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Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey

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puzzled look upon the face of Dr. Arnold.

And certainly, if he was to fulfil the prophecy of the Provost of
Oriel, the task before him was sufficiently perplexing. The
public schools of those days were still virgin forests, untouched
by the hand of reform. Keate was still reigning at Eton; and we
possess, in the records of his pupils, a picture of the public
school education of the early nineteenth century, in its most
characteristic state. It was a system of anarchy tempered by
despotism. Hundreds of boys, herded together in miscellaneous
boarding-houses, or in that grim 'Long Chamber' at whose name in
after years aged statesmen and warriors would turn pale, lived,
badgered and overawed by the furious incursions of an irascible
little old man carrying a bundle of birch-twigs, a life in which
licensed barbarism was mingled with the daily and hourly study of
the niceties of Ovidian verse. It was a life of freedom and
terror, of prosody and rebellion, of interminable floggings and
appalling practical jokes. Keate ruled, unaided--for the
undermasters were few and of no account--by sheer force of
character. But there were times when even that indomitable will
was overwhelmed by the flood of lawlessness. Every Sunday
afternoon he attempted to read sermons to the whole school
assembled; and every Sunday afternoon the whole school assembled
shouted him down. The scenes in Chapel were far from edifying;
while some antique Fellow doddered in the pulpit, rats would be
let loose to scurry among the legs of the exploding boys. But
next morning the hand of discipline would reassert itself; and
the savage ritual of the whipping-block would remind a batch of
whimpering children that, though sins against man and God might
be forgiven them, a false quantity could only be expiated in
tears and blood.

From two sides this system of education was beginning to be
assailed by the awakening public opinion of the upper middle
classes. On the one hand, there was a desire for a more liberal
curriculum; on the other, there was a demand for a higher moral
tone. The growing utilitarianism of the age viewed with
impatience a course of instruction which excluded every branch of
knowledge except classical philology; while its growing
respectability was shocked by such a spectacle of disorder and
brutality as was afforded by the Eton of Keate. 'The public
schools,' said the Rev. Mr. Bowdler, 'are the very seats and
nurseries of vice.'

Dr. Arnold agreed. He was convinced of the necessity for reform.
But it was only natural that to one of his temperament and
education it should have been the moral rather than the
intellectual side of the question which impressed itself upon his
mind. Doubtless it was important to teach boys something more
than the bleak rigidities of the ancient tongues; but how much
more important to instil into them the elements of character and
the principles of conduct! His great object, throughout his
career at Rugby, was, as he repeatedly said, to 'make the school
a place of really Christian education'. To introduce 'a religious
principle into education', was his 'most earnest wish', he wrote
to a friend when he first became headmaster; 'but to do this
would be to succeed beyond all my hopes; it would be a happiness
so great, that, I think, the world would yield me nothing
comparable to it'. And he was constantly impressing these
sentiments upon his pupils. 'What I have often said before,' he
told them, 'I repeat now: what we must look for here is, first,
religious and moral principle; secondly, gentlemanly conduct;
andthirdly, intellectual ability.'

There can be no doubt that Dr. Arnold's point of view was shared
by the great mass of English parents. They cared very little for
classical scholarship; no doubt they would be pleased to find
that their sons were being instructed in history or in French;
but their real hopes, their real wishes, were of a very different
kind. 'Shall I tell him to mind his work, and say he's sent to
school to make himself a good scholar?' meditated old Squire
Brown when he was sending off Tom for the first time to Rugby.
'Well, but he isn't sent to school for that--at any rate, not for
that mainly. I don't care a straw for Greek particles, or the
digamma; no more does his mother. What is he sent to school for?
... If he'll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling
Englishman, and a Christian, that's all I want.'

That was all; and it was that that Dr. Arnold set himself to
accomplish. But how was he to achieve his end? Was he to improve
the character of his pupils by gradually spreading around them an
atmosphere of cultivation and intelligence? By bringing them into
close and friendly contact with civilised men, and even, perhaps,
with civilised women? By introducing into the life of his school
all that he could of the humane, enlightened, and progressive
elements in the life of the community? On the whole, he thought
not. Such considerations left him cold, and he preferred to be
guided by the general laws of Providence. It only remained to
discover what those general laws were. He consulted the Old
Testament, and could doubt no longer. He would apply to his
scholars, as he himself explained to them in one of his sermons,
'the principle which seemed to him to have been adopted in the
training of the childhood of the human race itself'. He would
treat the boys at Rugby as Jehovah had treated the Chosen People:
he would found a theocracy; and there should be judges in Israel.

For this purpose, the system, prevalent in most of the public
schools of the day, by which the elder boys were deputed to keep
order in the class-rooms, lay ready to Dr. Arnold's hand. He
found the Praepostor a mere disciplinary convenience, and he
converted him into an organ of government. Every boy in the Sixth
Form became ipso facto a Praepostor, with powers extending over
every department of school life; and the Sixth Form as a body was
erected into an authority responsible to the headmaster, and to
the headmaster alone, for the internal management of the school.

This was the means by which Dr. Arnold hoped to turn Rugby into
'a place of really Christian education'. The boys were to work
out their own salvation, like the human race. He himself,
involved in awful grandeur, ruled remotely, through his chosen
instruments, from an inaccessible heaven. Remotely-- and yet with
an omnipresent force. As the Israelite of old knew that his
almighty Lawgiver might at any moment thunder to him from the
whirlwind, or appear before his very eyes, the visible embodiment
of power or wrath, so the Rugby schoolboy walked in a holy dread
of some sudden manifestation of the sweeping gown, the majestic
tone, the piercing glance, of Dr. Arnold. Among the lower forms
of the school his appearances were rare and transitory, and upon
these young children 'the chief impression', we are told, 'was of
extreme fear'. The older boys saw more of him, but they did not
see much. Outside the Sixth Form, no part of the school came into
close intercourse with him; and it would often happen that a boy
would leave Rugby without having had any personal communication
with him at all.

Yet the effect which he produced upon the great mass of his
pupils was remarkable. The prestige of his presence and the
elevation of his sentiments were things which it was impossible
to forget. In class, every line of his countenance, every shade
of his manner imprinted themselves indelibly on the minds of the
boys who sat under him. One of these, writing long afterwards,
has described, in phrases still impregnated with awestruck
reverence, the familiar details of the scene: 'the glance with
which he looked round in the few moments of silence before the
lesson began, and which seemed to speak his sense of his own
position'--'the attitude in which he stood, turning over the
pages of Facciolati's Lexicon, or Pole's synopsis, with his eye
fixed upon the boy who was pausing to give an answer'--'the
pleased look and the cheerful "thank you", which followed upon a
successful translation'--'the fall of his countenance with its
deepening severity, the stern elevation of the eyebrows, the
sudden "sit down" which followed upon the reverse'--and 'the
startling earnestness with which he would cheek in a moment the
slightest approach to levity'.

To be rebuked, however mildly, by Dr. Arnold was a Potable
experience. One boy could never forget how he drew a distinction
between 'mere amusement' and 'such as encroached on the next
day's duties', nor the tone of voice with which the Doctor added
'and then it immediately becomes what St. Paul calls REVELLING'.
Another remembered to his dying day his reproof of some boys who
had behaved badly during prayers. 'Nowhere,' said Dr. Arnold,
'nowhere is Satan's work more evidently manifest than in turning
holy things to ridicule.' On such occasions, as another of his
pupils described it, it was impossible to avoid 'a consciousness
almost amounting to solemnity' that, 'when his eye was upon you,
he looked into your inmost heart'.

With the boys in the Sixth Form, and with them alone, the severe
formality of his demeanour was to some degree relaxed. It was his
wish, in his relations with the Praepostors, to allow the Master
to be occasionally merged in the Friend. From time to time, he
chatted with them in a familiar manner; once a term he asked them
to dinner; and during the summer holidays he invited them, in
rotation, to stay with him in Westmorland.

It was obvious that the primitive methods of discipline which had
reached their apogee under the dominion of Keate were altogether
incompatible with Dr. Arnold's view of the functions of a
headmaster and the proper governance of a public school. Clearly,
it was not for such as he to demean himself by bellowing and
cuffing, by losing his temper once an hour, and by wreaking his
vengeance with indiscriminate flagellations. Order must be kept
in other ways. The worst boys were publicly expelled; many were
silently removed; and, when Dr. Arnold considered that a flogging
was necessary, he administered it with gravity. For he had no
theoretical objection to corporal punishment. On the contrary, he
supported it, as was his wont, by an appeal to general
principles. 'There is,' he said, 'an essential inferiority in a
boy as compared with a man'; and hence 'where there is no
equality the exercise of superiority implied in personal
chastisement' inevitably followed.

He was particularly disgusted by the view that 'personal
correction',as he phrased it, was an insult or a degradation to
the boy upon whom it was inflicted; and to accustom young boys to
think so appeared to him to be 'positively mischievous'. 'At an
age,' he wrote, 'when it is almost impossible to find a true,
manly sense of the degradation of guilt or faults, where is the
wisdom of encouraging a fantastic sense of the degradation of
personal correction? What can be more false, or more adverse to
the simplicity, sobriety, and humbleness of mind which are the
best ornaments of youth, and offer the best promise of a noble
manhood?' One had not to look far, he added, for 'the fruits of
such a system'. In Paris, during the Revolution of 1830, an
officer observed a boy of twelve insulting the soldiers, and
'though the action was then raging, merely struck him with the
flat part of his sword, as the fit chastisement for boyish
impertinence. But the boy had been taught to consider his person
sacred, and that a blow was a deadly insult; he therefore
followed the officer, and having watched his opportunity, took
deliberate aim at him with a pistol and murdered him.' Such were
the alarming results of insufficient whipping.

Dr. Arnold did not apply this doctrine to the Praepostors, but
the boys in the lower parts of the school felt its benefits, with
a double force. The Sixth Form was not only excused from
chastisement; it was given the right to chastise. The younger
children, scourged both by Dr Arnold and by the elder children,
were given every opportunity of acquiring the simplicity,
sobriety, and humbleness of mind, which are the best ornaments of

In the actual sphere of teaching, Dr. Arnold's reforms were
tentative and few. He introduced modern history, modern
languages, and mathematics into the school curriculum; but the
results were not encouraging. He devoted to the teaching of
history one hour a week; yet, though he took care to inculcate in
these lessons a wholesome hatred of moral evil, and to point out
from time to time the indications of the providential government
of the world, his pupils never seemed to make much progress in
the subject. Could it have been that the time allotted to it was
insufficient? Dr. Arnold had some suspicions that this might be
the case. With modern languages there was the same difficulty.
Here his hopes were certainly not excessive. 'I assume it,' he
wrote, 'as the foundation of all my view of the case, that boys
at a public school never will learn to speak or pronounce French
well, under any circumstances.' It would be enough if they could
'learn it grammatically as a dead language. But even this they
very seldom managed to do. I know too well,' he was obliged to
confess, 'that most of the boys would pass a very poor
examination even in French grammar. But so it is with their
mathematics; and so it will be with any branch of knowledge that
is taught but seldom, and is felt to be quite subordinate to the
boys' main study'.

