« AnteriorContinuar »
taxes generally, in preference to taxes that bear indirectly. But our author has also an indirect as well as a direct meaning in the construction of her tale. She purposes to illustrate indirectly the influence of the Squirearchy upon rural morals, and the negligence of the Clergy of the Established Church. If the instances were fairly chosen, or if they were described to be exceptions, selected merely to show that such things do exist,—that where they exist they are productive of infinite mischief, and that they ought not to be suffered to exist,—there could be no objection, except in so far as they are manifest exaggerations. But we must repeat, these single and distorted representations are given as generalities, and, could they live, would go down to posterity for actual portraitures of the times.
The story of “ The Park and the Paddock” is simply this:-A large mansion, the property of the lord of the manor, has been uninhabited for many years. The owner dies; his three sons and one daughter come down to take possession, and fit it for their abode. The eldest son (the heir of the estate) is an indolent, listless, desultory being, addicted to books, who regards nothing but his own ease and quiet; the second is a clergyman, the rector of a living at some distance, upon which he purposes to build a residence; the youngest is a mischievous youth, fond, like the clergyman, of field sports; the daughter is a natural, kind, and somewhat romantic girl. The reckless indifference of the heir throws the management of his estate into the hands of the two
younger brothers, and their care is addressed only to a war against poachers, an assault against the affections of a horse-dealer's daughter (by the parson), and to false information under the assessed taxes, insinuated through anonymous letters by the youngest brother to the tax-gatherer, which operates vexatiously upon the whole parish. Out of this, and a choice of a site for the parsonage, arise the disquisitions upon the branches of taxation illustrated.
We are now brought to the manner in which all these matters are developed, and in which lies the offence.
Does such an incident as the abandonment of an estate from caprice occur in one case in a thousand ?-certainly not. Are the landed proprietors of this dull and apathetic nature ?-certainly not. Estates are now and then deserted, and from a variety of causes ; rarely if ever wholly, or for a series of years, and then commonly from the misfortune or the public employment of the proprietor. But when the owner of an estate comes down expressly to repair the injuries brought upon his property by an absentee ancestor, the last things he can be charged with are disregard and indifference. The probabilities of the case are wholly violated. A man of such a character as Miss Martineau selects would not have come at all. He would have issued his orders that all he required be done, not have plunged himself into the disagreeables attending the restoration of a dilapidated mansion, and a ruined demesne. The authoress, therefore, has gone out of the course of nature, to exhibit things so unlikely to happen as barely to stand within the reach of possibility. It is neither more nor less than a libel upon the gentlemen of the country, who, whether rightfully or wrongfully, are amongst the most active superintendents, not alone of their own affairs, but of the business of the district in which they reside. It is either this or it is nothing.
But the attack upon the clergy is infinitely more flagrant. The boy
parson is represented as totally without principle, entering the sacred profession wholly from pecuniary motives--if such a wretch can be said to have motives at all—to be alike destitute of all incentives to good or evil, save animal impulse, and of all distinction between either. He meets two girls upon the road in going to his professional duty—the twindaughters of a horse-dealer, who are employed in collecting poached game, under the pretence of buying fowls, which they carry in panniers on their ponies. He is first attracted by the beauty of one, but suddenly fixes upon the other, whose affections he engages, after daily visits and attentions, under the strongest impression that he purposes to marry hercarries on this fruitless intrigue (for Miss Martineau stops short of the only conceivable purpose and almost inevitable end of such a commerce) till he destroys her happiness; the gamekeeper's son has been her nearly betrothed lover; he is killed in a night excursion against the poachers; and the affair ends in the clergyman's transferring his regards to a young lady visitor, (after his sister has communicated with the
deserted girl, learned the state of her heart, and remonstrated with her brother,) and marries her to the gamekeeper himself, within a few weeks of the murder.
This forms the catastrophe, beautifully and artfully wrought as we shall soon show it to be. The poor man esteems it a high honour to have the ceremony performed by his young master. But in the middle of it the cry of the hounds is heard, the bridegroom whispers his master, “ it is a pity he should lose the hunt on their account. The curate happens to be present; he takes the rector's place at the altar, and “James,” the divine, leaps upon his horse at the church-door; hark forward! away he gallops--and this is an illustration of taxation !
That Miss Martineau might have fallen upon this wretched farrago of partial and barely possible verisimilitudes would only be matter of regret, and scarcely of wonder, considering the high-pressure velocity at which she works. Homer nods, women doze between their pains, and our authoress might be pardoned an occasional fit of somnolency under the fatigue of such severe travail. But not so. We shall prove the animus —the constant malice-prepense--the only just ground for the pointed reprehension which it is a duty to bestow upon such misrepresentation.
