‘We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from Thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell:
That mind and soul according well,
May make one music as before,
TENNYSON, ‘In Memoriam.’
MISS TRAVERS’ JOURNAL
MY father said to me this morning,
‘Here, Mary, is a letter from your friend. Tell me what you think of it.’
‘Oh I am so glad,’ I said, ‘I have long thought he wished to consult you, hut he is so averse to troubling his friends about money matters. So I showed him a passage in “Emerson,’’ saying that real friendships are solid things and not to be treated daintily.’
‘I am afraid,’ said my father; ‘that he is altogether too delicate in his ideas to do much in this country.’
‘The more reason why his friends should help him, is it not, dear father?’
‘What do you think of his accepting that offer and turning his money into sheep, and putting them with the person he mentions?’
‘I think – I think’ – and here I stopped, puzzled by my father’s manner. ‘Is there any need for him to go to strangers at all? I have heard you say that your runs are not crowded. Why should he not put his sheep upon them? of course, I in ca n, in a regular business way. He would not accept it in any other.’
My father said he had been rather reducing his operations of late in order to be free to take me to Europe; and added, ‘By the by I have not heard you talk about it lately so much as you used to do.’
I said that when a thing was once settled I was content
to wait patiently for its fulfilment; and added, that I should be very glad if he could be of any service to Herbert. We had some more conversation, in the course of which my father expressed great regard for Herbert and said h’ e would think about it. But I could not get out of my mind his remark that I have shown less anxiety than formerly to go to “Europe. I believe it is quite true. I do not care now to visit all the scenes which I have so long loved to read about and imagine. It seems now to me as if, amid the galleries of the Vatican and the Pitti, and the glories of Naples and Venice, I should feel the want of something – of some one – yes, I will not shrink from writing the whole truth: – I do not care to see anything of beauty in Nature, or Art without Herbert to enjoy it with me; to tell me all its meaning and the thoughts it suggests to him. Dear Herbert, he little knows how much I prize his friendship. I fear I have seemed very cold and even ungrateful to him, when I owe him so much for the pains he has taken to develop and enrich my mind with his own carefully-gathered stores of thought. His disposition is but ill suited for the rough, solitary life he is leading. Yet how bravely he bears it, and makes the best of everything; concealing his suffering, which must have been long and acute. He must have suffered, or he could not have thought so deeply. That observation upon repentance, – when I said I wished everybody to know how well he worked for the freedom of the University, – laid open a whole world of dearly-bought experience. I wish I had always made a point of writing down our conversations, or at least his part in them. I should have had quite a collection of’ guesses at truth,’
yet not guesses, but rather glimpses, for his conclusions always seem to appeal so plainly to the fundamental principles of our nature, that they are the result of seeing rather than of guessing. It never occurred to me before that people could repent of their good deeds, as well as of their bad ones. Yet it is certainly true that as one may scale a dizzy height, or perform any dangerous exploit, under the sustaining influence of excitement, and afterwards in cold blood shudder at the recollection, so people may be worked up to perform actions far above themselves, and when they return to the ordinary level of their nature, repent of the achievements of their exalted feelings, and shrink from a repetition of them. I trust this will not be the case with the new University. Yet Herbert spoke but despondingly of its prospects when he said that the enmity of its opponents will probably reappear with greater effect when the flood of high feeling that led to its establishment shall have subsided.
How admirable is his definition of the right kind of repentance; the recognition of a higher ideal, or perception of the contrast between our actual and our possible. While the strength of our regret for misdeeds must be in proportion to our consciousness of power generally to act otherwise and of the mischief which they have caused.
I so much like these verses he has sent me on Miss -’s refusal of our colonial bard Mr. – I did not notice on the first reading that they are not in rhyme. Herbert has idealised the gentleman in question. Probably if he had known him he would hardly have attained such an inspiration. I did not know before that he was himself a poet. Yet I am not the least surprised. Of
course he is a poet; and these verses might with infinitely more truth be written of himself – except – except that I don’t think Miss –– would have rejected him; but neither do I think he would have asked her.
THE POETS REPRISALS
‘They call thee rich; but I am wealthier far
Than earth-born fancy e’er can guess or dream;
For I am dowered with the Universe,
With glorious hopes and aspirations bright,
Such as in e’er would yield for other gains:
And what hast thou?
‘Fed by the teeming stars, the bounteous earth,
The winged winds, and all things beautiful,
My affluent soul, filled with celestial fire,
Can make mankind its debtor, pouring out
Rich thoughts like sunbeams o’er the darkened world:
And what canst thou?
‘Hast jewels, gold, domains, and palaces?
Can jewels make thy soul more beautiful?
Canst buy with gold a moment’s real delight?
Canst drink in rapture from thy fair domains?
Or welcome death amid thy stately halls?
Then why this vaunt?
‘I’ve jewels that cost nought, and are all joy:
Each dewdrop trembling on a leafy spray,
Lit by the morning sun, a diamond is;
And each bright star that gems the nightly sky
Doth lend a ray of beauty to my soul:
What more can thine?
‘All nature spread around is my domain;
Mine own peculiar park through which I pass,
To cull rich thoughts from her redundant breast,
Hold converse grave with dark mysterious woods,
And gaily banter with the fluttering winds:
Thus all are mine,
‘Where flowers grow, sun shines, and trees make shade,
Where waters flow, rains fall, and winds refresh;
Green earth, blue sky, and ever-changing sea,
And the grand rolling music of the clouds;
I have a right in all in e’er would yield
For ten times thine.
‘Hast thou a heart to enter poor men’s cots,
And charm away the tear of wretchedness?
To feed the starving and to win the base?
Thou may’st possess it, but gold bought it not.
Perchance a word from me can more avail
Than all thou hast.
‘Methought thy soul was beautiful and high,
And fit to greet and company with mine:
One that would hail a teacher and a friend,
As well as lover, in life’s pilgrimage.
But thou art right! Thou art no mate for me,
So fare thee well.’
MISS TRAVERS’ JOURNAL
At a later date.
ONCE again on the shores of the blue Pacific; yet how different! though the air is delicious; though the waves lull me almost into sleep. The sun has set in crimson and yellow, but its glory is not all departed. The sky
still glows with the gold and the rose, hope and love; while, higher yet, the azure, faith, broods calmly, eternally, over all. The sea is full of memories. Happily it has none that can disturb me. On this very rock I sat when he – when Herbert first came to me unperceived, and noiselessly sat down at my feet. How strange I should have thought such an action in another. Yet it did not seem so in him. In what consists the charm of manner? I have heard him say that every-thing depends not on what one does, but on how one does it; not the action, but the manner of it. Every action, then, has a fitting mode, apart from which it cannot be judged. ‘One may do anything provided it be done in the right manner.’ A dangerous maxim, methinks, but probably meaning really that time, place, and proportion constitute grace; and that that which cannot be done gracefully had better be left undone. ‘A time for all things,’ as the proverb says.
But this journal of mine is not performing the task I require of it. It does not banish too active thought and restore my old quiet course of living. I used not to long for his presence. I was very happy when he came, and not unhappy when he went away. Why is it painful to be alone now? I have tried music. That was agony. It fixed my thoughts and intensified them into a longing impossible to be endured. The only relief I have found is in drawing. That alone banishes memory, and fixes all thought on itself. In music my hands performed their task mechanically, and my mind was left to roam where it pleased. But that was not’ study: it was reverie. I must be ill. It cannot be to friendship that such peculiarities are attached. That was always delightfully
calm and untroubled. I was content to know that somewhere in the world was a soul that answered to mine own, and to wait; knowing that when the time came we should meet, and respond to each other’s thought. Is my trust less perfect than it was? I wonder why it is so long since I have seen or heard from Herbert. Surely he is not one who forgets his friends, yet I fancied an unwonted shyness in his manner at the beginning of his last visit to us. But it soon vanished and he was his own hearty self again. I think that visit to ––, and meeting Mrs. M. have helped to cause my present discomfort. How foolish and weak of me to be influenced by such a woman. Yet in ever see her without hearing something that I had rather not have heard. She is not ill-natured in act. Yet, though she never does an unkind thing, she rarely says a kind one.
Among other things, Mrs. M. scolded me for not going into what she called ‘society.’ She says it is a duty to do all one can to please ‘society.’ That nearly all the pleasures of life are derived from it, and it is un-grateful not to reciprocate its kindness. She added, that my aversion might be a great hindrance to me in life, because it is ‘society5 that provides husbands for young ladies. She was quite out of patience when I told her that none of my pleasures are derived from this same ‘society;’ so that there can be no ingratitude in my neglecting it. On saying that I preferred one friend to all the acquaintances in the world, she replied that one advantage of acquaintances is that there are so many more to choose one’s friends from. Possibly: but the annoyance of being with uncongenial people is a high
price to pay for the remote chance of finding a friend. It was not in society I found Herbert. I am glad of that. Mrs. M. means kindly. What an odd girl she must think me. Herbert says she is great fun, but hopes I shall never attain what he calls her keen sense of impropriety.
Of course people in general would not understand Herbert. Those paradoxical utterances of his puzzle them. ‘A gentlemanly young man, but of a sceptical turn of mind.’ How astonished they were at the indignant way in which I declared that I knew no one else who had half so much religious faith and feeling. It must be the influence of people who are antipathique to me that has produced this change in me. I think one word, one glance from him would put all back in the pleasant old channel.
Is life so unreal? and does everything depend for its charm upon ourselves? My books, pictures, songs, nature itself has lost its glow. And I wander, seeking in vain for the old beauty.
I wonder if he knows the feeling. The absence of one kind voice; the light of one affectionate eye. Can men feel as we do?
They seem to pass through all with unaltered brow, and kind polite mien. yet we too can do this – do it when the heart is full to bursting.
They say woman’s instinct never deceives her, save where she loves. How fatal an exception! There, on the wide sea on which her all of happiness is cast, to be left without even that frail guide.
I wonder if he is, as people think him, fickle,
unsettled, in affection as well as in opinion; if it is his nature, even admitting a deeper feeling under all,
‘When far from the lips that he loves,
To make love to the lips that are near.’
If so, I have dreamed indeed; but I will not, do not, believe it.
And yet he calls himself ‘Optimist’: meaning thereby, not that he believes that things happen for the best, but that he endeavours to make the best of things.
That story of his life in the islands – was there more in it than he confessed? And may there not be philosophy in thus taking life? No, a thousand times no; for it must incapacitate at last for what must be the highest, purest, and most rapturous of feelings, the one love, the one love still through youth and through age, through good and through ill.
But again, what the heart is incapable of feeling, it cannot grieve for: and if ignorance be bliss – No, the capacity for that one love were well gained by self-denial, and its purity and intensity may well repay the weary longing of its sadder hours.
I will interpret my friend by my own best. I will believe in my instinct even where I love. Faith, Love, and Trust cannot be meted like aught less precious. They are light itself.
A CHRISTMAS GREETING
From Herbert Ainslie to Miss Travers
IT is a very great disappointment to me, dear friend, to he unable to accept your father’s kind invitation to spend Christmas with you. My late increase of duty makes it impossible for me to be absent from the mines for more than three or four days together. My colleagues, too, are nearly all away for a holiday, leaving me to do their work, and to listen like Peri at the gate of Paradise, to the seasonable, though somewhat coarse, revelries which have already commenced, without being able to share in them. You can well imagine, without the aid of Dickens, what “Christmas in the Diggings” is like. As the sound of noisy healths to “sweethearts and wives,” or “absent friends,” mingled with rough choruses of “The old for k s at home,” beat all night upon the thin walls of my tent, I find my thoughts, no longer purely homesick for old England, clustering about a certain little bay, and conjuring up visions of a certain ledge of rocks, with one sitting beside the sounding sea, so intent upon her task as to allow a stranger to come close unperceived; then of kind greetings and hospitalities; of music, and church bells, and fair landscapes; and all the boundless blessing of a friendship that has become to me sweeter than aught else the world holds.
Without returning to the formal porch of ecclesiasticism, I may still suffer the flood of feeling that at this time comes over Christendom to bear me out of the regular current of ordinary expression into some-thing that better corresponds with the warmth of my feeling.
Dear Mary, – for once I may call yon what you always are in my thoughts, – what do I not owe to you? Latest and best revelation to me of an infinite and Divine in nature, it is you who have preserved me from becoming utterly sceptical of good between the materialising tendencies of my own speculations and the hard Phariseeism that prevails here.
Let me tell you an anecdote of which I heard something from my French friend at sea, and which has come out to me anew in a book from England.
The great French thinker, Auguste Comte, after devoting years of lonely meditation to the production of his system of philosophy, fell in love with a woman of remarkable character, and in peculiar and unhappy circumstances. One year of purest and most exquisite affection taught him to feel intensely what he had before only held theoretically, that the affections are supreme over all the rest of nature. That the heart is superior to the intellect; the emotions to science. In short, that God is Love. Thus grown religious, he aspired to raise mankind to a new faith, – faith in Humanity. For one year, it is told of him, he knew the happiness of a profound attachment; then the consolation of his life was withdrawn. The angel who had appeared in his solitude, opening the gates of heaven to his eager gaze, vanished and left him once more to his loneliness. But though
her presence was no longer there, a train of luminous glory, left behind in the heart of the bereaved man sufficed to make him bear his burden and dedicate his days to that great mission which her love had sanctified.
To ourselves I dare to apply this story. The angel thou, and I the man.
