Изображения страниц





All rights reserved



Sother an 10-11-27 15278




(Reprinted from the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. vii., No. 3, August 1923.)

A LIST of Vaughan's writings is a very inadequate tribute to his memory; for he was greater than they. As the bulkiest of them are scholarly contributions to learning, they do, of course, reveal the quality of his mind; but they provide only hints of the other elements so richly mixed in him. His shorter and less formal writings, however, give fuller play to more temperamental features. And so in a way, the natural bent and the full-grown manner of the man may be discerned in a survey of the scholar's books. There is the rhetorical sweep, the broadest generalisation, the widest denunciation: but there is, too, the habitual scruple in the act of judgement, which came to him as much from instinctive honesty as from critical training. There is the passion for the speculative ideal; but it is disciplined by a fervid awareness of brave sublunary things. There is the underlying sense of rigid justice; but it is tempered by an overflowing stream of human kindness. And neither side of these potentially conflicting attributes is more Vaughan than the other.

His qualities gained by their complements. His rhetoric never dazzled his intelligence: rather, it illumined remoter regions for further intellectual exploration. The high, dry light of reason was in its turn filtered through those warmer tones, without which it distorts the natural object as does a flash-light portrait. But whilst others more competent must assess the gain to Vaughan's thought from the many-sided humanity of the thinker, the lay philosopher can at least discern the fitness in his finding his most satisfying occupation with political theories. For in no other domain do interests which are abstract and concrete, speculative and practical at once, approach more closely to each other.


surely, is there a speculative field in which the seizing of ultimate truths is more conditioned by grasp of human motive: and in such a venture, Vaughan went twice-armed, for the intuitive revelations which came from his spontaneous sympathies were sharpened and intensified by a life-long intimacy with the noblest poets of Europe's greater ages.

Yet at this time, it is impossible to think of Vaughan as just the thinker or the author. It is the impression of the man which persists. The picture may be the same, but it is ampler, allowing us more easily and frequently to catch the diverse characteristics of which he was compounded. He was transparent, yet elusive; ascetic, yet hearty; austere, yet benevolent; unassuming as a child, yet impressive as a patriarch; so manifestly extraordinary, yet so palpably normal; in a word, as various as are the colours of the rainbow, but like them, too, except at momentary glimpses,

rmoniously blended in one familiar air. The shy grace of bearing and the inviting benignity of demeanour, with which he charmed the smaller circle of his acquaintance, would in a flash be passionately transfigured to an arresting solemnity of gesture and to a consuming blaze of rapture or of wrath, which were the spell of his wider influence. The simple modesty, which caused him at all times to say nothing of himself, would at moments glow to incandescence through a casual phrase, which thus unconsciously said everything. The voice, usually slow, subdued and deliberate, would on occasion become strepitant with enthusiasm or strident with fury. The placid composure of hours spent largely in solitary retirement moved without strain to the easy sociability of a moorland tramp, to the genial conviviality of an intimate dinner-party, and to the eager exhilaration of a fight for things worth fighting for. If at the end, one must, then, think of Vaughan as a recluse, the impression must be corrected by remembering that his last hermitage was pitched within the bustle of a crowded city.

It is the continual need for modifications of this sort which makes one realise the hopelessness of attempting to put Vaughan's features on to paper.

One sketches a posture, and sees at once, that, pencilled lamely so, it hides more than it reveals of the figure of the man; for each trait was distinguished by singular complements. Celt and Saxon came together in him, not in casual contiguity, but struck into one personality by natural alchemy. His humanity was the active philanthropy of mind and hand, which is more human and not less charitable, when it resents inhumanity and sentimental humanitarianism alike. His humanism, similarly, was not a traditional system and a dogma, but a motive force and a point of view. His scholarship was classical in the oldest and best sense; but it was the wisdom of the ancient

But it gave

world brought to the needs of the present. Hence, in his professional capacity, from a classical form-master, he became a professor of English literature: and in his private predilection, his province was the mind of Europe during the last two centuries. There was an air of sanctity about the zeal with which Vaughan devoted his life to these studies: and the impression was confirmed by seeing their domination so frequently suspended, or rather sacrificed, at the bidding of more compelling sanctions. For his ideal of service was rooted in a system of the ultimate nature of things. But it was freshly realised from day to day in tireless devotion to the immediate task of the moment; its hall-mark was its minute susceptibility in detecting the calls of duty when none but the finest ears could catch a sound. Such exacting loyalty as this

may have limited the scope of his activities: it took from him, for instance, the time needful to make many books. unmeasurable value to his influence over those whom accident brought within its range: it made him, for instance, a teacher, the like of whom one will not easily meet again.

