Зображення сторінки

the same shelf: “the bane and the antidote' as the good chapel people would say, and I should agree with them. Our only difference would be as to which was which."

I explained that the latter work did not belong to me, but was the property of one of the deacons of the little tabernacle.

“I thought as much,” he said, “ for the other books did not seem to harmonise with it. It is an amusing work, and in one way quite unique. Most controversialists—even religious ones—have some scruples; some sense of literary decency; they are afraid of misrepresenting and misquoting their opponents in too barefaced a manner; but the author of the 'Eclipse' is above all that ;-he sticks ať nothing. . He will even make game of his own Bible if it will help him to poke fun at poor Mr. Newman. If by some strange accident the book should ever go down to a remote posterity, it will be exhibited under a glass case in the New Zealand museum of the future, and labelled—SPECIMEN OF THEOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY: 19TH CENTURY ; TIME OF VICTORIA I. This work is generally supposed to ! be an attack on all religion, and internal evidence seems to favour the theory, as its triumphant hero is a blaspheming infidel; but our most eminent literary historian has discovered it to be a defence of Biblical Christianity, written by an orthodox professor at a theological seminary. This is believed to be the only copy of the first edition now in existence, but the work has lately been reprinted and widely

circulated by the Society for Promoting Universal Scepticism.... Ha! here are “St. Augustine’s Confessions' I have never seen them, and shall be glad if you will lend me the book some day if I don't buy it for myself. I am making a collection of autobiographies; and you have no idea how much clearer a view into human nature you can get from them than from books of any other kind. Ordinary biographies, novels, and dramas, however good they may be, are sketches of men and women from the outside ; but autobiographical writing of any kind takes you into the inner chamber. Even if the writer is consciously false, he betrays himself unconsciously; and so, if you lose the real man at one point, you catch him at another. .... So you have actually a copy of George MacDonald's 'Phantastes’; I have never seen it on any bookshelf but my own, and I can't imagine how it is that so few people know anything about it. It seems to me to be quite unequalled in its way—a work of art almost without a flaw. It has imaginative beauty enough for a score of poems, and more spiritual insight than I generally find in a hundred sermons. Perhaps, however, these are the causes of its unpopularity. Tupper and Spurgeon are popular enough, and these are not exactly the prominent characteristics of their works. .; .Speaking of Tupper reminds me of an article in the North British Review in which the 'Recreations of a Country Parson’ were likened to the 'Proverbial Philo

sophy.' I see you have got them here. The article was on the whole capital, but I am sure the writer was unfair to A. K. H. B. Tupper is dull, but the Recreations are among the pleasantest and most charming papers that have seen the light this century; and I shouldn't hesitate to prophesy that two or three of the essays, especially the one on the Art of Putting Things' will live longer than many things which seem now to have a much better chance. They have that graceful urbanity which is the finest characteristic of the typical man of the world, and in addition to that they have the gentleness and tenderness in which men of the world are generally deficient. .'. . I see you have here the ‘Bon Gaultier Ballads. They are very brilliant and amusing, but somehow I always feel ashamed of laughing at them. I can't help enjoying clever parodies with my mind, but I hate them with my heart. They violate one's reverential instincts; and make one feel that however good, or beautiful, or divine things may seem, the trail of some slimy serpent is over them all. The hero of 'Locksley Hall' was silly enough to provoke any amount of laughter when he talked about marrying a black woman because he had been jilted by a white one; but there are verses in the poem—many of them—which might have saved it from the profanation of an absurd parody. I never want to read Bon Gaultier again.”

And so, for nearly half an hour, his critical gossip continued, until, having run over my little library, he seated himself by the fire, and for a time the conversation became more general and less literary. He told me the story of the formation of the society where we had met; talked about the chapel, and gave a most laughable description of its leading spirits,—the pillars of the temple, as he called them; then gave me some account of his wanderings in search of health, but at last returned, with evident gusto, to the books which were apparently almost the sole companions of his solitude. He quoted passages from his favourites, both prose and poetry, one after another, until I was astounded at his marvellous memory, and somewhat amused at a development of enthusiasm which was then new and strange to me. But I soon began to understand him, and to see how much more real literature and art were to him than to most of the people with whom I had previously come into contact. A noble thought or a beautiful image was never felt by him to be a mere thought or image-a dead thing lying outside of himself, to be calmly analysed and estimated. It was, as it were, alive and human ; and the only thing he could do with it was to take it to his heart, make it one with himself, and then cry to any whom he thought would listen, “Will you not love it too?”

Pelican did not leave me that evening until nearly midnight, asking, as he went away, if he might come again. Of course an invitation was given. Before very long I began to expect him pretty frequently ; and

whenever he was prevented from coming to my rooms, we always met at the weekly gathering of the little literary society. It was Pelican's hobby. He had devoted all his energies to its establishment, and he was firmly convinced that he could not over estimate the benefits he had received from two or three of the higher and wider and more stimulating spirits who belonged to it at that period of its existence. In this I think he was, right; for he was one of those happily constituted natures who can absorb anything of value which another has to give without any unmanly sacrifice of individuality. I am inclined to think that this faculty is so rare as to confer a note of distinction upon any man possessing it. Many men are what Mr. Carlyle calls “valet souls,” totally incapable of appreciating or reverencing anything above them; and too often those who are not valets are hero-worshippers of the ignoble sort, who, having selected their masters, sell themselves into a contemptible slavery. But there are a few whom this classification does not cover, and the name of one of these select souls was Paul Pelican. With great capacities for reverential feeling, and what I may call a constantly upturned eye, he was always a worshipper-a slave never. He had pre-eminently what he himself called the great religious and social want, of our age, a Catholic soul and a Protestant mind. In a letter written during one of his frequent absences from home, I find certain sentences of self-criticism, which are

« НазадПродовжити »