England in 1899
IN England to-day we have almost forgotten Dreyfus. But it is not many months since press and people alike were clamorous with righteous indignation over the spectacle of “justice insulted, innocence condemned, a nation without honor.” France, as usual, was enlightening the world by an intensely dramatic illustration of the difficulties which beset the government of an emotional people. At present she is committed to the impossible position of being democratic under military control. The army has its own ethics, its own methods of government; and suddenly, unexpectedly, they are exposed to the light of day and the test of democratic codes. France clings wildly to her rights, her prestige, her honor ; and there issues — chaos. Whatever be the facts of the original question, Dreyfus had been set up as the banner of a party: in the eyes of the world he was twice condemned without evidence. We are scandalized, France is bruised.
The pardon has, at least temporarily, diverted public attention ; but it is her own affairs which have most effectually silenced the unmeasured indignation and complacently implied self - congratulations of England. In France we have seen a struggle between the ideals of militarism and democracy : we turn to find ourselves in conduct of a great crisis in the progress of democracy along the warpath of imperialism. It remains to-day for England to bear witness that the people may be trusted with the conscience and the honor of an empire. Our policy must be governed entirely by consideration of the interests and the duties of the colony. Our troops have gone out as policemen, not as bullies. However justly and enthusiastically we may rejoice in individual gallantry or mourn over heavy losses, there can be no patriotic excitement over victory, no national pride in conquest. We are fighting to stamp out race prejudices, not to inflame them. And if the power be put in our hands, it is our imperative duty to use it for the establishment of peace, contentment, and equal liberties among the peoples of what is probably destined to become a federal union of self-governing South African colonies. It is our disgrace that, by vacillation and want of faith, we have missed in bygone years the opportunities of establishing such a federation by pacific and conciliatory methods. Which stage of our diplomacy was most at fault may be questioned ; but now, being committed to a “ forward ” policy, we had best act with decision and, if possible, with finality.
Imperialism, though liable to the noisy support of thoughtless jingoism, is the dream of a humanitarian imagination. To accept its inspiration is to accept responsibilities of immeasurable extent and variety. The problem before us to-day is whether a democracy, necessarily eager about home affairs, fitfully occupied with a class warfare for the abolition of classes, selfishly or philanthropically agog with schemes of social reform, — whether a democracy with so many legitimate interests of its own can possess the time, the inclination, or the foresight needed for imperial government. It will prove, no doubt, that we must leave even more than we have been accustomed to do to competent men on the spot, and that Home Rule is the ideal for every colony, the ultimate safeguard of her loyalty ; but there will always be times of transition like the present, and other emergencies, when a policy must be adopted by the imperial government, to be indorsed or condemned by the English people. We have seen, more than ever since the public emotion over Mr. Rudyard Kipling’s illness and the introduction of the colonial penny postage, that imperialism is with us, and must be fairly faced. As Englishmen we have no intention of being beaten by its complexities.
It was, no doubt, the fact of our being a geographically small country with vast colonial possessions which specialized for us the problems before the Peace Conference, and accounted for the attitude of our representative at the Hague. The first World’s Parliament produced no very sensational results, and it cannot be pretended that the bulk, at least, of English thoughtlessness was much interested in its sittings or its conclusions. But our peace societies have been greatly encouraged in their good work ; and among the few who are capable of feeling for humanity there is cause indeed for rejoicing over a real advance in the progress of civilization. It is much that such a conference should have been proposed and held ; that it will be followed by others ; that the principle of arresting armaments has been formally indorsed ; and that a project for investigation, mediation, and arbitration has been actually adopted.
The International Council of Women, which held its congress in London last summer, claims — not altogether fantastically — to be the forerunner of the permanent International Parliament which may result from the arbitration schemes discussed at the Hague ; and it is certain that the furtherance of peace was the only positive propaganda to which its members were universally committed. The congress, indeed, as a whole, was somewhat dissipated by the widely varied subjects of its deliberations ; but a good many important questions were well ventilated, and earnest leaders of thought had the opportunity of comparing notes. The opinion seemed generally dominant that men and women will always work best in coöperation.
