Part 6 out of 6
'So we, through this world's waning night,
Shall, hand in hand, pursue our way;
Shed round us order, love, and light,
And shine unto the perfect day.'
The precious relic, with all its shattered hopes, came at the right
moment to soften his hard-worn heart. The sight, the touch of it,
shot like an electric spark through the black stifling thunder-cloud
of his soul, and dissolved it in refreshing showers of tears.
Barnakill led him gently within the area of the railings, where he
might conceal his emotion, and it was but a few seconds before
Lancelot had recovered his self-possession and followed him up the
steps through the wicket door.
They entered. The afternoon service was proceeding. The organ
droned sadly in its iron cage to a few musical amateurs. Some
nursery maids and foreign sailors stared about within the spiked
felon's dock which shut off the body of the cathedral, and tried in
vain to hear what was going on inside the choir. As a wise author--
a Protestant, too--has lately said, 'the scanty service rattled in
the vast building, like a dried kernel too small for its shell.'
The place breathed imbecility, and unreality, and sleepy life-in-
death, while the whole nineteenth century went roaring on its way
outside. And as Lancelot thought, though only as a dilettante, of
old St. Paul's, the morning star and focal beacon of England through
centuries and dynasties, from old Augustine and Mellitus, up to
those Paul's Cross sermons whose thunders shook thrones, and to
noble Wren's masterpiece of art, he asked, 'Whither all this?
Coleridge's dictum, that a cathedral is a petrified religion, may be
taken to bear more meanings than one. When will life return to this
'When was it ever a living system?' answered the other. 'When was
it ever anything but a transitionary makeshift since the dissolution
of the monasteries?'
'Why, then, not away with it at once?'
'You English have not done with it yet. At all events, it is
keeping your cathedrals rain-proof for you, till you can put them to
some better use than now.'
'And in the meantime?'
'In the meantime there is life enough in them; life that will wake
the dead some day. Do you hear what those choristers are chanting
'Not I,' said Lancelot; 'nor any one round us, I should think.'
'That is our own fault, after all; for we were not good churchmen
enough to come in time for vespers.'
'Are you a churchman then?'
'Yes, thank God. There may be other churches than those of Europe
or Syria, and right Catholic ones, too. But, shall I tell you what
they are singing? "He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and
hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with
good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away." Is there no
life, think you, in those words, spoken here every afternoon in the
name of God?'
'By hirelings, who neither care nor understand--'
'Hush. Be not hasty with imputations of evil, within walls
dedicated to and preserved by the All-good. Even should the
speakers forget the meaning of their own words, to my sense,
perhaps, that may just now leave the words more entirely God's. At
all events, confess that whatever accidental husks may have
clustered round it, here is a germ of Eternal Truth. No, I dare not
despair of you English, as long as I hear your priesthood forced by
Providence, even in spite of themselves, thus to speak God's words
about an age in which the condition of the poor, and the rights and
duties of man, are becoming the rallying-point for all thought and
'But does it not make the case more hopeless that such words have
been spoken for centuries, and no man regards them?'
'You have to blame for that the people, rather than the priest. As
they are, so will he be, in every age and country. He is but the
index which the changes of their spiritual state move up and down
the scale: and as they will become in England in the next half
century, so will he become also.'
'And can these dry bones live?' asked Lancelot, scornfully.
'Who are you to ask? What were you three months ago? for I know
well your story. But do you remember what the prophet saw in the
Valley of Vision? How first that those same dry bones shook and
clashed together, as if uneasy because they were disorganised; and
how they then found flesh and stood upright: and yet there was no
life in them, till at last the Spirit came down and entered into
them? Surely there is shaking enough among the bones now! It is
happening to the body of your England as it did to Adam's after he
was made. It lay on earth, the rabbis say, forty days before the
breath of life was put into it, and the devil came and kicked it;
and it sounded hollow, as England is doing now; but that did not
prevent the breath of life coming in good time, nor will it in
Lancelot looked at him with a puzzled face.
'You must not speak in such deep parables to so young a learner.'
'Is my parable so hard, then? Look around you and see what is the
characteristic of your country and of your generation at this
moment. What a yearning, what an expectation, amid infinite
falsehoods and confusions, of some nobler, more chivalrous, more
godlike state! Your very costermonger trolls out his belief that
"there's a good time coming," and the hearts of gamins, as well as
millenarians, answer, "True!" Is not that a clashing among the dry
bones? And as for flesh, what new materials are springing up among
you every month, spiritual and physical, for a state such as "eye
hath not seen nor ear heard?"--railroads, electric telegraphs,
associate-lodging-houses, club-houses, sanitary reforms,
experimental schools, chemical agriculture, a matchless school of
inductive science, an equally matchless school of naturalist
painters,--and all this in the very workshop of the world! Look,
again, at the healthy craving after religious art and ceremonial,--
the strong desire to preserve that which has stood the test of time;
and on the other hand, at the manful resolution of your middle
classes to stand or fall by the Bible alone,--to admit no
innovations in worship which are empty of instinctive meaning. Look
at the enormous amount of practical benevolence which now struggles
in vain against evil, only because it is as yet private, desultory,
divided. How dare you, young man, despair of your own nation, while
its nobles can produce a Carlisle, an Ellesmere, an Ashley, a Robert
Grosvenor,--while its middle classes can beget a Faraday, a
Stephenson, a Brooke, an Elizabeth Fry? See, I say, what a chaos of
noble materials is here,--all confused, it is true,--polarised,
jarring, and chaotic,--here bigotry, there self-will, superstition,
sheer Atheism often, but only waiting for the one inspiring Spirit
to organise, and unite, and consecrate this chaos into the noblest
polity the world ever saw realised! What a destiny may be that of
your land, if you have but the faith to see your own honour! Were I
not of my own country, I would be an Englishman this day.'
