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Familiar Studies of Men & Books by Robert Louis Stevenson

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There never was a man nearer being an artist, who yet was not
one. The tang was in the family; while he was writing the
journal for our enjoyment in his comely house in Navy
Gardens, no fewer than two of his cousins were tramping the
fens, kit under arm, to make music to the country girls. But
he himself, though he could play so many instruments and pass
judgment in so many fields of art, remained an amateur. It
is not given to any one so keenly to enjoy, without some
greater power to understand. That he did not like
Shakespeare as an artist for the stage may be a fault, but it
is not without either parallel or excuse. He certainly
admired him as a poet; he was the first beyond mere actors on
the rolls of that innumerable army who have got "To be or not
to be" by heart. Nor was he content with that; it haunted
his mind; he quoted it to himself in the pages of the Diary,
and, rushing in where angels fear to tread, he set it to
music. Nothing, indeed, is more notable than the heroic
quality of the verses that our little sensualist in a periwig
chose out to marry with his own mortal strains. Some gust
from brave Elizabethan times must have warmed his spirit, as
he sat tuning his sublime theorbo. "To be or not to be.
Whether 'tis nobler" - "Beauty retire, thou dost my pity
move" - "It is decreed, nor shall thy fate, O Rome;" - open
and dignified in the sound, various and majestic in the
sentiment, it was no inapt, as it was certainly no timid,
spirit that selected such a range of themes. Of "Gaze not on
Swans," I know no more than these four words; yet that also
seems to promise well. It was, however, on a probable
suspicion, the work of his master, Mr. Berkenshaw - as the
drawings that figure at the breaking up of a young ladies'
seminary are the work of the professor attached to the
establishment. Mr. Berkenshaw was not altogether happy in
his pupil. The amateur cannot usually rise into the artist,
some leaven of the world still clogging him; and we find
Pepys behaving like a pickthank to the man who taught him
composition. In relation to the stage, which he so warmly
loved and understood, he was not only more hearty, but more
generous to others. Thus he encounters Colonel Reames, "a
man," says he, "who understands and loves a play as well as
I, and I love him for it." And again, when he and his wife
had seen a most ridiculous insipid piece, "Glad we were," he
writes, "that Betterton had no part in it." It is by such a
zeal and loyalty to those who labour for his delight that the
amateur grows worthy of the artist. And it should be kept in
mind that, not only in art, but in morals, Pepys rejoiced to
recognise his betters. There was not one speck of envy in
the whole human-hearted egotist.


When writers inveigh against respectability, in the present
degraded meaning of the word, they are usually suspected of a
taste for clay pipes and beer cellars; and their performances
are thought to hail from the OWL'S NEST of the comedy. They
have something more, however, in their eye than the dulness
of a round million dinner parties that sit down yearly in old
England. For to do anything because others do it, and not
because the thing is good, or kind, or honest in its own
right, is to resign all moral control and captaincy upon
yourself, and go post-haste to the devil with the greater
number. We smile over the ascendency of priests; but I had
rather follow a priest than what they call the leaders of
society. No life can better than that of Pepys illustrate
the dangers of this respectable theory of living. For what
can be more untoward than the occurrence, at a critical
period and while the habits are still pliable, of such a
sweeping transformation as the return of Charles the Second?
Round went the whole fleet of England on the other tack; and
while a few tall pintas, Milton or Pen, still sailed a lonely
course by the stars and their own private compass, the cock-
boat, Pepys, must go about with the majority among "the
stupid starers and the loud huzzas."

The respectable are not led so much by any desire of applause
as by a positive need for countenance. The weaker and the
tamer the man, the more will he require this support; and any
positive quality relieves him, by just so much, of this
dependence. In a dozen ways, Pepys was quite strong enough
to please himself without regard for others; but his positive
qualities were not co-extensive with the field of conduct;
and in many parts of life he followed, with gleeful
precision, in the footprints of the contemporary Mrs. Grundy.
In morals, particularly, he lived by the countenance of
others; felt a slight from another more keenly than a
meanness in himself; and then first repented when he was
found out. You could talk of religion or morality to such a
man; and by the artist side of him, by his lively sympathy
and apprehension, he could rise, as it were dramatically, to
the significance of what you said. All that matter in
religion which has been nicknamed other-worldliness was
strictly in his gamut; but a rule of life that should make a
man rudely virtuous, following right in good report and ill
report, was foolishness and a stumbling-block to Pepys. He
was much thrown across the Friends; and nothing can be more
instructive than his attitude towards these most interesting
people of that age. I have mentioned how he conversed with
one as he rode; when he saw some brought from a meeting under
arrest, "I would to God," said he, "they would either
conform, or be more wise and not be catched;" and to a Quaker
in his own office he extended a timid though effectual
protection. Meanwhile there was growing up next door to him
that beautiful nature William Pen. It is odd that Pepys
condemned him for a fop; odd, though natural enough when you
see Pen's portrait, that Pepys was jealous of him with his
wife. But the cream of the story is when Pen publishes his
SANDY FOUNDATION SHAKEN, and Pepys has it read aloud by his
wife. "I find it," he says, "so well writ as, I think, it is
too good for him ever to have writ it; and it is a serious
sort of book, and NOT FIT FOR EVERYBODY TO READ." Nothing is
more galling to the merely respectable than to be brought in
contact with religious ardour. Pepys had his own foundation,
sandy enough, but dear to him from practical considerations,
and he would read the book with true uneasiness of spirit;
for conceive the blow if, by some plaguy accident, this Pen
were to convert him! It was a different kind of doctrine
that he judged profitable for himself and others. "A good
sermon of Mr. Gifford's at our church, upon 'Seek ye first
the kingdom of heaven.' A very excellent and persuasive,
good and moral sermon. He showed, like a wise man, that
righteousness is a surer moral way of being rich than sin and
villainy." It is thus that respect. able people desire to
have their Greathearts address them, telling, in mild
accents, how you may make the best of both worlds, and be a
moral hero without courage, kindness, or troublesome
reflection; and thus the Gospel, cleared of Eastern metaphor,
becomes a manual of worldly prudence, and a handybook for
Pepys and the successful merchant.

The respectability of Pepys was deeply grained. He has no
idea of truth except for the Diary. He has no care that a
thing shall be, if it but appear; gives out that he has
inherited a good estate, when he has seemingly got nothing
but a lawsuit; and is pleased to be thought liberal when he
knows he has been mean. He is conscientiously ostentatious.
I say conscientiously, with reason. He could never have been
taken for a fop, like Pen, but arrayed himself in a manner
nicely suitable to his position. For long he hesitated to
assume the famous periwig; for a public man should travel
gravely with the fashions not foppishly before, nor dowdily
behind, the central movement of his age. For long he durst
not keep a carriage; that, in his circumstances would have
been improper; but a time comes, with the growth of his
fortune, when the impropriety has shifted to the other side,
and he is "ashamed to be seen in a hackney." Pepys talked
about being "a Quaker or some very melancholy thing;" for my
part, I can imagine nothing so melancholy, because nothing
half so silly, as to be concerned about such problems. But
so respectability and the duties of society haunt and burden
their poor devotees; and what seems at first the very
primrose path of life, proves difficult and thorny like the
rest. And the time comes to Pepys, as to all the merely
respectable, when he must not only order his pleasures, but
even clip his virtuous movements, to the public pattern of
the age. There was some juggling among officials to avoid
direct taxation; and Pepys, with a noble impulse, growing
ashamed of this dishonesty, designed to charge himself with
1000 pounds; but finding none to set him an example, "nobody
of our ablest merchants" with this moderate liking for clean
hands, he judged it "not decent;" he feared it would "be
thought vain glory;" and, rather than appear singular,
cheerfully remained a thief. One able merchant's
countenance, and Pepys had dared to do an honest act! Had he
found one brave spirit, properly recognised by society, he
might have gone far as a disciple. Mrs. Turner, it is true,
can fill him full of sordid scandal, and make him believe,
against the testimony of his senses, that Pen's venison pasty
stank like the devil; but, on the other hand, Sir William
Coventry can raise him by a word into another being. Pepys,
when he is with Coventry, talks in the vein of an old Roman.
What does he care for office or emolument? "Thank God, I
have enough of my own," says he, "to buy me a good book and a
good fiddle, and I have a good wife." And again, we find
this pair projecting an old age when an ungrateful country
shall have dismissed them from the field of public service;
Coventry living retired in a fine house, and Pepys dropping
in, "it may be, to read a chapter of Seneca."

Under this influence, the only good one in his life, Pepys
continued zealous and, for the period, pure in his
employment. He would not be "bribed to be unjust," he says,
though he was "not so squeamish as to refuse a present
after," suppose the king to have received no wrong. His new
arrangement for the victualling of Tangier he tells us with
honest complacency, will save the king a thousand and gain
Pepys three hundred pounds a year, - a statement which
exactly fixes the degree of the age's enlightenment. But for
his industry and capacity no praise can be too high. It was
an unending struggle for the man to stick to his business in
such a garden of Armida as he found this life; and the story
of his oaths, so often broken, so courageously renewed, is
worthy rather of admiration that the contempt it has

Elsewhere, and beyond the sphere of Coventry's influence, we
find him losing scruples and daily complying further with the
age. When he began the journal, he was a trifle prim and
puritanic; merry enough, to be sure, over his private cups,
and still remembering Magdalene ale and his acquaintance with
Mrs. Ainsworth of Cambridge. But youth is a hot season with
all; when a man smells April and May he is apt at times to
stumble; and in spite of a disordered practice, Pepys's
theory, the better things that he approved and followed
after, we may even say were strict. Where there was "tag,
rag, and bobtail, dancing, singing, and drinking," he felt
"ashamed, and went away;" and when he slept in church, he
prayed God forgive him. In but a little while we find him
with some ladies keeping each other awake "from spite," as
though not to sleep in church were an obvious hardship; and
yet later he calmly passes the time of service, looking about
him, with a perspective glass, on all the pretty women. His
favourite ejaculation, "Lord!" occurs but once that I have
observed in 1660, never in `61, twice in '62, and at least
five times in '63; after which the "Lords" may be said to
pullulate like herrings, with here and there a solitary
"damned," as it were a whale among the shoal. He and his
wife, once filled with dudgeon by some innocent freedoms at a
marriage, are soon content to go pleasuring with my Lord
Brouncker's mistress, who was not even, by his own account,
the most discreet of mistresses. Tag, rag, and bobtail,
dancing, singing, and drinking, become his natural element;
actors and actresses and drunken, roaring courtiers are to be
found in his society; until the man grew so involved with
Saturnalian manners and companions that he was shot almost
unconsciously into the grand domestic crash of 1668.

