« AnteriorContinuar »
journal and were whispered with more or less confidence in private society. The name of the Bishop of St. David's—' clarum ' et venerabile nomen,' if any ever was-was to take its place, with the names of Bishop Colenso and Bishop Hinds, among those who destroyed the faith which they had once preached. And as the work was one which from its grasp and range of reading (including the theological and critical literature of Holland, which was probably the starting-point of the conjecture) had obviously been some years in preparation, it was assumed that he had ended the labours of his episcopate with a lie; and that while he was protesting against the latent, half-unconscious denial of a supernatural religion which he thought he found in Essays and Reviews' and the writings of Bishop Colenso, he was himself deliberately constructing a masked battery from which to open a far more destructive attack. Happily the rumour came to the Bishop's ears before his death, so that he was able to declare that he had never even seen the book which he was accused of writing. But for this, if the writer of that book continues to wear the mask which as yet has proved as impenetrable as that of Junius, a later generation might have been entangled in the task of weighing circumstantial evidence, or calling in experts to examine hand-writings to disprove a calumny.
It is clear from this survey of the work of Bishop Thirlwall that he stands apart from the two great parties, which under the titles of High and Low have been in past days regarded as forming an almost exhaustive division of the members of the Church of England. It is not less clear, from the interesting memorandum on the Broad Church School,' published since his death in the Contemporary Review' for October 1875, that he would not have accepted the epithet of a Broad Church bishop in any sense that identified him with a school, a clique, or a coterie. There is an opposition,' as he there says, 'between High Church and Low Church, which all educated men more or less clearly understand, but there is none between Broad Church and either. The proper antithesis to Broad is not High or Low, but Narrow.' He is not satisfied, however, with representing the note of Broad Churchmanship as consisting simply in a certain charitable and conciliatory disposition. It implies also an intellectual peculiarity, which he will not define, but which he illustrates by the examples, in the more distant past, of Jeremy Taylor, and, among those of his own generation, of Archdeacon Hare.' On Dr. Littledale's somewhat supercilious assertion that the deficiencies of the Broad Church school were the result of
ignorance, and that Theology grows clearer with the advance of knowledge,' he remarks, with an irony to the last keen as ever, that if this means that as knowledge advances more 'becomes known, all, he supposed, would bow to his oracle.'
'But if it means that as Theology becomes more definite and systematic, it carries deeper conviction of its truth to minds which have ever been used to discriminate between that which is human and that which is divine in it, it would hardly be possible to frame a proposition more entirely contrary to all the results of my study of Ecclesiastical Theology, or to those of my personal experience.'
We have dwelt at some length-not, we trust, trespassing unduly on the patience of our readers-on the character and teaching of the great scholar, historian, thinker, and theologian who has been so recently taken from us. The loss involved in his departure from among us is one that cannot easily be repaired. We should look forward to the future of the Church of England with more hope if we could perceive any signs that there were at least the ten righteous men' among us in any measure like-minded with the teacher whom we have lost. But that gift of the 'cor sapiens et intelligens ad discernendum 'judicium is given to a few only in any generation; and as we look around at the wrangling chaos of our sects and parties, at our prosecutions about vestments and positions, at the zeal without knowledge, and the knowledge without love, which are engendered by the falsehood of extremes; at the purely negative criticism which undermines the faith, and the passionate clinging to dogmas and damnatory clauses that are no longer tenable by its defenders, we are compelled to confess that while we recognise in many things the same largeness of heart and dispassionate calmness and courage in resisting popular clamour in the Prelate who is happily the chief official representative of the Church of England, we seek in vain. among those who are most prominent in their respective schools of thought for one on whom the mantle of Bishop Thirlwall has so far fallen as to give the promise of that 'double portion of his spirit' for which the disciples of one who has been as a master and prophet in Israel may well pray as their most precious inheritance.
*We quote the words engraved on the granite slab over his grave in Westminster Abbey, where he sleeps side by side with his brotherhistorian Grote.
ART. II.—1. Passages in the Life of Mrs. Margaret Maitland of Sunnyside. Written by herself.
2. Merkland: a Story of Scottish Life. By the Author of Passages in the Life of Mrs. Margaret Maitland.' 1851.
3. Harry Muir: a Story of Scottish Life.
4. Katie Stewart. By Mrs. OLIPHANT. 1852. 5. The Minister's Wife. By Mrs. OLIPHANT.
6. The Story of Valentine: and his Brother. By Mrs. OLIPHANT.
7. David Elginbrod. By GEORGE MAC DONALD. 1863. 8. Alec Forbes of Howglen.
By GEORGE MAC DONALD.
9. Robert Falconer. By GEORGE MAC DONALD. 1868. 10. Malcolm. By GEORGE MAC DONALD. 1875.
By WILLIAM BLACK. 1871.
By WILLIAM BLACK. 1873.
