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Title: Pages from a Journal with Other Papers
Author: White, William Hale
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1901 T. Fisher Unwin edition by David Price, email

                          [Picture: Book cover]

                              From a Journal

                           _WITH OTHER PAPERS_

                             MARK RUTHERFORD

                               _Author of_
                       “CLARA HOPGOOD,” ETC., ETC.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                             T. FISHER UNWIN
                        PATERNOSTER SQUARE, E.C.,

                                * * * * *

                          [_SECOND IMPRESSION_.]

                                * * * * *

                         [_All rights reserved_.]


A Visit to Carlyle in 1868                                           1
Early Morning in January                                            14
March                                                               16
June                                                                18
August                                                              20
The End of October                                                  22
November                                                            25
The Break-up of a Great Drought                                     28
Spinoza                                                             32
Supplementary Note on the Devil                                     58
Injustice                                                           62
Time Settles Controversies                                          64
Talking about our Troubles                                          66
Faith                                                               70
Patience                                                            74
An Apology                                                          78
Belief, Unbelief, and Superstition                                  83
Judas Iscariot                                                      87
Sir Walter Scott’s Use of the Supernatural                          96
September, 1798                                                     99
Some Notes on Milton                                               110
The Morality of Byron’s Poetry.  “The Corsair”                     125
Byron, Goethe, and Mr. Matthew Arnold                              133
A Sacrifice                                                        149
The Aged Three                                                     152
Conscience                                                         153
The Governess’s Story                                              160
James Forbes                                                       170
Atonement                                                          174
My Aunt Eleanor                                                    180
Correspondence between George, Lucy, M.A., and Hermione            200
Russell, B.A.
Mrs. Fairfax                                                       218


ON Saturday, the 22nd of March, 1868, my father and I called on Carlyle
at 5, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, with a message from one of his intimate

We were asked upstairs at once, and found Carlyle at breakfast.  The room
was large, well-lighted, a bright fire was burning, and the window was
open in order to secure complete ventilation.  Opposite the fireplace was
a picture of Frederick the Great and his sister.  There were also other
pictures which I had not time to examine.  One of them Carlyle pointed
out.  It was a portrait of the Elector of Saxony who assisted Luther.
The letters V.D.M.I.Æ.  (“Verbum Dei Manet in Æternum”) were round it.
Everything in the room was in exact order, there was no dust or
confusion, and the books on the shelves were arranged in perfect
_evenness_.  I noticed that when Carlyle replaced a book he took pains to
get it level with the others.  The furniture was solid, neat, and I
should think expensive.  I showed him the letter he had written to me
eighteen years ago.  It has been published by Mr. Froude, but it will
bear reprinting.  The circumstances under which it was written, not
stated by Mr. Froude, were these.  In 1850, when the Latter-day Pamphlets
appeared—how well I remember the eager journey to the bookseller for each
successive number!—almost all the reviews united in a howl of execration,
criticism so called.  I, being young, and owing so much to Carlyle, wrote
to him, the first and almost the only time I ever did anything of the
kind, assuring him that there was at least one person who believed in
him.  This was his answer:—

                                              “CHELSEA, 9_th March_, 1850.

    “MY GOOD YOUNG FRIEND,—I am much obliged by the regard you entertain
    for me; and do not blame your enthusiasm, which well enough beseems
    your young years.  If my books teach you anything, don’t mind in the
    least whether other people believe it or not; but do you for your own
    behoof lay it to heart as a real acquisition you have made, more
    properly, as a real message left with you, which _you_ must set about
    fulfilling, whatsoever others do!  This is really all the counsel I
    can give you about what you read in my books or those of others:
    _practise_ what you learn there; instantly and in all ways begin
    turning the belief into a fact, and continue at that—till you get
    more and ever more beliefs, with which also do the like.  It is idle
    work otherwise to write books or to read them.

    “And be not surprised that ‘people have no sympathy with you’; that
    is an accompaniment that will attend you all your days if you mean to
    lead an earnest life.  The ‘people’ could not save you with their
    ‘sympathy’ if they had never so much of it to give; a man can and
    must save himself, with or without their sympathy, as it may chance.

    “And may all good be with you, my kind young friend, and a heart
    stout enough for this adventure you are upon; that is the best ‘good’
    of all.

                       “I remain, yours very sincerely,

                                                             “T. CARLYLE.”

Carlyle had forgotten this letter, but said, “It is undoubtedly mine.  It
is what I have always believed . . . it has been so ever since I was at
college.  I do not mean to say I was not loved there as warmly by noble
friends as ever man could be, but the world tumbled on me, and has ever
since then been tumbling on me rubbish, huge wagon-loads of rubbish,
thinking to smother me, and was surprised it did not smother me—turned
round with amazement and said, ‘What, you alive yet?’ . . . While I was
writing my _Frederick_ my best friends, out of delicacy, did not call.
Those who came were those I did not want to come, and I saw very few of
them.  I shook off everything to right and left.  At last the work would
have killed me, and I was obliged to take to riding, chiefly in the dark,
about fourteen miles most days, plunging and floundering on.  I ought to
have been younger to have undertaken such a task.  If they were to offer
me all Prussia, all the solar system, I would not write _Frederick_
again.  No bribe from God or man would tempt me to do it.”

He was re-reading his _Frederick_, to correct it for the stereotyped
edition.  “On the whole I think it is very well done.  No man perhaps in
England could have done it better.  If you write a book though now, you
must just pitch it out of window and say, ‘Ho! all you jackasses, come
and trample on it and trample it into mud, or go on till you are tired.’”
He laughed heartily at this explosion.  His laughter struck me—humour
controlling his wrath and in a sense _above_ it, as if the final word
were by no means hatred or contempt, even for the jackass.  “ . . . No
piece of news of late years has gladdened me like the victory of the
Prussians over the Austrians.  It was the triumph of Prussian over French
and Napoleonic influence.  The Prussians were a valiant, pious people,
and it was a question which should have the most power in Germany, they
or Napoleon.  The French are sunk in all kinds of filth.  Compare what
the Prussians did with what we did in the Crimea.  The English people are
an incredible people.  They seem to think that it is not necessary that a
general should have the least knowledge of the art of war.  It is as if
you had the stone, and should cry out to any travelling tinker or
blacksmith and say, ‘Here, come here and cut me for the stone,’ and he
_would_ cut you!  Sir Charles Napier would have been a great general if
he had had the opportunity.  He was much delighted with Frederick.
‘Frederick was a most extraordinary general,’ said Sir Charles, and on
examination I found out that all that Sir Charles had read of Frederick
was a manual for Prussian officers, published by him about 1760, telling
them what to do on particular occasions.  I was very pleased at this
admiration of Frederick by Sir Charles . . .

“Sir John Bowring was one of your model men; men who go about imagining
themselves the models of all virtues, and they are models of something
very different.  He was one of your patriots, and the Government to quiet
him sent him out to China.  When he got there he went to war with a third
of the human race!  He, the patriot, he who believed in the
greatest-happiness principle, immediately went to war with a third of the
human race!”  (Great laughter from T.C.)  “And so far as I can make out
he was all wrong.

“The _Frederick_ is being translated into German.  It is being done by a
man whose name I have forgotten, but it was begun by one of the most
faithful friends I ever had, Neuberg.  I could not work in the rooms in
the offices where lay the State papers I wanted to use, it brought on
such a headache, but Neuberg went there, and for six months worked all
day copying.  He was taken ill, and a surgical operation was badly
performed, and then in that wild, black weather at the beginning of last
year, just after I came back from Mentone, the news came to me one night
he was dead.”

On leaving Carlyle shook hands with us both and said he was glad to have
seen us.  “It was pleasant to have friends coming out of the dark in this

Perhaps a reflection or two which occurred to me after this interview may
not be out of place.  Carlyle was perfectly frank, even to us of whom he
knew but little.  He did not stand off or refuse to talk on any but
commonplace subjects.  What was offered to us was his best.  And yet
there is to be found in him a singular reserve, and those shallow persons
who taunt him with inconsistency because he makes so much of silence, and
yet talks so much, understand little or nothing of him.  In half a dozen
pages one man may be guilty of shameless garrulity, and another may be
nobly reticent throughout a dozen volumes.  Carlyle feels the
contradictions of the universe as keenly as any man can feel them.  He
knows how easy it is to appear profound by putting anew the riddles which
nobody can answer; he knows how strong is the temptation towards the
insoluble.  But upon these subjects he also knows how to hold his tongue;
he does not shriek in the streets, but he bows his head.  He has found no
answer—he no more than the feeblest of us, and yet in his inmost soul
there is a shrine, and he worships.

Carlyle is the champion of morals, ethics, law—call it what you like—of
that which says we must not always do a thing because it is pleasant.
There are two great ethical parties in the world, and, in the main, but
two.  One of them asserts the claims of the senses.  Its doctrine is
seductive because it is so right.  It is necessary that we should in a
measure believe it, in order that life may be sweet.  But nature has
heavily weighted the scale in its favour; its acceptance requires no
effort.  It is easily perverted and becomes a snare.  In our day nearly
all genius has gone over to it, and preaching it is rather superfluous.
The other party affirms what has been the soul of all religions worth
having, that it is by repression and self-negation that men and States

It has been said that Carlyle is great because he is graphic, and he is
supposed to be summed up in “mere picturesqueness,” the silliest of
verdicts.  A man may be graphic in two ways.  He may deal with his
subject from the outside, and by dint of using strong language may
“graphically” describe an execution or a drunken row in the streets.  But
he may be graphic by ability to penetrate into essence, and to express it
in words which are worthy of it.  What higher virtue than this can we
imagine in poet, artist, or prophet?

Like all great men, Carlyle is infinitely tender.  That was what struck
me as I sat and looked in his eyes, and the best portraits in some degree
confirm me.  It is not worth while here to produce passages from his
books to prove my point, but I could easily do so, specially from the
_Life of Sterling_ and the _Cromwell_. {10}  Much of his fierceness is an
inverted tenderness.

His greatest book is perhaps the _Frederick_, the biography of a hero
reduced more than once to such extremities that apparently nothing but
some miraculous intervention could save him, and who did not yield, but
struggled on and finally emerged victorious.  When we consider
Frederick’s position during the last part of the Seven Years’ War, we
must admit that no man was ever in such desperate circumstances or showed
such uncrushable determination.  It was as if the Destinies, in order to
teach us what human nature can do, had ordained that he who had the most
fortitude should also encounter the severest trial of it.  Over and over
again Frederick would have been justified in acknowledging defeat, and we
should have said that he had done all that could be expected even of such
a temper as that with which he was endowed.  If the struggle of the will
with the encompassing world is the stuff of which epics are made, then no
greater epic than that of _Frederick_ has been written in prose or verse,
and it has the important advantage of being true.  It is interesting to
note how attractive this primary virtue of which Frederick is such a
remarkable representative is to Carlyle, how _moral_ it is to him; and,
indeed, is it not the sum and substance of all morality?  It should be
noted also that it was due to no religious motive: that it was bare, pure
humanity.  At times it is difficult not to believe that Carlyle,
notwithstanding his piety, loves it all the more on that account.  It is
strange that an example so salutary and stimulating to the poorest and
meanest of us should be set by an unbelieving king, and that my humdrum
existence should be secretly supported by “Frederick II. Roi de Prusse.”

                                  * * *

Soon after Carlyle died I went to Ecclefechan and stood by his grave.  It
was not a day that I would have chosen for such an errand, for it was
cold, grey, and hard, and towards the afternoon it rained a slow,
persistent, wintry rain.  The kirkyard in Ecclefechan was dismal and
depressing, but my thoughts were not there.  I remembered what Carlyle
was to the young men of thirty or forty years ago, in the days of that
new birth, which was so strange a characteristic of the time.  His books
were read with excitement, with tears of joy, on lonely hills, by the
seashore and in London streets, and the readers were thankful that it was
their privilege to live when he also was alive.  All that excitement has
vanished, but those who knew what it was are the better for it.  Carlyle
now is almost nothing, but his day will return, he will be put in his
place as one of the greatest souls who have been born amongst us, and his
message will be considered as perhaps the most important which has ever
been sent to us.  This is what I thought as I stood in Ecclefechan
kirkyard, and as I lingered I almost doubted if Carlyle _could_ be dead.
Was it possible that such as he could altogether die?  Some touch, some
turn, I could not tell what or how, seemed all that was necessary to
enable me to see and to hear him.  It was just as if I were perplexed and
baffled by a veil which prevented recognition of him, although I was sure
he was behind it.


A WARM, still morning, with a clear sky and stars.  At first the hills
were almost black, but, as the dawn ascended, they became dark green, of
a peculiarly delicate tint which is never seen in the daytime.  The
quietude is profound, although a voice from an unseen fishing-boat can
now and then be heard.  How strange the landscape seems!  It is not a
variation of the old landscape; it is a new world.  The half-moon rides
high in the sky, and near her is Jupiter.  A little way further to the
left is Venus, and still further down is Mercury, rare apparition, just
perceptible where the deep blue of the night is yielding to the green
which foretells the sun.  The east grows lighter; the birds begin to stir
in the bushes, and the cry of a gull rises from the base of the cliff.
The sea becomes responsive, and in a moment is overspread with
continually changing colour, partly that of the heavens above it and
partly self-contributed.  With what slow, majestic pomp is the day
preceded, as though there had been no day before it and no other would
follow it!


IT is a bright day in March, with a gentle south-west wind.  Sitting
still in the copse and facing the sun it strikes warm.  It has already
mounted many degrees on its way to its summer height, and is regaining
its power.  The clouds are soft, rounded, and spring-like, and the white
of the blackthorn is discernible here and there amidst the underwood.
The brooks are running full from winter rains but are not overflowing.
All over the wood which fills up the valley lies a thin, purplish mist,
harmonising with the purple bloom on the stems and branches.  The buds
are ready to burst, there is a sense of movement, of waking after sleep;
the tremendous upward rush of life is almost felt.  But how silent the
process is!  There is no hurry for achievement, although so much has to
be done—such infinite intricacy to be unfolded and made perfect.  The
little stream winding down the bottom turns and doubles on itself; a dead
leaf falls into it, is arrested by a twig, and lies there content.


IT is a quiet, warm day in June.  The wind is westerly, but there is only
just enough of it to waft now and then a sound from the far-off town, or
the dull, subdued thunder of cannon-firing from ships or forts distant
some forty miles or more.  Massive, white-bordered clouds, grey
underneath, sail overhead; there was heavy rain last night, and they are
lifting and breaking a little.  Softly and slowly they go, and one of
them, darker than the rest, has descended in a mist of rain, blotting out
the ships.  The surface of the water is paved curiously in green and
violet, and where the light lies on it scintillates like millions of
stars.  The grass is not yet cut, and the showers have brought it up
knee-deep.  Its gentle whisper is plainly heard, the most delicate of all
the voices in the world, and the meadow bends into billows, grey,
silvery, and green, when a breeze of sufficient strength sweeps across
it.  The larks are so multitudinous that no distinct song can be caught,
and amidst the confused melody comes the note of the thrush and the
blackbird.  A constant under-running accompaniment is just audible in the
hum of innumerable insects and the sharp buzz of flies darting past the
ear.  Only those who live in the open air and watch the fields and sea
from hour to hour and day to day know what they are and what they mean.
The chance visitor, or he who looks now and then, never understands them.
While I have lain here, the clouds have risen, have become more aërial,
and more suffused with light; the horizon has become better defined, and
the yellow shingle beach is visible to its extremest point clasping the
bay in its arms.  The bay itself is the tenderest blue-green, and on the
rolling plain which borders it lies intense sunlight chequered with
moving shadows which wander eastwards.  The wind has shifted a trifle,
and comes straight up the Channel from the illimitable ocean.


A FEW days ago it was very hot.  Afterwards we had a thunderstorm,
followed by rain from the south-west.  The wind has veered a point
northerly, and the barometer is rising.  This morning at half-past five
the valley below was filled with white mist.  Above it the tops of the
trees on the highest points emerged sharply distinct.  It was motionless,
but gradually melted before the ascending sun, recalling Plutarch’s
“scenes in the beautiful temple of the world which the gods order at
their own festivals, when we are initiated into their own mysteries.”
Here was a divine mystery, with initiation for those who cared for it.
No priests were waiting, no ritual was necessary, the service was
simple—solitary adoration and perfect silence.

As the day advances, masses of huge, heavy clouds appear.  They are well
defined at the edges, and their intricate folds and depths are
brilliantly illuminated.  The infinitude of the sky is not so impressive
when it is quite clear as when it contains and supports great clouds, and
large blue spaces are seen between them.  On the hillsides the fields
here and there are yellow and the corn is in sheaves.  The birds are
mostly dumb, the glory of the furze and broom has passed, but the heather
is in flower.  The trees are dark, and even sombre, and, where they are
in masses, look as if they were in solemn consultation.  A fore-feeling
of the end of summer steals upon me.  Why cannot I banish this
anticipation?  Why cannot I rest and take delight in what is before me?
If some beneficent god would but teach me how to take no thought for the
morrow, I would sacrifice to him all I possess.


IT is the first south-westerly gale of the autumn.  Its violence is
increasing every minute, although the rain has ceased for awhile.  For
weeks sky and sea have been beautiful, but they have been tame.  Now for
some unknown reason there is a complete change, and all the strength of
nature is awake.  It is refreshing to be once more brought face to face
with her tremendous power, and to be reminded of the mystery of its going
and coming.  It is soothing to feel so directly that man, notwithstanding
his science and pretentions, his subjugation of steam and electricity, is
as nothing compared with his Creator.  The air has a freshness and odour
about it to which we have long been strangers.  It has been dry, and
loaded with fine dust, but now it is deliciously wet and clean.  The wind
during the summer has changed lightly through all the points of the
compass, but it has never brought any scent save that of the land,
nothing from a distance.  Now it is charged with messages from the ocean.

The sky is not uniformly overcast, but is covered with long horizontal
folds of cloud, very dark below and a little lighter where they turn up
one into the other.  They are incessantly modified by the storm, and
fragments are torn away from them which sweep overhead.  The sea, looked
at from the height, shows white edges almost to the horizon, and although
the waves at a distance cannot be distinguished, the tossing of a
solitary vessel labouring to get round the point for shelter shows how
vast they are.  The prevailing colour of the water is greyish-green,
passing into deep-blue, and perpetually shifting in tint.  A quarter of a
mile away the breakers begin, and spread themselves in a white sheet to
the land.

A couple of gulls rise from the base of the cliffs to a height of about a
hundred feet above them.  They turn their heads to the south-west, and
hover like hawks, but without any visible movement of their wings.  They
are followed by two more, who also poise themselves in the same way.
Presently all four mount higher, and again face the tempest.  They do not
appear to defy it, nor even to exert themselves in resisting it.  What to
us below is fierce opposition is to them a support and delight.  How
these wonderful birds are able to accomplish this feat no mathematician
can tell us.  After remaining stationary a few minutes, they wheel round,
once more ascend, and then without any effort go off to sea directly in
the teeth of the hurricane.


A NOVEMBER day at the end of the month—the country is left to those who
live in it.  The scattered visitors who took lodgings in the summer in
the villages have all departed, and the recollection that they have been
here makes the solitude more complete.  The woods in which they wandered
are impassable, for the rain has been heavy, and the dry, baked clay of
August has been turned into a slough a foot deep.  The wind, what there
is of it, is from the south-west, soft, sweet and damp; the sky is almost
covered with bluish-grey clouds, which here and there give way and permit
a dim, watery gleam to float slowly over the distant pastures.  The grass
for the most part is greyish-green, more grey than green where it has not
been mown, but on the rocky and broken ground there is a colour like that
of an emerald, and the low sun when it comes out throws from the
projections on the hillside long and beautifully shaped shadows.
Multitudes of gnats in these brief moments of sunshine are seen playing
in it.  The leaves have not all fallen, down in the hollow hardly any
have gone, and the trees are still bossy, tinted with the delicate
yellowish-brown and brown of different stages of decay.  The hedges have
been washed clean of the white dust; the roads have been washed; a deep
drain has just begun to trickle and on the meadows lie little pools of
the clearest rainwater, reflecting with added loveliness any blue patch
of the heavens disclosed above them.  The birds are silent save the
jackdaws and the robin, who still sings his recollections of the summer,
or his anticipations of the spring, or perhaps his pleasure in the late
autumn.  The finches are in flocks, and whirl round in the air with
graceful, shell-like convolutions as they descend, part separating, for
no reason apparently, and forming a second flock which goes away over the
copse.  There is hardly any farm-work going on, excepting in the ditches,
which are being cleaned in readiness for the overflow when the thirsty
ground shall have sucked its fill.  Under a bank by the roadside a couple
of men employed in carting stone for road-mending are sitting on a sack
eating their dinner.  The roof of the barn beyond them is brilliant with
moss and lichens; it has not been so vivid since last February.  It is a
delightful time.  No demand is made for ecstatic admiration; everything
is at rest, nature has nothing to do but to sleep and wait.


FOR three months there had been hardly a drop of rain.  The wind had been
almost continuously north-west, and from that to east.  Occasionally
there were light airs from the south-west, and vapour rose, but there was
nothing in it; there was no true south-westerly breeze, and in a few
hours the weather-cock returned to the old quarter.  Not infrequently the
clouds began to gather, and there was every sign that a change was at
hand.  The barometer at these times fell gradually day after day until at
last it reached a point which generally brought drenching storms, but
none appeared, and then it began slowly to rise again and we knew that
our hopes were vain, and that a week at least must elapse before it would
regain its usual height and there might be a chance of declining.  At
last the disappointment was so keen that the instrument was removed.  It
was better not to watch it, but to hope for a surprise.  The grass became
brown, and in many places was killed down to the roots; there was no hay;
myriads of swarming caterpillars devoured the fruit trees; the brooks
were all dry; water for cattle had to be fetched from ponds and springs
miles away; the roads were broken up; the air was loaded with grit; and
the beautiful green of the hedges was choked with dust.  Birds like the
rook, which fed upon worms, were nearly starved, and were driven far and
wide for strange food.  It was pitiable to see them trying to pick the
soil of the meadow as hard as a rock.  The everlasting glare was worse
than the gloom of winter, and the sense of universal parching thirst
became so distressing that the house was preferred to the fields.  We
were close to a water famine!  The Atlantic, the source of all life, was
asleep, and what if it should never wake!  We know not its ways, it mocks
all our science.  Close to us lies this great mystery, incomprehensible,
and yet our very breath depends upon it.  Why should not the sweet tides
of soft moist air cease to stream in upon us?  No reason could be given
why every green herb and living thing should not perish; no reason, save
a faith which was blind.  For aught we _knew_, the ocean-begotten aërial
current might forsake the land and it might become a desert.

One night grey bars appeared in the western sky, but they had too often
deluded us, and we did not believe in them.  On this particular evening
they were a little heavier, and the window-cords were damp.  The air
which came across the cliff was cool, and if we had dared to hope we
should have said it had a scent of the sea in it.  At four o’clock in the
morning there was a noise of something beating against the panes—they
were streaming!  It was impossible to lie still, and I rose and went out
of doors.  No creature was stirring, there was no sound save that of the
rain, but a busier time there had not been for many a long month.
Thousands of millions of blades of grass and corn were eagerly drinking.
For sixteen hours the downpour continued, and when it was dusk I again
went out.  The watercourses by the side of the roads had a little water
in them, but not a drop had reached those at the edge of the fields, so
thirsty was the earth.  The drought, thank God, was at an end!


NOW that twenty years have passed since I began the study of Spinoza it
is good to find that he still holds his ground.  Much in him remains
obscure, but there is enough which is sufficiently clear to give a
direction to thought and to modify action.  To the professional
metaphysician Spinoza’s work is already surpassed, and is absorbed in
subsequent systems.  We are told to read him once because he is
historically interesting, and then we are supposed to have done with him.
But if “Spinozism,” as it is called, is but a stage of development there
is something in Spinoza which can be superseded as little as the
_Imitation of Christ_ or the _Pilgrim’s Progress_, and it is this which
continues to draw men to him.  Goethe never cared for set philosophical
systems.  Very early in life he thought he had found out that they were
useless pieces of construction, but to the end of his days he clung to
Spinoza, and Philina, of all persons in the world, repeats one of the
finest sayings in the _Ethic_.  So far as the metaphysicians are
carpenters, and there is much carpentering in most of them, Goethe was
right, and the larger part of their industry endures wind and weather but
for a short time.  Spinoza’s object was not to make a scheme of the
universe.  He felt that the things on which men usually set their hearts
give no permanent satisfaction, and he cast about for some means by which
to secure “a joy continuous and supreme to all eternity.”  I propose now,
without attempting to connect or contrast Spinoza with Descartes or the
Germans, to name some of those thoughts in his books by which he
conceived he had attained his end.

The sorrow of life is the rigidity of the material universe in which we
are placed.  We are bound by physical laws, and there is a constant
pressure of matter-of-fact evidence to prove that we are nothing but
common and cheap products of the earth to which in a few moments or years
we return.  Spinoza’s chief aim is to free us from this sorrow, and to
free us from it by _thinking_.  The emphasis on this word is important.
He continually insists that a thing is not unreal because we cannot
imagine it.  His own science, mathematics, affords him examples of what
_must_ be, although we cannot picture it, and he believes that true
consolation lies in the region of that which cannot be imaged but can be

Setting out on his quest, he lays hold at the very beginning on the idea
of Substance, which he afterwards identifies with the idea of God.  “By
Substance I understand that which is in itself and is conceived through
itself; in other words, that, the conception of which does not need the
conception of another thing from which it must be formed.” {34a}  “By
God, I understand Being absolutely infinite, that is to say, substance
consisting of infinite attributes, each one of which expresses eternal
and infinite essence.” {34b}  “God, or substance consisting of infinite
attributes, each one of which expresses eternal and infinite essence,
necessarily exists.” {34c}  By the phrases “in itself” and “by itself,”
we are to understand that this conception cannot be explained in other
terms.  Substance must be posited, and there we must leave it.  The
demonstration of the last-quoted proposition, the 11th, is elusive, and I
must pass it by, merely observing that the objection that no idea
involves existence, and that consequently the idea of God does not
involve it, is not a refutation of Spinoza, who might rejoin that it is
impossible not to affirm existence of God as the _Ethic_ defines him.
Spinoza escapes one great theological difficulty.  Directly we begin to
reflect we are dissatisfied with a material God, and the nobler religions
assert that God is a Spirit.  But if He be a pure spirit whence comes the
material universe?  To Spinoza pure spirit and pure matter are mere
artifices of the understanding.  His God is the Substance with infinite
attributes of which thought and extension are the two revealed to man,
and he goes further, for he maintains that they are one and the same
thing viewed in different ways, inside and outside of the same reality.
The conception of God, strictly speaking, is not incomprehensible, but it
is not _circum_-prehensible; if it were it could not be the true
conception of Him.

Spinoza declares that “the human mind possesses an adequate knowledge of
the eternal and infinite essence of God” {36}—not of God in His
completeness, but it is adequate.  The demonstration of this proposition
is at first sight unsatisfactory, because we look for one which shall
enable us to form an image of God like that which we can form of a
triangle.  But we cannot have “a knowledge of God as distinct as that
which we have of common notions, because we cannot imagine God as we can
bodies.”  “To your question,” says Spinoza to Boxel, “whether I have as
clear an idea of God as I have of a triangle?  I answer, Yes.  But if you
ask me whether I have as clear an image of God as I have of a triangle I
shall say, No; for we cannot imagine God, but we can in a measure
understand Him.  Here also, it is to be observed that I do not say that I
altogether know God, but that I understand some of His attributes—not
all, nor the greatest part, and it is clear that my ignorance of very
many does not prevent my knowledge of certain others.  When I learned the
elements of Euclid, I very soon understood that the three angles of a
triangle are equal to two right angles, and I clearly perceived this
property of a triangle, although I was ignorant of many others.” {37a}

“Individual things are nothing but affections or modes of God’s
attributes, expressing those attributes in a certain and determinate
manner,” {37b} and hence “the more we understand individual objects, the
more we understand God.” {37c}

The intellect of God in no way resembles the human intellect, for we
cannot conceive Him as proposing an end and considering the means to
attain it.  “The intellect of God, in so far as it is conceived to
constitute His essence, is in truth the cause of things, both of their
essence and of their existence—a truth which seems to have been
understood by those who have maintained that God’s intellect, will, and
power are one and the same thing.” {37d}

The whole of God is _fact_, and Spinoza denies any reserve in Him of
something unexpressed.  “The omnipotence of God has been actual from
eternity, and in the same actuality will remain to eternity,” {38} not of
course in the sense that everything which exists has always existed as we
now know it, or that nothing will exist hereafter which does not exist
now, but that in God everything that has been, and will be, eternally

The reader will perhaps ask, What has this theology to do with the “joy
continuous and supreme”?  We shall presently meet with some deductions
which contribute to it, but it is not difficult to understand that
Spinoza, to use his own word, might call the truths set forth in these
propositions “blessed.”  Let a man once believe in that God of infinite
attributes of which thought and extension are those by which He manifests
Himself to us; let him see that the opposition between thought and matter
is fictitious; that his mind “is a part of the infinite intellect of
God”; that he is not a mere transient, outside interpreter of the
universe, but himself the soul or law, which is the universe, and he will
feel a relationship with infinity which will emancipate him.

It is not true that in Spinoza’s God there is so little that is positive
that it is not worth preserving.  All Nature is in Him, and if the
objector is sincere he will confess that it is not the lack of contents
in the idea which is disappointing, but a lack of contents particularly
interesting to himself.

The opposition between the mind and body of man as two diverse entities
ceases with that between thought and extension.  It would be impossible
briefly to explain in all its fulness what Spinoza means by the
proposition: “The object of the idea constituting the human mind is a
body” {39}; it is sufficient here to say that, just as extension and
thought are one, considered in different aspects, so body and mind are
one.  We shall find in the fifth part of the _Ethic_ that Spinoza affirms
the eternity of the mind, though not perhaps in the way in which it is
usually believed.

