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Occasional Papers by R.W. Church

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breaking off from its beginnings. It is a spectacle which M. Renan, who
has lived this life, takes a gentle pleasure in contemplating. He looks
back on it with thankfulness, and also with amusement It makes a
charming and complete picture. No part could be wanting without
injuring the effect of the whole. It is the very ideal of the education
of the Rousseau school--a child of nature, developing, amid the
simplest and humblest circumstances of life, the finest gifts and most
delicate graces of faith and reverence and purity--brought up by sages
whose wisdom he could not in time help outrunning, but whose piety,
sweetness, disinterestedness, and devoted labour left on his mind
impressions which nothing could wear out; and at length, when the time
came, passing naturally, and without passion or bitterness, from out of
their faithful but too narrow discipline into a wider and ampler air,
and becoming, as was fit, master and guide to himself, with light which
they could not bear, and views of truth greater and deeper than they
could conceive. But every stage of the progress, through the virtues of
the teachers, and the felicitous disposition of the pupil, exhibits
both in exactly the due relations in which each ought to be with the
other, with none of the friction of rebellious and refractory temper on
one side, or of unintelligent harshness on the other. He has nothing to
regret in the schools through which he passed, in the preparations
which he made there for the future, in the way in which they shaped his
life. He lays down the maxim, "On ne doit jamais ecrire que de ce qu'on
aime." There is a serene satisfaction diffused through the book, which
scarcely anything intervenes to break or disturb; he sees so much
poetry in his life, so much content, so much signal and unlooked-for
success, that he has little to tell except what is delightful and
admirable. And then he is so certain that he is right: he can look down
with so much good-humoured superiority on past and present, alike on
what he calls "l'effroyable aventure du moyen age," and on the march of
modern society to the dead level of "Americanism." It need not be said
that the story is told with all M. Renan's consummate charm of
storytelling. All that it wants is depth of real feeling and
seriousness--some sense of the greatness of what he has had to give up,
not merely of its poetic beauty and tender associations. It hardly
seems to occur to him that something more than his easy cheerfulness
and his vivid historical imagination is wanted to solve for him the
problems of the world, and that his gradual transition from the
Catholicism of the seminary to the absolute rejection of the
supernatural in religion does not, as he describes it, throw much light
on the question of the hopes and destiny of mankind.

The outline of his story is soon told. It is in general like that of
many more who in France have broken away from religion. A clever
studious boy, a true son of old Brittany--the most melancholy, the most
tender, the most ardent, the most devout, not only of all French
provinces, but of all regions in Europe--is passed on from the teaching
of good, simple, hard-working country priests to the central
seminaries, where the leaders of the French clergy are educated. He
comes up a raw, eager, ignorant provincial, full of zeal for knowledge,
full of reverence and faith, and first goes through the distinguished
literary school of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet, of which Dupanloup was
the founder and the inspiring soul. Thence he passed under the more
strictly professional discipline of St. Sulpice: first at the
preparatory philosophical school at Issy, then to study scientific
theology in the house of St. Sulpice itself at Paris. At St. Sulpice he
showed special aptitudes for the study of Hebrew, in which he was
assisted and encouraged by M. le Hir, "the most remarkable person," in
his opinion, "whom the French clergy has produced in our days," a
"savant and a saint," who had mastered the results of German criticism
as they were found in the works of Gesenius and Ewald. On his faith all
this knowledge had not made the faintest impression; but it was this
knowledge which broke down M. Renan's, and finally led to his retiring
from St. Sulpice. On the one side was the Bible and Catholic theology,
carefully, scientifically, and consistently taught at St. Sulpice; on
the other were the exegesis and the historical criticism of the German
school. He came at length to the conclusion that the two are
incompatible; that there was but a choice of alternatives; and purely
on the ground of historical criticism, he says, not on any abstract
objections to the supernatural, or to miracles, or to Catholic dogma,
he gave up revealed religion. He gave it up not without regrets at the
distress caused to friends, and at parting with much that was endeared
to him by old associations, and by intrinsic beauty and value; but, as
far as can be judged, without any serious sense of loss. He spent some
time in obscurity, teaching, and studying laboriously, and at length
beginning to write. Michel Levy, the publisher, found him out, and
opened to him a literary career, and in due time he became famous. He
has had the ambiguous honour of making the Bible an object of such
interest to French readers as it never was before, at the cost of
teaching them to find in it a reflection of their own characteristic
ways of looking at life and the world. It is not an easy thing to do
with such a book as the Bible; but he has done it.

As a mere history of a change of convictions, the _Souvenirs_ are
interesting, but hardly of much importance. They are written with a
kind of Epicurean serenity and dignity, avoiding all exaggeration and
violence, profuse in every page in the delicacies and also in the
reticences of respect, not too serious to exclude the perpetual
suggestion of a well-behaved amused irony, not too much alive to the
ridiculous and the self-contradictory to forget the attitude of
composure due to the theme of the book. He warns his readers at the
outset that they must not look for a stupid literalness in his account.
"Ce qu'on dit de soi est toujours poesie"--the reflection of states of
mind and varying humours, not the exact details of fact. "Tout est vrai
dans ce petit volume, mais non de ce genre de verite qui est requis
pour une _Biographie universelle_. Bien des choses ont ete mises, afin
qu'on sourie; si l'usage l'eut permis, j'aurais du ecrire plus d'une
fois a la marge--_cum grano salis_". It is candid to warn us thus to
read a little between the lines; but it is a curious and unconscious
disclosure of his characteristic love of a mixture of the misty and the
clear. The really pleasant part of it is his account, which takes up
half the volume, of Breton ways and feelings half a century ago, an
account which exactly tallies with the pictures of them in Souvestre's
writings; and the kindliness and justice with which he speaks of his
old Catholic and priestly teachers, not only in his boyish days at
Treguier, but in his seminary life in Paris. His account of this
seminary life is unique in its picturesque vividness. He describes how,
at St. Nicolas, under the fiery and irresistible Dupanloup, whom he
speaks of with the reserved courtesy due to a distinguished person whom
he much dislikes, his eager eyes were opened to the realities of
literature, and to the subtle powers of form and style in writing,
which have stood him in such stead, and have been the real secret of
his own success.

Le monde s'ouvrit pour moi. Malgre sa pretention d'etre un asile
ferme aux bruits du dehors, Saint-Nicolas etait a cette epoque la
maison la plus brillante et la plus mondaine. Paris y entrait a
pleins bords par les portes et les fenetres, Paris tout entier,
moins la corruption, je me hate de le dire, Paris avec ses
petitesses et ses grandeurs, ses hardiesses et ses chiffons, sa
force revolutionnaire et ses mollesses flasques. Mes vieux pretres
de Bretagne savaient bien mieux les mathematiques et le latin que
mes nouveaux maitres; mais ils vivaient dans des catacombes sans
lumiere et sans air. Ici, l'atmosphere du siecle circulait
librement.... Au bout de quelque temps une chose tout a fait
inconnue m'etait revelee. Les mots, talent, eclat, reputation
eurent un sens pour moi. J'etais perdu pour l'ideal modeste que
mes anciens maitres m'avaient inculque.

And he describes how Dupanloup brought his pupils perpetually into
direct relations with himself and communicated to them something of his
own enthusiasm. He gained the power over their hearts which a great
general gains over his soldiers. His approval, his interest in a man,
were the all-absorbing object, the all-sufficient reward; the one
punishment feared was dismissal, always inflicted with courtesy and
tact, from the honour and the joy of serving under him:--

Adore de ses eleves, M. Dupanloup n'etait pas toujours agreable a
ces collaborateurs. On m'a dit que, plus tard, dans son diocese,
les choses se passerent de la meme maniere, qu'il fut toujours
plus aime de ses laiques que de ses pretres. Il est certain qu'il
ecrasait tout autour de lui. Mais sa violence meme nous attachait;
car nous sentions que nous etions son but unique. Ce qu'il etait,
c'etait un eveilleur incomparable; pour tirer de chacun de ses
eleves la somme de ce qu'il pouvait donner, personne ne l'egalait.
Chacun de ses deux cents eleves existait distinct dans sa pensee;
il etait pour chacun d'eux l'excitateur toujours present, le motif
de vivre et de travailler. Il croyait au talent et en faisait la
base de la foi. Il repetait souvent que l'homme vaut en proportion
de sa faculte d'admirer. Son admiration n'etait pas toujours assez
eclairee par la science; mais elle venait d'une grande chaleur
d'ame et d'un coeur vraiment possede de l'amour du beau.... Les
defauts de l'education qu'il donnait etaient les defauts meme de
son esprit. Il etait trop peu rationnel, trop peu scientifique. On
eut dit que ses deux cents eleves etaient destines a etre tous
poetes, ecrivains, orateurs.

St. Nicolas was literary. Issy and St. Sulpice were severely
philosophic and scientific, places of "_fortes etudes_"; and the writer
thinks that they were more to his own taste than the more brilliant
literary education given under Dupanloup. In one sense it may be so.
They introduced him to exactness of thought and precision of
expression, and they widened his horizon of possible and attainable
knowledge. He passed, he says, from words to things. But he is a writer
who owes so much to the form into which he throws his thoughts, to the
grace and brightness and richness of his style, that he probably is a
greater debtor to the master whom he admires and dislikes, Dupanloup,
than to the modest, reserved, and rather dull Sulpician teachers, whom
he loves and reveres and smiles at, whose knowledge of theology was
serious, profound, and accurate, and whose characteristic temper was
one of moderation and temperate reason, joined to a hatred of display,
and a suspicion of all that seemed too clever and too brilliant. But
his witness to their excellence, to their absolute self-devotion to
their work, to their dislike of extravagance and exaggeration, to their
good sense and cultivation, is ungrudging and warm. Of course he thinks
them utterly out of date; but on their own ground he recognises that
they were men of strength and solidity, the best and most thorough of
teachers; the most sincere, the most humble, the most self-forgetting
of priests:--

Beaucoup de mes jugements etonnent les gens du monde parcequ'ils
n'out pas vu ce que j'ai vu. J'ai vu a Saint-Sulpice, associes a
des idees etroites, je l'avoue, les miracles que nos races peuvent
produire en fait de bonte, de modestie, d'abnegation personelle.
Ce qu'il y a de vertu a Saint-Sulpice suffirait pour gouverner un
monde, et cela m'a rendu difficile pour ce que j'ai trouve

M. Renan, as we have said, is very just to his education, and to the
men who gave it. He never speaks of them except with respect and
gratitude. It is seldom, indeed, that he permits himself anything like
open disparagement of the men and the cause which he forsook. The
shafts of his irony are reserved for men on his own side, for the
radical violences of M. Clemenceau, and for the exaggerated reputation
of Auguste Comte, "who has been set up as a man of the highest order of
genius, for having said, in bad French, what all scientific thinkers
for two hundred years have seen as clearly as himself." He attributes
to his ecclesiastical training those excellences in his own temper and
principles on which he dwells with much satisfaction and thankfulness.
They are, he considers, the result of his Christian and "Sulpician"
education, though the root on which they grew is for ever withered and
dead. "La foi disparue, la morale reste.... C'est par le caractere que
je suis reste essentiellement l'eleve de mes anciens maitres." He is
proud of these virtues, and at the same time amused at the odd
contradictions in which they have sometimes involved him:--

Il me plairait d'expliquer par le detail et de montrer comment la
gageure paradoxale de garder les vertus clericales, sans la foi
qui leur sert de base et dans un monde pour lequel elles ne sont
pas faites, produisit, en ce que me concerne, les rencontres les
plus divertissantes. J'aimerais a raconter toutes les aventures
que mes vertus sulpiciennes m'amenerent, et les tours singuliers
qu'elles m'ont joues. Apres soixante ans de vie serieuse on a le
droit de sourire; et ou trouver une source de rire plus abondante,
plus a portee, plus inoffensive qu'en soimeme? Si jamais un auteur
comique voulait amuser le public de mes ridicules, je ne lui
demanderais qu'une chose; c'est de me prendre pour collaborateur;
je lui conterais des choses vingt fois plus amusantes que celles
qu'il pourrait inventer.

