Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

in his faults and excellencies, his strength and weak ness, he is a perfect representative of the English mind, minus the theological element; and so feeble is that element in a large section of Englishmen, its absenca from the writings of their favourite author is hardly felt. But while this is the condition of England, Scotland has been, so to speak, saturated with theology; and to a man like Hugh Miller, on whom almost a double portion of the national tendency and predilection had fallen, nothing was more natural than to imagine what never, unless by design and the most studied intention, could be overlooked or misrepresented by himself, must have been intentionally misrepresented by the novelist.

Calvinian theology, so universally the theology of Scotland, has found but comparatively little favour south of the Tweed. We are quite aware, some of England's greatest theologians have been Calvinists; but at this hour the writings of these theologians are more read and more reverenced by Scotchmen than by Eng. lishmen. Veneration for usages and ideas understood to be peculiarly associated with Calvinistic tenets, has never been very great in England. Knox brought with him from Geneva an idea of the man Calvin, which, I lending with the dogmas of his theology, left an image of greatness and power that for ever associates itself in the Scottish mind with the memory of the stern Genevan reformer. Among Englishmen, even Englishmen hold ing substantially a Calvinistic creed, no such hallowed conception of the great Frenchman is found to exist. Cowper's theology is well known, yet Cowper could say of Calvin :

" Religion, in him intolerant, austere,

Parent of manners like himself severe,
Drew a rude copy of the Christian face,
Without the smile, the sweetness, or the grace."

Dickens's caricatures of religious characters, are little more than an amplification of Cowper's lines; indeed, the epithets which the bard of Olney has brought together in this single verse, would almost exhaust the portraits of religious life Dickens has drawn. Given a character intolerant, austere, with a needless severity of manner, and lacking the smile, the sweetness, and the grace of Christianity, and we realize to the life the glowing asceticism of Dickens's religious characters.

Noticing not only in Dickens, but in other scarcely less popular modern English novelists, pious people always painted of the same obnoxious school, we suspect it must surely be a degenerate Calvinism compared with the Scottish type-a sort of parasitic plant that has entwined itself with a certain order of the English mind. In Kingsley's “Alton Locke” we recognize the same disgusting features in the religious characters, that so sicken us in the novels of Dickens. They are Calvinistic clergymen who devour Widow Locke's house, and for a pretence make long prayers during the process. It may, therefore, be possible that Scotchmen do English authors an injustice in sometimes mistaking for caricature what has been copied from the life. It may be that, like plants which flourish luxuriantly in their own proper latitude, but which get dwarfed so soon as transferred to a less genial soil, some forms of faith may acquire a maturity, a strength, and a nobleness among certain peoples, which degenerate into a puerile fanaticism among peoples less fitted to profit by their peculiar

power,

CHAPTER XVIII.

SCIENCE.

As years rolled away, Hugh Miller felt his early passion for science growing upon him. The storms of ecclesiastical controversy had subsided, and though he bore himself nobly and as a man of honour throughout the great church struggle, yet the editor of the Witness made no secret of the regret he felt for some of the more personal controversies in which he had been engaged. It was occasionally his lot, during the latter years of his life, to meet some of those towards whom, in the earlier part of his connection with the Witness, he had violated the dictates of good taste. When he found men on whom in other days he had poured the vials of his sevenfold wrath, forgetful of the past and all that had been personal between them, had nothing for him save honour and attention, the recollection of these rencounters was intolerable.

Nor was the recoil of such feelings weakened by the mode in which some he had served only too well, were disposed to treat his labours. His fame was indeed no longer in the keeping of any sect or party. But to a man with the deep attachments of which Hugh Miller was capable, the approbation of his party would naturally often be set above the fame which came from a more extended arena. When therefore he discovered that approbation could only be purchased by stooping to the immoralities of party, and laying the Witness at the feet of a conclave of ecclesiastical censors, was it wonderful his manly but sensitive heart sickened, and became suspicious of the combination of mendacity and meanness with which his work was rewarded. We hope we shall not be misunderstood here. It was no vulgar reward Hugh Miller sought. Indeed, such recognitions of service as are usually only too highly esteemed in this world, had not been wanting. The money originally invested in the Witness, was offered him through Dr. Chalmers, as something of a honorarium for his eminent services, but as resolutely declined as it was handsomely tendered.

When, at a subsequent period, Professor Miller representing a select circle of opulent Free Churchmen, waited upon him to intimate a resolution to bestow a testimonial in the form of a mansion, the proposal met the same fate. “I know," said the editor of the Witness in reply to his friend, “I know that, as the defender of Free-church principles, my intentions have been pure and loyal, but I am not quite sure I have always been

« EdellinenJatka »