'And what is your country?' asked Lancelot. 'It should be a noble
one which breeds such men as you.'
The stranger smiled.
'Will you go thither with me?'
'Why not? I long for travel, and truly I am sick of my own country.
When the Spirit of which you speak,' he went on, bitterly, 'shall
descend, I may return; till then England is no place for the
'How know you that the Spirit is not even now poured out? Must your
English Pharisees and Sadducees, too, have signs and wonders ere
they believe? Will man never know that "the kingdom of God comes
not by observation"? that now, as ever, His promise stands true,--
"Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world"? How
many inspired hearts even now may be cherishing in secret the idea
which shall reform the age, and fulfil at once the longings of every
sect and rank?'
'Name it to me, then!'
'Who can name it? Who can even see it, but those who are like Him
from whom it comes? Them a long and stern discipline awaits. Would
you be of them, you must, like the Highest who ever trod this earth,
go fasting into the wilderness, and, among the wild beasts, stand
alone face to face with the powers of Nature.'
'I will go where you shall bid me. I will turn shepherd among the
Scottish mountains--live as an anchorite in the solitudes of
Dartmoor. But to what purpose? I have listened long to Nature's
voice, but even the whispers of a spiritual presence which haunted
my childhood have died away, and I hear nothing in her but the
grinding of the iron wheels of mechanical necessity.'
'Which is the will of God. Henceforth you shall study, not Nature,
but Him. Yet as for place--I do not like your English primitive
formations, where earth, worn out with struggling, has fallen
wearily asleep. No, you shall rather come to Asia, the oldest and
yet the youngest continent,--to our volcanic mountain ranges, where
her bosom still heaves with the creative energy of youth, around the
primeval cradle of the most ancient race of men. Then, when you
have learnt the wondrous harmony between man and his dwelling-place,
I will lead you to a land where you shall see the highest spiritual
cultivation in triumphant contact with the fiercest energies of
matter; where men have learnt to tame and use alike the volcano and
the human heart, where the body and the spirit, the beautiful and
the useful, the human and the divine, are no longer separate, and
men have embodied to themselves on earth an image of the "city not
made with hands, eternal in the heavens."'
'Where is this land?' said Lancelot eagerly.
'Poor human nature must have its name for everything. You have
heard of the country of Prester John, that mysterious Christian
empire, rarely visited by European eye?'
'There are legends of two such,' said Lancelot, 'an Ethiopian and an
Asiatic one; and the Ethiopian, if we are to believe Colonel
Harris's Journey to Shoa, is a sufficiently miserable failure.'
'True; the day of the Chamitic race is past; you will not say the
same of our Caucasian empire. To our race the present belongs,--to
England, France, Germany, America,--to us. Will you see what we
have done, and, perhaps, bring home, after long wanderings, a
message for your country which may help to unravel the tangled web
of this strange time?'
'I will,' said Lancelot, 'now, this moment. And yet, no. There is
one with whom I have promised to share all future weal and woe.
Without him I can take no step.'
'Yes--he. What made you guess that I spoke of him?'
'Mellot told me of him, and of you, too, six weeks ago. He is now
gone to fetch him from Manchester. I cannot trust him here in
England yet. The country made him sad; London has made him mad;
Manchester may make him bad. It is too fearful a trial even for his
faith. I must take him with us.'
'What interest in him--not to say what authority over him--have
'The same which I have over you. You will come with me; so will he.
It is my business, as my name signifies, to save the children alive
whom European society leaves carelessly and ignorantly to die. And
as for my power, I come,' said he, with a smile, 'from a country
which sends no one on its errands without first thoroughly
satisfying itself as to his power of fulfilling them.'
'If he goes, I go with you.'
'And he will go. And yet, think what you do. It is a fearful
journey. They who travel it, even as they came naked out of their
mother's womb--even as they return thither, and carry nothing with
them of all which they have gotten in this life, so must those who
travel to my land.'
'What? Tregarva? Is he, too, to give up all? I had thought that I
saw in him a precious possession, one for which I would barter all
my scholarship, my talents,--ay--my life itself.'
'A possession worth your life? What then?'
'Faith in an unseen God.'
'Ask him whether he would call that a possession--his own in any
'He would call it a revelation to him.'
'That is, a taking of the veil from something which was behind the
'And which may therefore just as really be behind the veil in other
cases without its presence being suspected.'
'In what sense, now, is that a possession? Do you possess the sun
because you see it? Did Herschel create Uranus by discovering it;
or even increase, by an atom, its attraction on one particle of his
'Whither is all this tending?'
'Hither. Tregarva does not possess his Father and his Lord; he is
possessed by them.'
'But he would say--and I should believe him--that he has seen and
known them, not with his bodily eyes, but with his soul, heart,
imagination--call it what you will. All I know is, that between him
and me there is a great gulf fixed.'
'What! seen and known them utterly? comprehended them? Are they not
infinite, incomprehensible? Can the less comprehend the greater?'
'He knows, at least, enough of them to make him what I am not.'
'That is, he knows something of them. And may not you know
something of them also?--enough to make you what he is not?'
Lancelot shook his head in silence.
'Suppose that you had met and spoken with your father, and loved him
when you saw him, and yet were not aware of the relation in which
you stood to him, still you would know him?'
'Not the most important thing of all--that he was my father.'
