Part III. Historical

1. English Jealousy of Church and State

{153} EVERY sovereign State will naturally feel a jealousy of the semblance of an imperium in imperio; though not every State is in a condition to give expression to it. England has indulged that jealousy to the full, and has assumed a bearing towards the military profession much the same as she shows towards the ecclesiastical. There is, indeed, a close analogy between these two powers, both in themselves and in their relation to the State; and, in order to explain the position of the army in England, I cannot do better than refer to the position which in this country has been assigned to the Church. The Church and the Army are respectively the instruments of moral and material force, and are real powers in their own respective fields of operation. They necessarily have common sympathies and an intense esprit de corps. They are, in consequence, the strongest supports or the most formidable opponents of the State to which they belong, and require to be subjected, beyond any mistake, to its sovereignty. In England, sensitively suspicious of combination and system, three precautions have been taken in dealing with the soldier and the parson,—(I hope I may be familiar without offence)—precautions borrowed from the necessary treatment of wild animals—(1) to tie him up; (2) to pare his claws; and (3) to keep {154} him low; then he will be both safe and useful;—the result is a National Church, and a Constitutional Army.

1. In the first place we tie both parson and soldier up, by forbidding each to form one large organization. We prohibit an organized religion and an organized force. Instead of one corporation in religion, we only allow of a multitude of small ones, as chapters and rectories, while we ignore the Establishment as a whole, deny it any legal status, and recognize the Dissenting bodies. For Universities we substitute Colleges with rival interests, that the intellect may not be too strong for us, as is the case with some other countries; but we freely multiply local schools, for they have no political significance. And in like manner we are willing to perfect the discipline and appointment of regiments, but we instinctively recoil from the idea of an Army. We toast, indeed, "The Army," but as an abstraction, as we used to drink to "The Church," before the present substitution of "The Clergy of all Denominations," which has much more of reality in it. Moreover, while we have a real reason for sending our troops all over the world, shifting them about, using them for garrison duty, and for the defence of dependencies, we are thereby able also to hide and divide them from one another. Nor is this all; if any organization requires a directing mind at the head of it, it is an army; but, faithful to our Constitutional instincts, we have committed its command, ex abundanti cautel‚, to as many, I believe, as five independent boards, whose concurrence is necessary for a practical result. Nay, as late occurrences have shown, we have thought it a lesser evil that our troops should be starved in the Crimea for want of the proper officer to land the stores, and that clothing and fuel shall oscillate to and fro between Balaklava and Malta, than that there should be the chance for the smallest opening into our political system of a power {155} formidable to nationalism. Thus we tie up both parson and soldier.

2. Next, in all great systems and agencies of any kind, there are certain accessories, absolutely necessary for their efficiency, yet hardly included in their essential idea. Such, to take a very small matter, is the use of the bag in making a pudding. Material edifices are no part of religion, but you cannot have religious services without them; nor can you move field-pieces without horses, nor get together horses without markets and transports. The greater part of these supplemental articles the English Constitution denies to its religious Establishment altogether, and to its Army, when not on active service. Fabrics of worship, it encourages; but it gives no countenance to such ecclesiastical belongings as the ritual and ceremonial of religion, synods, religious orders, sisters of charity, and the like necessary instruments of Christian faith, which zealous Churchmen in times of spiritual danger, decay, or promise, make vain endeavours to restore. And such in military matters are the commissariat, transport, and medical departments, which are jealously suppressed in time of peace, and hastily and grudgingly restored on the commencement of hostilities. The Constitutional spirit allows to the troops arms and ammunition, as it allows to the clergy ordination and two sacraments, neither being really dangerous, while the supplements which I have spoken of are withheld. Thus it cuts their claws.

3. And lastly, it keeps them low. Though lawyers are educated for the law, and physicians for medicine, it is felt among us to be dangerous to the Constitution to have real education either in the clerical or military profession. Neither theology nor the science of war is compatible with a national regime. Military and naval science is, in the ordinary Englishman's notion, the bayonet and the broadside. {156} Religious knowledge comes by nature; and so far is true, that Anglican divines thump away, in exhortation or in controversy, with a manliness, good sense, and good will as thoroughly John Bullish as the stubbornness of the Guards at Inkermann. Not that they are forbidden to cultivate theology in private as a personal accomplishment, but that they must not bring too much of it into the pulpit, for then they become extreme men, Calvinists or Papists, as it may be. A general good education, a public school, a knowledge of the classics, make a parson; and he is chosen for a benefice or a dignity, not on any abstract ground of merit, but by the great officers of the State, by members of the aristocracy, and by country gentlemen, or by their nominees, men who by their position are a sufficient guarantee that the nation will continually flow into the Establishment, and give it its own colour. And so of the army; it is not so many days ago that a gentleman in office assured the House of Commons (if he was correctly reported) that the best officers were those who had a University education; and I doubt not it is far better for the troops to be disciplined and commanded by good scholars than by incapables and dunces. But in each department professional education is eschewed, and it is thought enough that the functionary to be a gentleman. A clergyman is the "resident gentleman" in his parish; and no soldier must rise from the ranks, because he is not "company for gentlemen."

Let no man call this satire, for it is most seriously said; nor have I intentionally coloured one sentence in the parallel which I have been drawing out; nor do I speak as grumbling at things as they are;—I merely want to look facts in the face. I have been exposing what I consider the weak side of our Constitution, not exactly because I want it altered, but because people should not consider it {157} the strong side. I think it a necessary weakness. I do not see how it can be satisfactorily set right without dangerous innovations. ("Discussions and Arguments," p. 356.)

