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the monks, still less on himself. We remembered an uncomfortable impression produced on our minds by the story told, with such great apparent relish in the Review, of the strong spirituous drink with which he drugged the old blind abbot into insensibility or stupidity, that so he might the better accomplish his purpose : an important purpose perhaps, but not one which ought to have been compassed by such measures as these. Indeed, whatever may be the value of the collection of Syriac MSS. now deposited in the British Museum, all religious men must feel that it is dearly purchased at the sacrifice of morality and national character; and what opinion ought to be entertained of those who condescend to the use of intoxicating liquors for the purpose of circumventing the simple and unsuspecting monks of the oriental churches? We hear much from modern travellers of the superstitions and vices of these religious fraternities; and doubtless this volume will be quoted in confirmation of some of the worst charges. But justice may well demand that a comparison be drawn between the semi-barbarous monks of the East, and the refined modern gentleman from Europe. We take them as described by Mr. Curzon, in the Quarterly, at the Syrian Monastery, in the Nitrian desert, seated in the chamber which the venerable abbot's hospitality has appropriated to him—the best that his ruined convent afforded Mr. Curzon has questioned him about the MSS. which he knew they possessed. " The abbot denied the fact ; but I got him into my room, with another father who always went about with him, and there I gave him some rosoglio which I had brought on purpose. It was very soft stuff, I remember, pink, and tasted as sweet and pleasant as if there was no strength in it. They liked it much, and sat sipping fingians—that is coffee cups-of it with a happy and contented air. When I saw that the face of the blind man waxed unsuspicious, and wore a bland expression which he took no pains to conceal ... I entered again upon the subject of the oil-cellar.” And then he relates his success in a very amusing manner. And, no doubt, the English public were amused, and so he had his reward. But then what is to be said of the morality of the proceeding? Here is a gentleman who knows that the monks of S. Basil “ have a leaning to strong drink, and consider rosoglio adapted to their peculiar wants,” (Quarterly, ibid.), and that “ next to the golden key, there is no better opener of the heart than a sufficiency of strong drink,—not too much, but exactly the proper quantity judiciously exhibited,” &c. (Visits, p. 87), i. e. not enough to stupify them altogether (for that would defeat the end), but only enough to throw them off their balance to disadjust their moral perception, and destroy their sense of responsibility. He provides himself with such a quality of this drug as is best suited to his purpose.--" It tasted as if it had no strength in it,”—which is some excuse for the victims, but an aggravation of his guilt; then he watches with eager interest the progress of his plot, and “when the face of the blind abbot waxes bland and confiding"—then is his time—the confidence is betrayed, the MSS. recovered, and success excuses all : for that “the end justifies the means' is an axiom not confined to one order, or to one phase of Christianity.
We are sorry to be obliged to add that Mr. Curzon is not the only Englishman who has condescended to such an expedient ; but that Archdeacon Tattam owed his more complete success in the deportation of MSS. to the same agency. So the Quarterly informs us; for although the principal himself stood aloof, as the respectability of the clerical character required, yet he must have furnished his agent with the necessary drugs, and is clearly responsible for his servant's actions. “This Mohamed ... had recourse to the same means of negotiation as Mr. Curzon found it wise to adopt, and applied them with similar success, only substituting arakie for rosoglio.” (Quarterly, p. 58.) Now we say that when such manæuvres are practised on the poor monks, and their success boastfully recorded, not only by worldly laymen but by grave divines, and applauded by the public, why morality must be at a very low ebb among us: and we have dwelt the longer on the subject because amid all the exultation and felicita. tions with which orientalists have hailed the recent recovery of manuscripts, we have heard no note of disapproval of the flagitious means by which they were obtained, and we fear lest the examples of Mr. Curzon and Dr. Tattam should be drawn into precedent. To us the conduct pursued towards those poor monks appears utterly unworthy of Christian men ; for, be it remembered, that the reason why these manuscripts were so strictly guarded by the monks was this, that they looked upon them as a sacred deposit which they were bound to preserve and transmit inviolate; while some of those most valued by Europeans were “ forbidden to be taken away by an interdiction at the end" (Quarterly, p. 57)-doubtless enforced by an anathema, as was formerly the practice in the West. Now the religious sense of the monks shrinks from the desecration; and miserably poor as they are, valueless as the manuscripts are to them, they were proof against the temptation of money-to their credit be it spoken. It was not until they were stupified with this ensnaring and intoxicating drink, administered by Englishmen, that they could be prevailed upon to commit what they must regard as sacrilege. We would rather that the manuscripts had been allowed to rot in the oil-cellar, than they should have been rescued by such means ;-however we may be ranked among the barbarous, ignorant monks for saying it. We are not of those who desire the monks to make light of “ the horrible anathema or malediction," against those who sell or part with their books (p. 226), or to regard such books otherwise than as “sacred relics, to be preserved with a certain feeling of awe;" and least of all can we prefer "a worldly-minded agoumenos” to “the good oldfashioned agoumenos” of S. Barlaam, whose integrity was equally proof against rosoglio and gold (p. 291), and consequently very incon. venient to Mr. Curzon, who insulted him accordingly.
