Imágenes de páginas


or perhaps to that Nymph, who finding herself beloved by Phæbus, instead of reverently and silently returning his affection, boasted of it to all her neighbours as a token of her own beauty and despised the God; so that he, being angry, changed her into a chattering magpie; or again to Arachne, who having been taught the art of weaving by Athene, pretended to compete with her own instructress, and being metamorphosed by her into a spider, was condemned, like the sophists, to spin out of her own entrails endless ugly webs, which are destroyed, as soon as finished, by every slave-girl's broom.'”—Page 64.

This is a characteristic instance of Mr. Kingsley's tendency to dash, out of the repulsions of a partial experience, into the most extravagant antagonism of judgment. It is conspicuous and undeniable that moral causes have not merely a collateral and accidental, but a direct and essential, influence in the formation of human beliefs; and especially that the religious faith of men is so immediate a product of their affections and conscience, that the logical thought stands to it chiefly in a negative relation, determining its limits and systematising its form. That selfworship renders all religion impossible, that exclusive confidence in the will breaks it short off at morality, that the over-balance of conscience makes it superstitious, and that of love, fanatical; are certainties of deepest import, with which the doctrine of the involuntary and irresponsible nature of belief requires to be qualified. For any liberalism which denies these things; which releases us from a holy vigilance as to the secret springs of our faith or doubt; which forbids us ever to see in bigotry or in disbelief a root of conceit and arrogance however obvious the symptoms may be to every eye, we feel nothing but contempt. But our moral criticism is not, in such instances, visited upon the opinions, as such: it addresses itself to the concomitant temper and natural language of character; and whenever these present the aspect of purity and reverence, it joyfully believes in this good sign, and retires within the pale of equal intellectual discussion. In this view, error is treated as having origin, possibly indeed from moral sources; but possibly also from unmoral; and as never to be referred to the former, in the absence of justifying indications, Mr. Kingsley's doctrine, on the other hand, stops up every opening for charitable construction, and requires us to look on all intellectual differences as the product and the symptoms of a bad heart. On the strength of mere error and mutual contradiction we are to presume the existence in men of evil passions which make no sign; to disbelieve the fair look of candour and piety, and exchange our natural trust and admiration for dogmatic pity and suspicion. The moral scepticism implied in this tenet,—the willingness to accept creed-evidence against character, is the most melancholy delusion which ecclesiastic unity has introduced into philosophy and life: and we are sorry that Mr. Kingsley, whether in recoil from American free-thinkers, or from entanglement with the Catholic creeds," has allowed his generous nature to be betrayed into so ungenial a sophistry,

After all, we have somehow the feeling, on laying down this little book, that Mr. Kingsley does not really mean its narrowness and fallacies, and is truly himself in all its beauty, truth and nobleness. The dialectic is made up; the

; deep sentiment is his own. Laughter at his eccentric logic passes into tears at the pathetic faithfulness with which he draws the agonies of doubt beneath the fair surface of English opulence and culture. That society throughout Europe is rapidly suffering a loss of moral strength from the decay of clear and assured faith is but too certain : and no one has a juster discernment of this fact than Mr. Kingsley. He appreciates it in its breadth: he sees it in its detail : he reads its hidden drama beneath the vicissitudes of states, and the decadence of churches. If he will but cease to tamper with philosophy and neither rail at it nor adopt it,-if he will only paint and preach,-if he will simply tell the visions which the living spectacle of the world flings upon his mind, and announce without proving the faiths deepest in his being; he is fitted to be among the prophets of recovery, who may prepare for us a more wholesome future otherwise than by vain reproduction of

the past.


1. Civil Wars and Monarchy in France in the Sixteenth

and Seventeenth Centuries : a History of France principally during that Period. By Leopold Ranke. Translated by M. A. Garvey. 2 vols. 8vo. London:

Bentley. 1852. 2. Lectures on the History of France. By the Right Hon.

Sir James Stephen, K.C.B., LL.D., Professor of
Modern History in the University of Cambridge.
2 vols. 8vo. London: Longman and Co. Second
Edition. 1852.