2. Irish Discontent


[AN English visitor to Ireland] if he happens to be a Catholic, has in consequence a trial to sustain of his own of which the continental tourist has no experience from Austrian police, or Russian douane, or Turkish quarantine. He has turned his eyes to a country bound to him by the ties of a common faith; and, when he lands at Cork or Kingstown, he breathes more freely from the thought that he has left a Protestant people behind him, and is among his co-religionists. He has but this one imagination before his mind, that he is in the midst of those who will not despise him for his faith's sake, who name the same sacred names, and utter the same prayers, and use the same devotions, as he does himself; whose churches are the houses of his God, and whose numerous clergy are the physicians of his soul. He penetrates into the heart of the country; and he recognises an innocence in the young face, and a piety and patience in the aged voice, which strikingly and sadly contrast with the habits of his own rural population. Scattered over these masses of peasantry, and peasants themselves, he hears of a number of lay persons who have dedicated themselves to a religious celibate, and {158} who, by their superior knowledge as well as sanctity, are the natural and ready guides of their humble brethren. He finds the population as munificent as it is pious, and doing greater works for God out of their poverty, than the rich and noble elsewhere accomplish in their abundance. He finds them characterized by a love of kindred so tender and faithful as to lead them, on their compulsory expatriation, to send back from their first earnings in another hemisphere incredible sums, with the purpose of bringing over to it those dear ones whom they have left in the old country. And he finds himself received with that warmth of hospitality which ever has been Ireland's boast; and, as far as he is personally concerned, his blood is forgotten in his baptism. How shall he not, under such circumstances, exult in his new friends, and feel words deficient to express both his deep reverence for their virtues, and his strong sympathy in their heavy trials?

But, alas, feelings which are so just and so natural in themselves, which are so congruous in the breast of Frenchman or Italian, are impertinent in him. He does not at first recollect, as he ought to recollect, that he comes among the Irish people as a representative of persons, and actions, and catastrophes, which it is not pleasant to any one to think about; that he is responsible for the deeds of his forefathers, and of his contemporary Parliaments and Executive; that he is one of a strong, unscrupulous, tyrannous race, standing upon the soil of the injured. He does not bear in mind that it is as easy to forget injuring, as it is difficult to forget being injured. He does not admit, even in his imagination, the judgment and the sentence which the past history of Erin sternly pronounces upon him. He has to be recalled to himself, and to be taught by what he hears around him, that an Englishman has no right to open his heart, and indulge his honest affection {159} towards the Irish race, as if nothing had happened between him and them. The voices, so full of blessings for their Maker and their own kindred, adopt a very different strain and cadence when the name of England is mentioned; and, even when he is most warmly and generously received by those whom he falls in with, he will be repudiated by those who are at a distance. Natural amiableness, religious principle, education, reading, knowledge of the world, and the charities of civilization, repress or eradicate these bitter feelings in the class in which he finds his friends; but, as to the population, one sentiment of hatred against the oppressor, manet alt‚ mente repostum. The wrongs which England has inflicted are faithfully remembered; her services are viewed with incredulity or resentment; her name and fellowship are abominated; the news of her prosperity heard with disgust; the anticipation of her possible reverses nursed and cherished as the best of consolations. The success of France and Russia over her armies, of Yankee or Hindoo, is fervently desired as the first instalment of a debt accumulated through seven centuries; and that, even though those armies are in so large a proportion recruited from the Irish soil. If he ventures at least to ask for prayers for England, he receives one answer—a prayer that she may receive her due. It is as if the air rang with the old Jewish words, "O daughter of Babylon, blessed shall he be who shall repay thee as thou hast paid to us!" {160}


IT is remarkable that the Holy See, to whose initiative the union of the two countries is historically traceable, is in no respect made chargeable by the Irish people with the evils which have resulted to them from it. And the fact itself is remarkable that the Holy See really should be responsible for that initiative. There are other nations in the world ill-matched besides the English and Irish. There are other instances of the rule of strangers, and of the compulsory submission of the governed; but the Pope cannot be called to account for such political arrangements. The Pope did not give Greece to the Sublime Porte, or Warsaw to Russia, or Venice to Austria, or Belgium to Holland, or Norway to Sweden, or the cities of the Rhine to Prussia, or the Septinsular Republic to England; but, even had he done so, still in some of these instances, he would have but united together members of one race—German to German, Fleming to Fleming, Slave to Slave. But it is certainly most remarkable that a power so authoritative, even when not divine, so sagacious, even when not supernatural; whose acts are so literally the personal acts of the Pontiff who represents it for the time being, yet of such solemn force and such tremendous permanence; which, by appealing to its present prerogatives, involves itself in its past decisions; which "openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth,"—it does, we say, require some explanation [Note 1], {161} how an oracle so high and irrefragable should have given its religious sanction to a union apparently so unblessed, and which at the end of seven centuries is as devoid of moral basis or of effective accomplishment, as it was at the commencement. When German and Italian, Turk and Greek, shall be contented with each other; when "the lion and the sheep shall abide together," and "the calf and the bear shall feed,"—then, it will be argued, will there be a good understanding between two nations so contradictory the one of the other—the one an old immemorial race, the other the composite of a hundred stocks; the one possessed of an antique civilization, the other civilized by Christianity; the one glorying in its schools and its philosophy, the other in its works and institutions; the one subtle, acute, speculative, the other wise, patient, energetic; the one admiring and requiring the strong arm of despotic rule, the other spontaneously developing itself in methods of self-government and of individual competition. And yet, not once or twice only has the Holy See recognised in Ireland a territory of the English Crown. Adrian IV., indeed, the first Pope who countenanced the invasion of Henry II., was an Englishman; but not on his bull did Henry rely for the justification of his proceedings. He did not publish it in Ireland till he had received a confirmatory brief from Alexander III. Nor was Alexander the {162} only Pope who distinctly recognised it; John XXII., a hundred and sixty years afterwards, refers to it in his brief addressed to Edward II. [Note 2]

Such have been the dealings of the Holy See in times past with Ireland; yet it has not thereby roused against itself any resentful feelings in the minds of its natives. Doubtless, their good sense understands well that, whatever be decided about the expedience of the act of annexation itself, its serious evils did not begin until the English monarchy was false to the Pope as well as to Ireland. Up to that date the settlers in the conquered soil became so attached and united to it and to its people, that, according to the proverb, they were Hibernis hiberniores. It is Protestantism which has been the tyrannical oppressor of the Irish; and we suppose that Protestantism neither asked nor needed letters apostolic or consecrated banner to encourage it in the war it waged against Irish Catholicism. Neither Cromwell nor William of Nassau waited for the Pope's leave or sought his blessing in his military operations against Ireland, any more than Queen Victoria appeals to the Pope's grant for her title of Defender of the Faith, though from the Pope it was originally derived. The Tudor, not the Plantagenet, introduced the iron age of Ireland. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. III. p. 257.)

3. The Northman Character

THOUGH of the same stock as the Saxons, the Northmen were gifted with a more heroic cast of soul. Perhaps it was the peculiar scenery and climate of their native {163} homes which suggested to them such lofty aspirations, and such enthusiastic love of danger and hardship. The stillness of the desert may fill the fierce Arab with a rapturous enjoyment [Note 3], and the interminable forests of Britain or Germany might breathe profound mystery; but the icy mountains and the hoarse resounding waves of the North nurtured warriors of a princely stature, both in mind and body, befitting the future occupants of European thrones. Cradled in the surge and storm, they were spared the temptation of indolence and luxury; they neither worshipped the vivifying powers of nature with the Greek, nor with the Sabean did they kiss the hand to the bright stars of heaven; but while they gave a personal presence and volition to the fearful or the beautiful spirits which haunted the mountains, or lay in ambush in the mist, they understood by daily experience that good could not be had by the mere wishing, and they made it a first article in their creed that their reward was future, and that their present must be toil

The light and gloom, the nobleness, the sternness, and the fancifulness of the Northman character, are admirably portrayed in the romantic tales of Fouquť. At one time he brings before us the honour-loving Froda, the friend of the Skalds, who had been taught in the book of a learned Icelander how the Lady Aslauga, a hundred years and more before, had, in her golden veil of flowing hair, won the love of King Ragnar Lodbrog, and who, smit with devotion to her, saw from time to time the sudden apparition of his bright queen in the cloudy autumn sky, animating him to great and warlike deeds. At another {164} time it is the Lady Minnetrost, the good Druda, far up upon the shores of the Baltic, on her high, moonlit tower, with her long white finger lifted up and pointing to the starry sky. Then, again, we have the tall slim form of the beautiful Sigrid, with her large blue eyes, singing her charm, gathering witch-herbs, and brewing her witch-draught, which makes heroes invincible in fight, and works in the banquet a black mysterious woe. Then we have the gigantic forms of men on the islands of the lake, with massive breastplates and huge brazen bucklers, and halberts so high that they seemed like the masts of vessels. And then the vessel comes in sight, ready for the use of the sea-knights in their pirate expeditions, and off they go over the bounding waves, on their terrible errands of blood and fire, to gain immortal glory by inflicting untold pain. And suddenly appears one of them at a marriage feast in Normandy, the sea-king Arinbiorn, one of those warriors in the high-coast country who own little or nothing on the mainland, but who sail round the earth in their light barks, in the company of brave and devoted followers, passing from one side of the North Cape, nay, even from distant Iceland down to imperial Constantinople, or along the coast of blooming Asia, or of burning Africa, where almost all other seamen are at fault. And at another time we are shown the spectres of remorse, and death and judgment; and the living forms of pride, passion, and temptation, in the history of the troubled child of the fierce warrior of Drontheim. And, on the other hand, the pattern knight and his lady bright coming back to their old country from the plains of Frank-land, and presenting to the savage northern race the very ideal which they vaguely sought after, but could not adumbrate; and the pale, dark-haired Sintram, calmed and vanquished by the voice and lute of the fair Gabrielle. {165}

This of course is romance; but if it may be taken as an anticipation of what the Northmen became in the Normans. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. III. p. 290.)

4. Northman and Norman

THE most obvious and prominent point of character common to the Northman and Norman is the peculiarity of their warlike heroism. War was their life; it was almost their summum bonum; good in itself, though nothing came of it.

The impetuosity of the Norman relieved itself in extravagances, and raises a smile from its very intensity; at one time becoming a religious fanaticism, at another a fantastic knight-errantry. His very worship was to do battle; his rite of sacrifice was a passage of arms. He couched his lance to prove the matter-of-fact that his lady was the beautifullest of all conceivable women; he drew his sword on the blasphemer to convince him of the sanctity of the Gospel; and he passed abruptly from demolishing churches and burning towns to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre from the unclean infidel. In the Northmen, too, this pride of demolition had been their life-revel. They destroyed for destroying-sake; because it was good to destroy; it was a display of power, and power made them gods. They seemed as though they were possessed by some inward torment which needed outlet, and which degraded them to the madness of their own Berserkirs in the absence of some nobler satisfaction. Their fearful activity was their mode of searching out something great, they knew not what, the idea of which haunted them. It {166} impelled them to those sudden descents and rapid careerings about a country, of which we have already spoken, and which, even in modern times, has broken out in the characteristic energy of Gustavus and Charles XII. of Sweden. Hence, too, when they had advanced some steps in the path of civilization, from this nature or habit of restlessness, they could not bear neutrality; they interfered actively in the cause of right, in proportion as they gave up the practice of wrong. When they began to find out that piracy was criminal, instead of having recourse to peaceful occupations, they found an occupation cognate to piracy itself in putting piracy down. Kings, indeed, would naturally undertake such a mission, for piracy interfered with their sovereign power, and would not die of itself. It was not wonderful that Harold, Haco the Good, and St. Olaf should hang the pirates and destroy their vessels, but the point of our remark is this, that they pursued the transgressors with the same furious zeal with which they had heretofore committed the same transgression themselves. It is sometimes said that a reformed profligate is the sternest of moralists; and these northern rovers, on their conversion, did penance for their own piracy by a relentless persecution of pirates. They became knight-errants on water, devoting themselves to hardship and peril in the protection of the peaceful merchant. Under Canute of Denmark, a confraternity was formed with this object. Its members characteristically began by seizing on vessels not their own for its prosecution, and imposing compulsory loans on the wealthy trader for their outfit, though they professed to indemnify their owners out of the booty ultimately secured. Before they went on board they communicated; they lived soberly and severely, restricting themselves to as few followers as was possible. When they found Christians in the captured ships, they set them at liberty, {167} clothed them, and sent them home. In this way as many as eight hundred pirate vessels were destroyed.