Nor, perhaps, is it unjust to think of Vaughan as realising himself most completely as a teacher, and most of all, as a teacher of English literature in a modern University. There the range

a of his endowments had fullest scope. Every occasion found him its ideal minister : the casual friendly chat with a pupil in difficulties; the breezy seriousness of a small study circle; the thrill of a lecture to a larger class—rhapsodies on Parnassus, as we, his pupils, used to call them. They were lectures as incapable of description as of imitation. They were extempore, and passed imperceptibly from sudden question shot at front row and at back row, through penetrating analysis and summary apophthegm, to passages of sustained eloquence of a temper all his own. They compelled keen thinking, and they thrilled with inspiriting enthusiasm. At times the gesture might appear a mannerism, and the attitude theatrical: but that can hardly be its name, for it came spontaneously, and was never reproduced. Even the traditional witticisms were not the stock jokes of the University tradesmen, but shafts winged at the moment as some modern instance of an ancient saw was suddenly perceived. What wonder that his pupils loved him ? and loved, rather than worshipped, is the better word; it gives the right sense of mingled reverence and admiration, and avoids the implication of remote aloofness in their object. For Vaughan never sat above, wrapped in academic splendour, exhaling clouds of higher mysteries which hide the summits from the view; he strode on ahead, guide and vigorous partner, in a bracing venture up the mountain side.

Obviously, a lively expedition of this sort has lost much of its


vital thrill when it has become mere words on a printed page. That is why Vaughan's books are only a part of the man. He did not write easily. Even in a physical sense, the pen moved slowly and laboriously; the script had a quaint distinction which suggested the coming together of Greek and Teutonic, without an intervening Italic. He composed much more freely on the rostrum, warmed by the sympathetic stimulus of an audience. His style was essentially oratorical. Many of the items recorded below are, in fact, reports of addresses, printed, too, not infrequently, in the exact form in which they were extemporarily shaped. Literary composition of the regular sort was less congenial to him. Pen in hand, he was retarded by a meticulous sense of form, how exquisite, those of us who have submitted writings to him well know. He was even more impeded by his rigorous standard of historic exactitude and of personal honesty; on one occasion, he read again some eight volumes of a French philosopher, to find conviction for retaining a rather depreciatory epithet which he had provisionally attached to that author's writings.

Yet, despite all this, Vaughan's literary works are in themselves a great achievement. In the mass, they fall into a striking unity, and, piece by piece, they represent a remarkable continuity of interest. Whether in the way of prefatory paragraph, magazine article, school-edition, casual lecture or lengthy treatise, whether nominally on politics, poetry, drama or novel, their concern is with the attempt of the better minds to illustrate and to probe the problems of corporate life in the modern world. They lead naturally to the magnum opus, the Political Writings of Rousseau, the product, literally, of a lifetime. Of the material which went to its making Vaughan wrote in 1895, that it was brought“ nearly to completion ”; in 1901, he reported it as in “ the last stage of completion,” adding that he hoped to send it to the press within twelve months. In effect, it was to occupy him continuously for another fourteen years, until at length a part of it was given to the world in the two large volumes issued by the Cambridge Press


in 1915

In the face of such an output, a foregoing remark that Vaughan's writings are an inadequate representation of the man, may

well seem absurd. It was inspired by the feeling that books are, after all, relatively dead things, relatively, that is, to the living personality of the author, when that author is such a man as was Vaughan. And if further extenuation be needed, let it be that the writer of these lines was a pupil of Vaughan's, and is still under the spell of his presence.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »