Part 2.

Chapter 1.

{160} ABOUT three miles from Oxford a thickly-wooded village lies on the side of a steep, long hill or chine, looking over the Berkshire woods, and commanding a view of the many-turretted city itself. Over its broad summit once stretched a chestnut forest; and now it is covered with the roots of trees, or furze, or soft turf. The red sand which lies underneath contrasts with the green, and adds to its brilliancy; it drinks in, too, the rain greedily, so that the wide common is nearly always fit for walking; and the air, unlike the heavy atmosphere of the University beneath it, is fresh and bracing. The gorse was still in bloom, in the latter end of the month of June, when Reding and Sheffield took up their abode in a small cottage at the upper end of this village—so hid with trees and girt in with meadows that for the stranger it was hard to find—there to pass their third and last Long Vacation before going into the schools.

A year and a half had passed since Charles's great affliction, and the time had not been unprofitably spent either by himself or his friend. Both had read very {161} regularly, and Sheffield had gained the Latin verse into the bargain. Charles had put all religious perplexities aside; that is, he knew of course many more persons of all parties than he did before, and became better acquainted with their tenets and their characters, but he did not dwell upon anything which he met with, nor attempt to determine the merits or solve the difficulties of this or that question. He took things as they came; and, while he gave his mind to his books, he thankfully availed himself of the religious privileges which the College system afforded him. Nearly a year still remained before his examination; and, as Mrs. Reding had not as yet fully arranged her plans, but was still, with her daughters, passing from friend to friend, he had listened to Sheffield's proposal to take a tutor for the Vacation, and to find a site for their studies in the neighbourhood of Oxford. There was every prospect of their both obtaining the highest honours which the schools award: they both were good scholars and clever men; they had read regularly, and had had the advantage of able lectures.

The side of the hill forms a large, sweeping hollow or theatre just on one side of the village of Horsley. The two extreme points may be half a mile across; but the distance is increased to one who follows the path which winds through the furze and fern along the ridge. Their tutor had been unable to find lodgings in the village; and, while the two young men lived on one extremity of the sweep we have been describing, Mr. Carlton, who was not above three years older than they, had planted himself at a farmhouse upon the {162} other. Besides, the farmhouse suited him better, as being nearer to a hamlet which he was serving during the Vacation.

"I don't think you like Carlton as well as I do," said Reding to Sheffield, as they lay on the green sward with some lighter classic in their hands, waiting for dinner, and watching their friend as he approached them from his lodgings. "He is to me so taking a man; so equable, so gentle, so considerate—he brings people together, and fills them with confidence in himself and friendly feeling towards each other, more than any person I know."

"You are wrong," said Sheffield, "if you think I don't value him extremely, and love him too; it's impossible not to love him. But he's not the person quite to get influence over me."

"He's too much of an Anglican for you," said Reding.

"Not at all," said Sheffield, "except indirectly. My quarrel with him is, that he has many original thoughts, and holds many profound truths in detail, but is quite unable to see how they lie to each other, and equally unable to draw consequences. He never sees a truth until he touches it; he is ever groping and feeling, and, as in hide-and-seek, continually burns without discovering. I know there are ten thousand persons who cannot see an inch before their nose, and who can comfortably digest contradictions; but Carlton is really a clever man; he is no common thinker; this makes it so provoking. When I write an essay for him—I know I write obscurely, and often do not bring out {163} the sequence of my ideas in due order, but, so it is—he is sure to cut out the very thought or statement on which I especially pride myself, on which the whole argument rests, which binds every part together; and he coolly tells me that it is extravagant or far-fetched—not seeing that by leaving it out he has made nonsense of the rest. He is a man to rob an arch of its keystone, and then quietly to build his house upon it."

"Ah, your old failing again," said Reding; "a craving after views. Now, what I like in Carlton is that repose of his;—always saying enough, never too much; never boring you, never taxing you; always practical, never in the clouds. Save me from a viewy man; I could not live with him for a week, present company always excepted."

"Now, considering how hard I have read, and how little I have talked this year past, that is hard on me," said Sheffield. "Did not I go to be one of old Thruston's sixteen pupils, last Long? He gave us capital feeds, smoked with us, and coached us in Ethics and Agamemnon. He knows his books by heart, can repeat his plays backwards, and weighs out his Aristotle by grains and pennyweights; but, for generalisations, ideas, poetry, oh, it was desolation—it was a darkness which could be felt!"

"And you stayed there just six weeks out of four months, Sheffield," answered Reding.

Carlton had now joined them, and, after introductory greetings on both sides, he too threw himself upon the turf. Sheffield said: "Reding and I were disputing just now whether Nicias was a party man". {164}

"Of course you first defined your terms," said Carlton.

"Well," said Sheffield, "I mean by a party man one who not only belongs to a party, but who has the animus of party. Nicias did not make a party; he found one made. He found himself at the head of it; he was no more a party man than a prince who was born the head of his state."

"I should agree with you," said Carlton; "but still I should like to know what a party is, and what a party man."

"A party," said Sheffield, "is merely an extra-constitutional or extra-legal body."

"Party action," said Charles, "is the exertion of influence instead of law."

"But supposing, Reding, there is no law existing in the quarter where influence exerts itself?" asked Carlton.

Charles had to explain: "Certainly," he said, "the State did not legislate for all possible contingencies".

