in cases of guilt do we vary our
moral censure according to the opportunities of the
offender? Why do we find excuses for youth, for
inexperience, for violent natural passion, for bad
education, bad example? Except that we feel that all these
things do affect the culpability of the guilty person, and
that it is folly and inhumanity to disregard them. But
what we act upon in private life we cannot acknowledge
in our general ethical theories, and while our conduct in
detail is human and just, we have been contented to
gather our speculative philosophy out of the broad and
coarse generalisations of political necessity. In the swift
haste of social life we must indeed treat men as we find
them. We have no time to make allowances; and
the graduation of punishment by the scale of guilt is a
mere impossibility. A thief is a thief in the law's eye
though he has been trained from his cradle in the
kennels of St. Giles's; and definite penalties must be
attached to definite acts, the conditions of political life
not admitting of any other method of dealing with them.
But it is absurd to argue from such rude necessity that
each act therefore, by whomsoever committed, is of specific
culpability. The act is one thing, the moral guilt is
another. And there are many cases in which, as Butler
again allows, if we trace a sinner's history to the bottom,
the guilt attributable to himself appears to vanish altogether.

This is all plain matter of fact, and as long as we
continue to deny or ignore it, there will be found men (not
bad men, but men who love the truth as much as ourselves),
who will see only what we neglect, and will
insist upon it, and build their system upon it.

And again, if less obvious, yet not less real, are those
natural tendencies which each of us brings with him into
the world,--which we did not make, and yet which
almost as much determine what we are to be, as the
properties of the seed determine the tree which shall
grow from it. Men are self-willed, or violent, or
obstinate, or weak, or generous, or affectionate; there is as
large difference in their dispositions as in the features of
their faces; and that by no original act of their own.
Duties which are easy to one, another finds difficult or
impossible. It is with morals as it is with art. Two
children are taught to draw; one learns with ease, the
other hardly or never. In vain the master will show
him what to do. It seems so easy: it seems as if he
had only to will and the thing would be done; but
it is not so. Between the desire and the execution lies
the incapable organ which only wearily, and after long
labour, imperfectly accomplishes what is required of it.
And the same, to a certain extent, unless we will deny
the plainest facts of experience, holds true in moral
actions. No wonder, therefore, that evaded or thrust
aside as these things are in the popular beliefs, as soon
as they are recognized in their full reality they should
be mistaken for the whole truth, and that the free-will
theory be thrown aside as a chimera.

It may be said, and it often is said, that all such
reasonings are merely sophistical--that however we
entangle ourselves in logic, we are conscious that we are
free; we know--we are as sure as we are of our
existence that we have power to act this way or that
way, exactly as we choose. But this is less plain than
it seems; and if we grant it, it proves less than it appears
to prove. It may be true that we can act as we choose,
but can we choose? Is not our choice determined for
us? We cannot determine from the fact, because we
always have chosen as soon as we act, and we cannot
replace the conditions in such a way as to discover
whether we could have chosen anything else. The
stronger motive may have determined our volition
without our perceiving it; and if we desire to prove
our independence of motive, by showing that we can
choose something different from that which we should
naturally have chosen, we still cannot escape from the
circle, this very desire becoming, as Mr. Hume observes,
itself a motive. Again, consciousness of the possession
of any power may easily be delusive; we can properly
judge what our powers are only by what they have
actually accomplished; we know what we have done,
and we may infer from having done it, that our power
was equal to what it achieved; but it is easy for us to
overrate ourselves if we try to measure our abilities in
themselves. A man who can leap five yards may think
that he can leap six; yet he may try and fail. A man
who can write prose may only learn that he cannot
write poetry from the badness of the verses which he
produces. To the appeal to consciousness of power
there is always an answer:--that we may believe
ourselves to possess it, but that experience proves that we
may be deceived.

There are, however, another set of feelings which
cannot be set aside in this way, which do prove that, in
some sense or other, in some degree or other, we are
the authors of our own actions,--that there is a point
fit which we begin to be responsible for them. It is
one of the clearest of all inward phenomena, that, where
two or more courses involving moral issues are before
us, whether we have a consciousness of power to choose
between them or not, we have a consciousness that
we ought to choose between them; a sense of duty
hoti dei touto prattein, as Aristotle expresses it, which
we cannot shake off. Whatever this involves (and
some measure of freedom it must involve or it is
nonsense), the feeling exists within us, and refuses to yield
before all the batteries of logic. It is not that of the
two courses we know that one is in the long run the
best, and the other more immediately tempting. We
have a sense of obligation irrespective of consequence,
the violation of which is followed again by a sense of
self-disapprobation, of censure, of blame. In vain will
Spinoza tell us that such feelings, incompatible as they
are with the theory of powerlessness, are mere mistakes
arising out of a false philosophy. They are primary
facts of sensation most vivid in minds of most vigorous
sensibility; and although they may be extinguished by
habitual profligacy, or possibly, perhaps, destroyed by
logic, the paralysis of the conscience is no more a proof
that it is not a real power of perceiving real things,
than blindness is a proof that sight is not a real power.
The perceptions of worth and worthlessness are not
conclusions of reasoning, but immediate sensations like
those of seeing and hearing; and although, like the
other senses, they may be mistaken sometimes in the
accounts they render to us, the fact of the existence of
such feelings at all proves that there is something
which corresponds to them. If there be any such
things as "true ideas," or clear distinct perceptions at
all, this of praise and blame is one of them, and according
to Spinoza's own rule we must accept what it
involves. And it involves that somewhere or other the
influence of causes ceases to operate, and that some
degree of power there is in men of self-determination,
by the amount of which, and not by their specific
actions, moral merit or demerit is to be measured.
Speculative difficulties remain in abundance. It will
be said in a case, e.g. of moral trial, that there may
have been power; but was there power enough to resist
the temptation? If there was, then it was resisted. If
there was not, there was no responsibility. We must
answer again from a practical instinct. We refuse to
allow men to be considered all equally guilty who
have committed the same faults; and we insist that
their actions must be measured against their opportunities.
But a similar conviction assures us that there is
somewhere a point of freedom. Where that point is,
where other influences terminate, and responsibility
begins, will always be of intricate and often impossible
solution. But if there be such a point at all, it is fatal to
necessitarianism, and man is what he has been hitherto
supposed to be--an exception in the order of nature,
with a power not differing in degree but differing in
kind from those of other creatures. Moral life, like all
life, is a mystery; and as to dissect the body will not
reveal the secret of animation, so with the actions of
the moral man. The spiritual life, which alone gives
them meaning and being, glides away before the logical
dissecting knife, and leaves it but a corpse to work


In a recent dissatisfied perusal of Mr. Macaulay's
collected articles, we were especially offended by his
curious and undesirable Essay on Machiavelli. Declining
the various solutions which have been offered
to explain how a man supposed to be so great could
have lent his genius to the doctrine of "the Prince," he
has advanced a hypothesis of his own, which may or
may not be true, as an interpretation of Machiavelli's
character, but which, as an exposition of a universal
ethical theory, is as detestable as what it is brought
forward to explain ... We will not show Mr. Macaulay
the disrespect of supposing that he has unsuccessfully
attempted an elaborate piece of irony. It is possible that
he may have been exercising his genius with a paradox,
but the subject is not of the sort in which we can
patiently permit such exercises. It is hard work with
all of us to keep ourselves straight, even when we see
the road with all plainness as it lies out before us; and
clever men must be good enough to find something else
to amuse themselves with, instead of dusting our eyes
with sophistry.

In Mr. Macaulay's conception of human nature, the
basenesses and the excellencies of mankind are no more
than accidents of circumstance, the results of national
feeling and national capabilities; and cunning and
treachery, and lying, and such other "natural defences
of the weak against the strong," are in themselves
neither good nor bad, except as thinking makes them
so. They are the virtues of a weak people, and they
will be as much admired, and are as justly admirable;
they are to the full as compatible with the highest
graces and most lofty features of the heart and intellect,
as any of those opposite so called heroisms which we
are generally so unthinking as to allow to monopolize
the name .... Cunning is the only resource of the
feeble; and why may we not feel for victorious cunning
as strong a sympathy as for the bold, downright, open
bearing of the strong? . . . That there may be no
mistake in the essayist's meaning, that he may drive the
nail home into the English understanding, he takes an
illustration which shall be familiar to all of us in the
characters of Iago and Othello. To our northern
thought, the free and noble nature of the Moor is
wrecked through a single infirmity, by a fiend in the
human form. To one of Machiavelli's Italians, Iago's
keen-edged intellect would have appeared as admirable
as Othello's daring appears to us, and Othello himself
little better than a fool and a savage .... It is but a
change of scene, of climate, of the animal qualities of
the frame, and evil has become a good, and good has
become evil .... Now, our displeasure with Mr.
Macaulay is, not that he has advanced a novel and
mischievous theory: it was elaborated long ago in the
finely-tempered dialectics of the Schools of Rhetoric, at
Athens; and so long as such a phenomenon as a
cultivated rogue remains possible among mankind, it
will reappear in all languages and under any number
of philosophical disguises .... Seldom or never,
however, has it appeared with so little attempt at
disguise. It has been left for questionable poets and
novelists to idealize the rascal genus; philosophers
have escaped into the ambiguities of general propositions,
and we do not remember elsewhere to have
met with a serious ethical thinker deliberately laying
two whole organic characters, with their vices and
virtues in full life and bloom, side by side, asking
himself which is best, and answering gravely that it
is a matter of taste.

Mr. Macaulay has been bolder than his predecessors;
he has shrunk from no conclusion, and
looked directly into the very heart of the matter; he
has struck, as we believe, the very lowest stone of our
ethical convictions, and declared that the foundation
quakes under it.

For, ultimately, how do we know that right is right,
and wrong is wrong? People in general accept it on
authority; but authority itself must repose on some
ulterior basis; and what is that? . . . Are we to say
that in morals there is a system of primary axioms, out
of which we develop our conclusions, and apply them,
as they are needed, to life? It does not appear so.
The analogy of morals is rather with art than with
geometry. The grace of heaven gives us good men,
and gives us beautiful creations; and we, perceiving by
the instincts within ourselves that celestial presence in
the objects on which we gaze, find out for ourselves
the laws which make them what they are, not by comparing
them with any antecedent theory, but by careful
analysis of our own impressions, by asking ourselves
what it is which we admire in them, and calling that
good, and calling that beautiful.

So, then, if admiration be the first fact, if the sense
of it be the ultimate ground on which the after temple
of morality, as a system, upraises itself, if we can be
challenged here on our own ground, and fail to make
it good, what we call the life of the soul becomes a
dream of a feeble enthusiast, and we moralists a mark
for the sceptic's finger to point at with scorn.

