« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
MY CLERICAL FRIENDS.
EVERY book is made up of two things-matter and manner;
and though the first is, in itself, by far the more important, yet it is mainly on the latter that the success of a book ordinarily depends. If it be true that "the style is the man," it is still more emphatically true that for nine readers out of ten "the style is the book." Of the volume named at the head of this paper, the matter is valuable and the style brilliant. We have, consequently, in "My Clerical Friends," a book that combines excellence in both elements, and forms that desirable but rare product, a book that is at once useful and entertaining.
It is unfortunately true that the useful books are always interesting, and it is perhaps truer still that many of the interesting books published now-a-days are anything at all but useful. Persons whose care it is, will admit that there is scarcely anything so difficult as to provide suitable general reading for young Catholics, or indeed for Catholics of any age. Spiritual books we have, admirably suited to their purpose; students of special subjects will not fail to find orthodox authorities of high standing, especially if they be acquainted with other languages besides their own; but when we turn from such students to the "general reader," to whom a book must needs speak in the homely mother tongue if it would secure his attention, and from those works more or less scientific in their character, to that ever-growing department of literature that classifies itself in catalogues under the heading of "fiction" or "amusement," we find few books, indeed, which we can safely put into the hands of those whose reading is, and is meant to be, only a recreation. Nor is it surprising that it should be so. To produce a literature. indigenous to a country and racy of a soil, requires a combina
tion of favorable circumstances that have not, for the last three hundred years, grouped themselves around any period of English or Irish Catholic history. The appearance of a book like this is one of the surest signs of the return of better times and for that reason, as well as for its own unquestionable merit, we gladly welcome "My Clerical Friends," and earnestly recommend it to the attention of our readers.
The book has what always makes a book lifelike-a strong flavor of the writer's personal experience. It is written. by one-in fact it is to some extent his autobiography— who worked his way from Anglican Protestantism to the light and freedom of the Catholic Church. No man who had not lived long and intimately with English Protestant clergymen could possibly have given such graphic pictures of the Anglican Church and its official exponents. The author has lived amongst them-has, as he remarks, learned many things from them-but, to our mind, the most valuable things he so learned, were those which he himself characterizes as "things which it was not their intention to teach." The fact is, that amongst the natural means that smoothed the author's passage to the True Church, a keen sense of the ridiculous holds a prominent place; and, beyond all question, it had abundant material to work upon in that nondescript conglomerate of contradictory opinion which, with an irony of which it is all unconscious, calls itself the Church of England. That the Church that, not with irony but impudence, arrogates to itself the title of "the Church of Ireland," is in no better plight, recent synodical proceedings have made abundantly evident.
In the eyes of some readers the very brilliancy of "My Clerical Friends" will, we have no doubt, be considered its greatest fault. There are people-and very worthy people-who can neither appreciate wit nor relish humor-who can neither make a joke nor take one-to whom the "ridiculous" is rather repulsive than laughable. Such persons will, we imagine, entertain a suspicion that the book is too sparkling; that it is not so much a good solid discharge of artillery against prevailing errors, as a display of intellectual fireworks that lights them up without doing them any damage. The truth is, there yet linger amongst us a few people who can scarcely bring themselves to think that any book can possibly be sound and solid that is at the same time readable and amusing. However "My Clerical Friends" will make its readers laugh in spite of themselves; but underneath the satire and the sparkle, those who do not run while they read will easily discern the earnestness that in many cases finds no more
appropriate expression than the language of caustic humor and pungent satire.
And the humor here is caustic-the satire unsparing. Both are directed against the Anglican Church and its well paid parsons, and surely never had humorist a more promising subject or satirist a more fertile theme. There may be, in the chapter on "The Clergy at Home," a few passages in which the author's sense of the ridiculous may seem to have outrun his good taste. He may have been too personal in some of his descriptions of certain Anglican dignitaries; but we may remark, that the satire will be felt only in proportion to its truth; and if these pictures be true pictures-and certainly they are lifelike in the reading-we are decidedly of opinion that the only reparation such men can make to the human nature they caricature, is to sit for their portraits to an artist with a hand so ready and an eye so keen. We append one of these passages-not so much for its fun, though it is full of fun-as because it strikes us as eminently characteristic of a peculiar power of the author-and a very rare power it is the power of poking fun and argument at an adversary in one and the same breath. It is found at page 54.