Following the order of the _Ethic_ we now come to its more directly
ethical maxims.  Spinoza denies the freedom commonly assigned to the
will, or perhaps it is more correct to say he denies that it is
intelligible.  The will is determined by the intellect.  The idea of the
triangle involves the affirmation or volition that its three angles are
equal to two right angles.  If we understand what a triangle is we are
not “free” to believe that it contains more or less than two right
angles, nor to act as if it contained more or less than two.  The only
real freedom of the mind is obedience to the reason, and the mind is
enslaved when it is under the dominion of the passions.  “God does not
act from freedom of the will,” {40a} and consequently “things could have
been produced by God in no other manner and in no other order than that
in which they have been produced.” {40b}

“If you will but reflect,” Spinoza tells Boxel, “that indifference is
nothing but ignorance or doubt, and that a will always constant and in
all things determinate is a virtue and a necessary property of the
intellect, you will see that my words are entirely in accord with the
truth.” {40c}  To the same effect is a passage in a letter to Blyenbergh,
“Our liberty does not consist in a certain contingency nor in a certain
indifference, but in the manner of affirming or denying, so that in
proportion as we affirm or deny anything with less indifference, are we
the more free.” {41a}  So also to Schuller, “I call that thing free which
exists and acts solely from the necessity of its own nature: I call that
thing coerced which is determined to exist and to act in a certain and
determinate manner by another.” {41b}  With regard to this definition it
might be objected that the necessity does not lie solely in the person
who wills but is also in the object.  The triangle as well as the nature
of man contains the necessity.  What Spinoza means is that the free man
by the necessity of his nature is bound to assert the truth of what
follows from the definition of a triangle and that the stronger he feels
the necessity the more free he is.  Hence it follows that the wider the
range of the intellect and the more imperative the necessity which binds
it, the larger is its freedom.

In genuine freedom Spinoza rejoices.  “The doctrine is of service in so
far as it teaches us that we do everything by the will of God alone, and
that we are partakers of the divine nature in proportion as our actions
become more and more perfect and we more and more understand God.  This
doctrine, therefore, besides giving repose in every way to the soul, has
also this advantage, that it teaches us in what our highest happiness or
blessedness consists, namely, in the knowledge of God alone, by which we
are drawn to do those things only which love and piety persuade.” {42a}
In other words, being part of the whole, the grandeur and office of the
whole are ours.  We are anxious about what we call “personality,” but in
truth there is nothing in it of any worth, and the less we care for it
the more “blessed” we are.

“By the desire which springs from reason we follow good directly and
avoid evil indirectly” {42b}: our aim should be the good; in obtaining
that we are delivered from evil.  To the same purpose is the conclusion
of the fifth book of the _Ethic_ that “No one delights in blessedness
because he has restrained his affects, but, on the contrary, the power of
restraining his lusts springs from blessedness itself.” {43a}  This is
exactly what the Gospel says to the Law.

Fear is not the motive of a free man to do what is good.  “A free man
thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is not a meditation
upon death, but upon life.” {43b}  This is the celebrated sixty-seventh
proposition of the fourth part.  If we examine the proof which directly
depends on the sixty-third proposition of the same part—“he who is led by
fear, and does what is good in order that he may avoid what is evil, is
not led by reason”—we shall see that Spinoza is referring to the fear of
the “evil” of hell-fire.

All Spinoza’s teaching with regard to the passions is a consequence of
what he believes of God and man.  He will study the passions and not
curse them.  He finds that by understanding them “we can bring it to pass
that we suffer less from them.  We have, therefore, mainly to strive to
acquire a clear and distinct knowledge of each affect.” {43c}  “If the
human mind had none but adequate ideas it would form no notion of evil.”
{44a}  “The difference between a man who is led by affect or opinion
alone and one who is led by reason” is that “the former, whether he wills
it or not, does those things of which he is entirely ignorant, but the
latter does the will of no one but himself.” {44b}  _They know not what
they do_.

The direct influence of Spinoza’s theology is also shown in his treatment
of pity, hatred, laughter, and contempt.  “The man who has properly
understood that everything follows from the necessity of the divine
nature, and comes to pass according to the eternal laws and rules of
nature, will in truth discover nothing which is worthy of hatred,
laughter, or contempt, nor will he pity any one, but, so far as human
virtue is able, he will endeavour to _do well_, as we say, and to
_rejoice_.” {44c}  By pity is to be understood mere blind sympathy.  The
good that we do by this pity with the eyes of the mind shut ought to be
done with them open.  “He who lives according to the guidance of reason
strives as much as possible to repay the hatred, anger, or contempt of
others towards himself with love or generosity. . . . He who wishes to
avenge injuries by hating in return does indeed live miserably.  But he
who, on the contrary, strives to drive out hatred by love, fights
joyfully and confidently, with equal ease resisting one man or a number
of men, and needing scarcely any assistance from fortune.  Those whom he
conquers yield gladly, not from defect of strength, but from an increase
of it.” {45a}

“Joy is the passion by which the mind passes to a greater perfection:
sorrow, on the other hand, is the passion by which it passes to a less
perfection.” {45b}  “No God and no human being, except an envious one, is
delighted by my impotence or my trouble, or esteems as any virtue in us
tears, sighs, fears, and other things of this kind, which are signs of
mental impotence; on the contrary, the greater the joy with which we are
affected, the greater the perfection to which we pass thereby; that is to
say, the more do we necessarily partake of the divine nature.” {46}  It
would be difficult to find an account of joy and sorrow which is closer
to the facts than that which Spinoza gives.  He lived amongst people
Roman Catholic and Protestant who worshipped sorrow.  Sorrow was the
divinely decreed law of life and joy was merely a permitted exception.
He reversed this order and his claim to be considered in this respect as
one of the great revolutionary religious and moral reformers has not been
sufficiently recognised.  It is remarkable that, unlike other reformers,
he has not contradicted error by an exaggeration, which itself very soon
stands in need of contradiction, but by simple sanity which requires no
correction.  One reason for this peculiarity is that the _Ethic_ was the
result of long meditation.  It was published posthumously and was
discussed in draft for many years before his death.  Usually what we call
our convictions are propositions which we have not thoroughly examined in
quietude, but notions which have just come into our heads and are
irreversible to us solely because we are committed to them.  Much may be
urged against the _Ethic_ and on behalf of hatred, contempt, and sorrow.
The “other side” may be produced mechanically to almost every truth; the
more easily, the more divine that truth is, and against no truths is it
producible with less genuine mental effort than against those uttered by
the founder of Christianity.  The question, however, if we are dealing
with the New Testament, is not whether the Sermon on the Mount can be
turned inside out in a debating society, but whether it does not
represent better than anything which the clever leader of the opposition
can formulate the principle or temper which should govern our conduct.

There is a group of propositions in the last part of the _Ethic_, which,
although they are difficult, it may be well to notice, because they were
evidently regarded by Spinoza as helping him to the end he had in view.
The difficulty lies in a peculiar combination of religious ideas and
scientific form.  These propositions are the following:—{47}

    “The mind can cause all the affections of the body or the images of
    things to be related to the idea of God.”

    “He who clearly and distinctly understands himself and his affects
    loves God, and loves Him better the better he understands himself and
    his affects.”

    “This love to God above everything else ought to occupy the mind.”

    “God is free from passions, nor is He affected with any affect of joy
    or sorrow.”

    “No one can hate God.”

    “He who loves God cannot strive that God should love him in return.”

    “This love to God cannot be defiled either by the effect of envy or
    jealousy, but is the more strengthened the more people we imagine to
    be connected with God by the same bond of love.”

The proof of the first of these propositions, using language somewhat
different from that of the text, is as follows:—There is no affection of
the body of which the mind cannot form some clear and distinct
conception, that is to say, of everything perceived it is capable of
forming a clear and adequate idea, not exhaustive, as Spinoza is careful
to warn us, but an idea not distorted by our personality, and one which
is in accordance with the thing itself, adequate as far as it goes.
Newton’s perception that the moon perpetually falls to the earth by the
same numerical law under which a stone falls to it was an adequate
perception.  “Therefore,” continues the demonstration (quoting the
fifteenth proposition of the first part—“Whatever is, is in God, and
nothing can either be or be conceived without God”), “the mind can cause
all the affections of the body to be related to the idea of God.”
Spinoza, having arrived at his adequate idea thus takes a further step to
the idea of God.  What is perceived is not an isolated external
phenomenon.  It is a reality in God: it _is_ God: there is nothing more
to be thought or said of God than the affirmation of such realities as
these.  The “relation to the idea of God” means that in the affirmation
He is affirmed.  “Nothing,” that is to say, no reality “can be conceived
without God.”

But it is possible for the word “love” to be applied to the relationship
between man and God.  He who has a clear and adequate perception passes
to greater perfection, and therefore rejoices.  Joy, accompanied with the
idea of a cause, is love.  By the fourteenth proposition this joy is
accompanied by the idea of God as its cause, and therefore love to God
follows.  The demonstration seems formal, and we ask ourselves, What is
the actual emotion which Spinoza describes?  It is not new to him, for in
the _Short Treatise_, which is an early sketch for the _Ethic_, he thus
writes:—“Hence it follows incontrovertibly that it is knowledge which is
the cause of love, so that when we learn to know God in this way, we must
necessarily unite ourselves to Him, for He cannot be known, nor can he
reveal Himself, save as that which is supremely great and good.  In this
union alone, as we have already said, our happiness consists.  I do not
say that we must know Him adequately; but it is sufficient for us, in
order to be united with Him, to know Him in a measure, for the knowledge
we have of the body is not of such a kind that we can know it as it is or
perfectly; and yet what a union! what love!” {50}

Perhaps it may clear the ground a little if we observe that Spinoza often
avoids a negative by a positive statement.  Here he may intend to show us
what the love of God is not, that it is not what it is described in the
popular religion to be.  “The only love of God I know,” we may imagine
him saying, “thus arises.  The adequate perception is the keenest of
human joys for thereby I see God Himself.  That which I see is not a
thing or a person, but nevertheless what I feel towards it can be called
by no other name than love.  Although the object of this love is not
thing or person it is not indefinite, it is this only which is definite;
‘thing’ and ‘person’ are abstract and unreal.  There was a love to God in
Kepler’s heart when the three laws were revealed to him.  If it was not
love to God, what is love to Him?”

To the eighteenth proposition, “No one can hate God,” there is a scholium
which shows that the problem of pain which Spinoza has left unsolved must
have occurred to him.  “But some may object that if we understand God to
be the cause of all things, we do for that very reason consider Him to be
the cause of sorrow.  But I reply that in so far as we understand the
causes of sorrow, it ceases to be a passion (Prop. 3, pt. 5), that is to
say (Prop. 59, pt. 3) it ceases to be a sorrow; and therefore in so far
as we understand God to be the cause of sorrow do we rejoice.”  The third
proposition of the fifth part which he quotes merely proves that in so
far as we understand passion it ceases to be a passion.  He replies to
those “who ask why God has not created all men in such a manner that they
might be controlled by the dictates of reason alone,” {52} “Because to
Him material was not wanting for the creation of everything, from the
highest down to the very lowest grade of perfection; or, to speak more
properly, because the laws of His nature were so ample that they sufficed
for the production of everything which can be conceived by an infinite
intellect.”  Nevertheless of pain we have no explanation.  Pain is not
lessened by understanding it, nor is its mystery penetrated if we see
that to God material could not have been wanting for the creation of men
or animals who have to endure it all their lives.  But if Spinoza is
silent in the presence of pain, so also is every religion and philosophy
which the world has seen.  Silence is the only conclusion of the Book of
Job, and patient fortitude in the hope of future enlightenment is the
conclusion of Christianity.

It is a weak mistake, however, to put aside what religions and
philosophies tell us because it is insufficient.  To Job it is not
revealed why suffering is apportioned so unequally or why it exists, but
the answer of the Almighty from the whirlwind he cannot dispute, and
although Spinoza has nothing more to say about pain than he says in the
passages just quoted and was certainly not exempt from it himself, it may
be impossible that any man should hate God.

We now come to the final propositions of the _Ethic_, those in which
Spinoza declares his belief in the eternity of mind.  The twenty-second
and twenty-third propositions of the fifth part are as follows:—

    “In God, nevertheless, there necessarily exists an idea which
    expresses the essence of this or that human body under the form of

    “The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the body, but
    something of it remains which is eternal.”

The word “nevertheless” is a reference to the preceding proposition which
denies the continuity of memory or imagination excepting so long as the
body lasts.  The demonstration of the twenty-third proposition is not
easy to grasp, but the substance of it is that although the mind is the
idea of the body, that is to say, the mind is body as thought and body is
thought as extension, the mind, or essence of the body, is not completely
destroyed with the body.  It exists as an eternal idea, and by an eternal
necessity in God.  Here again we must not think of that personality which
is nothing better than a material notion, an image from the concrete
applied to mind, but we must cling fast to thought, to the thoughts which
alone makes us what we _are_, and these, says Spinoza, are in God and are
not to be defined by time.  They have always been and always will be.
The enunciation of the thirty-third proposition is, “The intellectual
love of God which arises from the third kind of knowledge is eternal.”
The “third kind of knowledge” is that intuitive science which “advances
from an adequate idea of the formal essence of certain attributes of God
to the adequate knowledge of the essence of things;” {54} “No love except
intellectual love is eternal,” {55a} and the scholium to this proposition
adds, “If we look at the common opinion of men, we shall see that they
are indeed conscious of the eternity of their minds, but they confound it
with duration, and attribute it to imagination or memory, which they
believe remain after death.”  The intellectual love of the mind towards
God is the very “love with which He loves Himself, not in so far as He is
infinite, but in so far as He can be manifested through the essence of
the human mind, considered under the form of eternity; that is to say,
the intellectual love of the mind towards God is part of the infinite
love with which God loves Himself.” {55b}  “Hence it follows that God, in
so far as He loves Himself, loves men, and consequently that the love of
God towards men and the intellectual love of the mind towards God are one
and the same thing.” {55c}  The more adequate ideas the mind forms “the
less it suffers from those affects which are evil, and the less it fears
death” because “the greater is that part which remains unharmed, and the
less consequently does it suffer from the affects.”  It is possible even
“for the human mind to be of such a nature that that part of it which we
have shown perishes with its body, in comparison with the part of it
which remains, is of no consequence.” {56a}

Spinoza, it is clear, holds that in some way—in what way he will not
venture to determine—the more our souls are possessed by the intellectual
love of God, the less is death to be dreaded, for the smaller is that
part of us which can die.  Three parallel passages may be appended.  One
will show that this was Spinoza’s belief from early years and the other
two that it is not peculiar to him.  “If the soul is united with some
other thing which is and remains unchangeable, it must also remain
unchangeable and permanent.” {56b}  “Further, this creative reason does
not at one time think, at another time not think [it thinks eternally]:
and when separated from the body it remains nothing but what it
essentially is: and thus it is alone immortal and eternal.  Of this
unceasing work of thought, however, we retain no memory, because this
reason is unaffected by its objects; whereas the receptive, passive
intellect (which is affected) is perishable, and can really think nothing
without the support of the creative intellect.” {57a}  The third
quotation is from a great philosophic writer, but one to whom perhaps we
should not turn for such a coincidence.  “I believe,” said Pantagruel,
“that all intellectual souls are exempt from the scissors of Atropos.
They are all immortal.” {57b}

I have not tried to write an essay on Spinoza, for in writing an essay
there is a temptation to a consistency and completeness which are
contributed by the writer and are not to be found in his subject.  The
warning must be reiterated that here as elsewhere we are too desirous,
both writers and readers, of clear definition where none is possible.  We
do not stop where the object of our contemplation stops for our eyes.
For my own part I must say that there is much in Spinoza which is beyond
me, much which I cannot _extend_, and much which, if it can be extended,
seems to involve contradiction.  But I have also found his works
productive beyond those of almost any man I know of that _acquiescentia
mentis_ which enables us to live.


SPINOZA denies the existence of the Devil, and says, in the _Short
Treatise_, that if he is the mere opposite of God and has nothing from
God, he is simply the Nothing.  But if a philosophical doctrine be true,
it does not follow that as it stands it is applicable to practical
problems.  For these a rule may have to be provided, which, although it
may not be inconsistent with the scientific theorem, differs from it in
form.  The Devil is not an invention of priests for priestly purposes,
nor is he merely a hypothesis to account for facts, but he has been
forced upon us in order that we may be able to deal with them.  Unless we
act as though there were an enemy to be resisted and chained, if we
fritter away differences of kind into differences of degree, we shall
make poor work of life.  Spinoza himself assumes that other commands than
God’s may be given to us, but that we are unhesitatingly to obey His and
His only.  “Ad fidem ergo catholicam,” he says, “ea solummodo pertinent,
quæ erga Deum _obedientia_ absolute ponit.”  Consciousness seems to
testify to the presence of two mortal foes within us—one Divine and the
other diabolic—and perhaps the strongest evidence is not the rebellion of
the passions, but the picturing and the mental processes which are almost
entirely beyond our control, and often greatly distress us.  We look down
upon them; they are not ours, and yet they are ours, and we cry out with
St. Paul against the law warring with the law of our minds.  Bunyan of
course knows the practical problem and the rule, and to him the Devil is
not merely the tempter to crimes, but the great Adversary.  In the _Holy
War_ the chosen regiments of Diabolus are the Doubters, and
notwithstanding their theologic names, they carried deadlier weapons than
the theologic doubters of to-day.  The captain over the Grace-doubters
was Captain Damnation; he over the Felicity-doubters was Captain
Past-hope, and his ancient-bearer was Mr. Despair.  The nature of the
Doubters is “to put a question upon every one of the truths of Emanuel,
and their country is called the Land of Doubting, and that land lieth off
and furthest remote to the north between the land of Darkness and that
called the Valley of the Shadow of Death.”  They are not children of the
sun, and although they are not sinners in the common sense of the word,
those that were caught in Mansoul were promptly executed.

There is nothing to be done but to fight and wait for the superior help
which will come if we do what we can.  Emanuel at first delayed his aid
in the great battle, and the first brunt was left to Captain Credence.
Presently, however, Emanuel appeared “with colours flying, trumpets
sounding, and the feet of his men scarce touched the ground; they hasted
with such celerity towards the captains that were engaged that . . .
there was not left so much as one Doubter alive, they lay spread upon the
ground dead men as one would spread dung on the land.”  The dead were
buried “lest the fumes and ill-favours that would arise from them might
infect the air and so annoy the famous town of Mansoul.”  But it will be
a fight to the end for Diabolus, and the lords of the pit escaped.

After Emanuel had finally occupied Mansoul he gave the citizens some
advice.  The policy of Diabolus was “to make of their castle a
warehouse.”  Emanuel made it a fortress and a palace, and garrisoned the
town.  “O my Mansoul,” he said, “nourish my captains; make not my
captains sick, O Mansoul.”


A NOTION, self-begotten in me, of the limitations of my friend is
answerable for the barrenness of my intercourse with him.  I set him down
as hard; I speak to him as if he were hard and from that which is hard in
myself.  Naturally I evoke only that which is hard, although there may be
fountains of tenderness in him of which I am altogether unaware.  It is
far better in conversation not to regulate it according to supposed
capacities or tempers, which are generally those of some fictitious
being, but to be simply ourselves.  We shall often find unexpected and
welcome response.

Our estimates of persons, unless they are frequently revived by personal
intercourse, are apt to alter insensibly and to become untrue.  They
acquire increased definiteness but they lose in comprehensiveness.

Especially is this true of those who are dead.  If I do not read a great
author for some time my mental abstract of him becomes summary and false.
I turn to him again, all summary judgments upon him become impossible,
and he partakes of infinitude.  Writers, and people who are in society
and talk much are apt to be satisfied with an algebraic symbol for a man
of note, and their work is done not with him but with _x_.


WE ought to let Time have his own way in the settlement of our disputes.
It is a commonplace how much he is able to do with some of our troubles,
such as loss of friends or wealth; but we do not sufficiently estimate
his power to help our arguments.  If I permit myself to dispute, I always
go beyond what is necessary for my purpose, and my continual iteration
and insistence do nothing but provoke opposition.  Much better would it
be simply to state my case and leave it.  To do more is not only to
distrust it, but to distrust that in my friend which is my best ally, and
will more surely assist me than all my vehemence.  Sometimes—nay,
often—it is better to say nothing, for there is a constant tendency in
Nature towards rectification, and her quiet protest and persuasiveness
are hindered by personal interference.  If anybody very dear to me were
to fall into any heresy of belief or of conduct, I am not sure that I
ought to rebuke him, and that he would not sooner be converted by
observing my silent respect for him than by preaching to him.


WE may talk about our troubles to those persons who can give us direct
help, but even in this case we ought as much as possible to come to a
provisional conclusion before consultation; to be perfectly clear to
ourselves within our own limits.  Some people have a foolish trick of
applying for aid before they have done anything whatever to aid
themselves, and in fact try to talk themselves into perspicuity.  The
only way in which they can think is by talking, and their speech
consequently is not the expression of opinion already and carefully
formed, but the manufacture of it.

We may also tell our troubles to those who are suffering if we can lessen
their own.  It may be a very great relief to them to know that others
have passed through trials equal to theirs and have survived.  There are
obscure, nervous diseases, hypochondriac fancies, almost uncontrollable
impulses, which terrify by their apparent singularity.  If we could
believe that they are common, the worst of the fear would vanish.

But, as a rule, we should be very careful for our own sake not to speak
much about what distresses us.  Expression is apt to carry with it
exaggeration, and this exaggerated form becomes henceforth that under
which we represent our miseries to ourselves, so that they are thereby
increased.  By reserve, on the other hand, they are diminished, for we
attach less importance to that which it was not worth while to mention.
Secrecy, in fact, may be our salvation.

It is injurious to be always treated as if something were the matter with
us.  It is health-giving to be dealt with as if we were healthy, and the
man who imagines his wits are failing becomes stronger and sounder by
being entrusted with a difficult problem than by all the assurances of a

They are poor creatures who are always craving for pity.  If we are sick,
let us prefer conversation upon any subject rather than upon ourselves.
Let it turn on matters that lie outside the dark chamber, upon the last
new discovery, or the last new idea.  So shall we seem still to be linked
to the living world.  By perpetually asking for sympathy an end is put to
real friendship.  The friend is afraid to intrude anything which has no
direct reference to the patient’s condition lest it should be thought
irrelevant.  No love even can long endure without complaint, silent it
may be, an invalid who is entirely self-centred; and what an agony it is
to know that we are tended simply as a duty by those who are nearest to
us, and that they will really be relieved when we have departed!  From
this torture we may be saved if we early apprentice ourselves to the art
of self-suppression and sternly apply the gag to eloquence upon our own
woes.  Nobody who really cares for us will mind waiting on us even to the
long-delayed last hour if we endure in fortitude.

There is no harm in confronting our disorders or misfortunes.  On the
contrary, the attempt is wholesome.  Much of what we dread is really due
to indistinctness of outline.  If we have the courage to say to
ourselves, What _is_ this thing, then? let the worst come to the worst,
and what then? we shall frequently find that after all it is not so
terrible.  What we have to do is to subdue tremulous, nervous, insane
fright.  Fright is often prior to an object; that is to say, the fright
comes first and something is invented or discovered to account for it.
There are certain states of body and mind which are productive of
objectless fright, and the most ridiculous thing in the world is able to
provoke it to activity.  It is perhaps not too much to say that any
calamity the moment it is apprehended by the reason alone loses nearly
all its power to disturb and unfix us.  The conclusions which are so
alarming are not those of the reason, but, to use Spinoza’s words, of the


FAITH is nobly seen when a man, standing like Columbus upon the shore
with a dark, stormy Atlantic before him, resolves to sail, and although
week after week no land be visible, still believes and still sails on;
but it is nobler when there is no America as the goal of our venture, but
something which is unsubstantial, as, for example, self-control and
self-purification.  It is curious, by the way, that discipline of this
kind should almost have disappeared.  Possibly it is because religion is
now a matter of belief in certain propositions; but, whatever the cause
may be, we do not train ourselves day by day to become better as we train
ourselves to learn languages or science.  To return from this
parenthesis, we say that when no applause nor even recognition is
expected, to proceed steadily and alone for its own sake in the work of
saving the soul is truer heroism than that which leads a martyr
cheerfully to the stake.

Faith is at its best when we have to wrestle with despair, not only of
ourselves but of the Universe; when we strain our eyes and see nothing
but blackness.  In the _Gorgias_ Socrates maintains, not only that it is
always better to suffer injustice than to commit it, but that it is
better to be punished for injustice than to escape, and better to die
than to do wrong; and it is better not only because of the effect on
others but for our own sake.  We are naturally led to ask what support a
righteous man unjustly condemned could find, supposing he were about to
be executed, if he had no faith in personal immortality and knew that his
martyrdom could not have the least effect for good.  Imagine him, for
example, shut up in a dungeon and about to be strangled in it and that
not a single inquiry will be made about him—where will he look for help?
what hope will compose him?  He may say that in a few hours he will be
asleep, and that nothing will then be of any consequence to him, but that
thought surely will hardly content him.  He may reflect that he at least
prevents the evil which would be produced by his apostasy; and very
frequently in life, when we abstain from doing wrong, we have to be
satisfied with a negative result and with the simple absence (which
nobody notices) of some direct mischief, although the abstention may cost
more than positive well-doing.  This too, however, is but cold
consolation when the cord is brought and the grave is already dug.

It must be admitted that Reason cannot give any answer.  Socrates, when
his reasoning comes to an end, often permits himself to tell a story.
“My dialectic,” he seems to say, “is of no further use; but here is a
tale for you,” and as he goes on with it we can see his satyr eyes gleam
with an intensity which shows that he did not consider he was inventing a
mere fable.  That was the way in which he taught theology.  Perhaps we
may find that something less than logic and more than a dream may be of
use to us.  We may figure to ourselves that this universe of souls is the
manifold expression of the One, and that in this expression there is a
purpose which gives importance to all the means of which it avails
itself.  Apparent failure may therefore be a success, for the mind which
has been developed into perfect virtue falls back into the One, having
served (by its achievements) the end of its existence.  The potential in
the One has become actual, has become real, and the One is the richer


WHAT is most to be envied in really religious people of the earlier type
is their intellectual and moral peace.  They had obtained certain
convictions, a certain conception of the Universe, by which they could
live.  Their horizon may have been encompassed with darkness; experience
sometimes contradicted their faith, but they trusted—nay, they knew—that
the opposition was not real and that the truths were not to be shaken.
Their conduct was marked by a corresponding unity.  They determined once
for all that there were rules which had to be obeyed, and when any
particular case arose it was not judged according to the caprice of the
moment, but by statute.

We, on the other hand, can only doubt.  So far as those subjects are
concerned on which we are most anxious to be informed, we are sure of
nothing.  What we have to do is to accept the facts and wait.  We must
take care not to deny beauty and love because we are forced also to admit
ugliness and hatred.  Let us yield ourselves up utterly to the
magnificence and tenderness of the sunrise, though the East End of London
lies over the horizon.  That very same Power, and it is no other, which
blasts a country with the cholera or drives the best of us to madness has
put the smile in a child’s face and is the parent of Love.  It is
curious, too, that the curse seems in no way to qualify the blessing.
The sweetness and majesty of Nature are so exquisite, so pure, that when
they are before us we cannot imagine they could be better if they
proceeded from an omnipotently merciful Being and no pestilence had ever
been known.  We must not worry ourselves with attempts at reconciliation.
We must be satisfied with a hint here and there, with a ray of sunshine
at our feet, and we must do what we can to make the best of what we
possess.  Hints and sunshine will not be wanting, and science, which was
once considered to be the enemy of religion, is dissolving by its later
discoveries the old gross materialism, the source of so much despair.

The conduct of life is more important than speculation, but the lives of
most of us are regulated by no principle whatever.  We read our Bible,
Thomas à Kempis, and Bunyan, and we are persuaded that our salvation lies
in the perpetual struggle of the higher against the lower self, the
spirit against the flesh, and that the success of the flesh is damnation.
We take down Horace and Rabelais and we admit that the body also has its
claims.  We have no power to dominate both sets of books, and
consequently they supersede one another alternately.  Perhaps life is too
large for any code we can as yet frame, and the dissolution of all codes,
the fluid, unstable condition of which we complain, may be a necessary
antecedent of new and more lasting combinations.  One thing is certain,
that there is not a single code now in existence which is not false; that
the graduation of the vices and virtues is wrong, and that in the future
it will be altered.  We must not hand ourselves over to a despotism with
no Divine right, even if there be a risk of anarchy.  In the
determination of our own action, and in our criticism of other people, we
must use the whole of ourselves and not mere fragments.  If we do this we
need not fear.  We may suppose we are in danger because the stone tables
of the Decalogue have gone to dust, but it is more dangerous to attempt
to control men by fictions.  Better no chart whatever than one which
shows no actually existing perils, but warns us against Scylla,
Charybdis, and the Cyclops.  If we are perfectly honest with ourselves we
shall not find it difficult to settle whether we ought to do this or that
particular thing, and we may be content.  The new legislation will come
naturally at the appointed time, and it is not impossible to live while
it is on the way.


IN these latter days of anarchy and tumult, when there is no gospel of
faith or morals, when democracy seems bent on falsifying every prediction
of earlier democratic enthusiasts by developing worse dangers to liberty
than any which our forefathers had to encounter, and when the misery of
cities is so great, it appears absurd, not to say wrong, that we should
sit still and read books.  I am ashamed when I go into my own little room
and open Milton or Shakespeare after looking at a newspaper or walking
through the streets of London.  I feel that Milton and Shakespeare are
luxuries, and that I really belong to the class which builds palaces for
its pleasure, although men and women may be starving on the roads.

Nevertheless, if I were placed on a platform I should be obliged to say,
“My brethren, I plainly perceive the world is all wrong, but I cannot see
how it is to be set right,” and I should descend the steps and go home.
There may be others who have a clearer perception than mine, and who may
be convinced that this way or that way lies regeneration.  I do not wish
to discourage them; I wish them God-speed, but I cannot help them nor
become their disciple.  Possibly I am doing nothing better than devising
excuses for lotus-eating, but here they are.

To take up something merely because I am idle is useless.  The message
must come to me, and with such urgency that I cannot help delivering it.
Nor is it of any use to attempt to give my natural thoughts a force which
is not inherent in them.