Bold and ably urged arguments against our own
convictions, if they do not confuse us, will usually send
us back over our ground to re-examine the strength of
our positions: and if we are honest with ourselves, we
shall very often find points of some uncertainty left
unguarded, of which the show of the strength of our
enemy will oblige us to see better to the defence ....
It was not without some shame, and much uneasiness,
that, while we were ourselves engaged in this process,
full of indignation with Mr. Macaulay, we heard a
clear voice ringing in our ear, "Who art thou that
judgest another?" and warning us of the presence in
our own heart of a sympathy, which we could not deny,
with the sadly questionable hero of the German epic,
Reynard the Fox. With our vulpine friend, we were
on the edge of the very same abyss, if, indeed, we
were not rolling in the depth of it. By what sophistry
could we justify ourselves, if not by the very same
which we had just been so eagerly condemning? And
our conscience whispered to us that we had been swift
to detect a fault in another, because it was the very
fault to which, in our own heart of hearts, we had a
latent leaning.

Was it so indeed, then? Was Reineke no better
than Iago? Was the sole difference between them,
that the vales sacer who had sung the exploits of
Reineke loved the wicked rascal, and entangled us in
loving him? It was a question to be asked .... And
yet we had faith enough in the straightforwardness of
our own sympathies to feel sure that it must admit of
some sort of answer. And, indeed, we rapidly found
an answer satisfactory enough to give us time to
breathe, in remembering that Reineke, with all his
roguery, has no malice in him .... It is not in his
nature to hate; he could not do it if he tried. The
characteristic of Iago is that deep motiveless malignity
which rejoices in evil as its proper element, which loves
evil as good men love virtue. In his calculations on
the character of the Moor, he despises his
unsuspicious trustingness as imbecility, while he hates him
as a man because his nature is the perpetual opposite
and perpetual reproach of his own .... Now Reineke
would not have hurt a creature, not even Scharfenebbe,
the crow's wife, when she came to peck his eyes out,
if he had not been hungry; and that gastros ananke,
that craving of the stomach, makes a difference quite
infinite. It is true that, like Iago, he rejoices in the
exercise of his intellect; the sense of his power, and the
scientific employment of his time are a real delight to
him; but then, as we said, he does not love evil for its
own sake; he is only somewhat indifferent to it. If the
other animals venture to take liberties with him, he will
repay them in their own coin, and get his quiet laugh
at them at the same time; but the object generally for
which he lives is the natural one of getting his bread
for himself and his family; and, as the great moralist
says, "It is better to be bad for something than for
nothing." Badness generally is undesirable; but badness
in its essence, which may be called heroic badness,
is gratuitous.

But this first thought served merely to give us a
momentary relief from our alarm, and we determined
we would sift the matter to the bottom, and no more
expose ourselves to be taken at such disadvantage.
We went again to the poem, with our eyes open, and
our moral sense as keenly awake as a genuine wish to
understand our feelings could make it. We determined
that we would really know what we did feel and what
we did not. We would not be lightly scared away from
our friend, but neither would we any more allow our
judgment to be talked down by that fluent tongue of
his; he should have justice from us, he and his biographer,
as far as it lay with us to discern justice and
to render it.

And really on this deliberate perusal it did seem
little less than impossible that we could find any
conceivable attribute illustrated in Reineke's proceedings
which we could dare to enter in our catalogue of
virtue, and not blush to read it there. What sin is
there in the Decalogue in which he has not steeped
himself to the lips? To the lips, shall we say? nay,
over head and ears--rolling and rollicking in sin.
Murder, and theft, and adultery, sacrilege, perjury,
lying his very life is made of them. On he goes to
the end, heaping crime on crime, and lie on lie, and
at last, when it seems that justice, which has been so
long vainly halting after him, has him really in her iron
grasp, there is a solemn appeal to heaven, a challenge,
a battle ordeal, in which, by means we may not venture
even to whisper, the villain prospers, and comes out
glorious, victorious, amidst the applause of a gazing
world; and, to crown it all, the poet tells us that under
the disguise of the animal name and form the world
of man is represented, and the true course of it; and
the idea of the book is, that we who read it may learn
therein to discern between good and evil, and choose
the first and avoid the last. It seemed beyond the
power of sophistry to whitewash Reineke, and the
interest which still continued to cling to him in us seemed
too nearly to resemble the unwisdom of the multitude,
with whom success is the one virtue and failure the
only crime.

It appeared, too, that although the animal disguises
were too transparent to endure a moment's reflection,
yet that they were so gracefully worn that such
moment's reflection was not to be come at without an
effort. Our imagination following the costume did
imperceptibly betray our judgment; we admired the
human intellect, the ever ready prompt sagacity and
presence of mind. We delighted in the satire on the
foolishnesses and greedinesses of our own fellow
mankind; but in our regard for the hero we forgot his
humanity wherever it was his interest that we should
forget it, and while we admired him as a man we
judged him only as a fox. We doubt whether it would
have been possible if he had been described as an open
acknowledged biped in coat and trousers, to have
retained our regard for him. Something or other in
us, either real rightmindedness, or humbug, or
hypocrisy, would have obliged us to mix more censure with
our liking than most of us do in the case as it stands.
It may be that the dress of the fox throws us off our
guard, and lets out a secret or two which we commonly
conceal even from ourselves. When we have to pass
an opinion upon bad people, who at the same time are
clever and attractive, we say rather what we think
we ought to feel than our real sensations; while
with Reineke, being but an animal, we forget to make
ourselves up, and for once our genuine tastes show
themselves freely .... Some degree of truth there
undoubtedly is in this .... But making all allowance for
it--making all and over allowance for the trick which is
passed upon our senses, there still remained a feeling
unresolved. The poem was not solely the apotheosis
of a rascal in whom we were betrayed into taking an
interest. And it was not a satire merely on the world,
and on the men whom the world delight to honour;
there was still something which really deserved to be
liked in Reineke, and what it was we had as yet failed
to discover.

"Two are better than one," and we resolved in our
difficulty to try what our friends might have to say
about it; the appearance of the Wurtemburg animals
at the Exhibition came fortunately apropos to our
assistance: a few years ago it was rare to find a person
who had read the Fox Epic; and still more, of course,
to find one whose judgment would be worth taking
about it; but now the charming figures of Reineke
himself, and the Lion King, and Isegrim, and Bruin,
and Bellyn, and Hintze, and Grimbart, had set all the
world asking who and what they were, and the story
began to get itself known. The old editions, which had
long slept unbound in reams upon the shelves, began
to descend and clothe themselves in green and crimson.
Mr. Dickens sent a summary of it round the households
of England. Everybody began to talk of Reineke; and
now, at any rate, we said to ourselves, we shall see
whether we are alone in our liking--whether others
share in this strange sympathy, or whether it be some
unique and monstrous moral obliquity in ourselves.

We set to work, therefore, with all earnestness,
feeling our way first with fear and delicacy, as conscious
of our own delinquency, to gather judgments which
should be wiser than our own, and correct ourselves, if
it proved that we required correction, with whatever
severity might be necessary. The result of which labour
of ours was not a little surprising; we found that women
invariably, with that clear moral instinct of theirs, at
once utterly reprobated and detested our poor Reynard;
detested the hero and detested the bard who sang of
him with so much sympathy; while men we found
almost invariably feeling just as we felt ourselves, only
with this difference, that we saw no trace of uneasiness
in them about the matter. It was no little comfort to us,
moreover, to find that the exceptions were rather among
the half-men, the would-be extremely good, but whose
goodness was of that dead and passive kind which
spoke to but a small elevation of thought or activity;
while just in proportion as a man was strong, and real,
and energetic, was his ability to see good in Reineke.
It was really most strange, one near friend of ours, a
man who, as far as we knew (and we knew him well)
had never done a wrong thing, when we ventured to
hint something about roguery, replied, "You see, he was
such a clever rogue, that he had a right." Another,
whom we pressed more closely with that treacherous
cannibal feast at Malepartus, on the body of poor
Lampe, said, off-hand and with much impatience of
such questioning, "Such fellows were made to be
eaten." What could we do? It had come to this,--
as in the exuberance of our pleasure with some dear
child, no ordinary epithet will sometimes reach to
express the vehemence of our affection, and borrowing
language out of the opposites, we call him little rogue
or little villain, so here, reversing the terms of the
analogy, we bestow the fulness of our regard on Reineke
because of that transcendantly successful roguery.

When we asked our friends how they came to feel
as they did, they had little to say. They were not
persons who could be suspected of any latent disposition
towards evil doing, and yet though it appeared as if
they were falling under the description of those
unhappy ones who, if they did not such things themselves,
yet "had pleasure in those who did them," they did not
care to justify themselves. The fact was so: arche to
hoti: it was a fact--what could we want more? Some
few attempted feebly to maintain that the book was a
satire. But this only moved the difficulty a single
step; for the fact of the sympathy remained unimpaired,
and if it was a satire we were ourselves the objects of it.
Others urged what we said above, that the story was
only of poor animals that, according to Descartes, not
only had no souls, but scarcely even life in any
original and sufficient sense, and therefore we need not
trouble ourselves. But one of two alternatives it
seemed we were bound to choose, either of which was
fatal to the proposed escape. Either there was a man
hiding under the fox's skin, or else, if real foxes have
such brains as Reineke was furnished withal, no honest
doubt could be entertained that some sort of conscience
was not forgotten in the compounding of him, and he
must be held answerable according to his knowledge.

What would Mr. Carlyle say of it, we thought, with
his might and right? "The just thing in the long run
is the strong thing." But Reineke had a long run out
and came in winner. Does he only "seem to succeed?"
Who does succeed, then, if he no more than
seems? The vulpine intellect knows where the geese
live, it is elsewhere said; but among Reineke's victims
we do not remember one goose, in the literal sense of
goose; and as to geese metaphorical, at least the whole
visible world lies down complacently at his feet. Nor
does Mr. Carlyle's expressed language on this very poem
serve any better to help us--nay, it seems as if he feels
uneasy in the neighbourhood of so strong a rascal, so
briefly he dismisses him. "Worldly prudence is the
only virtue which is certain of its reward." Nay, but
there is more in it than that: no worldly prudence
would command the voices which have been given in to
us for Reineke.