A few short weeks, and the consolation of your friendship will be withdrawn from me, and the ceaseless ocean will be bearing you onwards to a new series of associations, to the lands of all deed, and song, and story, to the haven of all the aspirations of the children of this new world. Will the years bring you back again? Meanwhile, the influence of your presence shall ever remain with me, sweetening the toils of lire, and ripening my heart and understanding for whatever mission of good I may ultimately devote myself to.
Your father will have told you that I wrote to him lately about some details of the arrangements he so kindly suggested to me. About eighteen months ago I first met him at Yarradale. My sheep are now feeding there, side by side with his.
Next to coming to you, it would give me most pleasure to pass Christmas day at Yarradale. Am I taking too great a liberty in asking his permission to do so? What a year has this last been! It seems to hold my life.’
MISS TRAVERS’ JOURNAL
WHAT a dear father mine is. I was reading Herbert’s letter this morning when he came in. I did not know I was crying until I looked up at him. He said, ‘Well, Mary,’ in such a kind tone, that without speaking a word, I put the letter into his hand. He seemed moved when he read it, but only said, ‘When you write to Mr. Ainslie, tell him that he will find orthodox fare awaiting him on the 25th at Yarradale should he continue in the same mind.’
What difficulty I have found in sending that simple message. It is not the first time I have written to him. I suppose it is the introduction of a personal element that caused so much hesitation. Our previous letters have all referred to more abstract subjects. If I have really been to him what he says, the obligation is not all on one side. I think I can trace a change in his sentiments, or rather in their expression, just as in my drawings sometimes the outline and features remain un-altered, while the slightest touch infuses a soul and a character into them. He himself said once that sentiment is to the universe what expression is to the countenance, or atmosphere to a landscape.
I quite feel myself his pupil. The treasures of European art will be all lost upon me without him to interpret them for me. I wish my father would put off going. Yet to what end should I propose it, and what reason can I give? – And to leave Herbert in the bush
more lonely than ever; for I know he will hardly ever come to Sydney then. His enjoyment with us is so evident, showing no sign of only partial sympathy. And though feted and caressed by all our best society he certainly leaves it all to be with us.
He used to say how when he had won an independence he would return to his own country and seek some fair English girl with capacity sufficient to prevent her from being shocked at his heresies, and yet foolish enough to fancy herself in love with him. This he deems more essential to a woman’s happiness than to a man’s. I wonder why? A man has other engrossments. But a woman also can make occupation for herself – at least, I can, or rather could once, for of late I have been very idle: everything I have done has had some reference to his tastes and wishes. I have been dependent upon him for every impulse. Perhaps it is best I should go, and recover my old independence of character. And in my travels should I see any noble-hearted and beautiful girl that seems to me to be worthy of him, I may tell her of the friend I have left in Australia, and persuade her to come and be his wife. How happy it would make me to be the cause of his happiness. And I would be a sister to both. – I hope he will not think my letter cold and formal. I do not think he will, for I did not feel so j and I wrote naturally and from my heart.
THE SAME CONTINUED
Yarradale. Christmas Eve
How full of delicacy and tenderness is my dear father. The morning after I sent his message to Herbert, he asked me if I should like to ask any friends over from Sydney
to spend Christmas-day with us. I said there was no one I particularly cared about, and added that a party would not seem complete without our usual guest. He said he thought Herbert would find it very dull at the station, and as he had once surprised him with his company there, it was only fair to return the surprise, and he had business up the country, and should I like to go?
Tomorrow he will come. I must be up early and visit all my old protégés first.
A CHRISTMAS GREETING
Herbert to Arnold
READ and rejoice with me, my friend.
I rode over on Christmas morning to Yarradale, Mr. Travers’ head station, preferring a quiet day there to the revelries of the diggings. I had written to Sydney to ask permission, and was told that I should find proper fare awaiting me. In all my relations with the Travers there has been a brimfulness of feeling, an accord and unity of sentiment such as can only proceed from entire sympathy and mutual respect. The prospect of soon losing them made things look very dismal to me, taking the glow from the future and robbing the very landscapes of their charms. I had learnt that one
friend is worth a hundred acquaintances, and perhaps was beginning to suspect that one love is worth a hundred friendships, and for the first time a sense of weariness and despondency came over me when I thought of being alone again. Riding up to Yarradale I was able to realise intensely the desolation I should feel when I knew that my friends were no longer in the country. The feeling came upon me suddenly and completely as when, after a beautiful tropical sunset, the rosy glow has faded from the sky, and in a moment all is dun and gray. And I felt constrained to cry aloud, ‘This is more than friendship, it must be love.’ Love: the thought I have ever studiously thrust from me until the time should come for crowning my life with all ecstasy. I knew that I loved Miss Travers – was her truly affectionate friend, but not that I was in love with her. If ever such an idea had obtruded itself I should have rejected it as one that she herself would have disapproved of, and really felt that she would have looked sadly and reproachfully upon me for depriving her of a friend by converting him into a lover. Indeed she had almost come to believe men incapable of friendship, for no sooner did she come to know any than they always wanted, she once told me, to marry her. It was long after I first knew them I overheard some people speaking of ‘the rich Captain Travers and his beautiful daughter,’ and how they seemed to think no one in the colony was good enough for them; – ascribing their seclusion to pride. It had never occurred to me before that he was rich. They lived so quietly, I rather believed the contrary; and it is a common thing here for men to have extensive flocks and herds, and at the same time to have
heavy mortgages upon them. I knew well that they were not proud, and people might be equally mistaken about their being rich. However, the idea annoyed me, and made me for some time shy of visiting them so much.
I felt that the purity of my friendship was liable to impeachment. I felt, too, that there was a barrier between the poor wanderer and the Australian heiress, – if heiress she really was. My theories also about the discipline of poverty for women were all up in arms. But going to see them after an attack of such feelings, all would be dispelled by the truth, and depth, and sweetness, which seemed to have there their chosen home. And I presently despised myself for exalting money to that bad eminence whence it could overshadow the divinest, and sever me from the best that the universe has revealed to me of itself.
Besides, was I not denying to them the credit I took to myself of being above being influenced by money considerations? There was no consciousness of any condescension on their part; perhaps it was a morbid feeling that betrayed me into such fancies. AH this was over, however, and an absence of unusual length, with the expectation of but one short meeting previous to their departure for Europe, led me to a perception of the vastness of the blessing I had enjoyed in Miss Travers’ friendship. The mere contemplation of such a character I felt was the loftiest education I could receive; and when to this was added her affectionate regard, I felt that I had received an impetus from the Divine sufficient to influence and direct my whole life.
Thoroughly penetrated by this conviction, I wrote in
anticipation of the season to express my sorrow at being unable to join them, and to make some acknowledgment of my indebtedness to her. I wrote warmly, as I felt; and, riot perceiving as I now perceive, as none but a lover could have written. Her answer was – like herself. It was to enjoy the influence of her presence that I wished to go to Yarradale, for though I had never seen her there it was her birthplace and home of her youth, and all things bore witness of her.
Well, I reached the gate and gave up my horse to a servant who seemed to be expecting me, and walked slowly through the garden, her own old flower-garden, to the door. Looking towards the house I beheld her standing in the porch beside her father! Surely an illusion, I thought, and advanced with my arms unconsciously extended. Another moment and she was clasped in them. One embrace, one kiss, and I bethought myself of her father.
‘Sir, Sir, do not be angry with me. I could not help it.’ He turned away smiling! and went into the house. ‘He is not angry with me, Mary. Are you?’
‘My father loves you, Herbert.’
‘Does his daughter share the feeling?
‘Can you ask? – What else do I here?’
It was true. She was still in my arms.
‘Too good to be true. Too good to be true,’ I murmured. ‘And he gives you to me?’
‘Ah, you do not know him. There is no halfness in his nature.’
And so, and so, – you may guess the rest.
I want you, dear old friend, to know and love her too. That blessed afternoon, after a long and most pleasant
conversation with her father, we passed in wandering through garden and bush, losing ourselves
‘In that new world which is the old,’
and talking of the multitudinous mysteries of which love is the only revealer. But I forget; you are not a lover – yet: so, for the present, farewell.
P.S. – Since writing the above I have received the sad news of my father’s death. This is a most unexpected blow to me. It had never occurred to me that we might never meet again. He would have rejoiced so in my happy prospects; for his heart was really a tender one, in spite of the warp of that cursed religion which made a division between us. My mother writes proudly that he was faithful to the last, expressing his confidence in the atonement made for sin, as leaving God no excuse for refusing to receive him into bliss. ‘But for that blessed sacrifice,’ he said, ‘what a wretch should I be now!’ And so he died, seeing in God, not the loving Father of all, but only an avenger baffled of his victim. Would that I had been there to urge him to put his trust in God, instead of in the miserable logic of his party.
You will be glad to learn that I inherit sufficient to make me feel myself no longer an adventurer.
UNDER the myrtle and the orange; in the soft moon-light of an Australian midsummer; in faint hearing of the bleating of folded sheep, and the call of the night-hawk and cuckoo from the bush, – they sit, a happy trio. Listen; Herbert is telling of the last Christmas evening he had spent among the snows of the Californian Sierra; a topic suggested by the season and the contrast.
‘I was alone the whole day, my companion, the doctor, having gone in the morning to see a sick man many miles off. At night he had not returned. Before going to bed I went out of the hut and stood upon the frozen snow. The stars were shining as I had never seen, never imagined, them to shine before. The sky was black, oh, so intensely black, from the contrast with the earth’s white covering, and the stars seemed to be actually projected from it, so marvellously did they stand out in their wondrous brilliancy, like great eyes starting from the head of space. And all was still with in-tense stillness. The great pines, laden with snow till their boughs hung slanting downwards, neither creaked, nor groaned, nor moved; and the long depending icicles glistened in the starlight in a strange weird manner. And as I gazed, entranced with the beauty of all things, the thought struck through me that this earth is one of that family of stars which gaze so intently upon me; that I too am in heaven, standing upon a star, a cold, bright
star, looking all around into the many glittering eyes of infinity; but none respond to me; they only gaze hard at me. I am alone; a soul wandered far from its kind, far out into the expanse beyond the zone of warmth and life. Here is the outermost edge of space, where all is coldness, and darkness, and silence, and death.
‘Oh, the intensity of the chill that struck to my heart! With the shudder consciousness returned. To stay here is, indeed, death. The morrow and the doctor will find me, too, an icicle. The hut was soon gained; and brightly and cheerily burnt the fire as I heaped on fresh pine logs, rich in exuding pitch, and the clear flame darted up the chimney with a roar, lighting up the forest, and warning all wild beasts that there was at least one animal in those icy wastes who knew how to be comfortable on that bitter night.’
Lightly sleep hearts so heavily laden with joy and hope. A clear voice singing amid the flowers draws Herbert early to his window. Together they pass to the cottages on the farm; and he looks on with delight as the children run out and cluster around his Mary, and hears a new tone in her voice as she speaks to them, a tone of deepest tenderness and compassion, that wins the rudest of them to be her most submissive slave. Blessings on her from all lips. From the young mother, whose infant she had nursed through a long night of suffering, and from the aged crone to whose tales of woe she had ever listened with untiring sympathy. ‘Any hope of their young mistress coming back to live among them? The children never learnt half so fast as when she was their teacher.’ And Mary answers their affectionate questionings by a smile and a blush.
One shadow darkens the brightness. Her father: how can she leave him? Herbert feels this, feels himself unkind to rob him of his sole companion and solace. Not that Mr. Travers himself shows any reluctance. He laughs, and says that now he is freed from the care of a troublesome girl he shall go and hunt up his relations in England; perhaps take a young wife himself perhaps travel all over the world. They see through the affected jocularity of the brave, tender old man, and heartily beseech him to believe that he has gained and not lost a child or a home. In all things Herbert sees fresh proofs of consideration and delicacy. Not over-burdening him with a sense of money obligations, he suggests that it may suit him to make his head-quarters at Yarradale, and look after the flock that is already his own, and the others also, if he likes.
IN busy young countries engagements are rarely suffered to linger and grow old. Two months of frequent partings and happy meetings; and, sweetest solace of lovers and cementers of love, those written revelations of affection in which heart wells up to heart across the gulfs of space.
No matter how well lovers understand each other, there is always plenty to be explained, incredulous of
his good fortune, Herbert feels that there is no self-sacrifice of which Mary is not capable. May she not have divined the intensity of his love for her, and feared that she might be the means of wrecking his whole life by her refusal? What love has not prompted, may it not be thus granted to compassion? His disquietude urges him to ask if she is impelled towards him as he towards her. She fancies that there is a difference between a man’s and a woman’s feeling. She longs to be with him and to bless him ever. She is conscious of no other – yet. He is content with the assurance that her feeling for him differs from any she has before known. With smiles and hesitation she says, ‘You will laugh at me, but I think my predominant feeling is that if yon were ill it would be my greatest happiness to nurse you; and if I were ill, to be nursed by you.’
And so, and so, on swift and noiseless wings the moments fly, until time itself seems to vanish in one boundless eternity of love – full, entire, and complete.
And thus their lives, which have hitherto flowed apart, like two streams gradually approaching each other, at last meet, and, gently blending into one, henceforth flow on in the self-same channel, a fair and affluent river, inseparable for evermore.
Is it a wonder that he sings thus, when, with bewitching hesitancy, his bride, half fearing that her happiness is too great to be real, asks if he has nothing to regret in the loss of his liberty?
‘What have I lost? my life has been
A mountain torrent running all to waste,
A flashing streamlet, merely picturesque.
What have I gained? Life now will be
A noble river gliding calmly on,
Enriching all the land through which it flows;’
– for, with such an helpmeet, no mark seems too high to he attained, no mission of usefulness too hard to be accomplished.