'Is that the most important thing? Is it not more important that he
should know that you were his son? That he should support, guide,
educate you, even though unseen? Do you not know that some one has
been doing that?'
'That I have been supported, guided, educated, I know full well; but
by whom I know not. And I know, too, that I have been punished.
And therefore--therefore I cannot free the thought of a Him--of a
Person--only of a Destiny, of Laws and Powers, which have no faces
wherewith to frown awful wrath upon me! If it be a Person who has
been leading me, I must go mad, or know that He has forgiven!'
'I conceive that it is He, and not punishment which you fear?'
Lancelot was silent a moment. . . . 'Yes. He, and not hell at all,
is what I fear. He can inflict no punishment on me worse than the
inner hell which I have felt already, many and many a time.'
'Bona verba! That is an awful thing to say: but better this
extreme than the other. . . . And you would--what?'
'If He loves you, He has pardoned you already.'
'How do I know that He loves me?'
'How does Tregarva?'
'He is a righteous man, and I--'
'Am a sinner. He would, and rightly, call himself the same.'
'But he knows that God loves him--that he is God's child.'
'So, then, God did not love him till he caused God to love him, by
knowing that He loved him? He was not God's child till he made
himself one, by believing that he was one when as yet he was not? I
appeal to common sense and logic . . . It was revealed to Tregarva
that God had been loving him while he was yet a bad man. If He
loved him, in spite of his sin, why should He not have loved you?'
'If He had loved me, would He have left me in ignorance of Himself?
For if He be, to know Him is the highest good.'
'Had he left Tregarva in ignorance of Himself?'
'No. . . . Certainly, Tregarva spoke of his conversion as of a
turning to one of whom he had known all along, and disregarded.'
'Then do you turn like him, to Him whom you have known all along,
'Yes--you! If half I have heard and seen of you be true, He has
been telling you more, and not less, of Himself than He does to most
men. You, for aught I know, may know more of Him than Tregarva
does. The gulf between you and him is this: he has obeyed what he
knew--and you have not.' . . .
Lancelot paused a moment, then--
'No!--do not cheat me! You said once that you were a churchman.'
'So I am. A Catholic of the Catholics. What then?'
'Who is He to whom you ask me to turn? You talk to me of Him as my
Father; but you talk of Him to men of your own creed as The Father.
You have mysterious dogmas of a Three in One. I know them . . . I
have admired them. In all their forms--in the Vedas, in the Neo-
Platonists, in Jacob Boehmen, in your Catholic creeds, in Coleridge,
and the Germans from whom he borrowed, I have looked at them, and
found in them beautiful phantasms of philosophy, . . . all but
scientific necessities; . . . but--'
'I do not want cold abstract necessities of logic: I want living
practical facts. If those mysterious dogmas speak of real and
necessary properties of His being, they must be necessarily
interwoven in practice with His revelation of Himself?'
'Most true. But how would you have Him unveil Himself?'
'By unveiling Himself.'
'What? To your simple intuition? That was Semele's ambition. . . .
You recollect the end of that myth. You recollect, too, as you have
read the Neo-Platonists, the result of their similar attempt.'
'Idolatry and magic.'
'True; and yet, such is the ambition of man, you who were just now
envying Tregarva, are already longing to climb even higher than
'I do not often indulge in such an ambition. But I have read in
your Schoolmen tales of a Beatific Vision; how that the highest good
for man was to see God.'
'And did you believe that?'
'One cannot believe the impossible--only regret its impossibility.'
'Impossibility? You can only see the Uncreate in the Create--the
Infinite in the Finite--the absolute good in that which is like the
good. Does Tregarva pretend to more? He sees God in His own
thoughts and consciousnesses, and in the events of the world around
him, imaged in the mirror of his own mind. Is your mirror, then, so
much narrower than his?'
'I have none. I see but myself, and the world, and far above them,
a dim awful Unity, which is but a notion.'
'Fool!--and slow of heart to believe! Where else would you see Him
but in yourself and in the world? They are all things cognisable to
you. Where else, but everywhere, would you see Him whom no man hath
seen, or can see?'
'When He shows Himself to me in them, then I may see Him. But now--
'You have seen Him; and because you do not know the name of what you
see--or rather will not acknowledge it--you fancy that it is not
'How in His name? What have I seen?'
'Ask yourself. Have you not seen, in your fancy, at least, an ideal
of man, for which you spurned (for Mellot has told me all) the
merely negative angelic--the merely receptive and indulgent
feminine-ideals of humanity, and longed to be a man, like that ideal
and perfect man?'
'And what was your misery all along? Was it not that you felt you
ought to be a person with a one inner unity, a one practical will,
purpose, and business given to you--not invented by yourself--in the
great order and harmony of the universe,--and that you were not
one?--That your self-willed fancies, and self-pleasing passions, had
torn you in pieces, and left you inconsistent, dismembered,
helpless, purposeless? That, in short, you were below your ideal,
just in proportion as you were not a person?'
'God knows you speak truth!'
'Then must not that ideal of humanity be a person himself?--Else how
can he be the ideal man? Where is your logic? An impersonal ideal
of a personal species! . . . And what is the most special
peculiarity of man? Is it not that he alone of creation is a son,
with a Father to love and to obey? Then must not the ideal man be a
son also? And last, but not least, is it not the very property of
man that he is a spirit invested with flesh and blood? Then must
not the ideal man have, once at least, taken on himself flesh and
blood also? Else, how could he fulfil his own idea?'