Three only possibilities lay now before us: either we
should, on searching, find something solid in this Fox's
doings to justify success; or else the just thing was not
always the strong thing; or it might be, that such very
semblance of success was itself the most miserable
failure; that the wicked man who was struck down and
foiled, and foiled again, till he unlearnt his wickedness,
or till he was disabled from any more attempting it, was
blessed in his disappointment; that to triumph in
wickedness, and to continue in it and to prosper to the
end, was the last, worst penalty inflicted by the divine
vengeance. Hin' athanatos e adikos on--to go on with
injustice through this world and through all eternity,
uncleansed by any purgatorial fire, untaught by any
untoward consequence to open his eyes and to see in
its true accursed form the miserable demon to which he
has sold himself,--this, of all catastrophes which could
befal an evil man, was the deepest, lowest, and most
savouring of hell, which the purest of the Grecian
moralists could reason out for himself,--under which
third hypothesis many an uneasy misgiving would vanish
away, and Mr. Carlyle's broad aphorism be accepted
by us with thankfulness.

It appeared, therefore, at any rate, to have come to
this--that if we wanted a solution for our sphinx enigma,
no OEdipus was likely to rise and find it for us; and
that if we wanted help, we must make it for ourselves.
This only we found, that if we sinned in our regard for
the unworthy animal, we shared our sin with the largest
number of our own sex; and, comforted with the sense
of good fellowship, we went boldly to work upon our
consciousness; and the imperfect analysis which we
succeeded in accomplishing, we here lay before you,
whoever you may be, who have felt, as we have felt, a
regard which was a moral disturbance to you, and which
you will be pleased if we enable you to justify--

Si quid novisti rectius istis,
Candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum.

Following the clue which was thrust into our hand
by the marked difference of the feelings of men upon
the subject from those of women, we were at once
satisfied that Reineke's goodness, if he had any, must lay
rather in the active than the passive department of life.
The negative obedience to prohibitory precepts, under
which women are bound as well as men, as was already
too clear, we were obliged to surrender as hopeless.
But it seemed as if, with respect to men whose business
is to do, and to labour, and to accomplish, this negative
test was a seriously imperfect one; and it was quite as
possible that a man who unhappily had broken many
prohibitions might yet exhibit positive excellencies, as
that he might walk through life picking his way with
the utmost assiduity, risking nothing and doing nothing,
not committing a single sin, but keeping his talent
carefully wrapt up in a napkin, and get sent, in the end, to
outer darkness for his pains, as an unprofitable servant;
and this appeared the more important to us, as it was
very little dwelt upon by religious or moral teachers;
and at the end of six thousand years, the popular notion
of virtue, as far as it could get itself expressed, had not
risen beyond the mere abstinence from certain specific
bad actions.

The king of the beasts forgives Reineke on account
of the substantial services which at various times he has
rendered. His counsel was always the wisest, his hand
the promptest in cases of difficulty; and all that
dexterity, and politeness, and courtesy, and exquisite culture
had not been learnt without an effort or without
conquering many undesirable tendencies in himself. Men
are not born with any art in its perfection, and he
had made himself valuable by his own sagacity and
exertion. Now, on the human stage, a man who has
made himself valuable is certain to be valued.
However we may pretend to estimate men according to the
wrong things which they have done, or abstained from
doing, we in fact follow the example of Nobel, the king
of the beasts, and give them their places among us
according to the serviceableness and capability which
they display. We might mention not a few eminent
public servants, whom the world delights to honour--
ministers, statesmen, lawyers, men of science, artists,
poets, soldiers, who, if they were tried by the negative
test, would show but a poor figure; yet their value is
too real to be dispensed with; and we tolerate
unquestionable wrong to secure the services of eminent ability.
The world really does, and it always has really done so
from the beginning of the human history; and it is
only indolence or cowardice which has left our ethical
teaching halting so far behind the universal and
necessary practice. Even questionable prima donnas, in
virtue of their sweet voices, have their praises hymned
in drawing-room and newspaper, and applause rolls over
them, and gold and bouquets shower on them from lips
and hands which, except for those said voices, would
treat them to a ruder reward. In real fact, we take our
places in this world not according to what we are not,
but according to what we are. His Holiness Pope
Clement, when his audience-room rang with furious
outcries for justice on Benvenuto Cellini, who, as far
as half-a-dozen murders could form a title, was as fair a
candidate for the gallows as ever swung from that
unlucky wood, replied, "All this is very well, gentlemen:
these murders are bad things, we know that. But where
am I to get another Benvenuto, if you hang this one
for me?"

Or, to take an acknowledged hero, one of the old
Greek sort, the theme of the song of the greatest of
human poets, whom it is less easy to refuse to admire
than even our friend Reineke. Take Ulysses. It
cannot be said that he kept his hands from taking what
was not his, or his tongue from speaking what was not
true; and if Frau Ermelyn had to complain (as indeed
there was too much reason for her complaining) of
certain infirmities in her good husband, Penelope, too,
might have urged a thing or two, if she had known as
much about the matter as we know, which the modern
moralist would find it hard to excuse.

After all is said, the capable man is the man to be
admired. The man who tries and fails, what is the
use of him? We are in this world to do something--
not to fail in doing it. Of your bunglers--helpless,
inefficient persons, "unfit alike for good or ill," who try
one thing, and fail because they are not strong enough,
and another, because they have not energy enough, and
a third, because they have no talent--inconsistent,
unstable, and therefore never to excel, what shall we
say of them? what use is there in them? what hope is
there of them? what can we wish for them? to mepot'
einai pant' ariston. It were better for them they had
never been born. To be able to do what a man tries
to do, that is the first requisite; and given that, we
may hope all things for him. "Hell is paved with
good intentions," the proverb says; and the enormous
proportion of bad successes in this life lie between the
desire and the execution. Give us a man who is able
to do what he settles that he desires to do, and we have
the one thing indispensable. If he can succeed doing
ill, much more he can succeed doing well. Show him
better, and, at any rate, there is a chance that he will
do better.

We are not concerned here with Benvenuto or with
Ulysses further than to show, through the position
which we all consent to give them, that there is much
unreality, against which we must be on our guard. And
if we fling off an old friend, and take to affecting a
hatred of him which we do not feel, we have scarcely
gained by the exchange, even though originally our
friendship may have been misplaced.

Capability no one will deny to Reineke. That is
the very differentia of him. An "animal capable" would
be his sufficient definition. Here is another very
genuinely valuable feature about him--his wonderful
singleness of character. Lying, treacherous, cunning
scoundrel as he is, there is a wholesome absence of
humbug about him. Cheating all the world, he never
cheats himself; and while he is a hypocrite, he is always
a conscious hypocrite--a form of character, however
paradoxical it may seem, a great deal more accessible
than the other of the unconscious sort. Ask Reineke
for the principles of his life, and if it suited his purpose
to tell you, he could do so with the greatest exactness.
There would be no discrepancy between the profession
and the practice. He is most truly single-minded, and
therefore stable in his ways, and therefore as the world
goes, and in the world's sense, successful. Whether
really successful is a question we do not care here to
enter on; but only to say this--that of all unsuccessful
men in every sense, either divine, or human, or devilish,
there is none equal to old Bunyan's Mr. Facing-both-ways
--the fellow with one eye on Heaven and one on earth
--who sincerely preaches one thing, and sincerely does
another; and from the intensity of his unreality is
unable either to see or feel the contradiction. Serving
God with his lips, and with the half of his mind which
is not bound up in the world; and serving the devil with
his actions, and with the other half, he is substantially
trying to cheat both God and the devil, and is, in fact,
only cheating himself and his neighbours. This, of all
characters upon the earth, appears to us to be the one
of whom there is no hope at all--a character becoming,
in these days, alarmingly abundant; and the abundance
of which makes us find even in a Reineke an
inexpressible relief.

But what we most thoroughly value in him is his
capacity. He can do what he sets to work to do. That
blind instinct with which the world shouts and claps
its hand for the successful man, is one of those latent
forces in us which are truer than we know; it is the
universal confessional to which Nature leads us, and, in
her intolerance of disguise and hypocrisy, compels us
to be our own accusers. Whoever can succeed in a
given condition of society, can succeed only in virtue
of fulfilling the terms which society exacts of him; and
if he can fulfil them triumphantly, of course it rewards
him and praises him. He is what the rest of the world
would be, if their powers were equal to their desires.
He has accomplished what they all are vaguely, and
with imperfect consistency, struggling to accomplish;
and the character of the conqueror--the means and
appliances by which he has climbed up that great
pinnacle on which he stands victorious, the observed of all
observers, is no more than a very exact indicator of the
amount of real virtue in the age, out of which he stands

We are forced to acknowledge that it was not a very
virtuous age in which Reineke made himself a great
man; but that was the fault of the age as much as the
fault of him. His nature is to succeed wherever he is.
If the age had required something else of him, then he
would have been something else. Whatever it had said
to him "do, and I will make you my hero," that
Reineke would have done. No appetite makes a slave
of him--no faculty refuses obedience to his will. His
entire nature is under perfect organic control to the one
supreme authority. And the one object for which he
lives, and for which, let his lot have been cast in
whatever century it might, he would always have lived, is
to rise, to thrive, to prosper, and become great.

The world as he found it said to him--Prey upon
us, we are your oyster; let your wit open us. If you
will only do it cleverly--if you will take care that we
shall not close upon your fingers in the process, you
may devour us at your pleasure, and we shall feel
ourselves highly honoured. Can we wonder at a fox of
Reineke's abilities taking such a world at its word?

And let it not be supposed that society in this earth
of ours is ever so viciously put together, is ever so totally
without organic life, that a rogue, unredeemed by any
merit, can prosper in it. There is no strength in
rottenness; and when it comes to that, society dies and
falls in pieces. Success, as it is called, even worldly
success, is impossible, without some exercise of what is
called moral virtue, without some portion of it,
infinitesimally small, perhaps, but still some. Courage, for
instance, steady self-confidence, self-trust, self-reliance--
that only basis and foundation-stone on which a strong
character can rear itself--do we not see this in Reineke.
While he lives he lives for himself; but if it comes
to dying, he can die like his betters; and his wit is not
of that effervescent sort which will fly away at the sight
of death and leave him panic-stricken. It is true there
is a meaning to that word courage, which was perhaps
not to be found in the dictionary in which Reineke
studied. "I hope I am afraid of nothing, Trim," said
my uncle Toby, "except doing a wrong thing." With
Reineke there was no "except." His digestive powers
shrank from no action, good or bad, which would serve
his turn. Yet it required no slight measure of courage
to treat his fellow-creatures with the steady disrespect
with which Reineke treats them. To walk along
among them, regardless of any interest but his own;
out of mere wantonness to hook them up like so many
cock-chafers, and spin them for his pleasure; not like
Domitian, with an imperial army to hold them down
during the operation, but with no other assistance but
his own little body and large wit; it was something to
venture upon. And a world which would submit to be
so treated, what could he do but despise?