The disease is often obvious, but the remedies are doubtful.  The
accumulation of wealth in a few hands, generally by swindling, is
shocking, but if it were distributed to-morrow we should gain nothing.
The working man objects to the millionaire, but would gladly become a
millionaire himself, even if his million could be piled up in no other
way than by sweating thousands of his fellows.  The usurpation of
government by the ignorant will bring disaster, but how in these days
could a wise man reign any longer than ignorance permitted him?  The
everlasting veerings of the majority, without any reason meanwhile for
the change, show that, except on rare occasions of excitement, the
opinion of the voters is of no significance.  But when we are asked what
substitute for elections can be proposed, none can be found.  So with the
relationship between man and woman, the marriage laws and divorce.  The
calculus has not been invented which can deal with such complexities.  We
are in the same position as that in which Leverrier and Adams would have
been, if, observing the irregularities of Uranus, which led to the
discovery of Neptune, they had known nothing but the first six books of
Euclid and a little algebra.

There has never been any reformation as yet without dogma and
supernaturalism.  Ordinary people acknowledge no real reasons for virtue
except heaven and hell-fire.  When heaven and hell-fire cease to
persuade, custom for a while is partly efficacious, but its strength soon
decays.  Some good men, knowing the uselessness of rational means to
convert or to sustain their fellows, have clung to dogma with hysterical
energy, but without any genuine faith in it.  They have failed, for dogma
cannot be successful unless it be the _inevitable_ expression of the
inward conviction.

The voices now are so many and so contradictory that it is impossible to
hear any one of them distinctly, no matter what its claim on our
attention may be.  The newspaper, the circulating library, the free
library, and the magazine are doing their best to prevent unity of
direction and the din and confusion of tongues beget a doubt whether
literature and the printing press have actually been such a blessing to
the race as enlightenment universally proclaims them to be.

The great currents of human destiny seem more than ever to move by forces
which tend to no particular point.  There is a drift, tremendous and
overpowering, due to nobody in particular, but to hundreds of millions of
small impulses.  Achilles is dead, and the turn of the Myrmidons has

    “Myrmdons, race féconde
    Enfin nous commandons:
    Jupiter livre le monde
    Aux Myrmidons, aux Myrmidons.

    Voyant qu’ Achille succombe,
    Ses Myrmidons, hors des rangs,
    Disent: Dansons sur sa tombe
    Ses petits vont être grands.”

My last defence is that the Universe is an organic unity, and so subtle
and far-reaching are the invisible threads which pass from one part of it
to another that it is impossible to limit the effect which even an
insignificant life may have.  “Were a single dust-atom destroyed, the
universe would collapse.”

                “ . . . who of men can tell
    That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
    To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,
    The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,
    The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,
    The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,
    Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet
    If human souls did never kiss and greet?”


TRUE belief is rare and difficult.  There is no security that the
fictitious beliefs which have been obtained by no genuine mental process,
that is to say, are not vitally held, may not be discarded for those
which are exactly contrary.  We flatter ourselves that we have secured a
method and freedom of thought which will not permit us to be the victims
of the absurdities of the Middle Ages, but, in fact, there is no solid
obstacle to our conversion to some new grotesque religion more miraculous
than Roman Catholicism.  Modern scepticism, distinguishing it from
scholarly scepticism, is nothing but stupidity or weakness.  Few people
like to confess outright that they do not believe in a God, although the
belief in a personal devil is considered to be a sign of imbecility.
Nevertheless, men, as a rule, have no ground for believing in God a whit
more respectable than for disbelief in a devil.  The devil is not seen
nor is God seen.  The work of the devil is as obvious as that of God.
Nay, as the devil is a limited personality, belief in him is not
encumbered with the perplexities which arise when we attempt to apprehend
the infinite Being.  Belief may often be tested; that is to say, we may
be able to discover whether it is an active belief or not by inquiring
what disbelief it involves.  So also the test of disbelief is its
correspondent belief.

Superstition is a name generally given to a few only of those beliefs for
which it is imagined that there is no sufficient support, such as the
belief in ghosts, witches, and, if we are Protestants, in miracles
performed after a certain date.  Why these particular beliefs have been
selected as solely deserving to be called superstitious it is not easy to
discover.  If the name is to be extended to all beliefs which we have not
attempted to verify, it must include the largest part of those we
possess.  We vote at elections as we are told to vote by the newspaper
which we happen to read, and our opinions upon a particular policy are
based upon no surer foundation than those of the Papist on the
authenticity of the lives of the Saints.

Superstition is a matter of _relative_ evidence.  A thousand years ago it
was not so easy as it is now to obtain rigid demonstration in any
department except mathematics.  Much that was necessarily the basis of
action was as incapable of proof as the story of St. George and the
Dragon, and consequently it is hardly fair to say that the dark ages were
more superstitious than our own.  Nor does every belief, even in
supernatural objects, deserve the name of superstition.  Suppose that the
light which struck down St. Paul on his journey to Damascus was due to
his own imagination, the belief that it came from Jesus enthroned in the
heavens was a sign of strength and not of weakness.  Beliefs of this
kind, in so far as they exalt man, prove greatness and generosity, and
may be truer than the scepticism which is formally justified in rejecting
them.  If Christ never rose from the dead, the women who waited at the
sepulchre were nearer to reality than the Sadducees, who denied the

There is a half-belief, which we find in Virgil that is not superstition,
nor inconstancy, nor cowardice.  A child-like faith in the old creed is
no longer possible, but it is equally impossible to surrender it.  I
refer now not to those who select from it what they think to be in
accordance with their reason, and throw overboard the remainder with no
remorse, but rather to those who cannot endure to touch with sacrilegious
hands the ancient histories and doctrines which have been the
depositaries of so much that is eternal, and who dread lest with the
destruction of a story something precious should also be destroyed.  The
so-called superstitious ages were not merely transitionary.  Our regret
that they have departed is to be explained not by a mere idealisation of
the past, but by a conviction that truths have been lost, or at least
have been submerged.  Perhaps some day they may be recovered, and in some
other form may again become our religion.


JUDAS ISCARIOT has become to Christian people an object of horror more
loathsome than even the devil himself.  The devil rebelled because he
could not brook subjection to the Son of God, a failing which was noble
compared with treachery to the Son of man.  The hatred of Judas is not
altogether virtuous.  We compound thereby for our neglect of Jesus and
His precepts: it is easier to establish our Christianity by cursing the
wretched servant than by following his Master.  The heinousness also of
the crime in Gethsemane has been aggravated by the exaltation of Jesus to
the Redeemership of the world.  All that can be known of Judas is soon
collected.  He was chosen one of the twelve apostles, and received their
high commission to preach the kingdom of heaven, to heal the sick, raise
the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out devils.  He was appointed
treasurer to the community.  John in telling the story of the anointing
at Bethany says that he was a thief, but John also makes him the sole
objector to the waste of the ointment.  According to the other
evangelists all the disciples objected.  Since he remained in office it
could hardly have been known at the time of the visit to Bethany that he
was dishonest, nor could it have been known at any time to Matthew and
Mark, for they would not have lost the opportunity of adding such a touch
to the portrait.  The probability, therefore, is that the robbery of the
bag is unhistorical.  When the chief priests and scribes sought how they
might apprehend Jesus they made a bargain with Judas to deliver Him to
them for thirty pieces of silver.  He was present at the Last Supper but
went and betrayed his Lord.  A few hours afterwards, when he found out
that condemnation to death followed, he repented himself and brought
again the thirty pieces of silver to his employers, declared that he had
sinned in betraying innocent blood, cast down the money at their feet,
and went and hanged himself.

This is all that is discoverable about Judas, and it has been considered
sufficient for a damnation deeper than any allotted to the worst of the
sons of Adam.  Dante places him in the lowest round of the ninth or last
of the hellish circles, where he is eternally “champed” by Satan,
“bruised as with ponderous engine,” his head within the diabolic jaws and
“plying the feet without.”  In the absence of a biography with details,
it is impossible to make out with accuracy what the real Judas was.  We
can, however, by dispassionate examination of the facts determine their
sole import, and if we indulge in inferences we can deduce those which
are fairly probable.  As Judas was treasurer, he must have been trusted.
He could hardly have been naturally covetous, for he had given up in
common with the other disciples much, if not all, to follow Jesus.  The
thirty pieces of silver—some four or five pounds of our money—could not
have been considered by him as a sufficient bribe for the ignominy of a
treason which was to end in legal murder.  He ought perhaps to have been
able to measure the ferocity of an established ecclesiastical order and
to have known what would have been the consequence of handing over to it
perfect, and therefore heretical, sincerity and purity, but there is no
evidence that he did know: nay, we are distinctly informed, as we have
just seen, that when he became aware what was going to happen his sorrow
for his wicked deed took a very practical shape.

We cannot allege with confidence that it was any permanent loss of
personal attachment to Jesus which brought about his defection.  It came
when the belief in a theocracy near at hand filled the minds of the
disciples.  These ignorant Galilean fishermen expected that in a very
short time they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of
Israel.  The custodian of the bag, gifted with more common sense than his
colleagues, probably foresaw the danger of a collision with Rome, and may
have desired by a timely arrest to prevent an open revolt, which would
have meant immediate destruction of the whole band with women and
children.  Can any position be imagined more irritating that that of a
careful man of business who is keeper of the purse for a company of
heedless enthusiasts professing complete indifference to the value of
money, misunderstanding the genius of their chief, and looking out every
morning for some sign in the clouds, a prophecy of their immediate
appointment as vicegerents of a power that would supersede the awful
majesty of the Imperial city?  He may have been heated by a long series
of petty annoyances to such a degree that at last they may have ended in
rage and a sudden flinging loose of himself from the society.  It is the
impulsive man who frequently suffers what appears to be inversion, and
Judas was impulsive exceedingly.  Matthew, and Matthew only, says that
Judas asked for money from the chief priests.  “What will ye give me, and
I will deliver Him unto you?”  According to Mark, whose account of the
transaction is the same as Luke’s, “Judas . . . went unto the chief
priests to betray Him unto them.  And when they heard it, they were glad,
and promised to give him money.”  If the priests were the tempters, a
slight difference is established in favour of Judas, but this we will
neglect.  The sin of taking money and joining in that last meal in any
case is black enough, although, as we have before pointed out, Judas did
not at the time know what the other side of the bargain was.  Admitting,
however, everything that can fairly be urged against him, all that can be
affirmed with certainty is that we are in the presence of strange and
unaccountable inconsistency, and that an apostle who had abandoned his
home, who had followed Jesus for three years amidst contempt and
persecution, and who at last slew himself in self-reproach, could be
capable of committing the meanest of sins.  Is the co-existence of
irreconcilable opposites in human nature anything new?  The story of
Judas may be of some value if it reminds us that man is incalculable, and
that, although in theory, and no doubt in reality, he is a unity, the
point from which the divergent forces in him rise is often infinitely
beyond our exploration; a lesson not merely in psychology but for our own
guidance, a warning that side by side with heroic virtues there may sleep
in us not only detestable vices, but vices by which those virtues are
contradicted and even for the time annihilated.  The mode of betrayal,
with a kiss, has justly excited loathing, but it is totally
unintelligible.  Why should he have taken the trouble to be so base when
the movement of a finger would have sufficed?  Why was any sign necessary
to indicate one who was so well known?  The supposition that the devil
compelled him to superfluous villainy in order that he might be secured
with greater certainty and tortured with greater subtlety is one that can
hardly be entertained except by theologians.  It is equally difficult to
understand why Jesus submitted to such an insult, and why Peter should
not have smitten down its perpetrator.  Peter was able to draw his sword,
and it would have been safer and more natural to kill Judas than to cut
off the ear of the high priest’s servant.  John, who shows a special
dislike to Judas, knows nothing of the kiss.  According to John, Jesus
asked the soldiers whom they sought, and then stepped boldly forward and
declared Himself.  “Judas,” adds John, “was standing with them.”  As John
took such particular notice of what happened, the absence of the kiss in
his account can hardly have been accidental.  It is a sound maxim in
criticism that what is simply difficult of explanation is likely to be
authentic.  An awkward reading in a manuscript is to be preferred to one
which is easier.  But an historical improbability, especially if no
corroboration of it is to be found in a better authority, may be set
aside, and in this case we are justified in neglecting the kiss.
Whatever may have been the exact shade of darkness in the crime of Judas,
it was avenged with singular swiftness, and he himself was the avenger.
He did not slink away quietly and poison himself in a ditch.  He boldly
encountered the sacred college, confessed his sin and the innocence of
the man they were about to crucify.  Compared with these pious miscreants
who had no scruples about corrupting one of the disciples, but shuddered
at the thought of putting back into the treasury the money they had taken
from it, Judas becomes noble.  His remorse is so unendurable that it
drives him to suicide.

If a record could be kept of those who have abjured Jesus through love of
gold, through fear of the world or of the scribes and Pharisees, we
should find many who are considered quite respectable, or have even been
canonised, and who, nevertheless, much more worthily than Iscariot, are
entitled to “champing” by the jaws of Sathanas.  Not a single scrap from
Judas himself has reached us.  He underwent no trial, and is condemned
without plea or excuse on his own behalf, and with no cross-examination
of the evidence.  No witnesses have been called to his character.  What
would his friends at Kerioth have said for him?  What would Jesus have
said?  If He had met Judas with the halter in his hand would He not have
stopped him?  Ah!  I can see the Divine touch on the shoulder, the
passionate prostration of the repentant in the dust, the hands gently
lifting him, the forgiveness because he knew not what he did, and the
seal of a kiss indeed from the sacred lips.


THE supernatural machinery in Sir Walter Scott’s _Monastery_ is generally
and, no doubt, correctly, set down as a mistake.  Sir Walter fails, not
because the White Lady of Avenel is a miracle, but because being
miraculous, she is made to do what sometimes is not worthy of her.  This,
however, is not always true, for nothing can be finer than the change in
Halbert Glendinning after he has seen the spirit, and the great master
himself has never drawn a nobler stroke than that in which he describes
the effect which intercourse with her has had upon Mary.  Halbert, on the
morning of the duel between himself and Sir Piercie Shafton, is trying to
persuade her that he intends no harm, and that he and Sir Piercie are
going on a hunting expedition.  “Say not thus,” said the maiden,
interrupting him, “say not thus to me.  Others thou may’st deceive, but
me thou can’st not.  There has been that in me from the earliest youth
which fraud flies from, and which imposture cannot deceive.”  The
transforming influence of the Lady is here just what it should be, and
the consequence is that she becomes a reality.

But it is in the _Bride of Lammermoor_ more particularly that the use of
the supernatural is not only blameless but indispensable.  We begin to
rise to it in that scene in which the Master of Ravenswood meets Alice.
“Begone from among them,” she says, “and if God has destined vengeance on
the oppressor’s house, do not you be the instrument. . . .  If you remain
here, her destruction or yours, or that of both, will be the inevitable
consequence of her misplaced attachment.”  A little further on, with
great art, Scott having duly prepared us by what has preceded, adds
intensity and colour.  He apologises for the “tinge of superstition,”
but, not believing, he evidently believes, and we justly surrender
ourselves to him.  The Master of Ravenswood after the insult received
from Lady Ashton wanders round the Mermaiden’s Well on his way to Wolf’s
Crag and sees the wraith of Alice.  Scott makes horse as well as man
afraid so that we may not immediately dismiss the apparition as a mere
ordinary product of excitement.  Alice at that moment was dying, and had
“prayed powerfully that she might see her master’s son and renew her
warning.”  Observe the difference between this and any vulgar ghost
story.  From the very first we feel that the Superior Powers are against
this match, and that it will be cursed.  The beginning of the curse lies
far back in the hereditary temper of the Ravenswoods, in the intrigues of
the Ashtons, and in the feuds of the times.  When Love intervenes we
discover in an instant that he is not sent by the gods to bring peace,
but that he is the awful instrument of destruction.  The spectral
appearance of Alice at the hour of her departure, on the very spot “on
which Lucy Ashton had reclined listening to the fatal tale of woe . . .
holding up her shrivelled hand as if to prevent his coming more near,” is
necessary in order to intimate that the interdict is pronounced not by a
mortal human being but by a dread, supernal authority.


THE year 1798 was a year of great excitement: England was alone in the
struggle against Buonaparte; the mutiny at the Nore had only just been
quelled: the 3 per cent. Consols had been marked at 49 or 50; the
Gazettes were occupied with accounts of bloody captures of French ships;
Ireland may be said to have been in rebellion, and horrible murders were
committed there; the King sent a message to Parliament telling it that an
invasion might be expected and that it was to be assisted by
“incendiaries” at home; and the Archbishop of Canterbury and eleven
bishops passed a resolution declaring that if the French should land, or
a dangerous insurrection should break out, it would be the duty of the
clergy to take up arms against an enemy whom the Bishop of Rochester
described as “instigated by that desperate malignity against the Faith he
has abandoned, which in all ages has marked the horrible character of the
vile apostate.”

In the midst of this raving political excitement three human beings were
to be found who although they were certainly not unmoved by it, were able
to detach themselves from it when they pleased, and to seclude themselves
in a privacy impenetrable even to an echo of the tumult around them.

In April or May, 1798, the _Nightingale_ was written, and these are the
sights and sounds which were then in young Coleridge’s eyes and ears:—

    “No cloud, no relique of the sunken day
    Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
    Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues.
    Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge!
    You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
    But hear no murmuring: it flows silently,
    O’er its soft bed of verdure.  All is still,
    A balmy night! and tho’ the stars be dim,
    Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
    That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
    A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.”

We happen also to have Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal for April and May.
Here are a few extracts from it:—

    April 6th.—“Went a part of the way home with Coleridge. . . .  The
    spring still advancing very slowly.  The horse-chestnuts budding, and
    the hedgerows beginning to look green, but nothing fully expanded.”

    April 9th.—“Walked to Stowey . . . The sloe in blossom, the hawthorns
    green, the larches in the park changed from black to green in two or
    three days.  Met Coleridge in returning.”

    April 12th.—“ . . .  The spring advances rapidly, multitudes of
    primroses, dog-violets, periwinkles, stitchwort.”

    April 27th.—“Coleridge breakfasted and drank tea, strolled in the
    wood in the morning, went with him in the evening through the wood,
    afterwards walked on the hills: the moon; a many-coloured sea and

    May 6th, Sunday.—“Expected the painter {101} and Coleridge.  A rainy
    morning—very pleasant in the evening.  Met Coleridge as we were
    walking out.  Went with him to Stowey; heard the nightingale; saw a

What was it which these three young people (for Dorothy certainly must be
included as one of its authors) proposed to achieve by their book?
Coleridge, in the _Biographia Literaria_, says (vol. ii. c. 1): “During
the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our
conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the
power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to
the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by
the modifying colours of imagination.  The sudden charm, which accidents
of light and shade, which moonlight or sunset diffused over a known and
familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining
both.  These are the poetry of nature.  The thought suggested itself—(to
which of us I do not recollect)—that a series of poems might be composed
of two sorts.  In the one, the agents and incidents were to be, in part
at least, supernatural; and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the
interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions, as
would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real.  And real
in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever
source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural
agency.  For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary
life; the characters and incidents were to be such as will be found in
every village and its vicinity, where there is a meditative and feeling
mind to seek after them, or to notice them, when they present themselves.

    “In this idea originated the plan of the LYRICAL BALLADS; in which it
    was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and
    characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer
    from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth
    sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing
    suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic
    faith.  Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself
    as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of everyday and
    to excite a feeling _analogous to the supernatural_, {103} by
    awakening the mind’s attention to the lethargy of custom, and
    directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before
    us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for which, in consequence of the
    film of familiarity and selfish solicitude we have eyes, yet see not,
    ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand.

    “With this view I wrote THE ANCIENT MARINER, and was preparing, among
    other poems, THE DARK LADIE and the CHRISTABEL, in which I should
    have more nearly have realised my ideal, than I had done in my first

Coleridge, when he wrote to Cottle offering him the _Lyrical Ballads_,
affirms that “the volumes offered to you are, to a certain degree, _one
work in kind_” {104a} (_Reminiscences_, p. 179); and Wordsworth declares,
“I should not, however, have requested this assistance, had I not
believed that the poems of my Friend would in a great measure _have the
same tendency as my own_, {104b} and that though there would be found a
difference, there would be found no discordance in the colours of our
style; as our opinions on the subject of poetry do almost entirely
coincide” (Preface to _Lyrical Ballads_, 1800).

It is a point carefully to be borne in mind that we have the explicit and
contemporary authority of both poets that their aim was the same.

There are difficulties in the way of believing that _The Ancient Mariner_
was written for the _Lyrical Ballads_.  It was planned in 1797 and was
originally intended for a magazine.  Nevertheless, it may be asserted
that the purpose of _The Ancient Mariner_ and of _Christabel_ (which was
originally intended for the _Ballads_) was, as their author said,
_truth_, living truth.  He was the last man in the world to care for a
story simply as a chain of events with no significance, and in these
poems the supernatural, by interpenetration with human emotions, comes
closer to us than an event of daily life.  In return the emotions
themselves, by means of the supernatural expression, gain intensity.  The
texture is so subtly interwoven that it is difficult to illustrate the
point by example, but take the following lines:—

    “Alone, alone, all, all alone,
    Alone on a wide wide sea!
    And never a saint took pity on
    My soul in agony.

    The many men, so beautiful!
    And they all dead did lie:
    And a thousand thousand slimy things
    Lived on; and so did I.

                                   * * * *

    The self-same moment I could pray:
    And from my neck so free
    The Albatross fell off, and sank
    Like lead into the sea.

                                   * * * *

    And the hay was white with silent light
    Till rising from the same,
    Full many shapes, that shadows were,
    In crimson colours came.

    A little distance from the prow
    Those crimson shadows were:
    I turned my eyes upon the deck—
    Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

    Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
    And, by the holy rood!
    A man all light, a seraph-man,
    On every corse there stood.”

Coleridge’s marginal gloss to these last stanzas is “The angelic spirits
leave the dead bodies, and appear in their own forms of light.”

Once more from _Christabel_:—

    “The maid, alas! her thoughts are gone,
    She nothing sees—no sight but one!
    The maid, devoid of guile and sin,
    I know not how, in fearful wise,
    So deeply had she drunken in
    That look, those shrunken serpent eyes,
    That all her features were resigned
    To this sole image in her mind:
    And passively did imitate
    That look of dull and treacherous hate.”

What Wordsworth intended we have already heard from Coleridge, and
Wordsworth confirms him.  It was, says the Preface of 1802, “to present
ordinary things to the mind in an unusual way.”  In Wordsworth the
miraculous inherent in the commonplace, but obscured by “the film of
familiarity,” is restored to it.  This translation is effected by the
imagination, which is not fancy nor dreaming, as Wordsworth is careful to
warn us, but that power by which we see things as they are.  The authors
of _The Ancient Mariner_ and _Simon Lee_ are justified in claiming a
common object.  It is to prove that the metaphysical in Shakespeare’s
sense of the word interpenetrates the physical, and serves to make us see
and feel it.

Poetry, if it is to be good for anything, must help us to live.  It is to
this we come at last in our criticism, and if it does not help us to live
it may as well disappear, no matter what its fine qualities may be.  The
help to live, however, that is most wanted is not remedies against great
sorrows.  The chief obstacle to the enjoyment of life is its dulness and
the weariness which invades us because there is nothing to be seen or
done of any particular value.  If the supernatural becomes natural and
the natural becomes supernatural, the world regains its splendour and
charm.  Lines may be drawn from their predecessors to Coleridge and the
Wordsworths, but the work they did was distinctly original, and renewed
proof was given of the folly of despair even when fertility seems to be
exhausted.  There is always a hidden conduit open into an unknown region
whence at any moment streams may rush and renew the desert with foliage
and flowers.

The reviews which followed the publication of the _Lyrical Ballads_ were
nearly all unfavourable.  Even Southey discovered nothing in _The Ancient
Mariner_ but “a Dutch attempt at German sublimity.”  A certain learned
pig thought it “the strangest story of a cock and bull that he ever saw
on paper,” and not a single critic, not even the one or two who had any
praise to offer, discerned the secret of the book.  The publisher was so
alarmed that he hastily sold his stock.  Nevertheless Coleridge,
Wordsworth, and his sister quietly went off to Germany without the least
disturbance of their faith, and the _Ballads_ are alive to this day.


MUCH of the criticism on Milton, if not hostile, is apologetic, and it is
considered quite correct to say we “do not care” for him.  Partly this
indifference is due to his Nonconformity.  The “superior” Englishman who
makes a jest of the doctrines and ministers of the Established Church
always pays homage to it because it is _respectable_, and sneers at
Dissent.  Another reason why Milton does not take his proper place is
that his theme is a theology which for most people is no longer vital.  A
religious poem if it is to be deeply felt must embody a living faith.
The great poems of antiquity are precious to us in proportion to our
acceptance, now, as fact, of what they tell us about heaven and earth.
There are only a few persons at present who perceive that in substance
the account which was given in the seventeenth century of the relation
between man and God is immortal and worthy of epic treatment.  A thousand
years hence a much better estimate of Milton will be possible than that
which can be formed to-day.  We attribute to him mechanic construction in
dead material because it is dead to ourselves.  Even Mr. Ruskin who was
far too great not to recognise in part at least Milton’s claims, says
that “Milton’s account of the most important event in his whole system of
the universe, the fall of the angels, is evidently unbelievable to
himself; and the more so, that it is wholly founded on, and in a great
part spoiled and degraded from, Hesiod’s account of the decisive war of
the younger gods with the Titans.  The rest of his poem is a picturesque
drama, in which every artifice of invention is visibly and consciously
employed; not a single fact being for an instant conceived as tenable by
any living faith” (_Sesame and Lilies_, section iii.).

Mr. Mark Pattison, quoting part of this passage, remarks with justice,
“on the contrary, we shall not rightly apprehend either the poetry or the
character of the poet until we feel that throughout _Paradise Lost_, as
in _Paradise Regained_ and _Samson_, Milton felt himself to be standing
on the sure ground of fact and reality” (_English Men of Letters_—Milton,
p. 186, ed. 1879).

St. Jude for ages had been sufficient authority for the angelic revolt,
and in a sense it was a reasonable dogma, for although it did not explain
the mystery of the origin of evil it pushed it a step further backwards,
and without such a revolt the Christian scheme does not well hold
together.  So also with the entrance of the devil into the serpent.  It
is not expressly taught in any passage of the canonical Scriptures, but
to the Church and to Milton it was as indisputable as the presence of sin
in the world.  Milton, I repeat, _believed_ in the framework of his poem,
and unless we can concede this to him we ought not to attempt to
criticise him.  He was impelled to turn his religion into poetry in order
to bring it closer to him.  The religion of every Christian if it is real
is a poem.  He pictures a background of Holy Land scenery, and he creates
a Jesus who continually converses with him and reveals to him much more
than is found in the fragmentary details of the Gospels.  When Milton
goes beyond his documents he does not imagine for the purpose of filling
up: the additions are expression.

Milton belonged to that order of poets whom the finite does not satisfy.
Like Wordsworth, but more eminently, he was “powerfully affected” only by
that “which is conversant with or turns upon infinity,” and man is to him
a being with such a relationship to infinity that Heaven and Hell contend
over him.  Every touch which sets forth the eternal glory of Heaven and
the scarcely subordinate power of Hell magnifies him.  Johnson, whose
judgment on Milton is unsatisfactory because he will not deliver himself
sufficiently to beauty which he must have recognised, nevertheless says
of the _Paradise Lost_, that “its end is to raise the thoughts above
sublunary cares,” and this is true.  The other great epic poems worthy to
be compared with Milton’s, the Iliad, Odyssey, Æneid, and Divine Comedy,
all agree in representing man as an object of the deepest solicitude to
the gods or God.  Milton’s conception of God is higher than Homer’s,
Virgil’s, or Dante’s, but the care of the Miltonic God for his offspring
is greater, and the profound truth unaffected by Copernican discoveries
and common to all these poets is therefore more impressive in Milton than
in the others.

There is nothing which the most gifted of men can create that is not
mixed up with earth, and Milton, too, works it up with his gold.  The
weakness of the _Paradise Lost_ is not, as Johnson affirms, its lack of
human interest, for the _Prometheus Bound_ has just as little, nor is
Johnson’s objection worth anything that the angels are sometimes
corporeal and at other times independent of material laws.  Spirits could
not be represented to a human mind unless they were in a measure subject
to the conditions of time and space.  The principal defect in _Paradise
Lost_ is the justification which the Almighty gives of the creation of
man with a liability to fall.  It would have been better if Milton had
contented himself with telling the story of the Satanic insurrection, of
its suppression, of its author’s revenge, of the expulsion from Paradise,
and the promise of a Redeemer.  But he wanted to “justify the ways of God
to man,” and in order to do this he thought it was necessary to show that
man must be endowed with freedom of will, and consequently could not be
directly preserved from yielding to the assaults of Satan.

_Paradise Regained_ comes, perhaps, closer to us than _Paradise Lost_
because its temptations are more nearly our own, and every amplification
which Milton introduces is designed to make them more completely ours
than they seem to be in the New Testament.  It has often been urged
against _Paradise Regained_ that Jesus recovered Paradise for man by the
Atonement and not merely by resistance to the devil’s wiles, but inasmuch
as Paradise was lost by the devil’s triumph through human weakness it is
natural that _Paradise Regained_ should present the triumph of the
Redeemer’s strength.  It is this victory which proves Jesus to be the Son
of God and consequently able to save us.

He who has now become incarnated for our redemption is that same Messiah
who, when He rode forth against the angelic rebels,

                “into terror chang’d
    His count’nance too severe to be beheld,
    And full of wrath bent on his enemies.”

It is He who

             “on his impious foes right onward drove,
    Gloomy as night:”

whose right hand grasped

             “ten thousand thunders, which he sent
    Before him, such as in their souls infix’d

                                                     (_P. L._ vi. 824–38.)