'Yes . . . Yes . . . That thought, too, has glanced through my
mind at moments, like a lightning-flash; till I have envied the old
Greeks their faith in a human Zeus, son of Kronos--a human Phoibos,
son of Zeus. But I could not rest in them. They are noble. But
are they--are any--perfect ideals? The one thing I did, and do, and
will believe, is the one which they do not fulfil--that man is meant
to be the conqueror of the earth, matter, nature, decay, death
itself, and to conquer them, as Bacon says, by obeying them.'
'Hold it fast;--but follow it out, and say boldly, the ideal of
humanity must be one who has conquered nature--one who rules the
universe--one who has vanquished death itself; and conquered them,
as Bacon says, not by violating, but by submitting to them. Have
you never heard of one who is said to have done this? How do you
know that in this ideal which you have seen, you have not seen the
Son--the perfect Man, who died and rose again, and sits for ever
Healer, and Lord, and Ruler of the universe? . . . Stay--do not
answer me. Have you not, besides, had dreams of an all-Father--from
whom, in some mysterious way, all things and beings must derive
their source, and that Son--if my theory be true--among the rest,
and above all the rest?'
'Who has not? But what more dim or distant--more drearily,
hopelessly notional, than that thought?'
'Only the thought that there is none. But the dreariness was only
in your own inconsistency. If He be the Father of all, He must be
the Father of persons--He Himself therefore a Person. He must be
the Father of all in whom dwell personal qualities, power, wisdom,
creative energy, love, justice, pity. Can He be their Father,
unless all these very qualities are infinitely His? Does He now
look so terrible to you?'
'I have had this dream, too; but I turned away from it in dread.'
'Doubtless you did. Some day you will know why. Does that former
dream of a human Son relieve this dream of none of its awfulness?
May not the type be beloved for the sake of its Antitype, even if
the very name of All-Father is no guarantee for His paternal pity! .
. . But you have had this dream. How know you, that in it you were
not allowed a glimpse, however dim and distant, of Him whom the
Catholics call the Father?'
'It may be; but--'
'Stay again. Had you never the sense of a Spirit in you--a will, an
energy, an inspiration, deeper than the region of consciousness and
reflection, which, like the wind, blew where it listed, and you
heard the sound of it ringing through your whole consciousness, and
yet knew not whence it came, or whither it went, or why it drove you
on to dare and suffer, to love and hate; to be a fighter, a
sportsman, an artist--'
'And a drunkard!' added Lancelot, sadly.
'And a drunkard. But did it never seem to you that this strange
wayward spirit, if anything, was the very root and core of your own
personality? And had you never a craving for the help of some
higher, mightier spirit, to guide and strengthen yours; to regulate
and civilise its savage and spasmodic self-will; to teach you your
rightful place in the great order of the universe around; to fill
you with a continuous purpose and with a continuous will to do it?
Have you never had a dream of an Inspirer?--a spirit of all
Lancelot turned away with a shudder.
'Talk of anything but that! Little you know--and yet you seem to
know everything--the agony of craving with which I have longed for
guidance; the rage and disgust which possessed me when I tried one
pretended teacher after another, and found in myself depths which
their spirits could not, or rather would not, touch. I have been
irreverent to the false, from very longing to worship the true; I
have been a rebel to sham leaders, for very desire to be loyal to a
real one; I have envied my poor cousin his Jesuits; I have envied my
own pointers their slavery to my whip and whistle; I have fled, as a
last resource, to brandy and opium, for the inspiration which
neither man nor demon would bestow. . . . Then I found . . . you
know my story. . . . And when I looked to her to guide and inspire
me, behold! I found myself, by the very laws of humanity, compelled
to guide and inspire her;--blind, to lead the blind!--Thank God, for
her sake, that she was taken from me!'
'Did you ever mistake these substitutes, even the noblest of them,
for the reality? Did not your very dissatisfaction with them show
you that the true inspirer ought to be, if he were to satisfy your
cravings, a person, truly--else how could he inspire and teach you,
a person yourself!--but an utterly infinite, omniscient, eternal
person? How know you that in that dream He was not unveiling
Himself to you--He, The Spirit, who is the Lord and Giver of Life;
The Spirit, who teaches men their duty and relation to those above,
around, beneath them; the Spirit of order, obedience, loyalty,
brotherhood, mercy, condescension?'
'But I never could distinguish these dreams from each other; the
moment that I essayed to separate them, I seemed to break up the
thought of an absolute one ground of all things, without which the
universe would have seemed a piecemeal chaos; and they receded to
infinite distance, and became transparent, barren, notional shadows
of my own brain, even as your words are now.'
'How know you that you were meant to distinguish them? How know you
that that very impossibility was not the testimony of fact and
experience to that old Catholic dogma, for the sake of which you
just now shrank from my teaching? I say that this is so. How do
you know that it is not?'
'But how do I know that it is? I want proof.'
'And you are the man who was, five minutes ago, crying out for
practical facts, and disdaining cold abstract necessities of logic!
Can you prove that your body exists?'
'Can you prove that your spirit exists?'
'And yet know that they both exist. And how?'
'Exactly. When you try to prove either of them without the other,
you fail. You arrive, if at anything, at some barren polar notion.
By action alone you prove the mesothetic fact which underlies and
'Hither. I am not going to demonstrate the indemonstrable--to give
you intellectual notions which, after all, will be but reflexes of
my own peculiar brain, and so add the green of my spectacles to the
orange of yours, and make night hideous by fresh monsters. I may
help you to think yourself into a theoretical Tritheism, or a
theoretical Sabellianism; I cannot make you think yourself into
practical and living Catholicism. As you of anthropology, so I say
of theology,--Solvitur ambulando. Don't believe Catholic doctrine
unless you like; faith is free. But see if you can reclaim either
society or yourself without it; see if He will let you reclaim them.
