MEMOIRS BYMARK PATTISON.*
Tile severe reticence on which we commented as one of Mr. Mark Pattison's chief characteristics, in commenting a few weeks agot on Mr. Althaus's interesting sketch of him, seems to have completely disappeared in the Memoirs written for posthumous publication. It is to be regretted that it is so. Carlyle has set a bad example in his Beminiscences; and Mr. Pattison, unfortunately, has followed it, and not only followed, but even exaggerated the faults which he imitated. To have called one Fellow of Lincoln College a " cretin " (p. 218), and another a " mere ruffian " (p. 288), and " nothing better than a satyr " (p. 290), will not conduce to the respect felt for Mr. Pattison. And this sort of language has not the excuse which Carlyle's worst nicknames almost always had,—that they did hit some special feature or characteristic as no other man living could have hit it. These terms of abuse are not graphic, and express only the hot feeling of the writer, not his vision. Indeed, the latter half of this volume is painful reading, not only for its picture of the pettinesses aid spites of collegiate life at Oxford, but for the impression it leaves upon us that Mr. Pattison, in throwing-off the fascinations of a Romanising theology, threw.off also the moral restraints of all pure theology over the inner life, and gave himself tip to the indolent melancholy and the vivid moroseness which the disappointment of legitimate hopes had engendered in him, without making even the slightest moral straggle to turn his own wounded feelings into the sources of a nobler life than any he had lived before. The earlier part of the volume has interested us very deeply; but the interest of the whole is like the story of a wreck told without the reader being aware that in a wreck it is to end. We read the account of the earlier and more prosperous part of the voyage with the deepest interest, for the account is given by a lively, though too selfconscious witness. We reach the culminating period of the Memoirs, and take a certain delight in learning that the life of so passionately-studious a mind is crowned with success, though at the same time we are aware of a growing vehemence of egotism and self-assertion which makes us tremble for the writer. Then comes the crisis at which the wrong is done, and everything seems to go to wreck at once. Doubtless, unless Mr. Pattison has misrepresented the election to the Rectorate of Lincoln College in 1851 to an extent of which we believe that he was quite incapable, it was almost as bad an election as could have been conceived for the College, and was carried under circumstances which place the Fellow of Lincoln who changed sides at the last moment in no very creditable light. It was also an election very unjust to Mr. Pattison himself. But even making full allowance for all this, it was not an event which would have wrecked a strong man's life, and it might well have been one, if rightly used, to raise the whole level of a good man's character. But it seems really to have wrecked Mark Pattison's career. It soured him morally. It broke through his studious habits at a very critical moment, and turned him from the self-conscious but enthusiastic tutor, into a cynical censor of the world, and a scholar who planned enterprises which he wanted energy to carry through. Mark Pattison speaks (p. 272) of his having had " a very low estimate " of himself " as compared with others." The book shows that it was not so. That he had throughout life a very great self-distrust is certain. But that he had also an almost consuming vanity,—the two qualities are not only perfectly self-consistent bat often very closely allied,—seems from this book to be established. He declares, indeed, of the election of 1851 :—" I can truly say that the personal dis appointment was a minor ingredient in the total of mental suffering I had now to go through. My whole heart and pride had in the last few years been invested in the success of the College." But if that had really been the chief part of the disappointment to him, it is by no means clear that, if he could have forgotten his sense of pique, he might not have done as much for the success of the College after the election of the new Rector as before. He admits that during the months which elapsed before the new Rector could be confirmed he lost all interest in his work, which surely, with sufficient disinterestedness, he might have regained in a few weeks ; and he implies that even after the new Rector's installation it was still possible that he might have gone on working with him. "He offered me such hard terms as to the tutorship," records Mr. Pattison, " that I indignantly threw it up, and, to earn some income, from that moment fell back on private tuition." It is not at all clear that, with a will more truly disinterested, and a less unstable temper, he might not have worked as well under the new Rector as he had under the old. In some measure the new Rector owed his election to Mr. Pattison and his friends, who accepted him as a pis sailer rather than elect one whom they thought a still worse Rector; and it seems probable that, with sufficient unselfishness and forbearance, the interests of the College might have been saved, Nothing, however, can be more obvious, taking Mr. Pattison's own account of the matter, than that he made no sort of effort to subdue the fury raging within him, a fury which rendered it quite impossible that be should have placed the interests of the College above all thought of his own interests.