The boys' main study remained the dead languages of Greece and
Rome. That the classics should form the basis of all teaching was
an axiom with Dr. Arnold. 'The study of language,' he said,
'seems to me as if it was given for the very purpose of forming
the human mind in youth; and the Greek and Latin languages seem
the very instruments by which this is to be effected.' Certainly,
there was something providential about it-- from the point of
view of the teacher as well as of the taught. If Greek and Latin
had not been 'given' in that convenient manner, Dr. Arnold, who
had spent his life in acquiring those languages, might have
discovered that he had acquired them in vain. As it was, he could
set the noses of his pupils to the grindstone of syntax and
prosody with a clear conscience. Latin verses and Greek
prepositions divided between them the labours of the week.

As time went on he became, he declared, 'increasingly convinced
that it is not knowledge, but the means of gaining knowledge
which I have to teach'. The reading of the school was devoted
almost entirely to selected passages from the prose writers of
antiquity. 'Boys,' he remarked, 'do not like poetry.' Perhaps his
own poetical taste was a little dubious; at any rate, it is
certain that he considered the Greek Tragedians greatly
overrated, and that he ranked Propertius as 'an indifferent
poet'. As for Aristophanes, owing to his strong moral
disapprobation, he could not bring himself to read him until he
was forty, when, it is true, he was much struck by the 'Clouds'.
But Juvenal, the Doctor could never bring himself to read at all.

Physical science was not taught at Rugby. Since, in Dr. Arnold's
opinion, it was too great a subject to be studied en parergo,
obviously only two alternatives were possible: it must either
take the chief place in the school curriculum, or it must be left
out altogether. Before such a choice, Dr. Arnold did not hesitate
for a moment. 'Rather than have physical science the principal
thing in my son's mind,' he exclaimed in a letter to a friend, I
would gladly have him think that the sun went around the earth,
and that the stars were so many spangles set in the bright blue
firmament. Surely the one thing needful for a Christian and an
English man to study is Christian, moral, and political

A Christian and an Englishman! After all, it was not in the
classroom, nor in the boarding-house, that the essential elements
of instruction could be imparted which should qualify the
youthful neophyte to deserve those names. The final, the
fundamental lesson could only be taught in the school chapel; in
the school chapel the centre of Dr. Arnold's system of education
was inevitably fixed. There, too, the Doctor himself appeared in
the plenitude of his dignity and his enthusiasm. There, with the
morning sun shining on the freshly scrubbed faces of his 300
pupils, or, in the dusk of evening, through a glimmer of candles,
his stately form, rapt in devotion or vibrant with exhortation,
would dominate the scene. Every phase of the Church service
seemed to receive its supreme expression in his voice, his
attitude, his look. During the Te Deum, his whole countenance
would light up; and he read the Psalms with such conviction that
boys would often declare, after hearing him, that they understood
them now for the first time.

It was his opinion that the creeds in public worship ought to be
used as triumphant hymns of thanksgiving, and, in accordance with
this view, although unfortunately he possessed no natural gift
for music, he regularly joined in the chanting of the Nicene
Creed with a visible animation and a peculiar fervour, which it
was impossible to forget. The Communion service he regarded as a
direct and special counterpoise to that false communion and false
companionship, which, as he often observed, was a great source of
mischief in the school; and he bent himself down with glistening
eyes, and trembling voice, and looks of paternal solicitude, in
the administration of the elements. Nor was it only the different
sections of the liturgy, but the very divisions of the
ecclesiastical year that reflected themselves in his demeanour;
the most careless observer, we are told, 'could not fail to be
struck by the triumphant exultation of his whole manner on Easter
Sunday'; though it needed a more familiar eye to discern the
subtleties in his bearing which were produced by the approach or
Advent, and the solemn thoughts which it awakened of the advance
of human life, the progress of the human race, and the condition
of the Church of England.

At the end of the evening service, the culminating moment of the
week had come: the Doctor delivered his sermon. It was not until
then, as all who had known him agreed, it was not until one had
heard and seen him in the pulpit, that one could fully realise
what it was to be face to face with Dr. Arnold. The whole
character of the man--so we are assured--stood at last revealed.
His congregation sat in fixed attention (with the exception of
the younger boys, whose thoughts occasionally wandered), while he
propounded the general principles both of his own conduct and
that of the Almighty, or indicated the bearing of the incidents
of Jewish history in the sixth century B.C. upon the conduct of
English schoolboys in 1830. Then, more than ever, his deep
consciousness of the invisible world became evident; then, more
than ever, he seemed to be battling with the wicked one. For his
sermons ran on the eternal themes of the darkness of evil, the
craft of the tempter, the punishment of obliquity, and he
justified the persistence with which he dwelt upon these painful
subjects by an appeal to a general principle: 'The spirit of
Elijah,' he said, 'must ever precede the spirit of Christ.'

The impression produced upon the boys was remarkable. It was
noticed that even the most careless would sometimes, during the
course of the week, refer almost involuntarily to the sermon of
the past Sunday, as a condemnation of what they were doing.
Others were heard to wonder how it was that the Doctor's
preaching, to which they had attended at the time so assiduously,
seemed, after all, to have such a small effect upon what they
did. An old gentleman, recalling those vanished hours, tried to
recapture in words his state of mind as he sat in the darkened
chapel, while Dr. Arnold's sermons, with their high-toned
exhortations, their grave and sombre messages of incalculable
import, clothed, like Dr. Arnold's body in its gown and bands, in
the traditional stiffness of a formal phraseology, reverberated
through his adolescent ears. 'I used,' he said, 'to listen to
those sermons from first to last with a kind of awe.'

His success was not limited to his pupils and immediate auditors.
The sermons were collected into five large volumes; they were the
first of their kind; and they were received with admiration by a
wide circle of pious readers. Queen Victoria herself possessed a
copy in which several passages were marked in pencil, by the
Royal hand.

Dr. Arnold's energies were by no means exhausted by his duties at
Rugby. He became known not merely as a headmaster, but as a
public man. He held decided opinions upon a large number of
topics; and he enunciated them--based as they were almost
invariably upon general principles--in pamphlets, in prefaces,
and in magazine articles, with an impressive self-confidence. He
was, as he constantly declared, a Liberal. In his opinion, by the
very constitution of human nature, the principles of progress and
reform had been those of wisdom and justice in every age of the
world--except one: that which had preceded the fall of man from
Paradise. Had he lived then, Dr. Arnold would have been a
Conservative. As it was, his Liberalism was tempered by an
'abhorrence of the spirit of 1789, of the American War, of the
French Economistes, and of the English Whigs of the latter part
of the seventeenth century'; and he always entertained a profound
respect for the hereditary peerage. It might almost be said, in
fact, that he was an orthodox Liberal. He believed in toleration
too, within limits; that is to say, in the toleration of those
with whom he agreed. 'I would give James Mill as much opportunity
for advocating his opinion,' he said, 'as is consistent with a
voyage to Botany Bay.'

He had become convinced of the duty of sympathising with the
lower orders ever since he had made a serious study of the
Epistle of St. James; but he perceived clearly that the lower
orders fell into two classes, and that it was necessary to
distinguish between them. There were the 'good poor'--and there
were the others. 'I am glad that you have made acquaintance with
some of the good poor,' he wrote to a Cambridge undergraduate. 'I
quite agree with you that it is most instructive to visit them.'
Dr. Arnold himself occasionally visited them, in Rugby; and the
condescension with which he shook hands with old men and women of
the working classes was long remembered in the neighbourhood. As
for the others, he regarded them with horror and alarm. 'The
disorders in our social state,' he wrote to the Chevalier Bunsen
in 1834, 'appear to me to continue unabated. You have heard, I
doubt not, of the Trades Unions; a fearful engine of mischief,
ready to riot or to assassinate; and I see no counteracting

On the whole, his view of the condition of England was a gloomy
one. He recommended a correspondent to read 'Isaiah iii, v, xxii;
Jeremiah v, xxii, xxx; Amos iv; and Habakkuk ii', adding, 'you
will be struck, I think, with the close resemblance of our own
state with that of the Jews before the second destruction of
Jerusalem'. When he was told that the gift of tongues had
descended on the Irvingites at Glasgow, he was not surprised. 'I
should take it,' he said, 'merely as a sign of the coming of the
day of the Lord.' And he was convinced that the day of the Lord
was coming--'the termination of one of the great aiones of the
human race'. Of that he had no doubt whatever; wherever he looked
he saw 'calamities, wars, tumults, pestilences, earthquakes,
etc., all marking the time of one of God's peculiar seasons of
visitation'. His only uncertainty was whether this termination of
an aion would turn out to be the absolutely final one; but that
he believed 'no created being knows or can know'. In any case, he
had 'not the slightest expectation of what is commonly meant by
the Millennium'. And his only consolation was that he preferred
the present Ministry, inefficient as it was, to the Tories.

He had planned a great work on Church and State, in which he
intended to lay bare the causes and to point out the remedies of
the evils which afflicted society. Its theme was to be, not the
alliance or union, but the absolute identity of the Church and
the State; and he felt sure that if only this fundamental truth
were fully realised by the public, a general reformation would
follow. Unfortunately, however, as time went on, the public
seemed to realise it less and less. In spite of his protests, not
only were Jews admitted to Parliament, but a Jew was actually
appointed a governor of Christ's Hospital; and Scripture was not
made an obligatory subject at the London University.

There was one point in his theory which was not quite plain to
Dr. Arnold. If Church and State were absolutely identical, it
became important to decide precisely which classes of persons
were to be excluded, owing to their beliefs, from the community.
Jews, for instance, were decidedly outside the pale; while
Dissenters--so Dr. Arnold argued--were as decidedly within it.
But what was the position of the Unitarians? Were they, or were
they not, members of the Church of Christ? This was one of those
puzzling questions which deepened the frown upon the Doctor's
forehead and intensified the pursing of his lips. He thought long
and earnestly upon the subject; he wrote elaborate letters on it
to various correspondents; but his conclusions remained
indefinite. 'My great objection to Unitarianism,' he wrote, 'in
its present form in England, is that it makes Christ virtually
dead.' Yet he expressed 'a fervent hope that if we could get rid
of the Athanasian Creed many good Unitarians would join their
fellow Christians in bowing the knee to Him who is Lord both of
the dead and the living'. Amid these perplexities, it was
disquieting to learn that 'Unitarianism is becoming very
prevalent in Boston'. He inquired anxiously as to its
'complexion' there; but received no very illuminating answer. The
whole matter continued to be wrapped in a painful obscurity,
There were, he believed, Unitarians and Unitarians; and he could
say no more.