Take Catholic doctrine for granted; act on it; and see if you will
not reclaim them!'
'Take for granted? Am I to come, after all, to implicit faith?'
'Implicit fiddlesticks! Did you ever read the Novum Organum?
Mellot told me that you were a geologist.'
'You took for granted what you read in geological books, and went to
the mine and the quarry afterwards, to verify it in practice; and
according as you found fact correspond to theory, you retained or
rejected. Was that implicit faith, or common sense, common
humility, and sound induction?'
'Sound induction, at least.'
'Then go now, and do likewise. Believe that the learned, wise, and
good, for 1800 years, may possibly have found out somewhat, or have
been taught somewhat, on this matter, and test their theory by
practice. If a theory on such a point is worth anything at all, it
is omnipotent and all-explaining. If it will not work, of course
there is no use keeping it a moment. Perhaps it will work. I say
'But I shall not work it; I still dread my own spectacles. I dare
not trust myself alone to verify a theory of Murchison's or Lyell's.
How dare I trust myself in this?'
'Then do not trust yourself alone: come and see what others are
doing. Come, and become a member of a body which is verifying, by
united action, those universal and eternal truths, which are too
great for the grasp of any one time-ridden individual. Not that we
claim the gift of infallibility, any more than I do that of perfect
utterance of the little which we do know.'
'Then what do you promise me in asking me to go with you?'
'Practical proof that these my words are true,--practical proof that
they can make a nation all that England might be and is not,--the
sight of what a people might become who, knowing thus far, do what
they know. We believe no more than you, but we believe it. Come
and see!--and yet you will not see; facts, and the reasons of them,
will be as impalpable to you there as here, unless you can again
obey your Novum Organum.'
'By renouncing all your idols--the idols of the race and of the
market, of the study and of the theatre. Every national prejudice,
every vulgar superstition, every remnant of pedantic system, every
sentimental like or dislike, must be left behind you, for the
induction of the world problem. You must empty yourself before God
will fill you.'
'Of what can I strip myself more? I know nothing; I can do nothing;
I hope nothing; I fear nothing; I am nothing.'
'And you would gain something. But for what purpose?--for on that
depends your whole success. To be famous, great, glorious,
'As I live, the height of my ambition, small though it be, is only
to find my place, though it were but as a sweeper of chimneys. If I
dare wish--if I dare choose, it would be only this--to regenerate
one little parish in the whole world . . . To do that, and die, for
aught I care, without ever being recognised as the author of my own
deeds . . . to hear them, if need be, imputed to another, and myself
accursed as a fool, if I can but atone for the sins of . . .
He paused; but his teacher understood him.
'It is enough,' he said. 'Come with me; Tregarva waits for us near.
Again I warn you; you will hear nothing new; you shall only see what
you, and all around you, have known and not done, known and done.
We have no peculiar doctrines or systems; the old creeds are enough
for us. But we have obeyed the teaching which we received in each
and every age, and allowed ourselves to be built up, generation by
generation--as the rest of Christendom might have done--into a
living temple, on the foundation which is laid already, and other
than which no man can lay.'
'And what is that?'
'Jesus Christ--THE MAN.'
He took Lancelot by the hand. A peaceful warmth diffused itself
over his limbs; the droning of the organ sounded fainter and more
faint; the marble monuments grew dim and distant; and, half
unconsciously, he followed like a child through the cathedral door.
I can foresee many criticisms, and those not unreasonable ones, on
this little book--let it be some excuse at least for me, that I have
foreseen them. Readers will complain, I doubt not, of the very
mythical and mysterious denouement of a story which began by things
so gross and palpable as field-sports and pauperism. But is it not
true that, sooner or later, 'omnia exeunt in mysterium'? Out of
mystery we all came at our birth, fox-hunters and paupers, sages and
saints; into mystery we shall all return . . . at all events, when
we die; probably, as it seems to me, some of us will return thither
before we die. For if the signs of the times mean anything, they
portend, I humbly submit, a somewhat mysterious and mythical
denouement to this very age, and to those struggles of it which I
have herein attempted, clumsily enough, to sketch. We are entering
fast, I both hope and fear, into the region of prodigy, true and
false; and our great-grandchildren will look back on the latter half
of this century, and ask, if it were possible that such things could
happen in an organised planet? The Benthamites will receive this
announcement, if it ever meets their eyes, with shouts of laughter.
Be it so . . . nous verrons . . . In the year 1847, if they will
recollect, they were congratulating themselves on the nations having
grown too wise to go to war any more . . . and in 1848? So it has
been from the beginning. What did philosophers expect in 1792?
What did they see in 1793? Popery was to be eternal: but the
Reformation came nevertheless. Rome was to be eternal: but Alaric
came. Jerusalem was to be eternal: but Titus came. Gomorrha was
to be eternal, I doubt not; but the fire-floods came. . . . 'As it
was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of
Man. They were eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage;
and the flood came and swept them all away.' Of course they did not
expect it. They went on saying, 'Where is the promise of his
coming? For all things continue as they were from the beginning.'
Most true; but what if they were from the beginning--over a
volcano's mouth? What if the method whereon things have proceeded
since the creation were, as geology as well as history proclaims, a
cataclysmic method? What then? Why should not this age, as all
others like it have done, end in a cataclysm, and a prodigy, and a
mystery? And why should not my little book do likewise?
