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And I had to stand alone,- -or so it seemed to me. I had no friends, no occupation, no home. I had linked myself to no professional brotherhood, I had no rivals or allies. Henceforward to me there was no return to any spot on earth. All places were alike; in all I must be a wanderer. My home was any room where I could draw a bolt across the door."
He goes abroad to and wanders over the Continent, and finds there more of human fellowship and relief in the unrestrained converse with utter strangers, present one day and gone the next, than he did amidst the hard reserve of English life. There had been one passion long stirring in his soul-the only one beside his love for Winifred-and that was the desire for philosophic truth. Books that treated on the nature of the human soul, on the great problems of God and this world of nature and of man, had ever possessed for him an absorbing interest. And now, the other passion crushed, this mere reflective life was all that was left him. Life of pale joys and noble sorrows-in which poetry and philosophy combine to fend a charm to the seducing study, and from which the profound in terest of the problems prevents the mind ever breaking away. "He who has once thought earnestly on the great problems of life," said Thorndale, as his own life was waning, "will think on to the end of his days under cloud or in sunshine, doubting or believing, with good result or no result at all, he will still think on." In the course of his rambles on the Continent, and also on his return to England, he meets with friends who were the companions of his student life, and with whom he used to exchange communings in fields of thought so naturally congenial; and an account of these interviews and conversations forms the larger part of the Diary, the composition of which formed the recreation of his last hours. At length a constitutional tendency to consumption, aggravated by the depression and suppressed emotion of his hopeless love for Winifred, assumes a threatening form,
and compels him to settle in a sunny nook in the Isle of Wight. He still kept away from Sutton Manor; but at length, having to write to his uncle on business," amiable messages came in return, abundant regrets to hear of ill-health, and an especial chiding from Winifred for my unsocial habits. Unsocial! I think that the pain of solitude was at this time, more than any other cause, fostering the malady under which I was growing weaker every day." The drama of the Moth and the Flame was not entirely played out; and amid ill-health and a fevered brain, a scrap of writing in her hand, containing a kindly word such as she might bestow on any old friend, had a strange power over him. One day he had a singular delusion. As he was lying listless on his couch, looking out of the open window-for the day was sultry-he beheld a lady walking in the garden, and approaching the house; and a strange but irresistible delusion seized him that it was Winifred. "She seemed to be occupying herself with the flowers, but in reality she was only preparing herself for her interview with her stricken cousin-stricken in healthstricken, as she knew, in more than health." It was but a mirage of the heart! We quote the passage in which he describes his feelings on the occasion, especially as the passage is inextricably interwoven with the one which gives us the last glimpse of that beautiful heart, as, in the seclusion of the Villa Scarpa, it descends calmly at last to the dim valley and shadow of death.
beating violently-till the figure should "I watched breathless my heart turn to me. It turned-looked up for a moment at the cottage, and walked trippingly away. It was a fair young girl-very fair-but not Winifred. Winifred Moberly was in her own beautiful garden, or sitting in her own drawing-room, with many friends around her. Why should she concern herself with the
sick exile out here? How could I be so mad as to think it? Yet, madness or not, my thoughts, for several days, ran in this direction. What if she should
come? O come, come!' I murmured to myself. Lay your hand upon my shoulder. Arrest, detain, restore me. Give me - give me hopeful
thoughts-give me faith, as well as life -YOU CAN!' And then again I bethought myself, that my life had so long run in one sad and monotonous tenorI knew not how I should support the sudden turmoil of a great joy. Folly! folly !' I exclaimed. Why do I suffer such delirious thoughts to intrude on me? What should Love do here in the very ashes of a man? A great happiness would be to me a great trouble; I have not been cultivated for happiness.'
"Such contradictory and most needless soliloquies was I uttering from my sick couch. Consultations now ensued with this and that eminent physician. Consumption! ay or no? And at length the decisive Yes! and intimations that
the disorder was assuming a very peremptory form. One moment of sharp and confused agony as this broke on me; then a calm, which has not since de
serted me. Never had I suffered from such utter depression of spirits, never felt so hopeless in my quest of truth or happiness, never felt so entirely without task or occupation, aim or purpose, for the coming days, as in this last retreat in the Isle of Wight. I have no wish to recall the hours I spent there, or the thoughts that there afflicted me. And
now suddenly life was over! except just to watch the daylight down. No task, and no joy, would any more be wanted. One sharp confused agony, as I have said, one sudden turmoil, as the little vessel swung round through the dizzy whirlpool into her last port, then a brief space, which the eye could easily measure, of smooth water, was all she
had to traverse.