In her twenty-first Number, “ A Tale of the Tyne,” Miss Martineau has introduced two clergymen, a rector and a curate: the rector is rich, proud, and unprincipled; he opposes a public work, of great general advantage, for private ends; the curate supports it. The rector is married, and his bridal party passes through the town. A surgeon, who wishes to toady the principal persons in the progress, is thrown from his pony in his endeavours to get up and pay his respects. He enters the house of a patient, where he finds the curate, and the following dialogue takes place :
“ Mr. Milford gravely accepted both the gin and the advice. It was a great object with him
to make himself popular with the people, even when the curate was by. He protested that he did not regard the misadventure as it gave him the opportunity of paying his respects to the bridegroom, whom he honoured for his public spirit about the Deep Cut.
“ • When he was a lad at school--and none of the brightest, Sir-how little anybody thought what a great man he would be in the Church ! It was his father's being ruined that destined him to the Church. Nobody would have thought of it else."
“ • Indeed ! I should have supposed the long and expensive education, necessary to a learned profession, would have been the last a ruined man would have thought of for his son.'
“If he had had to pay the expenses himself, certainly, Sir. But so much is provided already for a church education, that if a gentleman has interest, it is one of the cheapest ways that he can dispose of his sons, they say.
But for this they would never have thought of making Master Miles a clergyman, to judge by what I used to see of him as a boy. The big boys used to plague him, as he plagued the little ones; and the master and he plagued each other equally. If Miss Vivian had seen what I saw once, she would hardly have married him, altered as he is. The boys had buried him up to his chin in the middle of the play-ground, and when he screeched and roared, they let him have one arm out to beat the ground with. He did not then look much like a youth thinking of giving himself up to holy things.'
“Nor many another school-boy, who has yet turned out a good clergyman,' observed Mr. Severn, gravely. I have often thought that much harm is done by expecting ministers of the gospel to be different from others when they are men ; but I never before heard that they must be a separate race as boys.'
* • Nor I, Sir; I only mean that one would not expect a stupid boy, with a bad temper, to choose the Church, if left to himself; and its being all settled just when his father fell into difficulties, makes one doubt the more whether it was pure choice.'
Certainly,' observed the surgeon, there are helps to a clerical education which we, in other learned professions, should be very glad of; a great many pensions and exhibitions, and bursaries, and such things, which we poor surgeons never hear of.'
These are all evidently designed,' Mr. Severn observed,' to provide for religion being abundantly administered in the land. It is piety which founded all these helps to a clerical education.'
“• No doubt, Sir; but that does not lessen the temptation to enter a profession where so much is ready to one's hand. It is plain to me, Sir, that many are drawn into this department who would not otherwise think of it; and nothing will persuade me that they do not, so far, stand in the way of those whose hearts incline them to make the gospel their portion. I do not scruple saying this to you, Mr. Severn, because you are one of those who have not profited, but lost, by the plan. You will hardly deny, Sir, that after all your toil and expense at college, one that cares less about his business than you has stepped into the living which you might have had, if there had been no other rule of judging than fitness for the work.'
“ Mr. Severn could not allow this kind of remark, even from an old friend of his family."
More of the same sort follows; and though the remarks are, many of them, truisms, it is the manner of the introduction that is objectionable, and as we deem it unfair, we quote them to show the intention, the settled intention, of degrading the order by the exception of the individual. Again, in a dialogue on impressment, which diverges into the law of settlement, and falls in, as it were, forte fortunâ
“• The thought of it chafes me as much as seeing Mr. Severn still no more than Otley the rector's poor curate, when I know that, if each had their deserts, if the people were allowed to interest themselves in choosing the pastor that would do his duty best, Mr. Severn would be one of the first in honour and in place, and Otley (if he had been anywhere but in the Church) would have had to wait for a fock till he grew as wise as the children that are now under him, and as sober as our Adam,-and that is not supposing much.'
* Miss Martineau would be puzzled to prove this assertion.
“ • And what does Mr. Severn himself say? Nothing about Otley.'”
This commonplace is ranged under the head "Loyalty Preventives," applied indiscriminately to impressment, the law of settlement, to these exceptions to the rule of Church preferment, and the conduct of the clergy. Can anything be more unfair ?
In the twenty-second Number of the “ Illustrations of Political Economy” (“Briery Creek") we find another portrait of a clergyman and his wife, contrasted, too, with a lay-lecturer, sketched probably after a beau ideal of Dr. Priestley. They are thus introduced
“ Dr. Sneyd stepped out of his low window into the garden, and met theni near the gate, where he was introduced to the Rev. Ralph Hesselden, pastor of Briery Creek, and Mrs. Hesselden.
“ The picturesque clergyman and his showy lady testified all outward respect to the venerable old man before them. They forgot for a moment what they had been told of his politics being sad, very sad, quite deplorable ;' and remembered only that he was the father of their hostess. It was not till a full half-hour after that they became duly shocked at a man of his powers having been given over to the delusions of human reason, and at his profaneness in having dared to set up for a guide to others, while he was himself blinded in the darkness of error. There was so little that told of delusion in the calm simplicity of the doctor's countenance, and something so unlike profaneness and presumption in his mild and serious manners, that it was not surprising that his guests were so long in discovering the evil that was in him.”