Peace talked over, war dreaded, and the weight of a compact ministerial majority have combined to deaden political activity ; and the social reformers, who are ever knocking at the doors of our national assembly, can record but one achievement, — the provision of seats for shopgirls. Outside the House, however, a certain amount has been accomplished. The new London teaching and examining university, whose home will be the Imperial Institute, is gradually taking shape in the hands of a statutory commission. No details are yet made public ; but the principles of the University of London Act, 1898, which the commission has been appointed to embody, are calculated to insure a real advance in education by dignifying, centralizing, developing, and consolidating the teaching institutions of the capital. Kindred movements have been the proposal for a Stopford Brooke Lectureship in Literature at University College, London, and Mrs. Ryland’s magnificent gift of the late Lord Spencer’s library to the city of Manchester.
The seven days’ newspaper has been born, and strangled in its cradle — by the nonconformist conscience. The first numbers of the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Mail naturally sold in their thousands, but the innovation was not suffered in silence. The pulpit spoke for the people; the advertisements of the Telegraph fell suddenly to what they had been twenty-five years ago, and no doubt the Mail was similarly affected. Then Lord Rosebery seized the opportunity of a news-venders’ dinner for an appeal to the rival proprietors, and they agreed simultaneously to accept the public verdict. The triumph of good feeling and social instinct over the tyranny of commercial enterprise was signal and complete. But apart from this check the feverish multiplication of papers and magazines has gone on as usual; and the latest advertisement craze — of pushing solid books through newspapers — threatens to absorb the entire press.
In literature proper, always the first to fall, and the last to recover from any period of trade depression, very little of great distinction has been produced. The year has witnessed, on the other hand, the most foolish, and may we not hope the last of the steps by which socalled reformers have nearly driven the publishing trade into the quagmire of commercial speculation in which the stage has long floundered. First came the literary agent, who destroys small authors and small publishers by creating fictitious prices for the favorites, and endangers the permanent success of the latter by handing their manuscripts to the highest bidder, thus dissipating their interests among the fortunes of many houses. The short-sighted abolition of the three-volume editions of fiction, by demanding large profits and quick returns, has temporarily shut the door on all distinguished, original, but not quite popular novelists. And now, in 1899, we are faced by the crowning absurdity of new copyright sixpenny novels, which, if successful, would rapidly make literature the slave of advertisement, and transform our publishing houses into cooperative general stores. The venture, I understand, has proved financially suicidal, and it is to be hoped that this may teach us a lesson.
The new fiction most characteristic of the moment falls naturally into two groups of quite contradictory interests. Superior in literary form, perhaps, are the quiet studies of country life, for which the ground had been more or less prepared by Dean Hole’s enthusiasm for roses, the charming gardening books by Mrs. Dewe Smith and others, and Mrs. Earle’s fascinating Potpourri of a Surrey Garden, — of which, by the way, a no less delightful sequel has actually appeared this year. Elizabeth and her German Garden, despite its touches of vulgarity, has been generally accepted as preëminent in this kind, and the same author’s The Solitary Summer was anticipated with much interest by the reading inner circle. It appears, however, that Elizabeth has not conquered her idle incapacity for lifting a finger of her own in her beloved garden: she perseveres in her foolish trick of nicknames, and is still most lamentably wanting in the grace of neighborly charity. She remains convinced that existence without an army of servants, as much money as you want, and the convenience of a husband to manage your affairs would be intolerably fatiguing. But, on the other hand, her taste and her enthusiasms for nature, her occasional humor, and the atmosphere of genuine country life surrounding her are as vital as ever. They combine to produce a manner of very potent and restful charm.
Similar, but far more distinguished, are the Etchingham Letters, by Mrs. Fuller Maitland and Sir Frederick Pollock. Elizabeth Etchingham, too, has never been touched by material care, but she lives under the shadow of a great sorrow, most delicately and sympathetically revealed. Like Mrs. Maitland’s Berthia Hardacre she has a passion for herbals, and she betrays other symptoms of the cultured bibliophile; but her letters are instinct with humanity, playing lightly round the dangerous topics of an uncongenial stepmother, a pompous wooer, a perverse pair of lovers, yet never commonplace or dull. In their company we may linger awhile under the twilight which rests and strengthens our eyes for the hot noontide of passion and toil. In all their leisured complacency the Etchinghams are never indifferent to the realities of life.
