THE AUTHOR OF THE SPANISH BROTHERS
A STRENUOUS LIFE
IN following the story of the writer, I have passed over one event important to the woman. In November, 1871, Mary Smith lost her husband and had to leave the Rectory home at Killea, where Deborah had spent so many pleasant weeks and months of play or work; but Mary was still to have a home of her own in Raphoe, where she lived for about twenty years. Her husband’s friends and hers, the Miss Boyds of Killoe and Ballymacool, used to spend most of their winters there with her, for many years. So, independent, and yet not lonely, she began her widowed life, and "buried her sorrow" in unceasing works of loving-kindness, in a parish where such a worker was a blessing indeed. Still, she was less tied than she had been as a rector’s wife; and in the years of Deborah’s long watching, again and again "Mary" comes to help.
Up to this time, the scarcity of letters from Miss Alcock has been remarkable. When looking forward to writing her memoir, I thought that there would be great numbers, knowing how her letters were valued. From her own relatives living I have received scarcely any. Those to her parents she probably destroyed herself. Most of the friends of her youth had gone before her, and her letters to them are gone too.
The reason is not far to seek. In writing, she so threw herself into the life of the friend addressed that unless the history of her correspondents as well as her own were told, the letters would hardly be intelligible. Often they belonged to the hour, and were allowed to pass away with it. Often, no doubt, they were too full of her correspondents’ sacred joys or sorrows to be shown to any other. The one long series preserved — extending over fifty-six years — is that of letters to Miss Kift who has most kindly gone over the whole of it, sending me what she thought would be of use. Only a small number of these letters are suitable for insertion, but without the light they throw upon every phase of Miss Alcock’s life, it would have been very difficult to write it. Almost every letter contained some little clue that explained allusions, or helped to fix the date of other letters never dated by the writer.
From the year 1874 onwards, letters are so abundant, the difficulty is to select. In the seventies, those to Miss Moncrieff usually give the fullest records of life and thought; afterwards, those to "J. D." The fourteen years from 1872 to 1886 may be summed up in three words — "Work — Success — Suffering," — till the last five or six years, when over all lies the Shadow of Death. But first came very happy times, when joy made labour light. Among the chief blessings of these later years, Miss Alcock counted the two curates who so loyally stood by her father and herself — Mr. Devenish from 1872 to 1881 — his successor, Mr. Line, for the rest of Archdeacon Alcock’s life. Faithful to the core, able, and never sparing themselves, each in his turn served the Rector like a son. Mr. Devenish describes the immense amount of work that Miss Alcock did in the parish, much that her father would have done devolving on her, as he grew more feeble. The letters that follow give some idea of her varied occupations. The first, to Miss Kift, shows that Mrs. Isaac Ashe was still living within reach of Mary’s new home.
To Miss Kift.
April 17, 1872.
We spent a day last week with Sally and her dear little family. They are certainly most attractive children, and the little boys as good as gold. I wish you could have heard Leslie (6 years old) prescribing for a "fever in my bones" that I got up for the occasion. The taking off of his father’s manner and the droll remedies proposed were irresistible. The little girl is just able to tumble about, and very amusing. Sally looks very much the same as ever, with her "bright eyes" and loving ways. I hope she will come over here this week or next. Please thank your brother for me for his "highly valuable and suggestive remarks" about a new "tail" to come out of my head.
To Miss Kift.
That weary plague of a boys’ school in which you used to take such a kind interest, was examined yesterday by the Church Education Inspector, and I am happy to say the boys answered well, and got a good beginning to the year. You ask me about my writing, dear friend. I am to have a little poem in the Sunday Magazine for February, called "Westward Ho!" about dear Kingsley. . . But indeed I have little time to write now, between home claims and parish work; but, as you say so truly of visiting, "these very things are the work given."
To Miss Scott Moncrieff .
(During the visit of Moody and Sankey to Edinburgh.)
Winter of 1873-4.
You must indeed be having a wonderful time! It is good even to hear of such things in this day of doubt, when it is the wise men (according to the world), and not any more the fools, who say "No God." But we know there is, for we speak and He hears.