To the animals utterly below ourselves, external to
our own species, we hold ourselves bound by no law.

We say to them, vos non vobis, without any uneasy
misgivings. We rob the bees of their honey, the cattle
of their lives, the horse and the ass of their liberty. We
kill the wild animals that they may not interfere with
our pleasures; and acknowledge ourselves bound to
them by no terms except what are dictated by our own
convenience. And why should Reineke have acknowledged
an obligation any more than we, to creatures so
utterly below himself? He was so clever, as our friend
said, that he had a right. That he could treat them
so, Mr. Carlyle would say, proves that he had a right.

But it is a mistake to say he is without a conscience.
No bold creature is ever totally without one. Even
Iago shows some sort of conscience. Respecting nothing
else in heaven or earth, he respects and even reverences
his own intellect. After one of those sweet interviews
with Roderigo, his, what we must call, conscience takes
him to account for his company; and he pleads to it in
his own justification--

"For I mine own gained knowledge should profane
Were I to waste myself with such a snipe
But for my sport and profit."

And Reineke, if we take the mass of his misdeeds,
preyed chiefly, like our own Robin Hood, on rogues who
were greater rogues than himself. If Bruin chose to
steal Rusteviel's honey, if Hintze trespassed in the
priest's granary, they were but taken in their own
evildoings. And what is Isegim, the worst of Reineke's
victims, but a great heavy, stupid, lawless brute?--fair
type, we will suppose, of not a few Front-de-Boeufs and
other so-called nobles of the poet's era, whose will to
do mischief was happily limited by their obtuseness; or
that French baron, Sir Gilbert de Retz, we believe, was
his name, who, like Isegrim, had studied at the universities,
and passed for learned, whose after-dinner pastime
for many years, as it proved at last, was to cut children's
throats for the pleasure of watching them die--we may
well feel gratitude that a Reineke was provided to be
the scourge of such monsters as they; and we have
a thorough pure, exuberant satisfaction in seeing the
intellect in that little weak body triumph over them and
trample them down. This, indeed, this victory of
intellect over brute force is one great secret of our
pleasure in the poem, and goes far, in the Carlyle
direction to satisfy us that, at any rate, it is not given to
mere base physical strength to win in the battle of life,
even in times when physical strength is apparently the
only recognised power.

We are insensibly failing from our self-assumed
judicial office into that of advocacy; and sliding into
what may be plausibly urged, rather than standing fast
on what we can surely affirm. Yet there are cases
when it is fitting for the judge to become the advocate
of an undefended prisoner; and advocacy is only
plausible when a few words of truth are mixed with
what we say, like the few drops of wine which colour
and faintly flavour the large draught of water. Such
few grains or drops, whatever they may be, we must
leave to the kindness of Reynard's friends to distil for
him, while we continue a little longer in the same

After all it may be said, what is it in man's nature
which is really admirable? It is idle for us to waste
our labour in passing Reineke through the moral
crucible unless we shall recognise the results when we
obtain them; and in these moral sciences our analytical
tests can only be obtained by a study of our own
internal experience. If we desire to know what we
admire in Reineke we must look for what we admire in
ourselves. And what is that? Is it what on Sundays
and on set occasions, and when we are mounted on our
moral stilts, we are pleased to call goodness, probity
obedience, humility? Is it? Is it really? Is it not
rather the face and form which Nature made--the
strength which is ours, we know not how--our talents,
our rank, our possessions? It appears to us that we
most value in ourselves and most admire in our neighbour
not acquisitions, but gifts. A man does not praise
himself for being good. If he praise himself he is
not good. The first condition of goodness is forgetfulness
of self; and where self has entered, under however
plausible a form, the health is but skin-deep, and
underneath there is corruption--and so through everything
We value, we are vain of, proud of, or whatever you
please to call it, not what we have done for ourselves, but
what has been done for us--what has been given to us
by the upper powers. We look up to high-born men,
to wealthy men, to fortunate men, to clever men. Is it
not so? Who do we choose for the county member,
the magistrate, the officer, the minister? The good
man we leave to the humble enjoyment of his goodness,
and we look out for the able or the wealthy. And
again of the wealthy, as if on every side to witness to
the same universal law, the man who with no labour
of his own has inherited a fortune, ranks higher in the
world's esteem than his father who made it. We take
rank by descent. Such of us as have the longest pedigree,
and are therefore the farthest removed from the
first who made the fortune and founded the family, we
are the noblest. The nearer to the fountain the fouler
the stream; and that first ancestor, who has soiled his
fingers by labour, is no better than a parvenu.

And as it is with what we value, so it is with what
we blame. It is an old story, that there is no one who
would not in his heart prefer being a knave to being a
fool; and when we fail in a piece of attempted roguery,
as Coleridge has wisely observed, though reasoning
unwisely from it, we lay the blame not on our own
moral nature, for which we are responsible, but on our
intellectual, for which we are not responsible. We do
not say what knaves, we say what fools, we have been;
perplexing Coleridge, who regards it as a phenomenon
of some deep moral disorder; whereas it is but one
more evidence of the universal fact that gifts are the
true and proper object of appreciation, and as we admire
men for possessing gifts, so we blame them for
their absence. The noble man is the gifted man; the
ignoble is the ungifted; and therefore we have only to
state a simple law in simple language to have a full
solution of the enigma of Reineke. He has gifts
enough: of that, at least, there can be no doubt;
and if he lacks the gift to use them in the way
which we call good, at least he uses them successfully.
His victims are less gifted than he, and therefore less
noble; and therefore he has a right to use them as he

And after all, what are these victims? Among the
heaviest charges which were urged against him was the
killing and eating of that wretched Scharfenebbe--
Sharp-beak--the crow's wife. It is well that there are two
sides to every story. A poor weary fox, it seemed, was not
to be allowed to enjoy a quiet sleep in the sunshine but
what an unclean carrion bird must come down and take
a peck at him. We can feel no sympathy with the
outcries of the crow husband over the fate of the
unfortunate Sharpbeak. Wofully, he says, he flew over
the place where, a few moments before, in the glory
of glossy plumage, a loving wife sate croaking out her
passion for him, and found nothing--nothing but a
little blood and a few torn feathers--all else clean gone
and utterly abolished. Well, and if it was so, it was
a blank prospect for him, but the earth was well rid
of her: and for herself, it was a higher fate to be
assimilated into the body of a Reineke than to remain
in a miserable individuality to be a layer of carrion
crows' eggs.

And then for Bellyn, and for Bruin, and for Hintze,
and the rest, who would needs be meddling with what
was no concern of theirs, what is there in them to
challenge either regret or pity. They made love
their occupation.

'Tis dangerous when the baser nature fails
Between the pass and fell incensed points
Of mighty opposites:
They lie not near our conscience:

Ah! if they were all .... But there is one misdeed,
one which outweighs all others whatsoever--a crime
which it is useless to palliate, let our other friend say
what he pleased; and Reineke himself felt it so. It
sate heavy, for him, on his soul, and alone of all the
actions of his life we are certain that he wished it
undone--the death and eating of that poor foolish
Lampe. It was a paltry revenge in Reineke. Lampe
had told tales of him; he had complained that Reineke
under pretence of teaching him his lesson, had seized
him, and tried to murder him; and though he provoked
his fate by thrusting himself, after such a warning, into
the jaws of Malepartus, Reineke betrays an uneasiness
about it in confession; and, unlike himself, feels it
necessary to make some sort of an excuse.

Grimbart had been obliged to speak severely of the
seriousness of the offence. "You see," he answers:--

To help oneself out through the world is a queer sort of
business: one can not
Keep, you know, quite altogether as pure as one can in the
When we are handling honey we now and then lick at our
Lampe sorely provoked me; he frisked about this way and
that way,
Up and down, under my eyes, and he looked so fat and so
Really I could not resist it. I entirely forgot how I loved
And then he was so stupid.

But even this acknowledgment does not satisfy
Reineke. His mind is evidently softened, and it is
on that occasion that he pours out his pathetic
lamentation over the sad condition of the world--so fluent,
so musical, so touching, that Grimbart listened with
wide eyes, unable, till it had run to the length of a
sermon, to collect himself. It is true that at last his
office as ghostly confessor obliged him to put in a slight

Uncle, the badger replied, why these are the sins of your
Yours, I should think, were sufficient, and rather more now
to the purpose.

But he sighs to think what a preacher Reineke would
have made.

And now, for the present, farewell to Reineke Fuchs,
and to the song in which his glory is enshrined--the
Welt Bibel, Bible of this world, as Goethe called it, the
most exquisite moral satire, as we will call it, which has
ever been composed. It is not addressed to a passing
mode of folly or of profligacy, but it touches the
perennial nature of mankind, laying bare our own
sympathies, and tastes, and weaknesses, with as keen and
true an edge as when the living world of the old Swabian
poet winced under its earliest utterance.

Humorous in the high pure sense, every laugh which
it gives may have its echo in a sigh, or may glide into
it as excitement subsides into thought; and yet, for
those who do not care to find matter there either
for thought or sadness, may remain innocently as a

Too strong for railing, too kindly and loving for
the bitterness of irony, the poem is, as the world itself,
a book where each man will find what his nature
enables him to see, which gives us back each our own
image, and teaches us each the lesson which each of us
desires to learn.



In the Library at Balliol College, Oxford, there is a
manuscript which, for want of a better name, I may call
a Commonplace Book of an English gentleman who
lived in the beginning of the sixteenth century. Its
contents display, beyond any other single volume which
I have met with, the mental furniture of an average-educated
man of the time. There are stories in prose
and verse, collections of proverbs, a dissertation on
Horticulture, a dissertation on Farriery, a treatise of
Confession, a Book of Education, a Book of Courtesy, a
Book of "the Whole Duty" of Man; mercantile entries,
discourses of arithmetic, recipes, prescriptions, marvels
of science or pseudo-science, conundrums, tables of the
assize of food; the laws respecting the sale of meat,
bread, beer, wine, and other necessaries; while above
and beyond all are a collection in various handwritten
of ballads, songs, hymns, and didactic poems of a religious
kind, some few of which have been met with elsewhere;
but of the greater number of them no other copy, I
believe, exists.