But we must return to Mr. Curzon's book. We have said what expectations we had formed from our previous slight acquaintance with the author. We have now to say that our anticipations have been realized in every particular. For, first of all, the book is decidedly clever, and very entertaining : as clever and entertaining as any book of the kind we remember to have read : filled with amusing incidents, with picturesque imagery, and graphic descriptions of men and things, that secure for Mr. Curzon a high standing among writers of travels. But then he is always flippant, often irreverent, sometimes actually profane. To compare him with the most popular modern travellers in the East, -he is much more clever than Eliot Warburton, but not so respectable ; quite as clever, to say the least, as the author of Eothen (more clever in our judgment), but not quite so profane; nor quite so senseless in his prejudices and partialities. Indeed, his candour is one of the most pleasing features of the book. Although morally incapable of understanding or appreciating that phase of Christianity which he met with in the Monasteries, he is yet, in a manner, well-disposed towards the monks, and allows them as much credit as such a man can. He does not, i. e., set them all down as hypocrites or enthusiasts, as rogues or vagabonds; except when they happen to cross his wishes, and then no abuse is too bad for them. When in a good humour, although he has a strange and quite an original notion about the old hermits, viz., “ that they are a sort of dissenters as regards their own Church ;" yet he admits that “ in the dissent, if such it be, of these monks of the desert, there is a dignity and self-denying firmness much to be respected. They follow the tenets of their faith and the ordinances of their religion in a manner which is almost sublime ;" and then he proceeds to contrast them favourably with the “ European dissenters, who are as undignified as they are generally snug and cosy in their mode of life. Here, among the followers of S. Antony, there are no mock heroics : .... they form their rule of life from the ascetic writings of the early fathers of the Church : their self-denial is extreme, their devotion heroic.” (Visits, p. 201.) This is a healthy tone, though qualified by the concluding sentence, which we forbear to quote; nor will we weaken the impression in favour of Mr. Curzon, which the preceding remarks may have produced on the reader, by citing a passage of a widely different complexion in p. 281; although here too he concludes his very flippant and irreverent description of the ascetic discipline with words of commendation. The close juxtaposition of two clauses in this account, will, if we mistake not, reveal the whole secret of our author's mistake on this subject. “ They wore out the rocks with their knees in prayer;" " but they did nothing whatever to benefit their kind." The fact is, that Mr. Curzon has no faith in prayer: a man who only prays, is, in his' view, a useless member of society. So the world judges; and Mr. Curzon with the world: whereas, Holy Scripture teaches that the prayers of the Saints are the main stay of the present order of things. It is just possible, to say the least, that men who pass all their lives in acts of humiliation for their own sins and the sins of the world, and in prayer for themselves and the Church, may be as useful in their generation as gentlemen who wander about the world in quest of old manuscripts, to be deposited in their library for their own private and particular gratification. We mean no disrespect to Mr. Curzon, and have no wish to disparage his labours and pursuits; but we are surprised that an educated Christian gentleman should write as he does of the ancient
recluses, of whom he is fain to acknowledge that, with all their extravagancies and excesses, “ still there is something grand in the strength and constancy of their faith. They left their homes, and riches and pleasures of this world, to retire to these dens and caves of the earth, to be subjected to cold and hunger, pain and death, that they might do honour to their God after their own fashion, and trusting that by mortifying the body in this world, they should gain happiness for the soul in the world to come; and therefore peace be with their memory!” (p. 281.)
But we must pass on to the subject which principally attracted our notice to Mr. Curzon's volume, which it was impossible to mention without a strong remonstrance against the immorality of his proceedings, and the profanity of his remarks. It is chiefly interesting to us for the notices of the ancient churches attached to the convents that he visited, many of which have never before been explored, or certainly not described. His architectural descriptions are sufficiently full to convey a good idea of the churches ; and the descriptions are sometimes illustrated with plans, for which we must refer to the volume itself.
We will take his notices in the order in which they occur. The first relate to the monasteries of Egypt, where we have to regret that he has given no detailed notice of the churches of the Nitrian desert, the recollection of one of which must have been vividly impressed on his memory. (p. 83.) In default of this, we extract his account of the Abyssinian library at the Syrian convent, the arrangements of which are not precisely similar to those with which we are familiar.