In marked contrast to these somewhat dreamy volumes, redolent alike of the library and the garden, may be noticed the handful of vivid studies in London street life which have been issued this year. They come in response to a demand created by the restless philanthropy which goes slumming and studies Mr. Booth’s map; by the taste for so-called realism which has exhausted “ problems,” and, being aweary of the kail yard, will have its local color by the awakening self-consciousness to the melodrama of the metropolis, which has substituted an intimacy with “ the Halls ” for “ the grand tour,” as a factor in the education of experience.
The growing fascination of London for her sons is witnessed by the praise accorded to Mr. Richard Whiteing’s No. 5 John Street, a book with a thousand artistic faults, and almost entirely lacking in personal human interest. Based on the clumsy and familiar artifice of an aristocrat masquerading as a casual laborer, for the would-be humorous purpose of reporting on “ Civilization ” to a foolishly imagined “ happy Island,” it is in reality no more than a series of loose-jointed sketches from the lives of the very poor and the preposterously rich. It ends with a false touch of heroics. But Mr. Whiteing’s types are quite living, and he possesses the saving grace of earnestness.
To London Town, by Mr. Arthur Morrison, is much more effectively constructed. It should be read in connection with its author’s Tales of Mean Streets and A Child of the Jago ; for it pictures the same stratum of life from a similar standpoint, but the happier possibilities are here revealed. Mr. Morrison has given us, with unerring certainty of touch, a dull gray monotone of the daily struggles to be met with in honest poverty, and, by resisting every temptation to stage effect, has secured our sympathy for quite commonplace people. A few carefully drawn figures suffice to fill his canvas, centred around a young widow of strictly limited imagination, but upright, courageous, and possessing an unexpected talent for business. Mrs. May is suddenly called upon to support her family in London, and Mr. Morrison has wisely confined himself to the direct narration of her simple difficulties and triumphs. She is deceived, naturally, by the most obvious of adventurers, and befriended by the sheer kindliness of a very ordinary neighbor. Her daughter is only an affectionate cripple; her son but a clever apprentice, honest lover, and very good fellow. No one of them is stirred by subtle, abnormal emotions, or tempted to heroism in vice or virtue. Their joys, their sorrows, their interests, their ambitions, are thoroughly and prosaically plebeian ; their experience is not even illumined by the glare of crime. The whole atmosphere of the book is solidly real.
Of that quite other London, Society with a big S and the city, long the favorite hunting ground of the novelists, we have also heard much from somewhat elder writers.
Mr. Henry James, whose masterly restraint and exquisite finish have been so conspicuously revived in all his latest work, chooses this year, in a sudden burst of confidence, to reveal himself, the affectionate and keenly appreciative onlooker. Mr. Longdon, of The Awkward Age, is of course a creation, not a portrait; but his attitude of whimsical tolerant pride and insatiable curiosity toward the set called “ smart ” is that of the writer himself. This is entirely distinct from the manner of Mr. Benson, who is in it and enjoys it; of the small minority who know and condemn it, and of the majority who are only linked thereto by an ambition to write of it with an air of familiarity. Its characteristics, as seen through Mr. Longdon’s eyes, are marked and unmistakable ; so that those who are in it, but not wholly of it, like his hero and heroine, work their way inevitably to tragic issues of temperament battling with circumstances. The realism of Mr. Henry James, moreover, is entirely his own. His characters, for the most part, are perpetually engaged in analyzing their own emotions, thus stultifying their impulse to action, and they delight in elaborate discussions of the process. Yet while thus speaking of what in real life we allow ourselves only to think, they do not use the elemental language of passion (which is the language of great dramas), but retain instead the elusive and detached conversational style of a polished and reticent civilization. Thus it happens that all they do and say is so bewilderingly unreal, and they themselves are so convincing.
Mr. E. F. Benson is a far less careful workman, but he stands out from his peers by virtue of a certain indefinable freshness and sincere vigor. Lady Conybeare, known as Kit, the heroine and very corner stone of Mammon & Co., is Dodo with the old charm of audacity less obtrusively indicated. She appears, however, in two entirely new rôles : as the good comrade of her husband, and — having tumbled into tragedy — as the earnest penitent. Mr. Benson’s highly correct moralizings may seem, at first sight, to be thin and conventional, but I suspect that he has the wit to realize how simple and undeveloped the inner nature of an externally complicated and artificial individuality may remain. To Kit and her circle genuine emotions are almost an unknown quantity, and, when accidentally excited, will prove to be elementary and crude. As sinners and as saints Lady Conybeare and her husband are most admirably drawn ; but Mr. Benson is rather reckless about the minor persons of the drama, and has, in particular, a bad habit of attributing qualities to a character which he forgets to substantiate.