The owner and compiler was a certain Richard Hilles.
From the entries of the births and deaths of his children
on a fly-leaf, I gather that in 1518 he lived at a place
called Hillend, near King's Langley, in Hertfordshire.
The year following he had removed to London, where
he was apparently in business; and among his remarks
on the management of vines and fruit trees in his
"Discourse on Gardens," he mentions incidentally that he
had been in Greece and on the coast of Asia Minor. A
brief "Annual Register" is carried down as far as 1535,
in which year he perhaps died. One of his latest entries
is the execution of Bishop Fisher and of Sir Thomas
More. Some other facts about him might perhaps be
collected; but his personal history could add little to
the interest of his book, which is its own sufficient
recommendation. It will be evident, from the description
which I have given, that as an antiquarian curiosity this
manuscript is one of the most remarkable of its kind
which survives.

The public, who are willing to pay for the production
of thousands of volumes annually, the value of which
is inappreciable from its littleness, may perhaps not be
unwilling to encourage, to the extent of the purchase of
a small edition, the preservation in print of a relic which,
even in the mere commonplace power of giving amusement,
exceeds the majority of circulating novels: while
readers whose appetites are more discriminating, and the
students of the past, to whom the productions of their
ancestors have a memorial value for themselves, may
find their taste gratified at least with some fragments of
genuine beauty equal to the best extant specimens of
early English poetry.

In the hope of contributing to such a result, I am
going to offer to the readers of Fraser a few
miscellaneous selections from different parts of the volume;
and as in the original they are thrown together without
order--the sacred side by side with the profane; the
devotional, the humorous, and the practical reposing in
placid juxtaposition--I shall not attempt to remedy a
disorder which is itself so characteristic a feature.

Let us commence, then, as a fitting grace before the
banquet, with a song on the Nativity. The spirit which
appears in many of the most beautiful pictures of
mediaeval art is here found taking the form of words:--

Can I not sing Ut Hoy,
When the Jolly shepherd made so much joy.

The shepherd upon a hill he sat,
He had on him his tabard and his hat;
His tar-box, his pipe, and his flat hat,
His name was called Jolly, Jolly Wat,
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut Hoy,
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

The shepherd upon a hill was laid,
His dogge to his girdle was tied;
He had not slept but a little brayd
When Gloria in Excelsis to him was said.
Ut Hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

The shepherd upon a hill he stood,
Round about him his sheep they yode;
He put his hand under his hood,
He saw a star as red as blood,
Ut Hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

Now Farewell, Matt, and also Will,
For my love go ye all still
Unto I come again you till,
And evermore Will ring well thy bell;
Ut Hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

Now I must go where Christ was born;
Farewell! I come again to morn:
Dog keep will my sheep from the corn,
And warn well warrock when I blow my horn,
Ut Hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

When Wat to Bethlehem come was,
He swat: he had gone faster than a pace.
He found Jesu in a simple place,
Between an oxe and an asse;
Ut Hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

Jesu! I offer to thee here my pipe,
My skirt, my tar-box, and my scrip;
Home to my fellows now will I skippe,
And also look unto my shepe,
Ut Hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

Now Farewell, myne own Herdsman Watt;
Yea, for God, Lady, and even so I had;
Lull well Jesu in thy lappe,
And farewell, Joseph, with thy gown and cap;
Ut Hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

Now may I well both hop and sing,
For I have been at Christ's bearing;
Home to my fellows now will I fling,
Christ of Heaven to his bliss us bring.
Ut Hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.

Hilles was perhaps himself a poet, or so I gather
from the phrase, "Quoth Richard Hilles," with which
more than one piece of great merit terminates. He
would scarcely have added his own name to the
composition of another person. Elizabeth, queen of Henry
VII., died in childbirth in February, 1502-3.

The following "Lamentation," if not written by Hilles
himself, was written in his life-time:--


Ye that put your trust and confidence
In worldly riches and frail prosperity,
That so live here as ye should never hence;
Remember death, and look here upon me;
Insample I think there may no better be:
Yourself wot well that in my realm was I
Your Queen but late; Lo, here I lie.
Was I not born of worthy lineage:
Was not my mother Queen, my father King;
Was I not a king's fere in marriage;
Had I not plenty of every pleasant thing?
Merciful God! this is a strange reckoning;
Riches, honour, wealth, and ancestry,
Hath me forsaken; Lo, here I lie.

If worship might have kept me I had not go;
If wealth might have me served I needed not so;
If money might have held I lacked none.
But oh, good God, what vaileth all this year!
When death cometh, thy mighty messenger
Obey we must, there is no remedy;
He hath me summoned--lo, here I lie.

Yet was I lately promised otherwise
This year to live in wealth and in delice,
Lo, whereto cometh the blandishing promise?
Oh, false astrology diminatrice
Of Goddes secrets, making thee so wise!
How true is for this year the prophecy;
The year yet lasteth, and lo, here I lie.

Oh, brittle wealth--aye full of bitterness,
Thy singular pleasure aye doubled is with pain.
Account my sorrow first, and my distress
Sundry wise, and reckon thee again
The joy that I have had, I dare not feign,
For all my honour, endured yet have I
More woe than wealth; Lo, here I lie.

Where are our castles now, and our towers,
Goodly Richmond, soon art thou gone from me;
At Westminster, that goodly work of yours,
Mine own dear lord, now shall I never see.
Almighty God, vouchsafe to grant that ye,
Ye and your children, well may edify,
My place builded is; Lo, here I lie.

Adieu, my true spouse, and my worthy lord;
The faithful love that did us two combine
In marriage and peaceable concord,
Into your hands here do I clean resign,
To be bestowed unto your children and mine;
Erst were ye father, now must ye supply
The mother's part also; Lo, here I lie.

Farewell, my daughter, Lady Margaret,(1)
God wot full sore it grieved hath my mind
That ye should go where we should seldom
Now am I gone and have you left behind.
Oh mortal folk! What be we weary blind!
That we least fear full off it is full nigh,
Fro you depart I first; Lo, here I lie.

Farewell, madame, my Lordes worthy mother,(2)
Comfort your son and be ye of good cheer.
Take all in worth, for it will be none other.
Farewell my daughter,(3) late the fere
To Prince Arthur mine own child so dear,
It booteth not for me to weep or cry,
Pray for my soul, for now lo here I lie.

Adieu, dear Harry, my lovely son, adieu,
Our Lord increase your honour and your estate
Adieu, my daughter Mary,(4) bright of hue,
God made you virtuous, wise, and fortunate.
Adieu sweetheart, my lady daughter Kate,(5)
Thou shalt, good babe, such is thy destiny,
Thy mother never know; Lo, here I lie.

Oh Lady Cecil, Anne, and Catherine,
Farewell my well-beloved sisters three;
Oh Lady bright, dear sister mine;
Lo here the end of worldly vanity;
Lo well are you that earthly folly flee,
And Heavenly things do love and magnify.
Farewell and pray for me; Lo, here I lie.

Adieu my lords and ladies all;
Adieu my faithful servants every one;
Adieu my commons, whom I never shall
See in this world; Wherefore to thee alone,
Immortal God, very three in one,
I me commend--thy Infinite mercy
Show to thy servant now; Lo, here I lie.

(1) Margaret of Scotland, Queen of James IV.
(2) The Countess of Richmond.
(3) Catherine of Aragon.
(4) Queen of France, and afterwards Duchess of Suffolk
(5) Died in childhood.


Here lyeth the fresh flower of Plantagenet;
Here lyeth the White Rose in the red set;
Here lyeth the noble Queen Elizabeth;
Here lyeth the Princess departed by death;
Here lyeth the blood of our country Royal;
Here lyeth the favour of England immortal:
Here lyeth Edward the Fourth in picture;
Here lyeth his daughter and pearle pure;
Here lyeth the wife of Harry our true King;
Here lyeth the heart, the joy, and the gold Ring;
Here lyeth the lady so liberal and gracious;
Here lyeth the pleasure of thy house;
Here lyeth very love of man and child;
Here lyeth ensample our minds to bild;
Here lyeth all beauty--of living a mirrour;
Here lyeth all very good manner and honour;
God grant her now Heaven to increase;
And our King Harry long life and peace.

The note changes. We come next to a hunting song:--

As I walked by a forest side
I met with a forester; he bade me abide
At a place where he me set--
He bade me what time an hart I met
That I should let slip and say go belt;
With Hay go bett, Hay go belt, Hay go bett,
Now we shall have game and sport enow.

I had not stand there but a while,
Yea, not the maintenance of a mile,
But a great hart came running without any guile;
With there he goeth--there he goeth--there he goeth;
Now we shall have game and sport enow.

I had no sooner my hounds let go
But the hart was overthrow;
Then every man began to blow,
With trororo--trororo--trororo,
Now we shall have game and sport enow.

In honour of good ale we have many English
ballads. Good wine, too, was not without a poet to sing
its praises, the Scripture allusions and the large infusion
of Latin pointing perhaps to the refectory of some genial


The best tree if ye take intent,
Inter ligna fructifera,
Is the vine tree by good argument,
Dulcia ferens pondera.

Saint Luke saith in his Gospel,
Arbor fructu noscitur,
The vine beareth wine as I you tell,
Hinc aliis praeponitur.

The first that planted the vineyard,
Manet in coeli gaudio,
His name was Noe, as I am learned,
Genesis testimonio.

God gave unto him knowledge and wit
A quo procedunt omnia,
First of the grape-wine for to get,
Propter magna mysteria.

Melchisedek made offering,
Dando liquorem vineum,
Full mightily sacrafying
Altaris sacraficium.

The first miracle that Jesus did,
Erat in vino rubeo,
In Cana of Galilee it betide,
Testante Evangelio.

He changed water into wine,
Aquae rubescunt hydrim,
And bade give it to Archetcline,
Ut gustet tunc primarie.

Like as the rose exceedeth all flowers,
Inter cuncta florigera,
So doth wine other liquours,
Dans multa salutifera.

David, the prophet, saith that wine
Laetificat cor hominis,
It maketh men merry if it be fine,
Est ergo digni nominis.

The malicoli fumosetive,
Quae generat tristitiam,
It causeth from the heart to rise
Tollens omnem maestitiam.

The first chapter specified,
Libri ecclesiastici,
That wine is music of cunning delight,
Laetificat cor clerici.

Sirs, if ye will see Boyce,
De disciplina scholarium,
There shall ye see without misse,
Quod vinum acuit ingenium.

First, when Ypocras should dispute,
Cum viris sapientibus,
Good wine before was his pursuit,
Acumen praebens sensibus.

It quickeneth a man's spirit and his mind,
Audaciam dat liquentibus,
If the wine be good and well fined,
Prodest sobrie bibentibus.

Good wine received moderately,
Mox cerebrum laetificat,
Natural heat it strengthens pardy,
Omne membrum fortificat.