In the meantime, pending the completion of his great work, he
occupied himself with putting forward various suggestions of a
practical kind. He advocated the restoration of the Order of
Deacons, which, he observed, had long been 'quoad the reality,
dead; for he believed that 'some plan of this sort might be the
small end of the wedge, by which Antichrist might hereafter be
burst asunder like the Dragon of Bel's temple'. But the Order of
Deacons was never restored, and Dr. Arnold turned his attention
elsewhere, urging in a weighty pamphlet the desirabitity of
authorising military officers, in congregations where it was
impossible to procure the presence of clergy, to administer the
Eucharist, as well as Baptism. It was with the object of laying
such views as these before the public--'to tell them plainly', as
he said, 'the evils that exist, and lead them, if I can, to their
causes and remedies'--that he started, in 1831, a weekly
newspaper, "The Englishman's Register". The paper was not a
success, in spite of the fact that it set out to improve its
readers morally and, that it preserved, in every article, an
avowedly Christian tone. After a few weeks, and after he had
spent upon it more than 200, it came to an end.

Altogether, the prospect was decidedly discouraging. After all
his efforts, the absolute identity of Church and State remained
as unrecognised as ever. 'So deep', he was at last obliged to
confess, 'is the distinction between the Church and the State
seated in our laws, our language, and our very notions, that
nothing less than a miraculous interposition of God's Providence
seems capable of eradicating it.' Dr. Arnold waited in vain.

But, he did not wait in idleness. He attacked the same question
from another side: he explored the writings of the Christian
Fathers, and began to compose a commentary on the New Testament.
In his view, the Scriptures were as fit a subject as any other
book for free inquiry and the exercise of the individual
judgment, and it was in this spirit that he set about the
interpretation of them. He was not afraid of facing apparent
difficulties, of admitting inconsistencies, or even errors, in
the sacred text. Thus he observed that 'in Chronicles xi, 20 and
xiii, 2, there is a decided difference in the parentage of
Abijah's mother;'-- 'which', he added, 'is curious on any
supposition'. And at one time he had serious doubts as to the
authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But he was able, on
various problematical points, to suggest interesting solutions.

At first, for instance, he could not but be startled by the
cessation of miracles in the early Church; but upon
consideration, he came to the conclusion that this phenomenon
might be 'truly accounted for by the supposition that none but
the Apostles ever conferred miraculous powers, and that therefore
they ceased of course, after one generation'. Nor did he fail to
base his exegesis, whenever possible, upon an appeal to general
principles. One of his admirers points out how Dr. Arnold
'vindicated God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son and to
the Jews to exterminate the nations of Canaan', by explaining the
principles on which these commands were given, and their
reference to the moral state of those to whom they were
addressed-- thereby educing light out of darkness, unravelling
the thread of God's religious education of the human race, and
holding up God's marvellous counsels to the devout wonder and
meditation of the thoughtful believer'.

There was one of his friends, however, who did not share this
admiration for the Doctor's methods of Scriptural interpretation.
W. G. Ward, while still a young man at Oxford, had come under his
influence, and had been for some time one of his most
enthusiastic disciples. But the star of Newman was rising at the
University; Ward soon felt the attraction of that magnetic power;
and his belief in his old teacher began to waver. It was, in
particular, Dr. Arnold's treatment of the Scriptures which filled
Ward's argumentative mind, at first with distrust, and at last
with positive antagonism. To subject the Bible to free inquiry,
to exercise upon it the criticism of the individual judgment--
where might not such methods lead? Who could say that they would
not end in Socinianism?--nay, in Atheism itself? If the text of
Scripture was to be submitted to the searchings of human reason,
how could the question of its inspiration escape the same
tribunal? And the proofs of revelation, and even of the existence
of God? What human faculty was capable of deciding upon such
enormous questions? And would not the logical result be a
condition of universal doubt?

'On a very moderate computation, Ward argued, 'five times the
amount of a man's natural life might qualify a person endowed
with extraordinary genius to have some faint notion (though even
this we doubt) on which side truth lies.' It was not that he had
the slightest doubt of Dr. Arnold's orthodoxy-- Dr. Arnold, whose
piety was universally recognised--Dr. Arnold, who had held up to
scorn and execration Strauss's Leben Jesu without reading it.
What Ward complained of was the Doctor's lack of logic, not his
lack of faith. Could he not see that if he really carried out his
own principles to a logical conclusion he would eventually find
himself, precisely, in the arms of Strauss? The young man, whose
personal friendship remained unshaken, determined upon an
interview, and went down to Rugby primed with first principles,
syllogisms, and dilemmas. Finding that the headmaster was busy in
school, he spent the afternoon reading novels on the sofa in the
drawing-room. When at last, late in the evening, the Doctor
returned, tired out with his day's work, Ward fell upon him with
all his vigour. The contest was long and furious; it was also
entirely inconclusive. When it was over, Ward, with none of his
brilliant arguments disposed of, and none of his probing
questions satisfactorily answered, returned to the University to
plunge headlong into the vortex of the Oxford Movement; and Dr.
Arnold, worried, perplexed, and exhausted, went to bed, where he
remained for the next thirty-six hours.

The Commentary on the New Testament was never finished, and the
great work on Church and State itself remained a fragment. Dr.
Arnold's active mind was diverted from political and theological
speculations to the study of philology, and to historical
composition. His Roman History, which he regarded as 'the chief
monument of his historical fame', was based partly upon the
researches of Niebuhr, and partly upon an aversion to Gibbon. 'My
highest ambition,' he wrote, 'is to make my history the very
reverse of Gibbon in this respect, that whereas the whole spirit
of his work, from its low morality, is hostile to religion,
without speaking directly against it, so my greatest desire would
be, in my History, by its high morals and its general tone, to be
of use to the cause without actually bringing it forward.' These
efforts were rewarded, in 1841, by the Professorship of Modern
History at Oxford. Meanwhile, he was engaged in the study of the
Sanskrit and Slavonic languages, bringing out an elaborate
edition of Thucydides, and carrying on a voluminous
correspondence upon a multitude of topics with a large circle of
men of learning. At his death, his published works, composed
during such intervals as he could spare from the management of a
great public school, filled, besides a large number of pamphlets
and articles, no less than seventeen volumes. It was no wonder
that Carlyle, after a visit to Rugby, should have characterised
Dr. Arnold as a man of 'unhasting, unresting diligence'.

Mrs. Arnold, too, no doubt agreed with Carlyle. During the first
eight years of their married life, she bore him six children; and
four more were to follow. In this large and growing domestic
circle his hours of relaxation were spent. There those who had
only known him in his professional capacity were surprised to
find him displaying the tenderness and jocosity of a parent. The
dignified and stern headmaster was actually seen to dandle
infants and to caracole upon the hearthrug on all fours. Yet, we
are told, 'the sense of his authority as a father was never lost
in his playfulness as a companion'. On more serious occasions,
the voice of the spiritual teacher sometimes made itself heard.
An intimate friend described how 'on a comparison having been
made in his family circle, which seemed to place St. Paul above
St. John,' the tears rushed to the Doctor's eyes and how,
repeating one of the verses from St. John, he begged that the
comparison might never again be made. The longer holidays were
spent in Westmorland, where, rambling with his offspring among
the mountains, gathering wild flowers, and pointing out the
beauties of Nature, Dr. Arnold enjoyed, as he himself would often
say, 'an almost awful happiness'. Music he did not appreciate,
though he occasionally desired his eldest boy, Matthew, to sing
him the Confirmation Hymn of Dr. Hinds, to which he had become
endeared, owing to its use in Rugby Chapel. But his lack of ear
was, he considered, amply recompensed by his love of flowers:
'they are my music,' he declared. Yet, in such a matter, he was
careful to refrain from an excess of feeling, such as, in his
opinion, marked the famous lines of Wordsworth:

'To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do
often lie too deep for tears.'

He found the sentiment morbid. 'Life,' he said, 'is not long
enough to take such intense interest in objects in themselves so
little.' As for the animal world, his feelings towards it were of
a very different cast. 'The whole subject,' he said, 'of the
brute creation is to me one of such painful mystery, that I dare
not approach it.' The Unitarians themselves were a less
distressing thought.

Once or twice he found time to visit the Continent, and the
letters and journals recording in minute detail his reflections
and impressions in France or Italy show us that Dr. Arnold
preserved, in spite of the distractions of foreign scenes and
foreign manners, his accustomed habits of mind. Taking very
little interest in works of art, he was occasionally moved by the
beauty of natural objects; but his principal preoccupation
remained with the moral aspects of things. From this point of
view, he found much to reprehend in the conduct of his own
countrymen. 'I fear,' he wrote, 'that our countrymen who live
abroad are not in the best possible moral state, however much
they may do in science or literature.' And this was unfortunate,
because 'a thorough English gentleman--Christian, manly, and
enlightened--is more, I believe, than Guizot or Sismondi could
comprehend; it is a finer specimen of human nature than any other
country, I believe, could furnish'. Nevertheless, our travellers
would imitate foreign customs without discrimination, 'as in the
absurd habit of not eating fish with a knife, borrowed from the
French, who do it because they have no knives fit for use'.
Places, no less than people, aroused similar reflections. By
Pompeii, Dr. Arnold was not particularly impressed. 'There is
only,' he observed, 'the same sort of interest with which one
would see the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, but indeed there is
less. One is not authorised to ascribe so solemn a character to
the destruction of Pompeii.' The lake of Como moved him more
profoundly. As he gazed upon the overwhelming beauty around him,
he thought of 'moral evil', and was appalled by the contrast.
'May the sense of moral evil', he prayed, 'be as strong in me as
my delight in external beauty, for in a deep sense of moral evil,
more perhaps than in anything else, abides a saving knowledge of

His prayer was answered: Dr. Arnold was never in any danger of
losing his sense of moral evil. If the landscapes of Italy only
served to remind him of it, how could he forget it among the boys
at Rugby School? The daily sight of so many young creatures in
the hands of the Evil One filled him with agitated grief. 'When
the spring and activity of youth,' he wrote, 'is altogether
unsanctified by anything pure and elevated in its desires, it
becomes a spectacle that is as dizzying and almost more morally
distressing than the shouts and gambols of a set of lunatics.'
One thing struck him as particularly strange: 'It is very
startling,' he said, 'to see so much of sin combined with so
little of sorrow.' The naughtiest boys positively seemed to enjoy
themselves most. There were moments when he almost lost faith in
his whole system of education, when he began to doubt whether
some far more radical reforms than any he had attempted might not
be necessary, before the multitude of children under his charge--
shouting and gambolling, and yet plunged all the while deep in
moral evil-- could ever be transformed into a set of Christian
gentlemen. But then he remembered his general principles, the
conduct of Jehovah with the Chosen People, and the childhood of
the human race. No, it was for him to make himself, as one of his
pupils afterwards described him, in the words of Bacon, 'kin to
God in spirit'; he would rule the school majestically from on
high. He would deliver a series of sermons analysing 'the six
vices' by which 'great schools were corrupted, and changed from
the likeness of God's temple to that of a den of thieves'. He
would exhort, he would denounce, he would sweep through the
corridors, he would turn the pages of Facciolati's Lexicon more
imposingly than ever; and the rest he would leave to the
Praepostors in the Sixth Form.