He may show her this also, now that she has learnt that love is a prophecy, and can understand the interpretation thereof.
‘No more I’ll roam, but sit me down and rest
From all my toils in some fair spot like this.
May I but hope to be beloved and blest,
I will not ransack earth for oilier bliss.
These trees o’ershadowing my love and me,
Shall hear us reckon off our pleasures through.
Yon bounteous river, swelling to the sea,
Shall type our love’s increase and constant flow.
And all day long, in sunshine and in shade,
Among yon groves, and here upon this lawn,
With dimpled mirth and garlands bright arrayed,
Our children shall disport their life’s glad mom.’
THE months pass too swiftly. A letter to Arnold allows a glimpse of the happy pair and their Eden of the South.
‘I, too, am an idolater now. This picture of my fair saint I kiss and gaze upon with all my soul’s rapture.
Who has a right to say I do not adore the image, but only her whom it represents to me; or that in my worship of her I do not worship herself, but the infinite Being her boundless love and tenderness represent to me?
‘Is not this true, that wherever we find an element of infinity, there, to us, is the Divine, – is God? The child finds it in his parent; the lover in his mistress.
‘Do not think I am idle in this my Paradise. Even the garden of Eden required tilling; otherwise Adam might ere long have discovered that a man who does not know what to do with himself, does not know what to do with a wife. Idleness must be fatal to love; as it is to self-respect. The intensity of my happiness seems to intensify every faculty, and make easy the solution of the various social problems with which I am occupying myself. You cannot think how utterly absurd seem all vows to those who love. My promising to love Mary all my life seemed about as superfluous as a promise not to jump over the moon. It seems so impossible ever to come asunder; and, indeed, with many dispositions I should think few things could be better devised for promoting a revulsion of feeling than such artificial bonds of union. They seem to betoken much such want of confidence in the laws of our being-, as if we should fasten ourselves to the ground for fear gravitation should fail sufficiently to attach us. I suppose, however, that laws generally are made to suit the worst organisations, who find no law in themselves. ‘Whom God hath joined together let none put asunder,’’ is the teaching of all true love; but how many are joined together by God? Whom passion, convenience, folly, and ignorance of their own and each other’s
natures have joined together, let them come asunder when and where they please. It is no man’s business to weld the iron and the clay. God hath not joined them. “The Church?” That is not God, though it may sit in his temple making itself God; all d that is exactly what it tries to do when it supersedes or supplements the ordinances of nature with its own. Bind property, insure the means of living, as you will – but persons and hearts? Even these young communities out here are not without a leaven of the priestcraft that so trammels the Old World. There are not wanting those who assert that a parent has no right to educate his own child; that, they say, is the Church’s duty. The Church, that is, other people, with certain opinions; so that, if their theory be true, other people have a better right to teach a child than its parent has.
‘How to remove the veil which habit has bound over men’s eyes, and get them to recognise the true principles of human association, – this is the hardest of problems. There is much room, however, for hope, so long as the colonists preserve their strong, resolute, British feeling in favour of thinking and acting for themselves.
‘They are now taking measures for getting the government of the country into their own sole management. The struggles they will have to go through when they get it, will be an admirable education, involving probably a complete break-up of the system hitherto existing, and even plunging them into a chaos from which order will emerge but painfully and slowly.
‘It will emerge, however, provided the community possesses sufficient vitality, without which the most paternal government can only prolong a sickly constitution.
My desire is to see the people of this new world enjoying an organic development in accordance with their natural conditions, instead of being made mere servile repetitions of that which exists elsewhere.
‘An agitation for the revision of the calendar, and its local adaptation to the astronomical phenomena upon which it is founded, might lead to great changes, and which would not stop short at matters ecclesiastical. At present throughout the whole southern hemisphere the birth of the year is celebrated in the longest days, and the Easter and Ascension in the fall!
‘The habit of judging all civilisations by our own European Standard seems to me a great mistake, founded on the old assumption that we are absolutely right, and that therefore all who differ are wrong. Whereas the real perfection exhibited by nature consists in perfect adaptation. So vivid sometimes is our perception of this that we can hardly avoid thinking the Creator must be altogether such an one as ourselves; working as we do; forming an idea, or experiencing a want, and then framing means to meet it.
‘As in this country the conditions are so varied as to cause all forms of life, whether in the vegetable or animal kingdom, to differ greatly from their European equivalents, it seems folly for man and his institutions to expect to be constant. Such considerations make me regard with leniency those aberrations from the Old World prototypes which mark the course of all American and other colonial communities. They show an effort of nature to throw out of the system all that is foreign to it, and does not spring naturally out of its circumstances, in some cases, as in that of the Spanish
republics, the struggle is more violent probably than the patients can bear. If so, they will die, and give place to better. Well, nature does not bring every germ to maturity, whether of man or plant. Such is her method. Is it for us to contravene it? or can we if we would?
‘The vast’ force inherent in the Anglo-Saxon constitution will carry our colonics through almost any crisis. The longer it is deferred the more violent and serious it will be. Wherefore I am siding with those who are agitating for what is called here “responsible government,’’ and considering how best to help my fellow-colonists to understand the right ends and limits of government, when they shall have succeeded in obtaining it.
‘The first and hardest duty of the future government will be, not to enact, but to repeal, – to remove obstructions. Already the quarrel is growing hot between two essential classes of the community. Is it not curious? Here we have renewed the old Cain and Abel strife between the agriculturist and the shepherd, or squatter, as he is called here. Grazing was ever more profitable than tillage. Wherefore the farmer envies and hates the flock-owner, and would fain destroy him; and as the “finest peasantry “are those reared in agricultural exercises, there is no doubt that, as in the old record, the pastoral interests will have to succumb, unless its opponents recognise the equal claims of both under the existing conditions of climate and soil.
‘There can be little doubt that the wool-growing interests have been unduly fostered by the government, in the hope of creating a great landed and conservative class. The gold discovery has come just in time to
reduce this to its proper dimensions by introducing a population that will require for cultivation all the land which is adapted for it. Out of this, and probably all other difficulties, we shall find Nature our best guide and deliverer; only it needs a single eye and an unbiased mind to discover and interpret a right her purpose.
‘In all that I do and feel my Mary is a sharer, and my gentle prompter to good. Whenever my own happiness would make me too long forgetful of all else. One after another the richly laden galleons of the months arrive, and discharge their precious cargo of love and hope into our bosoms.
‘Truly, indeed, He hath given one of His best angels charge over me.’
Herbert to Arnold
DEAR OLD FRIEND,
My happiness does not choke me now. I have grown with the occasion, and instead of being over-whelmed in the flood of my joy, I can touch the ground and keep my head above water.
I have a son; and the mother is safe. I thought I knew what happiness was before.
Then it was the intensity of hope and longing. Now it is the intensity of satisfaction.
How well says Emerson, Love must create. Lovers do not know it, but they unconsciously love, not each other, or their own present pleasure, but the future that shall grow out of their affection; the future in which each appears ever more blended with the other, and they can no more imagine themselves separately.
It makes one so orthodox having this first child. Our little trio fills infinity for us. It is an epitome of the Trinity. Never more let men say ‘Three are bad company.’ I find myself blandly regarding the dogmatists. The nativity of Jesus is no fiction, no miracle, but true of all mankind who love. Even the latest dogma of Rome is a fact in nature. Who dare say that purity is incompatible with maternity? Woe to the blasphemer of nature for whom these things” are not so! Poor, sensitive, great-hearted David was indeed in low spirits, even to hypochondria, when he fancied himself’ conceived in sin.’ To attach a stain to any natural act is to stigmatise the Author of Nature. There is sun in the cold-blooded bartering of youth and beauty; in unions where there is no mutual pervading heart-felt necessity for each others companionship. But in the universal poem, ‘the Divine Drama’ of Nature, there is no more beautiful canto than that in. Which a pure, noble-hearted girl yields herself to the man she loves.
I used always to look up to you as my senior, but now I feel that I am yours. Our places are reversed. Husband and father, am in of doubly promoted over your head?
You should see the devotion of the mother to the child – her child, for she almost grudges me any property in it, while regarding me with a kind of puzzled gratitude.
I verily believe she looks upon her babe as the paragon of mankind, destined to be the patriot reformer of his race. Already is he the real master of the house. Everything must give way to ‘baby.’ I am made of as little account as Joseph himself, as if I were only the reputed father. And dearly do I enjoy the poetry of all this.
Nay, it seems to be in some sense true; for the father’s share in the matter really seems to be nothing compared with the mother’ s. Who dare limit the drama of the ‘Holy Family’ to one single representation?
Now I dare say that to you, dweller in populous places and accustomed to regard the exercise of the affections as commonplace and a matter of course, such interpretation of cherished mysteries may appear very shocking. Whereas to me it is the only intelligible one. The only blasphemy I can recognise is irreverence towards Nature j and I speak with deepest reverence of these things, even as those who in old times wrote them; – secluded, hermit-like men, dwelling, as I have done, apart from all communion save with their inmost selves, and accustomed in their loneliness to regard all things relating to the production of a human soul as divine mysteries, and immediately referable to Divine agency. Thus Prometheus-like do I scale Olympus, and restore to man the divine element of which his greedy gods have robbed him.
Love is in truth the key to the universe, unlocking mysteries that before seemed inscrutable. Friendship is content in absence. Content to feel that there is one on whose faith we can repose, and to whom we can fly whenever our need presses. But the magic touch of love once felt, separation becomes unendurable.
Love is the key of the universe. What else is the mutual tendency of atoms but the ‘love’ of its smallest particles? Attraction, whether mechanical, animal, or spiritual, is no other than love. Everywhere identical in essence, all things are nourished by it; for for what else is the reception and assimilation of food into the body and the absorption of a lower life into a higher?
The intense attraction and agonised yearning towards each other of two natures, as if striving to become fused into one, has its result in the production of a third, in which, while they retain their individuality, both are yet blended and in which they can contemplate each other and themselves. Barren and illegitimate is the love that cannot produce a future in accordance with itself, a future that is lovely to look upon in anticipation. The pleasures of true and pure affection are cumulative; rising ever higher and higher in intensity towards that ideal of perfect bliss for which the soul ever yearns. To live so that they become dulled by repetition, and a pastime of a moment, must indeed be self-destruction of the worst kind. All existence is a perpetual ebb and how. In order to attain a far higher height of being than we can yet imagine, it is necessary to avoid too frequently calling into action the acutest sensations of our nature. The capacity for pleasure must be husbanded, like any other treasure, or it becomes exhausted. Love is the key of the universe, and when man has worn out or lost that, he says with poor blasé old Solomon, ‘Creation is a vanity and a blunder, for I have transcended it.’ And was he the wisest man?
Were there no ebb there would be no flow; all would be motionless and stagnant. The self-existent is an ocean, not a river. It is impossible always to be at the
same height, at the top of being, without losing the sense of being at an elevation at all. Without valleys, can be no hills. A world of mountain-tops would be all level plain. A consolation to me these thoughts in the occasional separations forced upon me. ‘Incorrigible optimist,’ you will say, when I inflict them thus upon you.
To you alone I write of these things. And if I seem to enunciate as novelties thoughts long familiar to your-self, pray ascribe it to my theological education, which, content with inculcating the supreme necessity of a certain theory of the supernatural, left everything natural for me to discover for myself.
Is not this the right interpretation of the charming old allegory of Cupid and Psyche, – that the beginning of love is the birth of the soul in man and woman? And that a certain degree of mystery is necessary to preserve the sacred flame in woman, while knowledge can be safely borne by man alone? Apuleius is not the only one who has held that woman’s innocence consists in ignorance – that analysis is a masculine function.
ANOTHER glimpse of the fair lives of the wedded pair. It is at the moment when Britain is engaged in a vas struggle on behalf of the weak and the oppressed.
Throughout that far country every kindred bosom thrills at the report of the achievements of her soldiers. To help in the conflict is not given them; but they can aid the widow and the orphan of the brave dead. No niggard is Australia of her gold, as is testified by her contributions to the Patriotic Fund, which far exceeded those of any other community of equal size. And not in gold only does the far south-land prove the strength of her sympathies. In the verandah at happy Yarradale sits the young mother, not so entirely absorbed in her new office, as to have lost her love for her favourite art, or to have forgotten the use of her pencil. The canvas before her shows the outline of the picture that is to be her greatest achievement, for is it not a labour of love, and a token of sympathy with heroism? There are the gates of heaven through which pours a bright splendour, indicating the unutterable glories within; and arrayed without are the souls of the fallen in fight, showing their wounds and their broken weapons, and mutely appealing to these evidences of their devotion, in justification of their claims to admission. And above and around them gathers a luminous mist rising from the dwellers below. These are the prayers of their countrymen and of the delivered peoples pleading for their deliverers.
The story of the battle of Inkermann, ‘the soldier’s battle,’ has thrilled to the inmost heart of Australia; and Mary is illustrating this ode which Herbert has written for her.
NOVEMBER 5TH, 1854
Fresh from fight, with gory faces,
Gaping wounds and notchèd blades,
Claiming at the heavenly places
Each a wreath that never fades:
Stood they there with aspect fearful,
Stern, heroic, undismayed:
Mortals once, – weak, erring, tearful:
Now for them their death-deeds prayed.
Prayed in silence; each the token
Holding forth that spoke his fame;
Sword and lance in battle broken,
Helmet crushed, but deathless name.
And a halo gathered o’er them
Brighter far than burst of morn;
Countless voices praying for them,
To the throne of God are borne.