He dwells especially on four of these virtues which were, he thinks,
graven ineffaceably on his nature at St. Sulpice. They taught him there
not to care for money or success. They taught him the old-fashioned
French politeness--that beautiful instinct of giving place to others,
which is perishing in the democratic scramble for the best places, in
the omnibus and the railway as in business and society. It is more
curious to find that he thinks that they taught him to be modest.
Except on the faith of his assertions, the readers of his book would
not naturally have supposed that he believed himself specially endowed
with this quality; it is at any rate the modesty which, if it shrinks
into retirement from the pretensions of the crowd, goes along with a
high and pitying sense of superiority, and a self-complacency of which
the good humour never fails. His masters also taught him to value
purity. For this he almost makes a sort of deprecating apology. He saw,
indeed, "the vanity of this virtue as of all the others"; he admits
that it is an unnatural virtue. But he says, "L'homme ne doit jamais se
permettre deux hardiesses a la fois. Le libre penseur doit etre regle
en ses moeurs." In this doctrine it may be doubted whether he will find
many followers. An unnatural virtue, where nature only is recognised as
a guide, is more likely to be discredited by his theory than
recommended by his example, particularly if the state of opinion in
France is such as is described in the following passage--a passage
which in England few men, whatever they might think, would have the
boldness to state as an acknowledged social phenomenon:--

Le monde, dont les jugements sont rarement tout a fait faux, voit
une sorte de ridicule a etre vertueux quand on n'y est pas oblige
par un devoir professionnel. Le pretre, ayant pour etat d'etre
chaste, comme le soldat d'etre brave, est, d'apres ces idees,
presque le seul qui puisse sans ridicule tenir a des principes sur
lesquels la morale et la mode se livrent les plus etranges
combats. Il est hors de doute qu'en ce point, comme en beaucoup
d'autres, mes principes clericaux, conserves dans le siecle, m'ont
nui aux yeux du monde.

We have one concluding observation to make. This is a book of which the
main interest, after all, depends on the way in which it touches on the
question of questions, the truth and reality of the Christian religion.
But from first to last it docs not show the faintest evidence that the
writer ever really knew, or even cared, what religion is. Religion is
not only a matter of texts, of scientific criticisms, of historical
investigations, of a consistent theology. It is not merely a procession
of external facts and events, a spectacle to be looked at from the
outside. It is, if it is anything, the most considerable and most
universal interest in the complex aggregate of human interests. It
grows out of the deepest moral roots, out of the most characteristic
and most indestructible spiritual elements, out of wants and needs and
aspirations and hopes, without which man, as we know him, would not be
man. When a man, in asking whether Christianity is true, leaves out all
this side of the matter, when he shows that it has not come before him
as a serious and importunate reality, when he shows that he is
unaffected by those deep movements and misgivings and anxieties of the
soul to which religion corresponds, and treats the whole matter as a
question only of erudition and criticism, we may acknowledge him to be
an original and acute critic, a brilliant master of historical
representation; but he has never yet come face to face with the
problems of religion. His love of truth may be unimpeachable, but he
docs not know what he is talking about. M. Renan speaks of giving up
his religion as a man might speak of accepting a new and unpopular
physical hypothesis like evolution, or of making up his mind to give up
the personality of Homer or the early history of Rome. Such an interior
attitude of mind towards religion as is implied, for instance, in
Bishop Butler's _Sermons on the Love of God_, or the _De Imitatione_ or
Newman's _Parochial Sermons_ seems to him, as far as we can judge, an
unknown and unattempted experience. It is easy to deal with a question
if you leave out half the factors of it, and those the most difficult
and the most serious. It is easy to be clear if you do not choose to
take notice of the mysterious, and if you exclude from your
consideration as vague and confused all that vast department of human
concerns where we at best can only "see through a glass darkly." It is
easy to find the world a pleasant and comfortable and not at all
perplexing place, if your life has been, as M. Renan describes his own,
a "charming promenade" through it; if, as he says, you are blessed with
"a good humour not easily disturbed "; and you "have not suffered
much"; and "nature has prepared cushions to soften shocks"; and you
have "had so much enjoyment in this life that you really have no right
to claim any compensation beyond it." That is M. Renan's experience of
life--a life of which he looks forward to the perfection in the
clearness and security of its possible denials of ancient beliefs, and
in the immense development of its positive and experimental knowledge.
How would Descartes have rejoiced, he says, if he could have seen some
poor treatise on physics or cosmography of our day, and what would we
not give to catch a glimpse of such an elementary schoolbook of a
hundred years hence.

But that is not at any rate the experience of all the world, nor does
it appear likely ever to be within the reach of all the world. There is
another aspect of life more familiar than this, an aspect which has
presented itself to the vast majority of mankind, the awful view of it
which is made tragic by pain and sorrow and moral evil; which, in the
way in which religion looks at it, if it is sterner, is also higher and
nobler, and is brightened by hope and purposes of love; a view which
puts more upon men and requires more from them, but holds before them a
destiny better than the perfection here of physical science. To minds
which realise all this, it is more inconceivable than any amount of
miracle that such a religion as Christianity should have emerged
naturally out of the conditions of the first century. They refuse to
settle such a question by the short and easy method on which M. Renan
relies; they will not consent to put it on questions about the two
Isaiahs, or about alleged discrepancies between the Evangelists; they
will not think the claims of religion disposed of by M. Renan's canon,
over and over again contradicted, that whether there can be or not,
there _is_ no evidence of the supernatural in the world. To those who
measure and feel the true gravity of the issues, it is almost
unintelligible to find a man who has been face to face with
Christianity all his life treating the deliberate condemnation of it
almost gaily and with a light heart, and showing no regrets in having
to give it up as a delusion and a dream. It is a poor and meagre end of
a life of thought and study to come to the conclusion that the age in
which he has lived is, if not one of the greatest, at least "the most
amusing of all ages."



_Life and Letters of Frederick W. Robertson_. Edited by Stopford A.
Brooke. _Guardian_, 15th November 1865.

If the proof of a successful exhibition of a strongly marked and
original character be that it excites and sustains interest throughout,
that our tastes are appealed to and our judgments called forth with
great strength, that we pass continuously and rapidly, as we read, from
deep and genuine admiration to equally deep and genuine dissent and
disapprobation, that it allows us to combine a general but irresistible
sense of excellence growing upon us through the book with an
under-current of real and honest dislike and blame, then this book in a
great measure satisfies the condition of success. It is undeniable that
in what it shows us of Mr. Robertson there is much to admire, much to
sympathise with, much to touch us, a good deal to instruct us. He is
set before us, indeed, by the editor, as the ideal of all that a great
Christian teacher and spiritual guide, all that a brave and wise and
high-souled man, may be conceived to be. We cannot quite accept him as
an example of such rare and signal achievement; and the fault of the
book is the common one of warm-hearted biographers to wind their own
feelings and those of their readers too high about their subject; to
talk as if their hero's excellences were unknown till he appeared to
display them, and to make up for the imperfect impression resulting
from actual facts and qualities by insisting with overstrained emphasis
on a particular interpretation of them. The book would be more truthful
and more pleasing if the editor's connecting comments were more simply
written, and made less pretension to intensity and energy of language.
Yet with all drawbacks of what seem to us imperfect taste, an imperfect
standard of character, and an imperfect appreciation of what there is
in the world beyond a given circle of interests, the book does what a
biography ought to do--it shows us a remarkable man, and it gives us
the means of forming our own judgment about him. It is not a tame
panegyric or a fancy picture.

The main portion of the book consists of Mr. Robertson's own letters,
and his own accounts of himself; and we are allowed to see him, in a
great degree at least, as he really was. The editor draws a moral,
indeed, and tells us what we ought to think about what we see; but we
can use our own judgment about that. And, as so often happens in real
life, what we see both attracts and repels; it calls forth,
successively and in almost equal measure, warm sympathy and admiration,
and distinct and hearty disagreement. At least there is nothing of
commonplace--of what is commonplace yet in our generation; though there
is a good deal that bids fair to become commonplace in the next. It is
the record of a genuine spontaneous character, seeking its way, its
duty, its perfection, with much sincerity and elevation of purpose, and
many anxieties and sorrows, and not, we doubt not, without much of the
fruits that come with real self-devotion; a record disclosing a man
with great faults and conspicuous blanks in his nature, one with whose
principles, taste, or judgment we constantly find ourselves having a
vehement quarrel, just after having been charmed and conciliated by
some unexpectedly powerful or refined statement of an important truth.
We cannot think, and few besides his own friends will think, that he
had laid his hand with so sure an accuracy and with so much promise
upon the clue which others had lost or bungled over. But there is much
to learn in his thoughts and words, and there is not less to learn from
his life. It is the life of a man who did not spare himself in
fulfilling what he received as his task, who sacrificed much in order
to speak his message, as he thought, more worthily and to do his office
more effectually, and whose career touches us the more from the shadow
of suffering and early death that hangs over its aspirations and
activity. A book which fairly shows us such a life is not of less value
because it also shows us much that we regret and condemn.

Mr. Robertson was brought up not only in the straitest traditions of
the Evangelical school, but in the heat of its controversial warfare.
His heart, when he was a boy, was set on entering the army; and one of
his most characteristic points through life, shown in many very
different forms, was his pugnacity, his keen perception of the
"_certaminis gaudia_":--

"There is something of combativeness in me," he writes, "which
prevents the whole vigour being drawn out, except when I have an
antagonist to deal with, a falsehood to quell, or a wrong to
avenge. Never till then does my mind feel quite alive. Could I
have chosen my own period of the world to have lived in, and my
own type of life, it should be the feudal ages, and the life of a
Cid, the redresser of wrongs."

"On the other hand," writes his biographer, "when he met men who
despised Christianity, or who, like the Roman Catholics, held to
doctrines which he believed untrue, this very enthusiasm and
unconscious excitement swept him sometimes beyond himself. He
could not moderate his indignation down to the cool level of
ordinary life. Hence he was wanting at this time in the wise
tolerance which formed so conspicuous a feature of his maturer
manhood. He held to his own views with pertinacity. He believed
them to be true; and he almost refused to allow the possibility of
the views of others having truth in them also. He was more or less
one-sided at this period. With the Roman Catholic religion it was
war to the death, not in his later mode of warfare, by showing the
truth which lay beneath the error, but by denouncing the error. He
seems invariably, with the pugnacity of a young man, to have
attacked their faith; and the mode in which this was done was
startlingly different from that which afterwards he adopted."

He yielded, after considerable resistance, to the wishes and advice of
his friends, that he should prepare for orders. "With a romantic
instinct of self-sacrifice," says his biographer, "he resolved to give
up the idea of his whole life." This we can quite understand; but with
that propensity of biographers to credit their subject with the
desirable qualities which it may be supposed that they ought to have,
besides those which they really have, the editor proceeds to observe
that this would scarcely have happened had not Mr. Robertson's
"_characteristic self-distrust_ disposed him to believe that he was
himself the worst judge of his future profession." This is the way in
which the true outline of a character is blurred and confused, in order
to say something proper and becoming. Self-distrust was not among the
graces or weaknesses of Mr. Robertson's nature, unless indeed we
mistake for it the anxiety which even the stoutest heart may feel at a
crisis, or the dissatisfaction which the proudest may feel at the
interval between attempt and achievement.

He was an undergraduate at Brasenose at the height of the Oxford
movement. He was known there, so far as he was known at all, as a keen
partisan of the Evangelical school; and though no one then suspected
the power which was really in him, his party, not rich in men of
strength or promise, made the most of a recruit who showed ability and
entered heartily into their watchwords, and, it must be said, their
rancour. He was conspicuous among the young men of his standing for the
forwardness with which he took his side against "Tractarianism," and
the vehemence of his dislike of it, and for the almost ostentatious and
defiant prominence which he gave to the convictions and social habits
of his school He expressed his scorn and disgust at the "donnishness,"
the coldness, the routine, the want of heart, which was all that he
could see at Oxford out of the one small circle of his friends. He
despised the Oxford course of work, and would have nothing more to do
with it than he could help--as he lived to regret afterwards. Yet even
then he was in his tastes and the instinctive tendencies of his mind
above his party. He was an admiring reader of Wordsworth and Shelley;
he felt the strength of Aristotle and Plato; he is said to have
appreciated Mr. Newman's preaching, and to have gallantly defended what
he admired in him and his friends. His editor, indeed, Mr. Brooke,
appears to be a little divided and embarrassed, between his wish to
enforce Mr. Robertson's largeness of mind and heart, and his fear of
giving countenance to suspicions that he was ever so little inclined to
"High Churchism"; between his desire to show that Mr. Robertson
estimated the High Church leaders as much as an intelligent man ought,
and disliked their system as much as a sound-thinking Christian ought.
We should have thought that he need not be so solicitous to "set at
rest the question about Mr. Robertson's High Church tendencies." "I
hate High Churchism," was one of his latest declarations, when
professing his sympathy with individual High Churchmen. One thing,
however, is quite clear--that in his early life his partisanship was
thoroughgoing and unflinching enough to satisfy the fiercest and most
fanatical of their opponents. Such a representation as this is simply

The almost fierceness with which he speaks against the Tract
school is proof in him of the strength of the attraction it
possessed for him, just as afterwards at Brighton his attacks on
Evangelicalism are proof of the strength with which he once held
to that form of Christianity, and the force of the reaction with
which he abandoned it for ever. Out of these two reactions--when
their necessary ultra tendencies had been mellowed down by
time--emerged at last the clearness and the just balance of
principles with which he taught during 1848 and the following
years, at Brighton. He had probed both schools of theological
thought to their recesses, and had found them wanting. He spoke of
what he knew when he protested against both. He spoke also of what
he knew when he publicly recognised the Spirit of all good moving
in the lives of those whose opinions he believed to be erroneous.

