1 DECEMBER 1894, Page 30


THE LIFE OF MRS. AUGUSTUS CRASVEN.* The Story of a Sister receives in these volumes its fullest com- mentary and its most impressive illustration. Probably never before that remarkable book was given to the world, had we seen a picture of the full inner working of the Catholic faith on the life of a whole family up to the time when the father and mother were taken from it, and the younger members had either died or reached maturity in mind and purpose. What gave that remarkable story the interest and glamour of a romance, was the singularly close interweaving of the passion of the heart with the passion of the soul, in the story of Albert's and Alexandrine's marriage, of Alexandrine's con- version to the faith of an exalted and devoted Catholic, and, of Albert's death. But with that story was inextricably mixed up that of Eugenie's and Olga's equally, if not more- than equally, spiritual growth, and the surrender of their young and happy lives to the divine summons which called them from the world. Never before has the picture of such a happy group of eager lives and willing deaths in the heart of a single family, whether in the inmost core of the Catholic or of any other faith, been given to the world ; but it left one of that beautiful group of minds,—and that, perhaps, the- strongest it contained,—still surviving in the fullness of its. vigour, with the bloom of youth passed away, and the ordinary anxieties and distractions of the world acting powerfully upon, it, and these of a kind likely to dry up its eager and too, sanguine hopes, and to reduce by the steady attrition of small• disappointments that great courage and constancy by which• the whole group of lives had been so strongly characterised.., The one who had first conceived the idea of telling the story, of her sisters' and her brother's love, both human and divine, and had embodied it in her unique book, lived to- see most of them in their graves, and to test for herself how a lonely and anxious old age, of narrow means and almost extinguished joys, would confront the loss of those overflowing sympathies and inexhaustible energies which quickened the springtime of her life. We find all our doubts as to her future resolved in this book, and we think that Pauline Craven, in her gradually failing strength and growing isolation, will more than fulfil the hopes which Pauline de la Ferronnays inspired in the mother to, whom she was so profoundly devoted, and not less in the brothers and sisters who looked upon her, after their father's and mother's death, as the pivot of the family life. There was one remarkable feature in this devoutly Catholic family, which greatly adds to its attractiveness for English Pros testants. Though themselves Catholics who never had a ques- tion about the exclusive authority of their Church, they never showed the least touch of Catholic bigotry. Both Albert and Pauline fell in love with and married Protestants an.d foreigners, though the charm of that unique family life drew both Alexandrine and Mr. Craven into the bosom of the Catholic Church, and made each of them more French than either Russian or English. Thus the Protestant reader feels all through The Story of a Sister and this delightful memoir, that passionately devoted Catholics and eager patriots as all the members of the De IA Ferronnays family were, they felt something like fascination for the best. world outside the Catholic Church and outside the French nation, and never betrayed the least trace of that limitation of sympathy to their own inherited faith and nationality's,' which often marks Catholics, and still oftener stamps thee French people with a sort of trade-mark that repudiates alk connection with aliens. Pauline Craven was quite as English as she was French,—in politics, indeed, more English than Frenqh,—and though she was before all things Catholic, she never seemed to find her religion any barrier between; herself and the larger-minded Protestants. Her intimate, friendship with Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff, and the many interesting letters addressed to him, sufficiently show how: catholic was her spirit in spite of,—or should we perhaps say. in consequence of,--its genuine Catholicism, even though that Catholicism was in her case always centred in Rome.

Mrs. Bishop is very modest in treating this memoir as a. there, foretaste and anticipation of something fuller and more * A Mem* of Mrs. Auunetus Craven (Pauline de Is Ferrsaaccus), Author or "Lo ROCA cl'u'e Stour." With Extracts from her Dia.rlso arid Col respeedonce. By Maria Cathe ins Bishop. In 2 yule. Lowlon: Eichlra Bentley and Som.

adequate that is to proceed from Mrs. Craven's own family. But it is so full and vivid that we can hardly expect any material development of Mrs. Craven's character from fresh materials, and Mrs. Bishop keeps herself so much in the background, and ,shows such a devoted as well as discriminating affection for her 'friend, that we very much doubt whether, for Englishmen at least, anything more effective and characteristic is ever likely to

be produced. The letters are full of Mrs. Craven's personality, and the connecting narrative and illustration are clear and vivid, and marked by a perfect insight into the features of that strong and bright, but ever hungry spiritual nature. In 'her earlier days, Carlyle once said to Mrs. Craven, in his 'broad Scotch accent, "There's about ye a mixture of worldli- mess and earnestness that pleases me very much." In old .age, Mrs. Craven took that as evidence that she had really been too anxious for the good opinion of the world, and took herself to task for it. Of course, tried by the every highest standard, that may have been true or it may mot; we cannot possibly judge whether such a heart as hers condemned itself truly or too severely. But tried by any ordinary standard, it would be difficult, we imagine, to find a nature which, in the common sense of the word, was less worldly. What Carlyle meant, no doubt, was that there was inn her a shrewd common-sense, an inability to live in a fool's paradise, which was at the bottom of her great savoir vivre and her political sagacity. No one, so far as we can judge, 1-ever combined a more thoroughgoing idealism of aim, with a Looler discrimination as to whether that aim had or had not 'teen attained, than Pauline Craven. In relation to her very last book, the Memoir of Lady Georg iana Fullerton, she ex- ,pressed the characteristic fear that her biography would be 'found "too worldly for the pious and much too pious for the

worldly." And so perhaps it was, and yet was all the better or both characteristics.