Company promoters, incidentally prominent, as its title suggests, in Mammon & Co., form the entire subjectmatter of Mr. Harold Frederic’s The Market Place, which indeed is overladen with financial detail. The central character of Joly or Stormont Thorpe, in its rugged vitality recalling the work of Mr. George Meredith, is powerfully conceived and portrayed. He is coarse in mind and manner; generous enough to his own people, but absolutely selfish and relentless in fight. Yet the dominant passion for conquest in the man is his one fascination, and Mr. Frederic has done well to exhibit it through the eyes of Lady Cressage, who, womanlike, leads back her hero to the warpath from a restless period of inglorious ease. The Market Place is a book with a single motive admirably driven home, but not entirely its author’s best.
Three writers alone have altogether escaped the influence of the town: Mr. George Gissing, who is seldom local; Mr. Anthony Hope, who in this matter wisely stands by the Dolly Dialogues ; and Mr. Rudyard Kipling, who apparently has never felt the temptation.
Mr. Gissing, after all, is an incorrigible idealist. What may have been already suspected is proved beyond question by The Crown of Life. He has not, indeed, thrown off the old unreasoning prejudice against university men and the professions ; he cannot escape altogether from the atmosphere of sordidness ; he is still bitter enough against average humanity, and — in the accidents of character — he does not rise to the conception of a higher manhood than the modern “drifting” type created for all time in Mr. C. F. Keery’s Herbert Vanlennert. But his latest hero, Piers Otway, is an idealist of the first water. With a rarely fine and passionate nature that can feel and inspire a great love, he has the emotional intuition to choose quickly and well; the concentrated will power to hope, wait, and win. True marriage will be his Crown of Life ; anything short of it, for him, spells failure and ultimate degradation. The companion picture of an honest and joyous girlhood, developing, through mistakes courageously repudiated, to the perfect woman, is worthy of its setting. Mr. Gissing has seldom done better work.
Mr. Hope’s The King’s Mirror belongs to the class of romantic character studies owning R. L. Stevenson for their legitimate father. Like A Prisoner of Zenda and several plays by William Shakespeare, it is entirely concerned with the effect on character of regal responsibilities. The atmosphere is surprisingly free from adventure, but lighthearted, as it should be, and not quite real to a strenuous modernity. Yet the problems of temperament may fairly be stated in the language of romance ; for, though few are born kings, we have all some “ part ” to play ; and every moment of life is, consciously or unconsciously, occupied, among other ways, in striking a compromise between our real and our stage, or apparent, selves. For the children of romance, particularly royal children, the chains of circumstance are more obvious, the extrapersonal duties apparently more significant. The situation, in a word, is more picturesque, more dramatic, more susceptible to artistic treatment. But its fascination lies in its universal application ; and the first duty of the romancist is, by isolating character from its familiar and accidental trappings, to expose its reality.
Stalky & Co., by Mr. Rudyard Kipling, is certainly not a volume of romance. It is daringly, almost brusquely realistic. These nine thrilling stories of mischievous ingenuity are absolutely alive with memories of one sort of English schoolboy : foul-mouthed but cleanhearted, impish, rebellious, bursting with vitality, loyal to the core, but simply fiendish in attack. For such as Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle — partially a reminiscence of himself — the last word has been written. The type is created, and will live forever. But we expect, perhaps unreasonably, something more than this from Mr. Kipling. These boys are very Ishmaels, and have a dozen peculiarities which make them abnormal, unpopular, and above all un-English. Beyond scoring off the rest of the world, they have no powers of enjoyment save from reading, talking, and smoking. They hate games, and are entirely devoid of public spirit. Yet the Epilogue suggests that it is they who have made our empire. The book is splendid reading, — unflagging in interest; but it has not done for our generation what Tom Brown did for our fathers. That is our claim on the author of The Jungle Book ; for he, of all men, can see into the heart of a boy.
