Chapter 2.

{170} IN a few minutes all met together at table in the small parlour, which was room of all work in the cottage. They had not the whole house, limited as were its resources; for it was also the habitation of a gardener, who took his vegetables to the Oxford market, and whose wife (what is called) did for his lodgers.

Dinner was suited to the apartment, apartment to the dinner. The book-table had been hastily cleared for a cloth, not over white, and, in consequence, the sole remaining table, which acted as sideboard, displayed a relay of plates and knives and forks, in the midst of octavos and duodecimos, bound and unbound, piled up and thrown about in great variety of shapes. The other ornaments of this side-table were an ink-glass, some quires of large paper, a straw hat, a gold watch, a clothes-brush, some bottles of ginger-beer, a pair of gloves, a case of cigars, a neck-handkerchief, a shoe-horn, a small slate, a large clasp-knife, a hammer, and a handsome inlaid writing-desk.

"I like these rides into the country," said Vincent, as they began eating; "the country loses its effect on me when I live in it, as you do; but it is exquisite as {171} a zest. Visit it, do not live in it, if you would enjoy it. Country air is a stimulus; stimulants, Mr. Reding, should not be taken too often. You are of the country party. I am of no party. I go here and there—like the bee—I taste of everything, I depend on nothing."

Sheffield said that this was rather belonging to all parties than to none.

"That is impossible," answered Vincent; "I hold it to be altogether impossible. You can't belong to two parties; there's no fear of it; you might as well attempt to be in two places at once. To be connected with both is to be united with neither. Depend on it, my young friend, antagonist principles correct each other. It's a piece of philosophy which one day you will thank me for, when you are older."

"I have heard of an American illustration of this," said Sheffield, "which certainly confirms what you say, sir. Professors in the United States are sometimes of two or three religions at once, according as we regard them historically, personally, or officially. In this way, perhaps, they hit the mean."

Vincent, though he so often excited a smile in others, had no humour himself, and never could make out the difference between irony and earnest. Accordingly he was brought to a stand.

Charles came to his relief. "Before dinner," he said, "we were sporting what you will consider a great paradox, I am afraid; that parties were good things, or rather necessary things."

"You don't do me justice," answered Vincent, "if this is what you think I deny. I halve your words; {172} parties are not good, but necessary; like snails, I neither envy them their small houses, nor try to lodge in them myself."

"You mean," said Carlton, "that parties do our dirty work; they are our beasts of burden; we could not get on without them, but we need not identify ourselves with them; we may keep aloof."

"That," said Sheffield, "is something like those religious professors who say that it is sinful to engage in worldly though necessary occupations; but that the reprobate undertake them, and work for the elect."

"There will always be persons enough in the world who like to be party men, without being told to be so," said Vincent; "it's our business to turn them to account, to use them, but to keep aloof. I take it, all parties are partly right, only they go too far. I borrow from each, I co-operate with each, as far as each is right and no further. Thus I get good from all, and I do good to all; for I countenance each, so far as it is true."

"Mr. Carlton meant more than that, sir," said Sheffield; "he meant that the existence of parties was not only necessary and useful, but even right."

"Mr. Carlton is not the man to make paradoxes," said Vincent; "I suspect he would not defend the extreme opinions, which, alas! exist among us at present, and are progressing every day."

"I was speaking of political parties," said Carlton, "but I am disposed to extend what I said to religious also."

"But, my good Carlton," said Vincent, "Scripture speaks against religious parties." {173}

"Certainly I don't wish to oppose Scripture," said Carlton, "and I speak under correction of Scripture; but I say this, that whenever and wherever a church does not decide religious points, so far does it leave the decision to individuals; and since you can't expect all people to agree together, you must have different opinions; and the expression of those different opinions, by the various persons who hold them, is what is called a party."

"Mr. Carlton has been great, sir, on the general subject before dinner," said Sheffield, "and now he draws the corollary, that whenever there are parties in a church, a church may thank itself for them. They are the certain effect of private judgment; and the more private judgment you have, the more parties you will have. You are reduced, then, to this alternative, no toleration or else party; and you must recognise party, unless you refuse toleration."

"Sheffield words it more strongly than I should do," said Carlton; "but really I mean pretty much what he says. Take the case of the Roman Catholics; they have decided many points of theology, many they have not decided; and whenever there is no ecclesiastical decision, there they have at once a party, or what they call a 'school'; and when the ecclesiastical decision at length appears, then the party ceases. Thus you have the Dominicans and Franciscans contending about the Immaculate Conception; they went on contending because authority did not at once decide the question. On the other hand, when Jesuits and Jansenists disputed on the question of grace, the Pope gave it in {174} favour of the Jesuits, and the controversy at once came to an end."

