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ours in a Library.


THE Memorials of the late Canon Kingsley, published by his widow, do not constitute a biography of the normal type. In other words, the book

does not profess to answer every question which the curiosity of readers might suggest; and, on the whole, one may be very glad that it does not. To many such questions the most appropriate answer is silence, not unmixed with contempt. To others, which may be taken as the expression of a legitimate interest in an eminent man, a reader of moderate intelligence may be trusted to find a sufficient answer in the ample materials placed before him. There is no great difficulty in seizing the main outlines of so strongly marked a character; and, on the whole, Mr. Kingsley well deserves the labour. Few writers of his generation gave clearer indications of power. Had he died at the age of five-and-thirty (when Westward Ho! was already completed) we should have speculated upon the great things which we had lost. The last twenty years of his life added little or nothing to his literary reputation. Perhaps, indeed, some of his performances-the lectures at Cambridge, and the unfortunate controversy with Dr. Newman, reflected a certain discredit upon his previous achievements. The explanation is not far to seek, when one has read the story of his life; but the fact makes it rather difficult to recall the feelings with which the rising generation of the years between 1848 and 1855 1egarded the most vigorous champion of a school then in its highest vigour. The Saint's Tragedy, Yeast, Alton Locke, Hypatia, and Westward Ho! did not exactly reveal one of the born leaders of mankind; but their freshness, geniality, and vigour seemed to indicate powers which might qualify their possessor to be an admirable interpreter between the original prophets and the inferior disciples. There was the buoyancy of spirit, the undoubting confidence that the riddle of the universe had at last been satisfactorily solved, and the power of seizing the picturesque and striking aspects of things and embodying abstract theories in vivid symbols which marks the second order of intellects-the men who spread but do not originate fruitful and transforming ideas. Thinkers of the highest rank may be equally self-confident: for it cannot be denied that unreasonable trust in one's own infallibility is a great condition of success in even the highest tasks; but the confidence of great minds is compatible with a deeper estimate of the difficulties before them. They may hold that evil will be extirpated, but they are aware that its roots strike down into the very heart of things. Kingsley's exuberant faith in his own message

showed the high spirits of youth rather than a profound insight into the conditions of the great problems which he solved so fluently. At the time, however, this youthful zeal was contagious. If not an authority to obey, he was a fellow-worker in whom to trust heartily and rejoice unreservedly. Nobody, as Mr. Matthew Arnold says in a letter published in these volumes, was more willing to admire or more free from petty jealousies. This quality gave a charm to his writings. There was always something generous in their tone; a desire to understand his antagonist's position, which was due to his own temperament as much as to the teaching of his leader, Mr. Maurice; and, in short, a warmth and heartiness which led one to overlook many defects, and rightly attracted the enthusiasm of men young enough to look up to him for guidance.

The earlier pages in Mrs. Kingsley's volumes give a vivid picture of this period of his life, or, at least, of one side of it. Something is saidas of course it is proper to say something--of the speculative doubts and difficulties through which he won his way to a more settled and happier frame of mind. But it is impossible to take this very seriously. Kingsley, as his letters prove, started in life, like other lads, with a ready-made theory of the universe. Like other lads, he was perfectly confident that it rested upon an unassailable basis and would solve all difficulties. He intended, it is true, to perfect himself in a few branches of study which he had hitherto neglected; he was to learn something about metaphysics, theology, ecclesiastical history, and other branches of knowledge; but it is quite plain that Kant and Augustine and other great teachers of mankind were to be called in, not to consult upon the basis of his philosophy, but to furnish him with a few tools for polishing certain corollaries and increasing his dialectical skill. He is quite ready to provide his correspondents immediately with a definitive philosophical system, and shows his usual versatility in applying at least some of the metaphysical phraseology caught from his intellectual idols. Many lads, however, learn to modify the speculative apparatus with which they started. Absolute conversions, it is true, are almost unknown in philosophy. No Platonist ever became an Aristotelian, or vice versa; for a man's attitude in such matters depends upon intellectual tendencies which assert themselves in early youth as much as in riper years. But men of real power go through a process of development, which, though it leaves a certain homogeneity between their carlier and their later views, softens the crudeness and lessens the superficiality of the first guesses. No such process is traceable in Kingsley. His first theory is his last, except that in later years his interest in abstract speculation had obviously declined, and his declarations, if equally dogmatic in form, show less confidence than desire to be confidcnt. He is glad to turn from speculations to facts, and thinks that his strength lies in the direction rather of the natural sciences than of speculative thought.