It is absurd to say, because he sometimes spoke of the "danger" he had
been in from "Tractarianism," that he had felt in equal degree the
"strength of attraction" towards the one school and towards the other,
and it is equally absurd to talk of his "having probed both to their
recesses." He read, and argued, and discussed the pamphlets of the
controversy--the "replies," Mr. Brooke says, with more truth probably
than he thought of in using the word--like other undergraduates who
took interest in what was going on, and thought themselves fit to
choose their side. With his tutor and friend, Mr. Churton, he read
Taylor's _Ancient Christianity_, carefully looking out the passages
from the Fathers. "I am reading the early Church history with
Golightly," he says, "which is a very great advantage, as he has a fund
of general information and is a close reader." But we must doubt
whether this involved "probing to the recesses" the "Tractarian" side
of the question. And we distrust the depth and the judgment, and the
impartiality also of a man who is said to have read Newman's sermons
continually with delight to the day of his death, and by whom no book
was more carefully studied and more highly honoured than _The Christian
Year_, and who yet to the last could see nothing better in the Church
movement as a whole than, according to the vulgar view of it, a revival
of forms partly useful, partly hurtful It seems to us the great
misfortune of his life, and one which exercised its evil influence on
him to the end, that, thrown young into the narrowest and weakest of
religious schools, he found it at first so congenial to his vehement
temperament, that he took so kindly to certain of its more unnatural
and ungenerous ways, and thus was cut off from the larger and healthier
influences of the society round him. Those were days when older men
than he took their side too precipitately; but he found himself
encouraged, even as an undergraduate, to dogmatise, to be positive, to
hate, to speak evil. He learnt the lesson too well. This is the
language of an undergraduate at the end of his university course;--

But I seem this term to have in a measure waked out of a long
trance, partly caused by my own gross inconsistencies, and partly
by the paralysing effects of this Oxford-delusion heresy, for such
it is I feel persuaded. And to know it a man must live here, and
he will see the promising and ardent men sinking one after another
in a deadly torpor, wrapped up in self-contemplation, dead to
their Redeemer, and useless to His Church, under the baneful
breath of this accursed upas tree. I say accursed, because I
believe that St. Paul would use the same language to Oxford as he
did to the Galatian Church, "I would they were even cut off which
trouble you"; accursed, because I believe that the curse of God
will fall on it He has denounced it on the Papal hereby, and he is
no respecter of persons, to punish the name and not the reality.
May He forgive me if I err, and lead me into all truth. But I do
not speak as one who has been in no clanger, and therefore cannot
speak very quietly. It is strange into what ramifications the
disbelief of external justification will extend; _we will_ make it
internal, whether it be by self-mortification, by works of
evangelical obedience, or by the sacraments, and that just at the
time when we suppose most that we are magnifying the work of the

Mr. Brooke rather likes to dwell, as it seems to us, in an unreal and
disproportionate way, on Mr. Robertson's sufferings, in the latter part
of his life, from the bitter and ungenerous attacks of which he was the
object. "This is the man," he says in one place, "who was afterwards at
Brighton driven into the deepest solitariness of heart, whom God
thought fit to surround with slander and misunderstanding." He was, we
doubt not, fiercely assailed by the Evangelical party, which he had
left, and which he denounced in no gentle language; he was, as we can
well believe, "constantly attacked, by some manfully, by others in an
underhand manner, and was the victim of innuendoes and slander." We
cannot, however, help thinking that Mr. Brooke unconsciously
exaggerates the solitariness and want of sympathy which went with all
this. Mr. Robertson had, and knew that he had, his ardent and
enthusiastic admirers as well as his worrying and untiring opponents.
But what we remark is this. It was the measure which he had meted out
to others, in the fierceness of his zeal for Evangelicalism, which the
Evangelicals afterwards meted out to him. They did not more talk evil
of what they knew not and had taken no real pains to understand, than
he had done of a body of men as able, as well-instructed, as
deep-thinking, as brave, as earnest as himself in their war against sin
and worldliness. The stupidity, the perverse ill-nature, the resolute
ignorance, the audacious and fanatical application of Scripture
condemnations, the reckless judging without a desire to do justice,
which he felt and complained of so bitterly when turned against
himself, he had sanctioned and largely shared in when the same party
which attacked him in the end attacked the earlier revivers of
thoughtful and earnest religion. Nor do we find that he ever expressed
regret for a vehemence of condemnation which his after-knowledge must
have shown him that he had no business to pass, because, even if he
afterwards adhered to it, he had originally passed it on utterly false
and inadequate grounds. He only became as fierce against the
Evangelicals as he had been against the followers of Mr. Newman. He
never unlearnt the habit of harsh reprobation which his Evangelical
friends had encouraged. He only transferred its full force against

He left Oxford and began his ministry, first at Winchester, and then at
Cheltenham, full of Evangelical _formulae_ and Evangelical narrow zeal.
It does not appear that, except as an earnest hard-working clergyman,
he was in any way distinguished from numbers of the same class, though
we are quite willing to believe that even then his preaching, in warmth
and vigour, was above the average. But as he, or his biographer, says,
he had not yet really begun to think. When he began to think, he did so
with the rapidity, the intensity, the impatient fervid vehemence which
lay all along at the bottom of his character. His Evangelical views
appear to have snapped to pieces and dissolved with a violence and
sudden abruptness entirely unaccounted for by anything which these
volumes show us. He read Carlyle; but so did many other people. He
found the religious world at Cheltenham not so pure as he had imagined
it; but this is what must have happened anywhere, and is not enough to
account for such a complete revolution of belief. He had a friend
deeply read in German philosophy and criticism who is said to have
exercised influence on him. Still, we repeat, the steps and processes
of the change from the Evangelicalism of Cheltenham to a condition, at
first, of almost absolute doubt, are very imperfectly explained:--

These letters were written in 1843. In the following year doubts
and questionings began to stir in his mind. He could not get rid
of them. They were forced upon him by his reading and his
intercourse with men. They grew and tortured him. His teaching in
the pulpit altered, and it became painful to him to preach. He was
reckoned of the Evangelical school, and he began to feel that his
position was becoming a false one. He felt the excellence and
earnestness, and gladly recognised the work of the nobler portion
of that party, but he felt also that he must separate from it. In
his strong reaction from its extreme tendencies, he understood
with a shock which upturned his whole inward life for a time, that
the system on which he had founded his whole faith and work could
never be received by him again. Within its pale, for him, there
was henceforward neither life, peace, nor reality. It was not,
however, till almost the end of his ministry at Cheltenham that
this became clearly manifest to him. It had been growing slowly
into a conviction. An outward blow--the sudden ruin of a
friendship which he had wrought, as he imagined, for ever into his
being--a blow from which he never afterwards wholly
recovered--accelerated the inward crisis, and the result was a
period of spiritual agony so awful that it not only shook his
health to its centre, but smote his spirit down into so profound a
darkness that of all his early faiths but one remained, "It must
be right to do right."

This seems to have been in 1846, and in the beginning of the next year
he had already taken his new line. The explanation does not explain
much. We have no right to ask for more than his friends think fit to
tell us of this turning-point of his life. But we observe that this
deeply important passage is left with but little light and much
manifest reticence. That the crisis took place we have his own touching
and eloquent words to assure us. It left him also as firm in his
altered convictions as he had been in his old ones. What caused it,
what were its circumstances and characteristics, and what affected its
course and results, we can only guess. But it was decisive and it was
speedy. He spent a few months in Germany in the end of 1846, and in the
beginning of 1847 the Bishop of Oxford was willing to appoint him to
St. Ebbe's. But his stay there was short. Three months afterwards he
accepted the chapel at Brighton which he held till his death in August

He was now the Robertson whom all the world knows, and the change was a
most remarkable one. It seems strictly accurate to say that he started
at once into a new man--new in all his views and tastes; new in the
singular burst of power which at once shows itself in the keen, free,
natural language of his letters and his other writings; new in the deep
concentrated earnestness of character with which he seemed to grasp his
peculiar calling and function. All the conventionalities of his old
school, which hung very thick about him even to the end of his
Cheltenham life, seem suddenly to drop off, and leave him, without a
trace remaining on his mind, in the full use and delight of his new
liberty. We cannot say that we are more inclined to agree with him in
his later stage than in his earlier. And the rapid transformation of a
most dogmatic and zealous Evangelical into an equally positive and
enthusiastic "Broad Churchman" does not seem a natural or healthy
process, and suggests impatience and self-confidence more than
self-command and depth. But we get, without doubt, to a real man--a man
whose words have a meaning, and stand for real things; whose language
no longer echoes the pale dreary commonplaces of a school, but reveals
thoughts which he has thought for himself, and the power of being able
"to speak as he will." His mind seems to expand, almost at a bound, to
all the manifold variety of interests of which the world is full. His
letters on his own doings, on the books and subjects of the day, on the
remarks or the circumstances of his friends, his criticism, his satire,
his controversial or friendly discussions, are full of energy,
versatility, refinement, boldness, and strength; and his remarkable
power of clear, picturesque, expressive diction, not unworthy of our
foremost masters of English, appears all at once, as it were, full
grown. It is difficult to believe, as we read the later portions of his
life, that we are reading about the same man who appeared, so short a
time before, at the beginning, to promise at best to turn into a
popular Evangelical preacher, above the average, perhaps, in taste and
power, but not above the average in freedom from cramping and sour

Mr. Robertson had hold of some great truths, and he applied them, both
in his own thoughts and self-development and in his popular teaching,
with great force. He realised two things with a depth and intensity
which give an awful life and power to all he said about religion. He
realised with singular and pervading keenness that which a greater man
than he speaks of as the first and the great discovery of the awakened
soul--" the thought of two, and two only, supreme and luminously
self-evident beings, himself and the Creator." "Alone with God,"
expresses the feeling which calmed his own anxieties and animated his
religious appeals to others. And he realised with equal earnestness the
great truth which is spoken of by Mr. Brooke, though in language which
to us has an unpleasant sound, in the following extract:

Yet, notwithstanding all this--which men called while he lived,
and now when he is dead will call, want of a clear and
well-defined system of theology--he had a fixed basis for his
teaching. It was the Divine-human Life of Christ. It is the fourth
principle mentioned in his letter, "that belief in the human
character of Christ must be antecedent to belief in His divine
origin." He felt that an historical Christianity was absolutely
essential; that only through a visible life of the Divines in the
flesh could God become intelligible to men; that Christ was God's
idea of our nature realised; that only when we fall back on the
glorious portrait of what has been, ran we be delivered from
despair of Humanity; that in Christ "all the blood of all the
nations ran," and all the powers of man were redeemed. Therefore
he grasped as the highest truth, on which to rest life and
thought, the reality expressed in the words, "the Word was made
Flesh." The Incarnation was to him the centre of all history, the
blossoming of Humanity. The Life which followed the Incarnation
was the explanation of the Life of God, and the only solution of
the problem of the Life of man. He did not speak much of loving
Christ; his love was fitly mingled with that veneration which
makes love perfect; his voice was solemn, and he paused before he
spoke His name in common talk; for what that name meant had become
the central thought of his intellect and the deepest realisation
of his spirit. He had spent a world of study, of reverent
meditation, of adoring contemplation, on the Gospel history.
Nothing comes forward more frequently in his letters than the way
in which he had entered into the human life of Christ. To that
everything is referred--by that everything is explained.