Drunken also soberly,
Digestionem uberans,
Health it lengthens of the body,
Naturam humanam prosperans.

Good wine provokes a man to sweat,
Et plena lavat viscera,
It maketh men to eat their meat,
Facitque corda prospera.

It nourisheth age if it be good,
Facit ut esset juvenis,
It gendereth in him gentle blood,
Nam venas purgat sanguinis.

Sirs, by all these causes ye should think,
Quae sunt rationabiles,
That good wine should be best of all drink,
Inter potus potabiles.

Fill the cup well! Bellamye,
Potum jam mihi ingere,
I have said till my lips be dry,
Vellem nunc vinum bibere.

Wine drinkers all with great honour,
Semper laudate Dominum,
The which sendeth the good liquour,
Propter salutem hominum.

Plenty to all that love good-wine,
Donet Deus largius,
And bring them soon when they go hence,
Ubi non sitlent amplius.

The boar's-head catch may be added to this,
similar Latin intermixtures.

Caput apri refero,
Resonans laudes Domino,

The boar's head in hand I bring,
With garlands gay and birds singing,
I pray you all help me to sing
Qui estis in convivio.

The boar's head I understand,
Is chief service in all this land,
Wheresoever it may be found,
Servitur cum sinapio.

The boar's head, I dare well say,
Anon after the Twelfth day.
He taketh his leave and goeth away,
Exivit tune de patria.

Four of the following verses are on a tombstone, I
believe in Melrose Abbey, and are well known. Few
if any persons will have seen the poem of which they
form a part. So far as I am aware no other copy
survives [Since this was written I have learned
that a version, with important differences has been
printed for the Warton Club, from an MS. in the possession
of Mr. Onusby Gore.]:--

Vado mori Rex sum, quid honor quid gloria mundi,
Est vita mors hominum regia--vado mori.
Vado mori miles victo certamine belli,
Mortem non didici vincere vado mori.
Vado mori medicus, medicamine non relevandus,
Quicquid agunt medici respuo vado mori.
Vado mori logicus, aliis concludere novi,
Concludit breviter mors in vado mori.

Earth out of earth is worldly wrought;
Earth hath gotten upon earth a dignity of nought;
Earth upon earth has set all his thought,
How that earth upon earth might be high brought.

Earth upon earth would be a king,
But how that earth shall to earth he thinketh no thing.
When earth biddeth earth his rents home bring,
Then shall earth from earth have a hard parting.

Earth upon earth winneth castles and towers,
Then saith earth unto earth this is all ours;
But when earth upon earth has builded his bowers,
Then shall earth upon earth suffer hard showers.

Earth upon earth hath wealth upon mould;
Earth goeth upon earth glittering all in gold,
Like as he unto earth never turn should,
And yet shall earth unto earth sooner than he would.
Why that earth loveth earth wonder I think,
Or why that earth will for earth sweat and swink.
For when earth upon earth is brought within the brink,
Then shall earth for earth suffer a foul stink,

As earth upon earth were the worthies nine,
And as earth upon earth in honour did shine;
But earth list not to know how they should incline,
And their gowns laid in the earth when death
made his fine.

As earth upon earth full worthy was Joshua,
David, and worthy King Judas Maccabee,
They were but earth none of them three;
And so from earth unto earth they left their dignity.

Alisander was but earth that all the world wan,
And Hector upon earth was held a worthy man,
And Julius Caesar, that the Empire first began;
And now as earth within earth they lie pale and wan.

Arthur was but earth for all his renown,
No more was King Charles nor Godfrey of Boulogne;
But how earth hath turned their noblenes upside down
And thus earth goeth to earth by short conclusion.

Whoso reckons also of William Conqueror,
King Henry the First that was of knighthood flower,
Earth hath closed them full straitly in his bower,--
So the end of worthiness,--here is no more succour.

Now ye that live upon earth, both young and old,
Think how ye shall to earth, be ye never so bold;
Ye be unsiker, whether it be in heat or cold,
Like as your brethren did before, as I have told.

Now ye folks that be here ye may not long endure,
But that ye shall turn to earth I do you ensure;
And if ye list of the truth to see a plain figure,
Go to St. Paul's and see the portraiture.

All is earth and shall to earth as it sheweth there,
Therefore ere dreadful death with his dart you dare,
And for to turn into earth no man shall it forbear,
Wisely purvey you before, and thereof have no leaf.

Now sith by death we shall all pass, it is to us certain,
For of earth we come all, and to the earth shall turn
Therefore to strive or grudge it were but vain,
For all is earth and shall be earth--nothing more

Now earth upon earth consider thou may
How earth cometh to earth naked alway,
Why should earth upon earth go stout alway,
Since earth out of earth shall pass in poor array?

I counsel you upon earth that wickedly have wrought,
That earth out of earth to bliss may be brought.


Of songs, nursery rhymes, and carols, there are very
many, of which the next three are specimens:--

Lulley, lulley, lulley, lulley,
The falcon hath borne my mate away,
He bare him up, he bare him down,
He bare him into an orchard brown.
Lulley, lulley, lulley, lulley,
The falcon hath borne my mate away.

In that orchard there was a hall,
That was hanged with purple and pall,
And in that hall there was a bed
That was hanged with gold so red,
Lulley, lulley, lulley, lulley.

And in that bed there lyeth a knight,
His wounds were bleeding day and night;
By the bedside there kneeleth a may,
And she weepeth both night and day,
Lulley, lulley, lulley, lulley.

And by the bed side there standeth a stone,
Corpus Christi is written thereon.
Lulley, lulley, lulley, lulley,
The falcon hath borne my mate away.

I have twelve oxen, and they be fair and brown,
And they go a grazing down by the town,
With haye, with howe, with hoye!
Sawest thou not mine oxen, thou little pretty boy?

I have twelve oxen, and they be fair and white,
And they go a grazing down by the dyke,
With haye, with howe, with hoye!
Sawest thou not mine oxen, thou little pretty boy?

I have twelve oxen, and they be fair and black,
And they go a grazing down by the lake,
With haye, with howe, with hoye!
Sawest thou not mine oxen, thou little pretty boy?

I have twelve oxen, and they be fair and red,
And they go a grazing down by the mead,
With haye, with howe, with hoye!
Sawest thou not mine oxen, thou pretty little boy?


Make we merry in hall and bower
This time was born our Saviour.

In this time God hath sent
His own Son to be present,
To dwell with us in verament,
God is our Saviour.

In this time that is befal,
A child was born in an ox stall,
And after he died for us all,
God is our Saviour.

In this time an Angel bright
Met three shepherds upon a night,
He bade them go anon of right
To God that is our Saviour.

In this time now pray we
To Him that died for us on tree,
On us all to have pitee,
God is our Saviour.


And how exquisitely graceful too is this:--

There is a flower sprung of a tree,
The root of it is called Jesse,
A flower of price,--
There is none such in Paradise.

Of Lily white and Rose of Ryse,
Of Primrose and of Flower-de-Lyse,
Of all flowers in my devyce,
The flower of Jesse beareth the prize,
For most of all
To help our souls both great and small.

I praise the flower of good Jesse,
Of all the flowers that ever shall be,
Uphold the flower of good Jesse,
And worship it for aye beautee;
For best of all
That ever was or ever be shall.

Mr. Hilles was a good Catholic. Amidst a multitude
of religious poems of a Catholic kind, there is not one
which could be construed as implying a leaning towards
the Reformers; while under a certain legend of St.
Gregory some indignant Protestant of the next generation
has written a passionate anathema calling it lies of
the devil and other similar hard names. A private diary
of such a person therefore, of the years in which England
was separated from the Papacy, is of especial interest:--

"1533. Stephen Peacock, haberdasher, mayor.
"This year, the 29th day of May, the Mayor of
London, with the aldermen in scarlet gowns, went in
barges to Greenwich, with their banners, as they were
wont to bring the Mayor to Westminister; and the
bachelor's barge hanged with cloth of gold on the
outside with banners and bells upon them in their
manner, with a galley to wait upon her, and a foyst
with a beast therein which shot many guns. And then
they fetched Queen Anne up to the Tower of London;
and in the way on land about Limehouse there shot
many great chambers of guns, and two of the King's
ships which lay by Limehouse shot many great guns,
and at the Tower or she came on land was shot
innumerable many guns.

"And the 31st day of May, which was Whitsun even,
she was conveyed in a chariot from the Tower of
London to York-place, called Whitehall at Westminster;
and at her departing from the Tower there
was shot off guns which was innumerable to men's
thinking; and in London divers pageants, that is to
"One at Gracechurch;
"One at Leadenhall;
"One at the great Conduit;
"One at the Standard;
"The Crosse in Chepe new trimmed;
"At the conduit at Paul's Gate;
"At Paul's gate a branch of Roses;
"Without at the east end of Paul's;
"At the conduit in Fleet Street;
"And she was accompanied, first Frenchmen in--
coloured velvet and one white sleeve, and the horses
trapped, and white crosses thereon; then rode gentlemen,
then knights and lords in their degree, and there was two
hats of maintenance, and many chariots, with lords and
many gentlewomen on horseback following the chariots;
and all the constables in London were in their best array,
with white staves in their hands, to make room and to
wait upon the Queen as far as -------; and there
rode with her sixteen knights of the Bath; and on
Whit-Sunday she was crowned at Westminster with
great solemnity; and jousts at Westminster all the
Whitsun holidays, and the feast was kept in Westminster
Hall, and jousts afore York Place called Whitehall.

"This year, in the beginning of September, Queen
Anne was delivered of a woman child at Greenwich,
which child was named Elizabeth.

"Item, this year foreign butchers sold flesh at
Leadenhall, for the butchers of the city of London
denied to sell beef for a halfpenny the pound according
to the Act of Parliament.

"1534. Christopher Ascue, draper, mayor.
"This year, the 23rd day of November, preached at
Paul's Cross the Abbot of Hyde, and there stood on a
scaffold all the sermon time the Holy Maid of Kent,
called [Elizabeth] Barton, and two monks of Canterbury,
and two Friars observant, and two priests and two laymen,
and after the sermon went to the Tower. Also
this year, on Palm Sunday even, which was the 28th
day of March, was a great sudden tempest of wind, and
broke open two windows at Whitehall at Westminster,
and turned up the lead of the King's new Tennis Play
at York Place, and broke off the tyles of three goldsmiths'
houses in Lombard Street, and folded up the
lead at Pewterers' Hall and cast it down into the yard,
and blew down many tyles of houses in London, and
trees about Shoreditch.

