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over; and when Horace Walpole was all up to vice and barbarism ?" To do ill he sent her a book as a peace-offer- him justice, the bishop appears to have ing, and said, “I am sorry I scolded been able to contemplate the dangerous poor Hannah More for being so reli- possibility which she feels honestly gious; I hope she will forgive me." obliged to put before him, without But it is clear that her religion was not alarm. Indeed, at a time when many of a character to cause any constraint parishes had no resident curate (though, between herself and her friends from as Hannah remarks, the livings were whom she differed. She could bear to worth nearly £50 a year); one would be scolded and laughed at, and could have imagined that the bishops might lightly wrest her critics' weapons from have had greater difficulties to contend them in self-defence. Though so often with than a superabundance of zealki deprived of the social life and surround- Clerical activity was, generally speak; ings most congenial to her, passing her ing, at a low ebb. · And yet when we summers amongst the rough miners of go outside what may be called':, the Cheddar and stocking-makers of Ax- "profession” – leaving out of account bridge, writing tracts with unprepos- also those many devoted and saintly sessing titles, “ The Two Shoemakers," characters who pursued their calling “Black Giles the Poacher," etc., she untouched by the worldliness and Erasyet never got out of touch with the cul- tianism of the day — what trutlı anal ture and society of her day ; and though simplicity of faith, wliat unaffecteil Sydney Smith might find easy subjects piety, do we not find blossoming sponfor ridicule in many pages of her last taneously in unexpected places ! ,,It secular literary effort of any impor- wears indeed a sober livery which is tauce, Celebs in Search of a Wife," somewhat out of date ; it expresses it; it went through no less than thirty edi- self in more or less sententious lantions before her death, and was eagerly guage, but it obtains the respect even read not only by those members of the of those least likely to put it into pracfashionable world against whose habits tice. It may be somewhat ponderous, of life and modes of thought it was but it is never contemptible ; and we principally directed, but also by influen- are not at all surprised to be told, for tial critics and leaders of public opin- instance, that the Vicar of Wakefield ion, who, many of them, authoritatively did not preach to his fellow-prisoners confirmed the popular verdict. That a in vain, but that “after less than six woman with so many special gifts, and days some were penitent and all were wielding so facile a pen, should give attentive." herself up to the work of reclaiming Religion was not, in fact, treated the vicious and teaching the ignorant, even by worldly people with superficial is a strong testimony to the force of levity ; it was not lightly attacked or religious principle, all the more remark- defended, and with a certain quiet digable since Hannah and her sisters were nity it took the first place, as of right, neither fanatics nor enthusiasts. Inde in the minds of serious men. Not of fatigable workers, they took up the those only especially dedicated to its task which was being left undone with service (such dedication, as we shall relentless energy, and they carried it see further on, was often of but little on with unabated zeal and persever- account), but rather as the supreme
They defended the excesses of principle acknowledged if not obeyed their followers without acrimony, even by · those ingenious persons and blamed, without exaggeration, the called wits,” in which, as Vaughan apathy of those who should have been says in his day, the kingdom “did their chief supporters. “Can the pos- abound.” To take one familiar examsibility that a few should become en-ple : Dr. Johnson as we know him, thusiastic.” Hannah writes to the bishop says one of his biographers, was a man in defence of her converts, “be justly of the world, though a religious man of pleaded as an argument for giving them the world. His feelings, at once deep
and fervid, were wholly penetrated by almost at once from the season of raw, a' sense of awe and reverence which ungainly boyhood to the seat of the forbade any suspicion of levity, even social lawgiver and moralist. when his mode of approaching religious For any religious sentiment degensubjects may strike the modern reader erating into sentimentality he had inas somewhat grotesque. His profound deed, even in his youth, an especial constitutional melancholy was mitigated abhorrence. He viewed it with somebut hardly lightened by a piety which what of the same spirit in which he quiekened his affections, regulated in heard Boswell describe his sensibility sone important particulars his manner to certain strains of music, as being so of life, and brought into active opera- great as to make him ready to shed tion all the latent tenderness of his tears. “Sir," he replied, “I should nature.