In bringing home these great truths to the feelings of those who had
lived insensible to them lay the chief value of his preaching. He
awakened men to believe that there was freshness and reality in things
which they had by use become dulled to. There are no doubt minds which
rise to the truth most naturally and freely without the intervention of
dogmatic expressions, and to these such expressions, as they are a
limit and a warning, are also felt as a clog. Mr. Robertson's early
experience had made him suspicious and irritable about dogma as such;
and he prided himself on being able to dispense with it, while at the
same time preserving the principle and inner truth which it was
intended to convey. But in his ostentatious contempt of dogmatic
precision and exactness, none but those who have not thought about the
matter will see any proof of his strength or wisdom. Dogma, accurate,
subtle, scientific, does not prevent a mind of the first order from
breathing freshness of feeling, grandeur, originality, and the sense of
reality, into the exposition of the truth which it represents. It is no
fetter except to those minds which in their impulsiveness, their
self-confidence, and their want of adequate grasp and sustained force,
most need its salutary restraint. And no man has a right, however
eloquent and impressive his speech may be, to talk against dogma till
he shows that he does not confound accuracy of statement with
conventional formalism. Mr. Robertson lays down the law pretty
confidently about the blunders of everybody about him--Tractarian,
Evangelical, Dissenter, Romanist, and Rationalist. We must say that the
impression of every page of his letters is, that clear and "intuitive"
as he was, he had not always understood what he condemned. He was
especially satisfied with a view of Baptism which he thought rose above
both extremes and took in the truth of both while it avoided their
errors. But is it too much to say that a man who, not in the heat of
rhetoric, but when preparing candidates for Confirmation, and piquing
himself on his freedom from all prejudice, deliberately describes the
common Church view of Baptism as implying a "magical" change, and
actually illustrates what he means by the stories of magical changes in
the _Arabian Nights_--who knowing, or able to read, all that has been
said by divines on the subject from the days of Augustine, yet commits
himself to the assertion that this is in fact what they hold and
teach--is it too much to say that such a man, whatever may be his other
gifts, has forfeited all claim to be considered capable of writing and
expressing himself with accuracy, truth, and distinctness on
theological questions? And if theological questions are to be dealt
with, ought they not to be dealt with accurately, and not loosely?

But we have lingered too long over these volumes. They are very
instructive, sometimes very elevating, almost always very touching. The
life which they describe greatly wanted discipline, self-restraint, and
the wise and manly fear of overrating one's own novelties. But we see
in it a life consecrated to duty, fulfilled with much pain and
self-sacrifice, and adorned by warm and deep affections, by vigour and
refinement of thought, and earnest love for truth and purity. No one
can help feeling his profound and awful sense of things unseen, though
in the philosophy by which he sought to connect things seen and things
unseen, we cannot say that we can have much confidence. We have only
one concluding remark to make, and that is not on him but on his
biographer. An exaggerated tone, as we have said, seems to us to
pervade the book. There is what seems to us an unhealthy attempt to
create in the reader an impression of the exceptional severity of the
sufferings of Mr. Robertson's life, of his loneliness, of his
persecutions. But in this point much may fairly be pardoned to the
affection of a friend. What, however, we can less excuse is the want of
good feeling with which Mr. Brooke, in his account of Mr. Robertson's
last days, allows himself to give an _ex parte_, account of a dispute
between Mr. Robertson and the Vicar of Brighton, about the appointment
of a curate, and not simply to insinuate, but distinctly declare that
this dispute with its result was the fatal stroke which, in his state
of ill-health, hastened his death. We say nothing about the rights of
the story, for we never heard anything of them but what Mr. Brooke
tells us. But there is an appearance of vindictiveness in putting it on
record with this particular aspect which nothing in the story itself
seems to us to justify. In describing Mr. Robertson's departure from
Cheltenham, Mr. Brooke has plainly thought right to use much reticence.
He would have done well to have used the same reticence about these
quarrels at Brighton.



_A Memoir of Baron Bunsen_. By his Widow, Baroness Bunsen. _Saturday
Review_, 2nd May 1868.

Bunsen was really one of those persons, more common two centuries ago
than now, who could belong as much to an adopted country as to that in
which they were born and educated. A German of the Germans, he yet
succeeded in also making himself at home in England, in appreciating
English interests, in assimilating English thought and traditions, and
exercising an important influence at a critical time on one extremely
important side of English life and opinion. He was less felicitous in
allying the German with the Englishman, perhaps from personal
peculiarities of impatience, self-assertion, and haste, than one who
has since trodden in his steps and realised more completely and more
splendidly some of the great designs which floated before his mind. But
few foreigners have gained more fairly, by work and by sympathy, the
_droit de cite_ in England than Bunsen.

It is a great pity that books must be so long and so bulky, and though
Bunsen's life was a very full and active one in all matters of
intellectual interest, and in some of practical interest also, we
cannot help thinking that his biography would have gained by greater
exercise of self-denial on the part of his biographer. It is altogether
too prolix, and the distinction is not sufficiently observed between
what is interesting simply to the Bunsen family and their friends, and
what is interesting to the public. One of the points in which
biographers, and the present author among the number, make mistakes, is
in their use of letters. They never know when to stop in giving
correspondence. If we had only one or two letters of a remarkable map,
they would be worth printing, even if they were very much like other
people's letters. But when we have bundles and letter-books without end
to select from, selection, in a work professedly biographical, becomes
advisable. We want types and specimens of a man's letters; and when the
specimen has been given, we want no more, unless what is given is for
its own sake remarkable. A great number of Bunsen's early letters are
printed. Some of them are of much interest, showing how early the germs
were formed of ideas and plans which occupied his life, and what were
the influences by which he was surrounded, and how he comported himself
in regard to them. But many more of these letters are what any young
man of thought and of an affectionate nature might have written; and we
do not want to have it shown us, over and over again, merely that
Bunsen was thoughtful and affectionate. A wise and severe economy in
this matter would have produced at least the same effect, at much less
cost to the reader.

Bunsen was born in 1791, at Corbach, in the little principality of
Waldeck, and grew up under the severe and simple training of a frugal
German household, and with a solid and vigorous German education. He
became in time Heyne's pupil at Goettingen, and very early showed the
qualities which distinguished him in his after life--restless eagerness
after knowledge and vast powers of labour, combined with large and
ambitious, and sometimes vague, ideas, and with depth and fervour of
religious sentiment. He entered on life when the reaction against the
cold rationalistic theories of the age before him was stimulated by the
excitement of the war of liberation; and in his deep and supreme
interest in the Bible he kept to the last the stamp which he then
received. More interesting than the recollections of a distinguished
man's youth by his friends after he has become distinguished--which are
seldom quite natural and not always trustworthy--are the contemporary
records of the impressions made on _him_ in his youth by those who were
distinguished men when he was young. In some of Bunsen's letters we
have such impressions. Thus he writes of Heyne in 1813:--

Poor and lonely did I arrive in this place [Goettingen]. Heyne
received me, guided me, bore with me, encouraged me, showed me in
himself the example of a high and noble energy, and indefatigable
activity in a calling which was not that to which his merit
entitled him. He might have superintended and administered and
maintained an entire kingdom without more effort and with yet
greater efficiency than the University for which he lived; he was
too great for a mere philologer, and in general for a professor of
mere learning in the age into which he was cast, and he was more
distinguished in every other way than in this.... And what has he
established or founded at the cost of this exertion of faculties?
Learning annihilates itself, and the most perfect is the first
submerged; for the next age scales with ease the height which cost
the preceding the full vigour of life. Yet two things remain of
him and will not perish--the one, the tribute left by his free
spirit to the finest productions of the human mind; and what he
felt, thought, and has immortalised in many men of excellence gone
before. Read his explanations of Tischbein's engravings from
Homer, his last preface to Virgil, and especially his oration on
the death of Mueller, and you will understand what I mean. I speak
not of his political instinct, made evident in his survey of the
public and private life of the ancients. The other memorial which
will subsist of him, more warm in life than the first, is the
remembrance of his generosity, to which numbers owe a deep

And of Schelling, about the same time, whom he had just seen in Munich:--

Schelling before all must be mentioned as having received me well,
after his fashion, giving me frequent occasions of becoming
acquainted with his philosophical views and judgments, in his own
original and peculiar manner. His mode of disputation is rough and
angular; his peremptoriness and his paradoxes terrible. Once he
undertook to explain animal magnetism, and for this purpose to
give an idea of Time, from which resulted that all is present and
in existence--the Present as existing in the actual moment; the
Future, as existing in a future moment. When I demanded the proof,
he referred me to the word _is_, which applies to existence, in
the sentence that "this _is_ future." Seckendorf, who was present
(with him I have become closely acquainted, to my great
satisfaction), attempted to draw attention to the confounding the
subjective (i.e. him who pronounces that sentence) with the
objective; or, rather, to point out a simple grammatical
misunderstanding--in short, declared the position impossible.
"Well," replied Schelling drily, "you have not understood me." Two
Professors (his worshippers), who were present, had meanwhile
endeavoured by their exclamations, "Only observe, all _is_, all
_exists_" (to which the wife of Schelling, a clever woman,
assented), to help me into conviction; and a vehement beating the
air--for arguing and holding fast by any firm point were out of
the question--would have arisen, if I had not contrived to escape
by giving a playful turn to the conversation. I am perfectly aware
that Schelling _could_ have expressed and carried through his real
opinion far better--i.e. rationally. I tell the anecdote merely
to give an idea of his manner in conversation.

At Goettingen he was one of a remarkable set, comprising Lachmann,
Luecke, Brandis, and some others, thought as much of at the time as
their friends, but who failed to make their way to the front ranks of
the world. Like others of his countrymen, Bunsen began to find "that
the world's destinies were not without their effect on him," and to
feel dissatisfied with the comparatively narrow sphere of even German
learning. The thought grew, and took possession of him, of "bringing
over, into his knowledge and into his fatherland, the solemn and
distant East," and to "draw the East into the study of the entire
course of humanity (particularly of European, and more especially of
Teutonic humanity)," making Germany the "central point of this study."
Vast plans of philological and historical study, involving, as the only
means then possible of carrying them out, schemes of wide travel and
long sojourn in the East, opened on him. Indian and Persian literature,
the instinctive certainty of its connection with the languages and
thought of the West, and the imperfection of means of study in Europe,
drew him, as many more were drawn at the time, to seek the knowledge
which they wanted in foreign and distant lands. With Bunsen, this wide
and combined study of philology, history, and philosophy, which has
formed one of the characteristic pursuits of our time, was from the
first connected with the study of the Bible as its central point. In
1815 came a decisive turning-point in his life--his acquaintance, and
the beginning of his close connection, with Niebuhr, at Berlin; and
from this time he felt himself a Prussian. "That State in Northern
Germany," he writes to Brandis in 1815, "which gladly receives every
German, from wheresoever he may come, and considers every one thus
entering as a citizen born, is _the true Germany_":--

That such a State [he proceeds, in the true Bismarckian spirit]
should prove inconvenient to others of inferior importance, which
persist in continuing their isolated existence, regardless of the
will of Providence and of the general good, is of no consequence
whatever; nor even does it matter that, in its present management,
there are defects and imperfections.... We intend to be in Berlin
in three weeks; and there (in Prussia) am I resolved to fix my

After reading Persian for a short time in Paris with De Sacy, and after
the failure of a plan of travel with Mr. Astor of New York, Bunsen
joined Niebuhr at Florence in the end of 1816, and went on with him to
Rome, where Niebuhr was Prussian envoy. There, enjoying Niebuhr's
society, "equally sole in his kind with Rome," he took up his abode,
and plunged into study. He gave up his plans of Oriental travel,
finding he could do all that he wanted without them. Too much a
student, as he writes to a friend, to think of marrying, which he could
not do "without impairing his whole scheme of mental development," he
nevertheless found his fate in an English lady, Miss Waddington, who
became his wife. And, finally, when the health of his friend Brandis,
Niebuhr's secretary in the Prussian Legation, broke down, Bunsen took
his place, and entered on that combined path of study and diplomacy in
which he continued for the greater part of his life.