"The day is never long. I have in
deed ceased to take note of the measurement of time. One hour is more
genial than another;- thought flows more rapidly, or these damaged lungs breathe somewhat more freely at one time than another; but where the present hour stands in the series which makes up day and night, what the clock reports of the progress of time, I have ceased to ask myself. There is but one hour that the bell has to strike for me!" Such is Charles Thorndale-the imaginary, but, though rare, thoroughly natural character which Mr Smith has chosen as the central figure of the book in which he sets forth the momentous Conflict of Opinions which now distracts the thinking minds of the age. But other characters, with fragments of their careers, are interwoven in the development of the work. There is
Clarence the Utopian, whose faith in the supreme wisdom and goodness of God makes him see in the future a constant progress and graduation liefs and human society. There is towards perfection in individual beCyril, whom (for want of a better title) we must call the High Churchman; who, early distracted and rendered unutterably wretched by religious doubts, so that he is only saved by an accident from being a suicide, at length seeks refuge from doubt in the bosom of the "infallible" Church, and finds peace in a cloister. There is Luxmore, the buoyant poet; who, on the failure of the book with which he thought to astonish the world, goes and buries all the copies of it by night in his garden, that it may never more trouble him; and thereafter sets off duly equipped with rifle and revolver for America, with the intention of working his way round to a farm by the Mississippi." Lastly, and not least notable, there is Seckendorf, the hard-eyed but not hard-hearted Sceptic, so tolerant to persons, so pitiless to opinions when advanced
not as beliefs but as truths. He is the very genius of inductive philosophy, which can create nothing,and which, over-praised thing as it is, though admirable as a test of truth, is itself barren. In this he is the opposite of Clarence, who, by the genius of deduction, overflows with high beliefs, but beliefs, alas! of which there is little actual assurance, and which accordingly are terribly battered, though not annihilated, by the logical positivism of Seckendorf. Seckendorf takes life as it is; sceptical as he becomes in argument, his doubts never disturb the even tenor of his way. Arrived at the conclusion that the human intellect, when it knows its own range, can do nothing but doubt, he thereafter, except verbally, ceased to doubt at all, and simply took things as he found them. Luxmore the poet, too, took life as it is, though in warmer and more genial fashion than Seckendorf · asking from it not Eternal Truth, but simply what treasures it can reveal of Hope, of Love, and of high Thought and Emotion. The other three-Thorndale, Cyril, Clarence
were men too much divorced, by the influence of temperament and circumstances, from the active work of life; and hence Thought with them, however high and noble, at times became almost morbid from the vehemence of its isolated action.
Such are the personages whose lives and thoughts are presented with masterly skill in the pages of Mr Smith's book. A better selection of characters could not have been chosen; and truths and inquiries of all complexions, as well as the opposite sides of the same question, find appropriate expression from one or other of this friendly, and in all respects notable, conclave. As regards composition, the work is thoroughly artistic, and the style is alike lucid and charming. Indeed, we do not know where any purer and more charming model of composition is to be found than in this book. It is the style of Addison, but heaving with the subtler emotions and more complex thoughts of the present age. It must have taken no ordinary labour to produce so goodly-sized a volume, in which the writing throughout is so remarkably terse, clear, and charming. All that expression can do for the enunciation of truth has been done. One of the very few truths that cannot be questioned is, that we cannot crush a quart into a pint; and undoubtedly there are many ideas which are too big to find entrance into the minds of the million. But any person of trained intellect will find that the meaning in Mr Smith's book is ever so transparent -the idea is ever so translucent in the language that if he pause in the perusal, it will be to admire and ponder, not to unravel; and even ordinary readers will be surprised to find how thoroughly intelligible many a hitherto abstruse point becomes when discoursed upon by Mr Smith. One of the most striking merits of the work consists in the attractive mode in which its varied themes are treated. We nowhere meet with long level tracts of dissertation. The lives of the characters introduced run winding and interlaced through the work like silver threads; the discussions are ever connected with some epoch in the narrative, which gives
to them a local colouring; and the very discussions themselves are dramatically made the means of painting, by strokes of incident, the character and career of the speakers. Moreover, Mr Smith handles his themes in the form which brings them most home to our mind and feelings. He entirely eschews the arid lifeless entities of the scholastic metaphysician, in whose hands the varied thoughts and emotions of humanity appear but as poor pale ghosts, from whom all substance and human interest have fled. And even in the discussion of the highest and most perplexing problems of life, the reader feels that the arguments and counter-arguments come home to him, and that he has a personal interest in watching the progress and issue of the debate.