In the course of 1873 Miss Alcock had been caught by a surging wave of inspiration for a story of her beloved children of the desert — the Protestants of the Cevennes. On October 11 she wrote: "I began ‘The Desert and the City.’ Lord help me. Forsake me not, until I have shown THY STRENGTH unto this generation."
But she seems to have made no progress; the work was sadly arrested by the illness and death of Bishop Day’s only daughter. The Rev. Maurice Day had succeeded to the Bishopric of Cashel on the death of Bishop Daly, and he and his wife were ever the kindest of friends to the Archdeacon and his family. On November 3rd Miss Alcock writes: "Began again. Lord help me. Baptize this work."
To Miss Scott Moncrieff.
. . . A letter from Dr. Blaikie, most kindly expressed, repeats what he said to you about long historical tales, but asks to see my MS., intimating that he had then a few days of leisure, but afterwards would be "over head and ears in business." When I got the letter I had not a line copied of my fifteen chapters; but I set to work then and there, not to lose the chance — worked at least nine hours a day (I consider myself quite an authority on the nine hours labour question, on the strength of my exertions!) — sent half on Saturday night; and the rest on Wednesday. I hope it has been in time to catch his leisure. I have not heard from him yet, of course, but I wait his verdict with some anxiety.
It is hard to keep from flagging (mentally) now that the hurry and strain is over; besides the fact that I just brought down the tale to Lubac’s death, and left it there. Can you understand, dear friend, what it is when the glow passes and the chill comes, sometimes, and you doubt even of what seemed so beautiful and so real! Forgive my inflicting on you a little of this "after-silence on the shore" feeling, of which I am ashamed. I ought to trust for "Lubac" and I try, but I should like Dr. Blaikie to like him!
In another letter Miss Alcock thanks her friend for encouragement.
Just when I was out of heart about it! Authorship is such lonely work, especially when one lives, as we do, in a quiet out-of-the-way corner of the world, where there is no such thing as literary society, and the people I live my daily life amongst know me far more as the matter-of-fact superintendent of the Sunday School, bound to be cognizant of Tommy’s want of shoes, and Mary’s desire to go into a higher class, than as a writer of books and dreamer of dreams. I am often painfully conscious of the separate life of the intellect and imagination, struggling to keep itself from being smothered in a mass of petty details. But this is "naught, very naught," and must be put down with a strong hand.
To Miss Scott Moncrieff.
No one can enjoy more than I do, real heart communing with real heart friends, but the necessity of entertaining a succession of different people who do not come under this category, is just that one of the lesser crosses of life which I find it hardest to take up.
People talk of the grievances of women; to my mind our greatest grievance is the necessity of small talk, which custom imposes on us. And only think how much folly and scandal is spoken, simply because people must not sit, stand, or walk in silence, and it would really take the wisdom of Solomon twice told to "fill all the stops of life with tuneful sound." I wrote "silence" and scratched it out by mistake. If we dared indulge in that "tuneful silence," what a rest and refreshment it would sometimes be! It is so humiliating to look back on a day spent mainly in talk, with simple pleasure and relief that it is over at last, but without the hope that one has said anything of use or help to anyone.
One is inclined to think that these two letters must have been misplaced. By 1874 Miss Alcock had gathered about her a circle of both old and young, who claimed, and received, the best she had to give, not only in things spiritual but in free and happy social intercourse. No picture of the Waterford life would be complete without some account of the evening parties at the Archdeaconry, remembered with so much pleasure by those who went to them. The present Dean of Cashel, who was then the Rev. Robert Devenish, well remembers those evenings when, perhaps once a fortnight, a number of young people would be gathered there: Mrs. Alcock, always hospitable, energetic and spirited, and the Archdeacon and his daughter "excellent company." "Mr. Alcock would often have something to read to us," he said, "and conversation flowed."