That was the legitimate issue and punishment of years of
staggering walk and conversation. The man who has smoked his
pipe for half a century in a powder magazine finds himself at
last the author and the victim of a hideous disaster. So
with our pleasant-minded Pepys and his peccadilloes. All of
a sudden, as he still trips dexterously enough among the
dangers of a double-faced career, thinking no great evil,
humming to himself the trillo, Fate takes the further conduct
of that matter from his hands, and brings him face to face
with the consequences of his acts. For a man still, after so
many years, the lover, although not the constant lover, of
his wife, - for a man, besides, who was so greatly careful of
appearances, - the revelation of his infidelities was a
crushing blow. The tears that he shed, the indignities that
he endured, are not to be measured. A vulgar woman, and now
justly incensed, Mrs. Pepys spared him no detail of
suffering. She was violent, threatening him with the tongs;
she was careless of his honour, driving him to insult the
mistress whom she had driven him to betray and to discard;
worst of all, she was hopelessly inconsequent, in word and
thought and deed, now lulling him with reconciliations, and
anon flaming forth again with the original anger. Pepys had
not used his wife well; he had wearied her with jealousies,
even while himself unfaithful; he had grudged her clothes and
pleasures, while lavishing both upon himself; he had abused
her in words; he had bent his fist at her in anger; he had
once blacked her eye; and it is one of the oddest particulars
in that odd Diary of his, that, while the injury is referred
to once in passing, there is no hint as to the occasion or
the manner of the blow. But now, when he is in the wrong,
nothing can exceed the long-suffering affection of this
impatient husband. While he was still sinning and still
undiscovered, he seems not to have known a touch of penitence
stronger than what might lead him to take his wife to the
theatre, or for an airing, or to give her a new dress, by way
of compensation. Once found out, however, and he seems to
himself to have lost all claim to decent usage. It is
perhaps the strongest instance of his externality. His wife
may do what she pleases, and though he may groan, it will
never occur to him to blame her; he has no weapon left but
tears and the most abject submission. We should perhaps have
respected him more had he not given way so utterly - above
all, had he refused to write, under his wife's dictation, an
insulting letter to his unhappy fellow-culprit, Miss Willet;
but somehow I believe we like him better as he was.

The death of his wife, following so shortly after, must have
stamped the impression of this episode upon his mind. For
the remaining years of his long life we have no Diary to help
us, and we have seen already how little stress is to be laid
upon the tenor of his correspondence; but what with the
recollection of the catastrophe of his married life, what
with the natural influence of his advancing years and
reputation, it seems not unlikely that the period of
gallantry was at an end for Pepys; and it is beyond a doubt
that he sat down at last to an honoured and agreeable old age
among his books and music, the correspondent of Sir Isaac
Newton, and, in one instance at least the poetical counsellor
of Dryden. Through all this period, that Diary which
contained the secret memoirs of his life, with all its
inconsistencies and escapades, had been religiously
preserved; nor, when he came to die, does he appear to have
provided for its destruction. So we may conceive him
faithful to the end to all his dear and early memories; still
mindful of Mrs. Hely in the woods at Epsom; still lighting at
Islington for a cup of kindness to the dead; still, if he
heard again that air that once so much disturbed him,
thrilling at the recollection of the love that bound him to
his wife.



WHEN first the idea became widely spread among men that the
Word of God, instead of being truly the foundation of all
existing institutions, was rather a stone which the builders
had rejected, it was but natural that the consequent havoc
among received opinions should be accompanied by the
generation of many new and lively hopes for the future.
Somewhat as in the early days of the French Revolution, men
must have looked for an immediate and universal improvement
in their condition. Christianity, up to that time, had been
somewhat of a failure politically. The reason was now
obvious, the capital flaw was detected, the sickness of the
body politic traced at last to its efficient cause. It was
only necessary to put the Bible thoroughly into practice, to
set themselves strenuously to realise in life the Holy
Commonwealth, and all abuses and iniquities would surely pass
away. Thus, in a pageant played at Geneva in the year 1523,
the world was represented as a sick man at the end of his
wits for help, to whom his doctor recommends Lutheran
specifics. (1) The Reformers themselves had set their
affections in a different world, and professed to look for
the finished result of their endeavours on the other side of
death. They took no interest in politics as such; they even
condemned political action as Antichristian: notably, Luther
in the case of the Peasants' War. And yet, as the purely
religious question was inseparably complicated with political
difficulties, and they had to make opposition, from day to
day, against principalities and powers, they were led, one
after another, and again and again, to leave the sphere which
was more strictly their own, and meddle, for good and evil,
with the affairs of State. Not much was to be expected from
interference in such a spirit. Whenever a minister found
himself galled or hindered, he would be inclined to suppose
some contravention of the Bible. Whenever Christian liberty
was restrained (and Christian liberty for each individual
would be about coextensive with what he wished to do), it was
obvious that the State was Antichristian. The great thing,
and the one thing, was to push the Gospel and the Reformers'
own interpretation of it. Whatever helped was good; whatever
hindered was evil; and if this simple classification proved
inapplicable over the whole field, it was no business of his
to stop and reconcile incongruities. He had more pressing
concerns on hand; he had to save souls; he had to be about
his Father's business. This short-sighted view resulted in a
doctrine that was actually Jesuitical in application. They
had no serious ideas upon politics, and they were ready, nay,
they seemed almost bound, to adopt and support whichever
ensured for the moment the greatest benefit to the souls of
their fellow-men. They were dishonest in all sincerity.
Thus Labitte, in the introduction to a book (2) in which he
exposes the hypocritical democracy of the Catholics under the
League, steps aside for a moment to stigmatise the
hypocritical democracy of the Protestants. And nowhere was
this expediency in political questions more apparent than
about the question of female sovereignty. So much was this
the case that one James Thomasius, of Leipsic, wrote a little
paper (3) about the religious partialities of those who took
part in the controversy, in which some of these learned
disputants cut a very sorry figure.

(1) Gaberel's EGLIST DE GENEVE, i. 88.
GYNAECOCRATIA. It is in his collected prefaces, Leipsic,

Now Knox has been from the first a man well hated; and it is
somewhat characteristic of his luck that he figures here in
the very forefront of the list of partial scribes who trimmed
their doctrine with the wind in all good conscience, and were
political weathercocks out of conviction. Not only has
Thomasius mentioned him, but Bayle has taken the hint from
Thomasius, and dedicated a long note to the matter at the end
of his article on the Scotch Reformer. This is a little less
than fair. If any one among the evangelists of that period
showed more serious political sense than another, it was
assuredly Knox; and even in this very matter of female rule,
although I do not suppose any one nowadays will feel inclined
to endorse his sentiments, I confess I can make great
allowance for his conduct. The controversy, besides, has an
interest of its own, in view of later controversies.

John Knox, from 1556 to 1559, was resident in Geneva, as
minister, jointly with Goodman, of a little church of English
refugees. He and his congregation were banished from England
by one woman, Mary Tudor, and proscribed in Scotland by
another, the Regent Mary of Guise. The coincidence was
tempting: here were many abuses centring about one abuse;
here was Christ's Gospel persecuted in the two kingdoms by
one anomalous power. He had not far to go to find the idea
that female government was anomalous. It was an age, indeed,
in which women, capable and incapable, played a conspicuous
part upon the stage of European history; and yet their rule,
whatever may have been the opinion of here and there a wise
man or enthusiast, was regarded as an anomaly by the great
bulk of their contemporaries. It was defended as an anomaly.
It, and all that accompanied and sanctioned it, was set aside
as a single exception; and no one thought of reasoning down
from queens and extending their privileges to ordinary women.
Great ladies, as we know, had the privilege of entering into
monasteries and cloisters, otherwise forbidden to their sex.
As with one thing, so with another. Thus, Margaret of
Navarre wrote books with great acclamation, and no one,
seemingly, saw fit to call her conduct in question; but
Mademoiselle de Gournay, Montaigne's adopted daughter, was in
a controversy with the world as to whether a woman might be
an author without incongruity. Thus, too, we have Theodore
Agrippa d'Aubigne writing to his daughters about the learned
women of his century, and cautioning them, in conclusion,
that the study of letters was unsuited to ladies of a
middling station, and should be reserved for princesses. (1)
And once more, if we desire to see the same principle carried
to ludicrous extreme, we shall find that Reverend Father in
God the Abbot of Brantome, claiming, on the authority of some
lord of his acquaintance, a privilege, or rather a duty, of
free love for great princesses, and carefully excluding other
ladies from the same gallant dispensation. (2) One sees the
spirit in which these immunities were granted; and how they
were but the natural consequence of that awe for courts and
kings that made the last writer tell us, with simple wonder,
how Catherine de Medici would "laugh her fill just like
another" over the humours of pantaloons and zanies. And such
servility was, of all things, what would touch most nearly
the republican spirit of Knox. It was not difficult for him
to set aside this weak scruple of loyalty. The lantern of
his analysis did not always shine with a very serviceable
light; but he had the virtue, at least, to carry it into many
places of fictitious holiness, and was not abashed by the
tinsel divinity that hedged kings and queens from his
contemporaries. And so he could put the proposition in the
form already mentioned: there was Christ's Gospel persecuted
in the two kingdoms by one anomalous power plainly, then, the
"regiment of women" was Antichristian. Early in 1558 he
communicated this discovery to the world, by publishing at
Geneva his notorious book - THE FIRST BLAST OF THE TRUMPET

(1) Oeuvres de d'Aubigne, i. 449.
(2) Dames Illustres, pp. 358-360.
(3) Works of John Knox, iv. 349.

As a whole, it is a dull performance; but the preface, as is
usual with Knox, is both interesting and morally fine. Knox
was not one of those who are humble in the hour of triumph;
he was aggressive even when things were at their worst. He
had a grim reliance in himself, or rather in his mission; if
he were not sure that he was a great man, he was at least
sure that he was one set apart to do great things. And he
judged simply that whatever passed in his mind, whatever
moved him to flee from persecution instead of constantly
facing it out, or, as here, to publish and withhold his name
from the title-page of a critical work, would not fail to be
of interest, perhaps of benefit, to the world. There may be
something more finely sensitive in the modern humour, that
tends more and more to withdraw a man's personality from the
lessons he inculcates or the cause that he has espoused; but
there is a loss herewith of wholesome responsibility; and
when we find in the works of Knox, as in the Epistles of
Paul, the man himself standing nakedly forward, courting and
anticipating criticism, putting his character, as it were, in
pledge for the sincerity of his doctrine, we had best waive
the question of delicacy, and make our acknowledgments for a
lesson of courage, not unnecessary in these days of anonymous
criticism, and much light, otherwise unattainable, on the
spirit in which great movements were initiated and carried
forward. Knox's personal revelations are always interesting;
and, in the case of the "First Blast," as I have said, there
is no exception to the rule. He begins by stating the solemn
responsibility of all who are watchmen over God's flock; and
all are watchmen (he goes on to explain, with that fine
breadth of spirit that characterises him even when, as here,
he shows himself most narrow), all are watchmen "whose eyes
God doth open, and whose conscience he pricketh to admonish
the ungodly." And with the full consciousness of this great
duty before him, he sets himself to answer the scruples of
timorous or worldly-minded people. How can a man repent, he
asks, unless the nature of his transgression is made plain to
him? "And therefore I say," he continues, "that of necessity
it is that this monstriferous empire of women (which among
all enormities that this day do abound upon the face of the
whole earth, is most detestable and damnable) be openly and
plainly declared to the world, to the end that some may
repent and be saved." To those who think the doctrine
useless, because it cannot be expected to amend those princes
whom it would dispossess if once accepted, he makes answer in
a strain that shows him at his greatest. After having
instanced how the rumour of Christ's censures found its way
to Herod in his own court, "even so," he continues, "may the
sound of our weak trumpet, by the support of some wind (blow
it from the south, or blow it from the north, it is of no
matter), come to the ears of the chief offenders. BUT
whom, no doubt, a great number have heretofore offended by
error and ignorance."