It may be questioned whether Bunsen's career answered altogether
successfully to what he proposed to himself, or was in fact all that
his friends and he himself thought it; but it was eminently one in
which from the first he had laid down for himself a plan of life which
he tenaciously followed through many changes and varieties of work,
without ever losing sight of the purpose with which he began. He piqued
himself on having early seen that a man ought to have an object to
which to devote his whole life--"be it a dictionary like Johnson's or a
history like Gibbon's"--and on having discerned and chosen his own
object. And at an early time of his life in Rome he draws an outline of
thought and inquiry, destined to break off into many different labours,
in very much the same language in which he might have described it in
the last year of his life:--

_The consciousness of God in the mind of man, and that which in
and through that consciousness He has accomplished, especially in
language and religion_, this was from the earliest time before my
mind. After having awhile fancied to attain my point, sometimes
here, sometimes there, at length (it was in the Christmas holidays
of 1812, after having gained the prize in November) I made a
general and comprehensive plan. I wished to go through and
represent heathen antiquity, in its principal phases, in three
great periods of the world's history, according to its languages,
its religious conceptions, and its political institutions; first
of all in the East, where the earliest expressions in each are
highly remarkable, although little known; then in the second great
epoch, among the Greeks and Romans; thirdly, among the Teutonic
nations, who put an end to the Roman Empire.

At first I thought of Christianity only as something which every
one, like the mother tongue, knows intuitively, and therefore not
as the object of a peculiar study. But in January 1816, when I for
the last time took into consideration all that belonged to my
plan, and wrote it down, I arrived at this conclusion, that as God
had caused the conception of Himself to be developed in the mind
of man in a twofold manner, the one through revelation to the
Jewish people through their patriarchs, the other through reason
in the heathen; so also must the inquiry and representation of
this development be twofold; and as God had kept these two ways
for a length of time independent and separate, so should we, in
the course of the examination, separate knowledge from man, and
his development from the doctrine of revelation and faith, firmly
trusting that God in the end would bring about the union of both.
This is now also my firm conviction, that we must not mix them or
bring them together forcibly, as many have done with well-meaning
zeal but unclear views, and as many in Germany with impure designs
are still doing.

The design had its interruptions, both intellectual and practical. The
plan was an ambitious one, too ambitious for Bunsen's time and powers,
or even probably for our own more advanced stage of knowledge; and
Bunsen ever found it hard to resist the attractions of a new object of
interest, and did not always exhaust it, though he seldom touched
anything without throwing light on it. Thus he was drawn by
circumstances to devote a good deal of time, more than he intended, to
the mere antiquarianism of Rome. By and by he found himself succeeding
Niebuhr as the diplomatic representative of Prussia at Rome. And his
attempt to meet the needs of his own strong devotional feelings by
giving more warmth and interest to the German services at the embassy,
"the congregation on the Capitoline Hill," led him, step by step, to
those wider schemes for liturgical reform which influenced so
importantly the course of his fortunes. They brought him, a young and
unknown man, with little more than Niebuhr's good word, into direct and
confidential communication with the King of Prussia, who was then
intent on plans of the same kind, and who recognised in Bunsen, after
some preliminary jealousy and misgivings, the man most fitted to assist
in carrying them out. But though Bunsen, who started with the resolve
of being both a student and a scholar, was driven, as he thought
against his will, into paths which led him deeper and deeper into
public life and diplomacy, his early plans were never laid aside even
under the stress of official employment. Perhaps it may be difficult to
strike the balance of what they lost or gained by it.

The account of his life at Rome contains much that is interesting.
There is the curious mixture of sympathy and antipathy in Bunsen's mind
for the place itself; the antipathy of a German, a Protestant, and a
free inquirer, for the Roman, the old Catholic, the narrow, timid,
traditional spirit which pervaded everything in the great seat of
clerical and Papal government; and the sympathy, scarcely less intense,
not merely, or in the first place, for the classical aspects of Rome,
but for its religious character, as still the central point of
Christendom, full of the memorials and the savour of the early days of
Christianity, mingling with what its many centuries of history have
added to them; and for all that aroused the interest and touched the
mind of one deeply busy with two great religious problems--the best
forms for Christian worship, and the restoration, if possible, of some
organisation and authority in Protestant Germany. For a long time
Bunsen, like his master Niebuhr, was on the best terms with Cardinals,
Monsignori, and Popes. The Roman services were no objects to him of
abhorrence or indifference. He saw, in the midst of accretions, the
remains of the more primitive devotion; and the architecture, the art,
and the music, to be found only in Rome, were to him inexhaustible
sources of delight. As may be supposed, letters like Bunsen's, and the
recollections of his biographer, are full of interesting gossip;
notices of famous people, and of things that happened in Rome in the
days of the Emancipation and Reform Bills, Revolutions of Naples in
'20 and France in '30, during the twenty years, from 1818 to 1838, in
which the men of the great war and the restorations were going off the
scene, and the men of the modern days--Liberals, High Churchmen,
Ultra-montanes--were coming on. Those twenty years, of course, were not
without their changes in Bunsen's own views. The man who had come to
Rome, in position a poor and obscure student, had grown into the oracle
of a highly cultivated society, whose acquaintance was eagerly sought
by every one of importance who lived at Rome or visited it, and into
the diplomatic representative of one of the great Powers. The scholar
had come to have, not merely theories, but political and ecclesiastical
aims. The disciple of Niebuhr, who at one time had seen all things very
much as Niebuhr saw them in his sad later days of disgust at revolution
and cynical despair of liberty, had come since under the influence of
Arnold, and, as his letters to Arnold show, had taken into his own mind
much of the more generous and hopeful, though vague, teaching of that
equally fervid teacher of liberalism and of religion. These letters are
of much interest. They show the dreams and the fears and antipathies of
the time; they contain some remarkable anticipations, some equally
remarkable miscalculations, and some ideas and proposals which, with
our experience, excite our wonder that any one could have imagined them
practicable. Every one knows that Bunsen's diplomatic career at Rome
ended unfortunately. He was mixed up with the violent proceedings of
the Prussian Government in the dispute with the Archbishop of Cologne
about marriages between Protestants and Catholics, and he had the
misfortune to offend equally both his own Court and that of Rome. It is
possible that, as is urged in the biography before us, he was
sacrificed to the blunders and the enmities of powers above him. But,
for whatever reason, no clear account is given of the matter by his
biographer, though a good deal is suggested; and in the absence of
intelligible explanations the conclusion is natural that, though he may
have been ill-used, he may also have been unequal to his position.

But his ill-success or his ill-usage at Rome was more than compensated
by the results to which it may be said to have led. Out of it
ultimately came that which gave the decisive character to Bunsen's
life--his settlement in London as Prussian Minister. On leaving Rome he
came straight to England He came full of admiration and enthusiasm to
"his Ithaca, his island fatherland," and he was flattered and delighted
by the welcome he received, and by the power which he perceived in
himself, beyond that of most foreigners, to appreciate and enjoy
everything English. He liked everything--people, country, and
institutions; even, as his biographer writes, our rooks. The zest of
his enjoyment was not diminished by his keen sense of what appear to
foreigners our characteristic defects--the want of breadth of interest
and boldness of speculative thought which accompanies so much energy in
public life and so much practical success; and he seems to have felt in
himself a more than ordinary fitness to be a connecting link between
the two nations--that he had much to teach Englishmen, and that they
were worth teaching. He thoroughly sympathised with the earnestness and
strong convictions of English religion; but he thought it lamentably
destitute of rational grounds, of largeness of idea and of critical
insight, enslaved to the letter, and afraid of inquiry. But, with all
drawbacks, his visit to England made it a very attractive place to him;
and when he was appointed by his Government Envoy to the Swiss
Confederation, with strict injunctions "to do nothing," his eyes were
oft on turned towards England. In 1840 the King of Prussia died, and
Bunsen's friend and patron, the Crown Prince, became Frederic William
IV. He resembled Bunsen in more ways than one; in his ardent religious
sentiment, in his eagerness, in his undoubting and not always
far-sighted self-confidence and self-assertion, and in a combination of
practical vagueness of view and a want of understanding men, with a
feverish imperiousness in carrying out a favourite plan. In 1841 he
sent Bunsen to England to negotiate the ill-considered and precipitate
arrangement for the Jerusalem bishopric; and on the successful
conclusion of the negotiation, Bunsen was appointed permanently to be
Prussian Minister in London. The manner of appointment was remarkable.
The King sent three names to Lord Aberdeen and the English Court, and
they selected Bunsen's.

Thus Bunsen, who twenty-five years before had sat down a penniless
student, almost in despair at the failure of his hopes as a travelling
tutor, in Orgagna's _loggia_ at Florence, had risen, in spite of real
difficulties and opposition, to a brilliant position in active
political life; and the remarkable point is that, whether he was
ambitious or not of this kind of advancement--and it would perhaps
have been as well on his part to have implied less frequently that he
was not--he was all along, above everything, the student and the
theologian. What is even more remarkable is that, plunged into the
whirl of London public life and society, he continued still to be, more
even than the diplomatist, the student and theologian. The Prussian
Embassy during the years that he occupied it, from 1841 to 1854, was
not an idle place, and Bunsen was not a man to leave important State
business to other hands. The French Revolution, the German Revolution,
the Frankfort Assembly, the question of the revival of the Empire, the
beginnings of the Danish quarrel and of the Crimean war, all fell
within that time, and gave the Prussian Minister in such a centre as
London plenty to think of, to do, and to write about. Yet all this time
was a time of intense and unceasing activity in that field of
theological controversy in which Bunsen took such delight. The
diplomatist entrusted with the gravest affairs of a great Power in the
most critical and difficult times, and fully alive to the interest and
responsibility of his charge, also worked harder than most Professors,
and was as positive and fiery in his religious theories and antipathies
as the keenest and most dogmatic of scholastic disputants, he was busy
about Egyptian chronology, about cuneiform writing, about comparative
philology; he plunged with characteristic eagerness into English
theological war; and such books as his _Church of the Future_, and his
writings on Ignatius and Hippolytus, were not the least important of
the works which marked the progress of the struggle of opinions here.
But they represented only a very small part of the unceasing labour
that was going on in the early morning hours in Carlton House Terrace.
All this time the foundations were being laid and the materials
gathered for books of wider scope and more permanent aim, too vast for
him to accomplish even in his later years of leisure. It is an original
and instructive picture; for though we boast statesmen who still carry
on the great traditions of scholarship, and give room in their minds
for the deeper and more solemn problems of religion and philosophy,
they are not supposed to be able to carry on simultaneously their
public business and their classical or scientific studies, and at any
rate they do not attack the latter with the devouring zeal with which
Bunsen taxed the efforts of hard-driven secretaries and readers to keep
pace with his inexhaustible demands for more and more of the most
abstruse materials of knowledge.

The end of his London diplomatic career was, like the end of his Roman
one, clouded with something like disgrace; and, like the Roman one, is
left here unexplained. But it was for his happiness, probably, that his
residence in England came to a close. He had found the poetry of his
early notions about England, political and theological at least,
gradually changing into prose. He found less and less to like, in what
at first most attracted him, in the English Church; he and it, besides
knowing one another better, were also changing. He probably increased
his sympathies for England, and returned in a measure to his old
kindness for it, by looking at it only from a distance. The labour of
his later days, as vast and indefatigable as that of his earlier days,
was devoted to his great work, which was, as it were, to popularise the
Bible and revive interest in it by a change in the method of presenting
it and commenting on it. To the last the Bible was the central point of
his philosophical as well as his religious thoughts, as it had been in
his first beginnings as a student at Gottingen and Rome. After a life
of many trials, but of unusual prosperity and enjoyment, he died in the
end of 1860. The account of his last days is a very touching one.

We do not pretend to think Bunsen the great and consummate man that,
naturally enough, he appears to his friends. We doubt whether he can be
classed as a man in the first rank at all. We doubt whether he fully
understood his age, and yet it is certain that he was confident and
positive that he did understand it better than most men; and an undue
confidence of this kind implies considerable defects both of intellect
and character. He wanted the patient, cautious, judicial self-distrust
which his studies eminently demanded, and of which he might have seen
some examples in England. No one can read these volumes without seeing
the disproportionate power which first impressions had with him; he was
always ready to say that something, which had just happened or come
before him, was the greatest or the most complete thing of its kind.
Wonderfully active, wonderfully quick and receptive, full of
imagination and of the power of combining and constructing, and never
wearied out or dispirited, his mind took in large and grand ideas, and
developed them with enthusiasm and success, and with all the resources
of wide and varied knowledge; but the affluence and ingenuity of his
thoughts indisposed him, as it indisposes many other able men, to the
prosaic and uninteresting work of calling these thoughts into question,
and cross-examining himself upon their grounds and tenableness. He
tried too much; the multiplicity of his intellectual interests was too
much for him, and he often thought that he was explaining when he was
but weaving a wordy tissue, and "darkening counsel" as much as any of
the theological sciolists whom he denounced. People, for instance,
must, it seems to us, be very easily satisfied who find any fresh light
in the attempt, not unfrequent in his letters, to adapt the Lutheran
watchword of Justification by faith to modern ideas. He was very rapid,
and this rapidity made him hasty and precipitate; it also made him apt
to despise other men, and, what was of more consequence, the
difficulties of the subject likewise. Others did not always find it
easy to understand him; and it may fairly be questioned if he always
sufficiently asked whether he understood himself. He was generous and
large-spirited in intention, though not always so in fact.