never hear it if it made me such a fool." It was at Oxford that, after reading Indeed, unless his own heart were Law's “Serious Call," he wrote in his touched, he was intolerant of what he diary : “ This was the first occasion of was inclined to consider an affectamy thinking in earnest of religion after tion of feeling in others. When Miss I became capable of rational inquiry.” | Monkton, for instance, declared herself But doubtless the soil was well pre- affected by the pathos of Sterne's writ. pared; he had a devout nature and a ings, he made the well-known rejoinder, religious mother, and the impressions “Why, that is because, dearest, you which precede rational inquiry have are a dunce." Yet his personal piety, not infrequently a more tenacious hold and the tenderness of his nature, break upon the character than those which through the laws of self-restraint, and come after. Dr. Johnson, we may well give a pathetic and individual character believe, miglat have moralized in the not only to his many acts of charity, nursery, and to the end of his life he but to his private meditations and deretained more of the heart of the child votions. than the spirit of youth. Indeed the His strong prejudices, indeed, were period between boyhood and manhood vented in many outbursts of religious was so cloudel by misfortune and em-intolerance, of which one of the most bittered by privation that he was from characteristic is reported by Mrs. the first a stranger and a pilgrim, Knowles, who declares that, on hearever reaching forward to the point ing a certain young lady had become a upon which his ambitions were centred, Quaker, le exclaimed, “ Madam, she is with no inclination to snatch at legiti- an odious wench.” And when a hope mate distractions or dally by the way. was expressed that he would meet with " Ah, sir, I was mad and violent,” he her in another world, he replied that said of himself, referring to his college he was not fond of meeting fools any. days. “It was bitterness which they where. But the outward asperities of mistook for frolick. I was miserably speech could not disguise the goodness poor, and I thought to fight my way by of his heart, and Edmund Burke's vermy literature and wit ; so I disregarded dict upon him finds a ready echo in the all power and all authority.” And minds of those who knew him best. wher, after leaving Oxford, he sought “ It is well if, when a man comes to to earn his bread by the drudgery of die, he has nothing heavier upon his teaching, during the period of precari- conscience than having been a little ous and apparently hopeless struggle rough in his conversation." for a modest competency in Birming- In his writings upon religious subham and in London, he had little op-jects he is often didactic and commonportunity to indulge in the lighter place, but he is never otherwise than amusements or pleasures of youth. earnest and sincere. The adjuncts of a Looking back, we catch but casual bardly won celebrity had endangered glimpses of his individuality at this neither the purity of his motives nor time, and he seems to us to have passed the simplicity of his faith. To the last
he religiously kept the anniversary of men of the world." And though he his wife's death as a day of self-exami- may speak of death and hell and judga nation and prayer, and his thoughts and ment, we find it for the most part easy supplications followed her with believ- to follow his advice. But though a ing fidelity into another world. This man of the world, it would not have very simplicity of heart forbids the reti- been possible to Dr. Johnson. cence natural to more complex charac- To the last his deepest feelings were ters. It never occurred to him to avoid concerned with things eternal. He an open profession, or to lower his made three requests to Sir Joshua Reystandard, lest it should be the occasion nolds — that he would read the Bible, of surprise or contenipt. Though not forgive a debt of thirty pounds, and apt to parade either a weakness or a never paint on Sundays. He met virtue, he was ready enough to acknowl- death, of which he had so often conedge either the one or the other when fessed his fear, with the calmness and opportunity served. When Boswell courage of a Christian. He had delamented that he was troubled by occa- sired the presence of a minister of God, sional inclinations to narrowness, there and with characteristic energy directed came at once the rejoinder, “ Why, sir, the form of ministration which he deso am I, but I do not tell it.” Nor was sired ; a curious sense of his own imhe shy of bringing his religion to bear portance mingling with the reverence openly upon the ordinary transactions with which he approached the gate of of life. When he found it intolerably immortality. “Pray louder, sir,” he irksome to redeem his literary pledges, said to the clergyman “pray louder, he did not hesitate to pray earnestly or you pray in vain ;” and shortly after, against the sin of sloth ; and whenever he faintly uttered his last words, “God he received the sacrament, he made a bless you, my dear,” to the daughter