Probably he was quite right. It would, at any rate, be a mistake to regard any process of intellectual development as determining his career.

He was no real philosopher, though capable of providing philosophical dialogues quite good enough to figure in an historical novel. He was primarily a poet, or, at least, a man swayed by the imagination and emotions. He felt keenly, saw vividly, and accepted such abstract teachings as were most congenial to his modes of seeing and feeling. The true key to his mental development must therefore be sought in his emotional history, and not in the intellectual fermentation which determines the career of a true thinker. The story of his life in this aspect, though indicated rather than directly told, seems to be simple enough. Few people, it is probable, ever had greater faculties of enjoyment than Kingsley. His delight in a fine landscape resembled (though the phrase seems humiliating) the delight of an epicure in an exquisite vintage. It had the intensity and absorbing power of a sensual appetite. He enjoyed the sight of the Atlantic rollers relieved against a purple stretch of heather as the conventional alderman enjoys turtle-soup. He gave himself up to the pure emotion as a luxuriant nature abandons itself to physical gratification. His was not the contemplative mood of the greater poets of nature, but an intense spasm of sympathy which rather excluded all further reflection. Such a temperament implies equal powers of appreciation for many other kinds of beauty, though his love of fine scenery has perhaps left the strongest mark upon his books. He was abnormally sensitive to those pleasures which are on the border-line between the sensuous and the intellectual. He speaks in an early letter of the "dreamy days of boyhood," when his "enjoyment was drawn from the semi-sensual delights of ear and eye, from sun and stars, wood and wave, the beautiful inanimate in all its forms." "Present enjoyment," he adds, "present profit, brought always to me a recklessness of moral consequences which has been my bane." The last expression must of course be taken for what it is worth, that is, for next to nothing: but he is no doubt right in attributing to himself a certain greediness of pleasures of the class described, which became more intellectual and comprehensive but hardly less intense in later years.

It is needless to point out what are the dangers to which a man is exposed by such a temperament. He describes himself (at the age of twenty-two) as saved from "the darkling tempests of scepticism," and from "sensuality and dissipation;" saved, too, "from a hunter's life on the prairies, from becoming a savage and perhaps worse." The phrase savours of his habitual exaggeration, but it has a real meaning. Young men with a strong taste for pleasure are ruined often enough, though they do not go so far as "the prairies" to effect that consummation. We can see with sufficient clearness that during his college life Kingsley went through serious struggles and came out victorious. Partly, no doubt, he owed that victory over himself to the fact that his tastes, however keen, were not coarse. He had a genuine vein of poetry, that is to say, of really noble feeling. His intense delight in the higher forms of beauty was a force which resisted any easy lapse into degradation. The aesthetic