Doubtless so much knowledge, so much honest and unsparing toil, such
freshness and quickness of thought, have not been wasted; there will
always be much to learn from Bunsen's writings. But his main service
has been the moral one of his example; of his ardent and high-souled
industry, of his fearlessness in accepting the conclusions of his
inquiries, of his untiring faith through many changes and some
disappointments that there is a way to reconcile all the truths that
interest men--those of religion, and those of nature and history. The
sincerity and earnestness with which he attempted this are a lesson to
everybody; his success is more difficult to recognise, and it may
perhaps be allowable to wish that he had taken more exactly the measure
of the great task which he set to himself. His ambition was a high one.
He aspired to be the Luther of the new 1517 which he so often dwelt
upon, and to construct a theology which, without breaking with the
past, should show what Christianity really is, and command the faith
and fill the opening thought of the present. It can hardly be said that
he succeeded. The Church of the Future still waits its interpreter, to
make good its pretensions to throw the ignorant and mistaken Church of
the Past into the shade.



_A Memoir of the Rev. John Keble_. By the Right Hon. Sir J.T.
Coleridge. _Saturday Review_, 20th March 1860.

Mr. Keble has been fortunate in his biographer. There have been since
his death various attempts to appreciate a character manifestly of such
depth and interest, yet about which outsiders could find so little to
say. Professor Shairp, of St. Andrews, two or three years ago gave a
charming little sketch, full of heart and insight, and full too of
noble modesty and reverence, which deserves to be rescued from the
danger of being forgotten into which sketches are apt to fall, both on
account of its direct subject, and also for the contemporary evidence
which it contains of the impressions made on a perfectly impartial and
intelligent observer by the early events of the Oxford movement. The
brilliant Dean of Westminster, in _Macmillan's Magazine_, has
attempted, with his usual grace and kindliness, to do justice to
Keble's character, and has shown how hard he found the task. The paper
on Keble forms a pendant to a recent paper on Dean Milman. The two
papers show conspicuously the measure and range of Dr. Stanley's power;
what he can comprehend and appreciate in religious earnestness and
height, and what he cannot; in what shapes, as in Dean Milman, he can
thoroughly sympathise with it and grasp it, and where its phenomena, as
in Mr. Keble, simply perplex and baffle him, and carry him out of his

Sir John Coleridge knew Keble probably as long and as intimately as any
one; and on the whole, he had the most entire sympathy with his
friend's spirit, even where he disagreed with his opinions. He
thoroughly understood and valued the real and living unity of a
character which mostly revealed itself to the outer world by what
seemed jerks and discordant traits. From early youth, through manhood
to old age, he had watched and tested and loved that varied play and
harmony of soul and mind, which was sometimes tender, sometimes stern,
sometimes playful, sometimes eager; abounding with flashes of real
genius, and yet always inclining by instinctive preference to things
homely and humble; but which was always sound and unselfish and
thorough, endeavouring to subject itself to the truth and will of God.
To Sir John Coleridge all this was before him habitually as a whole; he
could take it in, not by putting piece by piece together, but because
he saw it. And besides being an old and affectionate and intelligent
friend, he was also a discriminating one. In his circumstances he was
as opposite to Keble as any one could be; he was a lawyer and man of
the world, whose busy life at Westminster had little in common with the
studies or pursuits of the divine and the country parson.

Such an informant presents a picture entirely different in kind from
the comments and criticisms of those who can judge only from Mr.
Keble's writings and religious line, or from the rare occasions in
which he took a public part. These appearances, to many who willingly
acknowledge the charm which has drawn to him the admiration and
affection of numbers externally most widely at variance with him, do
not always agree together. People delight in his poetry who hate his
theology. They cannot say too much of the tenderness, the depth, the
truth, the quick and delicate spirit of love and purity, which have
made his verses the best interpreters and soothers of modern religious
feeling; yet, in the religious system from which his poetry springs,
they find nothing but what seems to them dry, harsh, narrow, and
antiquated. He attracts and he repels; and the attraction and repulsion
are equally strong. They see one side, and he is irresistible in his
simplicity, humbleness, unworldliness, and ever considerate charity,
combined with so much keenness and freshness of thought, and such sure
and unfailing truth of feeling. They see another, and he seems to them
full of strange unreality, strained, exaggerated, morbid, bristling
with a forced yet inflexible intolerance. At one moment he seems the
very ideal of a Christian teacher, made to win the sympathy of all
hearts; the next moment a barrier rises in the shape of some unpopular
doctrine or some display of zealous severity, seeming to be a strange
contrast to all that was before, which utterly astonishes and
disappoints. Mr. Keble was very little known to the public in general,
less so even than others whose names are associated with his; and it is
evident that to the public in general he presented a strange assemblage
of incoherent and seemingly irreconcilable qualities. His mind seemed
to work and act in different directions; and the results at the end
seemed to be with wide breaks and interruptions between them. But a
book like this enables us to trace back these diverging lines to the
centre from which they spring. What seemed to be in such sharp
contradiction at the outside is seen to flow naturally from the
perfectly homogeneous and consistent character within. Many people will
of course except to the character. It is not the type likely to find
favour in an age of activity, doubt, and change. But, as it was
realised in Mr. Keble, there it is in Sir John Coleridge's pages,
perfectly real, perfectly natural, perfectly whole and uniform, with
nothing double or incongruous in it, though it unfolded itself in
various and opposite ways. And its ideal was simply that which has been
consecrated as the saintly character in the Christian Church since the
days of St. John--the deepest and most genuine love of all that was
good; the deepest and most genuine hatred of all that was believed to
be evil.

The picture which Sir John Coleridge puts before us, though deficient
in what is striking and brilliant, is a sufficiently remarkable and
uncommon one. It is the picture of a man of high cultivation and
intellect, in whom religion was not merely something flavouring and
elevating life, not merely a great element and object of spiritual
activity, but really and unaffectedly the one absorbing interest, and
the spring of every thought and purpose. Whether people like such a
character or not, and whether or not they may think the religion wrong,
or distorted and imperfect, if they would fairly understand the writer
of the _Christian Year_ they must start from this point. He was a man
who, without a particle of the religious cant of any school, without
any self-consciousness or pretension or unnatural strain, literally
passed his clays under the quick and pervading influence, for restraint
and for stimulus, of the will and presence of God. With this his whole
soul was possessed; its power over him had not to be invoked and
stirred up; it acted spontaneously and unnoticed in him; it was
dominant in all his activity; it quenched in him aims, and even, it may
be, faculties; it continually hampered the free play of his powers and
gifts, and made him often seem, to those who had not the key, awkward,
unequal, and unintelligible. But for this awful sense of truth and
reality unseen, which dwarfed to him all personal thoughts and all
present things, he might have been a more finished writer, a more
attractive preacher, a less indifferent foster-father to his own works.
But it seemed to him a shame, in the presence of all that his thoughts
habitually dwelt with, to think of the ordinary objects of authorship,
of studying anything of this world for its own sake, of perfecting
works of art, of cultivating the subtle forces and spells of language
to give attractiveness to his writings. Abruptness, inadequacy, and
obscurity of expression were light matters, and gave him little
concern, compared with the haunting fear of unreal words. This "seeking
first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," as he understood it,
was the basis of all that he was; it was really and unaffectedly his
governing principle, the root of his affections and his antipathies,
just as to other men is the passion for scientific discovery or
political life.

But within these limits, and jealously restrained by these conditions,
a strongly marked character, exuberant with power and life, and the
play of individual qualities, displayed itself. There were two
intellectual sides to his mind--one which made him a poet, quickness
and delicacy of observation and sympathetic interpretation, the
realising and anticipating power of deep feeling and penetrative
imagination; the other, at first sight, little related to poetry, a
hard-headed, ingenious, prosaic shrewdness and directness of common
sense, dealing practically with things as they are and on the whole,
very little curious about scientific questions and precision,
argumentative in a fashion modelled on Bishop Butler, and full of
logical resource, good and, often it must be owned, bad. It was a mind
which unfolded first under the plain, manly discipline of an
old-fashioned English country parsonage, where the unshowy piety and
strong morality and modest theology of the middle age of Anglicanism,
the school of Pearson, Bull, and Wilson, were supreme. And from this it
came under the new influences of bold and independent thought which
were beginning to stir at Oxford; influences which were at first
represented by such men as Davison, Copleston, and, above all, Whately;
influences which repelled Keble by what he saw of hardness,
shallowness, and arrogance, and still more of self-sufficiency and
intellectual display and conceit in the prevailing tone of speculation,
but which nevertheless powerfully affected him, and of which he showed
the traces to the last Sir John Coleridge is disappointing as to the
amount of light which he throws on the process which was going on in
Keble's mind during the fifteen years or so between his degree and the
_Christian Year_; but there is one touch which refers to this period.
Speaking in 1838 of Alexander Knox, and expressing dislike of his
position, "as on the top of a high hill, seeing which way different
schools tend," and "exercising a royal right of eclecticism over all,"
he adds:--

I speak the more feelingly because I know I was myself inclined to
eclecticism at one time; and if it had not been for my father and
my brother, where I should have been now, who can say?

But he was a man who, with a very vigorous and keen intellect, capable
of making him a formidable disputant if he had been so minded, may be
said not to have cared for his intellect. He used it at need, but he
distrusted and undervalued it as an instrument and help. Goodness was
to him the one object of desire and reverence; it was really his own
measure of what he respected and valued; and where he recognised it,
and in whatever shape, grave or gay, he cared not about seeming
consistent in somehow or other paying it homage. People who knew him
remember how, in this austere judge of heresy, burdened by the
ever-pressing conviction of the "decay" of the Church and the distress
of a time of change, tenderness, playfulness, considerateness, the
restraint of a modesty which could not but judge, yet mistrusted its
fitness, marked his ordinary intercourse. Overflowing with affection to
his friends, and showing it in all kinds of unconventional and
unexpected instances, keeping to the last a kind of youthful freshness
as if he had never yet realised that he was not a boy, and shrunk from
the formality and donnishness of grown-up life, he was the most refined
and thoughtful of gentlemen, and in the midst of the fierce party
battles of his day, with all his strong feeling of the tremendous
significance of the strife, always a courteous and considerate
opponent. Strong words he used, and used deliberately. But those were
the days when the weapons of sarcasm and personal attack were freely
handled. The leaders of the High Church movement were held up to
detestation as the Oxford Malignants, and they certainly showed
themselves fully able to give their assailants as good as they brought;
yet Mr. Keble, involved in more than one trying personal controversy,
feeling as sternly and keenly as any one about public questions, and
tried by disappointment and the break up of the strongest ties, never
lost his evenness of temper, never appeared in the arena of personal
recrimination. In all the prominent part which he took, and in the
resolute and sometimes wrathful tone in which he defended what seemed
harsh measures, he may have dropped words which to opponents seemed
severe ones, but never any which even they could call a scornful one or
a sneer.

It was in keeping with all that he was--a mark of imperfection it may
be, yet part of the nobleness and love of reality in a man who felt so
deeply the weakness and ignorance of man--that he cared so little about
the appearances of consistency. Thus, bound as he was by principle to
show condemnation when he thought that a sacred cause was invaded, he
was always inclining to conciliate his wrath with his affectionateness,
and his severity with his consideration of circumstances and his own
mistrust of himself. He was, of all men holding strong opinions, one of
the most curiously and unexpectedly tolerant, wherever he could
contrive to invent an excuse for tolerance, or where long habitual
confidence was weighed against disturbing appearances. Sir John
Coleridge touches this in the following extract, which is

On questions of this kind especially [University Reform], his
principles were uncompromising; if a measure offended against what
he thought honest, or violated what he thought sacred, good motives
in the framers he would not admit as palliation, nor would he
be comforted by an opinion of mine that measures mischievous
in their logical consequences were never in the result so
mischievous, or beneficial measures so beneficial, as had been
foretold. So he writes playfully to me at an earlier time:--

"Hurrell Froude and I took into consideration your opinion
that 'there are good men of all parties,' and agreed that it
is a bad doctrine for these days; the time being come in
which, according to John Miller, 'scoundrels must be called
scoundrels'; and, moreover, we have stigmatised the said
opinion by the name of the Coleridge Heresy. So hold it any
longer at your peril."