The poets have been almost entirely silent this year. Mr. Swinburne, indeed, has embodied the story of Lombard Rosamund in one of those intensely passionate and relentless dramas by which it may prove that he will ultimately live. He shows himself, here as always, a master of blank verse, in which he is less liable to false notes than in the swinging rhyme music of his lyrics. With classic concentration and directness he paints the lurid tragedy, trusting wholly to its primitive appeal, seeking no aid from the pomp of circumstance or the play of contrast. The action is confined to four characters, and they serve only for the development of one idea. Save in beauty of language the play is absolutely without relief. The beauty is supreme.
On primitive religions, we have had the interesting chapters on Fetish in Miss Mary Kingsley’s West African Studies, almost as thrilling as her Travels; and the valuable second series of Asiatic Studies which Sir Alfred Lyall has added to his new edition of the volume of 1882. “ The comparative study of natural religion,” as he points out, “ divides itself into two working departments. In one of them is the collector of materials, who roams far afield and scrambles about among wild folk to gather his specimens and take note of varieties; in the other is the philosophic savant, who remains at home to receive what is brought him from many countries, — to classify, collate, and form his scientific inductions.” The general aim of the present essays is to check a growing tendency in the latter to “ speculative generalization founded on an arbitrary selection of examples and precedents from the vast repertory ” provided by the former. In particular, Sir Alfred Lyall distrusts the use of evolutionary principles for the explanation of certain primitive customs and beliefs. His words are always well weighed and well worth weighing.
Several important additions have been made to the literature on Shakespeare, which is ever growing. From the Dictionary of National Biography has been reprinted Mr. Sidney Lee’s admirable Life, — so welcome for its sound judgment and dispassionate statement, so irritating (the more by being possibly right) in its prosaic interpretation of the sonnet dedication. Mr. Frank Harris, perverse, unbalanced, and yet endlessly suggestive, has been disclosing, to The Saturday Review, the soul of Shakespeare as incidentally revealed in the plays: his conclusions are to be reprinted. Professor Herford, meanwhile, has nearly completed his useful and attractive “ Eversley ” edition, “ designed for the cultivated but not learned reader; ” containing, “ in the briefest possible form, such information as may smooth his path without insulting his intelligence.” The work gives evidence on every page of cultured scholarship.
Other important biographies, whose arrivals are governed rather by accident than by mental atmosphere, have come out this year. Mr. Justin McCarthy’s Reminiscences are only a trifle more personal and less ordered than his histories, but quite as entertaining. The Letters of Benjamin Jowett, published by Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell as a supplement to his Life and Letters of 1897, are grouped under subjects ; and the volume includes many detached utterances from his notebooks and remembered sayings. Revelations of a vivid personality so influential as his are always interesting, and Jowett’s language is generally forcible without being dogmatic. He faces the really important questions of life. “ Any one who will,” he declares, “ may find his way through this world with sufficient knowledge to light him to another.”
The publication of The Letters of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a sacrilege which there are many temptations to justify. All of us knew, if Browning himself had not told us in a few perfect verses, that to him had been given the rare high gift of truly loving and being truly loved ; but in the Letters his beautiful possession is laid before us in a setting of absolute sincerity and literary grace. The vision is not ours by right; for the soul’s sacred places are man’s first trust, and
Boasts two soul-sides, one to face the world with,
One to show a woman when he loves her! ”
But now that the wrong has been committed, it is possible, if we will, to enjoy justly without at least actively participating therein. Forget that these are actual letters written by two who were once living amongst us. Read them as fiction, the mating of poet with poetess, and every man will be made better and more hopeful by the study of so perfect a union.