Now as Son of Man he is confronted with that same Archangel, and he
conquers by “strong sufferance.”  He comes with no fourfold visage of a
charioteer flashing thick flames, no eye which glares lightning, no
victory eagle-winged and quiver near her with three-bolted thunder
stored, but in “weakness,” and with this he is to “overcome satanic

Milton sees in the temptation to turn the stones into bread a devilish
incitement to use miraculous powers and not to trust the Heavenly Father.

    “Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust,
    Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?”

                                                       (_P. R._ i. 355–6.)

Finding his enemy steadfast, Satan disappears,

                         “bowing low
    His gray dissimulation,”

                                                       (_P. R._ i. 497–8.)

and calls to council his peers.  He disregards the proposal of Belial to
attempt the seduction of Jesus with women.  If he is vulnerable it will
be to objects

             “such as have more shew
    Of worth, of honour, glory, and popular praise,
    Rocks whereon greatest men have oftest wreck’d;
    Or that which only seems to satisfy
    Lawful desires of Nature, not beyond.”

                                                     (_P. R._ ii. 226–30.)

The former appeal is first of all renewed.  “Tell me,” says Satan,

             “‘if food were now before thee set
    Would’st thou not eat?’  ‘Thereafter as I like
    The giver,’ answered Jesus.”

                                                     (_P. R._ ii. 320–22.)

A banquet is laid, and Satan invites Jesus to partake of it.

    “What doubts the Son of God to sit and eat?
    These are not fruits forbidd’n.”

                                                      (_P. R._ ii. 368–9.)

But Jesus refuses to touch the devil’s meat—

    “Thy pompous delicacies I contemn,
    And count thy specious gifts no gifts, but guiles.”

                                                      (_P. R._ ii. 390–1.)

So they were, for at a word

    “Both table and provision vanish’d quite,
    With sound of harpies’ wings and talons heard.”

                                                      (_P. R._ ii. 402–3.)

If but one grain of that enchanted food had been eaten, or one drop of
that enchanted liquor had been drunk, there would have been no Cross, no
Resurrection, no salvation for humanity.

The temptation on the mountain is expanded by Milton through the close of
the second book, the whole of the third and part of the fourth.  It is a
temptation of peculiar strength because it is addressed to an aspiration
which Jesus has acknowledged.

             “Yet this not all
    To which my spirit aspir’d: victorious deeds
    Flam’d in my heart, heroic acts.”

                                                      (_P. R._ i. 214–16.)

But he denies that the glory of mob-applause is worth anything.

          “What is glory but the blaze of fame,
    The people’s praise, if always praise unmixt?
    And what the people but a herd confus’d,
    A miscellaneous rabble, who extol
    Things vulgar, and, well weigh’d, scarce worth the praise?”

                                                     (_P. R._ iii. 47–51.)

To the Jesus of the New Testament this answer is, in a measure,
inappropriate.  He would not have called the people “a herd confus’d, a
miscellaneous rabble.”  But although inappropriate it is Miltonic.  The
devil then tries the Saviour with a more subtle lure, an appeal to duty.

    “If kingdom move thee not, let move thee zeal
    And duty; zeal and duty are not slow;
    But on occasion’s forelock watchful wait.
    They themselves rather are occasion best,
    Zeal of thy father’s house, duty to free
    Thy country from her heathen servitude.”

                                                     (_P. R._ iii. 171–6.)

But zeal and duty, the endeavour to hurry that which cannot and must not
be hurried may be a suggestion from hell.

    “If of my reign prophetic writ hath told
    That it shall never end, so when begin
    The Father in His purpose hath decreed.”

                                                     (_P. R._ iii. 184–6.)

Acquiescence, a conviction of the uselessness of individual or organised
effort to anticipate what only slow evolution can bring, is
characteristic of increasing years, and was likely enough to be the
temper of Milton when he had seen the failure of the effort to make
actual on earth the kingdom of Heaven.  The temptation is developed in
such a way that every point supposed to be weak is attacked.  “You may be
what you claim to be,” insinuates the devil, “but are rustic.”

    “Thy life hath yet been private, most part spent
    At home, scarce view’d the Galilean towns,
    And once a year Jerusalem.”

                                                     (_P. R._ iii. 232–4.)

Experience and alliances are plausibly urged as indispensable for
success.  But Jesus knew that the sum total of a man’s power for good is
precisely what of good there is in him and that if it be expressed even
in the simplest form, all its strength is put forth and its office is
fulfilled.  To suppose that it can be augmented by machinery is a foolish
delusion.  The

             “projects deep
    Of enemies, of aids, battles and leagues,
    Plausible to the world”

                                                     (_P. R._ iii. 395–3.)

are to the Founder of the kingdom not of this world “worth naught.”
Another side of the mountain is tried.  Rome is presented with Tiberius
at Capreæ.  Could it possibly be anything but a noble deed to

          “expel this monster from his throne
    Now made a sty, and in his place ascending,
    A victor people free from servile yoke!”

                                                    (_P. R._ iv. 100–102.)

“_And with my help thou may’st_.”  With the devil’s help and not without
can this glorious revolution be achieved!  “For him,” is the Divine
reply, “I was not sent.”  The attack is then directly pressed.

    “The kingdoms of the world, to thee I give;
    For, giv’n to me, I give to whom I please,
    No trifle; yet with this reserve, not else,
    On this condition, if thou wilt fall down
    And worship me as thy superior lord.”

                                                      (_P. R._ iv. 163–7.)

This, then, is the drift and meaning of it all.  The answer is taken
verbally from the gospel.

             “‘Thou shalt worship
    The Lord thy God, and only Him shalt serve.’”

                                                      (_P. R._ iv. 176–7.)

That is to say, Thou shalt submit thyself to God’s commands and God’s
methods and thou shalt submit thyself to _no other_.

Omitting the Athenian and philosophic episode, which is unnecessary and a
little unworthy even of the Christian poet, we encounter not an
amplification of the Gospel story but an interpolation which is entirely
Milton’s own.  Night gathers and a new assault is delivered in darkness.
Jesus wakes in the storm which rages round Him.  The diabolic hostility
is open and avowed and He hears the howls and shrieks of the infernals.
He cannot banish them though He is so far master of Himself that He is
able to sit “unappall’d in calm and sinless peace.”  He has to endure the
hellish threats and tumult through the long black hours

             “till morning fair
    Came forth with pilgrim steps in amice gray,
    Who with her radiant finger still’d the roar
    Of thunder, chas’d the clouds, and laid the winds,
    And grisly spectres, which the Fiend had rais’d
    To tempt the Son of God with terrors dire.
    But now the sun with more effectual beams
    Had cheer’d the face of earth, and dri’d the wet
    From drooping plant, or dropping tree; the birds,
    Who all things now beheld more fresh and green,
    After a night of storm so ruinous,
    Clear’d up their choicest notes in bush and spray
    To gratulate the sweet return of morn.”

                                                     (_P. R._ iv. 426–38.)

There is nothing perhaps in _Paradise Lost_ which possesses the peculiar
quality of this passage, nothing which like these verses brings into the
eyes the tears which cannot be repressed when a profound experience is
set to music.

The temptation on the pinnacle occupies but a few lines only of the poem.
Hitherto Satan admits that Jesus had conquered, but he had done no more
than any wise and good man could do.

    “Now show thy progeny; if not to stand,
    Cast thyself down; safely, if Son of God;
    For it is written, ‘He will give command
    Concerning thee to His angels; in their hands
    They shall uplift thee, lest at any time
    Thou chance to dash thy foot against a stone.’”

                                                      (_P. R._ iv. 554–9.)

The promise of Divine aid is made in mockery.

    “To whom thus Jesus: ‘Also it is written,
    Tempt not the Lord thy God.’  He said, and stood:
    But Satan, smitten with amazement, fell.”

                                                      (_P. R._ iv. 560–2.)

It is not meant, “thou shalt not tempt _me_,” but rather, “it is not
permitted me to tempt God.”  In this extreme case Jesus depends on God’s
protection.  This is the devil’s final defeat and the seraphic company
for which our great Example had refused to ask instantly surrounds and
receives him.  Angelic quires

             “the Son of God, our Saviour meek,
    Sung victor, and from heavenly feast refresh’t,
    Brought on His way with joy; He unobserv’d,
    Home to His mother’s house private return’d.”

                                                      (_P. R._ iv. 636–9.)

Warton wished to expunge this passage, considering it an unworthy
conclusion.  It is to be hoped that there are many readers of Milton who
are able to see what is the value of these four lines, particularly of
the last.

It is hardly necessary to say more in order to show how peculiarly Milton
is endowed with that quality which is possessed by all great poets—the
power to keep in contact with the soul of man.


[This is an abstract of an essay four times as long written many years
ago.  Although so much has been struck out, the substance is unaltered,
and the conclusion is valid for the author now as then.]

BYRON above almost all other poets, at least in our day, has been set
down as immoral.  In reality he is moral, using the word in its proper
sense, and he is so, not only in detached passages, but in the general
drift of most of his poetry.  We will take as an example “The Corsair.”

Conrad is not a debauched buccaneer.  He was not—

                   “by Nature sent
    To lead the guilty—guilt’s worst instrument.”

He had been betrayed by misplaced confidence.

    “Doom’d by his very virtues for a dupe,
    He cursed those virtues as the cause of ill,
    And not the traitors who betray’d him still;
    Nor deem’d that gifts bestow’d on better men
    Had left him joy, and means to give again,
    Fear’d—shunn’d—belied—ere youth had lost her force,
    He hated man too much to feel remorse,
    And thought the voice of wrath a sacred call,
    To pay the injuries of some on all.”

Conrad was not, and could not be, mean and selfish.  A selfish Conrad
would be an absurdity.  His motives are not gross—

          “he shuns the grosser joys of sense,
    His mind seems nourished by that abstinence.”

He is protected by a charm against undistinguishing lust—

    “Though fairest captives daily met his eye,
    He shunn’d, nor sought, but coldly pass’d them by;”

and even Gulnare, his deliverer, fails to seduce him.

Mr. Ruskin observes that Byron makes much of courage.  It is Conrad, the
leader, who undertakes the dangerous errand of surprising Seyd; it is he
who determines to save the harem.  His courage is not the mere excitement
of battle.  When he is captured—

    “A conqueror’s more than captive’s air is seen,”

and he is not insensible to all fear.

    “Each has some fear, and he who least betrays,
    The only hypocrite deserving praise.

                                  * * * * *

    One thought alone he could not—dared not meet—
    ‘Oh, how these tidings will Medora greet?’”

Gulnare announces his doom to him, but he is calm.  He cannot stoop even
to pray.  He has deserted his Maker, and it would be baseness now to
prostrate himself before Him.

    “I have no thought to mock his throne with prayer
    Wrung from the coward crouching of despair;
    It is enough—I breathe—and I can bear.”

He has no martyr-hope with which to console himself; his endurance is of
the finest order—simple, sheer resolution, a resolve that with no reward,
he will never disgrace himself.  He knows what it is

    “To count the hours that struggle to thine end,
    With not a friend to animate, and tell
    To other ears that death became thee well,”

but he does not break down.

Gulnare tries to persuade him that the only way by which he can save
himself from tortures and impalement is by the assassination of Seyd, but
he refuses to accept the terms—

    “Who spares a woman’s seeks not slumber’s life”—

and dismisses her.  When she has done the deed and he sees the single
spot of blood upon her, he, the Corsair, is unmanned as he had never been
in battle, prison, or by consciousness of guilt.

    “But ne’er from strife—captivity—remorse—
    From all his feelings in their inmost force—
    So thrill’d—so shudder’d every creeping vein,
    As now they froze before that purple stain.
    That spot of blood, that light but guilty streak,
    Had banish’d all the beauty from her cheek!”

The Corsair’s misanthropy had not destroyed him.  Small creatures alone
are wholly converted into spite and scepticism by disappointment and
repulse.  Those who are larger avenge themselves by devotion.  Conrad’s
love for Medora was intensified and exalted by his hatred of the world.

    “Yes, it was Love—unchangeable—unchanged,
    Felt but for one from whom he never ranged;”

and she was worthy of him, the woman who could sing—

    “Deep in my soul that tender secret dwells,
    Lonely and lost to light for evermore,
    Save when to thine my heart responsive swells,
    Then trembles into silence as before.

    There, in its centre, a sepulchral lamp
    Burns the slow flame, eternal—but unseen;
    Which not the darkness of despair can damp,
    Though vain its ray as it had never been.”

He finds Medora dead, and—

             “his mother’s softness crept
    To those wild eyes, which like an infant’s wept.”

If his crimes and love could be weighed in a celestial balance, weight
being apportioned to the rarity and value of the love, which would

The points indicated in Conrad’s character are not many, but they are
sufficient for its delineation, and it is a moral character.  We must, of
course, get rid of the notion that the relative magnitude of the virtues
and vices according to the priest or society is authentic.  A reversion
to the natural or divine scale has been almost the sole duty preached to
us by every prophet.  If we could incorporate Conrad with ourselves we
should find that the greater part of what is worst in us would be
neutralised.  The sins of which we are ashamed, the dirty, despicable
sins, Conrad could not have committed; and in these latter days they are
perhaps the most injurious.

We do not understand how moral it is to yield unreservedly to enthusiasm,
to the impression which great objects would fain make upon us, and to
embody that impression in worthy language.  It is rare to meet now even
with young people who will abandon themselves to a heroic emotion, or
who, if they really feel it, do not try to belittle it in expression.
Byron’s poetry, above most, tempts and almost compels surrender to that
which is beyond the commonplace self.

It is not true that “The Corsair” is insincere.  He who hears a note of
insincerity in Conrad and Medora may have ears, but they must be those of
the translated Bottom who was proud of having “a reasonable good ear in
music.”  Byron’s romance has been such a power exactly because men felt
that it was not fiction and that his was one of the strongest minds of
his day.  He was incapable of toying with the creatures of the fancy
which had no relationship with himself and through himself with humanity.

A word as to Byron’s hold upon the people.  He was able to obtain a
hearing from ordinary men and women, who knew nothing even of
Shakespeare, save what they had seen at the theatre.  Modern poetry is
the luxury of a small cultivated class.  We may say what we like of
popularity, and if it be purchased by condescension to popular silliness
it is nothing.  But Byron secured access to thousands of readers in
England and on the Continent by strength and loveliness, a feat seldom
equalled and never perhaps surpassed.  The present writer’s father, a
compositor in a dingy printing office, repeated verses from “Childe
Harold” at the case.  Still more remarkable, Byron reached one of this
writer’s friends, an officer in the Navy, of the ancient stamp; and the
attraction, both to printer and lieutenant, lay in nothing lower than
that which was best in him.  It is surely a service sufficient to
compensate for many more faults than can be charged against him that
wherever there was any latent poetic dissatisfaction with the vulgarity
and meanness of ordinary life he gave it expression, and that he has
awakened in the _people_ lofty emotions which, without him, would have
slept.  The cultivated critics, and the refined persons who have
_schrecklich viel gelesen_, are not competent to estimate the debt we owe
to Byron.


(_Reprinted_, _with corrections_, _by permission from the_ “_Contemporary
Review_,” _August_, 1881.)

MR. MATTHEW ARNOLD has lately published a remarkable essay {133} upon
Lord Byron.  Mr. Arnold’s theory about Byron is, that he is neither
artist nor thinker—that “he has no light, cannot lead us from the past to
the future;” “the moment he reflects, he is a child;” “as a poet he has
no fine and exact sense for word and structure and rhythm; he has not the
artist’s nature and gifts.”  The excellence of Byron mainly consists in
his “sincerity and strength;” in his rhetorical power; in his
“irreconcilable revolt and battle” against the political and social order
of things in which he lived.  “Byron threw himself upon poetry as his
organ; and in poetry his topics were not Queen Mab, and the Witch of the
Atlas, and the Sensitive Plant, they were the upholders of the old order,
George the Third and Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington and
Southey, and they were the canters and tramplers of the great world, and
they were his enemies and himself.”

Mr. Arnold appeals to Goethe as an authority in his favour.  In order,
therefore, that English people may know what Goethe thought about Byron I
have collected some of the principal criticisms upon him which I can find
in Goethe’s works.  The text upon which Mr. Arnold enlarges is the remark
just quoted which Goethe made about Byron to Eckermann: “_so bald er
reflectirt ist er ein Kind_”—_as soon as he reflects he is a child_.

Goethe, it is true, did say this; but the interpretation of the saying
depends upon the context, which Mr. Arnold omits.  I give the whole
passage, quoting from Oxenford’s translation of the _Eckermann
Conversations_, vol. i. p. 198 (edition 1850):—

    “‘Lord Byron,’ said Eckermann, ‘is no wiser when he takes ‘Faust’ to
    pieces and thinks you found one thing here, the other there.’  ‘The
    greater part of those fine things cited by Lord Byron,’ Goethe
    replied, ‘I have never even read; much less did I think of them when
    I was writing “Faust.”  But Lord Byron is only great as a poet; as
    soon as he reflects he is a child.  He knows not how to help himself
    against the stupid attacks of the same kind made upon him by his own
    countrymen.  He ought to have expressed himself more strongly against
    them.  ‘What is there is mine,’ he should have said, ‘and whether I
    got it from a book or from life is of no consequence; the only point
    is, whether I have made a right use of it.’  Walter Scott used a
    scene from my ‘Egmont,’ and he had a right to do so; and because he
    did it well, he deserves praise.’”

Goethe certainly does not mean that Byron was unable to reflect in the
sense in which Mr. Arnold interprets the word.  What was really meant we
shall see in a moment.

We will, however, continue the quotations from the _Eckermann_:—

    “We see how the inadequate dogmas of the Church work upon a free mind
    like Byron’s and how by such a piece (‘Cain’) he struggles to get rid
    of a doctrine which has been forced upon him” (vol. i. p. 129).

    “The world to him was transparent, and he could paint by way of
    anticipation” (vol. i. p. 140).

    “That which I call invention I never saw in any one in the world to a
    greater degree than in him” (vol. i. p. 205).

    “Lord Byron is to be regarded as a man, as an Englishman, and as a
    great talent.  His good qualities belong chiefly to the man, his bad
    to the Englishman and the peer, his talent is incommensurable.  All
    Englishmen are, as such, without reflection properly so-called;
    distractions and party-spirit will not permit them to perfect
    themselves in quiet.  But they are great as practical men.  Thus,
    Lord Byron could never attain reflection on himself, and on this
    account his maxims in general are not successful. . . .  But where he
    will create, he always succeeds; and we may truly say that, with him,
    inspiration supplies the place of reflection.  He was always obliged
    to go on poetizing, and then everything that came from the man,
    especially from his heart, was excellent.  He produced his best
    things, as women do pretty children, without thinking about it, or
    knowing how it was done.  He is a great talent, a born talent, and I
    never saw the true poetical power greater in any man than in him.  In
    the apprehension of external objects, and a clear penetration into
    past situations, he is quite as great as Shakespeare.  But as a pure
    individuality, Shakespeare is his superior” (vol. i. p. 209).

We see now what Goethe means by “reflection.”  It is the faculty of
self-separation, or conscious _consideration_, a faculty which would have
enabled Byron, as it enabled Goethe, to reply successfully to a charge of
plagiarism.  It is not thought in its widest sense, nor creation, and it
has not much to do with the production of poems of the highest order—the
poems that is to say, which are written by the impersonal thought.

But again—

    “The English may think of Byron as they please; but this is certain,
    that they can show no poet who is to be compared to him.  He is
    different from all the others, and for the most part, greater” (vol.
    i. p. 290).

This passage is one which Mr. Arnold quotes, and he strives to diminish
its importance by translating _der ihm zu vergleichen wäre_, by “who is
his parallel,” and maintains that Goethe “was not so much thinking of the
strict rank, as poetry, of Byron’s production; he was thinking of that
wonderful personality of Byron which so enters into his poetry.”  It is
just possible; but if Goethe did think this, he used words which are
misleading, and if the phrase _der ihm zu vergleichen wäre_ simply
indicates parallelism, it has no point, for in that sense it might have
been applied to Scott or to Southey.

    “I have read once more Byron’s ‘Deformed Transformed,’ and must say
    that to me his talent appears greater than ever.  His devil was
    suggested by my Mephistopheles; but it is no imitation—it is
    thoroughly new and original; close, genuine, and spirited.  There are
    no weak passages—not a place where you could put the head of a pin,
    where you do not find _invention and thought_ [italics mine].  Were
    it not for his hypochondriacal negative turn, he would be as great as
    Shakespeare and the ancients” (vol. i. p. 294).

Eckermann expressed his surprise.  “Yes,” said Goethe, “you may believe
me, I have studied him anew and am confirmed in this opinion.”  The
position which Byron occupies in the Second Part of “Faust” is well
known.  Eckermann talked to Goethe about it, and Goethe said, “I could
not make use of any man as the representative of the modern poetical era
except him, who undoubtedly is to be regarded as the greatest genius of
our century” (vol. i. p. 425).  Mr. Arnold translates this word “genius”
by “talent.”  The word in the original is _talent_, and I will not
dispute with so accomplished a German scholar as Mr. Arnold as to what is
the precise meaning of _talent_.  In both the English translations of
Eckermann the word is rendered “genius,” and after the comparison between
Byron, Shakespeare, and the ancients just quoted, we can hardly admit
that Goethe meant to distinguish scientifically between the two orders of
intellect and to assign the lower to Byron.

But, last of all, I will translate Goethe’s criticism upon “Cain.”  So
far as I know, it has not yet appeared in English.  It is to be found in
the Stuttgart and Tübingen edition of Goethe, 1840, vol. xxxiii. p. 157.
Some portions which are immaterial I have omitted:—

    “After I had listened to the strangest things about this work for
    almost a year, I at last took it myself in hand, and it excited in me
    astonishment and admiration; an effect which will produce in the mind
    which is simply susceptible, everything good, beautiful, and great. .
    . .  The poet who, surpassing the limit of all our conceptions, has
    penetrated with burning spiritual vision the past and present, and
    consequently the future, has now subdued new regions under his
    limitless talent, but what he will accomplish therein can be
    predicted by no human being.  His procedure, however, we can
    nevertheless in a measure more closely determine.  He adheres to the
    letter of the Biblical tradition, for he allows the first pair of
    human beings to exchange their original purity and innocence for a
    guilt mysterious in its origin; the punishment which is its
    consequence descending upon all posterity.  The monstrous burden of
    such an event he lays upon the shoulders of Cain as the
    representative of a wretched humanity, plunged for no fault of its
    own into the depths of misery.

    “To this primitive son of man, bowed down and heavily burdened,
    death, which as yet he has not seen, is an especial trouble; and
    although he may desire the end of his present distress, it seems
    still more hateful to exchange it for a condition altogether unknown.
    Hence we already see that the full weight of a dogmatic system,
    explaining, mediating, yet always in conflict with itself, just as it
    still for ever occupies us, was imposed on the first miserable son of
    man.  These contradictions, which are not strange to human nature,
    possessed his mind, and could not be brought to rest, either through
    the divinely-given gentleness of his father and brother, or the
    loving and alleviating co-operation of his sister-wife.  In order to
    sharpen them to the point of impossibility of endurance, Satan comes
    upon the scene, a mighty and misleading spirit, who begins by
    unsettling him morally, and then conducts him miraculously through
    all worlds, causing him to see the past as overwhelmingly vast, the
    present as small and of no account, and the future as full of
    foreboding and void of consolation.

    “So he turns back to his own family, more excited, but not worse than
    before; and finding in the family circle everything as he has left
    it, the urgency of Abel, who wishes to make him offer a sacrifice,
    becomes altogether insupportable.  More say we not, excepting that
    the motivation of the scene in which Abel perishes is of the rarest
    excellence, and what follows is equally great and priceless.  There
    now lies Abel!  That now is Death—there was so much talk about it,
    and man knows about it as little as he did before.

    “We must not forget, that through the whole piece there runs a kind
    of presentiment of a Saviour, so that the poet at this point, as well
    as in all others, has known how to bring himself near to the ideas by
    which we explain things, and to our modes of faith.

    “Of the scene with the parents, in which Eve at last curses the
    speechless Cain, which our western neighbour lifts into such striking
    prominence, there remains nothing more for us to say: we have to
    approach the conclusion with astonishment and reverence.

    “With regard to this conclusion, an intelligent and fair friend,
    related to us through esteem for Byron, has asserted that everything
    religious and moral in the world was put into the last three words of
    the piece.” {143}

We have now heard enough from Goethe to prove that Mr. Arnold’s
interpretation of “_so bald er reflectirt ist er ein Kind_” is not
Goethe’s interpretation of Byron.  It is to be remembered that Goethe was
not a youth overcome by Mr. Arnold’s “vogue” when he read Byron.  He was
a singularly self-possessed old man.

Many persons will be inclined to think that Goethe, so far from putting
Byron on a lower level than that usually assigned to him, has
over-praised him, and will question the “burning spiritual vision” which
the great German believed the great Englishman to possess.  But if we
consider what Goethe calls the “motivation” of Cain; if we reflect on
what the poet has put into the legend; on the exploration of the universe
with Lucifer as a guide; on its result, on the mode in which the death of
Abel is reached; on the doom of the murderer—the limitless wilderness
henceforth and no rest; on the fidelity of Adah, who, with the true
instinct of love, separates between the man and the crime; on the majesty
of the principal character, who stands before us as the representative of
the insurgence of the human intellect, so that, if we know him, we know a
whole literature; if we meditate hereon, we shall say that Goethe has not
exaggerated.  It is the same with the rest of Byron’s dramas.  Over and
above the beauty of detached passages, there is in each one of them a
large and universal meaning, or rather meaning within meaning, precisely
the same for no reader, but none the less certain, and as inexhaustible
as the meanings of Nature.  This is one reason why the wisdom of a
selection from Byron is so doubtful.  The worth of “Cain,” of
“Sardanapalus,” of “Manfred,” of “Marino Faliero,” is the worth of an
outlook over the sea; and we cannot take a sample of the scene from a
cliff by putting a pint of water into a bottle.  But Byron’s critics and
the compilers tell us of failures, which ought not to survive, and that
we are doing a kindness to him if we suppress these and exhibit him at
his best.  No man who seriously cares for Byron will assent to this
doctrine.  We want to know the whole of him, his weakness as well as his
strength; for the one is not intelligible without the other.  A human
being is an indivisible unity, and his weakness _is_ his strength, and
his strength _is_ his weakness.

It is not my object now, however, to justify what Mr. Arnold calls the
Byronic “superstition.”  I hope I could justify a good part of it, but
this is not the opportunity.  I cannot resist, however, saying a word by
way of conclusion on the manner in which Byron has fulfilled what seems
to me one of the chief offices of the poet.  Mr. Arnold, although he is
so dissatisfied with Byron because he “cannot reflect,” would probably in
another mood admit that “reflections” are not what we demand of a poet.
We do not ask of him a rhymed book of proverbs.  He should rather be the
articulation of what in Nature is great but inarticulate.  In him the
thunder, the sea, the peace of morning, the joy of youth, the rush of
passion, the calm of old age, should find words, and men should through
him become aware of the unrecognised wealth of existence.  Byron had the
power above most poets of acting as a kind of tongue to Nature.  His
descriptions are on everybody’s lips, and it is superfluous to quote
them.  He represented things not as if they were aloof from him, but as
if they were the concrete embodiment of his soul.  The woods, the wilds,
the waters of Nature are to him—

                “the intense
    Reply of _hers_ to our intelligence.”

His success is equally marked when he portrays men or women whose
character attracts him.  Take, for example, the girl in “The Island”:—

    “The sunborn blood suffused her neck, and threw
    O’er her clear nutbrown skin a lucid hue,
    Like coral reddening through the darken’d wave,
    Which draws the diver to the crimson cave.
    Such was this daughter of the southern seas,
    _Herself a billow in her energies_.

                                  * * * * *

    Her smiles and tears had pass’d, as light winds pass
    O’er lakes to ruffle, not destroy, their glass,
    _Whose depths unsearch’d_, _and fountains from the hill_,
    _Restore their surface_, _in itself so still_.”

Passages like these might be quoted without end from Byron, and they
explain why he is and must be amongst the immortals.  He may have been
careless in expression; he may have been a barbarian and not a εύφυής, as
Mr. Matthew Arnold affirms, but he was _great_.  This is the word which
describes him.  He was a mass of living energy, and therefore he is
sanative.  Energy, power, is the one thing after which we pine in this
sickly age.  We do not want carefully and consciously constructed poems
of mosaic.  Strength is what we need and what will heal us.  Strength is
true morality, and true beauty.  It is the strength in Byron that
falsifies the accusation of affectation and posing, which is brought
against him.  All that is meant by affectation and posing was a mere
surface trick.  The real man, Byron, and his poems are perfectly
unconscious, as unconscious as the wind.  The books which have lived and
always will live have this unconsciousness in them, and what is
manufactured, self-centred, and self-contemplative will perish.  The
world’s literature is the work of men, who, to use Byron’s own words—

    “Strip off this fond and false identity;”

who are lost in their object, who write because they cannot help it,
imperfectly or perfectly, as the case may be, and who do not sit down to
fit in this thing and that thing from a commonplace book.  Many novelists
there are who know their art better than Charlotte Brontë, but she, like
Byron—and there are more points of resemblance between them than might at
first be supposed—is imperishable because she speaks under overwhelming
pressure, self-annihilated, we may say, while the spirit breathes through
her.  The Byron “vogue” will never pass so long as men and women are men
and women.  Mr. Arnold and the critics may remind us of his imperfections
of form, but Goethe is right after all, for not since Shakespeare have we
had any one _der ihm zu vergleichen wäre_.


A FATAL plague devastated the city.  The god had said that it would
continue to rage until atonement for a crime had been offered by the
sacrifice of a man.  He was to be perfect in body; he must not desire to
die because he no longer loved life, or because he wished for fame.  A
statue must not be erected to his memory; no poem must be composed for
him; his name must not appear in the city’s records.

A few volunteers presented themselves, but none of them satisfied all the
conditions.  At last a young man came who had served as the model for the
image of the god in his temple.  There was no question, therefore, of
soundness of limb, and when he underwent the form of examination no spot
nor blemish was found on him.  The priest asked him whether he was in
trouble, and especially whether he was disappointed in love.  He said he
was in no trouble; that he was betrothed to a girl to whom he was
devoted, and that they had intended to be married that month.  “I am,” he
declared, “the happiest man in the city.”  The priest doubted and watched
him that evening, but he saw him walking side by side with this girl, and
the two were joyous as a youth and a maiden ought to be in the height of
their passion.  She sat down and sang to him he played to her, and they
embraced one another tenderly at parting.

