Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the freest range of what are called revolutionary principles, was combined with a warm and steady belief in the doctrines of Christianity.

“There are persons, the bias of whose thoughts and feelings renders them incapable of considering the noble subject of these pages in any other light than that of a rebel against legitimate authority, and as such politically excluded from the circle of their sympathies. But not so does the feeling of mankind in general requite the generous martyrs of the common cause, and even where contemporaries have been unjust, Time, the great vindicator of those who struggle for the right, seldom fails to enforce a due atonement to their memories."

TRAVELS OF AN IRISH GENTLEMAN IN SEARCH

OF A RELIGION. We have seen how Moore, as the poet, could entrance mankind ; and how, as the biographer, he could deal with history in a style equal to that of those who devoted their lives to the delineation of its wondrous scenes. We have seen how in “ Captain Rock” he could combine humour with pathos, and how feelingly he could describe the too-painful annals of Ireland.

Moore came next before the world as a controversial writer--as the bold defender of his creed, as he had been of his country. It is a matter to be much wondered at that one who had been habituated to poetry could tie himself down to the study of a subject which, though possessing paramount interest for every human being, requires close application to master its difficulties. The “ Travels” prove that Moore had no superficial knowledge of the subject which he treated. He seems to have studied controversy deeply, and to have collected much of the ecclesiastical learning of ancient and modern times. He has with considerable erudition gathered all the opinions which have been put forward on the Protestant side of the controversy, he has probed with a master hand the progress of rationalism in Germany, and has pointed out the evidences which exist for the necessity of a guide in the examination of Scripture. It has been stated by some, that the work is sometimes too flippant for the subject, and that it does not uniformly develope that solemnity of tone which a volume upon so sacred a topic should possess. It will however be found on examination, that the work, though containing strong evidence of being the production of a poetical mind, contains not a line which indicates the smallest inclination to treat the subject in any manner unbefitting its importance. There are, it is true, some flowers of fancy wreathed through it, but it must be remembered that Moore wrote for the people, not for the schoolmen,

The plan of the work is this. A young Catholic student in Trinity College had been long thinking of some respectable reason for changing his religion, and the Emancipation Bill having passed into law, he saw that one of the reasons which would actuate a manly mind against the change, viz., the fear of being supposed to be influenced by worldly gain, had diminished. The “ Irish Gentleman ” is thus introduced to the reader :

“It was on the evening of the 16th day of April,

K

1829,—the very day on which the memorable news reached Dublin of the royal assent having been given to the Catholic Relief Bill, -that, as I was sitting alone in my chambers, up two pair of stairs, in Trinity College, being myself one of the everlasting seven millions' thus liberated, I started suddenly, after a few moments' reverie, from my chair, and taking a stride across the room, as if to make trial of a pair of emancipated legs, exclaimed, * Thank God ! I may now, if I like, turn Protestant.' The reader will see, at once, in this short speech, the entire course of my thoughts at that moment of exultation. I found myself free, not only from the penalties attached to being a Catholic, but from the point of honour which had till then debarred me from being any thing else. Not that I had, indeed, ever much paused to consider in what the faith I professed differed from others. I was as yet young,—but just entered into my twenty-first year. The relations of my creed with this world has been of too stirring a nature to leave me much thought to bestow on its concernments with the next; nor was I yet so much of the degenerate Greek in my tastes as to sit discussing what was the precise colour of the light of Mount Thabor when that light of life,' liberty, was itself to be struggled for. I had, therefore, little other notion of Protestants than as a set of gentlemanlike heretics, somewhat scanty in creed, but in all things else rich and prosperous, and governing Ireland, according to their will and pleasure, by right of some Thirty-nine Articles, of which I had not yet clearly ascertained whether they were articles of war or of religion. The Catholics, on the other

hand, though myself one of them, I could not help regarding as a race of obsolete and obstinate religionists, robbed of every thing but (what was, perhaps, least worth preserving) their creed, and justifying the charge brought against them of being unfit for freedom, by having so long and so unresistingly submitted to be slaves. In short, I felt-as many other high-spirited young Papists must have felt before me—that I had been not only enslaved, but degraded, by belonging to such a race; and though, had adversity still frowned on our faith, I would have clung to it to the last, and died fighting for Transubstantiation and the Pope with the best, I was not sorry to be saved the doubtful glory of such martyrdom ; and much as I rejoiced at the release of my fellow-sufferers from thraldom, rejoiced still more at the prospect of my own release from them. While such was the state of my feelings with respect to the political bearings of my creed, I saw no reason, on regarding it in a religious point of view, to feel much more satisfied with it. The dark pictures I had seen so invariably drawn, in Protestant pamphlets and sermons, of the religious tenets of Popery, had sunk. mortifyingly into my mind; and when I had heard eminent, learned, and, in the repute of the world, estimable men representing the faith which I had had the misfortune to inherit as a system of damnable idolatry, whose doctrines had not merely the tendency, but the prepense design, to encourage imposture, perjury, assassination, and all other monstrous crimes, I was already, I confess, prepared, by the opinions which I had myself formed of my brother Papists, to be but too willing a recipient of such accusations against them for others. Though, as man and as citizen, I rose indignantly against these charges, yet, as Catholic, I quailed inwardly under the fear that they were too true. In this state of mind it was that I had long looked forward to the great measure of Emancipation, both as the closing of that old, bitter, and hereditary contest in which the spiritual part of the question had been made subordinate to the temporal, and, more particularly, as a release for myself from that scrupulous point of honour which had hitherto kept me wedded, "for better, for worse,' to Popery. The reader has now been put in full possession of the meaning of that abrupt exclamation which, as I have said, burst from me on the evening of the 16th of April, in my room up two pair of stairs, Trinity College, • Thank God! I may now, if I like, turn Protestant.' No sooner had this pithy sentence broke from my lips than I resumed my seat and plunged again into reverie. The college clock was, I recollect, striking eight, at the time this absorption of my thinking faculties commenced, and the same orthodox clock had tolled the tenth hour before the question shall I, or shall I not, turn Protestant ?' was in any

fair train for decision. Even then, it was owing very much to an accident, which some good people would call providential, that Popery did not for that evening, at least—maintain her ground. On the shelf of the book case near me lay a few stray pamphlets, towards which, in the midst of my meditations, I almost unconsciously, put forth my hand, and taking the first that presented itself, found that I had got hold of a small tract, in the form of a catechism against Popery, published nearly a century

« AnteriorContinuar »