They their country loved and cherished,
Thoughtless though sometime of good;
They for country fought and perished;
In the ranks they nobly stood,
Stood and dropped without regretting,
Breast to breast in deadly fight;
Rooted rocks their bosoms setting.
’Gainst the frantic torrent’s might.
Wintry torrents fiercely pouring,
Mass on mass, and tide on tide;
Waves of darkness, madly roaring,
Hurled they back, and, hurling, died.
Take they now the highest stations
In the mansions of delight,
With the prayers of grateful nations
Broidered on their garments bright.
May they win archangels’ places,
Win the heights of holiest love,
Gaining all divinest graces;
Heroes here, and kings above.
Herbert to Arnold
YOU cannot think how monstrous to me now seems the folly of the old Hermits, and you Fellows of Colleges, their unnatural descendants, in withdrawing from all human association in order to seek that virtue which is only possible through the affections. The same spirit of asceticism that has led Pagans and Christians alike to despise the body, vitiates all modern theology. People christen things ‘material’ and ‘animal,’ and forthwith detach from them all love and reverence, forgetting that to true love nothing is common or unclean. They are kindred absurdities, the trying to imagine man prior to, or independent of, his organic body, and Deity apart from the universe. Yet is not this the usual mode of thinking?
It is a magnificent book which you last sent me, – Spencer’s ‘Social Statics.’ He is indeed the Euclid of ethics. It will be of great use to me in my endeavour to recommend a simpler state of things in our colonial system. One sentence epitomises all I have been long thinking on these subjects. ‘Morality is essentially one with physical truth. It is a kind of transcendental physiology.’ The highest morality and happiness spring from the strictest fulfilment of the physical laws of our being, one of the most important of which is sympathy. The ascetic method was to paralyse the social faculties
by total abstinence, instead of strengthening them by moderate and healthy exercise. I thought once that I had found in California a condition in which I was free to develop and act out my own nature. But it was the freedom of isolation. The only faculties there necessarily developed, are those which fit men for a wild and aboriginal mode of life, the real secret, I fancy, of the form society has assumed throughout Western America. That I was not myself an instance of this theory was because I did not limit my future to the existing state of things. For the development of the best parts of our nature intimate human relations are indispensable. And thus I see in the beautiful legend of the Holy Family, in the bond between father, mother, and child, a revelation of domestic happiness as the highest we can attain to. It is amusing to see how insensibly one falls into the habit of regarding our own best as divine. I may be excused for doing it when so clear and acute a thinker as Herbert Spencer does the same. Seeking out the broadest and plainest principle that the universe exhibits to him, he calls that the ‘Divine Idea.’ Meaning only thereby that it is the best and truest that he can discover. Well, I suppose that the best we can comprehend must ever be the Divine for us; and necessarily so by the very constitution of our nature. For we must ever interpret that which is without by that which is within. In going through the Bible with Mary of late, we have been much struck by the subjective character of all that really appertains to religion in both Old and New Testaments. Constantly is the inner ideal dwelt upon without any necessary reference to corresponding external objects. Think you it was the law as written in
the books of Moses that was a delight to the mind and a guide to the feet of the Kingly Psalmist? No, no; it was something that appealed much more nearly to his inmost soul, even ‘the law of God in his heart.’ And what else was meant by ‘Christ in you the hope of glory’? The idea of a perfect Standard is all that can be in us. The question whether or not it has any external personal existence in history, does not affect the efficacy of the idea in raising us tip towards itself. God, the Absolute, is altogether past finding out. Wherefore we elevate the best we can imagine into the Divine, and worship that: – the perfect man or perfect woman, surely it is no matter which, since it is the Character and not the Person that is adored. The Divine character is one and the same, whoever be the medium of its revelation to the individual. Happy the man who finds it in his wife: happy the woman who finds it in her husband. Few, if any, are capable of pure Deism, or worship of the Absolute. Men must have a background to infinity to save the strain on their eyesight, or rather a foreground to hide infinity from them. If you have ever perceived the difference between gazing on an object in the heavens, a cloud for example, and gazing into the heavens themselves, you will at once comprehend my meaning. Christianity is a worship of the divinest character as exemplified in a human form.
I love to seek a meaning in things that so many people have so long believed, and so dearly cherished. It is painful to have to regard it all as pure nonsense, and to have to look upon the world as little better than an asylum for idiots. Every discovery of a coincidence between us brings us nearer together, and makes us more
intelligible to each other; so I am inclined to believe that in the doctrines and rites of every religion there is a kindred and mystic meaning which has been generally forgotten or materialised; a meaning derived from some universal fact in our own nature. Thus the water, bread, and wine of the Christian sacraments are interpretable as representing for us all the constituent elements which nature yields for our sustenance. ‘Water is the prime element;’’ the blood is the life.’ Who shall determine how far the religions of the world are but the result of a mingling of the phenomena of earth and sky; ‘sons of God’ with daughters of men’?
I began making a book of biblical adversaria, without the least notion how enormously extended a list they would make, even those in our translation; and I understand that in the original there are far more, and more important discrepancies.
I have given up the task as a barren one for myself; but every bibliolater should undertake a similar one before asserting the theory of plenary inspiration. I defy any one to study the Bible in this way, and then maintain its verbal or, indeed, its moral infallibility. Men use their educated moral sense to extract the good and reject the evil; but they seem to lay it aside when they declare that the whole is good at the very moment they are explaining away the obvious meaning of passages that shock them. In addition to the discrepancies between the various accounts of the same events, such as the different numbers ascribed by the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles to the men engaged and killed in the same battles, I collated such passages as these, where it is said in one place ‘the Lord moved,’ and in another
‘the devil provoked,’ David to number Israel. The instances of the indiscriminate punishment of many for the fault of a few, ascribed to Divine vengeance, – ‘I, the Lord, create evil;’ ‘I gave you statutes that were not good.’ (Does this include the ten commandments?) That most horrible narrative in 2 Sam. XXI where the divine command is made directly responsible for David’s murder of the seven sons of Saul; and ‘the Lord’ is represented as being propitiated, and the famine stayed, by human sacrifices: ‘They hanged them in the hill before the Lord. – And God was intreated for the land.’ And the erroneous expectation pervading the New Testament, of the immediate return of Christ, restricting its moral teaching to the supposed exigencies created by the ‘approaching day of the Lord,’ in place of contemplating the future development of mankind. If the Bible will say such things it cannot be our duty to ignore them, and ascribe to it the uniform infallibility it so evidently disclaims for itself.
It is curious to note how a later and less prejudiced re-perusal of these old records sometimes transforms the heroes of one’s childhood into deceivers and tyrants. The history of Samuel affords me a notable instance. His pious childhood, and his prophetic’ old age, seemed to give a unity to a character which looms out of the ancient obscurity as one of the greatest and noblest in history; yet I cannot now read of his conduct in regard to Agag, without seeing in him the arrogant and over-bearing priest, setting at nought his sovereign’s clemency, coming down at the head of his college of priests, and taking the prisoner whom the king had spared, and murdering him. And then, on discovering that Saul
was no longer entirely subservient to the order that had set him on the throne, he denounces him as a sinner against God, and covers his own mistaken expectations of the man by saying ‘the Lord repents having made thee king over Israel.’ The priest is infallible; and if there is any error of judgment, the mistake is not his but the Lord’s!
I am not disposed, however, to throw all blame upon the priests. People insist on having infallibility somewhere, either in an oracle, a man, a church, or a book; and in one or the other they will find a concrete object for them to worship. Yet, if anything is deducible from the Bible, polygamy and slavery, as well as Calvin-ism, find there a justification. One of the Gospels represents Jesus as ascending into heaven with a curse almost upon his lips. ‘He that believeth not,’ that is, who does not that which is altogether beyond his own power to control, – the marvellous assertions of a few ignorant peasants, ‘shall be damned.’ But I do not the less admire the grandeur and beauty of his life and character because in after-ages a fanatic partisan attributed to him an atrocious sentiment; for well I know that such love and devotion as followed him throughout would never have been won by an unjust, hard, or intolerant character. Surely even Christians have a right to imitate St Paul’s rejection of all slavishness in these matters, and judge for themselves what is essential, without being the less Christians. There is no proof that the apostles believed the New Testament, which was to come after them. Wonders are not necessarily miracles. Even we do not know the limits of the natural. Enthusiastic zeal will account for much exaggeration,
and many of Christ’s warmest admirers were women. Those who know anything of mesmerism and ‘spirit-rapping’ can understand the delusions to which their hysterical susceptibilities make them specially liable. If such a basis seem to you too trivial to have so momentous an argument founded on it, I would remind you that but for the success of Christianity we should probably never have heard of its wonders; and if success be worth anything as a criterion of truth, you would be wrong to ignore the marvellous spread of this new faith and practice. Not merely the number, but the characters of the adherents of ‘spiritualism ‘demand for it a patient and rigid scrutiny, for no religion ever succeeded like it. I have listened much to persons who are familiar with its workings in both Europe and America; and I have, when in Sydney, taken every opportunity of examining our colonial reproductions of its phenomena. What, more than anything else, has led me to take this trouble is the weakness of the reasons alleged against it. I found that the most ardent disbelievers in and contemners of its claims, are just the very persons who, by their professed faith, ought to be most ready to receive it as, at least, a possibility. It is just those persons who believe most firmly in the existence and power of spirits good and bad, that are most incredulous about it prior to examination. For myself, I approached the subject with all my faculties on the alert, and my prejudices in abeyance; and I have retired from its investigation utterly distrusting the genuineness of its phenomena, and considerably enlightened on the subject of miracle-making.
I have rarely been more painfully struck than by the
wondrous contempt for veracity exhibited by the per-formers in general. These, the ‘mediums,’ are almost exclusively females, and no amount of conviction of their dishonesty seems able to win a confession of trickery from them. Now I cannot bring myself to believe that there is so much conscious falsehood in the world, especially among persons who are ordinarily truthful; and I have observed symptoms that lead me to ascribe much that is said and done to their being under the influence of a certain excitement or exaltation, arising, perhaps, from the idea of contact with the denizens of another world. As with the subjects of Mesmerism and Electro-biology, they seem liable to hallucinations more or less hysterical, which render them quite unconscious of the nature of their acts and assertions. I am confirmed in my theory on this point by observing that persons in whom perfect honesty, and a power of calm self-control, are distinguishing characteristics, never succeed in becoming ‘mediums,’ no matter how earnestly they may desire to possess the power in order either to hold communion with departed friends, or to demonstrate the alter-life. The possession of a high degree of intellectuality and sensibility is apparently a fatal objection with the ‘spirits;’ they will only visit those organisations in which a certain degree of cunning seems to be combined with a liability to hysterical affections. Yet a new religion, founded on such materials, has won its votaries by myriads, including men of understanding, learning, and station, who declare that it if the evidences of its truth be insufficient, all historical testimony to the truth of anything whatever is utterly worthless. What I have seen in this connection has suggested to
me an explanation of much that has perplexed me in the world’s history. Emerson says that we owe the religions of the world to the ejaculations of a few imaginative men. I suspect that we owe its miracles to the exaggerations of a good many fanciful women. Even you allow that ‘error has crept into the palace of truth’ since the publication of the Gospels. How much more likely that it should have crept in before, while the only source of information was oral, and therefore shifting. We differ only about the period of its introduction and the amount introduced.
In so far as I can judge, the main qualification of a ‘medium’ consists in an acute sensitiveness to all variations of pressure on the table, and to all hints or indications of what is passing in the minds of those present. This, where the answers are given by tilting a light table, – the case in which there is most room for unconscious deception. The interrogator, expecting a certain reply, unconsciously ceases to follow the table’s vibrations when the expected letter is reached. The medium, detecting the diminution of pressure, allows the table to stop at that point, attributing, perhaps, that diminution to spiritual agency while the interrogator, finding his very thought spelt out, does the same: and so the deception is mutual. Where answers are given by raps, the deception is gross and intentional; though even in this case, the medium might plead that, though produced by ordinary muscular exertion, they are prompted by spiritual suggestion.) To this explanation has my process of gauging colonial spirits led me. Perhaps those of Old World manufacture would baffle my scrutiny; but there are two divisions of the question which must be kept quite distinct.
The first thing is to prove the genuineness of the phenomena. The second is to account for them, if genuine. You see that I have not yet arrived at a belief in the first. Doubtless it would be a grand thing to bring into the region of Demonstration that which has hitherto been confined to the region of Faith, – the separate existence of the soul, and the reality of the after-life. I have heard of hard-headed sceptics being transformed into tender-hearted Christians by this new influence. Such a result, of course, proves nothing, however desirable. People may be deceived to their own good.