The next morning was the day on which he was to be slain.  There was an
altar in front of the temple, and a great crowd assembled, ranked round
the open space.  At the appointed hour the priest appeared, and with him
was the youth, holding his beloved by the hand, but she was blindfolded.
He let go her hand, knelt down, and in a moment the sacrificial knife was
drawn across his throat.  His body was placed upon the wood, and the
priest was about to kindle it when a flash from heaven struck it into a
blaze with such heat that when the fire dropped no trace of the victim
remained.  The girl, too, had disappeared, and was never seen again.

In accordance with the god’s decree, no statue was erected, no poem was
composed, and no entry was made in the city records.  But tradition did
not forget that the saviour of the city was he who survived in the great
image on which the name of the god was inscribed.


AN aged tree, whose companions had gone, having still a little sap in its
bark and a few leaves which grew therefrom, prayed it might see yet
another spring.  Its prayer was granted: and spring came, but the old
tree had no leaves save one or two near the ground, and a great fungus
fixed itself on its trunk.  It had a dull life in its roots, but not
enough to know that its moss and fungus were not foliage.  It stood
there, an unlovely mass of decay, when the young trees were all bursting.
“That rotten thing,” said the master, “ought to have been cut down long


“CONSCIENCE,” said I, “her conscience would have told her.”

“Yes,” said my father.  “The strongest amongst the many objections to the
Roman Catholic doctrine of confession is that it weakens our dependence
on the conscience.  If we seek for an external command to do what ought
to be done in obedience to that inward monitor, whose voice is always
clear if we will but listen, its authority will gradually be lost, and in
the end it will cease to speak.”

“Conscience,” said my grandmother musingly (turning to my father).  “You
will remember Phyllis Eyre?  She was one of my best friends, and it is
now two years since she died, unmarried.  She was once governess to the
children of Sir Robert Walsh, but remained in the house as companion to
Lady Walsh long after her pupils had grown up.  She was, in fact, more
than a companion, for Lady Walsh trusted her and loved her.  She was by
birth a lady; she had been well educated, and, like her mistress, she was
devoutly and evangelically pious.  She was also very handsome, and this
you may well believe, for, as you know, she was handsome as an old woman,
stately and erect, with beautiful, undimmed eyes.  When Evelina Walsh,
the eldest daughter, was about one and twenty, Charles Fysshe, the young
heir to the Fysshe property, came to stay with her brother, and Phyllis
soon discovered, or thought she discovered, that he was in love with
Evelina.  He seemed to court her society, and paid her attentions which
could be explained on one hypothesis only.  Phyllis was delighted, for
the match in every way was most suitable, and must gladden the hearts of
Evelina’s parents.  The young man would one day be the possessor of
twenty thousand acres; he had already taken a position in the county, and
his soul was believed to be touched with Divine grace.  Evelina certainly
was in love with him, and Phyllis was not backward in urging his claims.
She congratulated herself, and with justice, that if the marriage should
ever take place, it would be acknowledged that she had had a hand in it.
It might even be doubted whether Evelina, without Phyllis’s approval,
would have permitted herself to indulge her passion, for she was by
nature diffident, and so beset with reasons for and against when she had
to make up her mind on any important matter, that a decision was always
most difficult to her.

“Charles stayed for about six weeks, and was then called home.  He
promised that he would pay another visit of a week in the autumn, when
Sir Robert was to entertain the Lord Lieutenant and there were to be
grand doings at the Hall.  Conversation naturally turned upon him during
his absence, and Phyllis, as usual, was warm in his praise.  One evening,
after she had reached her own room and had lain down to sleep, a strange
apparition surprised her.  It was something more than a suspicion that
she herself loved Charles.  She strove to rid herself of this intrusion:
she called to mind the difference in their rank; that she was five years
his senior, and that if she yielded she would be guilty of treachery to
Evelina.  It was all in vain; the more she resisted the more vividly did
his image present itself, and she was greatly distressed.  What was the
meaning of this outbreak of emotion, not altogether spiritual, of this
loss of self-possession, such as she had never known before?  Her usual
remedies against evil thoughts failed her, and, worst of all, there was
the constant suggestion that these particular thoughts were not evil.
Hitherto, when temptation had attacked her, she was sure whence it came,
but she was not sure now.  It might be an interposition of Providence,
but how would it appear to Evelina?  I myself, my dears, have generally
found that to resist the devil is not difficult if I am quite certain
that the creature before me is the devil, but it does tax my wits
sometimes to find out if he is really the enemy or not.  When Apollyon
met Christian he was not in doubt for an instant, for the monster was
hideous to behold: he had scales like a fish, wings like a dragon, feet
like a bear, out of his belly came fire and smoke, and his mouth was as
the mouth of a lion.  After some parleying he cast his dreadful dart, but
Christian, without more ado, put up his shield, drew his sword, and
presently triumphed.  If Satan had turned himself, from his head to his
ankles, into a man, and had walked by Christian’s side, and had talked
with him, and had agreed with him in everything he had to say, the bear’s
claws might have peeped out, but Christian, instead of fighting, would
have begun to argue with himself whether the evidence of the face or the
foot was the stronger.  He would have been just as likely to trust the
face, and in a few moments he would have been snapped up and carried off
to hell.  To go on with my story: the night wore on in sophistry and
struggle, and no inner light dawned with the sun.  Phyllis was much
agitated, for in the afternoon Charles was to return, and although amidst
the crowd of visitors she might be overlooked, she could not help seeing
him.  She did see him, but did not speak to him.  He sat next to Evelina
at dinner, who was happy and expectant.  The next day there was a grand
meet of the hounds, and almost all the party disappeared.  Phyllis
pleaded a headache, and obtained permission to stay at home.  It was a
lovely morning in November, without a movement in the air, calm and
cloudless, one of those mornings not uncommon when the year begins to
die.  She went into the woods at the outer edge of the park, and had
scarcely entered them, when lo! to her astonishment, there was Charles.
She could not avoid him, and he came up to her.

“‘Why, Miss Eyre, what are you doing here?’

“‘I had a headache; I could not go with the others, and came out for a

“‘I, too, was not very well, and have been left behind.’

“They walked together side by side.

“‘I wanted to speak to you, Miss Eyre.  I wonder if you have suspected
anything lately.’

“‘Suspected?  I do not quite comprehend: you are very vague.’

“‘Well, must I be more explicit?  Have you fancied that I care more for
somebody you know than I care for all the world besides?  I suppose you
have not, for I thought it better to hide as much as possible what I

“‘I should be telling an untruth if I were to say I do not understand
you, and I trust you will pardon me if I tell you that a girl more worthy
of you than Evelina, and one more likely to make you happy, I have never

“‘Gracious God! what have I done? what a mistake!  Miss Eyre, it is you I
mean; it is you I love.’

“There was not an instant’s hesitation.

“‘Sir, I thank you, but I can answer at once.  _Never_ can I be yours.
That decision is irrevocable.  I admire you, but cannot love you.’

“She parted from him abruptly, but no sooner had she left him than she
was confounded, and wondered who or what it was which gave that answer.
She wavered, and thought of going back, but she did not.  Later on in the
day she heard that Charles had gone home, summoned by sudden business.
Two years afterwards his engagement with Evelina was announced, and in
three years they were married.  It was not what I should call a happy
marriage, although they never quarrelled and had five children.  To the
day of her death Phyllis was not sure whether she had done right or
wrong, nor am I.”


IN the year 1850 I was living as governess in the small watering-place
S., on the south coast of England.  Amongst my friends was a young
doctor, B., who had recently come to the town.  He had not bought a
practice, but his family was known to one or two of the principal
inhabitants, and he had begun to do well.  He deserved his success, for
he was skilful, frank, and gentle, and he did not affect that mystery
which in his elder colleagues was already suspected to be nothing but
ignorance.  He was one of the early graduates of the University of
London, and representative of the new school of medical science, relying
not so much upon drugs as upon diet and regimen.  I was one of his first
patients.  I had a severe illness lasting for nearly three months; he
watched over me carefully and cured me.  As I grew better he began to
talk on other matters than my health when he visited me.  We found that
we were both interested in the same books: he lent me his and I lent him
mine.  It is almost impossible, I should think, for a young man and a
young woman to be friends and nothing more, and I confess that my
sympathy with him in his admiration of the Elizabethan poets, and my
gratitude to him for my recovery passed into affection.  I am sure also
that he felt affection for me.  He became confidential, and told me all
his history and troubles.  There was one peculiarity in his conversation
which was new to me: he never talked down to me, and he was not afraid at
times to discuss subjects that in the society to which I had been
accustomed were prohibited.  Not a word that was improper ever escaped
his lips, but he treated me in a measure as if I were a man, and I was
flattered that he should put me on a level with himself.  It is true that
sometimes I fancied he was so unreserved with me because he was sure he
was quite safe, for I was poor, and although I was not ugly I was not
handsome.  However, on the whole, I was very happy in his society, and
there was more than a chance that I should become his wife.

After six months of our acquaintanceship had passed, M., an old
schoolfellow of mine, took lodgings near me for the summer.  She was a
remarkable girl.  If she was not beautiful, she was better-looking than I
was, and she possessed a something, I know not what, more powerful than
beauty to fascinate men.  Perhaps it was her unconstrained naturalness.
In walking, sitting, standing—whatever she did—her movements and
attitudes were not impeded or unduly masked by artificial restrictions.
I should not have called her profound, but what she said upon the
commonest subjects was interesting, because it was so entirely her own.
If she disliked a neighbour, she almost always disliked her for a reason
which we saw, directly it was pointed out to us, to be just, but it was
generally one which had not been given before.  Her talk upon matters
externally trivial was thus much more to me than many discourses upon the
most important topics.  On moral questions she expressed herself without
any regard to prejudices.  She did not controvert the authenticity of the
ordinary standards, but nevertheless behaved as if she herself were her
only law.  The people in R., her little native borough, considered her to
be dangerous, and I myself was once or twice weak enough to wonder that
she held on a straight course with so little help from authority,
forgetting that its support, in so far as it possesses any vital
strength, is derived from the same internal source which supplied
strength to her.

When she came to S. she was unwell, and consulted my friend B.  He did
not at first quite like attending her, and she reported to me with great
laughter how she had been told that he had made some inquiries about her
from one of her neighbours at home with whom he happened to be
acquainted, and how he had manœuvred in his visits to get the servants or
the landlady into the room.  I met him soon afterwards, and he informed
me that he had a new patient.  When he heard that I knew her—I did not
say how much I knew—he became inquisitive, and at last, after much
beating about the bush, knitting his eyebrows and lowering his voice, he
asked me whether I was aware that she was not quite—quite _above
suspicion_!  My goodness, how I flamed up!  I defended her with
vehemence: I exaggerated her prudence and her modesty; I declared, what
was the simple truth, that she was the last person in the world against
whom such a scandalous insinuation should be directed, and that she was
singularly inaccessible to vulgar temptation.  I added that
notwithstanding her seeming lawlessness she was not only remarkably
sensitive to any accusation of bad manners, but that upon certain matters
she could not endure even a joke.  The only quarrel I remember to have
had with her was when I lapsed into some commonplace jest about her
intimacy with a music-master who gave her lessons.  The way in which she
took that jest I shall never forget.  If I had made it to any other
woman, I should have passed on, unconscious of anything inconsistent with
myself, but she in an instant made me aware with hardly half a dozen
words that I had disgraced myself.  I was ashamed, not so much because I
had done what was in the abstract wrong, but because it was something
which was not in keeping with my real character.  I hope it will not be
thought that I am prosing if I take this opportunity of saying that the
laws peculiar to each of us are those which we are at the least pains to
discover and those which we are most prone to neglect.  We think we have
done our duty when we have kept the commandments common to all of us, but
we may perhaps have disgracefully neglected it.

Oh, how that afternoon with B. burnt itself into my memory for ever!  I
was sitting on my little sofa with books piled round me.  He removed a
few of the books, and I removed the others.  He sat down beside me, and,
taking my hand, said he hoped I had forgiven him, and that I would
remember that in such a little place he was obliged to be very careful,
and to be quite sure of his patients, if they were women.  He trusted I
should believe that there was no other person _in the world_ (the
emphasis on that word!) to whom he would have ventured to impart such a
secret.  I was appeased, especially when, after a few minutes’ silence,
he took my hand and kissed it, the first and last kiss.  He said nothing
further, and departed.  The next time I saw him he was more than usually
deferential, more than ever desirous to come closer to me, and I thought
the final word must soon be spoken.

M. remained in S. till far into the autumn, but I did not see much of
her.  My work had begun again.  B. continued to call on me as my health
was not quite re-established.  We had agreed to read the same author at
the same time, in order that we might discuss him together whilst our
impressions were still fresh.  Somehow his interest in these readings
began to flag; he informed me presently that I had now almost, entirely
recovered, and weeks often passed without meeting him.  One afternoon I
was surprised to find M. in my room when I returned from a walk with my
pupils.  She had been waiting for me nearly half an hour, and I could not
at first conjecture the reason.  Gradually she drew the conversation
towards B. and at last asked me what I thought of him.  Instantly I saw
what had happened.  What I imagined was once mine had been stolen, stolen
perhaps unconsciously, but nevertheless stolen, my sole treasure.  She
was rich, she had a father and mother, she had many friends and would
certainly have been married had she never seen B.  I, as I have said, was
almost penniless; I was an orphan, with few friends; he was my first
love, and I knew he would be my last.

I was condemned, I foresaw, henceforth to solitude, and that most
terrible of all calamities, heart-starvation.  What B. had said about M.
came into my mind and rose to my lips.  I knew, or thought I knew, that
if I revealed it to her she would be so angry that she would cast him
off.  Probably I was mistaken, but in my despair the impulse to disclose
it was almost irresistible.  I struggled against it, however, and when
she pressed me, I praised him and strove in my praise to be sincere.
Whether it was something in my tone, quite unintentional, I know not, but
she stopped me almost in the middle of a sentence and said she believed I
had kept something back which I did not wish her to hear; that she was
certain he had talked to me about her, and that she wished to know what
he had said.  I protested he had never uttered a word which could be
interpreted as disparaging her, and she seemed to be content.  She kissed
me a little more vehemently than usual, and went away.  We ought always,
I suppose, to be glad when other people are happy, but God knows that
sometimes it is very difficult to be so, and that their happiness is hard
to bear.

The Elizabethan studies had now altogether come to an end.  In about a
couple of months I heard that M. and B. were engaged.  M. went home, and
B. moved into a larger town.  In a twelvemonth the marriage took place,
and M. wrote to me after her wedding trip.  I replied, but she never
wrote again.  I heard that she had said that I had laid myself out to
catch B. and that she was afraid that in so doing I had hinted there was
something against her.  I heard also that B. had discouraged his wife’s
correspondence with me, no other reason being given than that he would
rather the acquaintanceship should be dropped.  The interpretation of
this reason by those to whom it was given can be guessed.  Did he fear
lest I should boast of what I had been to him or should repeat his
calumny?  Ah, he little knew me if he dreamed that such treachery was
possible to me!

I remained at the vicarage for three years.  The children grew up and I
was obliged to leave, but I continued to teach in different families till
I was about five-and-forty.  After five-and-forty I could not obtain
another situation, and I had to support myself by letting apartments at
Brighton.  My strength is now failing; I cannot look after my servant
properly, nor wait upon my lodgers myself.  Those who have to get their
living by a lodging-house know what this means and what the end will be.
I have occasionally again wished I could have seen my way partially to
explain myself to M., and have thought it hard to die misrepresented, but
I am glad I have not spoken.  I should have disturbed her peace, and I
care nothing about justification or misrepresentation now.  With eternity
so near, what does it matter?

                         INSCRIPTION ON THE ENVELOPE.

    “TO MY NIECE JUDITH,—You have been so kind to your aunt, the only
    human being, at last, who was left to love her, that she could not
    refrain from telling you the one passage in her history which is of
    any importance or interest.”


“IT is all a lie, and it is hard to believe that people who preach it do
not know it to be a lie.”

So said James Forbes to Elizabeth Castleton, the young woman to whom he
was engaged.  She was the daughter of a clergyman, and James, who had
been brought up at Rugby and Oxford, was now in his last year at a London
hospital, and was going to be a doctor.

“I am sure my father does not know it to be a lie, and I do not myself
know it to be a lie.”

“I was not thinking of your father, but of the clergy generally, and you
_do_ know it to be a lie.”

“It is not true of my brother, and, excepting my father and brother, you
have not been in company with parsons, as you call them, for half an hour
in your life.”

“Do you mean to tell me you have any doubts about this discredited

“If I have I would rather not speak about them now.  Jim, dear Jim, let
us drop the subject and talk of something else.”

He was walking by her side, with his hands in his coat pockets.  She drew
out one of his hands; he did not return the pressure, and presently
released himself.

“I thought you were to be my intellectual companion.  I have heard you
say yourself that a marriage which is not a marriage of mind is no

“But, Jim, is there nothing in the world to think about but this?”

“There is nothing so important.  Are we to be dumb all our lives about
what you say is religion?”

They separated and soon afterwards the engagement was broken off.  Jim
had really loved Elizabeth, but at that time he was furious against what
he called “creeds.”  He waited for three or four years till he had
secured a fair practice, and then married a clever and handsome young
woman who wrote poems, and had captivated him by telling him a witty
story from Heine.  Elizabeth never married.

Thirty years passed, and Jim, now a famous physician, had to go a long
distance down the Great Western Railway to attend a consultation.  At
Bath an elderly lady entered the carriage carrying a handbag with the
initials “E. C.” upon it.  She sat in the seat farthest away from him on
the opposite side, and looked at him steadfastly.  He also looked at her,
but no word was spoken for a minute.  He then crossed over, fell on his
knees, and buried his head with passionate sobbing on her knees.  She put
her hands on him and her tears fell.

“Five years,” at last he said; “I may live five years with care.  She has
left me.  I will give up everything and go abroad with you.  Five years;
it is not much, but it will be something, everything.  I shall die with
your face over me.”

The train was slackening speed for Bristol; she bent down and kissed him.

“Dearest Jim,” she whispered, “I have waited a long time, but I was sure
we should come together again at last.  It is enough.”

“You will go with me, then?”

Again she kissed him.  “It must not be.”

Before he could reply the train was stopping at the platform, and a
gentleman with a lady appeared at the door.  Miss Castleton stepped out
and was at once driven away in a carriage with her companions.

He lived three years and then died almost suddenly of the disease which
he had foreseen would kill him.  He had no children, but few relatives,
and his attendant was a hospital nurse.  But the day before his death a
lady appeared who announced herself as a family friend, and the nurse was
superseded.  It was Elizabeth: she came to his bedside, and he recognised

“Not till this morning,” she said, “did I hear you were ill.”

“Happy,” he cried, “though I die to-night.”

Soon afterwards—it was about sundown—he became unconscious; she sat there
alone with him till the morning broke, and then he passed away, and she
closed his eyes.


“YOU ask me how I lost my foot?  You I see that dog?”—an unattractive
beast lying before the fire—“well, when I tell you how I came by him you
will know how I lost it;” and he then related the following story:—

I was in Westmoreland with my wife and children for a holiday and we had
brought our dog with us, for we knew he would be unhappy with the
strangers to whom we had let our house.  The weather was very wet and our
lodgings were not comfortable; we were kept indoors for days together,
and my temper, always irritable, became worse.  My wife never resisted me
when I was in these moods and the absence of opposition provoked me all
the more.  Had she stood up against me and told me I ought to be ashamed
of myself it would have been better for me.  One afternoon everything
seemed to go wrong.  A score of petty vexations, not one of which was of
any moment, worked me up to desperation.  I threw my book across the
room, to the astonishment of my children, and determined to go out,
although it was raining hard.  My dog, a brown retriever, was lying on
the mat just outside the door, and I nearly fell over him.  “God damn
you!” said I, and kicked him.  He howled with pain, but, although he was
the best of house-dogs and would have brought down any thief who came
near him, he did not growl at me, and quietly followed me.  I am not
squeamish, but I was frightened directly the oath had escaped my lips.  I
felt as if I had created something horrible which I could not annihilate,
and that it would wait for me and do me some mischief.  The dog kept
closely to my heels for about a mile and I could not make him go on in
front.  Usually the least word of encouragement or even the mere mention
of his name would send him scampering with delight in advance.  I began
to think of something else, but in about a quarter of an hour I looked
round and found he was not behind me.  I whistled and called, but he did
not come.  In a renewed rage, which increased with every step I took, I
turned back to seek him.  Suddenly I came upon him lying dead by the
roadside.  Never shall I forget that shock—the reproach, the appeal of
that poor lifeless animal!  I stroked him, I kissed him, I whispered his
name in his ear, but it was all in vain.  I lifted up his beautiful broad
paw which he was wont to lay on my knee, I held it between my hands, and
when I let it go it fell heavily to the ground.  I could not carry him
home, and with bitter tears and a kind of dread I drew him aside a little
way up the hill behind a rock.  I went to my lodgings, returned towards
dusk with a spade, dug his grave in a lonely spot near the bottom of a
waterfall where he would never be disturbed, and there I buried him,
reverently smoothing the turf over him.  What a night that was for me!  I
was haunted incessantly by the vivid image of the dead body and by the
terror which accompanies a great crime.  I had repaid all his devotion
with horrible cruelty.  I had repented, but he would never know it.  It
was not the dog only which I had slain; I had slain Divine faithfulness
and love.  That _God damn you_ sounded perpetually in my ears.  The
Almighty had registered and executed the curse, but it had fallen upon
the murderer and not on the victim.  When I rose in the morning I
distinctly felt the blow of the kick in my foot, and the sensation lasted
all day.  For weeks I was in a miserable condition.  A separate
consciousness seemed to establish itself in this foot; there was nothing
to be seen and no pain, but there was a dull sort of pressure of which I
could not rid myself.  If I slept I dreamed of the dog, and generally
dreamed I was caressing him, waking up to the dreadful truth of the
corpse on the path in the rain.  I got it into my head—for I was
half-crazy—that only by some expiation I should be restored to health and
peace; but how to make any expiation I could not tell.  Unhappy is the
wretch who longs to atone for a sin and no atonement is prescribed to

One night I was coming home late and heard the cry of “Fire!”  I ran down
the street and found a house in flames.  The fire-escape was at the
window, and had rescued a man, his wife and child.  Every living creature
was safe, I was told, save a dog in the front room on the ground-floor.
I pushed the people aside, rushed in, half-blinded with smoke, and found
him.  I could not escape by the passage, and dropped out of the window
into the area with him in my arms.  I fell heavily on _that_ foot, and
when I was helped up the steps I could not put it to the ground.  “You
may have him for your pains,” said his owner to me; “he is a useless cur.
I wouldn’t have ventured the singeing of a hair for him.”  “May I?” I
replied, with an eagerness which must have seemed very strange.  He was
indeed not worth half a crown, but I drew him closely to me and took him
into the cab.  I was in great agony, and when the surgeon came it was
discovered that my ankle was badly fractured.  An attempt was made to set
it, but in the end it was decided that the foot must be amputated.  I
rejoiced when I heard the news, and on the day on which the operation was
performed I was calm and even cheerful.  Our own doctor who came with the
surgeon told him I had “a highly nervous temperament,” and both of them
were amazed at my fortitude.  The dog is a mongrel, as you see, but he
loves me, and if you were to offer me ten thousand golden guineas I would
not part with him.


                                                         January 31, 1837.

MY DEAREST CHILD,—It is now a month since your father died.  It was a
sore trial to me that you should have broken down, and that you could not
be here when he was laid in his grave, but I would not for worlds have
allowed you to make the journey.  I am glad I forced you away.  The
doctor said he would not answer for the consequences unless you were
removed.  But I must not talk, not even to you.  I will write again soon.

                      Your most affectionate mother,

                                                        ELEANOR CHARTERIS.

                                * * * * *

                                                         February 5, 1837.

I have been alone in the library from morning to night every day.  How
foolish all the books look!  There is nothing in them which can do me any
good.  He is _not_: what is there which can alter that fact?  Had he died
later I could have borne it better.  I am only fifty years old, and may
have long to wait.  I always knew I loved him devotedly; now I see how
much I depended on him.  I had become so knit up with him that I imagined
his strength to be mine.  His support was so continuous and so soft that
I was unconscious of it.  How clear-headed and resolute he was in
difficulty and danger!  You do not remember the great fire?  We were
waked up out of our sleep; the flames spread rapidly; a mob filled the
street, shouting and breaking open doors.  The man in charge of the
engines lost his head, but your father was perfectly cool.  He got on
horseback, directed two or three friends to do the same; they galloped
into the town and drove the crowd away.  He controlled all the operations
and saved many lives and many thousands of pounds.  Is there any
happiness in the world like that of the woman who hangs on such a

                                * * * * *

                                                        February 10, 1837.

I feel as if my heart would break if I do not see you, but I cannot come
to your Aunt’s house just now.  She is very kind, but she would be
unbearable to me.  Have patience: the sea air is doing you good; you will
soon be able to walk, and then you can return.  O, to feel your head upon
my neck!  I have many friends, but I have always needed a human being to
whom I was everything.  To your father I believe I was everything, and
that thought was perpetual heaven to me.  My love for him did not make me
neglect other people.  On the contrary, it gave them their proper value.
Without it I should have put them by.  When a man is dying for want of
water he cares for nothing around him.  Satisfy his thirst, and he can
then enjoy other pleasures.  I was his first love, he was my first, and
we were lovers to the end.  I know the world would be dark to you also
were I to leave it.  Perhaps it is wicked of me to rejoice that you would
suffer so keenly.  I cannot tell how much of me is pure love and how much
of me is selfishness.  I remember my uncle’s death.  For ten days or so
afterwards everybody in the house looked solemn, and occasionally there
was a tear, but at the end of a fortnight there was smiling and at the
end of a month there was laughter.  I was but a child then, but I thought
much about the ease and speed with which the gap left by death was

                                * * * * *

                                                        February 20, 1837.

In a fortnight you will be here?  The doctor really believes you will be
able to travel?  I am glad you can get out and taste the sea air.  I
count the hours which must pass till I see you.  A short week, and
then—“the day after to-morrow, and the day after to-morrow of that day,”
and so I shall be able to reach forward to the Monday.  It is strange
that the nearer Monday comes the more impatient I am.

                                * * * * *

                                                            March 3, 1837.

With what sickening fear I opened your letter!  I was sure it contained
some dreadful news.  You have decided not to come till Wednesday, because
your cousin Tom can accompany you on that day.  I _know_ you are quite
right.  It is so much better, as you are not strong, that Tom should look
after you, and it would be absurd that you should make the journey two
days before him.  I should have reproved you seriously if you had done
anything so foolish.  But those two days are hard to bear.  I shall not
meet you at the coach, nor shall I be downstairs.  Go straight to the
library; I shall be there by myself.

                                * * * * *


January 1, 1838.—Three days ago she died.  Henceforth there is no living
creature to whom my existence is of any real importance.  Crippled as she
was, she could never have married.  I might have held her as long as she
lived.  She could have expected no love but mine.  God forgive me!
Perhaps I did unconsciously rejoice in that disabled limb because it kept
her closer to me.  Now He has taken her from me.  I may have been wicked,
but has He no mercy?  “I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to
reason with God.”  An answer in anger could better be borne than this
impregnable silence.

                                * * * * *

January 3rd.—A day of snow and bitter wind.  There were very few at the
grave, and I should have been better pleased if there had been none.
What claim had they to be there?  I have come home alone, and they no
doubt are comforting themselves with the reflection that it is all over
except the half-mourning.  Her death makes me hate them.  Mr. Maxwell,
our rector, told me when my child was ill to remember that I had no right
to her.  “Right!” what did he mean by that stupid word?  How trouble
tries words!  All I can say is that from her birth I had owned her, and
that now, when I want her most, I am dispossessed.  “Self, self”—I know
the reply, but it is unjust, for I would have stood up cheerfully to be
shot if I could have saved her pain.  Doubly unjust, for my passion for
her was a blessing to her as well as to me.

                                * * * * *

January 6th.—Henceforth I suppose I shall have to play with people, to
pretend to take an interest in their clothes and their parties, or, with
the superior sort, to discuss politics or books.  I care nothing for
their rags or their gossip, for Lord Melbourne, Sir Robert Peel, or Mr.
James Montgomery.  I must learn how to take the tip of a finger instead
of a hand, and to accept with gratitude comfits when I hunger for
bread—I, who have known—but I dare say nothing even to myself of my hours
with him—I, who have heard Sophy cry out in the night for me; I, who have
held her hand and have prayed by her bedside.

                                * * * * *

January 10th.—I must be still.  I have learned this lesson before—that
speech even to myself does harm.  If I admit no conversation nor debate
with myself, I certainly will not admit the chatter of outsiders.  Mr.
Maxwell called again to-day.  “Not a syllable on that subject,” said I
when he began in the usual strain.  He then suggested that as this house
was too large for me, and must have what he called “melancholy
associations,” I should move.  He had suggested this before, when my
husband died.  How can I leave the home to which I was brought as a
bride? how can I endure the thought that strangers are in our room, or in
that other room where Sophy lay?  Mr. Maxwell would think it sacrilege to
turn his church into an inn, and it is a worse sacrilege to me to permit
the profanation of the sanctuary which has been consecrated by Love and
Death.  I do not know what might happen to me if I were to leave.  I have
been what I am through shadowy nothings which other people despise.  To
me they are realities and a law.  I shall stay where I am.  “A villa,”
forsooth, on the outskirts of the town!  My existence would be fractured:
it will at least preserve its continuity here.  Across the square I can
see the house in which I was born, and I can watch the shadow of the
church in the afternoon slowly crossing the churchyard.  The townsfolk
stand in the street and go up and down it just as they did forty years
ago—not the same persons, but in a sense the same people.  My brother
will call me extravagant if I remain here.  He buys a horse and does not
consider it extravagant, and my money is not wasted if I spend it in the
only way in which it is of any value to me.