Upon the boys in the Sixth Form, indeed, a strange burden would
seem to have fallen. Dr. Arnold himself was very well aware of
this. 'I cannot deny,' he told them in a sermon, 'that you have
an anxious duty-- a duty which some might suppose was too heavy
for your years'; and every term he pointed out to them, in a
short address, the responsibilities of their position, and
impressed upon them 'the enormous influence' they possessed 'for
good or for evil'. Nevertheless most youths of seventeen, in
spite of the warnings of their elders, have a singular trick of
carrying moral burdens lightly. The Doctor might preach and look
grave; but young Brooke was ready enough to preside at a fight
behind the Chapel, though he was in the Sixth, and knew that
fighting was against the rules. At their best, it may be supposed
that the Praepostors administered a kind of barbaric justice; but
they were not always at their best, and the pages of "Tom Brown's
Schooldays" show us what was no doubt the normal condition of
affairs under Dr. Arnold, when the boys in the Sixth Form were
weak or brutal, and the blackguard Flashman, in the intervals of
swigging brandy-punch with his boon companions, amused himself by
toasting fags before the fire.

But there was an exceptional kind of boy, upon whom the high-
pitched exhortations of Dr. Arnold produced a very different
effect. A minority of susceptible and serious youths fell
completely under his sway, responded like wax to the pressure of
his influence, and moulded their whole lives with passionate
reverence upon the teaching of their adored master. Conspicuous
among these was Arthur Clough. Having been sent to Rugby at the
age of ten, he quickly entered into every phase of school life,
though, we are told, 'a weakness in his ankles prevented him from
taking a prominent part in the games of the place'. At the age of
sixteen, he was in the Sixth Form, and not merely a Praepostor,
but head of the School House. Never did Dr. Arnold have an apter
pupil. This earnest adolescent, with the weak ankles and the
solemn face, lived entirely with the highest ends in view. He
thought of nothing but moral good, moral evil, moral influence,
and moral responsibility. Some of his early letters have been
preserved, and they reveal both the intensity with which he felt
the importance of his own position, and the strange stress of
spirit under which he laboured. 'I have been in one continued
state of excitement for at least the last three years,' he wrote
when he was not yet seventeen, 'and now comes the time of
exhaustion.' But he did not allow himself to rest, and a few
months later he was writing to a schoolfellow as follows: 'I
verily believe my whole being is soaked through with the wishing
and hoping and striving to do the school good, or rather to keep
it up and hinder it from falling in this, I do think, very
critical time, so that my cares and affections and conversations,
thoughts, words, and deeds look to that in voluntarily. I am
afraid you will be inclined to think this "cant" and I am
conscious that even one's truest feelings, if very frequently put
out in the light, do make a bad and disagreeable appearance; but
this, however, is true, and even if I am carrying it too far, I
do not think it has made me really forgetful of my personal
friends, such as, in particular, Gell and Burbidge and Walrond,
and yourself, my dear Simpkinson .'

Perhaps it was not surprising that a young man brought up in such
an atmosphere, should have fallen a prey at Oxford, to the
frenzies of religious controversy; that he should have been
driven almost out of his wits by the ratiocinations of W. G.
Ward; that he should have lost his faith; that he should have
spent the rest of his existence lamenting that loss, both in
prose and verse; and that he should have eventually succumbed,
conscientiously doing up brown paper parcels for Florence

In the earlier years of his headmastership Dr. Arnold had to face
a good deal of opposition. His advanced religious views were
disliked, and there were many parents to whom his system of
school government did not commend itself. But in time this
hostility melted away. Succeeding generations of favourite pupils
began to spread his fame through the Universities. At Oxford
especially, men were profoundly impressed by the pious aims of
the boys from Rugby. It was a new thing to see undergraduates
going to Chapel more often than they were obliged, and visiting
the good poor. Their reverent admiration for Dr. Arnold was no
less remarkable. Whenever two of his old pupils met, they joined
in his praises; and the sight of his picture had been known to
call forth, from one who had not even reached the Sixth,
exclamations of rapture lasting for ten minutes and filling with
astonishment the young men from other schools who happened to be

He became a celebrity; he became at last a great man. Rugby
prospered; its numbers rose higher than ever before; and, after
thirteen years as headmaster, Dr. Arnold began to feel that his
work there was accomplished, and that he might look forward
either to other labours or, perhaps, to a dignified retirement.
But it was not to be.

His father had died suddenly at the age of fifty-three from
angina pectoris; and he himself was haunted by forebodings of an
early death. To be snatched away without a warning, to come in a
moment from the seductions of this World to the presence of
Eternity-- his most ordinary actions, the most casual remarks,
served to keep him in remembrance of that dreadful possibility.
When one of his little boys clapped his hands at the thought of
the approaching holidays, the Doctor gently checked him, and
repeated the story of his own early childhood; how his own father
had made him read aloud a sermon on the text 'Boast not thyself
of tomorrow"; and how, within the week, his father was dead. On
the title page of his MS. volume of sermons, he was always
careful to write the date of its commencement, leaving a blank
for that of its completion. One of his children asked him the
meaning of this. 'It is one of the most solemn things I do,' he
replied, 'to write the beginning of that sentence, and think that
I may perhaps not live to finish it.'

It was noticed that in the spring of 1842 such thoughts seemed to
be even more frequently in his mind than usual. He was only in
his forty-seventh year, but he dwelt darkly on the fragility of
human existence. Towards the end of May, he began to keep a
diary--a private memorandum of his intimate communings with the
Almighty. Here, evening after evening, in the traditional
language of religious devotion, he humbled himself before God,
prayed for strength and purity, and threw himself upon the mercy
of the Most High. 'Another day and another month succeed', he
wrote on May 31st. 'May God keep my mind and heart fixed on Him,
and cleanse me from all sin. I would wish to keep a watch over my
tongue, as to vehement speaking and censuring of others...I would
desire to remember my latter end to which I am approaching... May
God keep me in the hour of death, through Jesus Christ; and
preserve me from every fear, as well as from presumption.' On
June 2nd he wrote, 'Again the day is over and I am going to rest.
Oh Lord, preserve me this night, and strengthen me to bear
whatever Thou shalt see fit to lay on me, whether pain, sickness,
danger, or distress.' On Sunday, June 5th, the reading of the
newspaper aroused 'painful and solemn' reflections... 'So much of
sin and so much of suffering in the world, as are there
displayed, and no one seems able to remedy either. And then the
thought of my own private life, so full of comforts, is very
startling.' He was puzzled; but he concluded with a prayer: 'May
I be kept humble and zealous, and may God give me grace to labour
in my generation for the good of my brethren and for His Glory!'

The end of the term was approaching, and to all appearance the
Doctor was in excellent spirits. On June 11th, after a hard day's
work, he spent the evening with a friend in the discussion of
various topics upon which he often touched in his conversation
the comparison of the art of medicine in barbarous and civilised
ages, the philological importance of provincial vocabularies, and
the threatening prospect of the moral condition of the United
States. Left alone, he turned to his diary. 'The day after
tomorrow,' he wrote, 'is my birthday, if I am permitted to live
to see it-- my forty-seventh birthday since my birth. How large a
portion of my life on earth is already passed! And then-- what is
to follow this life? How visibly my outward work seems
contracting and softening away into the gentler employments of
old age. In one sense how nearly can I now say, "Vivi". And I
thank God that, as far as ambition is concerned, it is, I trust,
fully mortified; I have no desire other than to step back from my
present place in the world, and not to rise to a higher. Still
there are works which, with God's permission, I would do before
the night cometh.' Dr. Arnold was thinking of his great work on
Church and State.

Early next morning he awoke with a sharp pain in his chest. The
pain increasing, a physician was sent for; and in the meantime
Mrs. Arnold read aloud to her husband the Fifty-first Psalm. Upon
one of their boys coming into the room, 'My son, thank God for
me,' said Dr. Arnold; and as the boy did not at once catch his
meaning, he added, 'Thank God, Tom, for giving me this pain; I
have suffered so little pain in my life that I feel it is very
good for me. Now God has given it to me, and I do so thank Him
for it.' Then Mrs. Arnold read from the Prayer-book the
'Visitation of the Sick', her husband listening with deep
attention, and assenting with an emphatic 'Yes' at the end of
many of the sentences. When the physician arrived, he perceived
at once the gravity of the case: it was an attack of angina
pectoris. He began to prepare some laudanum, while Mrs. Arnold
went out to fetch the children. All at once, as the medical man
was bending over his glasses, there was a rattle from the bed; a
convulsive struggle followed; and, when the unhappy woman, with
the children, and all the servants, rushed into the room, Dr.
Arnold had passed from his perplexities forever.

There can be little doubt that what he had achieved justified the
prediction of the Provost of Oriel that he would 'change the face
of education all through the public schools of England'. It is
true that, so far as the actual machinery of education was
concerned, Dr. Arnold not only failed to effect a change, but
deliberately adhered to the old system. The monastic and literary
conceptions of education, which had their roots in the Middle
Ages, and had been accepted and strengthened at the revival of
Learning, he adopted almost without hesitation. Under him, the
public school remained, in essentials, a conventional
establishment, devoted to the teaching of Greek and Latin
grammar. Had he set on foot reforms in these directions, it seems
probable that he might have succeeded in carrying the parents of
England with him. The moment was ripe; there was a general desire
for educational changes; and Dr. Arnold's great reputation could
hardly have been resisted. As it was, he threw the whole weight
of his influence into the opposite scale, and the ancient system
became more firmly established than ever.

The changes which he did effect were of a very different nature.
By introducing morals and religion into his scheme of education,
he altered the whole atmosphere of public-school life.
Henceforward the old rough-and-tumble, which was typified by the
regime of Keate at Eton, became impossible. After Dr. Arnold, no
public school could venture to ignore the virtues of
respectability. Again, by his introduction of the prefectorial
system, Dr. Arnold produced far-reaching effects--effects which
he himself, perhaps, would have found perplexing. In his day,
when the school hours were over, the boys were free to enjoy
themselves as they liked; to bathe, to fish, to ramble for long
afternoons in the country, collecting eggs or gathering flowers.
'The taste of the boys at this period,' writes an old Rugbaean
who had been under Arnold, 'leaned strongly towards flowers'. The
words have an odd look today. 'The modern reader of "Tom Brown's
Schooldays" searches in vain for any reference to compulsory
games, house colours, or cricket averages. In those days, when
boys played games they played them for pleasure; but in those
days the prefectorial system-- the system which hands over the
life of a school to an oligarchy of a dozen youths of seventeen--
was still in its infancy, and had not yet borne its fruit.