There is no doubt that this book is more than candid. It gives a far less favourable impression of Mr. Pattison than any fair external observer would give of him,—partly, perhaps, because it does not touch the later period after he himself succeeded to the headship of the College ; partly because it dwells with such frank and concentrated vindictiveness on the period of his failure ; partly because he seems to have dwelt extravagantly on his own shyness and incompetence as a youth; partly, in fine, because the disposition to moroseness which he recognises in himself, and treats as one of the qualities which he had inherited from his father, gives an unpleasant turn to his remarks on a father who evidently was nevertheless full of love for him. On the whole, this memoir contains, we are persuaded, a most unfair picture of Nfark Pattison, though one drawn by his own hand. All who knew him well in later life unite to testify how deep was the kindliness of nature beneath his reticence and cynicism ; but of this he gives us no picture at all. Mr. Althaus says that Mr. Pattison's habitual taciturnity was chiefly due to a desire to understand himself clearly before he spoke; but in this memoir he gives us no hint of any such moral hesitation, at least in relation to those whom he regarded as his foes. On the contrary,. his speech is often rash and violent, and not the speech of even intellectual, much less moral, self-judgment.
Ncr does Mr. Pattison make the least disguise as to his want of youthful tact, and even want of temper, in getting over little social difficulties : "o * * had preceded me to Ham:well and spent the summer with us. As he was so completely one of the family, and confined within the same narrow circle of ideas as the rest of us, his presence made no difference in our way of life. In one respect he caused me serious inconvenience. I used to retire every morning to my own little bedroom, where I bud established my books, and which was the only corner of the house I could use as a study. Solitude was necessary to me ; I had not—I have never had—the power of commanding my attention properly in the presence of another human being, and at this date the power of the will over the attention was remarkably feeble. * * *, sociable even in his reading hours, would come in occasionally with his book, and at last established himself there to keep me company. Good-natured creature as be was, and some years older than me, I did not know how to tell him that he put me out. Being then totally destitute of tact, I tried to effect my end by being morose and disagreeable. I succeeded at last, and he retired to his own room, which, as the stranger's bedroom, was a much better one than mine. I had gained my point, but, as so often since, with the uncomfortable consciousness of having done so in a wrong way.. I mention this trifling incident because it is typical of my way of doing things ull my life."
As we have said, Mr. Pattison fails even to suggest to us the existence of a rich store of geniality and sympathy with the helplessness and sufferings of others. And yet it was this, if all kinds of observers may be trusted, which certainly did much to compensate in later, and perhaps also in earlier life, for the solitariness and the moroseness which he displayed. We are satisfied not only that this book does Mr. Pattison injustice, but that in some cases when he is wreaking his vengeance on old opponents,
his wrath is much more fantastic than real. This is, we suspect, the case in his sketch of Professor Conington, against whom we feel quite sure that he could hardly have cherished a serious grudge for such a momentary loss of temper as the following :— " Of his irritability on small occasions I myself became aware accidentally. It was at a very early period of his career, and before our acquaintance began, at a time when he did not even know me by sight. It was in the year 1847 at the Encomia, when I as pro proctor had to keep one of the doors of the theatre. Conington had the Latin prize poem for the year, and came up with his prompter to make his way to the rostrum or pulpit from which it was to be recited. His chaperon asked me for the Latin rostrum ; I was perhaps not very au fait at my new duties, and may have hesitated as to pointing out the right entrance, on which Conington turned to me, and with a face distorted by passion and a voice trembling with rage, thundered out, 'the Latin rostrum.' "
Nor can we understand how Mr. Pattison contrived to undervalue Professor Conington's exquisite poetical translation of Virgil, as his language suggests that he did undervalue it. We cannot help accusing him, in this and other passages of the memoir, of over-expressing, from some impatient impulse of the moment, the depreciation which in a more moderate form he no doubt intended to convey.