It is for the multitude, then, he writes; he does not greatly
hope that his trumpet will be audible in palaces, or that
crowned women will submissively discrown themselves at his
appeal; what he does hope, in plain English, is to encourage
and justify rebellion; and we shall see, before we have done,
that he can put his purpose into words as roundly as I can
put it for him. This he sees to be a matter of much hazard;
he is not "altogether so brutish and insensible, but that he
has laid his account what the finishing of the work may
cost." He knows that he will find many adversaries, since
"to the most part of men, lawful and godly appeareth
whatsoever antiquity hath received." He looks for
opposition, "not only of the ignorant multitude, but of the
wise, politic, and quiet spirits of the earth." He will be
called foolish, curious, despiteful, and a sower of sedition;
and one day, perhaps, for all he is now nameless, he may be
attainted of treason. Yet he has "determined to obey God,
notwithstanding that the world shall rage thereat." Finally,
he makes some excuse for the anonymous appearance of this
first instalment: it is his purpose thrice to blow the
trumpet in this matter, if God so permit; twice he intends to
do it without name; but at the last blast to take the odium
upon himself, that all others may be purged.

Thus he ends the preface, and enters upon his argument with a
secondary title: "The First Blast to awake Women degenerate."
We are in the land of assertion without delay. That a woman
should bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire over any
realm, nation, or city, he tells us, is repugnant to nature,
contumely to God, and a subversion of good order. Women are
weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish. God has denied
to woman wisdom to consider, or providence to foresee, what
is profitable to a commonwealth. Women have been ever
lightly esteemed; they have been denied the tutory of their
own sons, and subjected to the unquestionable sway of their
husbands; and surely it is irrational to give the greater
where the less has been withheld, and suffer a woman to reign
supreme over a great kingdom who would be allowed no
authority by her own fireside. He appeals to the Bible; but
though he makes much of the first transgression and certain
strong texts in Genesis and Paul's Epistles, he does not
appeal with entire success. The cases of Deborah and Huldah
can be brought into no sort of harmony with his thesis.
Indeed, I may say that, logically, he left his bones there;
and that it is but the phantom of an argument that he parades
thenceforward to the end. Well was it for Knox that he
succeeded no better; it is under this very ambiguity about
Deborah that we shall find him fain to creep for shelter
before he is done with the regiment of women. After having
thus exhausted Scripture, and formulated its teaching in the
somewhat blasphemous maxim that the man is placed above the
woman, even as God above the angels, he goes on triumphantly
to adduce the testimonies of Tertullian, Augustine, Ambrose,
Basil, Chrysostom, and the Pandects; and having gathered this
little cloud of witnesses about him, like pursuivants about a
herald, he solemnly proclaims all reigning women to be
traitoresses and rebels against God; discharges all men
thenceforward from holding any office under such monstrous
regiment, and calls upon all the lieges with one consent to
QUEENS. If this is not treasonable teaching, one would be
glad to know what is; and yet, as if he feared he had not
made the case plain enough against himself, he goes on to
deduce the startling corollary that all oaths of allegiance
must be incontinently broken. If it was sin thus to have
sworn even in ignorance, it were obstinate sin to continue to
respect them after fuller knowledge. Then comes the
peroration, in which he cries aloud against the cruelties of
that cursed Jezebel of England - that horrible monster
Jezebel of England; and after having predicted sudden
destruction to her rule and to the rule of all crowned women,
and warned all men that if they presume to defend the same
when any "noble heart" shall be raised up to vindicate the
liberty of his country, they shall not fail to perish
themselves in the ruin, he concludes with a last rhetorical
flourish: "And therefore let all men be advertised, for THE

The capitals are his own. In writing, he probably felt the
want of some such reverberation of the pulpit under strong
hands as he was wont to emphasise his spoken utterances
withal; there would seem to him a want of passion in the
orderly lines of type; and I suppose we may take the capitals
as a mere substitute for the great voice with which he would
have given it forth, had we heard it from his own lips.
Indeed, as it is, in this little strain of rhetoric about the
trumpet, this current allusion to the fall of Jericho, that
alone distinguishes his bitter and hasty production, he was
probably right, according to all artistic canon, thus to
support and accentuate in conclusion the sustained metaphor
of a hostile proclamation. It is curious, by the way, to
note how favourite an image the trumpet was with the
Reformer. He returns to it again and again; it is the Alpha
and Omega of his rhetoric; it is to him what a ship is to the
stage sailor; and one would almost fancy he had begun the
world as a trumpeter's apprentice. The partiality is surely
characteristic. All his life long he was blowing summonses
before various Jerichos, some of which fell duly, but not
all. Wherever he appears in history his speech is loud,
angry, and hostile; there is no peace in his life, and little
tenderness; he is always sounding hopefully to the front for
some rough enterprise.

And as his voice had something of the trumpet's hardness, it
had something also of the trumpet's warlike inspiration. So
Randolph, possibly fresh from the sound of the Reformer's
preaching, writes of him to Cecil:- "Where your honour
exhorteth us to stoutness, I assure you the voice of one man
is able, in an hour, to put more life in us than six hundred
trumpets continually blustering in our ears." (1)

(1) M'Crie's LIFE OF KNOX, ii. 41.

Thus was the proclamation made. Nor was it long in wakening
all the echoes of Europe. What success might have attended
it, had the question decided been a purely abstract question,
it is difficult to say. As it was, it was to stand or fall,
not by logic, but by political needs and sympathies. Thus,
in France, his doctrine was to have some future, because
Protestants suffered there under the feeble and treacherous
regency of Catherine de Medici; and thus it was to have no
future anywhere else, because the Protestant interest was
bound up with the prosperity of Queen Elizabeth. This
stumbling-block lay at the very threshold of the matter; and
Knox, in the text of the "First Blast," had set everybody the
wrong example and gone to the ground himself. He finds
occasion to regret "the blood of innocent Lady Jane Dudley."
But Lady Jane Dudley, or Lady Jane Grey, as we call her, was
a would-be traitoress and rebel against God, to use his own
expressions. If, therefore, political and religious sympathy
led Knox himself into so grave a partiality, what was he to
expect from his disciples?

If the trumpet gave so ambiguous a sound, who could heartily
prepare himself for the battle? The question whether Lady
Jane Dudley was an innocent martyr, or a traitoress against
God, whose inordinate pride and tyranny had been effectually
repressed, was thus left altogether in the wind; and it was
not, perhaps, wonderful if many of Knox's readers concluded
that all right and wrong in the matter turned upon the degree
of the sovereign's orthodoxy and possible helpfulness to the
Reformation. He should have been the more careful of such an
ambiguity of meaning, as he must have known well the lukewarm
indifference and dishonesty of his fellow-reformers in
political matters. He had already, in 1556 or 1557, talked
the matter over with his great master, Calvin, in "a private
conversation;" and the interview (1) must have been truly
distasteful to both parties. Calvin, indeed, went a far way
with him in theory, and owned that the "government of women
was a deviation from the original and proper order of nature,
to be ranked, no less than slavery, among the punishments
consequent upon the fall of man." But, in practice, their
two roads separated. For the Man of Geneva saw difficulties
in the way of the Scripture proof in the cases of Deborah and
Huldah, and in the prophecy of Isaiah that queens should be
the nursing mothers of the Church. And as the Bible was not
decisive, he thought the subject should be let alone,
because, "by custom and public consent and long practice, it
has been established that realms and principalities may
descend to females by hereditary right, and it would not be
lawful to unsettle governments which are ordained by the
peculiar providence of God." I imagine Knox's ears must have
burned during this interview. Think of him listening
dutifully to all this - how it would not do to meddle with
anointed kings - how there was a peculiar providence in these
great affairs; and then think of his own peroration, and the
"noble heart" whom he looks for "to vindicate the liberty of
his country;" or his answer to Queen Mary, when she asked him
who he was, to interfere in the affairs of Scotland:- "Madam,
a subject born within the same!" Indeed, the two doctors who
differed at this private conversation represented, at the
moment, two principles of enormous import in the subsequent
history of Europe. In Calvin we have represented that
passive obedience, that toleration of injustice and
absurdity, that holding back of the hand from political
affairs as from something unclean, which lost France, if we
are to believe M. Michelet, for the Reformation; a spirit
necessarily fatal in the long run to the existence of any
sect that may profess it; a suicidal doctrine that survives
among us to this day in narrow views of personal duty, and
the low political morality of many virtuous men. In Knox, on
the other hand, we see foreshadowed the whole Puritan
Revolution and the scaffold of Charles I.

(1) Described by Calvin in a letter to Cecil, Knox's Works,
vol. iv.

There is little doubt in my mind that this interview was what
caused Knox to print his book without a name. (1) It was a
dangerous thing to contradict the Man of Geneva, and doubly
so, surely, when one had had the advantage of correction from
him in a private conversation; and Knox had his little flock
of English refugees to consider. If they had fallen into bad
odour at Geneva, where else was there left to flee to? It
was printed, as I said, in 1558; and, by a singular MAL-A-
PROPOS, in that same year Mary died, and Elizabeth succeeded
to the throne of England. And just as the accession of
Catholic Queen Mary had condemned female rule in the eyes of
Knox, the accession of Protestant Queen Elizabeth justified
it in the eyes of his colleagues. Female rule ceases to be
an anomaly, not because Elizabeth can "reply to eight
ambassadors in one day in their different languages," but
because she represents for the moment the political future of
the Reformation. The exiles troop back to England with songs
of praise in their mouths. The bright accidental star, of
which we have all read in the Preface to the Bible, has risen
over the darkness of Europe. There is a thrill of hope
through the persecuted Churches of the Continent. Calvin
writes to Cecil, washing his hands of Knox and his political
heresies. The sale of the "First Blast" is prohibited in
Geneva; and along with it the bold book of Knox's colleague,
Goodman - a book dear to Milton - where female rule was
briefly characterised as a "monster in nature and disorder
among men." (2) Any who may ever have doubted, or been for a
moment led away by Knox or Goodman, or their own wicked
imaginations, are now more than convinced. They have seen
the accidental star. Aylmer, with his eye set greedily on a
possible bishopric, and "the better to obtain the favour of
the new Queen," (3) sharpens his pen to confound Knox by
logic. What need? He has been confounded by facts. "Thus
what had been to the refugees of Geneva as the very word of
God, no sooner were they back in England than, behold! it was
the word of the devil." (4)

(1) It was anonymously published, but no one seems to have
been in doubt about its authorship; he might as well have set
his name to it, for all the good he got by holding it back.
(2) Knox's Works, iv. 358.
(3) Strype's AYLMER, p. 16.
(4) It may interest the reader to know that these (so says
Thomasius) are the "ipsissima verba Schlusselburgii."