Perhaps he was not quite an impartial judge, as the lady he wooed and won would often be of the party — one of those three of Deborah’s first pupils, so dear to her that, though she deeply loved many others, she said they "attained not unto the first three " — L., R., and "Janet." But others certify quite as warmly to the pleasure of those parties, and the leading part Miss Alcock took in them.
It must be owned, however, that the best fun of all was when the Archdeacon and his wife went away for a little change, as they often did for the inside of a week, and Miss Alcock gave a party of her own. During the first years at Waterford, her cousin, Daniel Alcock, left fatherless, with his own way to make, stayed at the Archdeaconry while studying to be a doctor. Deborah remembered how capitally he helped her to entertain, especially on one occasion, when she had a very large party. As usual, the brothers of her girls and other young men were invited, and all eager to come. They had a fine tea about half-past six, and were very lively. Aunt Sally, though at home, fortunately looked with contempt upon the whole affair and decided not to appear. They played games of various kinds, which gave opportunity for Irish wit; but the centre — not of gravity — was a story Miss Alcock had written for the purpose, in which most of the company figured, with the adjectives left out, and supplied at random before it was read aloud. The shrieks of laughter over those epithets were remembered, and set sober and respected survivors laughing like boys and girls again, after forty years. One young fellow especially, a tutor who felt obliged to maintain a serious air when on duty, seemed to bound out of his decorum like an indiarubber ball in this jocund company. "The parties were not always as wild as that one," said one of the youngest present, "but they were always delicious fun."
And though from time to time suspended — sometimes for months together — by illness in the house, they would begin again. "Some would come, and some would go," but there were always young folks to fill up the places if the older ones went away.
It was this tide of sunny life that made the Waterford days so very bright to Deborah; she was so loved in playtime as well as in work. Sunday and weekday "Miss Alcock" made the charm of the town to many, above all to those she called "the noble young."
It would be no loss to the parties when Mr. Devenish married, as he and his wife would come together; but it made a big loss when they both went away in 1881.
When I had the great pleasure of meeting the Dean, then Archdeacon, I happened to speak of Miss Alcock’s precision in the choice of words, derived from her father. "He took a great deal of trouble about them," said the Archdeacon; and he told how — first asking leave — "he was always very courteous to younger men" — Mr. Alcock had counselled his taking more pains over words, and said that he himself went over every sermon he wrote, to see if any word could be altered for the better. He said that our work ought to be like the fine flour — no coarse bit left in it — all made as perfectly ‘fine’ as it could be.
"But he could do what few of us could," Mr. Devenish added; "he could preach those sermons, word for word, without notes," and probably without learning by rote, like his daughter; to both, the right word, once chosen, would recur to mind. This made his sermons infinitely more effective; and, with all respect, his curate thought that a man who had not his verbal memory, while taking every care about words in preparation, had better talk straight to his hearers and trust for the words, than use notes.
He spoke of Miss McKenny, who used to pour out the tea and otherwise appear to take the place of lady of the house, while Miss Alcock’s seemed very subordinate. "But you soon saw where the power really was," he said.
He admitted little oddities I had heard mentioned, in the stepmother. "But I liked the woman," he said; "I came really to esteem her, she was always straight and true. And you felt with them all, how entirely their thoughts and hearts were God’s. There was an aroma of holiness about them. One came away from the house the better for it. I never went there without feeling I had been with people who lived very near to God."
"Dan" was missed, in the home and at the parties, when he got through his course and went as ship’s doctor for several voyages, never failing to bring home some beautiful thing from foreign parts for his uncle. He married early, and took a practice in Waterford, where he was liked and trusted by every one; but alas! in the end of 1880, he died, leaving his widow with two sons, one of whom is now a clergyman in the North of Ireland; the other, a brilliant young professor in Montreal, died only a few months after Miss Alcock, leaving four little ones.
The next letter seems to belong to the spring of 1874.
To Miss Scott Moncrieff.
I think the "sadness" of the Puritans and Covenanters, both in colours and general mode of life, has been caricatured by their adversaries, who too often thought everything that was not licentious dull and gloomy. I know you estimate the Covenanters with singular fairness and moderation for one of their descendants, but making every deduction for their faults and errors, I doubt if the Church has often seen (save perhaps in the Reformation times) a nobler band of Christian men and women than were found amongst them, and their allies, the English Puritans.