I think it fair to set down these which were, in truth, formed
opinions, and not random sayings; but it would be most unfair if
one concluded from them, written and spoken in the freedom of
friendly intercourse, that there was anything sour in his spirit,
or harsh and narrow in his practice; when you discussed any of
these things with him, the discussion was pretty sure to end, not
indeed with any insincere concession of what he thought right and
true, but in consideration for individuals and depreciation of

And the same thing comes out in the interesting letter in which the
Solicitor-General describes his last recollections of Keble:--

There was, I am sure, no trace of failing then to be discerned in
his apprehension, or judgment, or discourse. He was an old man who
had been very ill, who was still physically weak, and who needed
care; but he was the same Mr. Keble I had always known, and whom,
for aught that appeared, I might hope still to know for many years
to come. Little bits of his tenderness, flashes of his fun,
glimpses of his austerer side, I seem to recall, but I cannot put
them upon paper.... Once I remember walking with him just the same
short walk, from his house to Sir William's, and our conversation
fell upon Charles I., with regard to whose truth and honour I had
used some expressions in a review, which had, as I heard,
displeased him. I referred to this, and he said it was true. I
replied that I was very sorry to displease him by anything I said
or thought; but that if the Naseby letters were genuine, I could
not think that what I said was at all too strong, and that a man
could but do his best to form an honest opinion upon historical
evidence, and, if he had to speak, to express that opinion. On
this he said, with a tenderness and humility not only most
touching, but to me most embarrassing, that "It might be so; what
was he to judge of other men; he was old, and things were now
looked at very differently; that he knew he had many things to
unlearn and learn afresh; and that I must not mind what he had
said, for that in truth belief in the heroes of his youth had
become part of him." I am afraid these are my words, and not his;
and I cannot give his way of speaking, which to any one with a
heart, I think, would have been as overcoming as it was to me.

This same carelessness about appearances seems to us to be shown in
Keble's theological position in his later years. A more logical, or a
more plausible, but a less thoroughly real man might easily have
drifted into Romanism. There was much in the circumstances round him,
in the admissions which he had made, to lead that way; and his
chivalrous readiness to take the beaten or unpopular side would help
the tendency. But he was a man who gave great weight to his instinctive
perception of what was right and wrong; and he was also a man who, when
he felt sure of his duty, did not care a straw about what the world
thought of appearances, or required as a satisfaction of seeming
consistency. In him was eminently illustrated the characteristic
strength and weakness of English religion, which naturally comes out in
that form of it which is called Anglicanism; that poor Anglicanism, the
butt and laughing-stock of all the clever and high-flying converts to
Rome, of all the clever and high-flying Liberals, and of all those poor
copyists of the first, far from clever, though very high-flying, who
now give themselves out as exclusive heirs of the great name of
Catholic; sneered at on all sides as narrow, meagre, shattered, barren;
which certainly does not always go to the bottom of questions, and is
too much given to "hunting-up" passages for _catenas_ of precedents and
authorities; but which yet has a strange, obstinate, tenacious moral
force in it; which, without being successful in formulating theories or
in solving fallacies, can pierce through pretences and shams; and which
in England seems the only shape in which intense religious faith can
unfold itself and connect itself with morality and duty, without
seeming to wear a peculiar dress of its own, and putting a barrier of
self-chosen watchwords and singularities between itself and the rest of
the nation.

It seems to us a great advantage to truth to have a character thus
exhibited in its unstudied and living completeness, and exhibited
directly, as the impression from life was produced on those before
whose eyes it drew itself out day by day in word and act, as the
occasion presented itself. There is, no doubt, a more vivid and
effective way; one in which the Dean of Westminster is a great master,
though it is not the method which he followed in what is probably his
most perfect work, the _Life of Dr. Arnold_--the method of singling out
points, and placing them, if possible, under a concentrated light, and
in strong contrast and relief. Thus in Keble's case it is easy, and
doubtless to many observers natural and tempting, to put side by side,
with a strange mixture of perplexity and repulsion, _The Christian
Year_, and the treatise _On Eucharistical Adoration_; to compare even
in Keble's poetry, his tone on nature and human life, on the ways of
children and the thoughts of death, with that on religious error and
ecclesiastical divergences from the Anglican type; and to dwell on the
contrast between Keble bearing his great gifts with such sweetness and
modesty, and touching with such tenderness and depth the most delicate
and the purest of human feelings, and Keble as the editor of Fronde's
_Remains_, forward against Dr. Hampden, breaking off a friendship of
years with Dr. Arnold, stiff against Liberal change and indulgent to
ancient folly and error, the eulogist of patristic mysticism and Bishop
Wilson's "discipline," and busy in the ecclesiastical agitations and
legal wranglings of our later days, about Jerusalem Bishoprics and
Courts of Final Appeal and ritual details, about Gorham judgments,
_Essays and Reviews_ prosecutions, and Colenso scandals. The objection
to this method of contrast is that it does not give the whole truth. It
does not take notice that, in appreciating a man like Keble, the thing
to start from is that his ideal and model and rule of character was
neither more nor less than the old Christian one. It was simply what
was accepted as right and obvious and indisputable, not by Churchmen
only, but by all earnest believers up to our own days. Given certain
conditions of Christian faith and duty which he took for granted as
much as the ordinary laws of morality, then the man's own individual
gifts or temper or leanings displayed themselves. But when people talk
of Keble being narrow and rigid and harsh and intolerant, they ought
first to recollect that he had been brought up with the ideas common to
all whom he ever heard of or knew as religious people. All earnest
religious conviction must seem narrow to those who do not share it. It
was nothing individual or peculiar, either to him or his friends, to
have strong notions about defending what they believed that they had
received as the truth; and they were people who knew what they were
about, too, and did not take things up at random. In this he was not
different from Hooker, or Jeremy Taylor, or Bishop Butler, or Baxter,
or Wesley, or Dr. Chalmers; it may be added, that he was not different
from Dr. Arnold or Archbishop Whately. It must not be forgotten that
till of late years there was always supposed, rightly or wrongly, to be
such a thing as false doctrine, and that intolerance of it, within the
limits of common justice, was always held as much part of the Christian
character as devotion and charity. Men differed widely as to what was
false doctrine, but they did not differ much as to there being such a
thing, and as to what was to be thought of it. Keble, like other people
of his time, took up his system, and really, considering that the ideal
which he honestly and earnestly aimed at was the complete system of the
Catholic Church, it is an abuse of words to call it, whatever else it
may be called, a narrow system. There may be a wider system still, in
the future; but it is at least premature to say that a man is narrow
because he accepts in good faith the great traditional ideas and
doctrines of the Christian Church; for of everything that can yet be
called a religious system, in the sense commonly understood, as an
embodiment of definite historical revelation, it is not easy to
conceive a less narrow one. And, accepting it as the truth, it was
dearer to him than life. That he was sensitively alive to whatever
threatened or opposed it, and was ready to start up like a soldier,
ready to do battle against any odds and to risk any unpopularity or
misconstruction, was only the sure and natural result of that deep love
and loyalty and thorough soundness of heart with which he loved his
friends, but what he believed to be truth and God's will better than
his friends. But it is idle and shallow to confuse the real narrowness
which springs from a harsh temper or a cramped and self-sufficient
intellect, and which is quite compatible with the widest theoretical
latitude, and the inevitable appearance of narrowness and severity
which must always be one side which a man of strong convictions and
earnest purpose turns to those whose strong convictions and earnest
purpose are opposite to his.

Mr. Keble, saintly as was his character, if ever there was such a
character, belonged, as we all do, to his day and generation. The
aspect of things and the thoughts of men change; enlarging, we are
always apt to think, but perhaps really also contracting in some
directions where they once were larger. In Mr. Keble, the service which
he rendered to his time consisted, not merely, as it is sometimes
thought, in soothing and refining it, but in bracing it. He was the
preacher and example of manly hardness, simplicity, purpose in the
religious character. It may be that his hatred of evil--of hollowness,
impurity, self-will, conceit, ostentation--was greater than was always
his perception of various and mingled good, or his comprehension of
those middle things and states which are so much before us now. But the
service cannot be overrated, to all parties, of the protest which his
life and all his words were against dangers which were threatening all
parties, and not least the Liberal party--the danger of shallowness and
superficial flippancy; the danger of showy sentiment and insincerity,
of worldly indifference to high duties and calls. With the one great
exception of Arnold--Keble's once sympathetic friend, though afterwards
parted from him--the religious Liberals of our time have little reason
to look back with satisfaction to the leaders, able and vigorous as
some of them were, who represented their cause then. They owe to Keble,
as much as do those who are more identified with his theology, the
inestimable service of having interpreted religion by a genuine life,
corresponding in its thoroughness and unsparing, unpretending
devotedness, as well as in its subtle vividness of feeling, to the
great object which religion professes to contemplate.



_Theological Essays_. By F.D. Maurice. _Guardian_, 7th September 1853.

The purpose of this volume of essays is to consider the views
entertained by Unitarians of what are looked upon by Christians
generally as fundamental truths; to examine what force there is in
Unitarian objections, and what mistakes are involved in the popular
notions and representations of those fundamental truths; and so,
without entering into controversy, for which Mr. Maurice declares
himself entirely indisposed, and in the utility of which he entirely
disbelieves, to open the way for a deeper and truer, and more serious
review, by all parties, of either the differences or the misunderstandings
which keep them asunder. It is a work, the writer considers, as
important as any which he has undertaken: "No labour I have been
engaged in has occupied me so much, or interested me more deeply;"
and with his estimate of his subject we are not disposed to disagree.

We always rise from the perusal of one of Mr. Maurice's books with the
feeling that he has shown us one great excellence, and taught us one
great lesson. He has shown us an example of serious love of truth, and
an earnest sense of its importance, and of his own responsibility in
speaking of it. Most readers, whatever else they may think, must have
their feeling of the wide and living interest of a theological or moral
subject quickened by Mr. Maurice's thoughts on it. This is the
excellence. The lesson is this--to look into the meaning of our
familiar words, and to try to use them with a real meaning. Not that
Mr. Maurice always shows us how; but it is difficult for conscience to
escape being continually reminded of the duty. And it is in these two
things that the value of Mr. Maurice's writings mainly consists. The
enforcing of them has been, to our mind, his chief "mission," and his
most valuable contribution to the needs of his generation.

In this volume they are exhibited, as in his former ones; and in this
he shows also, as he has shown before, his earnest desire to find a way
whereby, without compromising truth or surrendering sacred convictions
of the heart, serious men of very different sides might be glad to find
themselves in some points mistaken, in order that they might find
themselves at one. This philosophy, not of comprehension but of
conciliation, the craving after which has awakened in the Church,
whenever mental energy has been quickened, the philosophy in which
Clement of Alexandria and Origin, and, we may add, St. Augustine, made
many earnest essays, is certainly no unworthy aim for the theologian of
our days. He would, indeed, deserve largely of the Church who should
show us a solid and safe way to it.

But while we are far from denouncing or suspecting the wish or the
design, we are bound to watch jealously and criticise narrowly the
execution. For we all know what such plans have come to before now. And
it is for the interest of all serious and earnest people on all sides,
that there should be no needless and additional confusion introduced
into theology--such confusion as is but too likely to follow, when a
design of conciliation, with the aim of which so many, for good reasons
or bad ones, are sure to sympathise, is carried out by hands that are
not equal to it. With the fullest sense of the serious truthfulness of
those who differ from us, of the real force of many of their objections
and criticisms on our proceedings, our friends, and our ideas, it is
far better to hold our peace, than from impatience at what we feel to
be the vulnerable point of our own side, to rush into explanations
before we are sure of our power adequately to explain.