Among the most innocent, if not the most valuable, occupations of Englishmen in the middle of the last century, was the attempt to discover what was familiarly known as PERPETUAL Motion. In this laudable pursuit, scarcely less enthusiasm and mental labour were expended, than in the far-famed search in earlier times after the Philosopher's Stone. The century however died out, and the men of science whose minds had been formed during its earlier portion one by one disappeared, and still the idea which lay so near their hearts seemed as far as ever from being realised. But had they survived into the first half of the succeeding century, we think they would have recognised in that century itself the complete embodiment of their cherished theory. If the testimony of every one's every-day experience is to be allowed any weight, the nineteenth century may fairly repudiate Rest as one of its constituent elements. We do not now refer to the external movements, which convulse civil society, and render kings, constitutions, and territorial distributions as ephemeral as the morning paper which records their destiny. We refer rather to the revolutions within the domain of Dame Knowledge ;-those changes which have driven into hopeless exile all our old text books of learning, and which have left scarcely one inch of safe and solid ground on which the scholar may rest the sole of his foot. Tell us, indeed, that the road of education has been smoothed before the rising generation! Look to the facts of the

[ocr errors]

case, and a very different answer will be returned. Where is that pleasant life that once the scholar led, when there were a certain number of orthodox questions, to which there were a certain number of orthodox answers; with which, when once inade familiar, the youth's education was declared to be finished, and he embarked on the sea of life with the pride and consolation of being as wise as his forefathers ? Those were the days when Papas and Mammas did not live in dread of holiday ebullitions of new-age wisdom on the part of their inquiring offspring; when elderly ladies were not put to shame by their nieces and granddaughters, on the cardinal points of school-education, and when grey-headed old gentlemen were not repulsed into indignant silence by intimations from young hopefuls of sceptical tendencies, that "all that has been long ago exploded !" In no province of knowledge has this revolutionary spirit displayed itself with more remarkable results than in the study of History. During the last century, Hume, Gibbon, Goldsmith, and Gillies sat aloft in unquestioned dictatorship. Grumblers and sceptics there might be in bye-corners, and here and there a mind formed in another school might ruffle a little the uniform current of popular opinion. But these partial heresies never affected permanently the notions of the age; certainly never penetrated the interiors of ordinary schools; never shook for any length of time the public impression of the accuracy of their great historians, and of the school-histories modelled upon them. With few exceptions society had settled its mind about the history of the past; knew who were the good men and who the bad; could sharply divide the world's vicissitudes into chapters of “prosperous” and “calamitous events; knew exactly where great men of yore went wrong, and could trace accurately their deviations from the principles of the British Constitution ; had pat and ready the dates of the foundations of all the empires; knew the first kings and the chief cities; felt that the history of its own country had been long ago written out, and was there; and respecting the history of other countries, felt the need of just so much knowledge as would enable it to distinguish Charles V. of Germany from Francis of France, to say who were the kings taken prisoners at Poictiers and Nevil's Cross; who sent his invincible Armada to be conquered, and who fought with Marlborough and Eugene at Blenheim. All this society knew, and knew what was to be said about it, and with

is society rested satisfied. But times have changed ; the old ship is unseaworthy, and happy he who can safely float to land on a raft of his own construction. Facts have become nearly as uncertain as opinions, the old gods are thrown down from their pedestals, and every sucking student of seventeen sits in the Censor's chair, and passes judgment on the works of a Gibbon and a Hume. Every publishing season presents us with new books to disprove old stock-facts, and then with newer books to disprove both the old facts and the new theories of the new books. Public libraries are ransacked; State-papers are edited with learned notes; family biographers rush to the rescue of the memory of their ancestors with “unpublished letters,” and exclusive

" sources of information.” Every one of these latter brings in its train endless similar productions; for such is the perversity of history, that the vindication of one man is generally of necessity the condemnation of three or four others, all of whom have friends or descendants who can write, and do so forth with. Chroniclers and monkish historians of the middle ages no longer come to us through the medium of a modern author, and translated into a dress consistent with modern notions; but are presented to us first-hand in all the quaint habiliments of the past. The stranger their garb, the more uncouth their language, the greater its dissonance with the old voices of authority, the more cordial their reception, the greater the confidence in their value. Against this inroad of new facts and contradictory assertions, how is it to be expected that our old text-books should stand their ground? They have succumbed in all directions, and have been succeeded by a variety of schools of history, and an endless diversity as to facts and inferences within each of these schools. that all this new light, and all these new materials for the formation of juster opinions as to the past, are to be looked upon as other than a great good, would be palpably absurd. Our task as students of history may be a heavier or more complicated one; we may have much more frequently to confess our ignorance, or that such and such a point must remain for the present doubtful : but we feel convinced


To say

« AnteriorContinuar »