I hear my contemporaries boast often of the enlightened age they live in," says Thorndale; "but I do not find this light. To me it seems that we state our problems more distinctly than heretofore; I do not find that we solve them. We are very luminous in our doubts. We walk our labyrinth in clear day, but we don't get out of it." These words give the key-note of the "Conflict of Opinions;" but it is a difficult matter to give an adequate view of the contents of the book. We cannot summarise its contents: they range over the whole field of social polity and human life-and where are we to begin, or where end? Neither need we attempt to condense and crystallise any section of the work, for every sentence and paragraph is already crystallised and proportioned so well by the author that any attempt at further condensation would be but a crushing of gems. The only course open to us is to select a few passages as samples of the book; but it must be borne in mind that our selection is necessarily limited to passages that will bear isolation, -so that the paragraphs we extract are not to be accepted as the best in the book, but as the best that can be taken out of it.
Let us begin with one of Thorndale's beautiful remarks, indited at the Villa Scarpa — illustrative of the truth that the more beauty there
is within us, the more does there appear in the world around us :—
"I am never more convinced of the progress of mankind than when I think of the sentiment developed in us by our intercourse with nature, and mark how it augments and refines with our moral culture, and also (though this is not so generally admitted) with our scientific knowledge. We learn from age to age to see the beauty of the world; or, what comes to the same thing, this beautiful creation of the sentiment of beauty, is developing itself in us.
"Only reflect what regions lovely as Paradise there are over all Asia and Europe, and in every quarter of the globe, waiting to receive their fitting inhabitants their counterparts in the conscious creature. The men who are now living there do not see the Eden that surrounds them. They lack the moral and intellectual vision. It is not too bold a thing to say that, the mind of man once cultivated, he will see around him the Paradise he laments that he has
lost. For one 'Paradise Lost,' he will sing of a thousand that he has gained.
"What a heaven of beauty do I live in! I sometimes say to myself, when looking out upon this scene, 'Let man grow good and wise as the angels-let him reach his ideal of perfection-he will not at last need a new earth or other skies to live in.'"
Let us turn to another character, and hear how the hopeful Clarence discourses upon progress in Government and Religion:
"There is in South America a grass which has this peculiarity, that the young plant grows up sheltered in the sheath of the old one. The old blade of grass withers, and the new one is seen already prepared to take its place. For a certain time the new grass and the old appear to divide the field between them. Such is the mode in which new systems or principles spring up amongst us. They grow under shelter of the old, and the transition is so gradual that a time intervenes when we can hardly say here also, whether it is the old grass or the new that predominates in the field.
"The spontaneous passions of manlove of power on the one side, trust and admiration and craving for guidance, on the other-build up some sort of government, generally of the despotic character. But, under the shelter of this spontaneous form, reflection upon government itself becomes possible. There is, in the first place, something to reflect VOL. LXXXIII.-NO. DVIII.
upon-the want and the purposes of government which experience has now taught; and there is that degree of security and of leisure and safety which renders possible the existence of the reflective man. Thus new ideas spring up, and a wiser polity gradually pushes its way into the world. So too in Religion. Spontaneous passions and wild imaginations first construct for us a celestial Governor, oftentimes of dark and terrible nature; but here too, by this spontaneous and imaginative faith, the action of a religious sentiment becomes known to us-contemplation upon religion itself becomes possible-and the ideas of Governor and Creator are afterwards modified as our knowledge becomes enlarged, and as our own humanity becomes improved."