of fresh resolution against trilling away an old friend who knelt beside his bed. his time. When a deputation of book- They were a touching and appropriate sellers came to treat with him on Easter close to a life based upon religious eve, he confessed to them that he had a principles, and abounding in human scruple about doing business on that sympathies. He may have been, as day. When he left Mrs. Thrales's Boswell says, “a majestick teacher of house at Streatham, of which he had moral and religious wisdom ;” but it is been so long an inmate, he read a chap- not from his writings, nor even from ter of the Greek Testament in the his authoritative speech upon such sublibrary, and in a solemn prayer invoked jects, that we have most to learn, but a blessing upon the house and its in- rather from those chance revelations of habitants. There is something in these a true and noble nature which are so formal and yet simple acknowledgments thickly scattered upon the pages of his of belief and dependence which strikes biography. one as essentially unmodern. It is His religion had been throughout his hardly too much to say that intimate life intensely personal. We may say contact with a person to whom such that he was a Tory and a Churchman, proceedings were so natural as to be but the one assertion would convey matters of course, would be apt to cause about as little definite meaning as the the ordinary Christian of the present other to those who in these days call day some embarrassment. We talk a themselves by the same names. His good deal upon religious subjects, but conceptions of church membership we are careful to discuss them more or would probably shock the modern Anless superficially. We should feel it an glican as much as his charities would indelicacy to disclose our deeper feeling have affronted the notions of the modeven to intimate friends. “Let us talk ern philanthropist. To squander undeof these things," says a lawyer upon served benefits upon the drunken and his deathbed in a work of modern fic- ungrateful has, to our enlightened tion — " let us approach the subject as common sense, a certain flavor of immorality ; whilst we may well believe I was reluctantly compelled to interrupt that the sight of the uncouth figure his courtship to pass a Sunday at his wandering about London streets to living, we are not surprised to find that thrust peonies into the hands of sleep- the old frontispiece lo “ Northauger ing vagrant children, would have roused Abbey” represents him as rushing up the righteous indignation of the Charity the stairs brandishing a riding-whip, in Organization Society had it been in a costume which is a mixture of the existence. But philanthropy had not brigand and the jockey. Miss Austen, as yet been systematized. Think of again, would seem to have had no fault the excellent Vicar of Wakefield, for to find with the way in which Mr. Elinstance, as he describes in a few lines ton passed his mornings in a lady's the daily life of an exemplary country drawing-room, reading poetry and makclergyman : “ The year was spent in ing charades, provided only he had moral or rural amusement; in visiting been in love with the right young our rich neighbors and relieving such lady. as were poor. We had no revolutions Yet though the clerical standard was to fear, no fatigues to undergo ! All in many instances so low, the general our adventures were by the fireside, tone in regard to the highest subjects and all our migrations from the blue was one of grave responsibility and unbed to the brown." What a placid and impassioned but serious interest. It peaceful existence ! Undisturbed by was the key-note both of Coleridge's religious controversy ; without any pa- mysticism and Wordsworth's philosorochial machinery needing to be di- phy. And without entering into those rected; with no temperance societies wide subjects, which are both above and soup-kitchens, no mothers' meet- and beyond our scope, let us take at ings and men's clubs, which now break hazard one or two indications of a like in upon the leisure of the most phleg- spirit animating a brother poet. Think matic parish priest. Incidentally, what of Southey with his vivid imagination a curious insight do we also obtain of and all the visions of youth before him, the same clerical and rural life in later and the fever of authorship working in times from Miss Austen, herself a rec- his brain ; Southey, who already as a tor's daughter! Take the description, schoolboy had some idea of continuing for example, of Charles Hayter's living Ovid's "Metamorphoses," and planned in “Persuasion : " “In the centre of six books to complete the “ Faery some of the best preserves in the king- Queen ; " Southey, already at nineteen dom, surrounded by three great propri- the author of elegies and heroic epistles, etors, each more careful and jealous and of “Joan of Arc," an epic in than the other; and to two of the twelve books, written in six weeks ; three, at least, Charles Hayter might with a high and yet withal modest conget a special recommendation. Not viction of his poetic mission