“ This room was their library, and on my remarking the number of books which I saw around me, they seemed proud of their collection, and told me that there were not many such libraries as this in their country. There were perhaps nearly fifty volumes, and as the entire literature of Abyssinia does not include more than double that number of works, I could easily imagine that what I saw around me formed a very considerable accumulation of manuscripts, considering the barbarous state of the country from which they came.
“The disposition of the manuscripts in this library was very original. I have had no means of ascertaining whether all the libraries of Abyssinia are arranged in the same style. The room was about twenty-six feet long, twenty wide, and twelve high; the roof was formed of the trunks of palm trees, across which reeds were laid, which supported the mass of earth and plaster, of which the terrace roof was composed; the interior of the walls was plastered white with lime; the windows, at a good height from the ground, were unglazed, but were defended with bars of iron-wood, or some other hard wood; the door opened into the garden, and its lock, which was of wood also, was of that peculiar construction which has been used in Egypt from time immemorial. A wooden shelf was carried in the Egyptian style round the walls, at the height of the top of the door, and on this shelf stood sundry platters, bottles, and dishes for the use of the community. Underneath the shelf various long wooden pegs projected from the wall; they were each about a foot and a half long, and on them hung the Abyssinian manuscripts, of which this curious library was entirely composed.
“ The books of Abyssinia are bound in the usual way, sometimes in red leather and sometimes in wooden boards, which are occasionally elaborately carved in rude and coarse devices: they are then enclosed in a case, tied up with leather thongs; to this case is attached a strap, for the convenience of carrying the volume over the shoulders, and by these straps the books were hung to the wooden pegs, three or four on a peg, or more if the books were small: their usual size was that of a small, very thick quarto. The appearance of the room, fitted up in this style, together with the presence of various long staves, such as the monks of all the Oriental churches lean upon at the time of prayer, resembled less a library than a barrack or guard-room, where the soldiers had hung their knapsacks and cartridge-boxes against the wall." -pp. 96-98.
We pass on to the “ Der-el-Adra, the Convent of the Virgin, more commonly known by the name of the Convent of the Pulley. This monastery is situated on the top of the rocks of Gebel-el-terr, where a precipice above two hundred feet in height is washed at its base by the waters of the Nile.” (p. 105.) After an amusing account of his ascent to this convent, of its general appearance, and its miscellaneous occupants, he proceeds to a full notice of the church, which is illustrated with a plan.
“ It was interesting from its great antiquity, having been founded, as they told me, by a rich lady of the name of Halané, who was the daughter of a certain Kostandi, king of Roum. The church is partly subterranean, being built in the recesses of an ancient stone-quarry; the other parts of it are of stone plastered over. The roof is flat, and is formed of horizontal beams of palm trees, upon which a terrace of reeds and earth is laid. The height of the interior is about twenty-five feet. On entering the door we had to descend a flight of narrow steps, which led into a side aisle about ten feet wide, and which is divided from the nave by octagon columns of great thickness, supporting the walls of a sort of clerestory. The columns were surmounted by heavy square plinths almost in the Egyptian style.
“ As I consider this church to be interesting from its being half a catacomb, or cave, and one of the earliest Christian buildings which has preserved its originality, I subjoin a plan of it, by which it will be seen that it is constructed on the principle of a Latin basilica, as the buildings of the Empress Helena usually were ; the Byzantine style of architecture, the plan of which partook of the form of a Greek cross, being a later invention ; for the earliest Christian churches were not cruciform, and seldom had transepts, nor were they built with any reference to the points of the compass.
“The ancient divisions of the church are also more strictly preserved in this edifice than in the churches of the West; the priests or monks standing above the steps, the celebrant of the sacrament only going behind the screen; the bulk of the congregation stand; there are no seats below the steps, and the place for the women is behind. The church is very dimly lighted by small apertures in the walls of the clerestory, above the columns, and the part about the absis is nearly dark in the middle of the day, candles being always necessary during the reading of the service. The two Corinthian columns are of brick, plastered; they are not fluted, but are of good proportions, and appear to be original. The absis is of regular Grecian or Roman architecture, and is ornamented with six pilasters, and three niches, in which are kept the books, cymbals, candlesticks, and other things which are used for the daily service.”- pp. 111, 112.
We shall not pause to criticise the historical inaccuracies of this passage, as we have to mention a much more grave error in a note on the passage above cited, -an error which is perfectly inexplicable.
“It is much to be desired that some competent person should write a small