Do you think you will be in London the end of July? I have "a dream within a dream" that I may be there then; but at present my plans are in chaos. One of the Troubadours invoked upon himself this singular vengeance should he prove faithless to his lady-love:
"May the king’s porter beat me black and blue,
And may I never know what next to do."
I do not know what next to do, so I am well able to enter into his sensations.
To Miss Scott Moncrieff.
. . . I wrote to Dr. Blaikie offering to do what I had been contemplating when the Church of the Desert fairly took me off my feet and carried me on with it, like a rushing mighty flood — namely, to write a tale about the French pre-Revolution infidelity, with an outlook upon the infidelity of our own day.
Dr. B. then said he was going to Belfast, and I wrote asking him to come to Waterford. He did so; we talked! I called up all my courage, and told him my ideas and my plan. He said, "It would do," and I agreed to write it for six or eight months of the forthcoming year’s Sunday Magazine. He gives me capital terms, and I feel very grateful to him for the true kindness and sympathy he has shown me throughout. I am here to gather materials, and write if I can. All is bright and hopeful, except my own poor, weak, fainting heart, which trembles within me at the thought of what I have undertaken, and lets "I dare not" wait upon "I would." Dear, kind, sympathizing friend, I need more than ever your sympathy and your prayers. Do ask for me that the spirit and the power may be given. Dr. B. prayed with and for me, and this remembrance helps me.
My much loved "Lubac" (footnote: One of the Pastors of the Desert) is to make his début in the October Sunday at Home. Ah, me! "The gleanings of the grapes of Ephraim, are better than the vintage of Abi-ezrah!" I shall find no "Lubac"amongst the Voltairians and Encyclopaedists, nor even amongst the Jansenists. . .
To the same.
. . . I am quite open-eyed to the educational advantages of present-day girls, and have often felt disposed to envy them. I think the training to habits of hard work, and the testing of acquirement, invaluable; and I hope the generation now growing to womanhood will be less flippant and superficial, more thorough, more reasonable, and above all more true, than their forbears. I ought to qualify that word "true." I do not mean more sincere, or even more truthful in the sense of speaking that which they really think and feel.
I mean that I hope they will take much greater pains to bring their thoughts and feelings into conformity to fact. For, to my thinking, three-fourths of women’s mistakes arise from their being able to believe whatever they wish; and to see, what they choose to see, and nothing more. But I doubt the gain to the Imagination. One "poetic book sublime, soul-kissed for the first dear time" is worth whole literatures labelled and reduced to essences in handbooks. . . "The commandment must be written on the heart" of the reader.
There is my father walking in the garden!! The first time he has been out for a fortnight! The subject of the higher education of girls has retreated very quickly to the background of my mental vision.
Letter from Miss Umbers to Miss Bayly
(referring probably to 1873 or 74).
. . . My acquaintance with your dear friend was comparatively brief and casual . . .
I was working under Mrs. Meredith in her Prison Mission some forty years ago, when I heard to my delighted surprise that the authoress of my favourite book, The Spanish Brothers, was to be my fellow-guest for a time; and her visit was indeed a delightful experience. Her intense love of poetry (she wrote out for me Mrs. Browning’s "Sonnet on Futurity," and "The Fourfold Aspect" from memory) and her delightful sense of humour, especially appealed to me. I distinctly remember one happy Sunday evening when she accompanied me to an advanced ritualistic Church, where an elaborate procession was followed by an earnest Gospel sermon, and a truly Methodist prayer-meeting in the adjoining room. Another happy recollection which I think must belong to a later visit, is of a delightful day spent with her and her father at the Crystal Palace, where I acted as cicerone, and introduced him, to his great delight, to the prehistoric animals in the garden and the tribal models in the buildings . . .
