TEXTS FROM THE TIMES.*
THE two former works—" A Book about Dominies and " A. Book about Boys "—which Mr. Hope has published have made- his name favourably known. We do not suppose the essays con- tained in his present volume will be as popular, or will go through, as many editions. His subjects are rather worn, and though the- peg on which he hangs his discourses is original and cleverly chosen, his treatment is not exactly new. There is, indeed, an- earnestness in all that he writes which will procure him friends wherever he finds readers, and will make many pause and con- sider how far they are free from his censure. If in some places we think he shoots rather beyond, and in others rather wide of the mark, we admit that many of his shafts go straight to the'
centre. Worldliness, hypocrisy, an outward show of religion without real love or charity, a disregard for those who. need our help, or at most a barren expression of sympathy, are the evils which daily grow upon us. 1Ve see thens?
only too clearly in others. We are ready then to lead or- join the chorus of denunciation. A public scandal awakes the indignant virtue of the whole community. The inhumanity off parents or employers, of Boards of Guardians or attendants in. workhouses, causes a cry throughout the land. People think that- because they storm against such misdeeds they proclaim the purity- of their own conduct. But they forget that in many cases only- the opportunity is wanting,—that they do not fall merely because' they are not tempted. If we look into our own hearts and see the- germs of evil in them, if we reflect upon our means of doing good and the poverty of our performance, we have no cause to be elate& at our escape when others stumble. This is the moral that may be deduced from most of Mr. Hope's essays. His chief claim to. our regard is that he tears away the veil which we have spreads over our consciences, and shows us our real position.
The neglect of youthful training, the homage paid to respec- tability, the love of the world, the prevalence of the spirit a flunkeyism, the humbug of the middle-classes, the gulf between. rich and poor, the hatreds of sectarianism, are the subjects of Mr. Hope's principal papers. It is clear that all are not addressed to the same readers, and that while some are general in their applica- tion, others are confined to classes or individuals. But the merit of Mr. Hope's treatment is, that while he exposes private and peculiar vices, he gives no encouragement to those who are free' from them. When he tells the shopkeepers that they are dis- honest in their adulterations and in their lying advertisements of cheapness and good quality, he does not teach others to plume- themselves on not sanding sugar. When he sticks pins into the- rounded calves of the lackeys of high life, he does not make. humbler families unduly elated with their tidy maid-servant.. Difficult as it is to mete out praise and blame in fair proportions, it is harder yet to show that while one man does wrong, his neighbour, who takes a different course, is not necessarily right.
* Texts from the Times. By Ascott Ti. Hope, author of "A Book about Dominies," gc. Edinburgh : W. P. Nimmo. 1870.
Mr. Hope is led into occasioned exaggeration by his zeal against error, and once or twice he speaks as if anything was better than the especial object of his censure. Thus in his paper on flunkeyism he inveighs so warmly against plush and silk stockings and wigs and robes of State, that at last he comes to admire a royal personage enjoying a short clay-pipe while sitting on the carcase of an elephant. We should have thought Mr. Hope's good sense would have told him that if royalty is to be respected at all it must keep up a certain dignity. It may be ridiculous to think that power is to be supported by trappings and robes and other symbols of high rank, but a short clay-pipe is a symbol of something very different ; and if we are to have the lowest equality in manner, we may find other and more fitting subjects of equality. The same objection is to be made to Mr. Hope's defence of clergymen, doctors, and men of letters against any comparison with adulterating shopkeepers. He says, "The clergyman spins out his sermons by borrowed common- places ; it is his vanity that is to blame in part, and partly a custom allowed, even held sacred, by his bearers. Your doctor sends out medicine which he knows to be unnecessary ; but you are stupidly unwilling to pay him for his skill. The literary man pads out his articles—it is not right—but there are not wanting excuses by which he beguiles his judgment. If such a man wil- fully and deliberately cheats you, he is likely to feel somewhat ashamed of himself ; but you,"—shopkeeper to wit,—" you, with brazen forehead, sand your sugar as a matter of business, and then .go to prayers, or to instruct your apprentices in the art by which you are growing rich." Yet has not the tradesman excuses by which he beguiles his judgment ? Is he the only one who knows that he is adulterating, and who does it with his eyes open ? He may say that people are stupidly unwilling to pay the full price of his goods,—that they want cheap things, and if he does not sell cheaply they will go to his rival. His justification would be that he must live, and if that is sufficient for the doctor and man of letters, why not for the grocer ? There are degrees of moral feel- ing, no doubt, and the shopkeeper is more callous than the pro- fessional man. But when Mr. Hope accuses the one of conscious dishonesty, and the others of mere neglect, he tries the two by a different standard. We regret this the more, as Mr. Hope is so conspicuous for his impartiality.