Sometimes, in spite of their reformation, they still pursued a pirate's trade; but it was a modified piracy. They put themselves under laws in the exercise of it, and waged war against those who did not observe them. These objects of their hostility were what Turner calls "indiscriminate" pirates. "Their peculiar and self-chosen task," he says, "was to protect the defenceless navigator, and to seek and assail the indiscriminate plunderer. The pirate gradually became hunted down as the general enemy of the human race." He goes on to mention some of the laws imposed by Hialmar upon himself and some other discriminating pirates, to the effect that they would protect trade and agriculture, that they would not force women into their ships against their will, and that they would not eat raw flesh.

Now in what we have been drawing out there is enough to show both the elementary resemblance of character, and yet the vast actual dissimilitude, between the Scandinavian and the Norman. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. III. p. 295.)

5. Athens

IF we would know what a University is, considered in its elementary idea, we must betake ourselves to the first and most celebrated home of European civilization, to the bright and beautiful Athens,—Athens, whose schools drew to her bosom, and then sent back again to the business of life, the youth of the western world for a long thousand {168} years. Seated on the verge of the continent, the city seemed hardly suited for the duties of a central metropolis of knowledge; yet what it lost in convenience of approach, it gained in its neighbourhood to the traditions of the mysterious East, and in the loveliness of the region in which it lay. Hither, then, as to a sort of ideal land, where all archetypes of the great and the fair were found in substantial being, and all departments of truth explored, and all diversities of intellectual power exhibited; where taste and philosophy were majestically enthroned as in a royal court; where there was no sovereignty but that of mind, and no nobility but that of genius; where professors were rulers, and princes did homage, hither flocked continually from the very corners of the orbis terrarum, the many-tongued generation, just rising or just risen into manhood, in order to gain wisdom.

Pisistratus had in an early age discovered and nursed the infant genius of his people, and Cimon, after the Persian war, had given it a home. That war had established the naval supremacy of Athens; she had become an imperial state; and the Ionians, bound to her by the double chain of kindred and of subjection, were importing into her both their merchandize and their civilization. The arts and philosophy of the Asiatic coast were easily carried across the sea, and there was Cimon, as I have said, with his ample fortune, ready to receive them with due honour. Not content with patronizing their profession, he built the first of those noble porticos, of which we hear so much in Athens, and he formed the groves, which in process of time formed the celebrated Academy. Planting is one of the most graceful, as in Athens it was one of the most beneficent, of employments. Cimon took in hand the wild wood, pruned and dressed it, and laid it out with handsome walks and welcome fountains. Nor, while hospitable to {169} the authors of the city's civilization, was he ungrateful to the instruments of her prosperity. His trees extended their cool, umbrageous branches over the merchants who assembled in the Agora, for many generations.

Those merchants certainly had deserved that act of bounty; for all the while their ships had been carrying forth the intellectual fame of Athens to the western world. Then commenced what may be called her University existence. Pericles, who succeeded Cimon, both in the government and in the patronage of art, is said by Plutarch to have entertained the idea of making Athens the capital of federated Greece; in this he failed; but his encouragement of such men as Phidias and Anaxagoras led the way to her acquiring a far more lasting sovereignty over a far wider empire. Little understanding the sources of her own greatness, Athens would go to war; peace is the interest of a seat of commerce and the arts; but to war she went: yet to her, whether peace or war, it mattered not. The political power of Athens waned and disappeared; kingdoms rose and fell; centuries rolled away,—they did but bring fresh triumphs to the city of the poet and the sage. There at length the swarthy Moor and Spaniard were seen to meet the blue-eyed Gaul; and the Cappadocian, late subject of Mithridates, gazed without alarm at the haughty conquering Roman. Revolution after revolution passed over the face of Europe, as well as of Greece, but still she was there,—Athens, the city of mind,—as radiant, as splendid, as delicate, as young, as ever she had been.

Many a more fruitful coast or isle is washed by the blue ∆gean, many a spot is there more beautiful or sublime to see, many a territory more ample; but there was one charm in Attica, which in the same perfection was nowhere else. The deep pastures of Arcadia, the plain of Argos, the Thessalian vale, these had not the gift; Bœotia, which lay {170} to its immediate north, was notorious for its very want of it. The heavy atmosphere of that Bœotia might be good for vegetation, but it was associated in popular belief with the dulness of the Bœotian intellect; on the contrary, the special purity, elasticity, clearness, and salubrity of the air of Attica, fit concomitant and emblem of its genius, did that for it which earth did not;—it brought out every bright hue and tender shade of the landscape over which it was spread, and would have illuminated the face even of a more bare and rugged country.

A confined triangle, perhaps fifty miles its greatest length, and thirty its greatest breadth; two elevated rocky barriers meeting at an angle; three prominent mountains, commanding the plain,—Parnes, Pentelicus, and Hymettus; an unsatisfactory soil; some streams, not always full;—such is about the report which the agent of a London company would have made of Attica. He would report that the climate was mild, the hills were limestone; there was plenty of good marble; more pasture land than at first survey might have been expected, sufficient certainly for sheep and goats; fisheries productive; silver mines once, but long since worked out; figs fair; oil first-rate; olives in profusion. But what he would not think of noting down was, that that olive tree was so choice in nature and so noble in shape, that it excited a religious veneration, and that it took so kindly to the light soil, as to expand into woods upon the open plain, and to climb up and fringe the hills. He would not think of writing word to his employers, how that clear air, of which I have spoken, brought out, yet blended and subdued, the colours on the marble, till they had a softness and harmony, for all their richness, which in a picture looks exaggerated, yet is after all within the truth. He would not tell how that same delicate and brilliant atmosphere freshened up the pale olive, until the {171} olive forgot its monotony, and its cheek glowed like the arbutus or beech of the Umbrian hills. He would say nothing of the thyme and thousand fragrant herbs which carpeted Hymettus; he would hear nothing of the hum of its bees, nor take much account of the rare flavour of its honey, since Sozo and Minorca were sufficient for the English demand. He would look over the ∆gean from the height he had ascended; he would follow with his eye the chain of islands, which, starting from the Sunian headland, seemed to offer the fabled divinities of Attica, when they would visit their Ionian cousins, a sort of viaduct thereto across the sea; but that fancy would not occur to him, nor any admiration of the dark violet billows with their white edges down below; nor of those graceful, fan-like jets of silver upon the rocks, which slowly rise aloft like water spirits from the deep, then shiver, and break, and spread, and shroud themselves, and disappear, in a soft mist of foam; nor of the gentle, incessant heaving and panting of the whole liquid plain; nor of the long waves, keeping steady time, like a line of soldiery, as they resound upon the hollow shore,—he would not deign to notice that restless living element at all, except to bless his stars that he was not upon it. Nor the distinct detail, nor the refined colouring, nor the graceful outline and roseate golden line of the jutting crags, nor the bold shadows cast from Otus or Laurium by the declining sun—our agent of a mercantile firm would not value these matters even at a low figure. Rather we must turn for the sympathy we seek to yon pilgrim student, come from a semi-barbarous land to that small corner of the earth, as to a shrine, where he might take his fill of gazing on those emblems and coruscations of invisible, unoriginate perfection. It was the stranger from a remote province, from Britain or from Mauritania, who in a scene so different from that of his {172} chilly, woody swamps, or of his fiery, choking sands, learned at once what a real University must be, by coming to understand the sort of country which was its suitable home.