Now, what of the real sentiments of these loyal subjects of
Elizabeth? They professed a holy horror for Knox's position:
let us see if their own would please a modern audience any
better, or was, in substance, greatly different.

John Aylmer, afterwards Bishop of London, published an answer
to Knox, under the title of AN HARBOUR FOR FAITHFUL AND TRUE
GOVERNMENT OF WOMEN. (1) And certainly he was a thought more
acute, a thought less precipitate and simple, than his
adversary. He is not to be led away by such captious terms
as NATURAL AND UNNATURAL. It is obvious to him that a
woman's disability to rule is not natural in the same sense
in which it is natural for a stone to fall or fire to burn.
He is doubtful, on the whole, whether this disability be
natural at all; nay, when he is laying it down that a woman
should not be a priest, he shows some elementary conception
of what many of us now hold to be the truth of the matter.
"The bringing-up of women," he says, "is commonly such" that
they cannot have the necessary qualifications, "for they are
not brought upon learning in schools, nor trained in
disputation." And even so, he can ask, "Are there not in
England women, think you, that for learning and wisdom could
tell their household and neighbours as good a tale as any Sir
John there?" For all that, his advocacy is weak. If women's
rule is not unnatural in a sense preclusive of its very
existence, it is neither so convenient nor so profitable as
the government of men. He holds England to be specially
suitable for the government of women, because there the
governor is more limited and restrained by the other members
of the constitution than in other places; and this argument
has kept his book from being altogether forgotten. It is
only in hereditary monarchies that he will offer any defence
of the anomaly. "If rulers were to be chosen by lot or
suffrage, he would not that any women should stand in the
election, but men only." The law of succession of crowns was
a law to him, in the same sense as the law of evolution is a
law to Mr. Herbert Spencer; and the one and the other
counsels his readers, in a spirit suggestively alike, not to
kick against the pricks or seek to be more wise than He who
made them. (2) If God has put a female child into the direct
line of inheritance, it is God's affair. His strength will
be perfected in her weakness. He makes the Creator address
the objectors in this not very flattering vein:- "I, that
could make Daniel, a sucking babe, to judge better than the
wisest lawyers; a brute beast to reprehend the folly of a
prophet; and poor fishers to confound the great clerks of the
world - cannot I make a woman to be a good ruler over you?"
This is the last word of his reasoning. Although he was not
altogether without Puritanic leaven, shown particularly in
what he says of the incomes of Bishops, yet it was rather
loyalty to the old order of things than any generous belief
in the capacity of women, that raised up for them this
clerical champion. His courtly spirit contrasts singularly
with the rude, bracing republicanism of Knox. "Thy knee
shall bow," he says, "thy cap shall off, thy tongue shall
speak reverently of thy sovereign." For himself, his tongue
is even more than reverent. Nothing can stay the issue of
his eloquent adulation. Again and again, "the remembrance of
Elizabeth's virtues" carries him away; and he has to hark
back again to find the scent of his argument. He is
repressing his vehement adoration throughout, until, when the
end comes, and he feels his business at an end, he can
indulge himself to his heart's content in indiscriminate
laudation of his royal mistress. It is humorous to think
that this illustrious lady, whom he here praises, among many
other excellences, for the simplicity of her attire and the
"marvellous meekness of her stomach," threatened him, years
after, in no very meek terms, for a sermon against female
vanity in dress, which she held as a reflection on herself.

(1) I am indebted for a sight of this book to the kindness of
Mr. David Laing, the editor of Knox's Works.
(2) SOCIAL STATICS, p. 64, etc.
(3) Hallam's CONST. HIST. OF ENGLAND, i. 225, note m.

Whatever was wanting here in respect for women generally,
there was no want of respect for the Queen; and one cannot
very greatly wonder if these devoted servants looked askance,
not upon Knox only, but on his little flock, as they came
back to England tainted with disloyal doctrine. For them, as
for him, the accidental star rose somewhat red and angry. As
for poor Knox, his position was the saddest of all. For the
juncture seemed to him of the highest importance; it was the
nick of time, the flood-water of opportunity. Not only was
there an opening for him in Scotland, a smouldering brand of
civil liberty and religious enthusiasm which it should be for
him to kindle into flame with his powerful breath but he had
his eye seemingly on an object of even higher worth. For
now, when religious sympathy ran so high that it could be set
against national aversion, he wished to begin the fusion
together of England and Scotland, and to begin it at the sore
place. If once the open wound were closed at the Border, the
work would be half done. Ministers placed at Berwick and
such places might seek their converts equally on either side
of the march; old enemies would sit together to hear the
gospel of peace, and forget the inherited jealousies of many
generations in the enthusiasm of a common faith; or - let us
say better - a common heresy. For people are not most
conscious of brotherhood when they continue languidly
together in one creed, but when, with some doubt, with some
danger perhaps, and certainly not without some reluctance,
they violently break with the tradition of the past, and go
forth from the sanctuary of their fathers to worship under
the bare heaven. A new creed, like a new country, is an
unhomely place of sojourn; but it makes men lean on one
another and join hands. It was on this that Knox relied to
begin the union of the English and the Scotch. And he had,
perhaps, better means of judging than any even of his
contemporaries. He knew the temper of both nations; and
already during his two years' chaplaincy at Berwick, he had
seen his scheme put to the proof. But whether practicable or
not, the proposal does him much honour. That he should thus
have sought to make a love-match of it between the two
peoples, and tried to win their inclination towards a union
instead of simply transferring them, like so many sheep, by a
marriage, or testament, or private treaty, is thoroughly
characteristic of what is best in the man. Nor was this all.
He had, besides, to assure himself of English support, secret
or avowed, for the reformation party in Scotland; a delicate
affair, trenching upon treason. And so he had plenty to say
to Cecil, plenty that he did not care to "commit to paper
neither yet to the knowledge of many." But his miserable
publication had shut the doors of England in his face.
Summoned to Edinburgh by the confederate lords, he waited at
Dieppe, anxiously praying for leave to journey through
England. The most dispiriting tidings reach him. His
messengers, coming from so obnoxious a quarter, narrowly
escape imprisonment. His old congregation are coldly
received, and even begin to look back again to their place of
exile with regret. "My First Blast," he writes ruefully,
"has blown from me all my friends of England." And then he
adds, with a snarl, "The Second Blast, I fear, shall sound
somewhat more sharp, except men be more moderate than I hear
they are." (1) But the threat is empty; there will never be
a second blast - he has had enough of that trumpet. Nay, he
begins to feel uneasily that, unless he is to be rendered
useless for the rest of his life, unless he is to lose his
right arm and go about his great work maimed and impotent, he
must find some way of making his peace with England and the
indignant Queen. The letter just quoted was written on the
6th of April 1559; and on the 10th, after he had cooled his
heels for four days more about the streets of Dieppe, he gave
in altogether, and writes a letter of capitulation to Cecil.
In this letter, (2) which he kept back until the 22d, still
hoping that things would come right of themselves, he
censures the great secretary for having "followed the world
in the way of perdition," characterises him as "worthy of
hell," and threatens him, if he be not found simple, sincere,
and fervent in the cause of Christ's gospel, that he shall
"taste of the same cup that politic heads have drunken in
before him." This is all, I take it, out of respect for the
Reformer's own position; if he is going to be humiliated, let
others be humiliated first; like a child who will not take
his medicine until he has made his nurse and his mother drink
of it before him. "But I have, say you, written a
treasonable book against the regiment and empire of women. .
. . The writing of that book I will not deny; but to prove it
treasonable I think it shall be hard. . . . It is hinted that
my book shall be written against. If so be, sir, I greatly
doubt they shall rather hurt nor (than) mend the matter."
And here come the terms of capitulation; for he does not
surrender unconditionally, even in this sore strait: "And yet
if any," he goes on, "think me enemy to the person, or yet to
the regiment, of her whom God hath now promoted, they are
utterly deceived in me, FOR THE MIRACULOUS WORK OF GOD,
LAW DO DENY TO ALL WOMEN, then shall none in England be more
willing to maintain her lawful authority than I shall be.
But if (God's wondrous work set aside) she ground (as God
forbid) the justness of her title upon consuetude, laws, or
ordinances of men, then" - Then Knox will denounce her? Not
so; he is more politic nowadays - then, he "greatly fears"
that her ingratitude to God will not go long without

(1) Knox to Mrs. Locke, 6th April 1559. Works, vi. 14.
(2) Knox to Sir William Cecil, 10th April 1559. Works, ii.
16, or vi. 15.

His letter to Elizabeth, written some few months later, was a
mere amplification of the sentences quoted above. She must
base her title entirely upon the extraordinary providence of
God; but if she does this, "if thus, in God's presence, she
humbles herself, so will he with tongue and pen justify her
authority, as the Holy Ghost hath justified the same in
Deborah, that blessed mother in Israel." (1) And so, you
see, his consistency is preserved; he is merely applying the
doctrine of the "First Blast." The argument goes thus: The
regiment of women is, as before noted in our work, repugnant
to nature, contumely to God, and a subversion of good order.
It has nevertheless pleased God to raise up, as exceptions to
this law, first Deborah, and afterward Elizabeth Tudor -
whose regiment we shall proceed to celebrate.

(1) Knox to Queen Elizabeth, July. 20th, 1559. Works, vi.
47, or ii. 26.

There is no evidence as to how the Reformer's explanations
were received, and indeed it is most probable that the letter
was never shown to Elizabeth at all. For it was sent under
cover of another to Cecil, and as it was not of a very
courtly conception throughout, and was, of all things, what
would most excite the Queen's uneasy jealousy about her
title, it is like enough that the secretary exercised his
discretion (he had Knox's leave in this case, and did not
always wait for that, it is reputed) to put the letter
harmlessly away beside other valueless or unpresentable State
Papers. I wonder very much if he did the same with another,
(1) written two years later, after Mary had come into
Scotland, in which Knox almost seeks to make Elizabeth an
accomplice with him in the matter of the "First Blast." The
Queen of Scotland is going to have that work refuted, he
tells her; and "though it were but foolishness in him to
prescribe unto her Majesty what is to be done," he would yet
remind her that Mary is neither so much alarmed about her own
security, nor so generously interested in Elizabeth's, "that
she would take such pains, UNLESS HER CRAFTY COUNSEL IN SO
DOING SHOT AT A FURTHER MARK." There is something really
ingenious in this letter; it showed Knox in the double
capacity of the author of the "First Blast" and the faithful
friend of Elizabeth; and he combines them there so naturally,
that one would scarcely imagine the two to be incongruous.

(1) Knox to Queen Elizabeth, August 6th, 1561. Works, vi.