"Surely," said Vincent, "my good and worthy friend, the Rev. Charles Carlton, Fellow of Leicester, and sometime Ireland Essayist, is not preferring the Church of Rome to the Church of England?"

Carlton laughed; "You won't suspect me of that, I think," he answered; "no; all I say is, that our Church, from its constitution, admits, approves of private judgment; and that private judgment, so far forth as it is admitted, necessarily involves parties; the slender private judgment allowed in the Church of Rome admitting occasional or local parties, and the ample private judgment allowed in our Church recognising parties as an element of the Church".

"Well, well, my good Carlton," said Vincent, frowning and looking wise, yet without finding anything particular to say.

"You mean," said Sheffield, "if I understand you, that it is a piece of mawkish hypocrisy to shake the head and throw up the eyes at Mr. this or that for being the head of a religious party, while we return thanks for our pure and reformed Church; because purity, reformation, apostolicity, toleration, all these boasts and glories of the Church of England, establish party action and party spirit as a cognate blessing, for which we should be thankful also. Party is one of our greatest ornaments, Mr. Vincent."

"A sentiment or argument does not lose in your hands," said Carlton; "but what I meant was simply that party leaders are not dishonourable in the Church, {175} unless Lord John Russell or Sir Robert Peel hold a dishonourable post in the State."

"My young friend," said Vincent, finishing his mutton, and pushing his plate from him, "my two young friends—for Carlton is not much older than Mr. Sheffield—may you learn a little more judgment. When you have lived to my age" (viz., two or three years beyond Carlton's) "you will learn sobriety in all things. Mr. Reding, another glass of wine. See that poor child, how she totters under the gooseberry-pudding; up, Mr. Sheffield, and help her. The old woman cooks better than I had expected. How do you get your butcher's meat here, Carlton? I should have made the attempt to bring you a fine jack I saw in our kitchen, but I thought you would have no means of cooking it."

Dinner over, the party rose, and strolled out on the green. Another subject commenced.

"Was not Mr. Willis of St. George's a friend of yours, Mr. Reding?" asked Vincent.

Charles started; "I knew him a little ... I have seen him several times."

"You know he left us," continued Vincent, "and joined the Church of Rome. Well, it is credibly reported that he is returning."

"A melancholy history, anyhow," answered Charles; "most melancholy, if this is true."

"Rather," said Vincent, setting him right, as if he had simply made a verbal mistake, "a most happy termination, you mean; the only thing that was left for him to do. You know he went abroad. Any one who {176} is inclined to Romanize should go abroad; Carlton, we shall be sending you soon. Here things are softened down; there you see the Church of Rome as it really is. I have been abroad, and should know it. Such heaps of beggars in the streets of Rome and Naples; so much squalidness and misery; no cleanliness; an utter want of comfort; and such superstition; and such an absence of all true and evangelical seriousness. They push and fight while Mass is going on; they jabber their prayers at railroad speed; they worship the Virgin as a goddess; and they see miracles at the corner of every street. Their images are awful, and their ignorance prodigious. Well, Willis saw all this; and I have it on good authority," he said mysteriously, "that he is thoroughly disgusted with the whole affair, and is coming back to us."

"Is he in England now?" asked Reding.

"He is said to be with his mother in Devonshire, who, perhaps you know, is a widow; and he has been too much for her. Poor silly fellow, who would not take the advice of older heads! A friend once sent him to me; I could make nothing of him. I couldn't understand his arguments, nor he mine. It was no good; he would make trial himself, and he has caught it."

There was a short pause in the conversation; then Vincent added, "But such perversions, Carlton, I suppose, thinks to be as necessary as parties in a pure Protestant Church".

"I can't say you satisfy me, Carlton," said Charles; "and I am happy to have the sanction of Mr. Vincent. Did political party make men rebels, then would political {177} party be indefensible; so is religious, if it leads to apostasy."

"You know the Whigs were accused in the last war," said Sheffield, "of siding with Bonaparte; accidents of this kind don't affect general rules or standing customs."

"Well, independent of this," answered Charles, "I cannot think religious parties defensible on the considerations which justify political. There is, to my feelings, something despicable in heading a religious party."

"Was Loyola despicable," asked Sheffield, "or St. Dominic?"

"They had the sanction of their superiors," said Charles.

"You are hard on parties surely, Reding," said Carlton; "a man may individually write, preach, and publish what he believes to be the truth, without offence; why, then, does it begin to be wrong when he does so together with others?"

"Party tactics are a degradation of the truth," said Charles.

"We have heard, I believe, before now," said Carlton, "of Athanasius against the whole world, and the whole world against Athanasius."

"Well," answered Charles, "I will but say this, that a party man must be very much above par or below it."