Nor was this all that a University required and found in Athens. No one, even there, could live on poetry. If the students at that famous place had nothing better than bright hues and soothing sounds, they would not have been able or disposed to turn their residence there to much account. Of course they must have the means of living, nay, in a certain sense, of enjoyment, if Athens was to be an alma mater at the time, or to remain afterwards a pleasant thought in their memory. And so they had: be it recollected Athens was a port and a mart of trade, perhaps the first in Greece, and strangers were ever flocking to it, whose combat was to be with intellectual, not physical difficulties, and who claimed to have their bodily wants supplied that they might be at leisure to set about furnishing their minds. Now barren as was the soil of Attica, and bare the face of the country, yet it had only too many resources for an elegant, nay, luxurious abode there. So abundant were the imports of the place, that it was a common saying, that the productions which were found singly elsewhere were brought all together in Athens. Corn and wine, the staple of subsistence in such a climate, came from the isles of the ∆gean; fine wool and carpeting from Asia Minor; slaves, as now, from the Euxine; and timber too, and iron and brass from the coasts of the Mediterranean. The Athenian did not condescend to manufactures himself, but encouraged them in others, and a population of foreigners caught at the lucrative occupation, both for home consumption and for exportation. Their cloth and other textures for dress and furniture, and their hardware—for instance, armour—were in great request. {173} Labour was cheap; stone and marble in plenty; and the taste and skill, which at first were devoted to public buildings, as temples and porticos, were in course of time applied to the mansions of public men. If nature did much for Athens, it is undeniable that art did much more. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. III. p. 18.)

6. Oxford

ALAS! for centuries past that city has lost its prime honour and boast as a servant and soldier of the truth. Once named the second school of the Church, second only to Paris, the foster-mother of St. Edmund, St. Richard, St. Thomas Cantilupe; the theatre of great intellects; of Scotus the subtle Doctor, of Hales the irrefragible, of Occam the special, of Bacon the admirable, of Middleton the solid, and of Bradwardine the profound, Oxford has now lapsed to the level of mere human loveliness, which, in its highest perfection, we admire in Athens. Nor would it have a place, now or hereafter, in these pages, nor would it occur to me to speak its name, except that—even in its sorrowful deprivation, it still retains so much of that outward lustre which, like the brightness on the prophet's face, ought to be a ray from an illumination within, as to afford me an illustration of the point on which I am engaged, viz. what should be the material dwelling-place and appearance, the local circumstances and the secular concomitants, of a great University. Pictures are drawn in tales of romance of spirits seemingly too beautiful in their fall to be really fallen; and the holy Pope at Rome, {174} Gregory, in fact and not in fiction, looked upon the blue eyes and golden hair of the fierce Saxon youth in the slave market, and pronounced them Angels, not Angles; and the spell which this once loyal daughter of the Church still exercises upon the foreign visitor, even now, when her true glory is departed, suggests to us how far more majestic and more touching, how brimful of indescribable influence would be the presence of a University, which was planted within, not without Jerusalem,—an influence, potent as her truth is strong, wide as her sway is world-wide, and growing, not lessening, by the extent of space over which its attraction would be exerted ... 

There are those who, having felt the influence of this ancient School, and being smit with its splendour and its sweetness, ask wistfully, if never again it is to be Catholic, or whether at least some footing for Catholicity may not be found there. All honour and merit to the charitable and zealous hearts who so inquire! Nor can we dare to tell what in time to come may be the inscrutable purposes of that grace, which is ever more comprehensive than human hope and aspiration. But for me, from the day I left its walls, I never, for good or bad, have had anticipation of its future; and never for a moment have I had a wish to see again a place, which I have never ceased to love, and where I lived for nearly thirty years. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. III. p. 28.) {175}

7. St. Benedict and Early Monachism

ST. BENEDICT had taken up for the most part what he found, and his Rule was but the expression of the genius of Monachism in those first times of the Church, with a more exact adaptation to their needs than could elsewhere be found. So uniform, indeed, had been the Monastic idea before his time, and so little stress had been laid by individual communities on their respective peculiarities, that religious men passed at pleasure from one body to another. St. Benedict provides in his Rule for the case of strangers coming to one of his houses and wishing to remain there. If such a one came from any Monastery with which the Monks had existing relations, then he was not to be received without letters from his Abbot; but, in the instance of "a foreign Monk from distant parts," who wished to dwell with them as a guest, and was content with their ways, and conformed himself to them, and was not troublesome, "should he in the event wish to stay for good," says St. Benedict, "let him not be refused; for there has been room to make trial of him during the time that hospitality has been shown to him: nay, let him even be invited to stay, that others may gain a lesson from his example; for in every place we are servants of one Lord, and soldiers of one King."