                                * * * * *

January 12th.—I had thought I could be dumb, but I cannot.  My sorrow
comes in rushes.  I lift up my head above the waves for an instant, and
immediately I am overwhelmed—“all Thy waves and Thy billows have gone
over me.”  My nights are a terror to me, and I fear for my reason.  That
last grip of Sophy’s hand is distinctly on mine now, palpable as the
pressure of a fleshly hand could be.  It is strange that without any
external circumstances to account for it, she and I often thought the
same things at the same moment.  She seemed to know instinctively what
was passing in my mind, so that I was afraid to harbour any unworthy
thought, feeling sure that she would detect it.  Blood of my blood was
she.  She said “goodbye” to me with perfect clearness, and in a quarter
of an hour she had gone.  In that quarter of an hour there could not be
the extinction of so much.  Such a creature as Sophy could not
instantaneously _not be_.  I cannot believe it, but still the volume of
my life here is closed, the story is at an end; what remains will be
nothing but a few notes on what has gone before.

                                * * * * *

January 21st.—I went to church to-day for the first time since the
funeral.  Mr. Maxwell preached a dull, doctrinal sermon.  Whilst my
husband and Sophy lived, I was a regular attendant at church, and never
thought of disputing anything I heard.  It did not make much impression
on me, but I accepted it, and if I had been asked whether I believed it,
I should have said, “Certainly.”  But now a new standard of belief has
been set up in me, and the word “belief” has a different meaning.

                                * * * * *

February 3rd.—Whenever I saw anything beautiful I always asked Tom or
Sophy to look.  Now I ask nobody.  Early this morning, after the storm in
the night, the sky cleared, and I went out about dawn through the garden
up to the top of the orchard and watched the disappearance of the night
in the west.  The loveliness of that silent conquest was unsurpassable.
Eighteen months ago I should have run indoors and have dragged Tom and
Sophy back with me.  I saw it alone now, and although the promise in the
slow transformation of darkness to azure moved me to tears, I felt it was
no promise for me.

                                * * * * *

March 1st.—Nothing that is _prescribed_ does me any good.  I cannot leave
off going to church, but the support I want I must find out for myself.
Perhaps if I had been born two hundred years ago, I might have been
caught by some strong enthusiastic organisation and have been a private
in a great army.  A miserable time is this when each man has to grope his
way unassisted, and all the incalculable toil of founders of churches
goes for little or nothing. . . .  I do not pray for any more pleasure: I
ask only for strength to endure, till I can lie down and rest.  I have
had more rapture in a day than my neighbours and relations have had in
all their lives.  Tom once said to me that he would sooner have had
twenty-four hours with me as his wife than youth and manhood with any
other woman he ever knew.  He said that, not when we were first married,
but a score of years afterwards.  I remember the place and the hour.  It
was in the garden one morning in July, just before breakfast.  It was a
burning day, and massive white clouds were forming themselves on the
horizon.  The storm on that day was the heaviest I recollect, and the
lightning struck one of our chimneys and dashed it through the roof.  His
passion was informed with intellect, and his intellect glowed with
passion.  There was nothing in him merely animal or merely rational. . . .
To endure, to endure!  Can there be any endurance without a motive?  I
have no motive.

                                * * * * *

March 10th.—My sister and my brother-in-law came to-day and I wished them
away.  Now that my husband is dead I discover that the frequent visitors
to our house came to see him and not me.  There must be something in me
which prevents people, especially women, from being really intimate with
me.  To be able to make friends is a talent which I do not possess, and
if those who call on me are prompted by kindness only, I would rather be
without them.  The only attraction towards me which I value is that which
is irresistible.  Perhaps I am wrong, and ought to accept with
thankfulness whatever is left to me if it has any savour of goodness in
it.  I have no right to compare and to reject. . . I provide myself with
little maxims, and a breath comes and sweeps them away.  What is
permanent behind these little flickerings is black night: that is the
real background of my life.

                                * * * * *

April 24th.—I have been to London, and on Easter Sunday I went to High
Mass at a Roman Catholic Church.  I was obliged to leave, for I was
overpowered and hysterical.  Were I to go often my reason might be
drowned, and I might become a devotee.  And yet I do not think I should.
If I could prostrate myself at a shrine I should want an answer.  When I
came out into the open air I saw again the _plainness_ of the world: the
skies, the sea, the fields are not in accord with incense or gorgeous
ceremonies.  Incense and ceremonies are beyond the facts, and to the
facts we must cleave, no matter how poor and thin they may be.

                                * * * * *

May 5th.—If I am ill, I shall depend entirely on paid service.  God grant
I may die suddenly and not linger in imbecility.  So much of me is dead
that what is left is not worth preserving.  Nearly everything I have done
all my life has been done for love.  I shall now have to act for duty’s
sake.  It is an entire reconstruction of myself, the insertion of a new
motive.  I do not much believe in duty, nor, if I read my New Testament
aright, did the Apostle Paul.  For Jesus he would do anything.  That
sacred face would have drawn me whither the Law would never have driven

                                * * * * *

May 7th.—It is painful to me to be so completely set aside.  When Tom was
alive I was in the midst of the current of affairs.  Few men, except
Maxwell, come to the house now.  My property is in the hands of trustees.
Tom continually consulted me in business matters.  I have nothing to look
after except my house, and I sit at my window and see the stream of life
pass without touching me.  I cannot take up work merely for the sake of
taking it up.  Nobody would value it, nor would it content me.  How I
used to pity my husband’s uncle, Captain Charteris!  He had been a
sailor; he had fought the French; he had been in imminent danger of
shipwreck, and from his youth upwards perpetual demands had been made
upon his resources and courage.  At fifty he retired, a strong, active
man; and having a religious turn, he helped the curate with school-treats
and visiting.  He pined away and died in five years.  The bank goes on.
I have my dividends, but not a word reaches me about it.

                                * * * * *

October 10th.—Five months, I see, have passed since I made an entry in my
diary.  What a day this is!  The turf is once more soft, the trees and
hedges are washed, the leaves are turning yellow and are ready to fall.
I have been sitting in the garden alone, reading the forty-ninth chapter
of Genesis.  I must copy the closing verses.  It does me good to write

“And Jacob charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my
people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of
Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which
is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the
field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying-place.  There
they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and
Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.  The purchase of the field and
of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.  And when
Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet
into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his
people.”  There is no distress here: he gathers up his feet and departs.
Perhaps our wild longings are unnatural, and yet it seems but nature
_not_ to be content with what contented the patriarch.  Anyhow, wherever
and whatever my husband and Sophy are I shall be.  This at least is
beyond dispute.

                                * * * * *

October 12th.—I do not wish to forget past joys, but I must simply
remember them and not try to paint them.  I must cut short any yearning
for them.

                                * * * * *

October 20th.—We do not say the same things to ourselves with sufficient
frequency.  In these days of book-reading fifty fine thoughts come into
our heads in a day, and the next morning are forgotten.  Not one of them
becomes a religion.  In the Bible how few the thoughts are, and how
incessantly they are repeated!  If my life could be controlled by two or
three divine ideas, I would burn my library.  I often feel that I would
sooner be a Levitical priest, supposing I believed in my office, than be
familiar with all these great men whose works are stacked around me.

                                * * * * *

October 22nd.—Sometimes, especially at night, the thought not only that I
personally have lost Tom and Sophy, but that the exquisite fabric of
these relationships, so intricate, so delicate, so highly organised,
could be cast aside, to all appearance so wastefully, is almost
unendurable. . . .  I went up to the moor on the top of the hill this
morning, where I could see, far away, the river broaden and lose itself
in the Atlantic.  I lay on the heather looking through it and listening
to it.

                                * * * * *

October 23rd.—The 131st Psalm came into my mind when I was on the moor
again.  “Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too
high for me.  Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that
is weaned of its mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.”

                                * * * * *

October 28th—Tom once said to me that reasoning is often a bad guide for
us, and that loyalty to the silent Leader is true wisdom.  Wesley, when
he was in trouble, asked himself “whether he should fight against it by
thinking, or by not thinking of it,” and a wise man told him “to be still
and go on.”  A certain blind instinct seems to carry me forward.  What is
it? an indication of a purpose I do not comprehend? an order given by the
Commander-in-Chief which is to be obeyed although the strategy is not

                                * * * * *

November 3rd.—Palmer, my maid, who has been with me ever since I began to
keep house, was very good-looking at one-and-twenty.  When she had been
engaged to be married about a twelvemonth, she burned her face and the
burn left a bad scar.  Her lover found excuses for breaking off the
engagement.  He must have been a scoundrel, and I should like to have had
him whipped with wire.  She was very fond of him.  She had an offer of
marriage ten years afterwards, but she refused.  I believe she feared
lest the scar, seen every day, would make her husband loathe her.  Her
case is worse than mine, for she never knew such delights as mine.  She
has subsisted on mere friendliness and civility.  “Oh,” it is suggested
at once to me, “you are more sensitive than she is.”  How dare I say
that?  How hateful is the assumption of superior sensitiveness as an
excuse for want of endurance!

                                * * * * *

November 4th.—Ellen Charteris, my husband’s cousin, belongs to a Roman
Catholic branch of the family, and is an abbess.  I remember saying to
her that I wondered that she and her nuns could spend such useless lives.
She replied that although she and all good Catholics believe in the
atonement of Christ, they also believe that works of piety in excess of
what may be demanded of us, even if they are done in secret, are a
set-off against the sins of the world.  In this form the doctrine has not
much to commend itself to me, and it is assumed that the nuns’ works are
pious.  But in a sense it is true.  “The very hairs of your head are all
numbered.”  The fall of a grain of dust is recorded.

                                * * * * *

November 7th—A kind of peace occasionally visits me.  It is not the
indifference begotten of time, for my husband and my child are nearer and
dearer than ever to me.  I care not to analyse it.  I return to my
patriarch.  With Joseph before him, the father, who had refused to be
comforted when he thought his son was dead, gathered up his feet into the
bed and slept.


MY DEAR HERMIONE,—I have sent you my little volume of verse translations
into English, and you will find appended a few attempts at Latin and
Greek renderings of favourite English poems.  You must tell me what you
think of them, and you must not spare a single blunder or inelegance.  I
do not expect any reviews, and if there should be none it will not
matter, for I proposed to myself nothing more than my own amusement and
that of my friends.  I would rather have thoroughly good criticism from
you than a notice, even if it were laudatory, from a magazine or a
newspaper.  You have worked hard at your Latin and Greek since we read
Homer and Virgil, and you have had better instruction than I had at
Winchester.  These trifles were published about three months ago, but I
purposely did not send you a copy then.  You are enjoying your holiday
deep in the country, and may be inclined to pardon that incurable old
idler, your godfather and former tutor, for a waste of time which perhaps
you would not forgive when you are teaching in London.  Verse-making is
out of fashion now.  Goodbye.  I should like to spend a week with you
wandering through those Devonshire lanes if I could carry my two rooms
with me and stick them in a field.

                                                                     G. L.

MY DEAR GODFATHER,—The little _Musæ_ came safely.  My love to you for
them, and for the pretty inscription.  I positively refuse to say a
single syllable on your scholarship.  I have deserted my Latin and Greek,
and they were never good enough to justify me in criticising yours.  I
have latterly turned my attention to Logic, History, and Moral
Philosophy, and with the help of my degree I have obtained a situation as
teacher of these sciences.  I confess I do not regret the change.  They
are certainly of supreme importance.  There is something to be learned
about them from Latin and Greek authors, but this can be obtained more
easily from modern writers or translations than by the laborious study of
the originals.  Do not suppose I am no longer sensible to the charm of
classical art.  It is wonderful, but I have come to the conclusion that
the time spent on the classics, both here and in Germany, is mostly
thrown away.  Take even Homer.  I admit the greatness of the Iliad and
the Odyssey, but do tell me, my dear godfather, whether in this
nineteenth century, when scores of urgent social problems are pressing
for solution, our young people ought to give themselves up to a study of
ancient legends?  What, however, are Horace, Catullus, and Ovid compared
with Homer?  Much in them is pernicious, and there is hardly anything in
them which helps us to live.  Besides, we have surely enough in Chaucer,
Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, to say nothing of the poets of this
century, to satisfy the imagination of anybody.  Boys spend years over
the _Metamorphoses_ or the story of the wars of Æneas, and enter life
with no knowledge of the simplest facts of psychology.  I look forward to
a time not far distant, I hope, when our whole pædagogic system will be
remodelled.  Greek and Latin will then occupy the place which Assyrian or
Egyptian hieroglyphic occupies now, and children will be directly
prepared for the duties which await them.

I have in preparation a book which I expect soon to publish, entitled
_Positive Education_.  It will appear anonymously, for society being
constituted as it is, I am afraid that my name on the title-page would
prevent me from finding employment.  My object is to show how the moral
fabric can be built up without the aid of theology or metaphysics.  I
profess no hostility to either, but as educational instruments I believe
them to be useless.  I begin with Logic as the foundation of all science,
and then advance by easy steps (_a_) to the laws of external nature
commencing with number, and (_b_) to the rules of conduct, reasons being
given for them, with History and Biography as illustrations.  One modern
foreign language, to be learned as thoroughly as it is possible to learn
it in this country, will be included.  I desire to banish all magic in
school training.  Everything taught shall be understood.  It is easier,
and in some respects more advantageous, not to explain, but the mischief
of habituating children to bow to the unmeaning is so great that I would
face any inconvenience in order to get rid of it.  All kinds of
objections, some of them of great weight, may be urged against me, but
the question is on which side do they preponderate?  Is it no objection
to our present system that the simple laws most necessary to society
should be grounded on something which is unintelligible, that we should
be brought up in ignorance of any valid obligation to obey moral
precepts, that we should be unable to give any account of the commonest
physical phenomena, that we should never even notice them, that we should
be unaware, for example, of the nightly change in the position of planets
and stars, and that we should nevertheless busy ourselves with niceties
of expression in a dead tongue, and with tales about Jupiter and Juno?
For what glorious results may we not look when children from their
earliest years learn that which is essential, but which now, alas! is
picked up unmethodically and by chance?  I cannot help saying all this to
you, for your _Musæ_ arrived just as my youngest brother came home from
Winchester.  He was delighted with it, for he is able to write very fair
Latin and Greek.  That boy is nearly eighteen.  He does not know why the
tides rise and fall, and has never heard that there has been any
controversy as to the basis of ethics.

                                               Your affectionate godchild,

MY DEAR HERMIONE,—Your letter was something like a knock-down blow.  I am
sorry you have abandoned your old friends, and I felt that you intended
to rebuke me for trifling.  A great deal of what you say I am sure is
true, but I cannot write about it.  Whether Greek and Latin ought to be
generally taught I am unable to decide.  I am glad I learned them.  My
apology for my little _Musæ_ must be that it is too late to attempt to
alter the habits in which I was brought up.  Remember, my dear child,
that I am an old bachelor with seventy years behind me last Christmas,
and remember also my natural limits.  I am not so old, nevertheless, that
I cannot wish you God-speed in all your undertakings.

                                              Your affectionate godfather,
                                                                     G. L.

MY DEAR GODFATHER,—What a blunderer I am!  What deplorable want of tact!
If I wanted your opinion on classical education or my scheme I surely
might have found a better opportunity for requesting it.  It is always
the way with me.  I get a thing into my head, and out it comes at the
most unseasonable moment.  It is almost as important that what is said
should be relevant as that it should be true.  Well, the mistake is made,
and I cannot unmake it.  I will not trouble you with another
syllable—directly at any rate—about Latin and Greek, but I do want to
know what you think about the exclusion of theology and metaphysics from
the education of the young.  I must have _debate_, so that before
publication my ideas may become clear and objections may be anticipated.
I cannot discuss the matter with my father.  You were at college with
him, and you will remember his love for Aristotle, who, as I think, has
enslaved him.  If I may say so without offence, you are not a
philosopher.  You are more likely, therefore, to give a sound,
unprofessional opinion.  You have never had much to do with children, but
this does not matter; in fact, it is rather an advantage, for actual
children would have distorted your judgment.  What has theology done?  It
is only half-believed, and its rewards and punishments are too remote to
be of practical service.  They are not seen when they are most required.
As to metaphysics, its propositions are too loose.  They may with equal
ease be affirmed or denied.  Conduct cannot be controlled by what is
shadowy and uncertain.  We have been brought up on theology and
metaphysics for centuries, and we are still at daggers drawn upon matters
of life and death.  We are as warlike as ever, and not a single social
problem has been settled by bishops or professors.  I wish to try a more
direct and, as I believe, a more efficient method.  I wish to see what
the effect will be of teaching children from their infancy the lesson
that morality and the enjoyment of life are identical; that if, for
example, they lie, they lose.  I should urge this on them perpetually,
until at last, by association, lying would become impossible.  Restraint
which is exercised in accordance with rational principles, inasmuch as it
proceeds from Nature, must be more efficacious than an external
prohibition.  So with other virtues.  I should deduce most of them in the
same way.  If I could not, I should let them go, assured that we could do
without them.  Now, my dear godfather, do open out to me, and don’t put
me off.

                                               Your affectionate godchild,

MY DEAR HERMIONE,—You terrify me.  These matters are really not in my
way.  I have never been able to tackle big questions.  Unhappily for me,
all questions nowadays are big.  I do not see many people, as you know,
and potter about in my garden from morning to night, but Mrs. Lindsay
occasionally brings down her friends from London, and the subjects of
conversation are so immense that I am bewildered.  I admit that some
people are too rich and others are too poor, and that if I could give you
a vote you should have one, and that boys and girls might be better
taught, but upon Socialism, Enfranchisement of Women, and Educational
Reform, I have not a word to say.  Is not this very unsatisfactory?
Nobody is more willing to admit it than I am.  It is so disappointing in
talking to myself or to others to stop short of generalisation and to be
obliged to confess that _sometimes it is and sometimes it is not_.  I
bless my stars that I am not a politician or a newspaper writer.  When I
was young these great matters, at least in our village, were not such
common property as they are now.  A man, even if he was a scholar,
thought he had done his duty by living an honest and peaceable life.  He
was justified if he was kind to his neighbours and amused himself with
his bees and flowers.  He had no desire to be remembered for any
achievement, and was content to be buried with a few tears and then to be
forgotten.  All Mrs. Lindsay’s folk want to do something outside their
own houses or parishes which shall make their names immortal. . . .  I
was interrupted by a tremendous thunderstorm and hail.  That wonderful
rose-bush which, you will recollect, stood on the left-hand side of the
garden door, has been stripped just as if it had been scourged with
whips.  If you have done, quite done with the Orelli you borrowed about
two years ago, please let me have it.  Why could you not bring it?  Mrs.
Lindsay was saying only the other day how glad she should be if you would
stay with her for a fortnight before you return to town.

                                              Your affectionate godfather,
                                                                     G. L.

MY DEAR GODFATHER,—I have sent back the Orelli.  How I should love to
come and to wander about the meadows with you by the river or sit in the
boat with you under the willows.  But I cannot, for I have promised to
speak at a Woman’s Temperance Meeting next week, and in the week
following I am going to read a paper called “An Educational Experiment,”
before our Ethical Society.  This, I think, will be interesting.  I have
placed my pupils in difficult historical positions, and have made them
tell me what they would have done, giving the reasons.  I am thus enabled
to detect any weakness and to strengthen character on that side.  Most of
the girls are embarrassed by the conflict of motives, and I have to
impress upon them the necessity in life of disregarding those which are
of less importance and of prompt action on the stronger.  I have
classified my results in tables, so that it may be seen at a glance what
impulses are most generally operative.

But to go back to your letter.  I will not have you shuffle.  You can say
so much if you like.  Talk to me just as you did when we last sat under
the cedar-tree.  I _must_ know your mind about theology and metaphysics.

                                               Your affectionate godchild,

MY DEAR HERMIONE,—I am sorry you could not come.  I am sorry that what
people call a “cause” should have kept you away.  If any of your friends
had been ill; if it had been a dog or a cat, I should not have cared so
much.  You are dreadful!  Theology and metaphysics!  I do not understand
what they are as formal sciences.  Everything seems to me theological and
metaphysical.  What Shakespeare says now and then carries me further than
anything I have read in the system-books into which I have looked.  I
cannot take up a few propositions, bind them into faggots, and say, “This
is theology, and that is metaphysics.”  There is much “discourse of God”
in a May blossom, and my admiration of it is “beyond nature,” but I am
not sure upon this latter point, for I do not know in the least what
φυσις or Nature is.  We love justice and generosity, and hate injustice
and meanness, but the origin of virtue, the life of the soul, is as much
beyond me as the origin of life in a plant or animal, and I do not bother
myself with trying to find it out.  I do feel, however, that justice and
generosity have somehow a higher authority than I or any human being can
give them, and if I had children of my own this is what I should try, not
exactly to teach them, but to breathe into them.  I really, my dear
child, dare not attempt an essay on the influence which priests and
professors have had upon the world, nor am I quite clear that “shadowy”
and “uncertain” mean the same thing.  All ultimate facts in a sense are
shadowy, but they are not uncertain.  When you try to pinch them between
your fingers they seem unsubstantial, but they are very real.  Are you
sure that you yourself stand on solid granite?

                                              Your affectionate godfather,
                                                                     G. L.

MY DEAR GODFATHER,—You are most disappointing and evasive.  I gave up the
discussion on Latin and Greek, but I did and do want your reply to a most
simple question.  If you had to teach children—you surely can imagine
yourself in such a position—would you teach them _what are generally
known as theology and metaphysics_?—excuse the emphasis.  You have an
answer, I am certain, and you may just as well give it me.  I know that
you had rather, or affect you had rather, talk about Catullus, but I also
know that you think upon serious subjects sometimes.  These matters
cannot now be put aside.  We live in a world in which certain problems
are forced upon us and we are compelled to come to some conclusion upon
them.  I cannot shut myself up and determine that I will have no opinion
upon Education or Socialism or Women’s Rights.  The fact that these
questions are here is plain proof that it is my duty not to ignore them.
You hate large generalisations, but how can we exist without them?  They
may never be entirely true, but they are indispensable, and, if you never
commit yourself to any, you are much more likely to be practically wrong
than if you use them.

Take, for example, the Local Veto.  I admitted in my speech that there is
much to be urged against it.  It might act harshly, and it is quite true
that poor men in large towns cannot spend their evenings in their filthy
homes; but I _must_ be for it or against it, and I am enthusiastically
for it, because on the whole it will do good.  So with Socialism.  The
evils of Capitalism are so monstrous that any remedy is better than none.
Socialism may not be the direct course: it may be a tremendously awkward
tack, but it is only by tacking that we get along.  So with positive
education, but I have enlarged upon this already.  What a sermon to my
dear godfather!  Forgive me, but you will have to take sides, and do,
please, be a little more definite about my book.

                                               Your affectionate godchild,

MY DEAR HERMIONE,—I haven’t written for some time, for I was unwell for
nearly a month.  The doctor has given me physic, but my age is really the
mischief, and it is incurable.  I caught cold through sitting out of
doors after dinner with the rector, a good fellow if he would not smoke
on my port.  To smoke on good port is a sin.  He knows my infirmity, that
I cannot sit still long, and he excuses my attendance at church.  Would
you believe it?  When I was very bad, and thought I might die, I read
Horace again, whom you detest.  I often wonder what he really thought
upon many things when he looked out on the

             “taciturna noctis

Justice is not often done to him.  He saw a long way, but he did not make
believe he saw beyond his limit, and was content with it.  A rare virtue
is intellectual content!

    “Tu ne quæsieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi
    Finem dî dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
    Tentaris numeros.”

The rector was telling me about Tom Pavenham’s wedding.  He has married
Margaret Loxley, as you may perhaps have seen in the paper I sent you.
Mrs. Loxley, her mother, was a Barfield, and old Pavenham, when he was a
youth, fell in love with her.  She was also in love with him.  He was
well-to-do, and farmed about seven hundred acres, but he was not thought
good enough by the elder Barfields, who lived in what was called a park.
They would not hear of the match.  She was sent to France, and he went to
Buenos Ayres.  After some years had passed he married out there, and she
married.  His wife died when her first child, a boy, was born.  Loxley
also died, leaving his wife with an only daughter.  Pavenham retired from
business in South America, and came back with his son to his native
village, where he meant to spend the rest of his days.  Tom and Margaret
were at once desperately smitten with one another.  The father and mother
have kept their own flame alive, and I believe it is as bright as it ever
was.  It is delightful to see them together.  They called on me with the
children after the betrothal.  He was so courteous and attentive to her,
and she seemed to bask in his obvious affection.  I noticed how they
looked at one another and smiled happily as the boy and girl wandered off
together towards the filbert walk.  The rector told me that he was
talking to old Pavenham one evening, and said to him: “Jem, aren’t you
sometimes sad when you think of what ought to have happened?”  His voice
shook a bit as he replied gently: “God be thanked for what we have!
Besides, it has all come to pass in Tom and Margaret.”

You must not be angry with me if I say nothing more about Positive
Education.  It is a great strain on me to talk upon such matters, and
when I do I always feel afterwards that I have said much which is mere
words.  That is a sure test; I must obey my dæmon.  I wish I could give
you what you want for what you have given me; but when do we get what we
want in exchange for what we give?  Our trafficking is a clumsy barter.
A man sells me a sheep, and I pay him in return with my grandfather’s old
sextant.  This is not quite true for you and me.  Love is given and love
is returned.  À Dieu—not adieu.  Remember that the world is very big, and
that there may be room in it for a few creatures like

                                              Your affectionate godfather,
                                                                     G. L.


THE town of Langborough in 1839 had not been much disturbed since the
beginning of the preceding century.  The new houses were nearly all of
them built to replace others which had fallen into decay; there were no
drains; the drinking-water came from pumps; the low fever killed thirty
or forty people every autumn; the Moot Hall still stood in the middle of
the High Street; the newspaper came but once a week; nobody read any
books; and the Saturday market and the annual fair were the only events
in public local history.  Langborough, being seventy miles from London
and eight from the main coach-road, had but little communication with the
outside world.  Its inhabitants intermarried without crossing from other
stocks, and men determined their choice mainly by equality of fortune and
rank.  The shape of the nose and lips and colour of the eyes may have had
some influence in masculine selection, but not much: the doctor took the
lawyer’s daughter, the draper took the grocer’s, and the carpenter took
the blacksmith’s.  Husbands and wives, as a rule, lived comfortably with
one another; there was no reason why they should quarrel.  The air of the
place was sleepy; the men attended to their business, and the women were
entirely apart, minding their household affairs and taking tea with one
another.  In Langborough, dozing as it had dozed since the days of Queen
Anne, it was almost impossible that any woman should differ so much from
another that she could be the cause of passionate preference.

One day in the spring of 1839 Langborough was stirred to its depths.  No
such excitement had been felt in the town since the run upon the bank in
1825, when one of the partners went up to London, brought down ten
thousand pounds in gold with him by the mail, and was met at Thaxton
cross-roads by a post-chaise, which was guarded into Langborough by three
men with pistols.  A circular printed in London was received on that
spring day in 1839 by all the respectable ladies in the town stating that
a Mrs. Fairfax was about to begin business in Ferry Street as a
dressmaker.  She had taken the only house to be let in Ferry Street.  It
was a cottage with a front and back sitting-room, and belonged to an old
lady in Lincoln, who inherited it from her brother, who once lived in it
but had been dead forty years.  Before a week had gone by four-fifths of
the population of Langborough had re-inspected it.  The front room was
the shop, and in the window was a lay-figure attired in an evening robe
of rose-coloured silk, the like of which for style and fit no native lady
had ever seen.  Underneath it was a card—“Mrs. Fairfax, Milliner and
Dressmaker.”  The circular stated that Mrs. Fairfax could provide
materials or would make up those brought to her by her customers.

Great was the debate which followed this unexpected apparition.  Who Mrs.
Fairfax was could not be discovered.  Her furniture and the lay-figure
had come by the waggon, and the only information the driver could give
was that he was directed at the “George and Blue Boar” in Holborn to
fetch them from Great Ormond Street.  After much discussion it was agreed
that Mrs. Bingham, the wife of the wine merchant, should call on Mrs.
Fairfax and inquire the price of a gown.  Mrs. Bingham was at the head of
society in Langborough, and had the reputation of being very clever.  It
was hoped, and indeed fully expected, that she would be able to penetrate
the mystery.  She went, opened the door, a little bell sounded, and Mrs.
Fairfax presented herself.  Mrs. Bingham’s eyes fell at once upon Mrs.
Fairfax’s dress.  It was black, with no ornament, and constructed with an
accuracy and grace which proved at once to Mrs. Bingham that its maker
was mistress of her art.  Mrs. Bingham, although she could not entirely
desert the linendraper’s wife, whose husband was a good customer for
brandy, had some of her clothes made in London when she stayed with her
sister in town, and, to use her own phrase, “knew what was what.”

“Mrs. Fairfax?”

A bow.

“Will you please tell me what a gown would cost made somewhat like that
in the window?”

“For yourself, madam?”


“Pardon me; I am afraid that colour would not suit you.”

Mrs. Bingham was a stout woman with a ruddy complexion.

“One colour costs no more than another?”

“No, madam: twelve guineas; that silk is expensive.  Will you not take a

“I am afraid you will find twelve guineas too much for anybody here.
Have you nothing cheaper?”

Mrs. Fairfax produced some patterns and fashion-plates.

“I suppose the gown in the window is your own make?”

“My own make and design.”

“Then you are not beginning business?”

“I hope I may say that I thoroughly understand it.”

The door leading into the back parlour opened, and a little girl about
nine or ten years old entered.

“Mother, I want—”

Mrs. Fairfax, without saying a word, gently led the child into the
parlour again.

“Dear me, what a pretty little girl!  Is that yours?”

“Yes, she is mine.”

Mrs. Bingham noticed that Mrs. Fairfax did not wear a widow’s cap, and
that she had a wedding-ring on her finger.

“You will find it rather lonely here.  Have you been accustomed to

“Yes.  That silk, now, would suit you admirably.  With less ornament it
would be ten guineas.”