The Life of William Morris, by Mr. J. W. Mackail, appropriately supreme among commercially produced books in its form, evinces at once good taste by its reticence, and sympathetic insight by its vigorous frankness. Though Morris preached Arcadia and socialism, he spent his whole life in producing fine work that can only be possessed, or even appreciated, under the complex and luxurious civilization in which he always personally lived. He was apparently without a moral or spiritual imagination, and he neglected entirely the highest fields of thought and emotion ; while he could not away with those indifferent to his own subjects or questioning his own ideals. Yet the serious simplicity of the man conquers us, and it must not be forgotten that his boyish, rugged nature was able to captivate alike the great and the little ones of the earth who were his daily comrades and very dear friends. He was a “ rare instance of a man who, without ever once swerving from truth or duty, knew what he liked and did what he liked all his life long.” But he was always eager to make “ everything something different from what it was,” and the “ modern or scientific spirit, so long fought against, first by his aristocratic, and then by his artistic instincts,” in the end “ took hold of him against his will, and made him a dogmatic socialist.” The real man, nevertheless, “not only as a craftsman and manufacturer, a worker in dyed stuffs and textiles and glass, a pattern designer and decorator, but throughout the whole range of life, was from first to last the architect, the master craftsman.” He felt that architecture, “ connected at a thousand points with all the specific arts which ministered to it out of a thousand sources, was itself the tangible expression of all the order, the comeliness, the sweetness, — nay, even the mystery and the law, —which sustain man’s world and make human life what it is. To him the House Beautiful represented the visible form of life itself.” This is the central creed, the inspiration, of what Morris has done for the world. He created domestic taste, made universal what was once a pose called æstheticism, revived honest serious craftsmanship, revealed the higher possibilities of bookmaking, and popularized the saga and mediævalism generally. In one word, he forced the rare and the beautiful upon the notice of a society steeped in commercialism and worshiping machinery. He has realized, as it is seldom given us to realize, the dream and the ambition of his very soul, to be, “ though men call you dead, a part and parcel of the living wisdom of all things.”
The band of his ardent disciples, with their splendidly self - denying idealism and their provokingly material limitations, are carrying on the good work. This year they have held another arts and crafts exhibition, containing much distinguished work, and have produced a “ masque of winter and spring ” called Beauty’s Awakening. This was designed to “ set forth, as well by poetry and music as by the various arts that appeal to and address the eye, that love (on the one hand) of London, our city, and (on the other) of the art we follow, which makes us hope that a day and time will come when, as our city is the greatest in the world, so she shall be the most beautiful, and that, preëminent now in commerce, so shall she also be the leader of cities in the symbolizing of her greatness by the beauty of her outward show.” The allegory was simple enough, but no trouble or expense was spared to show by every detail of pictorial effect how the cities of olden days achieved at least some progress toward an ideal of beauty, to which London for the present seems quite indifferent. Amidst the reign of expensive upholstery and glaring lime light, the guild of art workers have dared to offer us a pageant really artistic and harmonious. May their originality be rewarded!
The ordinary theatres, spoilt by long runs and the rage for spectacular effects, have been duller than ever. Mr. Martin Harvey, who bounded on to the serious stage some years ago by striking a discord in Little Eyolf, and then developed a poetical imagination in Pelleas and Melisande, has established his reputation by a successful season at the Lyceum in The Only Way. Miss Irene Vanburgh has stepped into the front rank by a most telling interpretation of the masseuse in Mr. Pinero’s cynical Gay Lord Quex. It cannot be claimed, meanwhile, that the promoters of literary drama have been very active. The New Century Theatre, which rose out of the ashes of the genuinely pioneering Independent Theatre, after sitting upon its balance for many months, produced — Mr. H. V. Esmond’s Grierson’s Way, a pitifully conventional attempt at thought, — technically a brilliant play, intellectually worthless. Mr. George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple has reached the suburbs ; and I hear of a new society, formed apparently for the performance of other plays by that author and by Ibsen. The honors belong to Dublin, where Mr. W. B. Yeats has inaugurated the Irish Literary Theatre by the production of his own beautiful Countess Kathleen and Mr. Edward Martin’s The Heather Field, serious efforts after the visionary and the poetic.
The Celtic revival, indeed, has made itself felt in many directions. Mr. W. B. Yeats has also brought out his longpromised new volume of poems, The Wind among the Reeds, — a further exposition of the Symbolism of the Rose ; and Fiona Macleod has advanced on former work in her Dominion of Dreams. Herein are written, in language of great beauty and vigor, many weird and mystic legends of passion, magic, and fate. “ Symbols, — yes : to some foolish ; to others clear as the moon, — the clearness that is absolute in light, that is so obvious, and is unfathomable.”