The unity of idea, which, as these words imply, is to be found in all Monks in every part of Christendom, may be described as a unity of object, of state, and of occupation. Monachism was one and the same everywhere, because it was a reaction from that secular life which has everywhere the same structure and the same characteristics. And, {176} since that secular life contained in it many objects, many states, and many occupations, here was a special reason, as a matter of principle, why the reaction from it should bear the badge of unity, and should be in outward appearance one and the same everywhere. Moreover, since that same secular life was, when Monachism arose, more than ordinarily marked by variety, perturbation, and confusion, it seemed on that very account to justify emphatically a rising and revolt against itself, and a recurrence to some state which, unlike itself, was constant and unalterable. It was indeed an old, decayed, and moribund world, into which Christianity had been cast. The social fabric was overgrown with the corruptions of a thousand years, and was held together, not so much by any common principle, as by the strength of possession and the tenacity of custom. It was too large for public spirit, and too artificial for patriotism, and its many religions did but foster in the popular mind division and scepticism. Want of mutual confidence would lead to despondency, inactivity, and selfishness. Society was in the slow fever of consumption, which made it restless in proportion as it was feeble. It was powerful, however, to seduce and deprave; nor was there any locus standi from which to combat its evils; and the only way of getting on with it was to abandon principle and duty, to take things as they came, and to do as the world did. Worse than all, this encompassing, entangling system of things, was, at the time we speak of, the seat and instrument of a Paganism, and then of heresies, not simply contrary, but bitterly hostile, to the Christian profession. Serious men not only had a call, but every inducement which love of life and freedom could supply, to escape from its presence and its sway.

Their one idea, then, their one purpose, was to be quit of it; too long had it enthralled them. It was not a question {177} of this or that vocation, of the better deed, of the higher state, but of life and death. In later times a variety of holy objects might present themselves for devotion to choose from, such as the care of the poor, or of the sick, or of the young, the redemption of captives, or the conversion of the barbarians; but early Monachism was flight from the world, and nothing else. The troubled, jaded, weary heart, the stricken, laden conscience, sought a life free from corruption in its daily work, free from distraction in its daily worship; and it sought employments as contrary as possible to the world's employments,—employments, the end of which would be in themselves, in which each day, each hour, would have its own completeness;—no elaborate undertakings, no difficult aims, no anxious ventures, no uncertainties to make the heart beat or the temples throb, no painful combination of efforts, no extended plan of operations, no multiplicity of details, no deep calculations, no sustained machinations, no suspense, no vicissitudes, no moments of crisis or catastrophe;—nor, again, any subtle investigations, nor perplexities of proof, nor conflicts of rival intellects, to agitate, harass, depress, stimulate, weary, or intoxicate the soul.

Hitherto I have been using negatives to describe what the primitive Monk was seeking; in truth, Monachism was, as regards the secular life and all that it implies, emphatically a negation, or, to use another word, a mortification; a mortification of sense, and a mortification of reason. Here a word of explanation is necessary. The Monks were too good Catholics to deny that reason was a divine gift, and had too much common sense to think to do without it. What they denied themselves was the various and manifold exercises of the reason; and on this account, because such exercises were excitements. When the reason is cultivated, it at once begins to combine, to centralize, to {178} look forward, to look back, to view things as a whole, whether for speculation or for action; it practises synthesis and analysis, it discovers, it invents. To these exercises of the intellect is opposed simplicity, which is the state of mind which does not combine, does not deal with premisses and conclusions, does not recognize means and their end, but lets each work, each place, each occurrence stand by itself,—which acts towards each as it comes before it, without a thought of anything else. This simplicity is the temper of children, and it is the temper of Monks. This was their mortification of the intellect; every man who lives, must live by reason, as every one must live by sense; but, as it is possible to be content with the bare necessities of animal life, so is it possible to confine ourselves to the bare ordinary use of reason, without caring to improve it or make the most of it. These Monks held both sense and reason to be the gifts of heaven, but they used each of them as little as they could help, reserving their full time and their whole selves for devotion;—for, if reason is better than sense, so devotion they thought to be better than either; and, as even a heathen might deny himself the innocent indulgences of sense in order to give his time to the cultivation of the reason, so did the Monks give up reason, as well as sense, that they might consecrate themselves to divine meditation.

Now, then, we are able to understand how it was that the Monks had a unity, and in what it consisted. It was a unity, I have said, of object, of state, and of occupation. Their object was rest and peace; their state was retirement; their occupation was some work that was simple, as opposed to intellectual, viz., prayer, fasting, meditation, study, transcription, manual labour, and other unexciting, soothing employments. Such was their institution all over the world; they had eschewed the busy mart, the craft of {179} gain, the money-changer's bench, and the merchant's cargo. They had turned their backs upon the wrangling forum, the political assembly, and the pantechnicon of trades. They had had their last dealings with architect and habit-maker, with butcher and cook; all they wanted, all they desired, was the sweet soothing presence of earth, sky, and sea, the hospitable cave, the bright running stream, the easy gifts which mother earth, "justissima tellus," yields on very little persuasion. "The monastic institute," says the biographer of St. Maurus, "demands summa quies, the most perfect quietness;" and where was quietness to be found, if not in reverting to the original condition of man, as far as the changed circumstances of our race admitted; in having no wants, of which the supply was not close at hand; in the nil admirari; in having neither hope nor fear of anything below; in daily prayer, daily bread, and daily work, one day being just like another, except that it was one step nearer than the day just gone to that great day, which would swallow up all days, the day of everlasting rest? ("Hist. Sketches," vol. II. p. 28.)

8. The Death of St. Bede

HERE the beautiful character in life and death of St. Bede naturally occurs to the mind, who is, in his person and his writings, as truly the pattern of a Benedictine, as is St. Thomas of a Dominican; and with an extract from the letter of Cuthbert to Cuthwin concerning his last hours, which, familiarly as it is known, is always pleasant to read, I break off my subject for the present. {180}

"He was exceedingly oppressed," says Cuthbert of St. Bede, "with shortness of breathing, though without pain, before Easter Day, for about a fortnight; but he rallied, and was full of joy and gladness, and gave thanks to Almighty God day and night, and every hour, up to Ascension Day; and he gave us, his scholars, daily lectures, and passed the rest of the day in singing the Psalms, and the night, too, in joy and thanksgiving, except the scanty time which he gave to sleep. And as soon as he woke he was busy in his customary way, and he never ceased, with uplifted hands, giving thanks to God. I solemnly protest, never have I seen or heard of any one who was so diligent in thanksgiving.