Even were I to hold that a man may be damned for his beliefs, methinks I should incur more risk by accepting than by rejecting the popular notions. It may really be a great sun of which Christians are guilty, in rendering to their teacher and example the divine honours which are due only to God: in likening their Deity to those of the pagans, by representing Him as condescending to an earthly maiden; in endowing Him with a disposition that was incapable of forgiving his repentant children, whom he had created weak and ignorant and liable to err, without a compensation of agony and blood. What more natural than for a new religion, commencing in an unscientific and superstitious age, to have a mythology like all others? The wonder would have been it it had not. It would have indicated that the disciples and their followers were equal to their master. Whereas the very ascription to Jesus of supernatural attributes shows their incapacity to appreciate the grandeur and simplicity of his character, and their desire to win for him the respect of mankind by exhibiting him as an equal of their deities in every popular
respect. The real charm of Calvinism consists in its pretension to logical sequence. But that charm fails where the logical faculty is more than half developed. It pretends to solve the problem how a sinless God can forgive sinners. But the solution rests on most contradictory premises; for in claiming to satisfy the inconsistent attributes of justice and mercy, it actually represents God as unjust enough to require perfection from creatures whom he has made so imperfect that the very best of them succumbed to the first and smallest temptation, a fault to be washed out only by the life-blood of the innocent. The very ascription of Deity to Jesus involves the injustice of God, for it implies that he required of man what was utterly beyond mere human power to perform. If any opinions are ‘wicked,’ surely it must be those which I am repudiating, and, at any rate, it would be wicked in me to profess them while thus regarding them. With respect to the Bible, my endeavour is to interpret the letter by the spirit instead of the spirit by the letter, to use it without abusing it; regarding it not as an infallible history, but as a history containing accounts and utterances of men gifted with lofty character and clear insight into moral and spiritual questions. They may aid me in more clearly discerning the truth, but my own experiences touch me more nearly than theirs. I do not ‘create my religion out of my own inner consciousness,’ as you say, any more than in exercising the faculty of taste I create the flavour which I perceive. Neither do I find my religion in the external world, any more than I find the flavour in the thing tasted. To attribute saltness, for instance, to the salt itself, is the same as to place the pain of a puncture in
the pin that pricks one. Neither the feeling nor the religion exists merely objectively or subjectively. But as the sensation called saltness is the result of a combination, whether chemical or mechanical, between my own organs of taste and the salt; that is, is the name given to the effect produced on myself by the contact; – so is true religion the result of a harmonious combination between the soul and the Universe of being: all other is habit and hearsay.’
With reference to the sermon you sent me on man being made in God’s image, it seems to me that if any creature is entitled to regard his own nature as the special type and exemplar of the Divine, all are alike entitled to do the same. The coarse, sensual, brutal man, as well as the noblest and purest. The very animals may put in their claim. The deity of the tiger and shark would be an impersonation of unavoidable agility and relentless ferocity, much like that of savage human tribes, whose gods are governed by caprice without regard to any of those sentiments of justice and benevolence which we regard as necessary to higher natures, and therefore assign pre-eminently to our Deity. The very earth itself would be justified in referring all its qualities and phenomena to their counterpart in the Creator, and in imagining his character as liable to a succession of moods resembling the hurricanes and calm, heat and cold, that alternate upon its own surface. If the highest best conceivable by some natures is to be regarded as the nearest index to the Divine for them, so must the highest best of others be for them. And it is evident to what utterly mistaken conception this method of finding out God must lead, when it is remembered
that by the highest best of every being we only mean the character or condition best adapted to promote the greatest happiness of that particular being: – the Divine idea or intention in reference to it, but affording no clue to the Divine nature itself.
As the belief of the idolatrous savage seems to us a blasphemous libel upon the Deity, so may our best conceptions be similarly regarded by the higher intelligence of other or future beings.
But however advanced any intelligence may be, so long as it is a finite one, it is by the very nature of things impossible for it to form any conception whatever of the Absolute: or, in endeavouring to form such conception, to do aught but draw its own lineaments in exaggerated proportions. That God is thus the ideal of our species is the key to the whole doctrine of the Incarnation. Men have been led by certain beauty of life and manner, around which has clustered, after the manner of the age, a halo of legends, – to think that the Ideal has once been realised. And they fall clown and worship their own potential self, first projecting it into the Godhead to avoid the charge of idolatry.
Here then is one main result of my mental pilgrimage. From the verge of the Infinite have I returned with the conviction that within the limits of the finite and the knowable lie the whole duty and happiness of man. All that we can know, and all that therefore it is good for ns to learn, is comprised within that series of appearances or phenomena which is appreciable by our faculties. Nourished by impressions whose source is external to us, our growth must be exogenous, from within outwards.
On this point, therefore, I reach a conclusion different from yours. The impossibility of our reaching the Absolute is to me no ‘reason for accepting as divinely infallible any statement purporting to have come across the gulf.’ It must come to, or through, a fallible perception, and derive its authority from some strong impression made upon the mind of the recipient. It is true the impression may be so overwhelmingly strong as to leave him no option about obeying it, but that does not prove its inspired origin, for such are the impressions of hypochondriacs and fanatics, or enable him to communicate his conviction to others. Our impression of its falsehood may be equally strong, and equally infallible for us. The evidence that convinces him cannot convince us, for we have it not, but only his narration of it. Consequently we can do no otherwise than judge his statements by our own knowledge and experience. For a man to assert a thing to be inspired and infallibly true, without offering tangible evidence of it, is for him to say, ‘the impression is so strong on my mind that you must admit it as irresistible to yours.’ An American once said to me of some incredible story that it was so true I might say I saw it myself. And this seems to be just what is done by those who have a strong belief in narratives of marvellous occurrences. They have enacted the scene so often in their imaginations that it becomes as easy and familiar as if they had really seen it them-selves. Hence one great value of pictures in aid of a belief in the miraculous and legendary.
Of course all questions ultimately resolve themselves into questions of evidence. But, granted the truth of miracles, what is proved thereby except a power to work.
them? Certainly not the truth of any doctrine: that after all is referred to our own judgment.
Pray see if there are any works on Christianity and its esoteric meaning which are likely to help to a solution of these problems. I am inclined to think that a correct history of Philo and his school in Alexandria would afford a clue to the origin of many of the doctrines superadded to the actual teaching of Christ and incorporated with Christianity. I do not care to waste time in working out problems already solved by others. My wish is to use all that is really known as a Foundation for Farther progress.
One word more on this interesting ‘Plurality of Worlds’ controversy. Whewell’s book (if it is his) seems to me a remarkable instance of intellectual perversity. His moral argument ‘that the history of man is unique and incapable of repetition,’ is founded on the shallow theological hypothesis of the nature and origin of evil: while his physical argument ignores the whole history of this planet which shows that it is the essential nature and tendency of life everywhere to seek higher and more complex forms of organism, so that wherever there is life, the degree of its development is only a question of time. And who shall say that the very motion of the heavenly bodies is not a kind of life, and the impetus that lies at the root of all farther vital development. As for Brewster’s book, the very title is a compound falsehood. That there are ‘more worlds than one’ of the kind referred to, is neither’ the creed of the philosopher’ in any sense in which the word creed can be used; nor ‘the hope of the Christian.’ At least in ever heard of any Christian who looked Forward REPORTING PROGRESS.
to a residence upon Mars, Jupiter, or any other of the heavenly bodies after leaving this one. The attempt by men of such eminence to import ‘authority’ into a question of pure induction deserves the strongest reprobation. The way in which it has been received shows the low’ Standard at which public opinion still remains.
I am reading Gibbon for the first time in my life. I found it in my father-in-law’s library here – the same which first led to my mentioning Yarradale to you. I should have been saved much time and puzzlement had I read it years ago. Not because I accept his statements about the Foundation of Christianity implicitly; but because they prove incontestably that the more elaborate are one’s researches into historical evidence, the more difficult it is to arrive at any certainty in favour of the popular belief. This fact, added to my irresistible conviction that the grounds of a Faith on which human ‘salvation depends must be in their nature infinitely simpler, plainer, and more accessible than can ever be the case with those of any historical event, only serves to confirm me in rejecting all external testimony as a basis of religious belief, save that which is gathered from an experience which is possible to the present and the past alike. As with legislation we want to get rid of existing rather than enact fresh statutes, so with religion, we want to get rid of theological dogmas, and try simple natural development. Over-legislation is the bane of society in both relations, spiritual and civil. Your ac-count of the growing change of feeling at home in reference to historical evidences greatly interests me. I gather from it that this conviction of mine – an old one, you will remember – is forcing its way into other minds.
But I cannot comprehend how the objective element can be eliminated from the faith of a Churchman (for this is the real meaning of such a conviction), without an abandonment of nearly all that the Church insists upon. In saying that the Church has in every age the right of interpretation, – do you mean that individual members have such a right – even those who have signed her Articles? Of course, if she were honest in her renunciation of infallibility, she would have no right to object to anybody’s interpretation, or even selection of dogmas. And in that case you may hold and teach what you please without transgressing her limits, for she has none; and I myself am a good Churchman. But so long as articles of faith are imposed, I cannot see either that the Church renounces infallibility, or how any can retain membership while rejecting those articles. Your defence of the new school, if I understand you rightly, amounts to this. Holding all things as divine; all spiritual knowledge, whether in Jewish Scriptures or elsewhere, as a revelation from God, who is ever leading man forward; ever progressively manifesting Himself in man’s heart and mind, – there will ever be a wide interval in belief between the average majority and the advanced few: and it cannot be the Church’s intention to confine its members to one stage of this progress; much less to expel the most advanced believers.
Why then, I ask, have articles of faith at all? and who, or what, do you mean by ‘the Church’? It seems to me that consistently with the above statement you can only reply, ‘The living generation of Churchmen;’ that is, the opinion of the majority. But if this majority declares that you have surpassed the limits of orthodoxy,
to whom is your appeal? You can only say, ‘If they insist, we must come out. But we will first try to show them that we do not really differ from them, but are only farther advanced on the same road.’ But your difficulty is caused by your having already failed to convince them of this, for the majority cry out against you, and would do so much more loudly if they knew your real opinions. For is there a word of the second and third articles, for instance, that is believed by what is called the rationalistic school?
I should like to propound the question, as you put it, to the bench of bishops. ‘Is the Church an association for the discovery and propagation of spiritual truth; or merely for the preservation of certain crystallised doctrines?’ You well know that one and all would choose the latter definition; in effect, deciding it to be rather a tomb containing embalmed dogmas, than the living and growing body which you find it to be. Without attempting to settle the question whether a bishop with the learning he is supposed to have can be an honest man, I cannot but be struck by observing how very conservative a comfortable and assured position is apt to make a man. When has the necessity for reform in any system ever been admitted by the officials whom the system feeds? All plead finality, even those whose own system owes its existence to the right to change; and what existing system does not? The reformers of the sixteenth century are invested with infallibility, and their work, instead of being regarded as only a great step in the right direction, is arrested midway, and what they decreed is to be law for all time. Can there be any doubt as to how a new Luther would be received now
by the clergy and their partisans, should one come forward and appeal to his brethren for their aid in making some fundamental reform in the Church of which he and they are alike members? Is it not certain that, so far from granting him even a serious hearing, their only reply would be a scornful bidding to leave the Church if it did not suit him, and a threat of expulsion if he did not go of his own accord? Happy for you so long as you can mistake what the Church is for what it ought to be. But have you never found yourself putting the Cause before the Truth?
The question lies in a nutshell. You may think as you like, and yet remain in the Church, provided you get a large party to agree with you; otherwise you are unfaithful to your vows, and must quit. No use declaring that in another generation or two everybody will be of your opinion. It is with the Church or Churchmen of the present, not of the future or past, that you have to deal. The only test of your being in the right is your success in persuading others that either they agree with you, or you with them. I mean this, of course, in reference to your popular relations. In your ecclesiastical ones, it is clear that, labour as you may to convert the present narrow edifice into a spacious mansion, so long as the Church of England is an articled Church it can make no allowance for those who chafe at her restrictions. You may be right in saying that it is not for any to quit voluntarily while believing that the Church possesses an inherent capacity for expansion. Far be it from me to condemn those who think they can reform it from within. For myself the Articles and Creeds oppose an impassable barrier. They may break, but can
never stretch; and in ever cease to rejoice at having made my escape from the dilemma once and for ever. I am amused at your saying I am a Christian in spite of myself, for I have long claimed you as one of the noble army of free-thinkers, in spite of your profession. Yet not quite. You have not yet offered your sacrifice to Truth. Will it ever be that the cause of truth and reform must have its martyrs? Alas, then, for those who would save their Church and their emoluments also! If by Christianity you mean a belief in the indefinite improvement of humanity through the development of the intellect and affections in the pure spirit of Christ, you may be right about me; but if you mean that I ascribe to Deity faculties and methods which are merely human, I certainly am far from deserving the title. Will you accord it to one who follows Christ, however far off, but refuses to worship him? In this respective are alike. Neither” of us is stationary. You, after being attracted towards the High-Church, or mythological party, by their earnestness and the definiteness of their aims, now sympathise with broader views. Your logical faculty compels this; but your position leads you to seek breadth within the Church, while I am free to seek it without. It was at a great price that I obtained this freedom, and perhaps I value it more than those who are born free; but I have my reward. What chats we would have if you were out here! Our University would have inst suited you. It is not vet a great success as to numbers. Perhaps it is still somewhat in advance of our wants. We have a capital man at its head, a contemporary of yours. No pedant or bigot, though both schoolmaster and parson; but filled with an enthusiasm
for all humanity most refreshing to meet with. Do you remember John Woolley, of University College?
IF it be true that habit is a great reconciler, to my disuse and unfamiliarity with the practical world of society it may be owing that I find myself objecting to one after another of the time-honoured customs which come under my notice. I have been lately made a J.P., in spite of my declaration that I know nothing of law. I was told that common sense and fairness are the principal requisites in a magistrate. In my new capacity I attend the police office and sessions, at present rather to learn than to take a part. I have been most painfully struck by the dreadful congregation of countenances assembled in the rear of the court. It is here, and only here, I am told, that the remnant of the old outcast population of the colony is still to be seen. Degraded by life-long familiarity with crime and vice of the lowest kind, these terribly brutalised faces form as great a contrast to the rest of the population as the blacks do to the whites. Where they hide themselves, how they live, none but the police know; but by the traction of their old associations they invariably turn up to watch, with unabated interest, the
investigation of crime, and the operation of the law. A few years, however, and all this will have vanished: and the souls of even these poor wretches, perhaps, prove of some account in manuring the spiritual universe, and so helping it to yield a better crop in the future.