"There, again, I don't agree," said Carlton; "you are supposing the leader of a party to be conscious of what he is doing; and, being conscious, he may be, as {178} you say, either much above or below the average; but a man need not realise to himself that he is forming a party."

"That's more difficult to conceive," said Vincent, "than any statement which has been hazarded this afternoon."

"Not at all difficult," answered Carlton: "do you mean that there is only one way of gaining influence? Surely there is such a thing as unconscious influence?"

"I'd as easily believe," said Vincent, "that a beauty does not know her charms."

"That's narrow-minded," retorted Carlton: "a man sits in his room and writes, and does not know what people think of him."

"I'd believe it less," persisted Vincent: "beauty is a fact; influence is an effect. Effects imply agents, agency, will and consciousness."

"There are different modes of influence," interposed Sheffield; "influence is often spontaneous and almost necessary."

"Like the light on Moses' face," said Carlton.

"Bonaparte is said to have had an irresistible smile," said Sheffield.

"What is beauty itself, but a spontaneous influence?" added Carlton; "don't you recollect 'the lovely young Lavinia' in Thomson?"

"Well, gentlemen," said Vincent, "when I am Chancellor I will give a prize essay on 'Moral Influence, its Kinds and Causes,' and Mr. Sheffield shall get it; and as to Carlton, he shall be my Poetry Professor when I am Convocation." {179}

You will say, good reader, that the party took a very short stroll on the hill, when we tell you that they were now stooping their heads at the lowly door of the cottage; but the terse littera scripta abridges wondrously the rambling vox emissa; and there might be other things said in the course of the conversation which history has not condescended to record. Anyhow, we are obliged now to usher them again into the room where they had dined, and where they found tea ready laid, and the kettle speedily forthcoming. The bread and butter were excellent; and the party did justice to them, as if they had not lately dined. "I see you keep your tea in tin cases," said Vincent; "I am for glass. Don't spare the tea, Mr. Reding; Oxford men do not commonly fail on that head. Lord Bacon says the first and best juice of the grape, like the primary, purest, and best comment on Scripture, is not pressed and forced out, but consists of a natural exudation. This is the case in Italy at this day; and they call the juice 'lagrima'. So it is with tea, and with coffee too. Put in a large quantity, pour on the water, turn off the liquor; turn it off at once—don't let it stand; it becomes poisonous. I am a great patron of tea; the poet truly says, 'It cheers, but not inebriates'. It has sometimes a singular effect upon my nerves; it makes me whistle—so people tell me; I am not conscious of it. Sometimes, too, it has a dyspeptic effect. I find it does not do to take it too hot; we English drink our liquors too hot. It is not a French failing; no, indeed. In France, that is in the country, you get nothing for breakfast but acid wine and grapes; this is {180} the other extreme, and has before now affected me awfully. Yet acids, too, have a soothing, sedative effect upon one; lemonade especially. But nothing suits me so well as tea. Carlton," he continued mysteriously, "do you know the late Dr. Baillie's preventive of the flatulency which tea produces? Mr. Sheffield, do you?" Both gave up. "Camomile flowers; a little camomile, not a great deal; some people chew rhubarb, but a little camomile in the tea is not perceptible. Don't make faces, Mr. Sheffield; a little, I say; a little of everything is best—ne quid nimis. Avoid all extremes. So it is with sugar. Mr. Reding, you are putting too much into your tea. I lay down this rule: sugar should not be a substantive ingredient in tea, but an adjective; that is, tea has a natural roughness; sugar is only intended to remove that roughness; it has a negative office; when it is more than this, it is too much. Well, Carlton, it is time for me to be seeing after my horse. I fear he has not had so pleasant an afternoon as I. I have enjoyed myself much in your suburban villa. What a beautiful moon! but I have some very rough ground to pass over. I daren't canter over the ruts with the gravel-pits close before me. Mr. Sheffield, do me the favour to show me the way to the stable. Good-bye to you, Carlton; good-night, Mr. Reding."

When they were left to themselves Charles asked Carlton if he really meant to acquit of party spirit the present party leaders in Oxford. "You must not misunderstand me," answered he; "I do not know much of them, but I know they are persons of great merit and high character, and I wish to think the best of {181} them. They are most unfairly attacked, that is certain; however, they are accused of wishing to make a display, of aiming at influence and power, of loving agitation, and so on. I cannot deny that some things they have done have an unpleasant appearance, and give plausibility to the charge. I wish they had, at certain times, acted otherwise. Meanwhile, I do think it but fair to keep in view that the existence of parties is no fault of theirs. They are but claiming their birthright as Protestants. When the Church does not speak, others will speak instead; and learned men have the best right to speak. Again, when learned men speak, others will attend to them; and thus the formation of a party is rather the act of those who follow than of those who lead."

Chapter 2-3

Top | Contents | Works | Home

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