"He sang that sentence of the blessed Apostle Paul, 'It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God,' and many other passages of Scripture, in which he warned us to shake off the slumber of the soul, by anticipating our last hour. And he sang some verses of his own in English also, to the effect that no one could be too well prepared for his end, viz. in calling to mind, before he departs hence, what good or evil he has done, and how his judgment will lie. And he sang too the antiphons, of which one is, 'O King of Glory, Lord of Angels, who this day hast ascended in triumph above all the heavens, leave us not orphans, but send the promise of the Father upon us, the Spirit of Truth. Alleluia.' And when he came to the words, 'leave us not orphans,' he burst into tears, and wept much. He said, too, 'God scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,' and, with St. Ambrose, 'I have not so lived as to be ashamed to have been among you, nor do I fear to die, for we have a good Lord.'

"In those days, besides our lectures and the Psalmody, he was engaged in two works; he was translating into English the Gospel of St. John, as far as the words, 'But {181} what are those among so many,' and some extracts from the 'Notś of Isidore.' On the Tuesday before Ascension Day, he began to suffer still more in his breathing, and his feet were slightly swollen. However, he went through the day, dictating cheerfully, and he kept saying from time to time, 'Take down what I say quickly, for I know not how long I am to last, or whether my Maker will not take me soon.' He seemed to us to be quite aware of the time of his going, and he passed that night in giving of thanks, without sleeping. As soon as morning broke, that is on the Wednesday, he urged us to make haste with the writing which we had begun. We did so till nine o'clock, when we walked in procession with the Relics of the Saints, according to the usage of that day. But one of our party said to him, 'Dearest Master, one chapter is still wanting; can you bear our asking you about it?' He answered, 'I can bear it; take your pen and be ready, and write quickly.' At three o'clock he said to me, 'Run fast, and call our priests, that I may divide among them some little gifts which I have in my box.' When I had done this in much agitation, he spoke to each, urging and entreating them all to make a point of saying Masses and prayers for him. Thus he passed the day in joy until the evening, when the above-named youth said to him, 'Dear Master, there is yet one sentence not written!' He answered, 'Write quickly.' Presently the youth said, 'Now it is written;' he replied, 'Good, thou hast said the truth; consummatum est; take my head into thy hands, for it is very pleasant to me to sit facing my old praying place, and thus to call upon my Father.' And so, on the floor of his cell, he sang, 'Glory be to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,' and just as he had said 'Holy Ghost,' he breathed his last, and went to the realms above."

It is remarkable that this flower of the Benedictine school {182} died on the same day as St. Philip Neri, May 26; Bede on Ascension Day, and Philip on the early morning after the feast of Corpus Christi. It was fitting that two saints should go to heaven together, whose mode of going thither was the same; both of them singing, praying, working, and guiding others, in joy and exultation till their very last hour. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. II. p. 28.)

9. Abelard

AS the inductive method rose in Bacon, so did the logical in the mediśval schoolmen, and Aristotle, the most comprehensive intellect of Antiquity, as the one who had conceived the sublime idea of mapping the whole field of knowledge, and subjecting all things to one profound analysis, became the presiding master in their lecture halls. It was at the end of the eleventh century that William of Champeaux founded the celebrated Abbey of St. Victor, under the shadow of St. GeneviŤve ... Of this William of Champeaux, Abelard was the pupil. He had studied the dialectic art elsewhere, before he offered himself for his instructions, and in the course of two years, when as yet he had only reached the age of twenty-two, he made such progress as to be capable of quarrelling with his master, and setting up a school for himself ...

Great things are done by devotion to one idea; there is one class of geniuses who would never be what they are, could they grasp a second. The calm philosophical mind, which contemplates parts without denying the whole, and the whole without confusing the parts, is notoriously {183} indisposed to action; whereas single and simple views arrest the mind, and hurry it on to carry them out. Thus men of one idea and nothing more, whatever their merit, must be, to a certain extent, narrow-minded, and it is not wonderful that Abelard's devotion to the new [scholastic] philosophy made him undervalue the Seven Arts out of which it had grown. He felt it impossible so to honour what was now to be added, as not to dishonour what existed before. He would not suffer the Arts to have their own use, since he had found a new instrument for a new purpose. So he opposed the reading of the Classics. The monks had opposed them before him; but this is little to our present purpose. It was the duty of men who abjured the gifts of this world, on the principle of mortification, to deny themselves literature, just as they would deny themselves particular friendships or figured music. The doctrine which Abelard introduced and represents was founded on a different basis. He did not recognize in the poets of antiquity any other merit than that of furnishing an assemblage of elegant phrases and figures, and accordingly he asks why they should not be banished from the city of God, since Plato banished them from his own commonwealth. The animus of this language is clear when we turn to the pages of John of Salisbury and Peter of Blois, who were champions of the ancient learning. We find them complaining that the careful "getting up," as we now call it, "of books," was growing out of fashion. Youths once studied critically the text of poets or philosophers; they got them by heart; they analyzed their arguments; they noted down their fallacies; they were closely examined in the matters which had been brought before them in lectures; they composed. But now, another teaching was coming in; students were promised truth in a nutshell; they intended to get possession of the sum-total of philosophy {184} in less than two or three years; and facts were apprehended, not in their substance and details, by means of living and, as it were, personal documents, but in dead abstracts and tables. Such were the reclamations to which the new Logic gave occasion.