Again--Readers will probably complain of the fragmentary and
unconnected form of the book. Let them first be sure that that is
not an integral feature of the subject itself, and therefore the
very form the book should take. Do not young men think, speak, act,
just now, in this very incoherent, fragmentary way; without methodic
education or habits of thought; with the various stereotyped systems
which they have received by tradition, breaking up under them like
ice in a thaw; with a thousand facts and notions, which they know
not how to classify, pouring in on them like a flood?--a very Yeasty
state of mind altogether, like a mountain burn in a spring rain,
carrying down with it stones, sticks, peat-water, addle grouse-eggs
and drowned kingfishers, fertilising salts and vegetable poisons--
not, alas! without a large crust, here and there, of sheer froth.
Yet no heterogeneous confused flood-deposit, no fertile meadows
below. And no high water, no fishing. It is in the long black
droughts, when the water is foul from lowness, and not from height,
that Hydras and Desmidiae, and Rotifers, and all uncouth pseud-
organisms, bred of putridity, begin to multiply, and the fish are
sick for want of a fresh, and the cunningest artificial fly is of no
avail, and the shrewdest angler will do nothing--except with a gross
fleshly gilt-tailed worm, or the cannibal bait of roe, whereby
parent fishes, like competitive barbarisms, devour each other's
flesh and blood--perhaps their own. It is when the stream is
clearing after a flood, that the fish will rise. . . . When will
the flood clear, and the fish come on the feed again?
Next; I shall be blamed for having left untold the fate of those
characters who have acted throughout as Lancelot's satellites. But
indeed their only purpose consisted in their influence on his
development, and that of Tregarva; I do not see that we have any
need to follow them farther. The reader can surely conjecture their
history for himself. . . . He may be pretty certain that they have
gone the way of the world . . . abierunt ad plures . . . for this
life or for the next. They have done--very much what he or I might
have done in their place--nothing. Nature brings very few of her
children to perfection, in these days or any other. . . . And for
Grace, which does bring its children to perfection, the quantity and
quality of the perfection must depend on the quantity and quality of
the grace, and that again, to an awful extent--The Giver only knows
to how great an extent--on the will of the recipients, and therefore
in exact proportion to their lowness in the human scale, on the
circumstances which environ them. So my characters are now--very
much what the reader might expect them to be. I confess them to be
unsatisfactory; so are most things: but how can I solve problems
which fact has not yet solved for me? How am I to extricate my
antitypal characters, when their living types have not yet
extricated themselves? When the age moves on, my story shall move
on with it. Let it be enough, that my puppets have retreated in
good order, and that I am willing to give to those readers who have
conceived something of human interest for them, the latest accounts
of their doings.
With the exception, that is, of Mellot and Sabina. Them I confess
to be an utterly mysterious, fragmentary little couple. Why not?
Do you not meet with twenty such in the course of your life?--
Charming people, who for aught you know may be opera folk from
Paris, or emissaries from the Czar, or disguised Jesuits, or
disguised Angels . . . who evidently 'have a history,' and a strange
one, which you never expect or attempt to fathom; who interest you
intensely for a while, and then are whirled away again in the great
world-waltz, and lost in the crowd for ever? Why should you wish my
story to be more complete than theirs is, or less romantic than
theirs may be? There are more things in London, as well as in
heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in our philosophy. If you but
knew the secret history of that dull gentleman opposite whom you sat
at dinner yesterday!--the real thoughts of that chattering girl whom
you took down!--'Omnia exeunt in mysterium,' I say again. Every
human being is a romance, a miracle to himself now; and will appear
as one to all the world in That Day.
But now for the rest; and Squire Lavington first. He is a very fair
sample of the fate of the British public; for he is dead and buried:
and readers would not have me extricate him out of that situation.
If you ask news of the reason and manner of his end, I can only
answer, that like many others, he went out--as candles do. I
believe he expressed general repentance for all his sins--all, at
least, of which he was aware. To confess and repent of the state of
the Whitford Priors estate, and of the poor thereon, was of course
more than any minister, of any denomination whatsoever, could be
required to demand of him; seeing that would have involved a
recognition of those duties of property, of which the good old
gentleman was to the last a staunch denier; and which are as yet
seldom supposed to be included in any Christian creed, Catholic or
other. Two sermons were preached in Whitford on the day of his
funeral; one by Mr. O'Blareaway, on the text from Job, provided for
such occasions; 'When the ear heard him, then it blessed him,' etc.
etc.: the other by the Baptist preacher, on two verses of the
'They fancy that their houses shall endure for ever, and call the
lands after their own names.
'Yet man being in honour hath no understanding, but is compared to
the beasts that perish.'
Waiving the good taste, which was probably on a par in both cases,
the reader is left to decide which of the two texts was most
Mrs. Lavington is Mrs. Lavington no longer. She has married, to the
astonishment of the world in general, that 'excellent man,' Mr.