faculties may, as has been too clearly proved, fall into bondage to the lowest impulses of our nature. In the case of a man so open to generous and manly impulses, so appreciative of the claims which outward scenery reveals to healthy and tender minds, and to them alone, the struggle against such a bondage must have been in any case prolonged and vigorous. But stronger men than Kingsley have yielded, and one may see in him the type of character which, under other conditions, produces the "diabolical" or rather the animalistic school of art and literature. An external influence, we are left to infer, had a share in saving him from so lamentable a descent. Kingsley, in short, was rescued as other men have been rescued, by the elevating influence of a noble passion. It is inevitable that this fact, tolerably obvious as it is, should be rather indicated than stated in the biography. But he was not slow to proclaim in all his writings, and we need not scruple to assume that his utterance was drawn from his own experience, that, of all good things that can befall a man in this world, the best is that he should fall in love with a good woman. It is not a new truth; indeed, most truths of that importance have an uncomfortable habit of revealing themselves to the intrusive persons who have insisted upon saying all our best things before us. Still, true as it is, many young men are apt to ignore it, or to consider it as repealed instead of limited by obvious prudential maxims. Kingsley, led to recognise it, and even to exaggerate its exclusive importance by his own history, insists upon it with an emphasis which may not only be traced through his writings, but which seems to have affected all his conceptions of life. It may almost be regarded as the true central point of his doctrine. The love of man for woman, when sanctified by religious feeling, is, according to him, the greatest of all forces that work for individual or social good. This belief, and the system of which it forms a part, give the most characteristic colouring to all his work. It appears to be decided by general consent that a novel means the same thing as a love-story. Some writers indeed have been bold enough to maintain, and even to act upon the opinion, that this view exaggerates the -part played by the passion in actual life; and that men have some interests in life which survive the pairing period. Kingsley's doctrine differs from that of the ordinary novelist in another way. Love may not be the ultimate end of a man's life; but it is, as Shakspeare puts it-

The ever fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken,

It is the star to every wandering bark

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

It is the guide to a noble life; and not only affords the discipline by which men obtain the mastery over themselves, but reveals to them the true theory of their relations to the universe. This doctrine, treated in a rather vacillating manner, supplies the theme for his earliest book, the Saint's Tragedy. Lancelot in Yeast, and even the poor tailor, Alton Locke, owe their best stimulus towards obtaining a satisfactory solution

of the perplexed social problems of the time to their love for good women. Hypatia, the type of the feminine influence whose lofty instincts are misdirected by a decaying philosophy, and poor Pelagia, with no philosophy at all, excite the passions by which monks, pagans, and Goths are elevated or corrupted; and the excellent Victoria-a lady who comes too distinctly from a modern tract-shows the philosopher Raphael how to escape from a despairing cynicism. The Elizabethan heroes of Westward Ho! take the side of good or evil according to their mode of understanding love for the heroines. In Two Years Ago, the delicate curate, and the dandified American, and the sturdy Tom Thurnall, all manage to save their souls by the worship of a lofty feminine character, whilst poor Tom Briggs or Vavasour is ruined by his failure to appreciate the rare excellence of his wife. The same thought inspires some of his most remarkable poems, as the truly beautiful Andromeda, and the Martyrdom of Saint Maura, considered by himself to be his best, though I fancy that few readers will share this judgment. Lancelot in Yeast designs a great allegorical drawing called the "Triumph of Woman," which sets forth the hallowing influence of feminine charms upon every variety of human being. The picture is one of those which could hardly be put upon canvas; but it would be the proper frontispiece to Kingsley's works. Such a doctrine, it may be said, is too specific and narrow to be considered as the animating principle of the various books in which it appears. This is doubtless true, and it must be taken rather as the most characteristic application of the teaching of which it is in a logical sense the corollary, though ostensible corollaries are often in fact first principles. When generalised or associated with congenial theories of wider application, it explains Kingsley's leading doctrines. Thus the love of good women is the great practical guide in life; and, in a broader sense, our affections are to guide our intellects. The love of nature, the rapture produced in a sensitive mind by the glorious beauties of the external world, is to teach us the true theory of the universe. The ultimate argument which convinces men like Tom Thurnall and Raphael Aben Ezra, is that the love of which they have come to know the mysterious charm, must reveal the true archetype of the world, previously hidden by the veil of sense. It wants no more to explain a problem which seems to have puzzled Kingsley himself, why, namely, the mystics should supply the only religious teaching which had "any real meaning for his heart." A man who systematically sees the world through his affections is so far a mystic; though Kingsley's love of the concrete and incapacity for abstract metaphysics prevented him from using the true mystical language. Still simpler is the solution of another problem stated by his biographer. It is said to be "strange" that Kingsley should have acknowledged the intellectual leadership at once of Coleridge and Maurice and of Mr. Carlyle. The superficial difference between the

*Life, vol. i. p. 420.

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