Mary has read the last sentence over my shoulder, and declares that I am nearly as bad as the preacher we heard last Sunday, who came out so strong on the text, ‘He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ Poor chaff!’ she was provoked to say; ‘even in the burning it may serve to warm us, and it is not the chaff’s fault if we can do nothing better with it than burn it. We may yet discover a good use for it; but rather than reproach it for its worthlessness, let us remember how necessary it has been to the grain. Where would our wheat have been but for its touching self-abnegation, which led it to devote its whole existence to enfolding and cherishing the seed, bearing the brunt of the heat and the storm, yielding all the joy and the honour to another, and accepting contempt and neglect for its own share.’ Have not I taught her to listen to a sermon with profit?
But it is our system of judicial swearing that has struck me as so exceedingly curious. Pray do not publish the fact, but it is a fact, that though a magistrate myself, I am not competent to give evidence in a court of justice! If an advocate chose to question me about my theological belief he could reject me as an untrustworthy witness, through my having come to certain unpopular conclusions either respecting the origin of those ancient historical documents known as the New Testament, or in my metaphysical speculations concerning the Absolute. My
very love of truth spoils me in the eye of the law for being a trustworthy witness. I was brought to this startling discovery when watching a case that illustrates in more ways than one the singular condition of this country in matters of justice. It was a case of horse-stealing, the commonest of offences here; and a Victorian squatter, who had been summoned as witness had travelled round by sea and land over a thousand miles to the trial, and rode back home five hundred miles afterwards. His evidence was essential and satisfactory; but the lawyer who was on the other side very nearly succeeded in rejecting it, and was only foiled by the singular wit of the witness. He was reputed to be what is called an ‘infidel,’ whatever that may be, and on his entering the witness-box the counsel stopped the clerk who was about to administer the oath, saying that he wished to ask the witness a few questions about his religious opinions. The witness observed that when sworn he should be most happy to answer any questions about the case before the court, but that his opinions concerned nobody but himself; they were not evidence, and nothing he could say unsworn could be evidence; he hoped, therefore, his honour, the judge, would save him from any irrelevant curiosity. The judge, however, answered what seemed to me a most reasonable appeal by intimating that it was necessary to answer the counsel’s questions.
‘Perhaps, then,’ said the witness,’ I may be informed if, not being sworn, I am bound to speak the truth.’
‘Not legally,’ said the judge.
‘And there is no penalty if I lie?’
Witness thanked the judge, and turning to the counsel said, ‘Now then, Sir, you may just ask me what you please, and I’ll endeavour to frame my answers to suit you.’
Seeing that an examination under such circumstances would be a farce, the lawyer requested that the oath might be administered. This done he again commenced,
‘Now that you are legally bound to speak the truth I desire to know if you believe in the New Testament on which you have been sworn?’
Turning to the judge with an expression of mock humility, witness said,
‘I pray your honour’s protection.’
The judge told him to answer the question.
‘But, your honour, it’s not fair. He wants to make me commit myself because he knows my evidence will tell against him.’
‘Exactly so,’ said the counsel, blandly bowing.
‘What,’ asked the judge, ‘do you mean by making you commit yourself?’
‘Why, your honour, he wants me to disqualify myself for being sworn as a witness by acknowledging that I believe in the Divine authority of a book that contains a positive injunction against swearing at all!’
On hearing this most unexpected reply the lawyer answered the judge’s inquiring smile by throwing himself back in his seat, and declining further to oppose the witness.
Does it not seem strange that the very truthfulness which would induce a man to acknowledge his disbelief should be used to discredit him? I am told that in England it is no rare thing for a witness to be rejected
for declaring his disbelief in a God; though I can hardly imagine any one doing so; for as my little French fellow-voyager once said, ‘No man is an atheist who believes in cause and effect, and every one who is not a downright idiot believes in that.’ The atheist, then, is he who has unpopular notions respecting the nature of the first cause. No one disbelieves the existence thereof. It seems to me absolutely certain that a little advance in the public intelligence will cause the oath to be discarded altogether. As an appeal to the supernatural it real I y means nothing; and as a legal contract it might be made equally binding and less objectionable. A choice might even be given to the witness, and if he admitted that an oath was necessary to compel him to speak the truth, or that he held a simple affirmation less binding than a sworn one, the oath might in that case be administered. So long as the present system lasts we cannot claim the credit of guaranteeing equal rights to all our citizens without respect to opinion. W e make orthodoxy a consideration superior to justice nay, we outdo the Americans, who, in disqualifying the blacks, make colour, instead of opinion, the test of credibility. Surely the abuse has not escaped the eyes of English reformers. Yet I have never seen any mention made of it among the multitude of matters needing correction. It is difficult to say which most excites my indignation, – the logical absurdity, or the practical injustice, of the present system of judicial oaths. Because a man speaks the truth when questioned about his opinions while under no legal obligation to do so, (that is, prior to his being sworn,) therefore his testimony is valueless, even with the additional guarantee of an oath and its legal penalties. His very veracity maintained
rained in the face of the most serious inconveniences is converted into a proof of his utter mendacity. Very convenient this must be for an unscrupulous and reluctant witness. A hint to the counsel, and the bare assertion of certain sentiments, will excuse him from giving evidence. In the former case the simple truth prevents a man being believed on oath; and in the latter, a simple falsehood enables him to escape from giving evidence. If sworn testimony alone is valuable, what an absurdity to allow the bare assertion of certain opinions to relieve from the obligation of giving it.
The class to whom the religious obligation of an oath is essential must be but a small one, at least I hope so, in proportion to the rest of the population. There can-not be very many people who are such idiots as to hold that the obligation to bear true witness depends upon the form of words in which the obligation is acknowledged, rather than upon a fundamental duty existing independently of all forms whatever. Such Fetichism would indicate a moral sense low enough to exclude them from the witness-box, but does not justify the preservation of an unjust enactment on their behalf. As, then, it is not the pledge, be it in the form of oath or affirmation, that imposes the obligation to speak the truth, all that is requisite is the acknowledgment of the obligation to enable the law to deal with the violator of it as with one who breaks a legal contract. The present law rests on the falsehood that the manner of the contract is of more importance than its matter; that the letter is everything; the spirit and intention nothing.
Were I in the position of a doubtful witness, and interrogated concerning my belief in God and retribution,
I think I should answer,’ I believe that if I commit perjury and repent, God will forgive me; but that the law will punish me whether I repent or not.’ I think of writing a little tract on the question, to be called ‘The Swearer’s Assistant;’ a short catechism of questions and answers for the witness-box, something like this:
Lawyer. – ‘Pray, Sir, do you believe in a Future State?’
Witness. – ‘Why, don’t you!’
The squatter in question came and dined with me after the court was over, and we had a good deal of amusing chat. He is clever and eccentric, with considerable common sense in his crotchets. He told me that on the census being taken, in the column ‘Religion,’ he wrote of himself, ‘I worship God;’ so that the colony appeared by the registrar’s report to contain so many hundred thousand Church of Englanders, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and others, but only one who worshipped God.
Among other things he said, ‘I don’t go to church myself, but I am very tolerant to those who do.’
He tells with glee of a child of his who was questioned concerning his religious knowledge before being allowed to give evidence, but whom he had trained in anticipation. The judge asked him if he knew where people who tell lies go to.
‘No, Sir, please Sir, but I shall be very glad to learn.’
‘To Hell,’ said the judge.
‘Oh yes, Sir, I know the name they give the place, but I don’t know where it is.’
And the judge was fain to confess that neither did he.
My French fellow-passenger has lately spent a couple of days with us. He is prosperously following the avocation of a tobacco merchant among the colonies, for which he says all his countrymen have a natural aptitude owing to its æsthetic character. He came into my district to inspect a property with a view to taking a mortgage upon it. He and Mary are delighted with each other. He declares that she is the original of all the Madonnas of the painters, only with more fun in her; and that hers is just the face to send Italian peasants down on their knees. He prides himself on being a physiognomist, and says it is essential in his business, which depends upon the honesty of the agents whom he selects and sets up in the different towns. But he does not seem to have restricted his studies of faces to persons eligible for selling cigars. He declares that he can always read the history of a married couple in the expression of the wife’s face. ‘I do not tell all my friends of my gift,’ he said, ‘for some of them would not be so glad to see me, especially the widows. I am very fond of widows, and I always know by their expression if they and their husbands have been happy together, and, if not, who was in fault. Ah, it is a great risk marrying any but a widow. I would have all women born widows. Marriage is such a transformer, and so few can stand well the test. It is not often that a former lover does not congratulate himself on his escape when he sees the lady a year or two after her marriage. The face is a great index. As people live, so they look. If all the world considered that, people would pay more respect to what they think and do. Not the grosser sentiments only, but selfishness and hypocrisy all write their names
there if habitually indulged in. Why, sometimes I sec folks in the street and in society who almost make me jump and cry out, “How dare you expose your indecent face to other people? Do not believe that because you do not such and such things openly, they cannot all be seen just as plainly in your countenance.” The preachers say that in the world of spirits every one will fear to have an evil thought, because all can see through and read each other. I believe we might make this a spirit world too if we would try.’
And then he turned to me and said, ‘You have practised my art to good purpose;’ and to Mary,
‘Ah, you need not fear to meet your old lovers. It is they who will need to be pitied.’
Being curious to know what so shrewd and practical a man could suggest about the vexed question of our national education, I told h I in of the difficulties which beset the solution of the problem. His first remark was,
‘Don’t call it education. That is the work of life. Call it instruction, and you get rid of one great obstacle – the priests. It is no business of theirs to teach reading and writing, and geography and arithmetic.’
Being told that many doubt the right of the State to interfere between parent and child, he cried, ‘What, hold that the child’s mind is of less value than its body! If a parent ill-treat and starve his child’s body the police will interfere, and he will be punished, and the child taken from him. And shall he be left free to cruelly outrage its mind by starving and destroying its intellectual and its moral life? No, no; if the State has the
right to prevent or to punish child-murder, it has the right to insist on every child having its mental life cared for: and every child can claim, as a member of the State, the right of instruction as well as of protection. I say not that Government should provide schools, but it ought to say to every idle child, “You may be taught where you please, but taught you must be.” And it ought to say to every parent, “You have no more right to let loose upon society a pack of ignorant young savages than a herd of wild beasts.” If you persist in doing so, you will find that soon it will cost you more for prisons, and policemen, and hangman’s ropes, than you would have had to pay for schooling. The people of these colonies boast of their “mounted police force,” and no doubt it has done good service, but I say it is nothing to what a mounted force of teachers would do who would range through all the thin people of this wide land, and instruct everywhere the children.’
Being told that the main difficulty arises from the refusal of the religious sects to agree upon an uniform system even of secular instruction, and to allow their children to be taught together, he said,
‘Ah, yes, they are like some charitable people who found a lad perishing of hunger, and took him in, and” set before him food, but would not allow him to eat until they had said grace; and they were so long quarrelling about what should be said and who should say it, that he died before he could eat. No, your Government must ride with a high hand over all such bad folly. The State has a right to act in self-defence, and if it does not destroy ruffianism, ruffianism will destroy it. England has given up transporting away her criminals. Mark
my words, her criminals, will one day get to be too strong, and it will take almost a civil war to put them down. I know London well. The people there live upon a worse volcano than that of Naples, and have no beauty of scenery to compensate for the danger. Now, while this country is young, and before the priests become powerful, and while the people are not yet accustomed to poverty and crime, the task is easy. Why do your Australian horses practise that pas diabolique that you call the ‘Buckjump?’ It is because you do not break them in till they are five or six years old, and they have acquired bad habits, and are too old to lose them. Take care lest some day the ignorant and the criminals do not buckjump your Government and your civilisation off their backs. If there are no schools to which all children can go, the Government must create some, and teach them what is their duty in the world. And if the parents or the priests are not content, it may please them to be allowed to send their missionaries at times into the schools to instil their favourite superstitions into the children of their own sect. And if they are discontented with that, and still want to bring up their children in discord with each other, they must be disregarded as bad citizens. No teacher of religion has a right to consider himself more than a missionary, and he ought to be very rejoiced to be free to spread his opinions. As for giving him influence in the government, more than belongs to him as a simple citizen, it is making suicide of your liberties. No man must make laws in virtue of his calling. Not your priest, more than your doctor, or your tailor; and least of all any man who professes some interest superior to that of the State, for he will
not hesitate to weaken and injure the State in order to serve his own sect.’
Little Fitz (for we named our child Fitzroy after our late amiable Governor-General, who was a good friend to me,) came in and took his seat on the Frenchman’s knee as we were talking of these matters.
‘And what are you going to teach this little one?’ he asked.
I said that I cared more for character than for acquirements, and therefore wished first of all to make him a gentleman.
‘Meaning thereby ––?’
‘Gentle and manly.’
‘Good. And what,’ turning to Mary, ‘is the first virtue you will inculcate in master Fitz?’
‘And the second?’
After a moment’s pause she answered again,’ Truthfulness.’
‘Well, but how about Justice, and Courage, and Purity, and Tenderness, and all the other beatitudes? Do you not wish these also for him?’
‘Oh yes, yes; but I think that with Truthfulness all the rest will follow; for, hating deceit and concealment, he will be ashamed to do or to feel anything that he dares not tell.’
‘Happy little lad,’ cried the Frenchman, dancing the child on his knee. ‘You will have money, you will afford to be honest; you may think and say what you believe to be true, and no one will make you starve. May no big serpent, no father of lies, ever crawl into this Eden! Ha! ha! thus does a woman at last appear
who is the enemy of the priests, to bruise their heads!’