"Another of our episcopal guests who came only on rare occasions, and at a later period, when I had seen too much of the world to be easily moved to awe, was of a totally different character," [from one previously described]. Harsh in feature and uncouth in form, he had much difficulty in assuming a dignified aspect, and seemed to be conscious of the probable failure of any efforts in that direction. . . . He had made himself conspicuous by vehement remonstrance against the appointment of a brother dignitary, which was not effectual, and it was said that the Government gave him a bishopric in order to stop his mouth-which it did. He had only two ideas: the first that the Pope is 'hostis generis humani—and the second that the Church of England is now, always has been, and always will be, the most absolutely perfect and faultless institution both in its origin and its history, its constitution in particular, and its results in general, ever presented to the admiration of the human race since Adam was ejected from Paradise. He was incapable of doubt on any subject whatever, never seeing more than one side of a question, and only part of that; and inflexibly certain of his own fitness to teach, reprove, and confute the rest of the human family. If he could have realised his most ardent wish he would have liked to gather the Pope and all his Cardinals around him— not perhaps in his episcopal palace, but on some convenient neutral ground-and to point out to them, with the more than
human wisdom at his command, the error of their ways. He would have told them, with not more severity than the occasion required, exactly where St. Athanasius fell short of the true Anglican measure, and where St. Chrysostom went beyond it. He would have explained to them, with stern precision, the mistakes of St. Cyprian, particularly about the mystery of unity which that African absurdly exaggerated; the treachery of St. Ambrose who foolishly identified the Church with St. Peter, and invented the ridiculous formula Ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia, &c.'. . . He would admonish them to join themselves without loss of time to the Anglican communion. It might perhaps have occurred, as a preliminary difficulty, to one or two of the more crafty among them, to inquire which of the innumerable religions taught in the Church of Barlow the bishop advised them to adopt. Would he counsel them to exalt the Christian Priesthood with the Professor of Hebrew, or to deride it with the Professor of Greek-to affirm the Real Presence with the Archdeacon of Bovington, or to laugh at it with the Archdeacon of Covington-to teach the doctrine of Baptism with the Master of St. Luke's, or to ridicule it with the Master of St. Jude's-to applaud the Catholic movement' with the Bishop of Oxford, or brand it as 'more disastrous than Puritanism' with the Bishop of London? But these were only trivial details which could be easily settled afterwards. The really urgent duty in their case, as indeed in that of mankind in general, was to become Anglicans, and to do it at once." Only thus "could they hope to compensate the penury of their own by the opulence of Anglican theology-to substitute for the crude novelties of Romanism the venerable antiquity of the Book of Common Prayer . . . to replace such questionable saints as Bernard and Francis, Alphonsus and Philip Neri, by such virile and colossal sanctities as Andrewes and Jeremy Taylor, Reginald Heber and Henry Martyn-to abandon the vague, capricious, and fluctuating opinions of the Roman sect for the clearly defined and immutable dogmas of the Anglican Church; and, finally, to exchange the obscure and narrow home of Paul III. and Pius IX. for the majestic and universal communion of Dr. Tait and Dr. Jackson."
The book is divided into four chapters. The first of these treats of "The Vocation of the Clergy"—and being written from the standpoint of a vivid recollection of personal experience among the Anglican clergy, it is chiefly taken up with painting a picture, the materials for which exist abundantly in the Anglican Church-a picture of a select body of men set apart (in theory) for the express purpose of (in fact) doing nothing at all that would seem to require any special segregation
an eminently respectable body of men, it may be, as the world goes, but men who not only have no divine vocation, but in whose case, considering their mutual contradictions of each other, the mere pretence of a divine vocation would be, according to the temper of an impartial spectator, either an utter absurdity or a practical blasphemy. But here we let the writer speak for himself.
"The church of England appears to consider the example of Aaron cbsolete, and sees nothing in his history worthy of her own imitation. 'You wish to be one of my clergy?'-she seems to say, in a tone of faint surprise, and with the voice of a sleeper who begs not to be needlessly disturbed-to the youths who select that career. 'Nothing is easier. I will ask no question about your past life, because the inquiry might be indiscreet. I take it for granted that you are baptized, and if not, it is too late now to ascertain the fact. You are, no doubt, totally ignorant of theology, which is not a popular subject in my universities-but that is of no consequence. If you are not acquainted, however, with the Thirty-nine Articles, I advise you to amend the defect, because my bishop, who will examine you, is sure to question you about that useful summary of my doctrine. He will also expect you to translate a verse or two of the Greek Testament, though it is not a good specimen of the Hellenic style; but he will probably be more lenient in that department of your Christian attainments, especially if you aspire to a family benefice, a laudable ambition which he will be careful not to thwart. I have no farther advice to give you. It is not likely you will ever want to consult me again-(here she closes her eyes)-and if you do, I shall refer you to the Privy Council, a very gentlemanly tribunal whose decrees my clergy do not always applaud, but always have the good sense to accept. It is true they sometimes ruin themselves in costs, an expensive recreation which seems to afford them singular pleasure. But why should I interfere with their innocent amusements? As my excellent archbishop has said-I do not wish to restrain or curb the liberty of the clergy-Vale ad multos annos.'-(Here she falls asleep.)"-page 45.
The author having received Anglican ordination, of which he caustically remarks that "as nothing had led up to this event, so nothing grew out of it"-began to exercise his ministerial functions with so little knowledge of their character, that the parish clerk had to give him a lecture in the vestry on the ritual of baptism. But he was of a religious turn, and soon commenced to examine the grounds of his profession of Protestantism. He began with the personal history of the so