And to this charge it seems to us that Mr. Maurice is open. There is
sense and manliness in his disclaimer of proselytism; and there is a
meaning in which we can agree with his account of truth. "If I could
persuade all Dissenters," he says, "to become members of my Church
to-morrow, I should be very sorry to do it. I believe the chances are
they might leave it the next day. I do not wish to make them think as I
think. But I want that they and I should be what we pretend to be, and
then I doubt not we should find that there is a common ground for us
all far beneath our thinkings. For truth I hold not to be that which
every man troweth, but to be that which lies at the bottom of all men's
trowings, that in which those trowings have their only meeting-point."
He would make as clear as can be that deep substructure, and leave the
sight of it to work its natural effect on the honest heart. A noble
aim; but surely requiring, if anything can, the clear eye, the steady
hand, the heart as calm as earnest. Surely a work in which the greatest
exactness and precision, as well as largeness of thought, would not be
too much. For if we but take away the "trowings" without coming down to
the central foundation, or lose ourselves, and mistake a new "trowing"
of our own for it, it is hardly a sufficient degree of blame to say
that we have done no good.

And in these qualities of exactness and precision it does seem to us
that Mr. Maurice is, for his purpose, fatally deficient. His criticisms
are often acute, his thrusts on each side often very home ones, and
but too full of truth; his suggestions often full of thought and
instruction; his balancings and contrasts of errors and truths, if
sometimes too artificial, yet generally striking. But when we come to
seek for the reconciling truth, which one side has overlaid and
distorted, and the other ignorantly shrunk back from, but which, when
placed in its real light and fairly seen, is to attract the love and
homage of both, we seem--not to grasp a shadow--Mr. Maurice is too
earnest and real a believer for that--but to be very much where we
were, except that a cloud of words surrounds us. His positive
statements seem like a running protest against being obliged to commit
himself and come to the point; like a continual assertion of the
hopelessness and uselessness of a definite form of speaking about the
matter in hand. Take, for instance, the following short statement:--

"My object," he says, speaking of the words which he has taken as
the subject of his essays, "has been to examine the language with
which we are most familiar, and which has been open to most
objections, especially from Unitarians. Respecting the Conception
I have been purposely silent; not because I have any doubt about
that article, or am indifferent to it, but because I believe the
word '_miraculous_,' which we _ordinarily connect with it, suggests
an untrue meaning; because I think the truth is conveyed to us
most safely in the simple language of the Evangelists_; and because
that language taken in connection with the rest of their story,
offers itself, I suspect, to a majority of those who have taken
in the idea of an Incarnation, as the _only natural and rational_
account of the method by which the eternal Son of God could have
taken human flesh."

Now, would not Mr. Maurice have done better if he had enounced the
definite meaning, or shade of meaning, which he considers short of, or
different from, our _ordinary_ meaning of _miraculous_, as applied to
this subject, and yet the same as that suggested by the Gospel account?
We have no doubt what Mr. Maurice does believe on this sacred subject.
But we are puzzled by what he means to disavow, as an "_untrue
meaning_" of the word _miraculous_, as applied to what he believes.
And the Unitarians whom he addresses must, we think, be puzzled too.

We have quoted this passage because it is a short one, and therefore a
convenient one for a short notice like this. But the same tormenting
indistinctness pervades the attempts generally to get a meaning or a
position, which shall be substantially and in its living force the same
as the popular and orthodox article, yet convict it of confusion or
formalism; and which shall give to the Unitarian what he aims at by his
negation of the popular article, without leaving him any longer a
reason for denying it. The essay on Inspiration is an instance of this.
Mr. Maurice says very truly, that it is necessary to face the fact that
important questions are asked on the subject, very widely, and by
serious people; that popular notions are loose and vague about it; that
it is a dangerous thing to take refuge in a hard theory, if it is an
inconsistent and inadequate one; that if doubts do grow up, they are
hardly to be driven away by assertions. He accepts the challenge to
state his own view of Inspiration, and devotes many pages to doing so.
In these page's are many true and striking things. So far as we
understand, there is not a statement that we should contradict. But we
have searched in vain for a passage which might give, in Mr. Maurice's
words, a distinct answer to the question of friend or opponent, What do
you mean by the "Inspiration of the Bible?" Mr. Maurice tells us a most
important truth--that that same Great Person by whose "holy
inspiration" all true Christians still hope to be taught, inspired the
prophets. He protests against making it necessary to say that there is
a _generic_ difference between one kind of Inspiration and the other,
or "setting up the Bible as a book which encloses all that may be
lawfully called Inspiration." He looks on the Bible as a link--a great
one, yet a link, joining on to what is before and what comes after--in
God's method of teaching man His truth. He cares little about phrases
like "verbal inspiration" and "plenary inspiration"--"forms of speech
which are pretty toys for those that have leisure to play with them;
and if they are not made so hard as to do mischief, the use of them
should not be checked. But they do not belong to business." He bids us,
instead, give men "the Book of Life," and "have courage to tell them
that there is a Spirit with them who will guide them into all truth."
Great and salutary lessons. But we must say that they have been long in
the world, and, it must be said, are as liable to be misunderstood as
any other "popular" notions on the subject. If there is nothing more to
say on the subject--if it is one where, though we see and are sure of a
truth, yet we must confess it to be behind a veil, as yet indistinct
and not to be grasped, let us manfully say so, and wait till God reveal
even this unto us. But it is not a wise or a right course to raise
expectations of being able to say something, not perhaps new, but
satisfactory, when the questions which are really being asked, which
are the professed occasion of the answer, remain, in their Intellectual
difficulty, entirely unresolved. Mr. Maurice is no trifler; when he
throws hard words about,--when at the close of this essay he paints to
himself the disappointment of some "Unitarian listener, who had hoped
that Mr. Maurice was going to join him in cursing his enemies, and
found that he had blessed them these three times,"--he ought to
consider whether the result has not been, and very naturally, to leave
both parties more convinced than before of the hollowness of all
professions to enter into, and give weight to, the difficulties and the
claims of opposite sides.

Mr. Maurice has not done justice, as it seems to us, in this case, to
the difficulty of the Unitarian. In other cases he makes free with the
common belief of Christendom, and claims sacrifices which are as
needless as they are unwarrantable. If there is a belief rooted in the
minds of Christians, it is that of a future judgment. If there is an
expectation which Scripture and the Creed sanction in the plainest
words, it is that this present world is to have an end, and that then,
a time now future, Christ will judge quick and dead. Say as much as can
be said of the difficulty of conceiving such a thing, it really amounts
to no more than the difficulty of conceiving what will happen, and how
we shall be dealt with, when this familiar world passes away. And this
belief in a "_final_ judgment, _unlike any other that has ever been in
the world_," Mr. Maurice would have us regard as a misinterpretation of
Bible and Creed--a "dream" which St. Paul would never "allow us" to
entertain, but would "compel" us instead "to look upon everyone of what
we rightly call 'God's judgments' as _essentially resembling it in kind
and principle_." "Our eagerness to deny this," he continues, "to make
out an altogether peculiar and unprecedented judgment at the end of the
world, has obliged us first _to practise the most violent outrages upon
the language of Scripture_, insisting that words cannot really mean
what, according to all ordinary rules of construction, they must mean."
It really must be said that the "outrage," if so it is to be called, is
not on the side of the popular belief. And why does this belief seem
untenable to Mr. Maurice? Because it seems inconsistent to him with a
truth which he states and enforces with no less earnestness than
reason, that Christ is every moment judging us--that His tribunal is
one before which we in our inmost "being are standing now--and that the
time will come when we shall know that it is so, and when all that has
concealed the Judge from us shall be taken away." Doubtless Christ is
always with us--always seeing us--always judging us. Doubtless
"everywhere" in Scripture the idea is kept before us of judgment in its
fullest, largest, most natural sense, as "importing" not merely passing
sentence, and awarding reward or penalty, but "discrimination and
discovery. Everywhere that discrimination or discovery is supposed to
be exercised over the man himself, over his internal character, over
his meaning and will." Granted, also, that men have, in their attempts
to figure to themselves the "great assize," sometimes made strange
work, and shown how carnal their thoughts are, both in what they
expected, and in the influence they allowed it to have over them. But
what of all this? Correct these gross ideas, but leave the words of
Scripture in their literal meaning, and do not say that all those who
receive them as the announcement of what is to be, under conditions now
inconceivable to man, _must_ understand "the substitution of a mere
external trial or examination" for the inward and daily trial of our
hearts, as a mere display of "earthly pomp and ceremonial"--a
resumption by Christ "of earthly conditions"; or that, because they
believe that at "some distant unknown period they shall be brought into
the presence of One who is now" not "far from them," but out of
sight--how, or in what manner they know not--therefore they _must_
suppose that He "is not now fulfilling the office of a Judge, whatever
else may be committed to Him."

Mr. Maurice is aiming at a high object. He would reconcile the old and
the new. He would disencumber what is popular of what is vulgar,
confused, sectarian, and preserve and illustrate it by disencumbering
it. He calls on us not to be afraid of the depths and heights, the
freedom and largeness, the "spirit and the truth," of our own theology.
It is a warning and a call which every age wants. We sympathise with
his aim, with much of his positive teaching, with some of his aversions
and some of his fears. We do not respect him the less for not being
afraid of being called hard names. But certainly such a writer has
need, in no common degree, of conforming himself to that wise maxim,
which holds in writing as well as in art--"Know what you want to do,
then do it."



_Saturday Review_, 6th April 1872.

This Easter week we have lost a man about whom opinions and feelings
were much divided, who was by many of the best and most thoughtful
among us looked on as the noblest and greatest of recent English
teachers, and who certainly had that rare gift of inspiring enthusiasm
and trust among honest and powerful minds in search of guidance, which
belongs to none but to men of a very high order. Professor Maurice has
ended a life of the severest and most unceasing toil, still working to
the utmost that failing bodily strength allowed--still to the last in
harness. The general public, though his name is familiar to them,
probably little measure the deep and passionate affection with which he
was regarded by the circle of his friends and by those whose thoughts
and purposes he had moulded; or the feeling which his loss causes in
them of a blank, great and not to be filled up, not only personally for
themselves, but in the agencies which are working most hopefully in
English society. But even those who knew him least, and only from the
outside, and whose points of view least coincided with his, must feel
that there has been, now that we look back on his course, something
singularly touching and even pathetic in the combination shown in all
that he did, of high courage and spirit, and of unwearied faith and
vigour, with the deepest humility and with the sincerest
disinterestedness and abnegation, which never allowed him to seek
anything great for himself, and, in fact, distinguished and honoured as
he was, never found it. For the sake of his generation we may regret
that he did not receive the public recognition and honour which were
assuredly his due; but in truth his was one of those careers which, for
their own completeness and consistency, gain rather than lose by
escaping the distractions and false lights of what is called

The two features which strike us at the moment as characteristic of Mr.
Maurice as a writer and teacher, besides the vast range both of his
reading and thought, and the singularly personal tone and language of
all that he wrote, are, first, the combination in him of the most
profound and intense religiousness with the most boundless claim and
exercise of intellectual liberty; and next, the value which he set,
exemplifying his estimate in his own long and laborious course, on
processes and efforts, as compared with conclusions and definite
results, in that pursuit of truth which was to him the most sacred of
duties. There is no want of earnest and fervent religion among us,
intelligent, well-informed, deliberate, as well as of religion, to
which these terms can hardly be applied. And there is also no want of
the boldest and most daring freedom of investigation and judgment. But
what Mr. Maurice seemed to see himself, and what he endeavoured to
impress on others, was that religion and liberty are no natural
enemies, but that the deepest and most absorbing forms of historical
and traditional religion draw strength and seriousness of meaning, and
binding obligation, from an alliance, frank and unconditional, with
what seem to many the risks, the perilous risks and chances, of

It was a position open to obvious and formidable criticism; but against
this criticism is to be set the fact, that in a long and energetic
life, in which amidst great trials and changes there was a singular
uniformity and consistency of character maintained, he did unite the
two--the most devout Christianity with the most fearless and
unshrinking boldness in facing the latest announcements and
possibilities of modern thought. That he always satisfactorily
explained his point of view to others is more than can be said; but he
certainly satisfied numbers of keen and anxious thinkers, who were
discontented and disheartened both by religion as it is presented by
our great schools and parties, and by science as its principles and
consequences are expounded by the leading philosophical authorities of
the day. The other point to which we have adverted partly explains the
influence which he had with such minds. He had no system to formulate
or to teach. He was singularly ready to accept, as adequate expressions
of those truths in whose existence he so persistently believed, the old
consecrated forms in which simpler times had attempted to express them.
He believed that these truths are wider and vaster than the human mind

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