Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

Goethe himself, being found in his imposing and fascinating personality. This gift, which a genius, a great writer, may or not have, like any other person, Goethe enjoyed in full proportion. When Heine tells us that by the motion of his hand he seemed to direct the stars in their course, we detect the note of exaggeration. To the imposing personality was added every gift of fortune and position. It would have been extraordinary if Goethe's estimate of himself, at least toward the end of his career, had not been a somewhat exalted one. Something of an actor, at least from the standpoint of posing and of costume which in his day went so far to fulfill the requirement, it is not surprising that this exalted estimate should have been imposed upon those who came in contact with him. But the distorted criticism and extravagant laudation of Carlyle are greatly responsible in that Goethe's is to-day, among English readers, the most overestimated name in literature.

We entirely admit that we have nothing to do with Goethe's character, save so far as it affects his work. When his supporters tell us that we have no right to interpret his works by his life, when they tell us that his character has nothing to do with his works, we find rather, from careful study of them, that his character is in his works, and has left upon them, from the standpoint of literary art pure and simple, an inevitable and ineffaceable flaw. Moral perversity, we should find rather, when persisted in, has its counterpart in an intellectual perversity. Whether Goethe's limitation was by nature, or whether it was the result of the mental confusion following upon an inverted moral standard deliberately set up, the result is the same for the reader. This we believe to be the solution of the “Faust” problem. Goethe had in his mind vaguely, we must presume, some such scheme as his supporters credit him with bringing to perfect, or something like perfect, accomplishment. Already in the first part we see a wavering in certain directions, a lack of grasp of central idea; in the second part, or in such portions of it as bear directly upon the solution, he is like a ship without rudder, at mercy of wind and wave. We have not desired to find in “Faust” a sermon of Jonathan Edwards, or any other. But poetry must have its base upon certain rocks; the rocks may be covered with the splendid flow of poetic imagination which adorns the wondrous world of Spenser's creation, but they are there.

If, then, Goethe's character affects his work, as we believe, inevitably, we have a right to protest against the special attitude of

[graphic]

Ward is dealing with his father's Anglican life, and is fair and candid in his treatment of it, but the whole tendency of the book is to vindicate his father's action in entering into the Roman communion. The charm of the biography is that it reveals the secret motives which guided his father in an almost unexampled career, and groups around him the brilliant contemporaries at Oxford who were powerfully attracted by his personality and charmed with his conversational powers. The Oxford common room and the intellectual breakfast parties which he gave or attended while a fellow at Balliol, and at which gathered such men as Jowett, A. C. Tait, Mark Pattison, Arthur Hugb Clough, Dean Stanley, Frederick Temple, and Dean Church, were the field where his personal qualities were displayed at the greatest advantage. It was in maintaining logical discussions, in bringing others to his opinions, in a sort of personal mastery of his topics, that he most delighted. His biography presents one of the raciest pictures of Oxford life that has ever been drawn. In Newman's “Apologia” these pictures are strictly subordinated to a great purpose, but in the present instance the men who best knew W. G. Ward have been invited to contribute their reminiscences of him, and in doing this they have unconsciously given almost photographic sketches of what was most distinctive in Oxford life fifty years ago. But the greater value of this book is its contribution to the accumulating materials which are necessary if the Oxford Movement is to be estimated as a whole. The difficulty with all writers upon this episode in the English Church has been that they were too near it to appreciate it correctly. The reason why so many who started with Newman found themselves drifting toward Rome was that they could not see its larger bearings as a phase of life in the Church of England. It is here that W. G. Ward's career is most valuable to the student of this period, and we must sacrifice references to the entertaining personal details in this memoir, if we are to deal with the Oxford Movement in the large way which these fresh materials suggest. Every one interested in theological changes as they are manifested in the lives of remarkable persons will turn to this work and devour its personal revelations, but for many the possibility of now presenting an outline sketch of the Tractarian episode will seem to have greater importance. Without further delay I turn at once to the Oxford Movement.

It is the characteristic of bistorical churches, as distinguished from modern denominations, that they allow schools of thought or interpretation within certain limits which do not disturb the fun who met together in the Hadleigh Rectory at Hugh James Rose's invitation in the summer of 1833 had the slightest idea of the distinction which would be given to their efforts, or the results to which they would lead. The Evangelical party, under the lead of men like Simeon and the elder Wilberforce, had represented the live elements in the English Church since Wesley began his work among the middle and lower class people in England, and the Catholic features of the Church of England had been almost entirely obliterated. The services were decent and decorous; the bishops pompous and good-natured ; the preaching ethical and worldly-wise; and the nation in a comfortable religious slumber. It is said that half a dozen earnest men working together can reform the world. Newman and his confrères represented these men, and for five years, — from 1833 to 1838, — during which the “ Tracts for the Times” had risen to No. 88, the Movement had gone on without public rebuke and without disaster. Newman says that in the year 1838 his fortunes were at their highest in the English Church. He had been forced into the position of a Tractarian leader. The younger religious life of Oxford University was with him. He had the teaching of the prospective clergy who would mould the English Church. Perhaps not since the university career of Wycliffe has a single individual influenced so many persons at Oxford through the intellect, through common sympathies, and through a belief in the spiritual qualities of the man himself, as Newman then controlled. The memoirs of that period, which are now largely in hand, contain touching and inspiring accounts of the wonderful inspiration which men found in all that Newman thought or did or said. Not in a belligerent sense, but in the position of a leader of the Faith, Newman stood, like Athanasius, against the world. Everybody felt his influence, some dreaded it, but to most it was welcome as the rare breath of a new life. Men as far apart as Principal Shairp and Canon Oakeley found in Newman points of common sympathy, and received from him a common inspiration. Newman was conscious, even to pain, of the responsibility which had been laid upon him. It was a serious task to be at once a leader and a pioneer. While Newman had these gifts of leadership, he was himself seeking guidance. He found that while the formularies of the Church of England were Catholic in their character, they required a different apologia from that which had commonly been rendered. In other words, the doctrinal ethic of the Church of England had to be constructed anew, expressed in less Protestant terms than the

[graphic]
« НазадПродовжити »