Teachers and prophets have strange after-histories; and that of
Dr. Arnold has been no exception. The earnest enthusiast who
strove to make his pupils Christian gentlemen and who governed
his school according to the principles of the Old Testament, has
proved to be the founder of the worship of athletics and the
worship of good form. Upon those two poles our public schools
have turned for so long that we have almost come to believe that
such is their essential nature, and that an English public
schoolboy who wears the wrong clothes and takes no interest in
football, is a contradiction in terms. Yet it was not so before
Dr. Arnold; will it always be so after him? We shall see.


Dean Stanley. Life and Correspondence of Dr Arnold.
Thomas Hughes. Tom Brown's Schooldays.
Sir H. Maxwell-Lyte. History of Eton College.
Wilfrid Ward. W. G. Ward and the Oxford Movement.
H. Clough. Letters. An Old Rugbaean. Recollections of Rugby.
Thomas Arnold. Passages in a Wandering Life.

The End of General Gordon

DURING the year 1883 a solitary English gentleman was to be seen,

wandering, with a thick book under his arm, in the neighbourhood
of Jerusalem. His unassuming figure, short and slight, with its
half-gliding, half-tripping motion, gave him a boyish aspect,
which contrasted, oddly, but not unpleasantly, with the touch of
grey on his hair and whiskers. There was the same contrast--
enigmatic and attractive--between the sunburnt brick-red
complexion--the hue of the seasoned traveller--and the large blue

eyes, with their look of almost childish sincerity. To the
friendly inquirer, he would explain, in a row, soft, and very
distinct voice, that he was engaged in elucidating four
questions--the site of the Crucifixion, the line of division
between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, the identification of
Gideon, and the position of the Garden of Eden. He was also, he
would add, most anxious to discover the spot where the Ark first
touched ground, after the subsidence of the Flood: he believed,
indeed, that he had solved that problem, as a reference to some
passages in the book which he was carrying would show.

This singular person was General Gordon, and his book was the
Holy Bible.

In such complete retirement from the world and the ways of men,
it might have seemed that a life of inordinate activity had found

at last a longed-for, final peacefulness. For month after
month, for an entire year, the General lingered by the banks of
the Jordan. But then the enchantment was suddenly broken. Once
more adventure claimed him; he plunged into the whirl of high
affairs; his fate was mingled with the frenzies of Empire and the

doom of peoples. And it was not in peace and rest, but in ruin
and horror, that he reached his end.

The circumstances of that tragic history, so famous, so bitterly
debated, so often and so controversially described, remain full
of suggestion for the curious examiner of the past. There emerges

from those obscure, unhappy records an interest, not merely
political and historical, but human and dramatic. One catches a
vision of strange characters, moved by mysterious impulses,
interacting in queer complication, and hurrying at last--so it
almost seems--like creatures in a puppet show to a predestined
catastrophe. The characters, too, have a charm of their own: they

are curiously English. What other nation on the face of the earth

could have produced Mr. Gladstone and Sir Evelyn Baring and Lord
Hartington and General Gordon? Alike in their emphasis and their
lack of emphasis, in their eccentricity and their
in their matter-of-factness and their romance, these four figures

seem to embody the mingling contradictions of the English spirit.

As for the mise-en-scene, it is perfectly appropriate. But first,

let us glance at the earlier adventures of the hero of the piece.

Charles George Gordon was born in 1833. His father, of Highland
and military descent, was himself a Lieutenant-General; his
mother came of a family of merchants, distinguished for their sea

voyages into remote regions of the Globe. As a boy, Charlie was
remarkable for his high spirits, pluck, and love of mischief.
Destined for the Artillery, he was sent to the Academy at
Woolwich, where some other characteristics made their appearance.

On one occasion, when the cadets had been forbidden to leave the
dining-room and the senior corporal stood with outstretched arms
in the doorway to prevent their exit, Charlie Gordon put his head

down, and, butting the officer in the pit of the stomach,
projected him down a flight of stairs and through a glass door at

the bottom. For this act of insubordination he was nearly
dismissed-- while the captain of his company predicted that he
would never make an officer. A little later, when he was
eighteen, it came to the knowledge of the authorities that
bullying was rife at the Academy. The new-comers were questioned,

and one of them said that Charlie Gordon had hit him over the
head with a clothes-brush. He had worked well, and his record was

on the whole a good one; but the authorities took a serious view
of the case, and held back his commission for six months. It was
owing to this delay that he went into the Royal Engineers,
instead of the Royal Artillery.

He was sent to Pembroke, to work at the erection of
fortifications; and at Pembroke those religious convictions,
which never afterwards left him, first gained a hold upon his
mind. Under the influence of his sister Augusta and of a 'very
religious captain of the name of Drew', he began to reflect upon
his sins, look up texts, and hope for salvation. Though he had
never been confirmed-- he never was confirmed-- he took the
sacrament every Sunday; and he eagerly perused the Priceless
Diamond, Scott's Commentaries, and The Remains of the Rev. R.
McCheyne. 'No novels or worldly books,' he wrote to his sister,
'come up to the Commentaries of Scott.... I, remember well when
you used to get them in numbers, and I used to laugh at them;
but, thank God, it is different with me now. I feel much happier
and more contented than I used to do. I did not like Pembroke,
but now I would not wish for any prettier place. I have got a
horse and gig, and Drew and myself drive all about the country. I

hope my dear father and mother think of eternal things...
Dearest Augusta, pray for me, I beg of you.'

He was twenty-one; the Crimean War broke out; and before the year

was over, he had managed to get himself transferred to Balaclava.

During the siege of Sebastopol he behaved with conspicuous
gallantry. Upon the declaration of peace, he was sent to
Bessarabia to assist in determining the frontier between Russia
and Turkey, in accordance with the Treaty of Paris; and upon this

duty he was occupied for nearly two years. Not long after his
return home, in 1860, war was declared upon China. Captain Gordon

was dispatched to the scene of operations, but the fighting was
over before he arrived. Nevertheless, he was to remain for the
next four years in China, where he was to lay the foundations of
extraordinary renown.

Though he was too late to take part in the capture of the Taku
Forts, he was in time to witness the destruction of the Summer
Palace at Peking--the act by which Lord Elgin, in the name of
European civilisation, took vengeance upon the barbarism of the

The war was over; but the British Army remained in the country,
until the payment of an indemnity by the Chinese Government was
completed. A camp was formed at Tientsin, and Gordon was occupied

in setting up huts for the troops. While he was thus engaged, he
had a slight attack of smallpox. 'I am glad to say,' he told his
sister, 'that this disease has brought me back to my Saviour, and

I trust in future to be a better Christian than I have been

Curiously enough a similar circumstance had, more than twenty
years earlier, brought about a singular succession of events
which were now upon the point of opening the way to Gordon's
first great adventure. In 1837, a village schoolmaster near
Canton had been attacked by illness; and, as in the case of
Gordon, illness had been followed by a religious revulsion. Hong-
Siu-Tsuen-- for such was his name-- saw visions, went into
ecstasies, and entered into relations with the Deity. Shortly
afterwards, he fell in with a Methodist missionary from America,
who instructed him in the Christian religion. The new doctrine,
working upon the mystical ferment already in Hong's mind,
produced a remarkable result. He was, he declared, the prophet of

God; he was more-- he was the Son of God; he was Tien Wang, the
Celestial King; he was the younger brother of Jesus.

The times were propitious, and proselytes soon gathered around
Having conceived a grudge against the Government, owing to his
in an examination, Hong gave a political turn to his teaching,
which soon developed into a propaganda of rebellion against the
rule of the Manchus and the Mandarins. The authorities took
fright, attempted to suppress Hong by force, and failed. The
movement spread. By 1850 the rebels were overrunning the populous

and flourishing delta of the Yangtse Kiang, and had become a
formidable force. In 1853 they captured Nankin, which was
henceforth their capital. The Tien Wang, established himself in a

splendid palace, and proclaimed his new evangel. His theogony
included the wife of God, or the celestial Mother, the wife of
Jesus, or the celestial daughter-in-law, and a sister of Jesus,
whom he married to one of his lieutenants, who thus became the
celestial son-in-law; the Holy Ghost, however, was eliminated.

His mission was to root out Demons and Manchus from the face of
the earth, and to establish Taiping, the reign of eternal peace.
In the meantime, retiring into the depths of his palace, he left
the further conduct of earthly operations to his lieutenants,
upon whom he bestowed the title of 'Wangs' (kings), while he
himself, surrounded by thirty wives and one hundred concubines,
devoted his energies to the spiritual side of his mission. The
Taiping Rebellion, as it came to be called, had now reached its
furthest extent. The rebels were even able to occupy, for more
than a year, the semi-European city of Shanghai.

But then the tide turned. The latent forces of theEmpire
asserted themselves. The rebels lost ground, their armies were
and in 1859 Nankin itself was besieged, and the Celestial King
in his palace. The end seemed to be at hand, when there was a
twist of Fortune's wheel. The war of 860, the invasion of China
European armies, their march into the interior, and their
occupation of
Peking, not only saved the rebels from destruction, but allowed
them to
recover the greater part of what they had lost. Once more they
seized upon the provinces of the delta, once more they menaced
Shanghai. It was clear that the Imperial army was incompetent,
and the Shanghai merchants determined to provide for their own
safety as best they could. They accordingly got together a body
of troops, partly Chinese and partly European, and under European

officers, to which they entrusted the defence of the town. This
small force, which, after a few preliminary successes, received
from the Chinese Government the title of the 'Ever Victorious
Army', was able to hold the rebels at bay, but it could do no

For two years Shanghai was in constant danger. The Taipings,
growing in power, were spreading destruction far and wide. The
Victorious Army was the only force capable of opposing them, and
Ever Victorious Army was defeated more often than not. Its first
leader had been killed; his successor quarrelled with the Chinese

Governor, Li Hung Chang, and was dismissed. At last it was
determined to
ask the General at the head of the British Army of Occupation for
the loan
of an officer to command the force. The English, who had been at
inclined to favour the Taipings, on religious grounds, were now
convinced, on practical grounds, of the necessity of suppressing
them. It was in these circumstances that, early in 1863, the
command of the Ever Victorious Army was offered to Gordon. He
accepted it, received the title of General from the Chinese
authorities, and entered forthwith upon his new task. He was just


In eighteen months, he told Li Hung Chang, the business would be
finished; and he was as good as his word. The difficulties before

him were very great. A vast tract of country was in the
possession of the rebels-- an area, at the lowest estimate, of
14,000 square miles with a population of 20,000,000. For
centuries this low-lying plain of the Yangtse delta, rich in silk

and tea, fertilised by elaborate irrigation, and covered with
great walled cities, had been one of the most flourishing
districts in China. Though it was now being rapidly ruined by the

depredations of the Taipings, its strategic strength was
obviously enormous. Gordon, however, with the eye of a born
general, perceived that he could convert the very feature of the
country which, on the face of it, most favoured an army on the
defence-- its complicated geographical system of interlacing
and waterways, canals, lakes and rivers-- into a means of
offensive warfare. The force at his disposal was small, but it
was mobile. He had a passion for map-making, and had already, in
his leisure hours, made a careful survey of the country round
Shanghai; he was thus able to execute a series of manoeuvres
which proved fatal to the enemy. By swift marches and counter-
marches, by sudden attacks and surprises, above all by the
dispatch of armed steamboats up the circuitous waterways into
positions from which they could fall upon the enemy in reverse,
he was able gradually to force back the rebels, to cut them off
piecemeal in the field, and to seize upon their cities.