We have no wish to be ranked among the minute critics of the Fadladeen school of whom Mr. Hope speaks in one of his other papers, and it is pleasanter to dwell upon the parts with which we agree than on those which cause a difference of opinion. Per- haps Mr. Hope's chief defect is a want of minute observation, or of familiarity with the particular classes to which he turns h a attention. He is rather too much given to constructing his types of middle-class shopkeepers and flunkeys from the outside, and the portraits he draws of them might be taken from an old num- ber of Punch. It is clear that the dialogue between Mawworm and his apprentice has dictated the passage we quoted. There is no positive harm in this, so long as too great a stress is not laid on imaginary characteristics. But the essays on classes and indi- viduals contrast rather disadvantageously with those of more general application. As soon as Mr. Hope loses sight of actual types and takes refuge in principles, he is a different being. If he is tame and hackneyed in treating plush on the body, he rises to much greater heights when he speaks of plush on the soul. His pic- ture of a bishop appointed by such a King as George PT., and then elected by the "solemn farce" of the conge to the dean and chapter, is especially telling. The dean and chapter, we read, "ask God to guide them in their choice of a shepherd to feed his people, and they vainly would hide from him that such a shepherd has been chosen already by a man for whom it is urgently needful to pray earnestly that he may attain everlasting joy and felicity. Back to the chapter-house, and with unmoved countenances they go through their ridiculous ceremony." Per- laps the moral we draw is slightly different from Mr. Hope's, and his paper on Pharisees might tell him that one Bishop of whose ap- pointment he fully approves would not have been the choice of an ecclesiastical body. But we can understand that the same writer should inveigh against unmeaning forms of religious election, and should give the name of Pharisees to those who held meetings to protest against the appointment of Dr. Temple. Another of the formalities in which Mr. Hope finds spiritual flunkeyism is the funeral service held over respectable people. " Can any in- trusion," he asks, "seem more impertinent and ludicrous than the flunkey at the funeral? Now, if ever, we should have done with mockery. Yet even here, in our bitterest sorrow, face to face with the sternest reality, we stretch forth our hands to our tutelar deity, and are fain to rest our aching brows upon cushions of plush. Three of the greatest men that the past year has taken
from us, with their last words forbade the hireling mourner to approach their tombs with his vain trappings. But will their example encourage the common herd to renounce the faith at the hour of death, and to pass away from the eyes of men without the last sacrament of gentility ?" In such passages as these, and we might pick out many more, we have the genuine expression of Mr. Hope's feelings. His concern is not so much with the outward show as with the inward meaning. It is not that his taste is offended by liveries, and the spectacle of purchased service and mock fidelity. His heart revolts against the reality which these things cover, and just as the pomp of menials shows him a thorough servility of spirit, so respectable Christianity seems to cloak the essence of heathenism. Is there not a true fervour in the following words, and is there not something in them which applies to each of us, however reluctant we may be to take them to our bosom ?
"Yon are moral, respectable, devout after a fashion ; you take no man's ox or ass; you pay tithes of what you possess ; you defer to laws written and unwritten ; you attend some synagogue regularly; in a genteel whisper, you publicly utter stereotyped aspirations after piety; you curse the unbelieving, and pray for the wicked ; you trust in your- self that you are righteous; you have a sacred name often upon your lips, which you look to as a talisman to deliver you from any incon- venience that may await man after death. You are a Christian. Nay, be honest. Look yourself in the face, and ask if you are really one as Christ bid his disciples to be. If he were on earth now, poor, lowly, despised, would you bravo the scorn of your neighbours; would you stand up against the high priests and rulers of the world ; would you leave all that you had, lands and goods and rank, and the love of father and mother and friends, and go forth to follow him who bad not where to lay his head? Would yon then count the will to love and serve him the most priceless of treasures? Hypocrites! The least sinful of us must tremble to think that we might join in the crowd that reviled him and called for his blood. At the best, we might go to him by night, and return sorrowfully if he bade us give up our possessions. Speak the truth, and declare that you love above all the world and the things of the world. Your chief end in life is to work, not that God's name may be hallowed, but that you may be rich, honoured, befriended upon earth. Such treasures and honours and friends are your first comfort and help in all the ills that beset you. This is your religion, however you plaster it over with orthodox conformity."
It is some relief to find that Mr. Hope is not one of those who condemn the present age unsparingly, and that while he does not flinch from exposing its faults, he never considers them its peculiar property. Catholic emancipation, he observes quietly, is in the opinion of the mass of orthodox people the great national back- sliding after which maidservants began to wear ribbons and farmers to vote against their landlords. It is true that he does not take a very favourable view of the novels of the day, and that he is most severe on the morality of our .present theatres. We think also that he judges the stage too exclusively by translations from the French and burlesques, while with regard to novels his comparison of Scott with Bulwer has the fault of making a most mannered passage of the latter serve to characterize the modern school. We may add that we should like to know (in confidence) the name of the popular novelist, "of whom most of my readers have heard, who took to novel-writing purely by chance, who can neither write nor spell, and every line of whose productions has to be copied out for the press by a person acquainted with the English language." If such a being is to be found, he might fairly be con- sidered more of a representative novelist than Bulwer. But probably this is only a pardonable hoax on the part of the writer. Sir Roundell Palmer said the other day that there were some success- ful advocates in the profession, of whom, if he were put on his oath, he could not say that they knew any law at all. We must not take either statement literally. But though so far Mr. Hope seems a severe judge of his own age, we find that he considers it better in many respects than those that have gone before, poor only by comparison with what he trusts will come after. The heroism of the Indian mutiny he thinks infinitely more poetical than the events of the siege of Troy. In charitable works, in the spread of intelligence, in the dawning of a liberal and tolerant spirit, there is an advance on former generations. If individuals are not so prominent, there is a greater diffusion of those gifts which were formerly confined to a few. These are Mr. Hope's consolations, and we think he is entitled to them.