‘‘Please, how?’ asked Mary, vastly amused by his vivacity.
‘Why, if people were agreed to make Truthfulness the parent of all the virtues, what would become of the sectarians? The essence of sectarianism is to assert positively concerning that which cannot be known certainly. It is a necessity of their condition ever to be liable to commit falsehood.’
‘By sectarians, you mean all the divisions of religionists?’
‘Yes, all, large and small; from Catholic to Comtist. I have learnt the word sectarian in the colony. It is charming. Wherever Dogmas are held, there is lying.’
‘Meaning,’ I said, ‘by Dogma a positive assertion about that which is incomprehensible, or at least un-known; and therefore an assertion which may be false; and therefore an assertion which is inconsistent with a spirit of truth fullness.’
Here Mary got u p and went to the library, and presently returned bringing two lexicons, an English and a Greek one. Giving me the latter, she told me to look out Dogma there, while she found it in the other.
‘The Greek,’ I said, showing her the place, ‘makes the matter worse for the Dogmatists, for it shows the word to be derived from one that signifies seeming; so that they are guilty of making authoritative assertions of the truth of that which only seems to them, and is incapable of verification.’
‘It requires too much humility,’ remarked our visitor, ‘for most people to admit the philosophy of the may be. Yet in the practice of this life we are often forced to
own ignorance. Why then should we be ashamed to allow that we do not know all about the invisible world?’
‘I suspect,’ said Mary, laughing, ‘that many of our teachers have acted very much like parents who, when their children ask difficult questions, do not like to appear ignorant, and therefore invent answers.’
‘Pray do not teach your child that he will have money and be able to do as he likes when he is a man,’ exclaimed the Frenchman. ‘For that would make him discontented with his childhood, and would spoil his youth, and his manhood too. Besides, you do not know he will ever live to be a man. And so I do not think it can be right to make people in this world feel sure that there is for them another world where everything will be much better than in this one. If it turn out to be a fact, it is with it as with a child’s manhood, – better for ns not to be too sure of it, or to know, or even to think, too much about it beforehand. Hope and trust are among our greatest delights; and certainty destroys both, and makes the present seem poor by comparison. So I say, let children be children as regards the expectation of their manhood, and let us all be children as regards our expectation of a future life. If it be a fact we do not know it, and whether it is or is not, it is best for us not to know it for certain. The present alone is ours, but it is wise to live as if our future may grow out of it.’
‘And therefore it must be important,’ I added, ‘to avoid contracting habits or opinions that may be at variance with what we shall find to be the nature of that future existence and detrimental to us therein: except, of course, in so far as is required by the exigencies of
our present state. Not that I can imagine dogmatic opinions to be a necessity anywhere.’
‘My word!’ cried the Frenchman, using a favourite colonial expression. ‘My word! how will some of the saints, who have lived and died for their strong opinions, feel uncomfortable when they find themselves in the ideal world of spirits, where all have to think, not according to their own tempers, or the nursery they happen to have been brought up in, but according to the truth. It will be a great disappointment to some of your sectarians to discover that the Almighty Father is not a Papist, or a Lutheran, or a Mussulman, or an Orangeman, or even a Positivist?’
‘A sort of general sloughing process must be always going on there,’ I said. ‘Bigotries, which are vices of the mind, will have to be shed and abandoned, just as much as physical impurities, before the constitution is in a fit state to follow a healthy development. When I had tertian ague in America the doctors always gave me calomel before they allowed me to take quinine.’
Here Mary struck in by telling the Frenchman that her only fear was ‘lest a child brought up to have no certain belief in the religious opinions of the world, might some day feel himself estranged from the sympathies of his companions, and be looked on coldly and suspiciously by society for regarding their most cherished beliefs as false.’
‘Oh, you must not teach him that they are absolutely false,’ returned the Frenchman, ‘or he will be apt to tell people so, and they will think him uncivil. Only bring him up to have the habit of delaying to form his own opinion until he has sufficient evidence, and not to have
anxiety to believe one way or another, and in the mean time to respect the foibles of other people. Very few are strong enough to swim against the general stream. Only those indeed who have had strength to fight their own way out of the crowd can be expected to keep long in their own path. The true faith of a strong soul alone is self-supporting. Weak and timid ones must fall in and march with the ranks: – must obey orders, and not aim at independent action.’
‘Would you have me teach – baby creeds and catechisms, and all that kind of thing?’ asked Mary.
‘Yes, when he is old enough to learn and has some understanding of his own, I would teach him these things; not as being actually true, but as being things that some people believe, and therefore entitled to as much respect as he can find it in himself to pay them. It is not fair to a child that a parent’s belief or disbelief should operate to its disadvantage in life. Teach him these things as you will teach him the dictionary of Monsieur Lemprière, and the other graceful mythologies of past times; as part of the literature of the age and country. It will never do for him to know about Jupiter, and Venus, and Hercules, and Bacchus, and Osiris, and Hades, and Elysium, and sacrifices, and auguries, and all the fancies of the ancients, without knowing too about Mary, and Jonah, and the Scarlet Lady, and hell-fire, and all the religious rites of the modern priesthoods, which are based upon the ancient ones. It may be a great pity that so much time is taken up in teaching children fairy tales, but so long as mankind are children, what can one do? Some day, a long time off, the world will wonder that such things could ever have
raised a serious thought. For the present we must stick to Mother Hubbard and Cinderella.’
‘You have not quite removed my difficulty,’ said Mary. ‘Children will ask if things are true; and if told that they are not true, they would be sure to say so to their schoolfellows, which would get them into trouble and cause them to be tabooed as dangerous companions. And besides, it would have the bad effect of making them conceited, by thinking they know better than those around them.’
‘It is a difficulty,’ returned the Frenchman, ‘and one that will remain until parents cease to teach their children what they themselves no longer believe. I think it very cruel,’ he said, turning to me, ‘to put our children to the same pain of struggling out of early superstitions, that their parents have undergone before them. They ought to start from the point at which we have arrived. The world would get o n much faster that way. But still it would be as cruel to bring them up so differently from others. On the whole, as things are now, I do not think you can do better, when they ask about the truth of the Dogmas they find in their lessons, than to say, “There is a truth concealed in them, but you cannot yet understand it. And people have so many different opinions about it, that I think it enough to teach you only the words until you are grown up and can examine for yourself. It is a matter of very deep philosophy, and you can be a good child without knowing its meaning.-” Will not that do?’
‘I think I should be guided,’ I said, ‘by a child’s own character. If of a strongly emotional temperament, I should endeavour to counteract what might grow to be
sense of religion by cultivating an analytic disposition; and if self-sufficient and lacking in reverence, I should endeavour to correct him by showing how much there is that he cannot understand. It is very much a question of balance and proportion, after all.’
My friend has lately been on a second trading-voyage to the Islands. I inquired if he had seen anything of my little friend Maleia.
‘Ah, yes, Maria has grown very fat, and lives with an English sailor in a house of their own near the village. She has a white baby, and is very content.’
‘You call her Maria?’ I observed.
‘Yes, that is the name the missionaries gave her, but the natives cannot pronounce the r, and sound it like l.’
On taking his leave he said to me with an arch look, ‘Not every martyr finds his crown of reward in this life.’
THANKS, dear Arnold, for your continued letters and suggestions. It is most curious to me to find in one book after another that I take up, the same thoughts that have occurred to me in my solitude. The fact of so many independent minds starting from different points, and arriving at the same results, seems indeed to show that
there is a considerable element of truth in their conclusions; certainly, at least, that there is an unity in human intellect. I am not conscious of having had any end in view beyond the discovery of truth; no pet theory to establish, but only to find out what is. I think another proof of our being on the right path is to be found in our explaining, rather than rejecting or ignoring, the doctrines which have hitherto prevailed. An error is surely best refuted when the cause of it is exposed. Let me give you an instance. The clergyman just appointed to itinerate this district stays with me when he comes to hold his monthly service. H is first sermon to us was delivered last Sunday. It was on the fall. He treated the text from Genesis in the usual manner, as a narrative of events that might just as easily have been otherwise, and, indeed, more easily, so far as man was concerned; for his transgression arose from no necessity of his nature, – that was perfect. Yet somehow, though this perfect man was so culpable as to have earned everlasting torments for himself and all his progeny, it was all pre-intended for the greater glory of the Creator. The whole discourse was one grand mystification, tending mainly to exhibit God as being capricious, selfish, and cruel, as any Hindoo deity, making his Will the measure of right, instead of Right the basis of his Will. It was pleasant, however, to see how the people, who came from far and near, enjoyed the opportunity. It brought back old home associations and kindled feelings of kindliness among them, and possibly even aroused long dormant feelings of devotion.
Now, the meaning of this allegory, – it seems to me unmistakably clear and simple now that I have my Own
child for my interpreter. What else is it than a representation of the growth of consciousness, and equally true of every intelligent being that ever was born? Life is at first merely vegetable existence, until the accumulation of sensations in the memory induces comparison, reflection, and judgment. The first perception of less and more, better and worse, right and wrong, is the moment of the giving of the law, of the eyes being opened. The perception of contrast or difference, before the attainment of experience to guide the choice, necessarily renders the individual liable to error in his choice j and this is evidently the leading idea in Hawthorne’s remarkable romances, only he superadds remorse as a redeeming and elevating agent. Finite in knowledge, we must needs sometimes choose that which proves afterwards to be the less good. But such a condition is far above one in which we are not free to choose; in which we are as automata unconsciously obeying an irresistible instinct.
The Fall is a rise.
Self-knowledge is the first condition of improvement. No longer an unreasoning animal, my child now knows its right hand from its left. Henceforth there is a law for him, even the ideal Standard of such perfection as he can imagine. When once he is able to imagine any-thing better than he can do, he rises to the dignity of a ‘sinner,’ for there is a short-coming in his performance, and he is aware of it. Thus, ‘by the law is the knowledge of sin,’ (the theological term for the imperfect, the finite, the non-absolute in morals). The simplicity of the test applied to Adam, and his whole conduct under the circumstances, (not to go into the probable signification
of certain details,) is plainly intended to exhibit the low and infantile level of his mental nature. It is an allegory for all time; and for eternity also. For, as the birth of human consciousness was the introduction of sin into the world, so the birth of the Divine Consciousness was the introduction of Evil into the Universe.
The question of the origin of evil is nothing else than the question of the origin of all things, even of thought itself. This is admirably put in an anonymous little tract I have met with, bearing the singular title of ‘The Infinite Republic.’ The ‘Absolute Perfection’ of the schools is shown to be nothing else than annihilation, – the attainment of a state in which, nothing being left to be desired, hope, activity, change, must cease. The Universe had never existed unless something better were possible than that which existed previously. The very act of deliberation involved a choice between two things, of which one was better than the other.
‘To be, or not to be,’ was a question which might have been determined otherwise than it was, even by the non-existence of the universe, on the theological hypo-thesis of the relations between God and nature.
In the absence of other evidence, we must have recourse to analogy. As in man the vegetative and animal existence precedes the sentient, so must the physical universe ever appear to us to precede the spiritual. We cannot think of the universe except as a body containing mind and evolving thought. If not made out of the Divine substance, of what else can it be composed? If aught else than God was self-existent, He ceases to be God. All that is not Pantheistic, therefore, is Atheistic. The idea of God, or the Divine Mind, existing
prior to His substance is as impossible to us as that of man so existing. Wherefore it would appear that the only way in which 'God' can be called the 'Maker' and ruler of all things is that in which man is often described as forming his own character and position. In other words, our definition of nature must be enlarged so as to include the tendency, character, and power, in short, all that is commonly ascribed to Deity.
Conscious existence being once granted, good and evil as relative terms follow as necessarily as all other degrees of comparison. W e cannot eliminate one from a true science of God without eliminating all; just as we cannot separate the idea of more from that of less. No sooner do we call Him exclusively good, than we depose Him from the sole sovereignty, and exalt evil to another and an equal throne. We put a good God at one extreme of the universe, and a bad one at the other, and divide the dominion between them. The only intelligible idea of God is that which includes all extremes of existence. Not good, not evil, but the great I AM. The ALL and IN ALL. By good we only mean human good. By evil, human evil. That which does, and that which does not, coincide with the conditions of our own being. That which operates to prevent life from attaining its highest development. The only sin against God is sin against ourselves. The only way to serve God is to serve man, and man is only to be served by being aided to adapt himself and his conditions to each other, and to cultivate his capacity for greater appreciation and enjoyment. Thus there is no inconsistency between the highest spirituality in character, and the most rigid Positivism in method. Science and religion are not
adversaries, for the truest scientific disposition is that which proceeds in humility and reverence to the investigation of the mysteries of our being.
You say that I seem to you to limit the power of God to make a revelation to man. Whereas it was rather man’s incapacity to know anything infallibly that I maintained. The fact being so, it is for us not to kick against it, but to make the best use of our faculties, and prove all things as well as we can; always starting from our own consciousness as the only impression sufficiently universal to constitute the basis of a general agreement.