"Item, the first day of April, which was tenebre
Wednesday, Wolf and his wife, that killed the two
Lombards in a boat upon Thames, were hanged upon
two gibbets by the water-side between London Bridge
and Westminster; and on the Monday in Easter
week the woman was buried at the Crossed Friars in

"Item, the 20th day of April, the parson of Aidmary
(sic, but the real person was the priest of Aidington in
Kent) Church, in London, was drawn on a hurdle from
the Tower of London to the Tyburn and there hanged
and headed. Item, two observant Freers drawn on a
hurdle and both hanged and headed. Item, two monks
of Canterbury, one was called Dr. Bocking, drawn on a
hurdle and hanged and headed. Item, the Holy Maid
of Kent was drawn on a hurdle to Tyburn and hanged
and headed; and all the heads set upon London Brigge
and on the gates of London. Item, the 11th day
of July, the Lord Dacres of the north was conveyed
from the Tower of London to Westminster to receive
judgement for treason, but there he was quit by a quest
of Lords. Item, all men, English and others being in
England, were sworn to be true to the King and his
heirs between Queen Anne and him begotten and for to
be begotten. Item, the Lord Thomas Garrard, of
Ireland, beheaded the Bishop of Dublin, called Doctor
Alien, as he would come into England. Item, a general
peace cried between the King of England and the
Scottish King for their lifetime. Item, there was a
great sudden storm in the Narrow Sea, and two ships
of the Zealand fleet were lost, with cloth and men and
all, for they sank in the sea.


"Sir John Champneys, mayor.
"This year, in November, came over the high Admiral
of France as ambassador from the French King, and he
had great gifts and his costs provided for as long as he
was m the Realm.
"1535. Item, the fourth day of May, the Prior of the
Charterhouse in London, and two other monks of the
Charterhouse in other places, and the father of the Place
at Sion, being in a grey habit, and a priest which was,
as men said, the vicar of Thystillworth, were drawn
all from the Tower of London to Tyburn and hanged
and their bowels burnt, the heads cut off, and quartered,
and the heads and quarters some set on London Brigge,
and the rest upon all the gates of London and on the
Charterhouse gate.

"Also shortly after the King caused his own head
to be knotted and cut short, and his hair was not
half an inch long, and so were all the lords, and all
knights, gentlemen, and serving men that came to the

"Item, on Whitsun even was a great thunder in
London. Item, the fourth day of June, a man and
woman, born in Flanders, were burnt in Smithfield for
heresy. Item, the 19th day of June, three monks of
the order of the Charterhouse were drawn from the
Tower to Tyburn, and there hanged and headed.
Item, the 22nd day of June, the Bishop Rochester was
beheaded at the Tower Hill, the head set on London
Brigg and the body buried at Barking Churchyard.
Item, the 6th day of July, Sir Thomas More, that
sometime was Chancellor of England, was beheaded
at Tower Hill, and his head set on the Brigg and the
body buried in the Tower. Also this year the power
and authority of the Pope was utterly made frustrate and
of none effect within the Realm, and the King called
Supreme Head under God of the Church of England;
and that was read in the Church every Festival day;
and the Pope's name was scraped out of every mass
book and other books, and was called Bishop of Rome.

"1535-6. Sir John Allen, mercer, mayor.
"At the beginning of the time the sheriffs put away
each of them six servants and six yeomen till they were
compelled by the common counsel to take them again.

"Item, the Kennell Rakers of London had horns to
blow to give folks warning' to cast out their dust. Item,
every man that had a well within his house to draw
it three times in the week to wash the streets."


The murder committed by Wolf and his wife, which
is mentioned in the Diary, created so much sensation
that it was discussed in Parliament, and was made the
subject of a statute. The extraordinary beauty of the
woman was used as a decoy to entice the merchants into
a boat where the husband was concealed. They were
killed and thrown overboard, and the wife, acting much
like Mrs. Manning, took the keys from the body of one
of them, went to his house and rifled his strong box.
The burial of her body, while her husband was left upon
the gibbet, was occasioned by a circumstance too
horrible to be mentioned.

Next "follow parts of the statutes of England
every craftsman victualler shall be ruled":--


"First, the assise of the miller is that he have no
measure at his mill but it be assised and sealed according
to the King's standard, and he to have of every
bushel of wheat a quart for the grinding: also, if he
fetch it, another quart for the fetching; and of every
bushel of malt a pint for the grinding, and if he fetch it
another pint for the fetching. Also, that he change nor
water no man's corn to give him the worse for the
better, nor that he have no hogs, geese, nor ducks, nor
no manner poultry but three hens and a duck; and if
he do the contrary to any of these points his fine is at
every time three shillings and four pence, and if he will
not beware by two warnings the third time to be judged
to the pillory.


"Also, the assise of bakers is sixpence highing and
sixpence lowing in the price of a quarter of wheat; for
if he lack an ounce in the weight of a farthing loaf he to
be amerced at 20d.; and if he lack an ounce and a
half he to be amerced at 2s. 6d., in all bread so baken;
and if he bake not after the assise of the statute he
to be adjudged to the pillory.


"Also, the assise of brewers is 12 pence highing and
12 pence lowing in the price of a quarter of malt, and
evermore shilling to farthing; for when he buyeth a
quarter malt for two shillings, then he shall sell a gallon
of the best ale for two farthings, and so to make 48
gallons of a quarter malt. When he buyeth a quarter
malt for three shillings, the gallon three fathings; for
four shillings, the gallon four farthings; and so forth to
8 shillings, and no further. And that he set none ale
a sale till he have sent for the ale taster, and as oft as
he doth the contrary he to be merced at six pence; and
that he sell none but by measure assised and sealed, and
that he sell a quart ale upon his table for a farthing.
And as oft as he doth the contrary to sell not after the
price of malt, he to be amerced the first time: 2 pence,
the second time 20 pence, the third time three and four
pence; and if he will not beware by these warnings, the
next time to be judged to the cucking stole, and the
next time to the pillory.


"By the discretion and ordinance of our lord the
King, weights and measures were made. It is to know
that an English penny, which is called a round sterling
and without clipping shall weigh 32 corns of wheat taken
out of the middle of the ear, and twenty pence make an
ounce, and twelve ounces make a pound, which is
twenty shillings sterling; and eight pounds of wheat
maketh a gallon of corn, and eight gallons make a
London bushel, which is the eighth part of a quarter.

"When the quarter of wheat is sold for a shilling,
then the wastell, well boulted and clean, shall weigh six
pounds sixteen shillings. The loaf of a quarter of the
same corn and the same bultell shall weigh more than
the said wastell two shillings. The symnell of a quarter
shall weigh less than the said wastell two shillings,
because that it is boyled and clean. The loaf of clean
wheat of a quartern shall weigh a coket and a half, and
the loaf of all corns of a quartern shall weigh two cokets;
and it is understood that the baker so may get of every
quarter of wheat as it is proved by the King's bakers
four pence and the bran, and two loaves to furnage of
the price of two pence; and three servants a penny
farthing, and two grooms a farthing; in salt a farthing;
in yeast a farthing, in candell and in wood three pence,
in bultell allowed a farthing.

"Two or four loaves are made to be sold for a penny:
none other kind of bread to be made of great price, but
only two or four loaves to a penny. There is no bread
made to be sold of three quarterns nor of five quarterns;
also, there shall be no bread made of corn the which
shall be worse in breaking than it is without. It is to
know that of old custom of the city of London, by
authority of divers Parliaments affirmed for divers
weights which the citizens of London suffer in the
bakers which they have had and have been wont to
have in every assise of bread, the setting of two pence
in a quarter of wheat above all foreign bakers in the
realm of England; so that in assise of wheat when a
quarter wheat is sold for five shillings, then it shall be
set to the bakers of London seven shillings for assise;
and so of every other assise two shillings to the increase.

"The assise of bread after that above contained truly
may be holden after the selling of wheat; that is to say,
of the best price, of the second price, and of the third,
and as well wastell bread as other bread shall be weighed
after, of what kind so ever it be, as it is above, by a
mean price of wheat; and then the assise or the weight
of bread, shall not be changed but by six pence increasing
or distressing in the selling of a quarter of wheat.
Also, the baker shall be amerced 2s. 6d., and his quartern
bread may be proved faulty in weight; and if he
pass the number he shall go to the pillory, and the
judgment of the trespass shall not be forgiven for gold
nor silver; and every baker must have his own mark on
every manner bread; and after eight days bread should
not be weighed: and if it be found that the quartern
bread of the baker be faulty he shall be amerced 15d.,
and unto the number of 2s. 6d. And it is to know that
the baker ought not to go to the pillory, but if he pass
the number of 2s. 6d. default quartern bread, and he
shall not be merced, but if the default of bread
pass 15d.

"The rule set upon White Bakers and Brown Bakers,
--The rule is that white bakers should inowe make and
bake all manner of bread, and that they can make of
wheat: that is for to say, white loaf bread, wastell buns,
and all manner white bread that hath been used of old
time; and they inowe make wheat bread sometimes
called Crybill bread, and basket bread such as is sold in
Cheep to poor people. But the white bread baker shall
bake no horse bread of any assise, neither of his own
neither of none other men's, to sell. The brown baker
shall inowe make and bake wheat bread as it cometh
ground from the mill, without any boulting of the same;
also horse bread of clean beans and peason; and also
bread called household bread, for the which they shall
take for every bushel kneading bringing home 1 penny;
but they shall bake no white bread of any assise, neither
of their own, neither of none other men's, to sell. And
what person of the said bakers offend in any of the
articles above writ, shall as oft as he may be proved
guilty pay 6s. 8d., half to the use of the Chamber of
London, and the other half to the use of the master of
the bakers.


"Mem.--That the farthing loaf of all grains, and the
farthing horse loaf, is of like weight.

"Mem.--That the halfpenny white loaf of Stratford
must weigh two ounces more than the halfpenny white
loaf of London.

"That the penny wheat loaf of Stratford must weigh
six oz. more than the penny wheat loaf of London.

"The halfpenny wheat loaf of Stratford must weigh
three ounces more than the halfpenny wheat loaf of

"Three halfpenny white loaves of Stratford must
weigh as much as the penny wheat loaf.

"The loaf of all grains: that is, the wheat loaf, must
weigh as much as the penny wheat loaf and the half-penny
white loaf.

"The chete white loaf must weigh 12 oz.

"The chete white brown loaf must weigh 18 oz."