Twenty days later he was defending his intemperate
publication to another queen - his own queen, Mary Stuart.
This was on the first of those three interviews which he has
preserved for us with so much dramatic vigour in the
picturesque pages of his history. After he had avowed the
authorship in his usual haughty style, Mary asked: "You
think, then, that I have no just authority?" The question
was evaded. "Please your Majesty," he answered, "that
learned men in all ages have had their judgments free, and
most commonly disagreeing from the common judgment of the
world; such also have they published by pen and tongue; and
yet notwithstanding they themselves have lived in the common
society with others, and have borne patiently with the errors
and imperfections which they could not amend." Thus did
"Plato the philosopher:" thus will do John Knox. "I have
communicated my judgment to the world: if the realm finds no
inconvenience from the regiment of a woman, that which they
approve, shall I not further disallow than within my own
breast; but shall be as well content to live under your
Grace, as Paul was to live under Nero. And my hope is, that
so long as ye defile not your hands with the blood of the
saints of God, neither I nor my book shall hurt either you or
your authority." All this is admirable in wisdom and
moderation, and, except that he might have hit upon a
comparison less offensive than that with Paul and Nero,
hardly to be bettered. Having said thus much, he feels he
needs say no more; and so, when he is further pressed, he
closes that part of the discussion with an astonishing sally.
If he has been content to let this matter sleep, he would
recommend her Grace to follow his example with thankfulness
of heart; it is grimly to be understood which of them has
most to fear if the question should be reawakened. So the
talk wandered to other subjects. Only, when the Queen was
summoned at last to dinner ("for it was afternoon") Knox made
his salutation in this form of words: "I pray God, Madam,
that you may be as much blessed within the Commonwealth of
Scotland, if it be the pleasure of God, as ever Deborah was
in the Commonwealth of Israel." (1) Deborah again.

(1) Knox's Works, ii. 278-280.

But he was not yet done with the echoes of his own "First
Blast." In 1571, when he was already near his end, the old
controversy was taken up in one of a series of anonymous
libels against the Reformer affixed, Sunday after Sunday, to
the church door. The dilemma was fairly enough stated.
Either his doctrine is false, in which case he is a "false
doctor" and seditious; or, if it be true, why does he "avow
and approve the contrare, I mean that regiment in the Queen
of England's person; which he avoweth and approveth, not only
praying for the maintenance of her estate, but also procuring
her aid and support against his own native country?" Knox
answered the libel, as his wont was, next Sunday, from the
pulpit. He justified the "First Blast" with all the old
arrogance; there is no drawing back there. The regiment of
women is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, and a
subversion of good order, as before. When he prays for the
maintenance of Elizabeth's estate, he is only following the
example of those prophets of God who warned and comforted the
wicked kings of Israel; or of Jeremiah, who bade the Jews
pray for the prosperity of Nebuchadnezzar. As for the
Queen's aid, there is no harm in that: QUIA (these are his
own words) QUIA OMNIA MUNDA MUNDIS: because to the pure all
things are pure. One thing, in conclusion, he "may not
pretermit" to give the lie in the throat to his accuser,
where he charges him with seeking support against his native
country. "What I have been to my country," said the old
Reformer, "What I have been to my country, albeit this
unthankful age will not know, yet the ages to come will be
compelled to bear witness to the truth. And thus I cease,
requiring of all men that have anything to oppone against me,
that he may (they may) do it so plainly, as that I may make
myself and all my doings manifest to the world. For to me it
seemeth a thing unreasonable, that, in this my decrepit age,
I shall be compelled to fight against shadows, and howlets
that dare not abide the light." (1)

(1) Calderwood's HISTORY OF THE KIRK OF Scotland, edition of
the Wodrow Society, iii. 51-54.

Now, in this, which may be called his LAST BLAST, there is as
sharp speaking as any in the "First Blast" itself. He is of
the same opinion to the end, you see, although he has been
obliged to cloak and garble that opinion for political ends.
He has been tacking indeed, and he has indeed been seeking
the favour of a queen; but what man ever sought a queen's
favour with a more virtuous purpose, or with as little
courtly policy? The question of consistency is delicate, and
must be made plain. Knox never changed his opinion about
female rule, but lived to regret that he had published that
opinion. Doubtless he had many thoughts so far out of the
range of public sympathy, that he could only keep them to
himself, and, in his own words, bear patiently with the
errors and imperfections that he could not amend. For
example, I make no doubt myself that, in his own heart, he
did hold the shocking dogma attributed to him by more than
one calumniator; and that, had the time been ripe, had there
been aught to gain by it, instead of all to lose, he would
have been the first to assert that Scotland was elective
instead of hereditary - "elective as in the days of
paganism," as one Thevet says in holy horror. (1) And yet,
because the time was not ripe, I find no hint of such an idea
in his collected works. Now, the regiment of women was
another matter that he should have kept to himself; right or
wrong, his opinion did not fit the moment; right or wrong, as
Aylmer puts it, "the BLAST was blown out of season." And
this it was that he began to perceive after the accession of
Elizabeth; not that he had been wrong, and that female rule
was a good thing, for he had said from the first that "the
felicity of some women in their empires" could not change the
law of God and the nature of created things; not this, but
that the regiment of women was one of those imperfections of
society which must be borne with because yet they cannot be
remedied. The thing had seemed so obvious to him, in his
sense of unspeakable masculine superiority, and his fine
contempt for what is only sanctioned by antiquity and common
consent, he had imagined that, at the first hint, men would
arise and shake off the debasing tyranny. He found himself
wrong, and he showed that he could be moderate in his own
fashion, and understood the spirit of true compromise. He
came round to Calvin's position, in fact, but by a different
way. And it derogates nothing from the merit of this wise
attitude that it was the consequence of a change of interest.
We are all taught by interest; and if the interest be not
merely selfish, there is no wiser preceptor under heaven, and
perhaps no sterner.


Such is the history of John Knox's connection with the
controversy about female rule. In itself, this is obviously
an incomplete study; not fully to be understood, without a
knowledge of his private relations with the other sex, and
what he thought of their position in domestic life. This
shall be dealt with in another paper.


TO those who know Knox by hearsay only, I believe the matter
of this paper will be somewhat astonishing. For the hard
energy of the man in all public mattress has possessed the
imagination of the world; he remains for posterity in certain
traditional phrases, browbeating Queen Mary, or breaking
beautiful carved work in abbeys and cathedrals, that had long
smoked themselves out and were no more than sorry ruins,
while he was still quietly teaching children in a country
gentleman's family. It does not consist with the common
acceptation of his character to fancy him much moved, except
with anger. And yet the language of passion came to his pen
as readily, whether it was a passion of denunciation against
some of the abuses that vexed his righteous spirit, or of
yearning for the society of an absent friend. He was
vehement in affection, as in doctrine. I will not deny that
there may have been, along with his vehemence, something
shifty, and for the moment only; that, like many men, and
many Scotchmen, he saw the world and his own heart, not so
much under any very steady, equable light, as by extreme
flashes of passion, true for the moment, but not true in the
long run. There does seem to me to be something of this
traceable in the Reformer's utterances: precipitation and
repentance, hardy speech and action somewhat circumspect, a
strong tendency to see himself in a heroic light and to place
a ready belief in the disposition of the moment. Withal he
had considerable confidence in himself, and in the
uprightness of his own disciplined emotions, underlying much
sincere aspiration after spiritual humility. And it is this
confidence that makes his intercourse with women so
interesting to a modern. It would be easy, of course, to
make fun of the whole affair, to picture him strutting
vaingloriously among these inferior creatures, or compare a
religious friendship in the sixteenth century with what was
called, I think, a literary friendship in the eighteenth.
But it is more just and profitable to recognise what there is
sterling and human underneath all his theoretical
affectations of superiority. Women, he has said in his
"First Blast," are, "weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and
foolish;" and yet it does not appear that he was himself any
less dependent than other men upon the sympathy and affection
of these weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish
creatures; it seems even as if he had been rather more
dependent than most.

Of those who are to act influentially on their fellows, we
should expect always something large and public in their way
of life, something more or less urbane and comprehensive in
their sentiment for others. We should not expect to see them
spend their sympathy in idyls, however beautiful. We should
not seek them among those who, if they have but a wife to
their bosom, ask no more of womankind, just as they ask no
more of their own sex, if they can find a friend or two for
their immediate need. They will be quick to feel all the
pleasures of our association - not the great ones alone, but
all. They will know not love only, but all those other ways
in which man and woman mutually make each other happy - by
sympathy, by admiration, by the atmosphere they bear about
them - down to the mere impersonal pleasure of passing happy
faces in the street. For, through all this gradation, the
difference of sex makes itself pleasurably felt. Down to the
most lukewarm courtesies of life, there is a special chivalry
due and a special pleasure received, when the two sexes are
brought ever so lightly into contact. We love our mothers
otherwise than we love our fathers; a sister is not as a
brother to us; and friendship between man and woman, be it
never so unalloyed and innocent, is not the same as
friendship between man and man. Such friendship is not even
possible for all. To conjoin tenderness for a woman that is
not far short of passionate with such disinterestedness and
beautiful gratuity of affection as there is between friends
of the same sex, requires no ordinary disposition in the man.
For either it would presuppose quite womanly delicacy of
perception, and, as it were, a curiosity in shades of
differing sentiment; or it would mean that he had accepted
the large, simple divisions of society: a strong and positive
spirit robustly virtuous, who has chosen a better part
coarsely, and holds to it steadfastly, with all its
consequences of pain to himself and others; as one who should
go straight before him on a journey, neither tempted by
wayside flowers nor very scrupulous of small lives under
foot. It was in virtue of this latter disposition that Knox
was capable of those intimacies with women that embellished
his life; and we find him preserved for us in old letters as
a man of many women friends; a man of some expansion toward
the other sex; a man ever ready to comfort weeping women, and
to weep along with them.

Of such scraps and fragments of evidence as to his private
life and more intimate thoughts as have survived to us from
all the perils that environ written paper, an astonishingly
large proportion is in the shape of letters to women of his
familiarity. He was twice married, but that is not greatly
to the purpose; for the Turk, who thinks even more meanly of
women than John Knox, is none the less given to marrying.
What is really significant is quite apart from marriage. For
the man Knox was a true man, and woman, the EWIG-WEIBLICHE,
was as necessary to him, in spite of all low theories, as
ever she was to Goethe. He came to her in a certain halo of
his own, as the minister of truth, just as Goethe came to her
in a glory of art; he made himself necessary to troubled
hearts and minds exercised in the painful complications that
naturally result from all changes in the world's way of
thinking; and those whom he had thus helped became dear to
him, and were made the chosen companions of his leisure if
they were at hand, or encouraged and comforted by letter if
they were afar.