The intellectual and emotional event of the year has been the Church crisis, which turns, of course, on wider and deeper issues than the two questions of liturgical usage, — burning incense and carrying lights in procession, — on which the archbishops have delivered their famous charge, in accordance with that political compromise of the sixteenth century now embodied in the law of our state Church. Judgment on the value or the dangers of ritualistic practices seems to be inextricably confused by the peculiar position of a Church at once established and reformed ; and by the uncertainty prevailing as to the actual significance of the Reformation, which, in its origin, was concerned neither with church government nor with doctrine. The interpretations offered of the motives inspiring the men responsible for our Prayer Book, by which the Church must stand or fall, are very various, but they may be provisionally grouped under four main heads: (1.) A desire to avoid the sanction of any authority except the Word of God. (2.) A determination to approximate as nearly as possible to the customs of the Early Christian Church. (3.) A resolution to revive the English Catholic Church, which, by this contention, claims to have existed for many centuries, in communion with the whole Western Church, but acknowledging no canonical submission to the See of Rome. (4.) An attempt to maintain the unity of the Catholic Church hitherto centred at Rome, without treason to the civil authority of England, and to take the opportunity of removing certain doctrines and practices which many earnest and loyal sons of the Church had already reviled as abuses. Speaking roughly, the first and second positions represent the Low Church view, while High Churchmen adopt the third or fourth. Meanwhile, Professor Maitland has republished six essays on Roman Canon Law in the Church of England, which are mainly concerned to prove, in opposition to the third position outlined above, that papal authority had been always supreme in English ecclesiastical courts until summarily rejected by order of Henry VIII. The name of Professor Maitland alone would give weight to his conclusions, which, however, are also supported with great wealth of scholarly detail. From this historical confusion, and from the inherent difficulty of blending reason with authority in spiritual matters, it comes to pass that those who feel strongly and speak eloquently on these questions are wont to base their arguments on such various appeals as the conscience or personal faith of man, the words of Christ or the Bible, doctrines held essential by the Catholic Church, the temperament of a nation, custom, tradition, law, the beauty of symbolism, the æsthetic power of ceremonial. Thus one party is quite unable to answer the other ; for they do not, here at least, accept the same ultimatum.
The present crisis has long been gradually approaching on the heels of a strong reaction. In former days it was the evangelical school whose magnificent moral energy awoke a sleeping Church. Now the ritualists, in their turn, have glorified her more spiritual message by adding dignity and beauty to her services ; in particular, by restoring to its properly central position the sacrament of Communion. But they have gone further, until, by rejecting the merely æsthetic or symbolic aspect of ceremonies for their mystic or doctrinal significance, and by teaching a subtle form of sacerdotalism, they have excited the opposition of a spirit, very prevalent among us and essentially English, which hates the priest and distrusts the mystic. But the Church is a body of very strong and very earnest men. She has quieted the unseemly ardor of a few aggressive “protestants,” which for a time seemed to threaten disestablishment, and provided a new current of thought. The prominent note of the Church Congress, held this year in London, was aspiration after a genuine catholicity which should lead mankind by a more permanent because less exacting authority than the paternal government of the Middle Ages. It is a dream which has never been long absent from the hearts of thoughtful nonconformists, and has lately found expression among the most cultured of English Jews.
It is noticeable, meanwhile, that at present, though the strength in numbers and in intellect of the clergy is ritualistic, the great majority of conforming laymen are evangelical. Here the clergy are in touch with much of the deepest thought of the day. Education has taught us that brain is stronger than muscle ; we are but just beginning to realize that imagination can dominate both. Amidst the feverish energy of social reform, philanthropy, and rampant commercialism may be heard the still small voice of the human soul, not yet insistent, and perhaps always inarticulate. Maeterlinck’s Wisdom Destiny, recently translated here, is one expression of an underlying desire for that spiritual strength to be gained from what has been called communion with God, — the influence of mysticism on character. It has many manifestations to-day. To the orthodox Christian it means the rethroning of the sacraments ; to the man of science, the recognition of a temporary quality in the so-called laws of nature, and of the importance of psychic phenomena ; to the man of letters, the romantic — especially the Celtic — revival; to the superstitious majority, Christian Science, dogmatic spiritualism, palmistry, and witchcraft.
However varied, however foolish, however inadequate, they are elevating and progressive in their original and ever present inspiration, which is the first need and ultimate strength of humanity, its invincible Faith.
R. Brimley Johnson.