But, brilliant as these operations were, Gordon's military genius

showed itself no less unmistakably in other directions. The Ever
Victorious Army, recruited from the riff-raff of Shanghai, was an

ill-disciplined, ill-organised body of about three thousand men,
constantly on the verge of mutiny, supporting itself on plunder,
and, at the slightest provocation, melting into thin air. Gordon,

by sheer force of character, established over this incoherent
mass of ruffians an extraordinary ascendancy. He drilled them
with rigid severity; he put them into a uniform, armed them
systematically, substituted pay for loot, and was even able, at
last, to introduce regulations of a sanitary kind. There were
some terrible scenes, in which the General, alone, faced the
whole furious army, and quelled scenes of rage, desperation,
towering courage, and summary execution. Eventually he attained
an almost magical prestige. Walking at the head of his troops
with nothing but a light cane in his hand, he seemed to pass
through every danger with the scatheless equanimity of a demi-
god. The Taipings themselves were awed into a strange reverence.
More than once their leaders, in a frenzy of fear and admiration,

ordered the sharp-shooters not to take aim at the advancing
figure of the faintly smiling Englishman.

It is significant that Gordon found it easier to win battles and
to crush mutineers than to keep on good terms with the Chinese
authorities. He had to act in cooperation with a large native
force; and it was only natural that the general at the head of it

should grow more and more jealous and angry as the Englishman's
successes revealed more and more clearly his own incompetence. At

first, indeed, Gordon could rely upon the support of the
Governor. Li Flung Chang's experience of Europeans had been
hitherto limited to low-class adventurers, and Gordon came as a
revelation. 'It is a direct blessing from Heaven,' he noted in
his diary, 'the coming of this British Gordon. ... He is superior

in manner and bearing to any of the foreigners whom I have come
into contact with, and does not show outwardly that conceit which

makes most of them repugnant in my sight.' A few months later,
after he had accompanied Gordon on a victorious expedition, the
Mandarin's enthusiasm burst forth. 'What a sight for tired eyes,'

he wrote, 'what an elixir for a heavy heart-- to see this
splendid Englishman fight! ... If there is anything that I admire

nearly as much as the superb scholarship of Tseng Kuofan, it is
the military qualities of this fine officer. He is a glorious
fellow!' In his emotion, Li Hung Chang addressed Gordon as his
brother, declaring that he 'considered him worthy to fill the
place of the brother who is departed. Could I have said more in
all the words of the world?'

Then something happened which impressed and mystified the
Chinaman. 'The Englishman's face was first filled with a deep
and then he seemed to be thinking), of something depressing and
sad; for
the smile went from his mouth and there were tears in his eyes
when he
thanked me for what I had said. Can it be that he has, or has
had, some
great trouble in his life, and that he fights recklessly to
forget it, or that Death has no terrors for him?' But, as time
went on, Li Hung Chang's attitude began to change. 'General
Gordon,' he notes in July, 'must control his tongue, even if he
lets his mind run loose.' The Englishman had accused him of
intriguing with the Chinese general, and of withholding money due

to the Ever Victorious Army. 'Why does he not accord me the
honours that are due to me, as head of the military and civil
authority in these parts?' By September, the Governor's earlier
transports have been replaced by a more judicial frame of mind.
'With his many faults, his pride, his temper, and his never-
ending demand for money, (for one is a noble man, and in spite of
I have said to him or about him) I will ever think most highly of

him. ... He is an honest man, but difficult to get on with.'

Disagreements of this kind might perhaps have been tided over
until the end of the campaign; but an unfortunate incident
suddenly led to a more serious quarrel. Gordon's advance had been

fiercely contested, but it had been constant; he had captured
several important towns; and in October lice laid siege to the
city of Soo-chow, once one of the most famous and splendid in
China. In December, its fall being obviously imminent, the
Taiping leaders agreed to surrender it on condition that their
lives were spared. Gordon was a party to the agreement, and laid
special stress upon his presence with the Imperial forces as a
pledge of its fulfilment. No sooner, however, was the city
surrendered than the rebel 'Wangs' were assassinated. In his
fury, it is said that Gordon searched everywhere for Li Hung
Chang with a loaded pistol in his hand. He was convinced of the
complicity of the Governor, who, on his side, denied that he was
responsible for what had happened. 'I asked him why I should
plot, and go around a mountain, when a mere order, written with
five strokes of the quill, would have accomplished the same
thing. He did not answer, but he insulted me, and said he would
report my treachery, as he called it, to Shanghai and England.
Let him do so; he cannot bring the crazy Wangs back.' The
agitated Mandarin hoped to placate Gordon by a large gratuity and

an Imperial medal; but the plan was not successful. 'General
Gordon,' he writes, 'called upon me in his angriest mood. He
repeated his former speeches about the Wangs. I did not attempt
to argue with him... He refused the 10,000 taels, which I had
ready for him, and, with an oath, said that he did not want the
Throne's medal. This is showing the greatest disrespect.'

Gordon resigned his command; and it was only with the utmost
reluctance that he agreed at last to resume it. An arduous and
terrible series of operations followed; but they were successful,

and by June, 1864, the Ever Victorious Army, having accomplished
its task, was disbanded. The Imperial forces now closed round
Nankin; the last hopes of the Tien Wang had vanished. In the
recesses of his seraglio, the Celestial King, judging that the
time had come for the conclusion of his mission, swallowed gold
leaf until he ascended to Heaven. In July, Nankin was taken, the
remaining chiefs were executed, and the rebellion was at an end.
The Chinese Government gave Gordon the highest rank in its
military hierarchy, and invested him with the yellow jacket and
the peacock's feather. He rejected an enormous offer of money;
but he could not refuse a great gold medal, specially struck in
his honour by order of the Emperor. At the end of the year he
returned to England, where the conqueror of the Taipings was made

a Companion of the Bath.

That the English authorities should have seen fit to recognise
Gordon's services by the reward usually reserved for industrious
clerks was typical of their attitude towards him until the very
end of his career. Perhaps if he had been ready to make the most
of the wave of popularity which greeted him on his return--if he
had advertised his fame and, amid high circles, played the part
of Chinese Gordon in a becoming manner-- the results would have
been different. But he was by nature farouche; his soul revolted
against dinner parties and stiff shirts; and the presence of
ladies-- especially of fashionable ladies-- filled him with
uneasiness. He had, besides, a deeper dread of the world's
contaminations. And so, when he was appointed to Gravesend to
supervise the erection of a system of forts at the mouth of the
Thames, he remained there quietly for six years, and at last was
almost forgotten. The forts, which were extremely expensive and
quite useless, occupied his working hours; his leisure he devoted

to acts of charity and to religious contemplation. The
was a poverty-stricken one, and the kind Colonel, with his
step and simple manner, was soon a familiar figure in it,
with the seamen, taking provisions to starving families, or
some bedridden old woman to light her fire. He was particularly
of boys. Ragged street arabs and rough sailor-lads crowded about
They were made free of his house and garden; they visited him in
evenings for lessons and advice; he helped them, found them
corresponded with them when they went out into the world. They
were, he said, his Wangs. It was only by a singular austerity of
living that he was able to afford such a variety of charitable
expenses. The easy luxuries of his class and station were unknown

to him: his clothes verged upon the shabby; and his frugal meals
were eaten at a table with a drawer, into which the loaf and
plate were quickly swept at the approach of his poor visitors.
Special occasions demanded special sacrifices. When, during the
Lancashire famine, a public subscription was opened, finding
that he had no ready money, he remembered his Chinese medal,
and, after effacing the inscription, dispatched it as an
anonymous gift.

Except for his boys and his paupers, he lived alone. In his
solitude, he ruminated upon the mysteries of the universe; and
those religious tendencies, which had already shown themselves,
now became a fixed and dominating factor in his life. His reading

was confined almost entirely to the Bible; but the Bible he read
and re-read with an untiring, unending assiduity. There, he
was convinced, all truth was to be found; and he was equally
convinced that he could find it. The doubts of philosophers, the
investigations of commentators, the smiles of men of the world,
the dogmas of Churches-- such things meant nothing to the
Two facts alone were evident: there was the Bible, and there was
himself; and all that remained to be done was for him to discover

what were the Bible's instructions, and to act accordingly. In
order to make this discovery it was only necessary for him to
read the Bible over and over again; and therefore, for the rest
of his life, he did so.

The faith that he evolved was mystical and fatalistic; it was
also highly unconventional. His creed, based upon the narrow
foundations of Jewish Scripture, eked out occasionally by some
English evangelical manual, was yet wide enough to ignore every
doctrinal difference, and even, at moments, to transcend the
bounds of Christianity itself. The just man was he who submitted
to the Will of God, and the Will of God, inscrutable and
absolute, could be served aright only by those who turned away
from earthly desires and temporal temptations, to rest themselves

whole-heartedly upon the in-dwelling Spirit. Human beings were
the transitory embodiments of souls who had existed through an
infinite past, and would continue to exist through an infinite

The world was vanity; the flesh was dust and ashes. 'A man,'
wrote to his sister, 'who knows not the secret, who has not the
of God revealed to him, is like this--[picture of a circle with
Body and
Soul written within it]. He takes the promises and curses as
to him as one man, and will not hear of there being any birth
before his
natural birth, in any existence except with the body he is in.
The man to
whom the secret (the indwelling of God) is revealed is like this:
of a circle with soul and body enclosed in two separate circles].