We must assume, however, that the more serious convictions expressed in this book were gravely entertained. If so, many of them seem to us but little creditable to Mr. Pattison's intellect. Take, for example, this criticism suggested by Dr. Newman's Dublin lectures on University Education :—
" If there were any one in the whole of Oxford who could be supposed capable of attaining to a complete conception of what instruction ought to be, it was the author of Discourses on the Scope, etc., of University Education. Newman knew that ideas are the life of institutions—social, political, literary f and the idea which be would place as the basis of a university is the master-idea—' Imagine a science of sciences, and you have attained the true notion of the scope of a univer
sity A science is not mere knowledge; it is knowledge which has undergone a process of intellectual digestion We consider
that all things mount up to a whole ; that there is an order and precedence and harmony in the branches of knowledge one with another, and that to destroy that structure is unphilosophical in a course of education' (pp. 142.4). Nothing can be grander than the development of the idea which follows in the same volume (p. 153). All knowledge whatever is taken into account in a university, as being the special seat of that large philosophy which embraces and locates truth of every kind, and every method of attaining it.' Thus thought Newman in 1852. Are we to suppose that this magnificent ideal of a national institute, embracing and representing all knowledge, and making this knowledge its own end, was the wisdom of riper years—a vision which grew up in Newman's mind in the course of the twenty or more years which elapsed between the Oriel tutorship and the Dublin presidency ? Perhaps so ; it required much time and mental enlargement for any of us, who were brought up under the old eight-book system of an Oxford college of 1830, to rise to the idea of a university in which every science should have its proper and appointed place. Newman may have been no exception. At any rate, during the time of his Oriel tutorship, there is no sign that he had any loftier conception of the duties of a tutor than his friends H. Froude and Mozley. Newman was then in Anglican orders ; he had the charge of a parish— first S. Clements, then S. Mary's ; he spent much time upon the preparation of those weighty sermons by which he first became famous, and which were the foundation of his influence with young men. When he studied, it was church history—the Fathers of the fourth century ; Athanasins was his hero ; be was inspired by the triumph of the church organisation over the wisdom and philosophy of the Hellenic world ; that triumph which, to the Humanist, is the saddest moment in history—the ruin of the painfully constructed fabric of civilisation to the profit of the church. Religion was evidently to Newman in 1830, not only the first but the sole object of all teachings. There was no thought then of ?1, stfoasi wcubeia, a genealogical chart of all the sciences ; there was not even the lesser conception of education by the classics, as containing the essential elements of humanism. These teachers of the classics had sided with the enemies of humanism. Greek was useful as enabling you to read the Greek Testament and the Fathers. All knowledge was to bo subservient to the interests of religion, for which vague idea was afterwards substituted the definite and concrete idea of the Visible Church. Of the world of wisdom and sentiment—of poetry and philosophy, of
social and political experience, contained in the Latin and Greek
classics, and of the true relation of the degenerate and semi-barbarous Christian writers of the fourth century to that world—Oxford, in 1830, had never dreamt. It is too much to require that the three Oriel tutors should have understood what no one about them understood. But their greater seriousness of purpose—their disinterested devotion to the cause of religion as they understood it—made them more dangerous than the pococurante plansibilities who displaced them. In the hands of the three tutors, all of them priests, narrow and desperate devotees of the clerical interest, the college must have become a seminary in which the pupils should be trained for church ends, and broken in, like the students of a Jesuit college, to regard the dictates of the confessor and the interests of the clergy as the supreme law of life. Religion is a good servant but a had master."
We should say of this passage that the falsehood of the view it expresses is powerfully illustrated by the whole biographical fragment in which the passage is contained. If that story shows anything, it shows that the humanist view is not equal to the government even of a sedentary and studious life; that what Mr. Pattison lost when he " outgrew," as hd'represents that be outgrew, his Christianity, was infinitely more than what Mr. Pattison gained, when he gained his conviction that man is merely one of the phenomena of nature, with an " organism subject to the uniform laws " governing all other being. What he lost was moral strength and guidance. What he gained was an enervating creed which actually resulted in his own enervation.