“Thank you: I must not be so extravagant at present.  May I look at
something which will do for walking?  You would not, I suppose, make a
walking-dress for Langborough exactly as you would have made it in

“If you mean for walking about the roads here, it would differ slightly
from one which would be suitable for London.”

“Will you show me what you have usually made for town?”

“This is what is worn now.”

Mrs. Bingham was baffled but not defeated.  She gave an order for a
walking-dress, and hoped that Mrs. Fairfax might be more communicative.

“Have you any introductions here?”

“None whatever.”

“It is rather a risk if you are unknown.”

“Perhaps you have been exempt from risks: some people are obliged
constantly to encounter them.”

“‘Exempt,’ ‘encounter,”’ thought Mrs. Bingham: “she must have been to a
good school.”

“When will you be ready to try on?”

“On Friday,” and Mrs. Fairfax opened the door.

As Mrs. Bingham went out she noticed a French book lying on a side table.

The day following was Sunday, and Mrs. Fairfax and her daughter were at
church.  They sat at the back, and all the congregation turned on
entering, looked at them, and thought about them during the service.
They went out as soon as it was over, but Mrs. Harrop, wife of the
ironmonger, and Mrs. Cobb, wife of the coal merchant, escaped with equal
promptitude and were close behind them.

“There isn’t a crease in that body,” said Mrs. Harrop.

On Monday Mrs. Bingham was at the post-office.  She took care to be there
at the dinner hour, when the postmaster’s wife generally came to the

“A newcomer, Mrs. Carter.  Have you seen Mrs. Fairfax?”

“Once or twice, ma’am.”

“Has she many letters?”

The door between the office and the parlour was open.

“I’ve no doubt she will have, ma’am, if her business succeeds.”

“I wonder where she lived before she came here.  It is curious, isn’t it,
that nobody knows her?  Did you ever notice how her letters are stamped?”

“Can’t say as I have, ma’am.”

Mrs. Carter shut the parlour door.  “The smell of those onions,” she
whispered to her husband, “blows right in here.”  She then altered her
tone a trifle.

“One of ’em, Mrs. Bingham, had the Portsmouth postmark on it; but this is
in the strictest confidence, and I should never dream of letting it out
to anybody but you, but I don’t mind you, because I know you won’t repeat
it, and if my husband was to hear me he’d be in a fearful rage, for there
was a dreadful row when I told Lady Caroline at Thaxton Manor about the
letters Miss Margaret was getting, and it was found out that it was me as
told her, and some gentleman in London wrote to the Postmaster-General
about it.”

“You may depend upon me, Mrs. Carter.”  Mrs. Bingham considered she had
completely satisfied her conscience when she imposed an oath of secrecy
on Mrs. Harrop, who was also self-exonerated when she had imposed a
similar oath on Mrs. Cobb.

A fortnight after the visit to the post-office there was a tea-party.
Mrs. Harrop, Mrs. Cobb, Mrs. Sweeting, the grocer’s wife, and Miss
Tarrant, an elderly lady, living on a small annuity, but most genteel,
were invited to Mrs. Bingham’s.  They began to talk of Mrs. Fairfax
directly they had tasted the hot buttered toast.  They had before them
the following facts: the carrier’s deposition that the goods came from
Great Ormond Street; the lay-figure and what it wore; Mrs. Fairfax’s
prices; the little girl; the wedding-ring but no widow’s weeds; the
Portsmouth postmark; the French book; Mrs. Bingham’s new gown, and
lastly—a piece of information contributed by Mrs. Sweeting and considered
to be of great importance, as we shall see presently—that Mrs. Fairfax
bought her coffee whole and ground it herself.  On these facts, nine in
all, the ladies had to construct—it was imperative that they should
construct it—an explanation of Mrs. Fairfax, and it must be confessed
that they were not worse equipped than many a picturesque and successful
historian.  At the request of the company, Mrs. Bingham went upstairs and
put on the gown.

“Do you mind coming to the window, Mrs. Bingham?” asked Mrs. Harrop.

Mrs. Bingham rose and went to the window.  Her guests also rose.  She
held her arms down and then held them up, and was surveyed from every
point of the compass.

“I thought it was a pucker, but it’s only the shadow,” observed Mrs.

Mrs. Cobb stroked the body and shook the skirt.  Not a single
depreciatory criticism was ventured.  Excepting the wearer, nobody
present had seen such a masterpiece.  But although for half a lifetime we
may have beheld nothing better than an imperfect actual, we recognise
instantly the superiority and glory of the realised Ideal when it is
presented to us.  Mrs. Harrop, Mrs. Cobb, Mrs. Sweeting, and Miss Tarrant
became suddenly aware of possibilities of which they had not hitherto
dreamed.  Mrs. Swanley, the linendraper’s wife, was degraded and deposed.

“She must have learned that in London,” said Mrs. Harrop.

“London! my dear Mrs. Harrop,” replied Mrs. Bingham, “I know London
pretty well, and how things are cut there.  I told you there was a French
book on the table.  Take my word for it, she has lived in Paris.  She
_must_ have lived there.”

“Where is Great Ormond Street, Mrs. Bingham?” inquired Mrs. Sweeting.

“A great many foreigners live there; it is somewhere near Leicester

Mrs. Bingham knew nothing about the street, but having just concluded a
residence in Paris from the French book, that conclusion led at once to a
further conclusion, clear as noonday, as to the quality of the people who
inhabited Great Ormond Street, and consequently to the final deduction of
its locality.

“Did you not say, Mrs. Sweeting, that she buys her coffee whole?” added
Mrs. Bingham, as if inspiration had flashed into her.  “If you want
additional proof that she is French, there it is.”

“Portsmouth,” mused Mrs. Cobb.  “You say, Mrs. Bingham, there are a good
many officers there.  Let me see—1815—it’s twenty-four years ago since
the battle.  A captain may have picked her up in Paris.  I’ll be bound
that, if she ever was married, she was married when she was sixteen or
seventeen.  They are always obliged to marry those French girls when they
are nothing but chits, I’ve been told—those of them, leastways, that
don’t live with men without being married.  That would make her about
forty, and then he found her out and left her, and she went back to Paris
and learned dressmaking.”

“But he writes to her from Portsmouth,” said Mrs. Bingham, who had not
been told that the solitary letter from Portsmouth was addressed in a
man’s handwriting.

“He may not have broken with her altogether,” replied Mrs. Cobb.  “If he
isn’t a downright brute he’ll want to hear about his daughter.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Sweeting, twitching her eyes as she was wont to do when
she was about to give an opinion which she knew would disturb any of her
friends, “you may talk as you like, but the last thing Swanley made for
me looked as if it had been to the wash and hung on me to dry.  French or
English, captain or no captain, I shall go to Mrs. Fairfax.  Her
character’s got nothing to do with her cut.  Suppose she _is_ divorced;
judging from that body of yours, Mrs. Bingham, I shan’t have to send back
a pelisse half a dozen times to get it altered.  When it comes to that
you get sick of the thing, and may just as well give it away.”

Mrs. Sweeting occupied the lowest rank in this particular section of
Langborough society.  As a grocer Mr. Sweeting was not quite on a level
with the coal dealer, who was a merchant, nor with the ironmonger, who
repaired ploughs, and he was certainly below Mr. Bingham.  Miss Tarrant,
never having been “connected with trade”—her father was chief clerk in
the bank—considered herself superior to all her acquaintances, but her
very small income prevented her from claiming her superiority so
effectively as she desired.

“Mrs. Sweeting,” she said, “I am surprised at you!  You do not consider
what the moral effect on the lower orders of patronising a female of this
kind will be, probably an abandoned woman.  The child, no doubt, was not
born in wedlock.  We are sinners ourselves if we support sinners.”

“Miss Tarrant,” retorted Mrs. Sweeting, “I’m the respectable mother of
five children, and I don’t want any sermons on sin except in church.  If
it wasn’t a sin of Swanley to charge me three guineas for that pelisse,
and wouldn’t take it back, I don’t know what sin.”

Mrs. Bingham, although she was accustomed to tea-table disputes, and even
enjoyed them, was a little afraid of Mrs. Sweeting’s tongue, and thought
it politic to interfere.

“I agree with you entirely, Mrs. Sweeting, about the inferiority of Mrs.
Swanley to this newcomer, but we must consider Miss Tarrant’s position in
the parish and her responsibilities.  She is no doubt right from her
point of view.”

So the conversation ended, but Mrs. Fairfax’s biography, which was to be
published under authority in Langborough, was now rounded off and
complete.  She was a Parisian, father and mother unknown, was found in
Paris in 1815 by Captain Fairfax, who, by her intrigues and threats of
exposure, was forced into a marriage with her.  A few years afterwards he
had grounds for a divorce, but not wishing a scandal, consented to a
compromise and voluntary separation.  He left one child in her custody,
as it showed signs of resemblance to its mother, to whom he gave a small
monthly allowance.  She had been apprenticed as a dressmaker in Paris,
had returned thither in order to master her trade, and then came back to
England.  In a very little time, so clever was she that she learned to
speak English fluently, although, as Mrs. Bingham at once noticed, the
French accent was very perceptible.  It was a good, intelligible, working
theory, and that was all that was wanted.  This was Mrs. Fairfax so far
as her female neighbours were concerned.  To the men in Langborough she
was what she was to the women, but with a difference.  When she went to
Mr. Sweeting’s shop to order her groceries, Mr. Sweeting, notwithstanding
the canonical legend of her life, served her himself, and was much
entangled by her dark hair, and was drawn down by it into a most polite
bow.  Mr. Cobb, who had a little cabin of an office in his coal-yard,
hastened back to it from superintending the discharge of a lighter, when
Mrs. Fairfax called to pay her little bill, actually took off his hat,
begged her to be seated, and hoped she did not find the last lot of coals
dusty.  He was now unloading some of the best Wallsend that ever came up
the river, and would take care that the next half ton should not have an
ounce of small in it.

“You’ll find it chilly where you are living, ma’am, but it isn’t damp,
that’s one comfort.  The bottom of your street is damp, and down here in
a flood anything like what we had fourteen years ago, we are nearly
drowned.  If you’ll step outside with me I’ll show you how high the water
rose.”  He opened the door, and Mrs. Fairfax thought it courteous not to
refuse.  He walked to the back of his cabin bareheaded, although the
morning was cold, and pointed out to her the white paint mark on the
wall.  She, dropped her receipted bill in the black mud and stooped to
pick it up.  Mr. Cobb plunged after it and wiped it carefully on his silk
pocket-handkerchief.  Mrs. Cobb’s bay window commanded the whole length
of the coal-yard.  In this bay window she always sat and worked and
nodded to the customers, or gossiped with them as they passed.  She
turned her back on Mrs. Fairfax both when she entered the yard and when
she left it, but watched her carefully.  Mr. Cobb came into dinner, but
his wife bided her time, knowing that, as he took snuff, the handkerchief
would be used.  It was very provoking, he was absent-minded, and forgot
his usual pinch before he sat down to his meal.  For three-quarters of an
hour his wife was afflicted with painfully uneasy impatience, and found
it very difficult to reply to Mr. Cobb’s occasional remarks.  At last the
cheese was finished, the snuff-box appeared, and after it the

“A pretty mess that handkerchief is in, Cobb.”  She always called him
simply “Cobb.”

“Yes, it was an a-a-accident.  I must have a clean one.  I didn’t think
it was so dirty.”

“The washing of your snuffy handkerchiefs costs quite enough as it is,
Cobb, without using them in that way.”

“What way?” said Mr. Cobb weakly.

“Oh, I saw it all, going out without your hat and standing there like a
silly fool cleaning that bit of paper.  I wonder what the lightermen
thought of you.”

It will already have been noticed that the question what other people
thought was always the test which was put in Langborough whenever
anything was done or anything happened not in accordance with the usual
routine, and Mrs. Cobb struck at her husband’s conscience by referring
him to his lightermen.  She continued—

“And you know what she is as well as I do, and if she’d been respectable
you’d have been rude to her, as you generally are.”

“You bought that last new gown of her, and you never had one as fitted
you so well.”

“What’s that got to do with it?  You may be sure I knew my place when I
went there.  Fit?  Yes, it did fit; them sort of women, it stands to
reason, are just the women to fit you.”

Mr. Cobb was silent.  He was a mild man, and he knew by much experience
how unprofitable controversy with Mrs. Cobb was.  He could not forget
Mrs. Fairfax’s stooping figure when she was about to pick up the bill.
She caused in all the Langborough males an unaccustomed quivering and
warmth, the same in each, physical, perhaps, but salutary, for the
monotony of life was relieved thereby and a deference and even a grace
were begotten which did not usually distinguish Langborough manners.  Not
one of Mrs. Fairfax’s admirers, however, could say that she showed any
desire for conversation with him, nor could any direct evidence be
obtained as to what she thought of things in general.  There was, to be
sure, the French book, and there were other circumstances already
mentioned from which suspicion or certainty (suspicion, as we have seen,
passing immediately into certainty in Langborough) of infidelity or
disreputable conduct followed, but no corroborating word from her could
be adduced.  She attended to her business, accepted orders with thanks
and smiles, talked about the weather and the accident to the coach, was
punctual in her attendance at church, calm and inscrutable as the Sphinx.
The attendance at church was, of course, set down to “business
considerations,” and was held to be quite consistent with the scepticism
and loose morality deducible from the French book and the unground

                                * * * * *

In speaking of the male creatures of the town we have left out Dr.
Midleton.  He was forty-eight years old, and had been rector twenty
years.  He had obtained high mathematical honours at Cambridge, and
became a tutor in a grammar school, but was soon presented by his college
with the living of Langborough.  He was tall, spare, clean-shaven,
grey-eyed, dark-haired, thin-faced, his lips were curved and compressed,
and he stooped slightly.  He was a widower with no children, and the
Rectory was efficiently kept in order by an aged housekeeper.
Tractarianism had not arisen in 1839, but he was High Church and an enemy
to all kinds of fanaticism, apt to be satirical, even in his sermons, on
the right of private judgment to interpret texts as it pleased in
ignorance of Hebrew and Greek.  He was respected and feared more than any
other man in the parish.  He had a great library, and had taken up
archæology as a hobby.  He knew the history of every church in the
county, and more about the Langborough records than was known by the town
clerk.  He was chairman of a Board of Governors charged with the
administration of wealthy trust for alms and schools.  When he first took
office he found that this trust was controlled almost entirely by a man
named Jackson, a local solicitor, whose salary as clerk was £400 a year
and who had a large private practice.  The alms were allotted to serve
political purposes, and the headmaster of the school enjoyed a salary of
£800 a year for teaching forty boys, of whom twenty were boarders.  Mr.
Midleton—he was Mr. Midleton then—very soon determined to alter this
state of things.  Jackson went about sneering at the newcomer who was
going to turn the place upside down, and having been accustomed to
interfere in the debates in the Board-room, interrupted the Rector at the
third or fourth meeting.

“You’ll get yourself in a mess if you do that, Mr. Chairman.”

“Mr. Jackson,” replied the Rector, rising slowly, “it may perhaps save
trouble if I remind you now, once for all, that I am chairman and you are
the clerk.  Mr. Bingham, you were about to speak.”

It was Dr. Midleton who obtained the new Act of Parliament remodelling
the trust, whereby a much larger portion of its funds was devoted to
education.  Jackson died, partly from drink and partly from spite and
vexation, and the headmaster was pensioned.  The Rector was not popular
with the middle class.  He was not fond of paying visits, but he never
neglected his duty, and by the poor was almost beloved, for he was
careless and intimate in his talk with them and generous to real
distress.  Everybody admired his courage.  The cholera in 1831 was very
bad in Langborough, and the people were in a panic at the new disease,
which was fatal in many cases within six hours after the first attack.
The Rector through that dark time was untouched by the contagious dread
which overpowered his parishioners, and his presence carried confidence
and health.  On the worst day, sultry, stifling, with no sun, an
indescribable terror crept abroad, and Mr. Cobb, standing at his gate,
was overcome by it.  In five minutes he had heard of two deaths, and he
began to feel what were called “premonitory symptoms.”  He carried a
brandy flask in his pocket, brandy being then considered a remedy, and he
drank freely, but imagined himself worse.  He was about to rush indoors
and tell Mrs. Cobb to send for the surgeon, when the Rector passed.

“Ah, Mr. Cobb!  I was just about to call on you; glad to see you looking
so well when there’s so much sickness.  We shall want you on the School
Committee this evening,” and then he explained some business which was to
be discussed.  Mr. Cobb afterwards was fond of telling the story of this

“Would you believe it?” said he.  “He spoke to me about nothing much but
the trust, but somehow my stomach seemed quieter at once.  The
sinking—just _here_, you know—was dreadful before he came up, and the
brandy was no good.  It was a something in his way that did it.”

Dr. Midleton was obliged to call on Mrs. Fairfax as a newcomer.  He found
Mrs. Harrop there, and Mrs. Fairfax asked him to step into the back
parlour, into which no one in Langborough had hitherto been admitted.
Gowns were tried on in the shop, the door being bolted and the blind
drawn.  Dr. Midleton found four little shelves of books on the cupboard
by the side of the fireplace.  Some were French, but most of them were
English.  Although it was such a small collection, his book-lover’s
instinct compelled him to look at it.  His eyes fell upon a _Religio
Medici_, and he opened it hastily.  On the fly-leaf was written “Mary
Leighton, from R. L.”  He had just time, before its owner entered, to
replace it and to muse for an instant.

“Richard Leighton of Trinity: it is not a common name, but it cannot be
he—have lost sight of him for years; heard he was married, and came to no

He was able to watch her for a minute as she stood by the table giving
some directions to her child, who was sent on an errand.  In that minute
he saw her as she had not been seen by anybody in Langborough.  To Mrs.
Bingham and her friends Mrs. Fairfax was the substratum of a body and
skirt, with the inestimable advantage over a substratum of cane and
padding that a scandalous history of it could be invented and believed.
To Langborough men, married and single, she was a member of “the sex,” as
women were called in those days, who possessed in a remarkable degree the
power of exciting that quivering and warmth we have already observed.
Dr. Midleton saw before him a lady, tall but delicately built, with
handsome face and dark brown hair just streaked with grey, and he saw
also diffused over every feature a light which in her eyes,
forward-looking and earnest, became concentrated into a vivid, steady
flame.  The few words she spoke to her daughter were sharply cut, a
delightful contrast in his ear to the dialect to which he was accustomed,
distinguished by its universal vowel and suppression of the consonants.
How he inwardly rejoiced to hear the sound of the second “t” in the word
“distinct,” when she told her little messenger that Mr. Cobb had been
“distinctly” ordered to send the coals yesterday.  He remained standing
until the child had gone.

“Pray be seated,” she said.  She went to the fireplace, leaned on the
mantelpiece, and poked the fire.  The attitude struck him.  She was about
to put some coals in the grate, but he interfered with an “Allow me,” and
performed the office for her.  She thanked him simply, and sat down
opposite to him, facing the light.  She began the conversation.

“It is good of you to call on me; calling on people, especially on
newcomers must be an unpleasant part of a clergyman’s duty.”

“It is so, madam, sometimes—there are not many newcomers.”

“It is an advantage in your profession that you must generally be
governed by duty.  It is often easier to do what we are obliged to do,
even if it be disagreeable, than to choose our path by our likes and

The bell rang, and Mrs. Fairfax went into the shop.

“Who can she be?” said the Doctor to himself.  Such an experience as this
he had not known since he had been rector.  Langborough did not deal in
ideas.  It was content to affirm that Miss Tarrant now and then gave
herself airs, that Mrs. Sweeting had a way of her own, that Mr. Cobb
lacked spirit and was downtrodden by his wife.

She returned and sat down again.

“You know nobody in these parts, Mrs. Fairfax?”


“Yours is a bold venture, is it not?”

“It is—certainly.  A good many plans were projected, of which this was
one, and there were equal difficulties in the way of all.  When that is
the case we may almost as well draw lots.”

“Ah, that is what I often say to some of the weaker sort among my
parishioners.  I said it to poor Cobb the other day.  He did not know
whether he should do this or do that.  ‘It doesn’t matter much,’ said I,
‘what you do, but do something.  _Do_ it, with all your strength.’”

The Doctor was thoroughly Tory, and he slid away to his favourite

“Our ancestors, madam, were not such fools as we often take them to be.
They consulted the _sortes_ or lots, and at the last election—we have a
potwalloping constituency here—three parts of the voters would have done
better if they had trusted to the toss-up of a penny instead of their

Mrs. Fairfax leaned back in her chair.  Dr. Midleton noticed her
wedding-ring, and also a handsome sapphire ring.  She spoke rather slowly
and meditatively.

“Life is so complicated; so few of the consequences of many actions of
the greatest moment can be foreseen, that the belief in the lot is not

“You have some books, I see—Sir Thomas Browne.”  He took down the volume.

“Leighton!  Leighton! how odd!  Was it Richard Leighton?”


“Really; and you knew him?”

“He was a friend of my brother.”

“Do you know what has become of him?  He was at Cambridge with me, but
was younger.”

“I have not seen him for some time.  Do you mind if I open the window a

“Certainly not.”

She stood at the window for a moment, looking out on the garden, with her
hand on the top of the sash.  The Doctor had turned his chair a little
and his eyes were fixed on her there with her uplifted arm.  A picture
which belonged to his father instantly came back to him.  He recollected
it so well.  It represented a woman watching a young man in a courtyard
who is just mounting his horse.  We are every now and then reminded of
pictures by a group, an attitude, or the arrangement of a landscape
which, thereby, acquires a new charm.

Suddenly the shop bell rang again, and Mrs. Fairfax’s little girl rushed
into the parlour.  She had fallen down and cut her wrist terribly with a
piece of a bottle containing some hartshorn which she had to buy at the
druggist’s on her way home from Mr. Cobb’s.  The blood flowed freely, but
Mrs. Fairfax, unbewildered, put her thumb firmly on the wrist just above
the wound and instructed the doctor how to use his pocket-handkerchief as
a tourniquet.  As he was tying it, although such careful attention to the
operation was necessary, he noticed Mrs. Fairfax’s hands, and he almost
forgot himself and the accident.

“There is glass in the wrist,” she said.  “Will you kindly fetch the
surgeon?  I do not like to leave.”

He went at once, and fortunately met him in his gig.

On the third day after the mishap Dr. Midleton thought he ought to
inquire after the child.  The glass had been extracted and she was doing
well.  Her mother was at work in the back-parlour.  She made no apology
for her occupation, but laid down her tools.

“Pray go on, madam.”

“Certainly not.  I am afraid I might make a mistake with my scissors if I
were to listen to you; or, worse, if I were to pay attention to them I
should not pay attention to you.”

He smiled.  “It is an art, I should think, which requires not only much
attention but practice.”

She evaded the implied question.  “It is difficult to fit, but it is more
difficult to please.”

“That is true in my own profession.”

“But you are not obliged to please.”

“No, not obliged, I am happy to say.  If my parishioners do not hear the
truth I have no excuse.  It must be rather trying to the temper of a lady
like yourself to humour the caprices of the vulgar.”

“No; they are my customers, and even if they are unpleasant they are so
not to me personally but to their servant, who ceases to be their servant
when she ceases to be employed upon their clothes.”

“You are a philosopher, madam; that sentiment is worthy of Epictetus.”

“I have read Epictetus in Mrs. Carter’s translation.”

“You have read Epictetus?  That is remarkable!  I should think no other
woman in the county has read him.”  He leaned forward a little and his
face was lighted up.  “I have a library, madam, a large library; I should
like to show it to you, if—if it can be managed without difficulty.”

“It will give me great pleasure to see it some day.  It must be a
delightful solace to you in a town like this, in which I daresay you have
but few friends.  I suppose, though, you visit a good deal?”

“No; I do not visit much.  I differ from my brother Sinclair in the next
parish.  He is always visiting.  What is the consequence?—gossip and, as
I conceive, a loss of dignity and self-respect.  I will go wherever there
is trouble or wherever I am wanted, but I will not go anywhere for idle

“I think you are right.  A priest should not make himself cheap and
common.  He should be representative of sacred interests superior to the
ordinary interests of life.”

“I am grateful to you, madam, very grateful to you for these
observations.  They are as just as they are unusual.  I sincerely hope
that we—”  But there was a knock at the door.

“Come in.”  It was Mrs. Harrop.  “Your bell rang, Mrs. Fairfax, but maybe
you didn’t hear it as you were engaged in conversation.  Good morning,
Dr. Midleton.  I hope I don’t intrude?”

“No, you do not.”

He bowed to the ladies, and as he went out, the parlour-door being open,
he moved the outer door backwards and forwards.

“It would be as well, Mrs. Fairfax, to have a bell hung there which would
act properly.”

“I don’t know quite what Dr. Midleton means,” said Mrs. Harrop when he
had gone.  “The bell did ring, loud enough for most people to have heard
it, and I waited ever so long.”

He walked down the street with his customary firm step, and met Mr.
Bingham who stopped him, half smiling and not quite at his ease.

“We are sorry, Doctor, you did not give Hutchings your vote for the
almshouse last Thursday; we expected you would have gone with us.”

“You expected?  Why?”

“Well, you see, sir, Hutchings has always worked hard for our side.”

“I am astonished, Mr. Bingham, that you should suppose that I will ever
consent to divert the funds of a trust for party purposes.”

Mr. Bingham, although he had just determined to give the Doctor a bit of
his mind, felt his strength depart from him.  His sentences lacked power
to stand upright and fell sprawling.  “No offence, Doctor, I merely
wanted you to know—not so much my own views—difficulty to keep our
friends together.  Short—you know Tom Short—was saying to me he was

“Pay no attention to fools.  Good morning.”

The Doctor came in that night from a vestry meeting to which he went
after dinner.  The clock was striking nine, the chimes played their tune,
and as the last note sounded the housekeeper and servants filed into the
study for prayers.  Prayers over they rose and went out, and he sat down.
His habits were becoming fixed and for some years he had always read in
the evening the friends of his youth.  No sermon was composed then; no
ecclesiastical literature was studied.  Pope and Swift were favourites
and, curiously enough, Lord Byron.  His case is not uncommon, for it
often happens that men who are forced into reserve or opposition preserve
a secret, youthful, poetic passion and are even kept alive by it.  On
this particular evening, however, Pope, Byron, and Swift remained on his
shelves.  He meditated.

“A wedding-ring on her finger; no widow’s weeds; he may nevertheless be
dead—I believe I heard he was—and she has discontinued that frightful
disfigurement.  Leighton had the thickest crop of black hair I ever saw
on a man: what thick, black hair that child has!  A lady; a reader of
books; nobody to be compared with her here.”  At this point he rose and
walked about the room for a quarter of an hour.  He sat down again and
took up an important paper about the Trust.  He had forgotten it and it
was to be discussed the next day.  His eyes wandered over it but he paid
no attention to it; and somewhat disgusted with himself he went to bed.

Mrs. Fairfax had happened to tell him that she was fond of walking soon
after breakfast before she opened her shop, and generally preferred the
lane on the west side of the Common.  From his house the direct road to
the lane lay down the High Street, but about a fortnight after that
evening in his study he found himself one morning in Deadman’s Rents, a
narrow, dirty alley which led to the east side of the Common.  Deadman’s
Rents was inhabited by men who worked in brickyards and coalyards, who
did odd jobs, and by washerwomen and charwomen.  It contained also three
beershops.  The dwellers in the Rents were much surprised to see the
Doctor amongst them at that early hour, and conjectured he must have come
on a professional errand.  Every one of the Deadman ladies who was at her
door—and they were generally at their doors in the daytime—vigilantly
watched him.  He went straight through the Rents to the Common, whereupon
Mrs. Wiggins, who supported herself by the sale of firewood, jam,
pickles, and peppermints, was particularly disturbed and was obliged to
go over to the “Kicking Donkey,” partly to communicate what she had seen
and partly to ward off by half a quartern of rum the sinking which always
threatened her when she was in any way agitated.  When he reached the
common it struck him that for the first time in his life he had gone a
roundabout way to escape being seen.  Some people naturally take to
side-streets; he, on the contrary, preferred the High Street; it was his
quarter-deck and he paraded it like a captain.  “Was he doing wrong?” he
said to himself.  Certainly not; he desired a little intelligent
conversation and there was no need to tell everybody what he wanted.  It
was unfortunate, nevertheless, that it was necessary to go through
Deadman’s Rents in order to get it.  He soon saw Mrs. Fairfax and her
little girl in front of him.  He overtook her, and she showed no surprise
at seeing him.

“I have been thinking,” said he, “about what you told me”—this was a
reference to an interview not recorded.  “I am annoyed that Mrs. Harrop
should have been impertinent to you.”

“You need not be annoyed.  The import of a word is not fixed.  If
anything annoying is said to me, I always ask myself what it means—not to
me but to the speaker.  Besides, as I have told you before, shop
insolence is nothing.”

“You may be justified in not resenting it, but Mrs. Harrop cannot be
excused.  I am not surprised to find that she can use such language, but
I am astonished that she should use it to you.  It shows an utter lack of
perception.  Your Epictetus has been studied to some purpose.”

“I have quite forgotten him.  I do not recollect books, but I never
forget the lessons taught me by my own trade.”

“You have had much trouble?”

“I have had my share: probably not in excess.  It is difficult for
anybody to know whether his suffering is excessive: there is no means of
measuring it with that of others.”

“Have you no friends with whom you can share it?”

“I have known but one woman intimately, and she is now dead.  I have
known two or three men whom I esteemed, but close friendship between a
woman and a man, unless he is her husband, as a rule is impossible.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I am certain of it.  I am speaking now of a friendship which would
justify a demand for sympathy with real sorrows.”

They continued their walk in silence for the next two or three minutes.

“We are now near the end of the lane.  I must turn and go back.”

“I will go with you.”

“Thank you: I should detain you: I have to make a call on business at the
White House.  Good morning.”

They parted.

Dr. Midleton presently met Mrs. Jenkins of Deadman’s Rents, who was going
to the White House to do a day’s washing.  A few steps further he met Mr.
Harrop in his gig, who overtook Mrs. Fairfax.  Thus it came to pass that
Deadman’s Rents and the High Street knew before nightfall that Dr.
Midleton and Mrs. Fairfax had been seen on the Common that morning.  Mrs.
Jenkins protested, that “if she was to be burnt alive with fuz-faggits
and brimstone, nothink but what she witnessed with her own eyes should
pass her lips, whatsomever she might think, and although they were
a-walkin’—him with his arm round her waist—she did _not_ see him
a-kissin’ of her—how could she when they were a hundred yards off?”