He applies the promises to one and the curses to the other, if
disobedient, which he must be, except the soul is enabled by God
to rule. He then sees he is not of this world; for when he speaks

of himself he quite disregards the body his soul lives in, which
is earthly.' Such conceptions are familiar enough in the history
of religious thought: they are those of the hermit and the fakir;

and it might have been expected that, when once they had taken
hold upon his mind, Gordon would have been content to lay aside
the activities of his profession, and would have relapsed at last

into the complete retirement of holy meditation. But there were
other elements in his nature which urged him towards a very
different course. He was no simple quietist. He was an English
gentleman, an officer, a man of energy and action, a lover of
danger and the audacities that defeat danger; a passionate
creature, flowing over with the self-assertiveness of independent

judgment and the arbitrary temper of command.

Whatever he might find in his pocket-Bible, it was not for such
he to dream out his days in devout obscurity. But, conveniently
he found nothing in his pocket-Bible indicating that he should.
he did find was that the Will of God was inscrutable and
that it was man's duty to follow where God's hand led; and, if
God's hand led towards violent excitements and extraordinary
vicissitudes, that it was not only futile, it was impious to
turn another way. Fatalism is always apt to be a double-edged
philosophy; for while, on the one hand, it reveals the minutest
occurrences as the immutable result of a rigid chain of
infinitely predestined causes, on the other, it invests the
wildest incoherences of conduct or of circumstance with the
sanctity of eternal law. And Gordon's fatalism was no exception.
The same doctrine that led him to dally with omens, to search for

prophetic texts, and to append, in brackets, the apotropaic
initials D.V. after every statement in his letters implying
futurity, led him also to envisage his moods and his desires, his

passing reckless whims and his deep unconscious instincts, as the

mysterious manifestations of the indwelling God. That there was
danger lurking in such a creed he was very well aware. The
grosser temptations of the world-- money and the vulgar
of power-- had, indeed, no charms for him; but there were subtler

and more insinuating allurements which it was not so easy to
resist. More than one observer declared that ambition was, in
reality, the essential motive in his life: ambition, neither for
wealth nor titles, but for fame and influence, for the swaying of

multitudes, and for that kind of enlarged and intensified
existence 'where breath breathes most even in the mouths of men'.

Was it so? In the depths of Gordon's soul there were intertwining

contradictions-- intricate recesses where egoism and renunciation

melted into one another, where the flesh lost itself in the
spirit, and the spirit in the flesh. What was the Will of God?
The question, which first became insistent during his retirement
at Gravesend, never afterwards left him; it might almost be said
that he spent the remainder of his life in searching for the
answer to it. In all his Odysseys, in all his strange and
agitated adventures, a day never passed on which he neglected the

voice of eternal wisdom as it spoke through the words of Paul or
Solomon, of Jonah or Habakkuk. He opened his Bible, he read, and
then he noted down his reflections upon scraps of paper, which,
periodically pinned together, he dispatched to one or other of
his religious friends, and particularly his sister Augusta. The
published extracts from these voluminous outpourings lay bare the

inner history of Gordon's spirit, and reveal the pious visionary
of Gravesend in the restless hero of three continents.

His seclusion came to an end in a distinctly providential manner.

In accordance with a stipulation in the Treaty of Paris, an
international commission had been appointed to improve the
navigation of the Danube; and Gordon, who had acted on a similar
body fifteen years earlier, was sent out to represent Great
Britain. At Constantinople, he chanced to meet the Egyptian
minister, Nubar Pasha. The Governorship of the Equatorial
Provinces of the Sudan was about to fall vacant; and Nubar
offered the post to Gordon, who accepted it. 'For some wise
design,' he wrote to his sister, 'God turns events one way or
another, whether man likes it or not, as a man driving a horse
turns it to right or left without consideration as to whether the

horse likes that way or not. To be happy, a man must be like a
well-broken, willing horse, ready for anything. Events will go as

God likes.'

And then followed six years of extraordinary, desperate,
unceasing, and ungrateful labour. The unexplored and pestilential

region of Equatoria, stretching southwards to the Great Lakes and

the sources of the Nile, had been annexed to Egypt by the Khedive

Ismail, who, while he squandered his millions on Parisian ballet-
dancers, dreamt strange dreams of glory and empire. Those dim
tracts of swamp and forest in Central Africa were-- so he
declared-- to be 'opened up'; they were to receive the blessings
of civilisation, they were to become a source of eternal honour
to himself and Egypt. The slave-trade, which flourished there,
was to be put down; the savage inhabitants were to become
acquainted with freedom, justice, and prosperity. Incidentally, a

government monopoly in ivory was to be established, and the place

was to be made a paying concern. Ismail, hopelessly in debt to a
horde of European creditors, looked to Europe to support him in
his schemes. Europe, and, in particular, England, with her
passion for extraneous philanthropy, was not averse.

Sir Samuel Baker became the first Governor of Equatoria, and now
Gordon was to carry on the good work. In such circumstances it
only natural that Gordon should consider himself a special
in God's band. To put his disinterestedness beyond doubt, he
reduced his salary, which had been fixed at 10,000, to 2,000.
took over his new duties early in 1874, and it was not long
before he had a first hint of disillusionment. On his way up the
Nile, he was received in state at Khartoum by the Egyptian
Governor-- General of the Sudan, his immediate official superior.

The function ended in a prolonged banquet, followed by a mixed
ballet of soldiers and completely naked young women, who danced
in a circle, beat time with their feet, and accompanied their
gestures with a curious sound of clucking. At last the Austrian
Consul, overcome by the exhilaration of the scene, flung himself
in a frenzy among the dancers; the Governor-General, shouting
with delight, seemed about to follow suit, when Gordon abruptly
left the room, and the party broke up in confusion.

When, 1,500 miles to the southward, Gordon reached the seat of
his government, and the desolation of the Tropics closed over
him, the agonising nature of his task stood fully revealed. For
the next three years he struggled with enormous difficulties--
with the confused and horrible country, the appalling climate,
the maddening insects and the loathsome diseases, the
indifference of subordinates and superiors, the savagery of the
slave-traders, and the hatred of the inhabitants. One by one the
small company of his European staff succumbed. With a few hundred

Egyptian soldiers he had to suppress insurrections, make roads,
establish fortified posts, and enforce the government monopoly of

ivory. All this he accomplished; he even succeeded in sending
enough money to Cairo to pay for the expenses of the expedition.

But a deep gloom had fallen upon his spirit. When, after a series

of incredible obstacles had been overcome, a steamer was launched

upon the unexplored Albert Nyanza, he turned his back upon the
lake, leaving the glory of its navigation to his Italian
lieutenant, Gessi. 'I wish,' he wrote, 'to give a practical proof

of what I think regarding the inordinate praise which is given to

an explorer.' Among his distresses and self-mortifications, he
loathed the thought of all such honours, and remembered the
attentions of English society with a snarl. 'When, D.V., I get
home, I do not dine out. My reminiscences of these lands will
not be more pleasant to me than the China ones. What I shall have

done, will be what I have done. Men think giving dinners is
conferring a favour on you... Why not give dinners to those who
need them?' No! His heart was set upon a very different object.
'To each is allotted a distinct work, to each a destined goal; to

some the seat at the right hand or left hand of the Saviour. (It
was not His to give; it was already given-- Matthew xx, 23.
Judas went to "HIS OWN PLACE"--Acts i, 25.) It is difficult for
the flesh to accept: "Ye are dead, ye have naught to do with the
world". How difficult for anyone to be circumcised from the
world, to be as indifferent to its pleasures, its sorrows, and
its comforts as a corpse is! That is to know the resurrection.'

But the Holy Bible was not his only solace. For now, under the
parching African sun, we catch glimpses, for the first time, of
Gordon's hand stretching out towards stimulants of a more
material quality. For months together, we are told, he would
drink nothing but pure water; and then ... water that was not so
pure. In his fits of melancholy, he would shut himself up in his
tent for days at a time, with a hatchet and a flag placed at the
door to indicate that he was not to be disturbed for any reason
whatever; until at last the cloud would lift, the signals would
be removed, and the Governor would reappear, brisk and cheerful.

During, one of these retirements, there was grave danger of a
native attack upon the camp. Colonel Long, the Chief of Staff,
ventured, after some hesitation, to ignore the flag and hatchet,
and to enter the forbidden tent. He found Gordon seated at a
table, upon which were an open Bible and an open bottle of
brandy. Long explained the circumstances, but could obtain no
answer beyond the abrupt words--'You are commander of the camp'--
and was obliged to retire, nonplussed, to deal with the situation

as best he could. On the following morning, Gordon, cleanly
shaven, and in the full-dress uniform of the Royal Engineers,
entered Long's hut with his usual tripping step, exclaiming 'Old
fellow, now don't be angry with me. I was very low last night.
Let's have a good breakfast--a little b. and s. Do you feel up to

it?' And, with these veering moods and dangerous restoratives,
there came an intensification of the queer and violent elements
in the temper of the man.

His eccentricities grew upon him. He found it more and more
to follow the ordinary course. Official routine was an agony to
him. His
caustic and satirical humour expressed itself in a style that
government departments. While he jibed at his superiors, his
learned to dread the explosions of his wrath. There were moments
when his
passion became utterly ungovernable; and the gentle soldier of
God, who
had spent the day in quoting texts for the edification of his
sister, would
slap the face of his Arab aide-de-camp in a sudden access of
fury, or set
upon his Alsatian servant and kick him until he screamed.

At the end of three years, Gordon resigned his post in Equatoria,

and prepared to return home. But again Providence intervened: the

Khedive offered him, as an inducement to remain in the Egyptian
service, a position of still higher consequence-- the Governor-
Generalship of the whole Sudan; and Gordon once more took up his
task. Another three years were passed in grappling with vast
revolting provinces, with the ineradicable iniquities of the
slave-trade, and with all the complications of weakness and
corruption incident to an oriental administration extending over
almost boundless tracts of savage territory which had never been
effectively subdued. His headquarters were fixed in the palace at

Khartoum; but there were various interludes in his government.
when the Khedive's finances had become peculiarly embroiled, he
summoned Gordon to Cairo to preside over a commission which
should set matters to rights.