It must not be forgotten that Knox had been a presbyter of
the old Church, and that the many women whom we shall see
gathering around him, as he goes through life, had probably
been accustomed, while still in the communion of Rome, to
rely much upon some chosen spiritual director, so that the
intimacies of which I propose to offer some account, while
testifying to a good heart in the Reformer, testify also to a
certain survival of the spirit of the confessional in the
Reformed Church, and are not properly to be judged without
this idea. There is no friendship so noble, but it is the
product of the time; and a world of little finical
observances, and little frail proprieties and fashions of the
hour, go to make or to mar, to stint or to perfect, the union
of spirits the most loving and the most intolerant of such
interference. The trick of the country and the age steps in
even between the mother and her child, counts out their
caresses upon niggardly fingers, and says, in the voice of
authority, that this one thing shall be a matter of
confidence between them, and this other thing shall not. And
thus it is that we must take into reckoning whatever tended
to modify the social atmosphere in which Knox and his women
friends met, and loved and trusted each other. To the man
who had been their priest and was now their minister, women
would be able to speak with a confidence quite impossible in
these latter days; the women would be able to speak, and the
man to hear. It was a beaten road just then; and I daresay
we should be no less scandalised at their plain speech than
they, if they could come back to earth, would be offended at
our waltzes and worldly fashions. This, then, was the
footing on which Knox stood with his many women friends. The
reader will see, as he goes on, how much of warmth, of
interest, and of that happy mutual dependence which is the
very gist of friendship, he contrived to ingraft upon this
somewhat dry relationship of penitent and confessor.

It must be understood that we know nothing of his intercourse
with women (as indeed we know little at all about his life)
until he came to Berwick in 1549, when he was already in the
forty-fifth year of his age. At the same time it is just
possible that some of a little group at Edinburgh, with whom
he corresponded during his last absence, may have been
friends of an older standing. Certainly they were, of all
his female correspondents, the least personally favoured. He
treats them throughout in a comprehensive sort of spirit that
must at times have been a little wounding. Thus, he remits
one of them to his former letters, "which I trust be common
betwixt you and the rest of our sisters, for to me ye are all
equal in Christ." (1) Another letter is a gem in this way.
"Albeit" it begins, "albeit I have no particular matter to
write unto you, beloved sister, yet I could not refrain to
write these few lines to you in declaration of my remembrance
of you. True it is that I have many whom I bear in equal
remembrance before God with you, to whom at present I write
nothing, either for that I esteem them stronger than you, and
therefore they need the less my rude labours, or else because
they have not provoked me by their writing to recompense
their remembrance." (2) His "sisters in Edinburgh" had
evidently to "provoke his attention pretty constantly; nearly
all his letters are, on the face of them, answers to
questions, and the answers are given with a certain crudity
that I do not find repeated when he writes to those he really
cares for. So when they consult him about women's apparel (a
subject on which his opinion may be pretty correctly imagined
by the ingenious reader for himself) he takes occasion to
anticipate some of the most offensive matter of the "First
Blast" in a style of real brutality. (3) It is not merely
that he tells them "the garments of women do declare their
weakness and inability to execute the office of man," though
that in itself is neither very wise nor very opportune in
such a correspondence one would think; but if the reader will
take the trouble to wade through the long, tedious sermon for
himself, he will see proof enough that Knox neither loved,
nor very deeply respected, the women he was then addressing.
In very truth, I believe these Edinburgh sisters simply bored
him. He had a certain interest in them as his children in
the Lord; they were continually "provoking him by their
writing;" and, if they handed his letters about, writing to
them was as good a form of publication as was then open to
him in Scotland. There is one letter, however, in this
budget, addressed to the wife of Clerk-Register Mackgil,
which is worthy of some further mention. The Clerk-Register
had not opened his heart, it would appear, to the preaching
of the Gospel, and Mrs. Mackgil has written, seeking the
Reformer's prayers in his behalf. "Your husband," he
answers, "is dear to me for that he is a man indued with some
good gifts, but more dear for that he is your husband.
Charity moveth me to thirst his illumination, both for his
comfort and for the trouble which you sustain by his
coldness, which justly may be called infidelity." He wishes
her, however, not to hope too much; he can promise that his
prayers will be earnest, but not that they will be effectual;
it is possible that this is to be her "cross" in life; that
"her head, appointed by God for her comfort, should be her
enemy." And if this be so, well, there is nothing for it;
"with patience she must abide God's merciful deliverance,"
taking heed only that she does not "obey manifest iniquity
for the pleasure of any mortal man." (4) I conceive this
epistle would have given a very modified sort of pleasure to
the Clerk-Register, had it chanced to fall into his hands.
Compare its tenor - the dry resignation not without a hope of
merciful deliverance therein recommended - with these words
from another letter, written but the year before to two
married women of London: "Call first for grace by Jesus, and
thereafter communicate with your faithful husbands, and then
shall God, I doubt not, conduct your footsteps, and direct
your counsels to His glory." (5) Here the husbands are put
in a very high place; we can recognise here the same hand
that has written for our instruction how the man is set above
the woman, even as God above the angels. But the point of
the distinction is plain. For Clerk-Register Mackgil was not
a faithful husband; displayed, indeed, towards religion a
"coldness which justly might be called infidelity." We shall
see in more notable instances how much Knox's conception of
the duty of wives varies according to the zeal and orthodoxy
of the husband.

(1) Works, iv. 244.
(2) Works, iv. 246.
(3) IB. iv. 225.
(4) Works, iv. 245.
(5) IB. iv. 221.

As I have said, he may possibly have made the acquaintance of
Mrs. Mackgil, Mrs. Guthrie, or some other, or all, of these
Edinburgh friends while he was still Douglas of Longniddry's
private tutor. But our certain knowledge begins in 1549. He
was then but newly escaped from his captivity in France,
after pulling an oar for nineteen months on the benches of
the galley NOSTRE DAME; now up the rivers, holding stealthy
intercourse with other Scottish prisoners in the castle of
Rouen; now out in the North Sea, raising his sick head to
catch a glimpse of the far-off steeples of St. Andrews. And
now he was sent down by the English Privy Council as a
preacher to Berwick-upon-Tweed; somewhat shaken in health by
all his hardships, full of pains and agues, and tormented by
gravel, that sorrow of great men; altogether, what with his
romantic story, his weak health, and his great faculty of
eloquence, a very natural object for the sympathy of devout
women. At this happy juncture he fell into the company of a
Mrs. Elizabeth Bowes, wife of Richard Bowes, of Aske, in
Yorkshire, to whom she had borne twelve children. She was a
religious hypochondriac, a very weariful woman, full of
doubts and scruples, and giving no rest on earth either to
herself or to those whom she honoured with her confidence.
From the first time she heard Knox preach she formed a high
opinion of him, and was solicitous ever after of his society.
(1) Nor was Knox unresponsive. "I have always delighted in
your company," he writes, "and when labours would permit, you
know I have not spared hours to talk and commune with you."
Often when they had met in depression he reminds her, "God
hath sent great comfort unto both." (2) We can gather from
such letters as are yet extant how close and continuous was
their intercourse. "I think it best you remain till the
morrow," he writes once, "and so shall we commune at large at
afternoon. This day you know to be the day of my study and
prayer unto God; yet if your trouble be intolerable, or, if
you think my presence may release your pain, do as the Spirit
shall move you. . . . Your messenger found me in bed, after a
sore trouble and most dolorous night, and so dolour may
complain to dolour when we two meet. . . . And this is more
plain than ever I spoke, to let you know you have a companion
in trouble." (3) Once we have the curtain raised for a
moment, and can look at the two together for the length of a
phrase. "After the writing of this preceding," writes Knox,
"your brother and mine, Harrie Wycliffe, did advertise me by
writing, that our adversary (the devil) took occasion to
trouble you because that I DID START BACK FROM YOU REHEARSING
THE CUPBOARD AT ALNWICK. In very deed I thought that no
creature had been tempted as I was; and when I heard proceed
from your mouth the very same words that he troubles me with,
I did wonder and from my heart lament your sore trouble,
knowing in myself the dolour thereof." (4) Now intercourse of
so very close a description, whether it be religious
intercourse or not, is apt to displease and disquiet a
husband; and we know incidentally from Knox himself that
there was some little scandal about his intimacy with Mrs.
Bowes. "The slander and fear of men," he writes, "has
impeded me to exercise my pen so oft as I would; YEA, VERY
OF ANOTHER," (5) And the scandal, such as it was, would not
be allayed by the dissension in which Mrs. Bowes seems to
have lived with her family upon the matter of religion, and
the countenance shown by Knox to her resistance. Talking of
these conflicts, and her courage against "her own flesh and
most inward affections, yea, against some of her most natural
friends," he writes it, "to the praise of God, he has
wondered at the bold constancy which he has found in her when
his own heart was faint." (6)

(1) Works, vi. 514.
(2) IB. iii. 338.
(3) IB. iii. 352, 353.
(4) Works, iii. 350.
(5) IB. iii. 390, 391.
(6) Works, iii. 142.

Now, perhaps in order to stop scandalous mouths, perhaps out
of a desire to bind the much-loved evangelist nearer to her
in the only manner possible, Mrs. Bowes conceived the scheme
of marrying him to her fifth daughter, Marjorie; and the
Reformer seems to have fallen in with it readily enough. It
seems to have been believed in the family that the whole
matter had been originally made up between these two, with no
very spontaneous inclination on the part of the bride. (1)
Knox's idea of marriage, as I have said, was not the same for
all men; but on the whole, it was not lofty. We have a
curious letter of his, written at the request of Queen Mary,
to the Earl of Argyle, on very delicate household matters;
which, as he tells us, "was not well accepted of the said
Earl." (2) We may suppose, however, that his own home was
regulated in a similar spirit. I can fancy that for such a
man, emotional, and with a need, now and again, to exercise
parsimony in emotions not strictly needful, something a
little mechanical, something hard and fast and clearly
understood, would enter into his ideal of a home. There were
storms enough without, and equability was to be desired at
the fireside even at a sacrifice of deeper pleasures. So,
from a wife, of all women, he would not ask much. One letter
to her which has come down to us is, I had almost said,
conspicuous for coldness. (3) He calls her, as he called
other female correspondents, "dearly beloved sister;" the
epistle is doctrinal, and nearly the half of it bears, not
upon her own case, but upon that of her mother. However, we
know what Heine wrote in his wife's album; and there is,
after all, one passage that may be held to intimate some
tenderness, although even that admits of an amusingly
opposite construction. "I think," he says, "I THINK this be
the first letter I ever wrote to you." This, if we are to
take it literally, may pair off with the "two OR THREE
children" whom Montaigne mentions having lost at nurse; the
one is as eccentric in a lover as the other in a parent.
Nevertheless, he displayed more energy in the course of his
troubled wooing than might have been expected. The whole
Bowes family, angry enough already at the influence he had
obtained over the mother, set their faces obdurately against
the match. And I daresay the opposition quickened his
inclination. I find him writing to Mrs. Bowes that she need
no further trouble herself about the marriage; it should now
be his business altogether; it behoved him now to jeopard his
life "for the comfort of his own flesh, both fear and
friendship of all earthly creature laid aside." (4) This is
a wonderfully chivalrous utterance for a Reformer forty-eight
years old; and it compares well with the leaden coquetries of
Calvin, not much over thirty, taking this and that into
consideration, weighing together dowries and religious
qualifications and the instancy of friends, and exhibiting
what M. Bungener calls "an honourable and Christian
difficulty" of choice, in frigid indecisions and insincere
proposals. But Knox's next letter is in a humbler tone; he
has not found the negotiation so easy as he fancied; he
despairs of the marriage altogether, and talks of leaving
England, - regards not "what country consumes his wicked
carcass." "You shall understand," he says, "that this sixth
of November, I spoke with Sir Robert Bowes" (the head of the
family, his bride's uncle) "in the matter you know, according
to your request; whose disdainful, yea, despiteful, words
hath so pierced my heart that my life is bitter to me. I
bear a good countenance with a sore troubled heart, because
he that ought to consider matters with a deep judgment is
become not only a despiser, but also a taunter of God's
messengers - God be merciful unto him! Amongst others his
most unpleasing words, while that I was about to have
declared my heart in the whole matter, he said, `Away with
your rhetorical reasons! for I will not be persuaded with
them.' God knows I did use no rhetoric nor coloured speech;
but would have spoken the truth, and that in most simple
manner. I am not a good orator in my own cause; but what he
would not be content to hear of me, God shall declare to him
one day to his displeasure, unless he repent." (5) Poor
Knox, you see, is quite commoved. It has been a very
unpleasant interview. And as it is the only sample that we
have of how things went with him during his courtship, we may
infer that the period was not as agreeable for Knox as it has
been for some others.