In the spring of 1875 Miss Alcock had a return of chest trouble, lasting some time. She writes to Miss Scott Moncrieff —
. . . I greatly miss my classes, they were such a help in former long, anxious days and weeks. I had to come out of myself, and think of other things for at least three or four hours every week; and besides, I could do much more in the house.
It is hard sometimes to get on now without this, and without spirit for literary work. I have tried a little of the latter for the sake of my own mind and body, rather than anything else; but the chariot-wheels go heavily, and even if I sometimes overcome the want of heart, the want of books is a very real difficulty.
Summer seems to have brought recovery, and in the autumn, work went on at high pressure. A branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association was established in Waterford in November, after much preparation. Miss Alcock took an active part in this; and in this new Association she gained her first definite link with any of the great world-wide movements of the age. It had a double advantage for her, in helping her girls, and also widening her own range. The Association spread quickly in Ireland, and of course she was in demand for giving addresses whenever and wherever she could be had. Everywhere she had the joy of finding how her books were loved, and feeling a throb of the great human pulses stirring throughout the world. The winter was a happy one — little writing, but much living. But 1876 was deeply shadowed by Mr. Alcock’s frequent and serious attacks of illness.
My dear father has borne the journey wonderfully, but there are many vicissitudes, and Mama and I say our hearts are up and down twenty times in the course of a day. Not that, now, we are really anxious . . . but we have been so anxious that on the slightest change, real or fancied, "the clouds return after they rain."
"So few do really understand what it is to me — just all, as far as earth is concerned. An only child, whose mother died when she was three months old, has so few close ties. No brother, no sister, no nephews and nieces even. There are only my father, my adopted sister, and my truly dear and valued stepmother, in the inner circle; and as all these are yet spared, I have the rather unusual experience of having reached my present age without knowing what it is to see Death enter our home. And, dear friend, I dread it with unutterable dread! Imagination, at other times the great joy of my life, becomes a fearful agony when it means anticipation. I have now written what I believe I would find it impossible to "voice" were you beside me, but it is a relief to write it . . . I think you will notice in my books that my "fathers" are always very tenderly loved.
. . . The Greatest of all the Plantagenets would be a very pleasant book, only that the author seems never to have studied the proverbs of Solomon, and "blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising up early and blessing him," until I felt inclined to forswear superlatives for the rest of my days.
She goes on to speak of " . . . the restraint and economy of force, which is one of the grandest secrets of successful Art . . . "
To Miss Scott Moncrieff.
. . . Some parts of The Bertram Family are to me amongst the most terribly powerful things Mrs. Charles has ever written . . . One remark you make, I find myself often thinking of — that we should put Christ even before peace of mind. I sometimes fear that I am more anxious to get rid of my faults because they destroy my peace of mind than because they grieve Him. "Keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me," is a very natural prayer, but "that it may not grieve Thee," would be a better one.
I still continue to suffer from the plague of "other people." (That is such a true word in one of the late American books, "The world is full of other people." There are people that would still be "other," if you lived with them for a century.)
To Miss Scott Moncrieff.
I must turn to our outward life, which for the last few weeks has been so busy and crowded that it is like looking at the changing colours in a kaleidoscope . . . The wedding of our Curate and my "Child" is to take place February 6, and another marriage amongst my friends is in contemplation, and has created much surprise and a little amusement, as the young lady, quite a girl of genius, and a much-loved pupil of mine, though rather an "enfant terrible," was an ardent advocate for Women’s Rights, and a wholesale disapprover of the nobler sex.
The engrossing business for just now is our great Sunday School Tea Party, arranged for next Thursday, and involving an immense amount of planning and consideration, as well as actual labour. Each class has a table, presided over by its own teacher, consequently each class is like a person, a separate individuality, requiring to be considered, managed, provided for.