11. A Daughter of Heth. 12. A Princess of Thule. HE practical character of our busy modern life has done some injustice to the Scottish nation. Not altogether without reason, people have come to regard us in those practical aspects which are least engaging. The typical Scotchman is the keen and pushing man of business who looks closely to the main chance, seldom misses a profitable occasion, and takes religious care that in his dealings with his neighbour he shall never fail in his duty to himself. Whatever sterling qualities he may possess, there is supposed to be the minimum of poetry in his composition. The Scots have now more than their share of wealth and honours all over the British possessions, and the virtues by which they command success have made them less liked than respected. Their peculiarities of speech and manner lend themselves easily to ridicule. Their constitutional reserve and caution tend to repel easy intimacy; and superficial observers have been slow to appreciate the amiable qualities that lie hidden under a commonplace or chilling exterior. We need hardly wonder, then, that they have seemed to offer unpromising material to the hurried authors of ephemeral novels. These ladies and gentlemen write for their readers; they dash down the vague impressions that glance from the surface of unreflecting minds; their indolence saves them from attempting the discriminating analysis which could only result in lamentable failure, and they dwell either on the trivial or the coarsely emotional life that recommends itself
most to the vulgar fancy. It neither suits their genius,' nor is it in their capacity, to remember that it is the stillest water that runs the deepest.
On the other hand, the writing a good Scotch novel demands a technical mastery of difficult and delicate subjects. The more distinctive effects, the most telling points, are to be sought in those humble interiors to which strangers seldom make their way, and which are less familiar than they ought to be even to cultivated Scotchmen of the upper classes. The language and its idioms are serious stumbling-blocks to begin with. In the more primitive districts the peasants speak as their 'forbears' did before them, and their most ordinary words may convey an infinity of shades of meaning which the most elaborate paraphrase could scarcely interpret to the uninitiated. After all, popularity is the ambition of a novelist. He desires to write for the world in general, and to make his work intelligible to all. If he overload his pages with local dialect which sounds sometimes barbarous and sometimes vulgar, his book is likely to be dropped with distaste. We are scarcely surprised, then, that the list of good Scotch novels is a short one; but the fact that it is so leaves an inviting field in these hackneyed times to writers who chance to have the special knowledge and are conscious of the needful gifts.
In reality the genius and disposition of the Scottish people has always tended instinctively to the romantic. It is not only that in the turbulent ferocity of their earlier history they were in the habit, like their neighbours, of translating romance into adventurous action. Rapine and bloodshed are the invariable distractions of unsettled and semi-barbarous societies. But the national poetry of the Scotch, the songs and ballads that pleased their untutored fancy and enlivened their rude feasts, had a romantic character all its own. For all its martial ring, it was no mere celebration of deeds of daring or carnage, of battle and fireraising and bloody deaths. It did not glorify successful guile like the Scandinavian scalds and sagas, or exalt the joys of ceaseless slaughter and debauch as the only heaven for a man of action. The most primitive Scotch minstrelsy was characterised as much by a gentle grace and touches of tender pathos as by fire and spirit. Through it all there ran a deep vein of the imaginative, which sometimes, in such wild legends as Tamlane,' became as fantastic as any Teutonic märchen. Even in warlike lays like the fight of Otterburn, where the death-struggle of the Douglas and Percy appealed to inveterate national animosities, the minstrel played on the heartstrings of his audience like the immortal Timotheus
in Alexander's Feast.' He turned from the shivering of lances and the shouts of victory to the softer and nobler emotions. And love was as favourite a theme as battle; witness the plaintive blending of sorrow, passion, and malignant revenge in fair' Helen of Kirkconnel.' What can be more delicately insinuated than the forgiving bye-struggle of the poisoned and heart-stricken lover in Lord Randal'? What more tellingly impressive than the sharp touches of nature, the terse and vigorous descriptions of storm-scenery and shipwreck, in the Grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spens'? And instances of the sort might be multiplied indefinitely.
Nor as time went on and Scotland became more peaceful, did the Scottish gentleman undergo much change, although he had to shape his course somewhat differently. He was poor as his country was barren, but his spirit was too high to resign itself to his circumstances, and settle him down into a tame existence, getting his living somehow from hand to mouth. The laird might live on his lands among his people, exercising a rough paternal authority over the tenantry who were bound to him by filial as by feudal ties. Their needy circumstances spurred the ambition of well-born cadets whose ancestors had always followed the profession of arms, and sent them to foreign lands to seek an outlet for their energies. Read the deeds of the Scotch auxiliaries in the pages of Froissart, or the records of the French kings' Archer Guard, their surest safeguard against domestic treason. Scotch seamen of the middle classes went trading and privateering when European commerce was still in its infancy; and chivalrous old captains like Sir Patrick Spens had worthy successors in the Andrew Bartons. The same spirit of adventure has survived to modern times, spreading itself downward through the nation, although it has been regulated by shrewd sense and has been circumscribed by the modern ways of money-getting. Yet there was romance enough in all conscience, for example, in the lives of the employés of the North American fur companies, who were recruited from the Highlands almost to a man, and who earned their pay and pensions in perpetual warfare with the savages, with the elements, and with one another. And to come more decidedly within the pale of civilisation, in our Indian dependencies, in the colonies, and even in foreign countries, we find Scotch adventurers holding a disproportionate share of offices of trust, profit, and difficulty, simply because they have the reflection, resolution, and courage which sends the fittest men by natural selection to their fitting places in positions of emergency. We seem to have been betrayed into a panegyric