I was fixing a kaleidoscope the other day for Mary’s school on the farm, and in default of the proper materials filled it with bits of broken bottle, a quill, a pin, a button, a piece of lace, a rose leaf, and other odds and ends; the effect of all which, when held up to the sun, and combined and multiplied by reflection, was really most curious and rich. And it struck me that this universe, disjointed, irregular, and ill-assorted as its parts may appear to us separately, may yet appear to one who can behold all things from the right point of view, exquisitely varied, complete, and beautiful. Why should there not be a picturesque in the moral as well as in the physical world? An. Who of us can judge how far the poorest and most crooked ingredient contributes to the general effect? Do you quarrel with my inference that it is not for us to shape things as if we could view their general effect from the universal focus? That it is not for man to attempt to see or judge things from God’s point of view, but only from their human aspect – in their relations to man? But instead of allowing our
standard of right to be a human ideal, we deify it, and then represent the Deity as estimating sin, not by the nature of the sinner who commits it, but by that of Himself who does not and cannot! To make God estimate our actions by the Standard of his own perfection, and not according to the sinner’s imperfect nature and circumstances, is to make Him unjust in the extreme. What would be thought of punishing a child that is hardly equal to the rule of three, for not under-standing the differential calculus? That which would be an impossibly low and evil course for a pure and lofty being, may in reality be a noble and elevated one for a weak and tempted creature. Remember the story of the widow’s mite.
Is it for a part to complain that it cannot comprehend the whole? It seems to me that it ought to be a sufficient source of satisfaction to feel oneself homogeneous with all of the universe that comes within our range. ‘One with God.’
I like your suggestion that it is a question how far the difference between Theism and Pantheism is a matter of temperament. Perhaps both may be true even for the so in c individual; the emotional part of our nature requiring one, and the logical part the other. But henceforth I mean to strive against striving for the Absolute. It is a sea without shores or bottom, and one may literally lose oneself in God.
Our preacher added an admonition against procrastination in accepting the proffered salvation, dwelling upon ‘today’ and ‘the night cometh ‘when He will no longer listen and forgive, till Mary became indignant, g if God changed, and maintaining that it cannot
be so. The sun shines ever the same: it is ourselves who are turned away? Not while He will, but while we can is the true way of putting it.
There is certainly much virtue in texts. Everybody likes to have his knowledge cast in little solid bullets handy for use, especially for flinging at the heads of others. Proverbs are the concentrated essence of experience. I find myself never satisfied that I understand anything until I have succeeded in thus reducing it to a condition so simple as to be self-evident. I am now casting a stock for battering our colonial school system. Here is a sample of my ammunition.
‘The most perfect legislation is that which combines the greatest personal liberty with the greatest personal security.’ (It is astonishing how few people know this.)
‘It is an act of injustice to apply funds derived from the whole community, to the promotion of the opinions of any portion of it.’
‘The admission of any distinctive tenet is a sentence of exclusion against all who do not hold that tenet.’
‘The first duty of a State is equal justice to all its members, without reference to their opinions, religion? or political.’
‘Ecclesiastical systems are internal to the State. Like joint-stock or other exclusive societies, they are private to the members who compose them.’
‘The existing State system excludes from its benefits all who do not profess the Christian religion. This involves the admission either that those persons need not be good citizens, or that they can be so without either Christianity or education.’
In working out this question I have found Herbert Spencer’s theoretical conclusions utterly irresistible; that education is no part of a government’s duty. Society is a growth, and not a manufacture, and to be healthy its development must be spontaneous. And I know that Chevalier Bunsen’s practical experiences of its effects in Prussia have set him strongly against State education, as in the long run weakening more than it strengthens, keeping the people in perpetual tutelage, and repressing all healthy independent political life. But the people here are as yet far from comprehending this, and the Government is so far committed to the cause that I can only hope at present to counteract in some degree its endeavours to foment and perpetuate religious differences. Better, however, that Government should do that than attempt to enforce religious uniformity.
As you are vacating your fellowship for a living, I presume and trust the usual consequences will follow. In this view I commend the following anecdote to your consideration. In a conversation at dinner with some neighbours about the new Constitution act, I happened to say that there is something in the character of the English which would enable them to flourish under any form of government. They understand the system of compromises, and, so long as there is a balance in favour of order and security, are not inclined to push their claim for abstract rights. One of the guests, wife of a rich squatter who is reputed to be of a somewhat imperious temperament, said rather pointedly that it would be a good thing if Englishmen would carry out the principle in private life instead of indemnifying themselves there for their moderation elsewhere. The conversation
resumed its course, but the remark and the tone of h stuck to me, and at last prompted the reflection that the maintenance of all happy relations, whether in public or domestic life, must depend upon the tem per maintained by the related parties towards each other. Fancy my ‘asserting rights’ over Mary! Oh, husbands, show yourselves as grateful for the smallest favour granted by your wives as if they were still your sweethearts. So will ye continue lovers to the end. Much negro-slavery, I fear me, there is among us. (The wife is ‘property,’ and her owner is unthankful.)
Our guests having left us, Mary tells me that Mrs. – (the lady above alluded to) has taken her aside and imparted her conviction that the secret of happiness in married life consists in a woman never letting her husband know how much she cares for him. Mary affects to be alarmed at this piece of information, fearing that she has committed this great mistake, and wants to know if I should have cared so very much more for her if she had concealed her affection from me.
I have heard the maxim before, but never heeded it. What truth is there in it? It can only be this: a woman may love, but not pursue. In love the man has the active part, the woman is the recipient. The excitement of being the attacking party is necessary to produce the confidence essential to the full fruition of love. Let them change places, – let the woman undertake the pursuit and the assault, and the man is thrown back upon himself and paralysed. I once saw Juliet acted with such vigour that Romeo couldn’t get a word in edge-ways. The poor fellow was quite cowed by the maiden’s energy. She seemed to know so much more about it
than he did. No. Let her love with all her soul, and let him know the precious jewel of affection that lies hidden in the casket of her heart; otherwise he may deem that it is not there, that there is no rich spoil to be gained by his enterprise.
But all that we can do to help others to a share of the happiness with which we are blest, seems lamentably incommensurate with the intensity of the feeling that prompts us. To Mary I owe it that my whole being is pervaded and fused with one soft dreamy atmosphere of love.
Self-denial for others is no longer a sacrifice but the highest pleasure. Love is the fulfilment of the highest law of our being. An universe without that would be motionless, stagnant, dead. God is love’ is a higher revelation than ‘love is a god.’ If it be that we are but portions of the infinite consciousness, endowed with a brief individuality, again to return and be merged in the great whole, – tentacula put forth to gain experiences for the Universal Parent; – when we return with memories loaded with ecstasies which become part of the Universal Experience, and thrill through the very centre of all sensation, how complacently will the infinite regard us as the agents of so much delight to Himself! Especially if our joy has been alloyed by no admixture of pain to others; for that too would be transmitted, and be counted a set-off against our contribution of pleasure. Feeling is above doctrine. All lines of definition melt and vanish in the crucible of Love. And this is the highest morality, for it unconsciously compels the utmost circumspection lest we do aught that may cause after-regret. The idea of justice vanishes before
our ignorance of the sensational compensations of each individual. Merit and desert are equally phantoms. We are, and it is better to be than not to be. We question not about immortality, for our love can anticipate no end. While here, our work is here, and its reward also. Whatever lasts as long as we last is eternal for us.
The future life is utterly beyond demonstration, because whatever proof be presented to the senses we cannot be sure that we are not labouring under hallucination in regard to it. It is a matter of feeling, and belongs therefore to the province of faith rather than to that of belief. When weak and despairing, man longs to end altogether, deeming it impossible to continue to exist much longer, and having no desire to do so. When full of life and hope he is equally unable to imagine his discontinuance. All that logic can do is to convince of the eternity of the whole. For it, the universe is alive, but it knows nothing of the immortality of the parts.
Well, what say you? that much loving has made me mad? Would that you and all were so then, for with Love there is worship. Hitherto excursive in mind and body, I have at length found a haven of content and a shrine at which I may kneel. For a Holy Mary she indeed is, mother of all good in me, and inspirer of all best aspirations throughout my whole life, past, present, and to come. The Ideal so long unconsciously desired, and ignorantly worshipped, before ever I saw her, and now the realised perfection, rekindling in me the very faculty of worship once so nearly extinguished by my education.
Your wonder as to what would have been my religion had in of found such a woman shows that you have as yet failed to understand me. What was it before I found her, and what will it be after I lose her? – if indeed such a calamity can happen without crushing life or reason out of me. Still the worship of Perfection beyond all powers of imagining: – Perfection ever believed in and striven towards, even when no thought of thus realising it had occurred to me. As there is an identity of belief between the Jew and Christian, only that the latter has found what the former is still looking for; – so, between my past and present faith is an identity which you have failed to perceive. Who can blame me if I worship the infinite as revealed to me in the most perfect finite? Do not even the Christians the same? Nay, is not this Christianity itself to recognise the Creator through the medium (or mediation) of His perfectest embodiment – that is, the embodiment which I recognise as most perfect? What matter whether it be man or woman, Jesus or Mary? There is no sex in Deity. Character is of all genders.
Here then is my answer to the question, ‘What was the exact work of Christ?’ It was to give men a law for their government transcending any previously generally recognised. Ignoring alike the military ruler, the priest, and the civil magistrate, he virtually denounced physical force, spiritual terror, and legal penalties as the compelling motives for virtue. The system whereby he would make men perfect even as their Father in heaven is perfect, was by developing the higher moral law implanted in every man’s breast, and so cultivating the idea of God in the soul. The ‘law of God in the heart,’
was no original conception of his. It had been recognised by many long before, and had raised them to the dignity of prophets, saints, and martyrs. Its sway though incapable of gaining in intensity, is wider now than ever, till the poet of our day must be one who is deeply imbued with it; no mere surface-painter like his predecessors, however renowned, but having a spiritual insight which makes him at once poet and prophet. The founding of an organised society having various grades of ecclesiastical rank, and definite rules of faith, does not seem to me to have formed any part of Christ’s idea. His plan was rather to scatter broadcast the beauty of his thought, and let it take root and spring up where it could. Recognising intensely as he did the all-winning loveliness of his idea, he fell that it would never lack ardent disciples to propagate it, and he left into each age to devise such means as the varying character of the times might suggest. The ‘Christian Church,’ therefore, for me consists of all who follow a Christian ideal of character, no matter whether, or in whom they believe that ideal to have been personified.
Under present influences, I fancy, I am undergoing a sort of psychological transformation. I find myself seeing the highest reformer no longer cither in the preacher of repentance, or in the denouncer of abuses, or in the demonstrator of abstract rights; but in the Artist – he who records and exhibits to mankind the best imaginations to which his experience has given birth, and so teaches by examples rather than by precepts. Christ transcended all other reformers inasmuch as he lived his example instead of merely writing or painting it: but where would Christianity be if he had had no
reporters? The Artist is the true follower of his Maker, causing the invisible to be clearly seen, whether his idea be expressed through marble, canvas, or paper. Sculptor and painter, preacher and poet, dramatist and novelist, each is a prophet of the people, revealing in his own degree the threefold unity of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth, that underlies the moral Universe. Sculpture culminated long ago in Greece. Painting has declined from the zenith it attained some three hundred years ago; and through them Form and Colour did their part in the education of mankind. The drama has dwindled since Shakespeare. Poetry, eternal as language, rhythm, and feeling, exhibits no weakness of childhood in the days of Job or Homer, or decrepitude of age in these of Tennyson. The special artist of our day is the novelist, whose mission is identical with the poet’s, but whose task, though easier than the poet’s in that he is un-cramped by the exigencies of verse, is yet higher and harder in that he is therefore called on to delineate far more complex scenes of life, and wider diversities of thought, feeling, and action, than can be exhibited through any other agency. While his brother artists display simple figures or groups of figures in unchanging altitude, or single actions and their immediate results, to the novelist alone it belongs to exhibit the development of character, the conflict of motives, the remote springs and results of actions: for the novelist alone is in possession of a field wide enough for the marshalling and array of so large a force. The mission of all is the same, and the same spirit animates all. Every true artist is poet and prophet, revealer of the divine in the human, of the infinite in the finite. The highest teaching
of our age is not to be found in sermons, for Humanity has outlived Dogma; Faith has survived belief. By a curious, yet logical, process, the most practical intellect in the world, that of Protestant England, has unconsciously adopted the spirit while scoffing at the letter of Mariolatry; and her novelists, prose and poet, unite to exhibit the character of a pure, true, compassionate woman as the best and nearest revelation of the Divine in nature; the ‘Mother of God’ in man, remaining herself’ ever virgin,’ inasmuch as she puts his good before her own desires.
As I write, the clear, sweet, rich notes of Mary’s voice are pouring through the open windows, and spreading over the sunny landscape. I can see the children on the farm and their mothers, stealthily and with finger on lip, listening under the roses that form our garden hedge; while our little one, soon we trust to have a playmate, is balancing itself beside its mother, and gazing steadfastly up into the heaven of her face.
The song is one that I wrote for her, and she has set it (I think most beautifully) to music.
Here it is.
I found a flower pining on the heights and sang:
‘Oh flower, wasting in the wild,
Oh flower, stricken by the storm
Come to my home, be tended by my care,
For I have love in store,
And yet am lonely there.
‘No longer drooping in the noon,
No longer shrinking in the night,
Forsake the wild where joy is none for thee:
Forsake the wilderness,
And come, be glad with me.
And after happy years had passed I sang again:
‘Oh happy home! oh blessed flower!
And happy buds that bloom around!
And shade of leaves inlaid with breaks of sun!
And store of love that grows
With all the years that run!’
Mary does not quite own to having been the pining flower, but gives in her unreserved adherence to the last verse. And so, practising the lesson of the pine-trees, we find that the deeper we strike our roots into earth, the higher we rise towards heaven.
In Love alone, in pure and unreserving Love, does all questioning find answer. At once Tree of knowledge and Tree of life, fortunate are they who can eat thereof without trespass and without penalty. Believe me, my friend, those only who feel – know. And, where Love is, there is no Dogma.