I had rather discuss Daniel Deronda than the party, however. Thank you for Thoughts. What should we do in the dirty paths of practical life, without "the cold waters that come from another place"? Well, I cannot but think this last work of George Eliot’s a moral advance (though far from an intellectual one) on her others. Of course there is still much, very much, to be desired, but I think she is ceasing to be a Gipsy and becoming a Jew. "The Gipsy’s faith is faithfulness." She seemed heretofore to recognize no law but that which binds man to man. Truth and fidelity so far she did always recognize heartily; perhaps I might add mercy. But I think it is dawning on her now that at least there is what Matthew Arnold calls "a power outside of ourselves that makes for righteousness," and it may be the living and true God in whom her new heroes the Jews believed so intensely. Most pathetic of all is the evident yearning after redemption from sin, and tendency to seek for this redemption through a person. Her heroine, who does this, fails, of course, because she seeks it through one who is only man. But can we not hear the inarticulate cry of her own deepest nature for Him who is the desire of all nations — and all hearts?
To the same.
. . . Please don’t suspect me of "advanced" thought. I am sorry if the Free Church are too kind to Mr — , yet on the whole rather relieved that they censured him at all, for I fear we are fast coming to a state of things in which nobody will blame anybody for anything any more. Nay, though, to the end of time people will blame everybody, and that bitterly, for crossing their will . . . I have been interrupted again and again and again. . . My last interruption was our dear young Bride for her first long, real, confidential talk about the duties and responsibilities of her new position. I am very glad to have had it, but sorry for the things I meant to have said to you.
To the same.
I have my Church History lessons and other work to do. And I am not inclined to do anyone of them, but to have a "crack" with you about Charles Kingsley. I am so glad of what you say about him. A "true lover of the Master" he certainly was, if such has ever been. But to tell you why the record of his life has gone down to the very deepest places of my soul I must touch, as I did once before, on a little bit of autobiography. All the memories of that "sturm und drang" period of mine, at which I hinted when writing of Norman Macleod’s life, are bound up with thoughts of Kingsley. You say Maurice’s views had once a great charm for you. So they had for me, but I got them all through Kingsley. Maurice’s own words would never have touched me, as did Kingsley’s, whose poet’s heart throbs through all his utterance. I do not mean Maurice’s view of the Atonement, with which I was never greatly tempted to sympathize, but oh! — that golden dream of the restoration of all things. Even now, I cannot write of it without a burst of tears, and I scarcely dare to speak of it at all. God only knows what some of His children have had to pass through on this question! Well, as I said before, I do not think we can pass through it twice in our lives. But all through that phase of intense youthful thought and feeling, "Ces beaux jours oj nous étions si malheureux" — how I loved Charles Kingsley! even while I dreaded his influence most, and used to enlarge mightily on his heresies for the edification of people I thought ought to be done good to! I am glad now to think that my hero-worship sometimes took the form of praying for him. What I loved was his intense human sympathy. Surely "God gave him largeness of heart, like the sand upon the seashore." And he came as near as any man (save One) to "hearing the grass grow and the squirrels’ heart beat, and dying of the roar that lies on the other side of silence."
All that burden of pain for humanity that God has laid on some souls, he felt as few have done, and he half made me feel it, half explained to me the feelings I had already. And now he has laid it down at the feet of Christ! Now he knows all, and is satisfied! I am so glad for him. "The Lamb that is in the midst of the Throne shall feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears" — aye, even the tears of sympathy — "from their eyes." And then the beautiful witness of his life! I think his character singularly beautiful. For one thing, he seems to have been remarkably free from "les défauts de ses qualités." So strangely free from vanity, irritability, impatience; so self-controlled and gentle; all his immense sensibility, it would seem, expended on others; none kept for himself. The contrast between him and poor dear Robertson, of Brighton, for instance, illustrates what I mean. Then his self-denial, and self-sacrifice. My dear father, who of course strongly disapproves his speculations, has been deeply impressed by his character, and refers to it again and again. This is a great pleasure to me, for more reasons than one. There is something very noble and touching in Kingsley’s gentleness to those who opposed him even with bitterness, as when he concludes a temperate letter of remonstrance to Dr. Rigg, who accused him of "Rationalism, Pantheism, and Neo-Platonism," with "But whatever you say of me, God be with you, and bless you." This meekness in a character so intense and impetuous was surely a "fruit of the Spirit."