The Doctor prolonged his stroll and reached home about half-past eleven.
A third of his life had been spent in Langborough.  He remembered the day
he came and the unpacking of his books.  They lined the walls of his
room, some of them rare, all of them his friends.  Nobody in Langborough
had ever asked him to lend a single volume.  The solitary scholar never
forsook his studies, but at times he sighed over them and they seemed a
little vain.  They were not entirely without external effect, for Pope
and Swift in disguise often spoke to the vestry or the governors, and the
Doctor’s manners even in the shops were moulded by his intercourse with
the classic dead.  Their names, however, in Langborough were almost
unknown.  He had now become hardened by constant unsympathetic contact.
Suddenly a stranger had appeared who was an inhabitant of his own world
and talked his own tongue.  The prospect of genuine intercourse disclosed
itself.  None but those who have felt it can imagine the relief, the
joyous expansion, which follow the discovery after long years of
imprisonment with decent people of a person before whom it is unnecessary
to stifle what we most care to express.  No wonder he was excited!

But the stranger was a woman.  He meditated much that morning on her
singular aptitude for reflection, but he presently began to dream over
figure, hair, eyes, hands.  A picture in the most vivid colours painted
itself before him, and he could not close his eyes to it.  He was
distressed to find himself the victim of this unaccustomed tyranny.  He
did not know that it is impossible for a man to love a woman’s soul
without loving her body.  There is no such thing as a spiritual love
apart from a corporeal love, the one celestial and the other earthly, and
the spiritual love begets a passion peculiar in its intensity.  He was
happily diverted by Mr. Bingham, who called about a coming contested
election for the governorships.

Next week there was another tea-party at Mrs. Cobb’s.  The ladies were in
high spirits, for a subject of conversation was assured.  If there had
been an inquest, or a marriage, or a highway robbery before one of these
parties, or if the contents of a will had just been made known, or still
better, if any scandal had just come to light, the guests were always
cheerful.  Now, of course, the topic was Dr. Midleton and Mrs. Fairfax.

“When I found him in that back parlour,” said Mrs. Harrop, “I thought he
wasn’t there to pay the usual call.  Somehow it didn’t seem as if he was
like a clergyman.  I felt quite queer: it came over me all of a sudden.
And then we know he’s been there once or twice since.”

“I don’t wonder at your feeling queer, Mrs. Harrop,” quoth Mrs. Cobb.
“I’m sure I should have fainted; and what brazen boldness to walk out
together on the Common at nine o’clock in the morning.  That girl who
brought in the tea—it’s my belief that a young man goes after her—but
even they wouldn’t demean themselves to be seen at it just after

“You don’t mean to say as your Deborah encourages a man, Mrs. Cobb!  I
don’t know what we are a-comin’ to.  You’ve always been so particular,
and she seemed so respectable.  I _am_ sorry.”

Mrs. Cobb did not quite relish Mrs. Harrop’s pity.

“You may be sure, Mrs. Harrop, she was respectable when I took her, and
if she isn’t I shan’t keep her.  I _am_ particular, more so than most
folk, and I don’t mind who knows it.”  Mrs. Cobb threw back her cap
strings.  The denial that she minded who knew it may not appear relevant,
but desiring to be spiteful she could not at the moment find a better way
of showing her spite than by declaring her indifference to the
publication of her virtues.  If there was no venom in the substance of
the declaration there was much in the manner of it.  Mrs. Bingham brought
back the conversation to the point.

“I suppose you’ve heard what Mrs. Jenkins says?  Your husband also, Mrs.
Harrop, met them both.”

“Yes he did.  He was not quite in time to see as much as Mrs. Jenkins
saw, and I’m glad he didn’t.  I shouldn’t have felt comfortable if I’d
known he had.  A clergyman, too! it is shocking.  A nice business, this,
for the Dissenters.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Bingham, “what are we to do?  I had thought of going to
her and giving her a bit of my mind, but she has got that yellow gown to
make.  What is your opinion, Miss Tarrant?”

“I would not degrade myself, Mrs. Bingham, by any expostulations with
her.  I would have nothing more to do with her.  Could you not relieve
her of the unfinished gown?  Mrs. Swanley, I am sure, under the
circumstances would be only too happy to complete it for you.”

“Mrs. Swanley cannot come near her.  I should look ridiculous in her body
and one of Swanley’s skirts.”

“As to the Doctor,” continued Miss Tarrant, “I wonder that he can expect
to maintain any authority in matters of religion if he marries a
dressmaker of that stamp.  It would be impossible even if her character
were unimpeachable.  I am astonished, if he wishes to enter into the
matrimonial state, that he does not seek some one who would be able to
support him in his position and offer him the sympathy which a man who
has had a University education might justifiably demand.”

Mrs. Sweeting had hitherto listened in silence.  Miss Tarrant provoked

“It’s all a fuss about nothing, that’s my opinion.  What has she done
that you know to be wrong?  And as to the Doctor, he’s got a right to
please himself.  I’m surprised at you, Miss Tarrant, for _you’ve_ always
stuck for him through thick and thin.  As for that Mrs. Jenkins, I’ll
take my Bible oath that the last time she washed for me she stunk of gin
enough to poison me, and went away with two bits of soap in her pocket.
You may credit what she says: _I_ don’t, and never demean myself to
listen to her.”

The ladies came to no conclusion.  Mrs. Bingham said that she had
suggested a round robin to Dr. Midleton, but that her husband decidedly
“discountenanced the proposal.”  Within a fortnight the election of
governors was to take place.  There was always a fight at these
elections, and this year the Radicals had a strong list.  The Doctor,
whose term of office had expired, was the most prominent of the Tory and
Church candidates, and never doubted his success.  He was ignorant of all
the gossip about him.  One day in that fortnight he might have been seen
in Ferry Street.  He went into Mrs. Fairfax’s shop and was invited as
before into the back parlour.

“I have brought you a basket of pears, and the book I promised you, the
_Utopia_.”  He sat down.  “I am afraid you will think my visits too

“They are not too frequent for me: they may be for yourself.”

“Ah! since I last entered your house I have not seen any books excepting
my own.  You hardly know what life in Langborough is like.”

“Does nobody take any interest in archæology?”

“Nobody within five miles.  Sinclair cares nothing about it: he is Low
Church, as I have told you.”

“Why does that prevent his caring about it?”

“Being Low Church he is narrow-minded, or, perhaps it would be more
correct to say, being narrow-minded he is Low Church.  He is an
indifferent scholar, and occupies himself with his religious fancies and
those of his flock.  He can reign supreme there.  He is not troubled in
that department by the difficulties of learning and is not exposed to
criticism or contradiction.”

“I suppose it is a fact of the greatest importance to him that he and his
parishioners have souls to be saved, and that in comparison with that
fact others are immaterial.”

“We all believe we have souls to be saved.  Having set forth God’s way of
saving them we have done all we ought to do.  God’s way is not sufficient
for Sinclair.  He enlarges it out of his own head, and instructs his
silly, ignorant friends to do the same.  He will not be satisfied with
what God and the Church tell him.”

“God and the Church, according to Dr. Midleton’s account, have not been
very effective in Langborough.”

“They hear from me, madam, all I am commissioned to say, and if they do
not attend I cannot help it.”

“I have read your paper in the Archæological Transactions on the history
of Langborough Abbey.  It excited my imagination, which is never excited
in reading ordinary histories.  In your essay I am in company with the
men who actually lived in the time of Henry the Second and Henry the
Eighth.  I went over the ruins again, and found them much more beautiful
after I understood something about them.”

“Yes: exactly what I have said a hundred times: knowledge is

“If you had not pointed it out, I should never have noticed the Early
English doorway in the Chapter-house, so distinct in style from the

“You noticed the brackets of that doorway: you noticed the quatrefoils in
the head?  The Refectory is later by three centuries, and is exquisite,
but is not equal to the Chapter-house.”

“Yes, I noticed the brackets and quatrefoils particularly.  If knowledge
is not necessary in order that we may admire, its natural tendency is to
deepen our admiration.  Without it we pass over so much.  In my own small
way I have noticed how my slight botanical knowledge of flowers by the
mere attention involved increases my wonder at their loveliness.”

There was the usual interruption by the shop-bell.  How he hated that
bell!  Mrs. Fairfax answered it, closing the parlour door.  The customer
was Mrs. Bingham.

“I will not disturb you now, Mrs. Fairfax.  I was going to say something
about the black trimming you recommended.  I really think red would suit
me better, but, never mind, I will call again as I saw the Doctor come
in.  He is rather a frequent visitor.”

“Not frequent: he comes occasionally.  We are both interested in a
subject which I believe is not much studied in Langborough.”

“Dear me! not dressmaking?”

“No, madam, archæology.”

Mrs. Bingham went out once more discomfited, and Mrs. Fairfax returned to
the parlour.

“I am sure I am taking up too much of your time,” said the Doctor, “but I
cannot tell you what a privilege it is to spend a few minutes with a lady
like yourself.”

Mrs. Fairfax was silent for a minute.

“Mrs. Bingham has been here, and I think I ought to tell you that she has
made some significant remarks about you.  Forgive me if I suggest that we
should partially, at any rate, discontinue our intercourse.  I should be
most unhappy if your friendship with me were to do you any harm.”

The Doctor rose in a passion, planting his stick on the floor.

“When the cackling of the geese or the braying of the asses on
Langborough Common prevent my crossing it, then, and not till then, will
my course be determined by Mrs. Bingham and her colleagues.”

He sat down again with his elbow on the arm of the chair and half shading
his eyes with his hand.  His whole manner altered.  Not a trace of the
rector remained in him: the decisiveness vanished from his voice; it
became musical, low, and hesitating.  It was as if some angel had touched
him, and had suddenly converted all his strength into tenderness, a
transformation not impossible, for strength is tenderness and tenderness
is strength.

“I shall be forty-nine years old next birthday,” he said.  “Never until
now have I been sure that I loved a woman.  I was married when I was
twenty-five.  I had seen two or three girls whom I thought I could love,
and at last chose one.  It was the arbitrary selection of a weary will.
My wife died within two years of her marriage.  After her death I was
thrown in the way of women who attracted me, but I wavered.  If I made up
my mind at night, I shrank back in the morning.  I thought my
irresolution was mere cowardice.  It was not so.  It was a warning that
the time had not come.  I resolved at last that there was to be no change
in my life, that I would resign myself to my lot, expect no affection,
and do the duty blindly which had been imposed upon me.  But a miracle
has been wrought, and I have a perfectly clear direction: with you for
the first time in my life I am _sure_.  You have known what it is to be
in a fog, unable to tell which way to turn, and all at once the cold, wet
mist was lifted, the sun came out, the fields were lighted up, the sea
revealed itself to the horizon, and your road lay straight before you
stretching over the hill.  I will not shame myself by apologies that I am
no longer young.  My love has remained with me.  It is a passion for you,
and it is a reverence for a mind to which it will be a perpetual joy to

“God pardon me,” she said after a moment’s pause, “for having drawn you
to this!  I did not mean it.  If you knew all you would forgive me.  It
cannot, cannot be!  Leave me.”  He hesitated.  “Leave me, leave me at
once!” she cried.

He rose, she took his right hand in both of hers: there was one look
straight into his eyes from her own which were filling with tears, a half
sob, her hands after one more grasp fell, and he found that he had left
the house.  He went home.  How strange it is to return to a familiar
chamber after a great event has happened!  On his desk lay a volume of
Cicero’s letters.  The fire had not been touched and was almost out: the
door leading to the garden was open: the self of two hours before seemed
to confront him.  When the tumult in him began to subside he was struck
by the groundlessness of his double assumption that Mrs. Fairfax was Mrs.
Leighton and that she was free.  He had made no inquiry.  He had noticed
the wedding-ring, and he had come to some conclusion about it which was
supported by no evidence.  Doubtless she could not be his: her husband
was still alive.  At last the hour for which unconsciously he had been
waiting had struck, and his true self, he not having known hitherto what
it was, had been declared.  But it was all for nothing.  It was as if
some autumn-blooming plant had put forth on a sunny October morning the
flower of the year, and had been instantaneously blasted and cut down to
the root.  The plant might revive next spring, but there could be no
revival for him.  There could be nothing now before him but that same
dull duty, duty to the dull, duty without enthusiasm.  He had no example
for his consolation.  The Bible is the record of heroic suffering: there
is no story there of a martyrdom to monotony and life-weariness.  He was
a pious man, but loved prescription and form: he loved to think of
himself as a member of the great Catholic Church and not as an isolated
individual, and he found more relief in praying the prayers which
millions had before him than in extempore effusion; humbly trusting that
what he was seeking in consecrated petitions was all that he really
needed.  “In proportion as your prayers are peculiar,” he once told his
congregation in a course of sermons on Dissent, “they are worthless.”
There was nothing, though, in the prayer-book which met his case.  He was
in no danger from temptation, nor had he trespassed.  He was not in want
of his daily bread, and although he desired like all good men to see the
Kingdom of God, the advent of that celestial kingdom which had for an
instant been disclosed to him was for ever impossible.

The servant announced Mrs. Sweeting, who was asked to come in.

“Sit down, Mrs. Sweeting.  What can I do for you?”

“Well, sir, perhaps you may remember—and if you don’t, I do—how you
helped my husband in that dreadful year 1825.  I shall never forget that
act of yours, Dr. Midleton, and I’d stick up for you if Mrs. Bingham and
Mrs. Harrop and Mrs. Cobb and Miss Tarrant were to swear against you and
you a-standing in the dock.  As for that Miss Tarrant, there’s that
a-rankling in her that makes her worse than any of them, and if you don’t
know what it is, being too modest, forgive me for saying so, I do.”

“But what’s the matter, Mrs. Sweeting?”

“Matter, sir!  Why, I can hardly bring it out, seeing that I’m only the
wife of a tradesman, but one thing I will say as I ain’t like the serpent
in Genesis, a-crawling about on its belly and spitting poison and biting
people by their heels.”

“You have not yet told me what is wrong.”

“Dr. Midleton, you shall have it, but recollect I come here as your
friend: leastways I hope you’ll forgive me if I call myself so, for if
you were ill and you were to hold up your finger for me not another soul
should come near you night nor day till you were well again or it had
pleased God Almighty to take you to Himself.  Dr. Midleton, there’s a

“A what?”

“A conspiracy: that’s right, I believe.  You are acquainted with Mrs.
Fairfax.  To make a long and a short of it, they say you are always going
there, more than you ought, leastways unless you mean to marry her, and
that she’s only a dressmaker, and nobody knows where she comes from, and
they ain’t open and free: they won’t come and tell you themselves; but
you’ll be turned out at the election the day after to-morrow.”

“But what do you say yourself?”

“Me, Dr. Midleton?  Why, I’ve spoke up pretty plainly.  I told Mrs. Cobb
it would be a good thing if you were married, provided you wouldn’t be
trod upon as some people’s husbands are, and I was pretty well sure you
never would be, and that you knew a lady when you saw her better than
most folk; and as for her being a dressmaker what’s that got to do with

“You are too well acquainted with me, Mrs. Sweeting, to suppose I should
condescend to notice this contemptible stuff or alter my course to please
all Langborough.  Why did you take the trouble to report it to me?”

“Because, sir, I wouldn’t for the world you should think I was mixed up
with them; and if my husband doesn’t vote for you my name isn’t

“I am much obliged to you.  I see your motives: you are straightforward
and I respect you.”

Mrs. Sweeting thanked him and departed.  His first feeling was wrath.
Never was there a man less likely to be cowed.  He put on his hat and
walked to his committee-room, where he found Mr. Bingham.

“No doubt, I suppose, Mr. Bingham?”

“Don’t know, Doctor; the Radicals have got a strong candidate in Jem
Casey.  Some of our people will turn, I’m afraid, and split their votes.”

“Split votes! with a fellow like that!  How can there be any splitting
between an honest man and a rascal?”

“There shouldn’t be, sir, but—” Mr. Bingham hesitated—“I suppose there
may be personal considerations.”

“Personal considerations! what do you mean?  Let us have no more of these
Langborough tricks.  Out with it, Bingham!  Who are the persons and what
are the considerations?”

“I really can’t say, Doctor, but perhaps you may not be as popular as you
were.  You’ve—” but Mr. Bingham’s strength again completely failed him,
and he took a sudden turn—“You’ve taken a decided line lately at several
of our meetings.”

The Doctor looked steadily at Mr. Bingham, who felt that every corner of
his pitiful soul was visible.

“The line I have taken you have generally supported.  That is not what
you mean.  If I am defeated I shall be defeated by equivocating
cowardice, and I shall consider myself honoured.”

The Doctor strode out of the room.  He knew now that he was the common
property of the town, and that every tongue was wagging about him and a
woman, but he was defiant.  The next morning he saw painted in white
paint on his own wall—

    “My dearly beloved, for all you’re so bold,
    To-morrow you’ll find you’re left out in the cold;
    And, Doctor, the reason you need not to ax,
    It’s because of a dressmaker—Mrs. F—fax.”

He was going out just as the gardener was about to obliterate the

“Leave it, Robert, leave it; let the filthy scoundrels perpetuate their
own disgrace.”

The result of the election was curious.  Two of the Church candidates
were returned at the top of the poll.  Jem Casey came next.  Dr. Midleton
and the other two Radical and Dissenting candidates were defeated.  There
were between seventy and eighty plumpers for the two successful
Churchmen, and about five-and-twenty split votes for them and Casey, who
had distinguished himself by his coarse attacks on the Doctor.  Mr.
Bingham had a bad cold, and did not vote.  On the following Sunday the
church was fuller than usual.  The Doctor preached on behalf of the
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.  He did not allude directly to
any of the events of the preceding week, but at the close of his sermon
he said—“It has been frequently objected that we ought not to spend money
on missions to the heathen abroad as there is such a field of labour at
home.  The answer to that objection is that there is more hope of the
heathen than of many of our countrymen.  This has been a nominally
Christian land for centuries, but even now many deadly sins are not
considered sinful, and it is an easier task to save the savage than to
convince those, for example, whose tongue, to use the words of the
apostle, is set on fire of hell, that they are in danger of damnation.  I
hope, therefore, my brethren, that you will give liberally.”

On Monday Langborough was amazed to find Mrs. Fairfax’s shop closed.  She
had left the town.  She had taken a post-chaise on Saturday and had met
the up-mail at Thaxton cross-roads.  Her scanty furniture had
disappeared.  The carrier could but inform Langborough that he had orders
to deliver her goods at Great Ormond Street whence he brought them.  Mrs.
Bingham went to London shortly afterwards and called at Great Ormond
Street to inquire for Mrs. Fairfax.  Nobody of that name lived there, and
the door was somewhat abruptly shut in her face.  She came back convinced
that Mrs. Fairfax was what Mrs. Cobb called “a bad lot.”

“Do you believe,” said she, “that a woman who gives a false name can be
respectable?  We want no further proof.”

Nobody wanted further proof.  No Langborough lady needed any proof if a
reputation was to be blasted.

“It’s an _alibi_,” said Mrs. Harrop.  “That’s what Tom Cranch the poacher
did, and he was hung.”

“An _alias_, I believe, is the correct term,” said Miss Tarrant.  “It
means the assumption of a name which is not your own, a most
discreditable device, one to which actresses and women to whose
occupation I can only allude, uniformly resort.  How thankful we ought to
be that our respected Rector’s eyes must now be opened and that he has
escaped the snare!  It was impossible that he could be permanently
attracted by vice and vulgarity.  It is singular how much more acute a
woman’s perception often is than a man’s.  I saw through this creature at

                                * * * * *

Eighteen months passed.  The doctor one day was unpacking a book he had
bought at Peterborough.  Inside the brown paper was a copy of the
_Stamford Mercury_, a journal which had a wide circulation in the
Midlands.  He generally read it, but he must have omitted to see this
number.  His eye fell on the following announcement—“On the 24th June
last, Richard Leighton, aged 44 years.”  The notice was late, for the
date of the paper was the 18th November.  The next afternoon he was in
London.  He had been to Great Ormond Street before and had inquired for
Mrs. Fairfax, but could find no trace of her.  He now called again.

“You will remember,” he said, “my inquiry about Mrs. Fairfax: can you
tell me anything about Mrs. Leighton?”  He put his hand in his pocket and
pulled out five shillings.

“She isn’t here: she went away when her husband died.”

“He died abroad?”


“Where has she gone?”

“Don’t know quite: her friends wouldn’t have anything to do with her.
She said she was going to Plymouth.  She had heard of something in the
dressmaking line there.”

He handed over his five shillings, procured a substitute for next Sunday,
and went to Plymouth.  He wandered through the streets but could see no
dressmaker’s shop which looked as if it had recently changed hands.  He
walked backwards and forwards on the Hoe in the evening: the Eddystone
light glimmered far away on the horizon; and the dim hope arose in him
that it might be a prophecy of success, but his hope was vain.  It came
into his mind that it was not likely that she would be there after dusk,
and he remembered her preference for early exercise.  The first morning
was a failure, but on the second—it was sunny and warm—he saw her sitting
on a bench facing the sea.  He went up unobserved and sat down.  She did
not turn towards him till he said “Mrs. Leighton!”  She started and
recognised him.  Little was spoken as they walked home to her lodgings, a
small private house.  On her way she called at a large shop where she was
employed and obtained leave of absence until after dinner.

“At last!” said the doctor when the door was shut.

She stood gazing in silence at the dull red cinder of the dying fire.

“You put the advertisement in the _Stamford Mercury_?” he said.


“I did not see it until a day or two ago.”

“I had better tell you at once.  My husband, whom you knew, was convicted
of forgery, and died at Botany Bay.”  Her eyes still watched the red

The Doctor’s countenance showed no surprise, for no news could have had
any power over the emotion which mastered him.  The long, slow years were
fulfilled.  Long and slow and the fulfilment late, but the joy it brought
was the greater.  Youthful passion is sweet, but it is not sweeter than
the discovery when we begin to count the years which are left to us, and
to fear there will be nothing in them better than in those which preceded
them that for us also love is reserved.

Mrs. Leighton was obliged to go back to her work in the afternoon, but
she gave notice that night to leave in a week.

In a couple of months Langborough was astounded at the news of the
Rector’s marriage with a Mrs. Leighton whom nobody in Langborough knew.
The advertisement in the _Stamford Mercury_ said that the lady was the
widow of Richard Leighton, Esq., and eldest daughter of the late
Marmaduke Sutton, Esq.  Langborough spared no pains to discover who she
was.  Mrs. Bingham found out that the Suttons were a Devonshire family,
and she ascertained from an Exeter friend that Mr. Marmaduke Sutton was
the son of an Honourable, and that Mrs. Leighton was consequently a
high-born lady.  She had married as her first husband a man who had done
well at Cambridge, but who took to gambling and drink, and treated her
with such brutality that they separated.  At last he forged a signature
and was transported.  What became of his wife afterwards was not known.
Langborough was not only greatly moved by this intelligence, but was much
perplexed.  Miss Tarrant’s estimate of the Doctor was once more reversed.
She was decidedly of opinion that the marriage was a scandal.  A woman
who had consented to link herself with such a reprobate as the convict
must have been from the beginning could not herself have possessed any
reputation.  Living apart, too, was next door to divorce, and who could
associate with a creature who had been divorced?  No doubt she was
physically seductive, and the doctor had fallen a victim to her snares.
Miss Tarrant, if she had not known so well what men are, would never have
dreamed that Dr. Midleton, a scholar and a divine, could surrender to
corporeal attractions.  She declared that she could no longer expect any
profit from his ministrations, and that she should leave the parish.
Miss Tarrant’s friends, however, did not go quite so far, and Mrs. Harrop
confessed to Mrs. Cobb that “she for one wouldn’t lay it down like Medes
and Persians, that we should have nothing to do with a woman because her
husband had made a fool of himself.  I’m not a Mede nor a Persian, Mrs.
Cobb.  I say let us wait and see what she is like.”

Mrs. Bingham was of the same mind.  She dwelt much to herself on the fact
that Mrs. Midleton’s great-grandfather must have been a lord.  She
secretly hoped that as a wine merchant’s wife she might obtain admission
into a “sphere,” as she called it, from which the other ladies in the
town might be excluded.  Mrs. Bingham already foretasted the bliss of an
invitation to the rectory to meet Lady Caroline from Thaxton Manor; she
already foretasted the greater bliss of not meeting her intimate friends
there, and that most exquisite conceivable bliss of telling them
afterwards all about the party.

Mrs. Midleton and her husband returned on a Saturday afternoon.  The road
from Thaxton cross-roads did not lie through the town: the carriage was
closed and nobody saw her.  When they came to the rectory the Doctor
pointed to the verse in white paint on the wall, “It shall be taken out,”
he said, “before to-morrow morning: to-morrow is Sunday.”  He was
expected to preach on that day and the church was crammed a quarter of an
hour before the service began.  At five minutes to eleven a lady and
child entered and walked to the rector’s pew.  The congregation was
stupefied with amazement.  Mouths were agape, a hum of exclamations
arose, and people on the further side of the church stood up.

It was Mrs. Fairfax!  Nobody had conjectured that she and Mrs. Leighton
were the same person.  It was unimaginable that a dressmaker should have
had near ancestors in the peerage.  It was more than a year and a half
since she left the town.  Mrs. Carter was able to say that not a single
letter had been addressed to her, and she was almost forgotten.

A few days afterwards Mrs. Sweeting had a little note requesting her to
take tea with the Rector and his wife.  Nobody was asked to meet her.
Mrs. Bingham had called the day before, and had been extremely

“I am afraid, Mrs. Midleton, you must have thought me sometimes very rude
to you.”

To which Mrs. Midleton replied graciously, “I am sure if you had been it
would have been quite excusable.”

“Extremely kind of you to say so, Mrs. Midleton.”

Mrs. Cobb also called.  “I’ll just let her see,” said Mrs. Cobb to
herself; and she put on a gown which Mrs. Midleton as Mrs. Fairfax had
made for her.

“You’ll remember this gown, Mrs. Midleton?”

“Perfectly well.  It is not quite a fit on the shoulders.  If you will
let me have it back again it will give me great pleasure to alter it for

By degrees, however, Mrs. Midleton came to be loved by many people in
Langborough.  Mr. Sweeting not long afterwards died in debt, and Mrs.
Sweeting, the old housekeeper being also dead, was taken into the rectory
as her successor, and became Mrs. Midleton’s trusted friend.


{10}  Since 1868 the _Reminiscences_ and his _Life_ have been published
which put this estimate of him beyond all doubt.  It is much to be
regretted that a certain theory, a certain irresistible tendency to
arrange facts so as to prove preconceived notions, a tendency more
dangerous and unhistorical even than direct suppression of the truth or
invention of what is not true, should have ruined Carlyle’s biography.
Professor Norton’s edition of the _Reminiscences_ should be compared with
Mr. Froude’s.

{34a}  _Ethic_ pt. 1, def. 3.

{34b}  Ibid., pt. 1, def. 6.

{34c}  Ibid., pt. 1, prop. 11.

{36}  _Ethic_, pt. 2, prop. 47.

{37a}  Letter 56 (Van Vloten and Land’s ed.).

{37b}  _Ethic_, pt. 1, coroll. prop. 25.

{37c}  Ibid., pt. 5, prop. 24.

{37d}  Ibid., pt. 1, schol. to prop. 17.

{38}  _Ethic_, pt. 1, schol. to prop. 17.

{39}  _Ethic_, pt. 2, prop. 13.

{40a}  _Ethic_, pt. 1, coroll. 1, prop. 32.

{40b}  Ibid., pt. 1, prop. 33.

{40c}  Letter 56

{41a}  Letter 21.

{41b}  Letter 58.

{42a}  _Ethic_, pt. 2, schol. prop. 49.

{42b}  Ibid., pt. 4, coroll. prop. 63.

{43a}  _Ethic_, pt. 5, or pp. 42.

{43b}  “Agis being asked on a time how a man might continue free all his
life; he answered, ‘By despising death.’”  (Plutarch’s “Morals.”  Laconic

{43c}  _Ethic_, pt. 5, schol. prop. 4.

{44a}  _Ethic_, pt. 4, coroll. prop. 64.

{44b}  Ibid., pt. 4, schol. prop. 66.

{44c}  Ibid., pt. 4, schol. prop. 50.

{45a}  _Ethic_, pt. 4, prop. 46 and schol.

{45b}  Ibid., pt. 3, schol. prop. 11.

{46}  _Ethic_, pt. 4, schol. prop. 45.

{47}  _Ethic_, pt. 5, props. 14–20.

{50}  _Short Treatise_, pt. 2, chap. 22.

{52}  _Ethic_, pt. 1, Appendix.

{54}  _Ethic_, pt. 2, schol. 2, prop. 40.

{55a}  _Ethic_, pt. 5, coroll. prop. 34.

{55b}  Ibid., pt. 5, prop. 36.

{55c}  Ibid., pt. 5, prop. 36, coroll.

{56a}  _Ethic_, pt. 5, prop. 38.

{56b}  _Short Treatise_, pt. 2, chap. 23.

{57a}  Aristotle’s _Psychology_ (Wallace’s translation), p. 161.

{57b}  Rabelais, _Pantagruel_, book 4, chap. 27.

{101}  Hazlitt.

{103}  Italics mine.—M. R.

{104a}  Italics mine.—M. R.

{104b}  Italics mine.—M. R.

{133}  _Poetry of Byron chosen and arranged by Matthew Arnold_—1881.

{143}  “_Adah_.—Peace be with him (Abel).

_Cain_.—But with _me_!”

{180}  My aunt Eleanor was thought to be a bit of a pagan by the
evangelical part of our family.  My mother when speaking of her to me
used to say, “Your heathen aunt.”  She was well-educated, but the better
part of her education she received abroad after her engagement, which
took place when she was eighteen years old.  She was the only member of
our family in the upper middle class.  Her husband was Thomas Charteris,
junior partner in a bank.

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