(1) IB. iii. 378.
(2) LB. ii. 379.
(3) Works, iii. 394.
(4) Works, iii. 376.
(5) Works, iii. 378.

However, when once they were married, I imagine he and
Marjorie Bowes hit it off together comfortably enough. The
little we know of it may be brought together in a very short
space. She bore him two sons. He seems to have kept her
pretty busy, and depended on her to some degree in his work;
so that when she fell ill, his papers got at once into
disorder. (1) Certainly she sometimes wrote to his
dictation; and, in this capacity, he calls her "his left
hand." (2) In June 1559, at the headiest moment of the
Reformation in Scotland, he writes regretting the absence of
his helpful colleague, Goodman, "whose presence" (this is the
not very grammatical form of his lament) "whose presence I
more thirst, than she that is my own flesh." (3) And this,
considering the source and the circumstances, may be held as
evidence of a very tender sentiment. He tells us himself in
his history, on the occasion of a certain meeting at the Kirk
of Field, that "he was in no small heaviness by reason of the
late death of his dear bed-fellow, Marjorie Bowes." (4)
Calvin, condoling with him, speaks of her as "a wife whose
like is not to be found everywhere" (that is very like
Calvin), and again, as "the most delightful of wives." We
know what Calvin thought desirable in a wife, "good humour,
chastity, thrift, patience, and solicitude for her husband's
health," and so we may suppose that the first Mrs. Knox fell
not far short of this ideal.

(1) Works, vi. 104.
(2) IB. v. 5.
(3) IB. vi. 27.
(4) IB. ii. 138.

The actual date of the marriage is uncertain but by September
1566, at the latest, the Reformer was settled in Geneva with
his wife. There is no fear either that he will be dull; even
if the chaste, thrifty, patient Marjorie should not
altogether occupy his mind, he need not go out of the house
to seek more female sympathy; for behold! Mrs. Bowes is duly
domesticated with the young couple. Dr. M'Crie imagined that
Richard Bowes was now dead, and his widow, consequently, free
to live where she would; and where could she go more
naturally than to the house of a married daughter? This,
however, is not the case. Richard Bowes did not die till at
least two years later. It is impossible to believe that he
approved of his wife's desertion, after so many years of
marriage, after twelve children had been born to them; and
accordingly we find in his will, dated 1558, no mention
either of her or of Knox's wife. (1) This is plain sailing.
It is easy enough to understand the anger of Bowes against
this interloper, who had come into a quiet family, married
the daughter in spite of the father's opposition, alienated
the wife from the husband and the husband's religion,
supported her in a long course of resistance and rebellion,
and, after years of intimacy, already too close and tender
for any jealous spirit to behold without resentment, carried
her away with him at last into a foreign land. But it is not
quite easy to understand how, except out of sheer weariness
and disgust, he was ever brought to agree to the arrangement.
Nor is it easy to square the Reformer's conduct with his
public teaching. We have, for instance, a letter by him,
Craig, and Spottiswood, to the Archbishops of Canterbury and
York, anent "a wicked and rebellious woman," one Anne Good,
spouse to "John Barron, a minister of Christ Jesus his
evangel," who, "after great rebellion shown unto him, and
divers admonitions given, as well by himself as by others in
his name, that she should in no wise depart from this realm,
nor from his house without his license, hath not the less
stubbornly and rebelliously departed, separated herself from
his society, left his house, and withdrawn herself from this
realm." (2) Perhaps some sort of license was extorted, as I
have said, from Richard Bowes, weary with years of domestic
dissension; but setting that aside, the words employed with
so much righteous indignation by Knox, Craig, and
Spottiswood, to describe the conduct of that wicked and
rebellious woman, Mrs. Barron, would describe nearly as
exactly the conduct of the religious Mrs. Bowes. It is a
little bewildering, until we recollect the distinction
between faithful and unfaithful husbands; for Barron was "a
minister of Christ Jesus his evangel," while Richard Bowes,
besides being own brother to a despiser and taunter of God's
messengers, is shrewdly suspected to have been "a bigoted
adherent of the Roman Catholic faith," or, as Know himself
would have expressed it, "a rotten Papist."

(1) Mr. Laing's preface to the sixth volume of Knox's Works,
p. lxii.
(2) Works. vi. 534.

You would have thought that Know was now pretty well supplied
with female society. But we are not yet at the end of the
roll. The last year of his sojourn in England had been spent
principally in London, where he was resident as one of the
chaplains of Edward the Sixth; and here he boasts, although a
stranger, he had, by God's grace, found favour before many.
(1) The godly women of the metropolis made much of him; once
he writes to Mrs. Bowes that her last letter had found him
closeted with three, and he and the three women were all in
tears. (2) Out of all, however, he had chosen two. "GOD," he
and my heart was opened and compelled in your presence to be
more plain than ever I was to any." (3) And out of the two
even he had chosen one, Mrs. Anne Locke, wife to Mr. Harry
Locke, merchant, nigh to Bow Kirk, Cheapside, in London, as
the address runs. If one may venture to judge upon such
imperfect evidence, this was the woman he loved best. I have
a difficulty in quite forming to myself an idea of her
character. She may have been one of the three tearful
visitors before alluded to; she may even have been that one
of them who was so profoundly moved by some passages of Mrs.
Bowes's letter, which the Reformer opened, and read aloud to
them before they went. "O would to God," cried this
impressionable matron, "would to God that I might speak with
that person, for I perceive there are more tempted than I."
(4) This may have been Mrs. Locke, as I say; but even if it
were, we must not conclude from this one fact that she was
such another as Mrs. Bowes. All the evidence tends the other
way. She was a woman of understanding, plainly, who followed
political events with interest, and to whom Knox thought it
worth while to write, in detail, the history of his trials
and successes. She was religious, but without that morbid
perversity of spirit that made religion so heavy a burden for
the poor-hearted Mrs. Bowes. More of her I do not find, save
testimony to the profound affection that united her to the
Reformer. So we find him writing to her from Geneva, in such
terms as these:- "You write that your desire is earnest to
OF YOU; but that would evanish by the comfort of your
presence, which I assure you is so dear to me, that if the
charge of this little flock here, gathered together in
Christ's name, did not impede me, my coming should prevent my
letter." (5) I say that this was written from Geneva; and
yet you will observe that it is no consideration for his wife
or mother-in-law, only the charge of his little flock, that
keeps him from setting out forthwith for London, to comfort
himself with the dear presence of Mrs. Locke. Remember that
was a certain plausible enough pretext for Mrs. Locke to come
to Geneva - "the most perfect school of Christ that ever was
on earth since the days of the Apostles" - for we are now
under the reign of that "horrible monster Jezebel of
England," when a lady of good orthodox sentiments was better
out of London. It was doubtful, however, whether this was to
be. She was detained in England, partly by circumstances
unknown, "partly by empire of her head," Mr. Harry Locke, the
Cheapside merchant. It is somewhat humorous to see Knox
struggling for resignation, now that he has to do with a
faithful husband (for Mr. Harry Locke was faithful). Had it
been otherwise, "in my heart," he says, "I could have wished
- yea," here he breaks out, "yea, and cannot cease to wish -
that God would guide you to this place." (6) And after all,
he had not long to wait, for, whether Mr. Harry Locke died in
the interval, or was wearied, he too, into giving permission,
five months after the date of the letter last quoted, "Mrs.
Anne Locke, Harry her son, and Anne her daughter, and
Katherine her maid," arrived in that perfect school of
Christ, the Presbyterian paradise, Geneva. So now, and for
the next two years, the cup of Knox's happiness was surely
full. Of an afternoon, when the bells rang out for the
sermon, the shops closed, and the good folk gathered to the
churches, psalm-book in hand, we can imagine him drawing near
to the English chapel in quite patriarchal fashion, with Mrs.
Knox and Mrs. Bowes and Mrs. Locke, James his servant,
Patrick his pupil, and a due following of children and maids.
He might be alone at work all morning in his study, for he
wrote much during these two years; but at night, you may be
sure there was a circle of admiring women, eager to hear the
new paragraph, and not sparing of applause. And what work,
among others, was he elaborating at this time, but the
notorious "First Blast"? So that he may have rolled out in
his big pulpit voice, how women were weak, frail, impatient,
feeble, foolish, inconstant, variable, cruel, and lacking the
spirit of counsel, and how men were above them, even as God
is above the angels, in the ears of his own wife, and the two
dearest friends he had on earth. But he had lost the sense
of incongruity, and continued to despise in theory the sex he
honoured so much in practice, of whom he chose his most
intimate associates, and whose courage he was compelled to
wonder at, when his own heart was faint.

(1) Works, iv. 220.
(2) IB. iii. 380.
(3) IB. iv. 220.
(4) Works, iii. 380.
(5) Works, iv. 238.
(6) Works, iv. 240.

We may say that such a man was not worthy of his fortune; and
so, as he would not learn, he was taken away from that
agreeable school, and his fellowship of women was broken up,
not to be reunited. Called into Scotland to take at last
that strange position in history which is his best claim to
commemoration, he was followed thither by his wife and his
mother-in-law. The wife soon died. The death of her
daughter did not altogether separate Mrs. Bowes from Knox,
but she seems to have come and gone between his house and
England. In 1562, however, we find him characterised as "a
sole man by reason of the absence of his mother-in-law, Mrs.
Bowes," and a passport is got for her, her man, a maid, and
"three horses, whereof two shall return," as well as liberty
to take all her own money with her into Scotland. This looks
like a definite arrangement; but whether she died at
Edinburgh, or went back to England yet again, I cannot find.