Seckendorf, as we have said, is the great opponent of Clarence's Utopianism, but Clarence himself is not blind to the obstacles to human profollowing highly suggestive sentengress towards perfection; and in the ces he strikes upon a truth of very wide application, and which constitutes the greatest stumblingblock we know in the path of utopians. The truth is briefly this, that as individuals and societies rise in the scale of existence, and become susceptible of higher joys, they at the same time become more susceptible of suffering, and many things are felt to be painful which never were so before. This is a humbling truth, but it is also full of promise; for what is the natural effect of such a law, which must operate upon angels as well as men, but ever to impel beings upwards, higher and higher in the scale of existence, ceaselessly advancing on a journey which has a goal (God), but no end? Here are Clarence's remarks upon the operation of this law in our social life:
"It seems at first an unamiable characteristic of humanity that the remedy of one evil should be followed by an increased susceptibility to some other evil which before had been patiently tolerated. But it is thus that man advances. The removal of one pressing calamity never induced patience or tranquillity under the evils that remained. On the contrary, it gives courage to men to attempt the removal of these also; it renders them more sensitive to such evils, or perhaps renders sensitive for the first time. Slaves that writhe under the
whip are not disquieted about their political rights: manumit them from personal slavery, and they become sensitive to political oppression. Liberate them from arbitrary power-let the law alone govern-and they begin to scrutinise the law itself, and desire to be governed, not only by law, but by the best possible law. And now, when the civil or temporal despotism has been set aside, and the municipal law has been moulded on the principles of an enlightened jurisprudence, men probably wake to the discovery that they are living under some priestly or ecclesiastical despotism, and they become desirous of working a reformation here also. In fact, at each stage of this process the nature of the man is improved and his intelligence expanded, and, as one result, he becomes susceptible to evils which a coarser nature, and a more limited understanding, could not feel-could not take cognisance of.
"The absolute want, the physical suffering of large numbers of the people, now absorbs our attention. Those who feel this suffering can think and speak of nothing else, and those who occupy themselves with the sufferings of others, must be almost equally absorbed by it. No man can propose anything for the general benefit of society without having this physical suffering placed first of all before him. Now, suppose this evil to be subdued-I do not say entirely-but reduced to manageable subjection-do you imagine that men would sit down contented and reconciled to the thousand moral or social evils that remain? You know very well that they would not; that they would now feel those evils with aggravated acuteness-with a quite novel susceptibility. Calamities which, in the presence of hunger and cold, and every description of bodily wretchedness, were scarcely recognised as such, would now, in their turn, become intolerable. Those who themselves are at present above want or poverty, nevertheless are still looking down at that abyss of misery and destitution beneath them, and, while congratulating themselves at their own escape, they do not, and dare not, complain of evils of a less terrible character. They are silent on that anxiety which besets their own position, and robs every household of its peace; they are silent on that perpetual contest and strife of commerce which sows the seed of hatred so abundantly through every hamlet and village. Is not the wolf still at the door? Are not others being devoured by famine, or dying of fevers? We must not speak of minor evils."
Our concluding extract shall be from Seckendorf, the hard positivist and keen-eyed man of the world, whose views on the political and religious future of England are only too worthy of attention. As to the conclusion to which he comes, we very heartily say, Dei avertant !
"Two years ago, a democratic movement shook most of the thrones of Europe. Was this in the programme of your developement? Was this the march of intellect?' If so, there has been a counter-march. As I read this last chapter in our history, wealth took the alarm at certain prophetic announcements of 'social progress,' of 'equitable reorganisation,' and threw her weight upon the side of monarchy. Wealth enlisted the despot; wealth re-enlisted and exalted the priest. Men, to save themselves from your philanthropic regeneration, sacrificed political liberty and intellectual liberty; they submitted to imperial government, and shuffled on in haste the cloak of hypocrisy.
"England is almost the only country of Europe that at this moment can boast of republican institutions (for the government of England is practically a republic under the forms of monarchy); but how long is she likely to retain this distinction? Some little time ago I be. held paraded through the streets of London an enormous banner, followed by a multitude of Chartists. On this purple banner, and in letters of gold, one might read the motto- A fair day's wages for a fair day's work.' A more modest motto, you will say, was never displayed in purple and gold. A more impossible demand was never made. No legislative power on earth could give them their fair day's wages for their fair day's work. They must look after that matter, each one for himself. Nay, if Parliament, in her 'omnipotence,' should settle what shall be a fair day's work and a fair day's wages, Parliament must next consult the gods and mother earth to know if these recognise the tariff. Your work and your wages are finally settled-somewhere out of Parliament. But now, if this clamour rises, if this motto becomes a popular faith, then wealth in England will also take the alarm. Wealth here also will enlist the monarch; the pageant, and the forms, and the very theory of monarchical government, have all been faithfully preserved;-wealth here, also, will take shelter in imperial government, will renounce its free Parliament and its free press, and keep the private purse untouched. Wealth here, also, will