Gordon accepted the post, but soon found that his situation was
untenable. He was between the devil and the deep sea-- between
unscrupulous cunning of the Egyptian Pashas, and the immeasurable

immensity of the Khedive's debts to his European creditors. The
were anxious to use him as a respectable mask for their own
dealings; and the representatives of the European creditors, who
upon him as an irresponsible intruder, were anxious simply to get
of him as soon as they could. One of these representatives was
Sir Evelyn Baring, whom Gordon now met for the first time. An
immediate antagonism flashed out between the two men. But their
hostility had no time to mature; for Gordon, baffled on all
sides, and deserted even by the Khedive, precipitately returned
to his Governor-Generalship. Whatever else Providence might have
decreed, it had certainly not decided that he should be a

His tastes and his talents were indeed of a very different kind.
In his absence, a rebellion had broken out in Darfur-- one of the

vast outlying provinces of his government-- where a native
chieftain, Zobeir, had erected, on a basis of slave-traffic, a
dangerous military power. Zobeir himself had been lured to Cairo,

where he was detained in a state of semi-captivity; but his son,
Suleiman, ruled in his stead, and was now defying the Governor-
General. Gordon determined upon a hazardous stroke. He mounted a
camel, and rode, alone, in the blazing heat, across eighty-five
miles of desert, to Suleiman's camp. His sudden apparition
dumbfounded the rebels; his imperious bearing overawed them; he
signified to them that in two days they must disarm and disperse;

and the whole host obeyed. Gordon returned to Khartoum in
But he had not heard the last of Suleiman. Flying southwards from

Darfur to the neighbouring province of Bahr-el-Ghazal, the young
man was soon once more at the head of a formidable force. A
prolonged campaign of extreme difficulty and danger followed.
Eventually, Gordon, summoned again to Cairo, was obliged to leave

to Gessi the task of finally crushing the revolt. After a
brilliant campaign, Gessi forced Suleiman to surrender, and then
shot him as a rebel. The deed was to exercise a curious influence

upon Gordon's fate.

Though Suleiman had been killed and his power broken, the slave-
trade still flourished in the Sudan. Gordon's efforts to suppress

it resembled the palliatives of an empiric treating the
superficial symptoms of some profound constitutional disease. The

root of the malady lay in the slave-markets of Cairo and
Constantinople: the supply followed the demand. Gordon, after
years of labour, might here and there stop up a spring or divert
a tributary, but, somehow or other the waters would reach the
river-bed. In the end, he himself came to recognise this. 'When
you have got the ink that has soaked into blotting-paper out of
it,' he said, 'then slavery will cease in these lands.' And yet
he struggled desperately on; it was not for him to murmur. 'I
feel my own weakness, and look to Him who is Almighty, and I
leave the issue without inordinate care to Him.'

Relief came at last. The Khedive Ismail was deposed; and Gordon
felt at liberty to send in his resignation. Before he left
Egypt, however, he was to experience yet one more remarkable
adventure. At his own request, he set out on a diplomatic
mission to the Negus of Abyssinia. The mission was a complete
failure. The Negus was intractable, and, when his bribes were
refused, furious. Gordon was ignominiously dismissed; every
insult was heaped on him; he was arrested, and obliged to
traverse the Abyssinian Mountains in the depth of winter under
the escort of a savage troop of horse. When, after great
hardships and dangers, he reached Cairo, he found the whole
official world up in arms against him. The Pashas had determined
at last that they had no further use for this honest and peculiar

Englishman. It was arranged that one of his confidential
dispatches should be published in the newspapers; naturally, it
contained indiscretions; there was a universal outcry-- the man
was insubordinate, and mad. He departed under a storm of obloquy.

It seemed impossible that he should ever return to Egypt.

On his way home he stopped in Paris, saw the English Ambassador,
Lord Lyons, and speedily came into conflict with him over
affairs. There ensued a heated correspondence, which was finally
closed by a letter from Gordon, ending as follows: 'I have some
comfort in thinking that in ten or fifteen years' time it will
little to either of us. A black box, six feet six by three feet
will then contain all that is left of Ambassador, or Cabinet
or of your humble and obedient servant.'

He arrived in England early in 1880 ill and exhausted; and it
might have been supposed that after the terrible activities of
his African exile he would have been ready to rest. But the very
opposite was the case; the next three years were the most
momentous of his life. He hurried from post to post, from
enterprise to enterprise, from continent to continent, with a
vertiginous rapidity. He accepted the Private Secretaryship to
Lord Ripon, the new Viceroy of India, and, three days after his
arrival at Bombay, he resigned. He had suddenly realised that he
was not cut out for a Private Secretary, when, on an address
being sent in from some deputation, he was asked to say that the
Viceroy had read it with interest. 'You know perfectly,' he said
to Lord William Beresford, 'that Lord Ripon has never read it,
and I can't say that sort of thing; so I will resign, and you
take in my resignation.' He confessed to Lord William that the
world was not big enough for him, that there was 'no king or
country big enough'; and then he added, hitting him on the
shoulder, 'Yes, that is flesh, that is what I hate, and what
makes me wish to die.'

Two days later, he was off for Pekin. 'Every one will say I am
mad,' were his last words to Lord William Beresford; 'but you say

I am not.' The position in China was critical; war with Russia
appeared to be imminent; and Gordon had been appealed to in
order to use his influence on the side of peace. He was welcomed
by many old friends of former days, among them Li Hung Chang,
whose diplomatic views coincided with his own. Li's diplomatic
language, however, was less unconventional. In an interview with
the Ministers, Gordon's expressions were such that the
shook with terror, upset a cup of tea, and finally refused to
the dreadful words; upon which Gordon snatched up a dictionary,
with his finger on the word 'idiocy', showed it to the startled
A few weeks later, Li Hung Chang was in power, and peace was
Gordon had spent two and a half days in Pekin, and was whirling
China, when a telegram arrived from the home authorities, who
viewed his movements with uneasiness, ordering him to return at
once to England. 'It did not produce a twitter in me,' he wrote
to his sister; 'I died long ago, and it will not make any
difference to me; I am prepared to follow the unrolling of the
scroll.' The world, perhaps, was not big enough for him; and yet
how clearly he recognised that he was 'a poor insect!' 'My heart
tells me that, and I am glad of it.'

On his return to England, he telegraphed to the Government of the

Cape of Good Hope, which had become involved in a war with the
Basutos, offering his services; but his telegram received no
reply. Just then, Sir Howard Elphinstone was appointed to the
command of the Royal Engineers in Mauritius. it was a thankless
and insignificant post; and, rather than accept it, Elphinstone
was prepared to retire from the Army-- unless some other officer
could be induced, in return for 800, to act as his substitute.
Gordon, who was an old friend, agreed to undertake the work upon
one condition: that he should receive nothing from Elphinstone;
and accordingly, he spent the next year in that remote and
unhealthy island, looking after the barrack repairs and testing
the drains.

While he was thus engaged, the Cape Government, whose
had been increasing, changed its mind, and early in 1882, begged
Gordon's help. Once more he was involved in great affairs: a new
of action opened before him; and then, in a moment, there was
shift of the kaleidoscope, and again he was thrown upon the
world. Within
a few weeks, after a violent quarrel with the Cape authorities,
his mission
had come to an end. What should he do next? To what remote corner
or what
enormous stage, to what self-sacrificing drudgeries or what
exploits, would the hand of God lead him now? He waited, in an
odd hesitation.
He opened the Bible, but neither the prophecies of Hosea nor the
to Timothy gave him any advice. The King of the Belgians asked if
he would
be willing to go to the Congo. He was perfectly willing; he would
go whenever
the King of the Belgians sent for him; his services, however,
were not required
yet. It was at this juncture that he betook himself to Palestine.
His studies
there were embodied in a correspondence with the Rev. Mr. Barnes,
filling over
2,000 pages of manuscript-- a correspondence which was only put
an end to
when, at last, the summons from the King of the Belgians came. He

hurried back to England; but it was not to the Congo that he was
being led by the hand of God.

Gordon's last great adventure, like his first, was occasioned by
a religious revolt. At the very moment when, apparently forever,
he was shaking the dust of Egypt from his feet, Mahommed Ahmed
was starting upon his extraordinary career in the Sudan. The time

was propitious for revolutions. The effete Egyptian Empire was
hovering upon the verge of collapse. The enormous territories of
the Sudan were seething with discontent. Gordon's administration
had, by its very vigour, only helped to precipitate the
inevitable disaster. His attacks upon the slave-trade, his
establishment of a government monopoly in ivory, his hostility to

the Egyptian officials, had been so many shocks, shaking to its
foundations the whole rickety machine. The result of all his
efforts had been, on the one hand, to fill the most powerful
classes in the community-- the dealers in slaves and, ivory--
a hatred of the government, and on the other to awaken among the
mass of the inhabitants a new perception of the dishonesty and
incompetence of their Egyptian masters.

When, after Gordon's removal, the rule of the Pashas once more
itself over the Sudan, a general combustion became inevitable:
the first
spark would set off the blaze. Just then it happened that
Mahommed Ahmed,
the son of an insignificant priest in Dongola, having quarrelled
with the
Sheikh from whom he was receiving religious instruction, set up
as an
independent preacher, with his headquarters at Abba Island, on
the Nile,
150 miles above Khartoum. Like Hong-siu-tsuen, he began as a
reformer, and ended as a rebel king. It was his mission, he
declared, to
purge the true Faith of its worldliness and corruptions, to lead
the followers of the prophet into the paths of chastity,
simplicity, and holiness; with the puritanical zeal of a Calvin,
be denounced junketings and merrymakings, songs and dances, lewd
living and all the delights of the flesh. He fell into trances,
he saw visions, he saw the prophet and Jesus, and the Angel
Izrail accompanying him and watching over him forever. He
prophesied and performed miracles, and his fame spread through
the land.

There is an ancient tradition in the Mohammedan world, telling of

a mysterious being, the last in succession of the twelve holy
Imams, who, untouched by death and withdrawn into the recesses of

a mountain, was destined, at the appointted hour, to come forth
again among men. His title was the Mahdi, the guide; some
believed that he would be the forerunner of the Messiah; others
believed that he would be Christ himself. Already various Mahdis

had made their appearance; several had been highly successful,
two, in medieval times, had founded dynasties in Egypt. But who
tell whether ail these were not impostors? Might not the twelfth
Imam be still waiting, in mystical concealment, ready to emerge,
at any moment, at the bidding of God? There were signs by which
the true Mahdi might be recognised-- unmistakable signs, if one
could but read them aright. He must be of the family of the
prophet; he must possess miraculous powers of no common kind; and

his person must be overflowing with a peculiar sanctity. The
pious dwellers beside those distant waters, where holy men by
dint of a constant repetition of one of the ninety-nine names of
God, secured the protection of guardian angels, and where groups
of devotees, shaking their heads with a violence which would
unseat the reason of less athletic worshippers, attained to an
extraordinary beatitude, heard with awe of the young preacher
whose saintliness was almost more than mortal and whose miracles
brought amazement to the mind. Was he not also of the family of
the prophet? He himself had said so, and who would disbelieve the

holy man? When he appeared in person, every doubt was swept away.

There was a strange splendour in his presence, an overpowering
passion in the torrent of his speech. Great was the wickedness of

the people, and great was their punishment! Surely their miseries

were a visible sign of the wrath of the Lord. They had sinned,
and the cruel tax gatherers had come among them, and the corrupt
governors, and all the oppressions of the Egyptians. Yet these
things, 'Too, should have an end. The Lord would raise up his
chosen deliverer; the hearts of the people would be purified, and

their enemies would be laid low. The accursed Egyptian would be
driven from the land. Let the faithful take heart and make ready.

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