With that great family of hers, unless in leaving her husband
she had quarrelled with them all, there must have been
frequent occasion for her presence, one would think. Knox at
least survived her; and we possess his epigraph to their long
intimacy, given to the world by him in an appendix to his
latest publication. I have said in a former paper that Knox
was not shy of personal revelations in his published works.
And the trick seems to have grown on him. To this last
tract, a controversial onslaught on a Scottish Jesuit, he
prefixed a prayer, not very pertinent to the matter in hand,
and containing references to his family which were the
occasion of some wit in his adversary's answer; and appended
what seems equally irrelevant, one of his devout letters to
Mrs. Bowes, with an explanatory preface. To say truth, I
believe he had always felt uneasily that the circumstances of
this intimacy were very capable of misconstruction; and now,
when he was an old man, taking "his good night of all the
faithful in both realms," and only desirous "that without any
notable sclander to the evangel of Jesus Christ, he might end
his battle; for as the world was weary of him, so was he of
it;" - in such a spirit it was not, perhaps, unnatural that
he should return to this old story, and seek to put it right
in the eyes of all men, ere he died. "Because that God," he
says, "because that God now in His mercy hath put an end to
the battle of my dear mother, Mistress Elizabeth Bowes,
before that He put an end to my wretched life, I could not
cease but declare to the world what was the cause of our
great familiarity and long acquaintance; which was neither
flesh nor blood, but a troubled conscience upon her part,
which never suffered her to rest but when she was in the
company of the faithful, of whom (from the first hearing of
the word at my mouth) she judged me to be one. . . . Her
company to me was comfortable (yea, honourable and
profitable, for she was to me and mine a mother), but yet it
was not without some cross; for besides trouble and fashery
of body sustained for her, my mind was seldom quiet, for
doing somewhat for the comfort of her troubled conscience."
(1) He had written to her years before, from his first exile
in Dieppe, that "only God's hand" could withhold him from
once more speaking with her face to face; and now, when God's
hand has indeed interposed, when there lies between them,
instead of the voyageable straits, that great gulf over which
no man can pass, this is the spirit in which he can look back
upon their long acquaintance. She was a religious
hypochondriac, it appears, whom, not without some cross and
fashery of mind and body, he was good enough to tend. He
might have given a truer character of their friendship, had
he thought less of his own standing in public estimation, and
more of the dead woman. But he was in all things, as Burke
said of his son in that ever memorable passage, a public
creature. He wished that even into this private place of his
affections posterity should follow him with a complete
approval; and he was willing, in order that this might be so,
to exhibit the defects of his lost friend, and tell the world
what weariness he had sustained through her unhappy
disposition. There is something here that reminds one of

(1) Works, vi. 513, 514.

I do not think he ever saw Mrs. Locke after he left Geneva;
but his correspondence with her continued for three years.
It may have continued longer, of course, but I think the last
letters we possess read like the last that would be written.
Perhaps Mrs. Locke was then remarried, for there is much
obscurity over her subsequent history. For as long as their
intimacy was kept up, at least, the human element remains in
the Reformer's life. Here is one passage, for example, the
most likable utterance of Knox's that I can quote:- Mrs Locke
has been upbraiding him as a bad correspondent. "My
remembrance of you," he answers, "is not so dead, but I trust
it shall be fresh enough, albeit it be renewed by no outward
ME. However it (THAT) be, it cannot be, as I say, the
corporal absence of one year or two that can quench in my
heart that familiar acquaintance in Christ Jesus, which half
a year did engender, and almost two years did nourish and
confirm. And therefore, whether I write or no, be assuredly
persuaded that I have you in such memory as becometh the
faithful to have of the faithful." (1) This is the truest
touch of personal humility that I can remember to have seen
in all the five volumes of the Reformer's collected works: it
is no small honour to Mrs. Locke that his affection for her
should have brought home to him this unwonted feeling of
dependence upon others. Everything else in the course of the
correspondence testifies to a good, sound, down-right sort of
friendship between the two, less ecstatic than it was at
first, perhaps, but serviceable and very equal. He gives her
ample details is to the progress of the work of reformation;
sends her the sheets of the CONFESSION OF FAITH, "in quairs,"
as he calls it; asks her to assist him with her prayers, to
collect money for the good cause in Scotland, and to send him
books for himself - books by Calvin especially, one on
Isaiah, and a new revised edition of the "Institutes." "I
must be bold on your liberality," he writes, "not only in
that, but in greater things as I shall need." (2) On her
part she applies to him for spiritual advice, not after the
manner of the drooping Mrs. Bowes, but in a more positive
spirit, - advice as to practical points, advice as to the
Church of England, for instance, whose ritual he condemns as
a "mingle-mangle." (3) Just at the end she ceases to write,
sends him "a token, without writing." "I understand your
impediment," he answers, "and therefore I cannot complain.
Yet if you understood the variety of my temptations, I doubt
not but you would have written somewhat." (4) One letter
more, and then silence.

(1) Works, vi. ii.
(2) Works, vi. pp. 21. 101, 108, 130.
(3) IB. vi. 83.
(4) IB. vi. 129.

And I think the best of the Reformer died out with that
correspondence. It is after this, of course, that he wrote
that ungenerous description of his intercourse with Mrs.
Bowes. It is after this, also, that we come to the unlovely
episode of his second marriage. He had been left a widower
at the age of fifty-five. Three years after, it occurred
apparently to yet another pious parent to sacrifice a child
upon the altar of his respect for the Reformer. In January
1563, Randolph writes to Cecil: "Your Honour will take it for
a great wonder when I shall write unto you that Mr. Knox
shall marry a very near kinswoman of the Duke's, a Lord's
daughter, a young lass not above sixteen years of age." (1)
He adds that he fears he will be laughed at for reporting so
mad a story. And yet it was true; and on Palm Sunday, 1564,
Margaret Stewart, daughter of Andrew Lord Stewart of
Ochiltree, aged seventeen, was duly united to John Knox,
Minister of St. Giles's Kirk, Edinburgh, aged fifty-nine, -
to the great disgust of Queen Mary from family pride, and I
would fain hope of many others for more humane
considerations. "In this," as Randolph says, "I wish he had
done otherwise." The Consistory of Geneva, "that most
perfect school of Christ that ever was on earth since the
days of the Apostles," were wont to forbid marriages on the
ground of too great a disproportion in age. I cannot help
wondering whether the old Reformer's conscience did not
uneasily remind him, now and again, of this good custom of
his religious metropolis, as he thought of the two-and-forty
years that separated him from his poor bride. Fitly enough,
we hear nothing of the second Mrs. Knox until she appears at
her husband's deathbed, eight years after. She bore him
three daughters in the interval; and I suppose the poor
child's martyrdom was made as easy for her as might be. She
was extremely attentive to him "at the end, we read and he
seems to have spoken to her with some confidence. Moreover,
and this is very characteristic, he had copied out for her
use a little volume of his own devotional letters to other

(1) Works, vi. 532.

This is the end of the roll, unless we add to it Mrs.
Adamson, who had delighted much in his company "by reason
that she had a troubled conscience," and whose deathbed is
commemorated at some length in the pages of his history. (1)

(1) Works, i. 246.

And now, looking back, it cannot be said that Knox's
intercourse with women was quite of the highest sort. It is
characteristic that we find him more alarmed for his own
reputation than for the reputation of the women with whom he
was familiar. There was a fatal preponderance of self in all
his intimacies: many women came to learn from him, but he
never condescended to become a learner in his turn. And so
there is not anything idyllic in these intimacies of his; and
they were never so renovating to his spirit as they might
have been. But I believe they were good enough for the
women. I fancy the women knew what they were about when so
many of them followed after Knox. It is not simply because a
man is always fully persuaded that he knows the right from
the wrong and sees his way plainly through the maze of life,
great qualities as these are, that people will love and
follow him, and write him letters full of their "earnest
desire for him" when he is absent. It is not over a man,
whose one characteristic is grim fixity of purpose, that the
hearts of women are "incensed and kindled with a special
care," as it were over their natural children. In the strong
quiet patience of all his letters to the weariful Mrs. Bowes,
we may perhaps see one cause of the fascination he possessed
for these religious women. Here was one whom you could
besiege all the year round with inconsistent scruples and
complaints; you might write to him on Thursday that you were
so elated it was plain the devil was deceiving you, and again
on Friday that you were so depressed it was plain God had
cast you off for ever; and he would read all this patiently
and sympathetically, and give you an answer in the most
reassuring polysyllables, and all divided into heads - who
knows? - like a treatise on divinity. And then, those easy
tears of his. There are some women who like to see men
crying; and here was this great-voiced, bearded man of God,
who might be seen beating the solid pulpit every Sunday, and
casting abroad his clamorous denunciations to the terror of
all, and who on the Monday would sit in their parlours by the
hour, and weep with them over their manifold trials and
temptations. Nowadays, he would have to drink a dish of tea
with all these penitents. . . . It sounds a little vulgar, as
the past will do, if we look into it too closely. We could
not let these great folk of old into our drawing-rooms.
Queen Elizabeth would positively not be eligible for a
housemaid. The old manners and the old customs go sinking
from grade to grade, until, if some mighty emperor revisited
the glimpses of the moon, he would not find any one of his
way of thinking, any one he could strike hands with and talk
to freely and without offence, save perhaps the porter at the
end of the street, or the fellow with his elbows out who
loafs all day before the public-house. So that this little
note of vulgarity is not a thing to be dwelt upon; it is to
be put away from us, as we recall the fashion of these old
intimacies; so that we may only remember Knox as one who was
very long-suffering with women, kind to them in his own way,
loving them in his own way - and that not the worst way, if
it was not the best - and once at least, if not twice, moved
to his heart of hearts by a woman, and giving expression to
the yearning he had for her society in words that none of us
need be ashamed to borrow.

And let us bear in mind always that the period I have gone
over in this essay begins when the Reformer was already
beyond the middle age, and already broken in bodily health:
it has been the story of an old man's friendships. This it
is that makes Knox enviable. Unknown until past forty, he
had then before him five-and-thirty years of splendid and
influential life, passed through uncommon hardships to an
uncommon degree of power, lived in his own country as a sort
of king, and did what he would with the sound of his voice
out of the pulpit. And besides all this, such a following of
faithful women! One would take the first forty years gladly,
if one could be sure of the last thirty. Most of us, even
if, by reason of great strength and the dignity of gray
hairs, we retain some degree of public respect in the latter
days of our existence, will find a falling away of friends,
and a solitude making itself round about us day by day, until
we are left alone with the hired sick-nurse. For the
attraction of a man's character is apt to be outlived, like
the attraction of his body; and the power to love grows
feeble in its turn, as well as the power to inspire love in
others. It is only with a few rare natures that friendship
is added to friendship, love to love, and the man keeps
growing richer in affection - richer, I mean, as a bank may
be said to grow richer, both giving and receiving more -
after his head is white and his back weary, and he prepares
to go down into the dust of death.

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