These, however, are lesser matters; we have a graver quarrel with Abelard than that of his undervaluing the Classics ... Wisdom, says the inspired writer, is desursum, is pudica, is pacifica, "from above, chaste, peaceable." We have already seen enough of Abelard's career to understand that his wisdom, instead of being pacifica, was ambitious and contentious. An Apostle speaks of the tongue both as a blessing and as a curse. It may be the beginning of a fire, he says, a "Universitas iniquitatis;" and, alas! such it became in the mouth of the gifted Abelard. His eloquence was wonderful; he dazzled his contemporaries, says Fulco, "by the brilliancy of his genius, the sweetness of his eloquence, the ready flow of his language, and the subtlety of his knowledge." People came to him from all quarters;—from Rome, in spite of mountains and robbers; from England, in spite of the sea; from Flanders and Germany; from Normandy, and the remote districts of France; from Angers and Poitiers; from Navarre by the Pyrenees, and from Spain, besides the students of Paris itself; and among those who sought his instructions, now or afterwards, were the great luminaries of the schools in the next generation. Such were Peter of Poitiers, Peter Lombard, John of Salisbury, Arnold of Brescia, Ivo and Geoffrey of Auxerre. It was too much for a weak head and heart; weak in spite of intellectual power; for vanity will possess the head, and worldliness the heart, of the man, however gifted, whose wisdom is not an effluence of the Eternal Light.

True wisdom is not only "pacifica," it is "pudica;" {185} chaste as well as peaceable. Alas for Abelard! a second disgrace, deeper than ambition, is his portion now. The strong man,—the Samson of the schools in the wildness of his course, the Solomon in the fascination of his genius,—shivers and falls before the temptation which overcame that mighty pair, the most excelling in body and in mind.

Desire of wine, and all delicious drinks,
Which many a famous warrior overturns,
Thou couldst repress; nor did the dancing ruby,
Sparkling outpour'd, the flavour or the smell,
Or taste that cheers the heart of gods and men,
Allure thee from the cool crystalline stream.
But what avail'd this temperance, not complete,
Against another object more enticing?
What boots it at one gate to make defence,
And at another to let in the foe,
Effeminately vanquished?

In a time when Colleges were unknown, and the young scholar was commonly thrown upon the dubious hospitality of a great city, Abelard might even be thought careful of his honour, that he went to lodge with an old ecclesiastic, had not his host's niece, Eloisa, lived with him. A more subtle snare was laid for him than beset the heroic champion, or the all-accomplished monarch of Israel; for sensuality came upon him, under the guise of intellect, and it was the high mental endowments of Eloisa, who became his pupil, speaking in her eyes, and thrilling on her tongue, which were the intoxication and the delirium of Abelard ... He is judged, he is punished: but he is not reclaimed. True wisdom is not only "pacifica," not only "pudica," it is "desursum" too. It is a revelation from above; it knows heresy as little as it knows strife or licence. But Abelard, who had run the career of earthly wisdom in two of its {186} phases, now is destined to represent its third.

It is at the famous Abbey of St. Denis that we find him languidly rising from his dream of sin, and the suffering that followed. The bad dream is cleared away; clerks come to him, and the Abbot, begging him to lecture still, for love now, as for gain before. Once more his school is thronged by the curious and the studious; but at length a rumour spreads that Abelard is exploring the way to some novel view on the subject of the Most Holy Trinity. Wherefore is hardly clear, but about the same time the monks drive him away from the place of refuge he had gained. He betakes himself to a cell, and thither his pupils follow him. "I betook myself to a certain cell," he says, "wishing to give myself to the schools, as was my custom. Thither so great a multitude of scholars flocked, that there was neither room to house them, nor fruits of the earth to feed them." Such was the enthusiasm of the student, such the attraction of the teacher, when knowledge was advertised freely, and its market opened.

Next he is in Champagne, in a delightful solitude near Nogent, in the diocese of Troyes. Here the same phenomenon presents itself which is so frequent in his history. "When the scholars knew it," he says, "they began to crowd thither from all parts; and leaving other cities and strongholds, they were content to dwell in the wilderness. For spacious houses, they framed for themselves small tabernacles, and for delicate food they put up with wild herbs. Secretly did they whisper among themselves: 'Behold, the whole world is gone out after him!' When, however, my Oratory could not hold even a moderate portion of them, then they were forced to enlarge it, and to build it up with wood and stone." He called the place his "Paraclete," because it had been his consolation. {187}

I do not know why I need follow his life further. I have said enough to illustrate the course of one who may be called the founder, or at least the first great name, of the Parisian Schools. After the events I have mentioned, he is found in Lower Britanny; then, being about forty years of age, in the Abbey of St. Gildas; then with St. GeneviŤve again. He had to sustain the fiery eloquence of a Saint, directed against his novelties; he had to present himself before two Councils; he had to burn the book which had given offence to pious ears. His last two years were spent at Clugni, on his way to Rome. The home of the weary, the the school of the erring, the tribunal of the penitent, is the city of St. Peter. He did not reach it; but he is said to have retracted what had given scandal in his writings, and to have made an edifying end. He died at the age of sixty-two, in the year of grace 1142.

In reviewing his career, the career of so great an intellect so miserably thrown away, we are reminded of the famous words of the dying scholar and jurist, which are a lesson to us all: "Heu, vitam perdidi, operosŤ nihil agendo." A happier lot be ours! ("Hist. Sketches," vol. III. p. 195.)


Top | Contents | Guides | Home


1. [The explanation Dr. Newman offers is, that the "object" of the Holy See in annexing Ireland to the English crown in the twelfth century was "a religious one," while "the circumstantial evils in which it had no real part were temporal." The Irish were "lapsing back to barbarism," and "it was surely incumbent on the power which had converted them to interfere." The remedy the Pope applied was to send against them the Normans—"the soldiers of a young and ambitious power, first to reform, then secondly to unite them together." "In matter of fact, the policy which he pursued towards Ireland, is precisely that which he had adopted towards England a century earlier, except that its concomitants in the case of England were far more penal, in severity at least if not in duration." See the paper (unfortunately unfinished) from which the above extract is taken, "The Northmen and Normans in England and Ireland."]
Return to text

2. Lanigan, vol. iv. pp. 165-6.
Return to text

3. "A young French renegade confessed to Chateaubriand that he never found himself alone galloping in the desert without a sensation approaching to rapture, which was indescribable." ( Notes to "The Bride of Abydos.")
Return to text

Top | Contents | Guides | Home

Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright © 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.