O'Blareaway, who has been discovered not to be quite as young as he
appeared, his graces being principally owing to a Brutus wig, which
he has now wisely discarded. Mrs. Lavington now sits in state under
her husband's ministry, as the leader of the religious world in the
fashionable watering-place of Steamingbath, and derives her notions
of the past, present, and future state of the universe principally
from those two meek and unbiased periodicals, the Protestant Hue-
and-Cry and the Christian Satirist, to both of which O'Blareaway is
a constant contributor. She has taken such an aversion to Whitford
since Argemone's death, that she has ceased to have any connection
with that unhealthy locality, beyond the popular and easy one of
rent-receiving. O'Blareaway has never entered the parish to his
knowledge since Mr. Lavington's funeral; and was much pleased, the
last time I rode with him, at my informing him that a certain
picturesque moorland which he had been greatly admiring, was his own
possession. . . . After all, he is 'an excellent man;' and when I
met a large party at his house the other day, and beheld dory and
surmullet, champagne and lachryma Christi, amid all the glory of the
Whitford plate . . . (some of it said to have belonged to the altar
of the Priory Church four hundred years ago), I was deeply moved by
the impressive tone in which, at the end of a long grace, he prayed
'that the daily bread of our less favoured brethren might be
mercifully vouchsafed to them.' . . . My dear readers, would you
have me, even if I could, extricate him from such an Elysium by any
Poor dear Luke, again, is said to be painting lean frescoes for the
Something-or-other-Kirche at Munich; and the vicar, under the name
of Father Stylites, of the order of St. Philumena, is preaching
impassioned sermons to crowded congregations at St. George's,
Bedlam. How can I extricate them from that? No one has come forth
of it yet, to my knowledge, except by paths whereof I shall use
Lessing's saying, 'I may have my whole hand full of truth, and yet
find good to open only my little finger.' But who cares for their
coming out? They are but two more added to the five hundred, at
whose moral suicide, and dive into the Roman Avernus, a quasi-
Protestant public looks on with a sort of savage satisfaction,
crying only, 'Didn't we tell you so?'--and more than half hopes that
they will not come back again, lest they should be discovered to
have learnt anything while they were there. What are two among that
five hundred? much more among the five thousand who seem destined
shortly to follow them?
The banker, thanks to Barnakill's assistance, is rapidly getting
rich again--who would wish to stop him? However, he is wiser, on
some points at least, than he was of yore. He has taken up the flax
movement violently of late--perhaps owing to some hint of
Barnakill's--talks of nothing but Chevalier Claussen and Mr.
Donellan, and is very anxious to advance capital to any landlord who
will grow flax on Mr. Warnes's method, either in England or Ireland.
. . . John Bull, however, has not yet awakened sufficiently to
listen to his overtures, but sits up in bed, dolefully rubbing his
eyes, and bemoaning the evanishment of his protectionist dream--
altogether realising tolerably, he and his land, Dr. Watts' well-
known moral song concerning the sluggard and his garden.
Lord Minchampstead again prospers. Either the nuns of Minchampstead
have left no Nemesis behind them, like those of Whitford, or a
certain wisdom and righteousness of his, however dim and imperfect,
averts it for a time. So, as I said, he prospers, and is hated;
especially by his farmers, to whom he has just offered long leases,
and a sliding corn-rent. They would have hated him just the same if
he had kept them at rack-rents; and he has not forgotten that; but
they have. They looked shy at the leases, because they bind them to
farm high, which they do not know how to do; and at the corn-rent,
because they think that he expects wheat to rise again--which, being
a sensible man, he very probably does. But for my story--I
certainly do not see how to extricate him or any one else from
farmers' stupidity, greed, and ill-will. . . . That question must
have seven years' more free-trade to settle it, before I can say
anything thereon. Still less can I foreshadow the fate of his
eldest son, who has just been rusticated from Christ Church for
riding one of Simmon's hacks through a china-shop window; especially
as the youth is reported to be given to piquette and strong liquors,
and, like many noblemen's eldest sons, is considered 'not to have
the talent of his father.' As for the old lord himself, I have no
wish to change or develop him in any way--except to cut slips off
him, as you do off a willow, and plant two or three in every county
in England. Let him alone to work out his own plot . . . we have
not seen the end of it yet; but whatever it will be, England has
need of him as a transition-stage between feudalism and * * * * ;
for many a day to come. If he be not the ideal landlord, he is
nearer it than any we are like yet to see. . . .
Except one; and that, after all, is Lord Vieuxbois. Let him go on,
like a gallant gentleman as he is, and prosper. And he will
prosper, for he fears God, and God is with him. He has much to
learn; and a little to unlearn. He has to learn that God is a
living God now, as well as in the middle ages; to learn to trust not
in antique precedents, but in eternal laws: to learn that his
tenants, just because they are children of God, are not to be kept
children, but developed and educated into sons; to learn that God's
grace, like His love, is free, and that His spirit bloweth where it
listeth, and vindicates its own free-will against our narrow
systems, by revealing, at times, even to nominal Heretics and
Infidels, truths which the Catholic Church must humbly receive, as
the message of Him who is wider, deeper, more tolerant, than even
she can be. . . And he is in the way to learn all this. Let him go
on. At what conclusions he will attain, he knows not, nor do I.
But this I know, that he is on the path to great and true
conclusions. . . . And he is just about to be married, too. That
surely should teach him something. The papers inform me that his
bride elect is Lord Minchampstead's youngest daughter. That should
be a noble mixture; there should be stalwart offspring, spiritual as
well as physical, born of that intermarriage of the old and the new.
We will hope it: perhaps some of my readers, who enter into my
inner meaning, may also pray for it.
Whom have I to account for besides? Crawy--though some of my
readers may consider the mention of him superfluous. But to those
who do not, I may impart the news, that last month, in the union
workhouse--he died; and may, for aught we know, have ere this met
Squire Lavington . . . He is supposed, or at least said, to have had
a soul to be saved . . . as I think, a body to be saved also. But
what is one more among so many? And in an over-peopled country like
this, too. . . . One must learn to look at things--and paupers--in
The poor of Whitford also? My dear readers, I trust you will not
ask me just now to draw the horoscope of the Whitford poor, or of
any others. Really that depends principally on yourselves. . . .
But for the present, the poor of Whitford, owing, as it seems to
them and me, to quite other causes than an 'overstocked labour-
market,' or too rapid 'multiplication of their species,' are growing
more profligate, reckless, pauperised, year by year. O'Blareaway
complained sadly to me the other day that the poor-rates were
becoming 'heavier and heavier'--had nearly reached, indeed, what
they were under the old law. . . .