and litthat he will value it as he ought; erary gifts ; and still, when there is a Charles is too cool about sporting. question of his entering the Church That's the worst of him.” It is true of England ministry, he cries, “God that the clergy could not always avoid knows, I would exchange every intelprofessional calls, for “even the cler-lectual gift which he has blessed me gyman,” says Mrs. Clay — “even the with, for implicit faith to have been clergyman, you know, is obliged to go able to do this.” There is an impresinto infected rooms, and expose his sive deliberation about such faithful health and looks to all the injury of a utterances which one would rather poisonous atmosphere ;” but it would have supposed to be the result of a appear as if such unpleasant avocations judgment sobered by experience, a occupied but a small portion of their fancy chastened by disappointment. time. Henry Tilney certainly did not When Coleridge, writing a little later let them stand in the way of more of a friend's death, observes that in agreeable engagements, and though he consequence, “We are all more religious than we were. God be ever as with those infant twins of whom he praised for all things, we feel as if afterwards wrote: the presence of death were hardly Their very cradle was the hopeful grave, needed to deepen the spiritual influ- God only made them for his Christ to save. ences which made the unseen world to them an ever-present reality. Words- Poor Hartley! with his unstable will, worth's “We are Seven” was but a his recurrent and unavailing remorse, familiar illustration of their creed. “I perhaps because of his very imperfechave five children,” Southey wrote in tions, he lets us, more intimately than 1809, “ three of them at home, and two a wiser or a better man might have of them under my mother's care in done, into the secrets of his spiritual heaven.” And already at thirty-five life. What a pathetic interest attaches he could write, “No man can be better to his hopes and his failures ! Wasted contented with his lot. My paths are by disease, pursued by remorse, at last paths of pleasantness. Still the insta- relinquishing the faith with which it is bility of human happiness is ever be- perhaps most dangerous to part — the fore my eyes ; I long for the certain belief in his own possibilities for good and the permanent.” And at forty, “I - how vividly he paints his own sense doubt whether the strictest Carthusian of unworthiness in the well-known has the thought of death more habitu- lines on the fly-leaf of one of the books ally in his mind."
of his boyhood :We might indeed say that these are
When I received this volume small, merely the expressions of a mind as
My years were barely seventeen, unusually rich in pure spiritual percep- When it was hoped I should be all tions as in high poetic gifts ; neverthe- Which once, alas ! I might have been. less there is an atmosphere, moral and religious, which insensibly affects per
And now my years are thirty-five, sons of very different orders and di
And every mother hopes her lamb verse or inferior gifts. It is not in the
And every happy child alive, nature of a violent revolutionary awak
May never be what now I am. ening, and it has a more limited influ. There is no trace of the popular selfence, but within a slowly widening delusion of the morbid penitent. His circle it does a work of a deeper and life is, in his own eyes, an unsightly more permanent character. When we ruin of “things incomplete and purread of little Hartley Coleridge, for in- poses betrayed ;” he can see no beauty stance, calling himself, whilst still in in the wild flowers which have sprung the nursery, - a boy of a very religious up about it. In his boyhood he hail turn,” we feel as if there must have already written of himself as fearing to been some unseen springs at work, or nourish “ a self-love already too strong, some hereditary predisposition, to ac- and the worst of self-love, a respect for count for this unusual precocity ; espe- the faults of self ; ” but we may truly cially when we hear that with his say it was an error into which he never nurse by his side he prayed extempore fell among all the melancholy failings every night — not, we may observe, of later years. Indeed, even in his until he was safely and comfortably youth he seemed occasionally to reach tucked up in his bed, thus curiously a vantage-ground, some spot of solid foreshadowing at once the piety and earth on which to plant his wavering the self-indulgence of his later years. feet, from whence he could look down What unfulfilled promises cluster about upon the temptations and lapses of his his life from the moment of his birth, past with a severe but dispassionate when, though his mother called him judgment. "" You must be aware,” he " an ugly red thing," his father took writes to his father upon one of these him in his arms and said, “ There is occasions, “ that the pain arising from no sweeter baby anywhere than this !" the contemplation of a life misspent is Happy perhaps if it had been with him loften the cause of continuance in mis