After so much solid matter, our repast shall be completed
with something of a lighter kind. A list of
"Divers good proverbs" is curious, as showing the long
growth and long endurance of established maxims of
practical wisdom. They are written in a distinct and
singular hand, not to be traced elsewhere in prose or

When ye proffer the pigge open the poke.
Whyle the grasse growyth the hors stervyth.
Sone it sherpyth that thorne wyll be.
It ys a sotyll mouse that slepyth in the cattys ear.
Nede makyth the old wyffe to trotte.
A byrde yn honde ys better than three yn the wode
And hevyn fell we shall have meny larkys.
A short hors ys sone curryed.
Though peper be blek yt hath a gode smek.
Of a rugged colte cumyth a gode hors.
Fayre behestys makyth ffolys fayn.
All thyngs hath a begynyng.
Wepyn makyth pese dyvers tymes.
Wynter etyth that somer getyth.
He that ys warnyd beffore ys not begylyd.
He that wyll not be warnyd by hys owne fader
He shell be wamyd by hys step fader.
Pryde goeth beffore and shame comyth after.
Oftyn tymys provyth the fruyght aftore,
The stok that hyt comyth off.
Hyt ys a febyll tre thet fallyth at the fyrst strok.
Hyt fallyth yn a day that fallyth not all the yere afore.
Whyle the fote warmyth the shoe harmyth.
A softe flyre makyth swete malte.
When the stede ys stolen shyt the stabyll dore.
Merry hondys makyth lyght werke.
When thou hast well done hange up thy hachet.
Yt ys not all gold that glowyth.
Often tymys the arrow hyttyth the shoter.
Yt ys comonly sayd that all men be not trew.
That nature gevyth no man can tak away.
Thys arrow comyth never owt of thyn ownne bow.
Sone crokyth the tre that wyll be.
When the hors walowyth some herys be loste.
Thys day a man, to-morrow non.
Seld sene sone forgotyn.
When the bely ys ffull the bonys would have craft.
Better yt ys to be unborn than untawght.
He that no good can nor non wyll lern,
Yf he never thryve, who shall hym werne?
He that all covetyth often all lesyth.
Never hope, herte wold breste.
Hasty man lakkyth never woo.
A gode begynnyng makyth a gode endyng.
Better yt ys late than never.
Poverte partyth felyshype.
Brente honde flyre dredyth.
Non sygheth so sore as the gloton that may no more.
He may lyghtly swym that ys held up by the chyn.
Clyme not to hye lest chypys fall yn thyn eie.
An skabbyd shepe ynfectyth all the ffolde.
All the keys hange not by one manys gyrdyll.
Better yt ys to lese cloth than brede.
He that hath nede must blowe at the cole.


Of all the treasures of the volume, the richest are
perhaps the hymns and metrical prayers to the Virgin,
of which there are great numbers and every variety.
Some are in English, some in English and Latin. Here
are three in different styles:--

Mary mother, thee I pray.
To be our help at Domys day;

At Domys day when we shall rise,
And come before the high Justice,
And give account for our service,
What helpeth then our clothing gay?

When we shall come before his doom,
What will us help there all and some?
We shall stand as sorry grooms,
Ycald in a full poor array.

That ylke day without lesing,
Many a man his hands shall wring.
And repent him sore for his living,
Then it is too late as I you say.

Therefore I rede ye both day and night,
Make ye ready to God Almight;
For in this land is king nor knight,
That wot when he shall wend away.

That child that was born on Mary,
He glads all this company,
And for his love make we merry,
That for us died on Good Friday.

Mater ora filium,
Ut post hoc exilium,
Nobis donet gaudium
Beatorum omnium.

Faire maiden, who is this bairn
That thou bearest in thine arm?
Sir, it is a Kingis son,
That in Heaven above doth wonne.
Mater ora filium, etc.

Man to Father he hath none,
But himself God alone;
Of a maiden he would be borne,
To save mankind that was forlorn.
Mater ora filium, etc.

Three Kings brought him presents,
Gold, myrrh, and frankinsense,
To my Son full of might,
King of Kings and lord of right,
Mater ora filium, etc.

Faire maiden, pray for us
Unto thy Son, sweet Jesus,
That he will send us of his grace
In Heaven on high to have a place.
Mater ora filium, etc.


Ave Maria, now say we so,
Maid and mother were never no mo.

Gaude Maria, Christis moder,
Mary mild, of thee I mean,
Thou bare my lord, thou bare my brother,
Thou bare a lovely child and clean,
Thou stoodest full styll withouten blyn
When in thine ear that errand was done.
The gracious Lord thee light within,
Gabrielis nuntio.

Gaude Maria, yglent with grace,
When Jesus, thy Son, on thee was bore,
Full nigh thy breast thou gave him brace,
He sucked, he sighed, he wept full sore;
Thou feedest the flower that never shall fade,
With maiden's milk, and song thereto;
Lulley, my sweet, I bare thee, babe,
Cum pudoris lillio.

Oh, Gaude Maria, thy mirth was away
When Christ on cross thy Son did die
Full dolefully on Good Friday,
That many a mother's son it sye.
His blood us brought from care and strife,
His watery wounds us wisshe from woe.
The third day from death to life
Fulget resurrectio.

Gaude Maria, thou birde so bright,
Brighter than blossom that bloweth on hill,
Joyful thou wert to see that sight,
When the Apostles so smet (sic) of will,
All and some did cry full shrill
When the fairest of shape went you fro,
From earth to Heaven he stayed full still,
Motuque fertur proprio.

Gaude Maria, thou rose of ryse,
Maiden and mother, both gentle and free;
Precious princess, peerless of price,
Thy bower is next the Trinity;
Thy Son as lawe asketh a fight,
In body and soul thee took him to;
Thou reigned in Heaven like as we find
In coeli palacio.

Now blessed birde, we pray thee abone,
Before thy Son for us thou fall,
And pray him as he was on the rood done,
And for us drank aysell and gall,
That we may wonne within that wall,
Wherever is well withouten woe,
And grant that grace unto us all
In perenni gaudio.


Ad fadendum unumquemque hominum duo capita.

Sume sulphur et argentum vivum, et pone ad lumen
lampadis, et unusquisque putabit socium suum habere
duo capita.

Ut homo videatur habere duo capila equina.

Accipe medullam equi, et ceram virgineam, et fac
candelam, et accende.

Ut omnia instrumenta in damo appareant serpentes.

Recipe serpentem, et toque, et sume pinguedinem
ejus, et fac candelam cum alia cera, et iliumina.

Si vis facere lumen per vim animi.

Accipe vermes qua lucent de nocte et pone in vase
vitreo continente radium solis quousque fiet aqua, et
tune pone illam in lampade, et lucet sicut candela, et
probatum est.

Ut homines ardere appareant.

Recipe sanguinem leporis, et ceram virgineam, et fac
candelam, et illumina.

Item capiatis argentum vivum, et ponatis ipsum in
aliquo vitro, et etiam aquam ardentem, et aquam vitae,
et projiciatis tres vel quatuor guttas in igne--si fuerat
aliqua mulier corrupta statim debet mingere et non aliter.

"Gossips mine" has been printed from another manuscript
by the Percy Society. To most readers of Fraser,
however, it is likely to be new. I select it from the
humorous poems as being capable (which most of
them are not) of being printed without omissions. The
necessary discretion, it will be seen, has been supplied
by the author.

How gossips mine, gossips mine,
When shall we go to the wine.

I shall tell you a good sport,
How gossips gather them of a sort,
Their sick bodies to comfort,
When they meet in land or street.

But I dare not for your displeasure,
Tell of these matters half the substance;
But yet somewhat of their governance,
So far as I dare I will declare.

Good gossip mine, where have ye been;
It is so long sith I you seen.
Where is the best wine, tell you me.
Can ye aught tell? Yea, full well.

I know a draught of merry go down,
The best it is in all the town.
But yet I would not for my gown,
My husband wist. Ye may me trist.

Call forth our gossips, bye-and-bye,
Eleanour, Joan, and Margery,
Margaret, Alice, and Cecily;
For they will come, both all and some.

And each of them will something bring,
Goose or pig, or capon's wing,
Pasties of pigeons, or some such thing.
For we must eat some manner meat.

Go before, between, and tween,
Wisely that ye be not seen;
For I must home and come again.
To wit I wis where my husband is.

A strype or two God might send me,
If my husband might here see me.
She is afeared, let her flee,
Quoth Alice then,--I dread no men.

Now be we in the tavern set,
A draught of the best let him fet,
To bring our husbands out of debt;
For we will spend--till God more send.

Each of them brought forth their dish,
Some brought flesh and some brought fish,
Quoth Margaret meke--now with a wish,
I would Anne were here; she would make us

How say ye, gossips, is the wine good ?
That is it, quoth Eleanour, by the rood.
It cheereth the heart and comforts the blood.
Such jonkets among shall make us live long.

Anne bade fill a pot of muscadell;
For of all wines I love it well.
Sweet wines keep my body in hell.
If I had it not I should take great thought.

How look ye, gossips, at the board's end.
Not merry, gossips? God it amend,
All shall be well, else God it defend,
Be merry and glad, and sit not so sad.

Would God I had done after your counsel;
For my husband is so fell;
He beateth me like the Devil in hell;
And the more I cry the less mercy.

Alice with a loud voice spake then:
I wis, she said, little good he can,
That beateth or striketh any woman,
And specially his wife, God give him short life.

Margaret meek said, so might I thrive;
I know no man that is alive
That give me two strokes, but he shall have five.
I am not afeard though he have a beard.

One cast down her shot, and went away.
Gossip, quoth Eleanour, what did she pay?
Not but a penny! So, therefore, I say
She shall no more be of our lore.

Such guests we may have enow,
That will not for their shot allow.
With whom came she? Gossip, with you?
Nay, quoth Joan: I came alone.

Now reckon our shot, and go we home,
What cometh to each of us but threepence?
Pardye, that is but a small expense
For such a sort, and all but sport.

Turn down the street when ye come out,
And we will compass around about.
Gossip, quoth Anne, what needeth that doubt,
Your husbands be pleased when ye be eased.

Whatsoever any man think,
We come for naught but for good drink.
Now let us go home and wink,
For it may be seen where we have been.

This is the thought that gossips take.
Once in a week merry they will make,
And all small drinks they will forsake;
But wine of the best shall have no rest.

Some be at the tavern thrice in the week,
And so be some every day eke,
Or else they will groan and make them seek,
For things used will not be refused.

We have thrown our net almost at random; yet there
are few palates which will not have found something
to please them among the specimens which we have
brought together. Let us repeat our hope that the
entire collection may before long be committed to the
more secure custody, as well as the more accessible
form, of a printed volume.


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