"For instance," continued Carlton, "a prime minister, I have understood, is not acknowledged in the Constitution; he exerts influence beyond the law, but not, in consequence, against any existing law; and it would be absurd to talk of him as a party man."

"Parliamentary parties, too, are recognised among us," said Sheffield, "though extra-constitutional. We call them parties; but who would call the Duke of Devonshire or Lord John Russell, in a bad sense, a party man?"

"It seems to me," said Carlton, "that the formation {165} of a party is merely a recurrence to the original mode of forming into society. You recollect Deioces; he formed a party. He gained influence; he laid the foundation of social order."

"Law certainly begins in influence," said Reding, "for it presupposes a lawgiver; afterwards it supersedes influence; from that time the exertion of influence is a sign of party."

"Too broadly said, as you yourself just now allowed," said Carlton: "you should say that law begins to supersede influence, and that in proportion as it supersedes it, does the exertion of influence involve party action. For instance, has not the Crown an immense personal influence? We talk of the Court party; yet it does not interfere with law, it is intended to conciliate the people to the law."

"But it is recognised by law and constitution," said Charles, "as was the Dictatorship."

"Well, then, take the influence of the clergy," answered Carlton; "we make much of that influence as a principle supplemental to the law, and as a support to the law, yet not created or defined by the law. The law does not recognise what some one calls truly a 'resident gentleman' in every parish. Influence, then, instead of law is not necessarily the action of party."

"So again, national character is an influence distinct from the law," said Sheffield, "according to the line, 'Quid leges sine moribus?'"

"Law," said Carlton, "is but gradually formed and extended. Well, then, so far as there is no law, there {166} is the reign of influence; there is party without of necessity party action. This is the justification of Whigs and Tories at the present day; to supply, as Aristotle says on another subject, the defects of the law. Charles I. exerted a regal, Walpole a ministerial influence; but influence, not law, was the operating principle in both cases. The object or the means might be wrong, but the process could not be called party action."

"You would justify, then," said Charles, "the associations or confraternities which existed, for instance, in Athens; not, that is, if they 'took the law into their own hands,' as the phrase goes, but if there was no law to take, or if there was no constituted authority to take it of right. It was a recurrence to the precedent of Deioces."

"Manzoni gives a striking instance of this in the beginning of his Promessi Sposi," said Sheffield, "when he describes that protection, which law ought to give to the weak, as being in the sixteenth century sought and found almost exclusively in factions or companies. I don't recollect particulars; but he describes the clergy as busy in extending their immunities, the nobility their privileges, the army their exemptions, the trades and artisans their guilds. Even the lawyers formed a union, and medical men a corporation."

"Thus constitutions are gradually moulded and perfected," said Carlton, "by extra-constitutional bodies, either coming under the protection of law, or else being superseded by the law's providing for their {167} objects. In the middle ages the Church was a vast extra-constitutional body. The German and Anglo-Norman sovereigns sought to bring its operation under the law; modern parliaments have superseded its operation by law. Then the State wished to gain the right of investitures, now the State marries, registers, manages the poor, exercises ecclesiastical jurisdiction, instead of the Church."

"This will make ostracism parallel to the Reformation or the Revolution," said Sheffield; "there is a battle of influence against influence, and one gets rid of the other; law or constitution does not come into question but the will of the people or of the court ejects, whether the too-gifted individual, or the monarch, or the religion. What was not under the law could not be dealt with, had no claim to be dealt with, by the law."

"A thought has sometimes struck me," said Reding, "which falls in with what you have been saying. In the last half century there has been a gradual formation of the popular party in the State, which now tends to be acknowledged as constitutional, or is already so acknowledged. My father never could endure newspapers—I mean the system of newspapers; he said it was a new power in the State. I am sure I am not defending what he was thinking of, the many bad proceedings, the wretched principles, the arrogance and tyranny of newspaper writers, but I am trying the subject by the test of your theory. The great body of the people are very imperfectly represented in parliament; the Commons are not {168} their voice, but the voice of certain great interests. Consequently the press comes in—to do that which the constitution does not do—to form the people into a vast mutual-protection association. And this is done by the same right that Deioces had to collect people about him; it does not interfere with the existing territory of the law, but builds where the constitution has not made provision. It tends, then, ultimately to be recognised by the constitution."

"There is another remarkable phenomenon of a similar kind now in process of development," said Carlton, "and that is, the influence of agitation. I really am not politician enough to talk of it as good or bad; one's natural instinct is against it; but it may be necessary. However, agitation is getting to be recognised as the legitimate instrument by which the masses make their desires known, and secure the accomplishment of them. Just as a bill passes in parliament, after certain readings, discussions, speeches, votings, and the like, so the process by which an act of the popular will becomes law is a long agitation, issuing in petitions, previous to and concurrent with the parliamentary process. The first instance of this was about fifty or sixty years ago, when ... Hallo!" he cried, "who is this cantering up to us?"

"I declare it is old Vincent," said Sheffield.

"He is to come to dine," said Charles, "just in time."

"How are you, Carlton?" cried Vincent. "How d'ye do, Mr. Sheffield? Mr. Reding, how d'ye do?—acting up to your name, I suppose, for you were ever {169} a reading man. For myself," he continued, "I am just now an eating man, and am come to dine with you, if you will let me. Have you a place for my horse?"

There was a farmer near who could lend a stable; so the horse was led off by Charles; and the rider, without any delay—for the hour did not admit it—entered the cottage to make his brief preparation for dinner.

Chapter 2-2

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