But there is one who does not complain, but gives and gives, and
stints herself to give, and weeps in silence and unseen over the
evils which she has yearly less and less power to stem.
For in a darkened chamber of the fine house at Steamingbath, lies on
a sofa Honoria Lavington--beautiful no more; the victim of some
mysterious and agonising disease, about which the physicians agree
on one point only--that it is hopeless. The 'curse of the
Lavingtons' is on her; and she bears it. There she lies, and prays,
and reads, and arranges her charities, and writes little books for
children, full of the Beloved Name which is for ever on her lips.
She suffers--none but herself knows how much, or how strangely--yet
she is never heard to sigh. She weeps in secret--she has long
ceased to plead--for others, not for herself; and prays for them
too--perhaps some day her prayers will yet he answered. But she
greets all visitors with a smile fresh from heaven; and all who
enter that room leave it saddened, and yet happy, like those who
have lingered a moment at the gates of paradise, and seen angels
ascending and descending upon earth. There she lies--who could wish
her otherwise? Even Doctor Autotheus Maresnest, the celebrated
mesmeriser, who, though he laughs at the Resurrection of the Lord,
is confidently reported to have raised more than one corpse to life
himself, was heard to say, after having attended her professionally,
that her waking bliss and peace, although unfortunately
unattributable even to autocatalepsy, much less to somnambulist
exaltation, was on the whole, however unscientific, almost as
There she lies--and will lie till she dies--the type of thousands
more, 'the martyrs by the pang without the palm,' who find no mates
in this life . . . and yet may find them in the life to come., . .
Poor Paul Tregarva! Little he fancies how her days run by! . . .
At least, there has been no news since that last scene in St. Paul's
Cathedral, either of him or Lancelot. How their strange teacher has
fulfilled his promise of guiding their education; whether they have
yet reached the country of Prester John; whether, indeed, that
Caucasian Utopia has a local and bodily existence, or was only used
by Barnakill to shadow out that Ideal which is, as he said of the
Garden of Eden, always near us, underlying the Actual, as the spirit
does its body, exhibiting itself step by step through all the
falsehoods and confusions of history and society, giving life to all
in it which is not falsehood and decay; on all these questions I can
give my readers no sort of answer; perhaps I may as yet have no
answer to give; perhaps I may be afraid of giving one; perhaps the
times themselves are giving, at once cheerfully and sadly, in
strange destructions and strange births, a better answer than I can
give. I have set forth, as far as in me lay, the data of my
problem: and surely, if the premises be given, wise men will not
have to look far for the conclusion. In homely English I have given
my readers Yeast; if they be what I take them for, they will be able
to bake with it themselves.
And yet I have brought Lancelot, at least--perhaps Tregarva too--to
a conclusion, and an all-important one, which whoso reads may find
fairly printed in these pages. Henceforth his life must begin anew.
Were I to carry on the thread of his story continuously he would
still seem to have overleaped as vast a gulf as if I had re-
introduced him as a gray-haired man. Strange! that the death of one
of the lovers should seem no complete termination to their history,
when their marriage would have been accepted by all as the
legitimate denouement, beyond which no information was to be
expected. As if the history of love always ended at the altar!
Oftener it only begins there; and all before it is but a mere
longing to love. Why should readers complain of being refused the
future history of one life, when they are in most novels cut short
by the marriage finale from the biography of two?
But if, over and above this, any reader should be wroth at my having
left Lancelot's history unfinished on questions in his opinion more
important than that of love, let me entreat him to set manfully
about finishing his own history--a far more important one to him
than Lancelot's. If he shall complain that doubts are raised for
which no solution is given, that my hero is brought into
contradictory beliefs without present means of bringing them to
accord, into passive acquiescence in vast truths without seeing any
possibility of practically applying them--let him consider well
whether such be not his own case; let him, if he be as most are,
thank God when he finds out that such is his case, when he knows at
last that those are most blind who say they see, when he becomes at
last conscious how little he believes, how little he acts up to that
small belief. Let him try to right somewhat of the doubt,
confusion, custom-worship, inconsistency, idolatry, within him--some
of the greed, bigotry, recklessness, respectably superstitious
atheism around him; and perhaps before his new task is finished,
Lancelot and Tregarva may have returned with a message, if not for
him--for that depends upon him having ears to hear it--yet possibly
for strong Lord Minchampstead, probably for good Lord Vieuxbois, and
surely for the sinners and the slaves of Whitford Priors. What it
will be, I know not altogether; but this I know, that if my heroes
go on as they have set forth, looking with single mind for some one
ground of human light and love, some everlasting rock whereon to
build, utterly careless what the building may be, howsoever contrary
to precedent and prejudice, and the idols of the day, provided God,
and nature, and the accumulated lessons of all the ages, help them
in its construction--then they will find in time the thing they
seek, and see how the will of God may at last be done on earth, even
as it is done in heaven. But, alas! between them and it are waste
raging waters, foul mud banks, thick with dragons and sirens; and
many a bitter day and blinding night, in cold and hunger, spiritual
and perhaps physical, await them. For it was a true vision which
John Bunyan saw, and one which, as the visions of wise men are wont
to do, meant far more than the seer fancied, when he beheld in his
dream that there was indeed a land of Beulah, and Arcadian Shepherd
Paradise, on whose mountain tops the everlasting sunshine lay; but
that the way to it, as these last three years are preaching to us,
went past the mouth of Hell, and through the valley of the Shadow of