A conversation ensues, in which are the following passages :
“ The ladies were left to themselves while Temple was grimacing (as he did in certain states of nervousness) and whipping the shining toe of his right boot, and the other gentlemen making the plunge into science and literature, in which the Doctor always led the way when he could lay hold of a man of education. One shade of disappointment after another passed over his countenance when he was met with questions whether one philosopher was not pursuing his researches into regions whence many had returned infidels,-with conjectures whether an eminent patriot was not living without God in the world, -and with doubts whether a venerable philanthropist might still be confided in, since he had gone hand in hand in a good work with a man of doubtful seriousness. At last his patience seemed to be put to the proof, for his daughter heard him say,
“Well, Sir, as ne her you nor I are infidels, nor likely to become so, suppose we let that matter pass. Our part is with the good tidings of great deeds doing on the other side of the world. The faith of the doers is between themselves and their God.'
. But, Sir, consider the value of a lost soul.' .“ • I have so much hope of many souls being saved by every measure of wise policy and true philanthropy, that I cannot mar my satisfaction by groundless doubts of the safety of the movers. Let us take advantage of the permission to judge them by their fruits, and then, it seems to me, we may make ourselves very easy respecting them. Can you satisfy me about this new method, -it is of immense importance,-of grinding lenses?"
“ Mr. Hesselden could scarcely listen further, so shocked was he with the Doctor's levity and laxity in being eager about bringing new worlds within human ken, while there seemed to the pious a doubt whether the agents of divine wisdom and benignity would be cared for by him who sent them. Mr. Hesselden solemnly elevated his eyebrows as he looked towards his wife, and the glance took effect.'
“ At length, Mrs. Hesselden turning the fullest aspect of her enormous white chip bonnet on Mrs. Sneyd, supposed that as the neighbourhood was so very moral, there were no public amusements in Briery Creek.
“• I am sorry to say there are none at present. Dr. Sneyd and my son begin, next week, a humble attempt at a place of evening resort; and now that Mr. Hesselden will be here to assist them, I hope our people will soon be provided with a sufficiency of harmless amusement.'
"• You begin next week ? A prayer-meeting ?' asked the lady, turning to Mrs. Temple. Mrs. Temple believed not."
The contrast to the lax and dissolute James, of “ The Park and the Paddock,” exhibited by the serious and evangelical Mr. and Mrs. Hesselden is worked up in still stronger colours, till at last occurs the death of Dr. Sneyd's son, to whose religious aid Mr. Hesselden had not been summoned, and who is in consequence made to ask, in the following passage,
Why he had not been sent for to the patient's bed-side ? urging that it was dreadful to think what might become of him hereafter, if it should please God to remove him in his present feeble condition of mind. Of all strange things it seemed the strangest that any one should dare to add to such trouble as the grey-haired father must be suffering, and that Mr. Hesselden should fancy himself better qualified than Dr. Sneyd to watch over the religious state of this virtuous son of a pious parent. Even Jemmy could understand enough to be disgusted, and to venerate the humble dignity with which Mr. Hesselden's officiousness was checked."
The young man dies, and the rooted bigotry of the clergyman is thus characterized :
“ The snow was all melted before the morning when the funeral train set forth from Dr. Sneyd's door. On leaving the gate, the party turned, not in the direction of the chapel, but towards the forest. As Mr. Hesselden could not in conscience countenance such a departure as that of Arthur, - lost in unbelief, and unrelieved of his sins, as he believed the sufferer to have been,-it was thought better that the internient should take place as if no Mr. Hesselden had been there, and no chapel built; and the whole was conducted as on one former occasion since the establishment of the settlement."
Such things, we fear, have been, though of rare and almost singular occurrence; we give them, not as false or true, but simply as proofs of the animus of the author towards the Church, and of not
In “ The Park and the Paddock” the manner is far more undisguised. Under the title “ Clerical Duty,” emblazoned at the head of every page, is the following dialogue:
« • Who is going to ride ?' she asked, seeing that a groom was leading a saddled horse. •Who wants Diamond this morning, James ?'.
“I do. Ah! it is a great plague that anybody should want to be huried this morning, of all mornings. But I put the people off before, and I cannot do it again. I can get it over, with what else I have to do, before you have finished your sport, if you will only make me sure where I may find you. That is what I am settling now, and then I am off.' • • But what else have you to do? A marriage or two, perhaps ?'
Very likely; and three or four more funerals. They find they must make the most of me when they can catch me. But the business I mean is, looking about to see where I shall build my house. You ought to be with me for that.' !!