I wish I had begun with Erskine and Campbell, for it’s hard to go to them after dear Charles Kingsley!
To the same.
December 11 (probably 1876).
. . . I think the mistakes of God’s children are amongst the saddest things on earth. But is there not great peace in seeing God’s Hand, and God’s Hand alone, even in those troubles which other people’s faults and errors bring upon us? This is one of the fine traits that attracts me in my favourite Scripture hero. "Go thy way," he says to David, "for the Lord (not Saul) hath sent thee away." . . .
A strange fear has come over me of late, lest even work for Christ should take the eye of my soul off Him. I suppose I feel this particularly because the work this winter is unusually congenial, even to what theologians call my "natural man" (or woman).
In addition to the Sunday School and Teachers’ Meeting, I have now begun a Class for Church History, and find it most interesting. I use no textbook, but give each day a set of written questions on the lesson of the day, which the girls are prepared to answer next day. They need not write the answers, but some of them do, and also take notes of the lessons. I try to make the lessons typical rather than chronological, and to have a Scripture motto for each. For instance, the last was: — "The earliest of the heretics, and the earliest of the Fathers." Motto. "Thy word is very pure." (Margin tried.) In contrast both with the false words of the heretics, and the true but feeble words of the Fathers.
Next day we are to have "Two Martyr Bishops," and I am looking forward with pleasure to telling the story of my favourite amongst the early Christians, "Polycarp." I have some such dear girls, but you might say, and with far more reason than I could say it of you, that "my geese are swans," if I expatiate on this theme as I should like to do.
To the same
(Referring to an unfinished poem on Jonathan.)
Poor dear "Uncrowned" has indeed got pushed into a corner! It gets about two hours’ attention in the course of a month." You may perhaps have noticed that the first part of my story "In the Shadow of God" is in the Sunday Mag. for December. I think you know it is no favourite of my own, not having been written con amore, except the didactic part, and the character of the old Jansenist priest, Goudin.
My father is not able to do much as to quantity, but what he does, and his influence, are most valuable here. There is much more life and love than there used to be, thank God. Evangelistic meetings and other means of grace have borne some fruit, and the fruit remains, though the movement is in great measure over now.
Many thanks for the notice of the Southern Cross. It is a great kindness when any friend sends me reviews or notices of my books, as otherwise I seldom see them, and I like to see them on all accounts. There was a very favourable one in The Times.
To the same.
(Miss Scott Moncrieff had suggested a series of short poems on princes never crowned.)
May 23, 1877
. . . Dr. Macaulay presses me to send him any "small contributions even, to keep up communication with our readers," so I think he may take this one ("Uncrowned"); if not, I shall not much mind. I have felt so near "the valley of the shadow" lately, that it has seemed as if nothing was much worth minding, except doing the will of God. . . As to "Uncrowned" being joined by brothers, I don’t think there is any chance of that. The most interesting figure amongst those I had thought of is unquestionably Fénélon’s Dauphin. Must I say I do not feel him to improve on acquaintance? Even in the best, the spirit of Catholicism seems to be to warp and distort. Especially the sense of truth seems dulled and dimmed. Is this prejudice on my part, I often wonder? Every fresh study I make, only confirms it. . . But I am trying to be just to the many good men and women who have lived and died in Babylon. Witness François Goudin! I’m proud of that old fellow, for he represents a victory over myself. But why will they turn me from them, when I approach their lives with the kindest intentions, by little meannesses, little falsifications of fact, little trickeries, little endless puttings of the "best" before the Right? I want to be quite true myself, even to Rome and Romanists, for after all, it is only truth that helps the Truth. "No lie is of the truth," as I told one of our Teachers at the last meeting, who said she would not tell her class how small Solomon’s Temple was, lest they should think little of it!
Work is a great help, when the power for it is given, and the opportunity, but it is not to be striven for restlessly, or taken as an anodyne, to quiet thought.
XIII. THE LONG SHADOW OF DEATH
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