To illustrate Mrs. Craven's eager idealism let us begin with

her own private account of the emotions she experienced when, at the age of twenty-two, she first visited the Catacombs in which the early martyrs lived, and from which so many of ,:them passed joyfully to their martyrdom :- " We left the Catacombs by the stair that had been used by the -Christians. When I was on its steps, the different impressions I Iliad received in succession broke on me in their fullness. The 'steps were the same as those the martyrs trod on their way to -death. I longed to cast myself on the ground and kiss their foot- prints. I longed to stay and weep without stint. I felt that there I could have given utterance to the feelings with which my heart was full. Then I thought that the young girls who went alp those slopes to die heroically saw me from their height in heaven, and prayed for me who was so little like them. I liked to think that they might perceive in my heart the thoughts I could not articulate, and that perhaps they were patrons of my prayer. I .felt unworthy to place my feet where theirs had been, and yet it was inexpressibly sweet to me to follow the steps which they had .gone up in quietness and joy, such as I did not feel, to the death that awaited them at the summit. My soul overflowed with thoughts. I could not resist the satisfaction of kissing those ,sacred stones before I returned to the church. When again in it, I knelt down and longed to remain there. I had felt emotions never before experienced by me. I owed them to the religion in which, happily, I was born. I felt the need of thanksgiving and of prayer to God that all ray life should be an expression of my ,gratitude and of my love towards Him."

Now, that is the note which runs through the whole life. Mrs. raven was dominated by that hunger and thirst after right- .sonemess, which is promised the fullest of all satisfactions. And ,we should compare these youthful aspirations with what Mrs. Bishop, in perhaps the most beautiful passage of a beautiful took, writes of that weary ten months of almost total isolation 'from human sympathy, in which, long after her husband's death, and without the power to express herself in a single artioulate sentence, notwithstanding her full possession of con- sciousness and her eager craving for release, that hunger and thirst for what was above and beyond the world, came at last

to its consummation. We can find room for but a portion of that beautiful passage :— "The reader who has followed Mrs. Craven's life and its troubles, many of which may seem to some almost trivial in their interference with worldly consideration and comfort, but which sorely tried some sensitive strings in her temperament, may say that it was easy for her to praise pain, and serenely dwell with her beautiful visions on a Christian Olympus, and enjoy her friendships and popularity in France, England, and Italy. What did she know of those overwhelming shipwrecks of human existence which can engulf a common soul P She had not had that trial of her love and faith which the least of martyrs endures. As she drew near the end of life, even the money anxieties which Thad beset her were over. She had written well of suffering, but many have done that. If she were saintly, there were some to say that hers was but a rose-water saintliness—an agreeable com- promise by a woman of the world with the ascetic teaching of the Crucified, as it is decorously adapted to a high bred and superior caste. The more Mrs. Craven was so judged by her friends, the

more was her-chief work, Le Recit dune Sceur, praised as a creation

of art that was not without an element of fiction in the treatment of its smith' Mrs. Craven had presented her family in beautiful pose and colour. It was said of her tiliat she was a proficient in sentimental drama, whether on the drawing-room stage or in the literary workshop, and she was certainly at her best in the sparkling play of conversation. But now the seal was to be set on Mrs. Craven's witness to the faith which can exclaim Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him.' The ten months before her death were months of trial and unexpected humilia- tion, borne with a fulness of obedience that even her most elo- qnent words had never expressed. Her faithful optimism remained unruffled. She ' overcame' to the end, and if the record of any life has interest worth the name, it lies in that victory of

the spirit. She had in moments of generous trust, more and more frequent as she grew older, offered, as St. Ignatius did, her ' liberty' to God. He took her at her word. He knew in what

spirit she would obey. He was pleased to add yet more savour to the salt, and to affix the stamp of His good pleasure to her

good will. She had quoted long since Fend m's words : 'Ne pas souffrir dane la volonte o'est no pas souffrir.' She had learned that lesson, and had for years trained her will to un- questioning obedience to the Divine purpose as manifested in circumstance. More was required of her faith, and free expres- sion of that will was taken from her ; circumstance closed in upon her. She had loved to seek the presence of God ; now she was all but alone with Him. The human sym- pathy she had loved to give and receive was necessarily lessened for her. Her occasional fits of regret and anxiety. founded or unfounded, must remain for ever unspoken. It seemed as if the special perfections at which she had aimed were thrust on her by the Power that would have her all His own. She had prayed : Set a watch, 0 Lord, before my mouth, and a door round about my lips,' with special emphasis, as she notes herself, when in every Mass they occur. The watch was set, the door was kept, and the incense of her prayer went up in all the force of silence. But the trial must be well-nigh overwhelming, as was the surprise of it. That her voice, so given to praise, her good words, so useful to others, the expression of her experience and good sense, the fine art of her conversation, should be stopped, while her mind was yet clear and her intellect unimpaired, could not but have shaken her pro conceived ideas to their very founda- tions. The desire to please had been almost a stumbling-block in her family. Eug6nie had said, while standing in the porch of the invisible world : 'J'ai toujours une vague envie de plaits. La vanit6 doit titre, de touter les filcheuses habitudes du cmur, le plus difficile is d6raciner.' What lessons of humility—lessons of its higher perfection—must have sunk daily into Mrs. Craven's fluttering heart as she became dependent, not alone on the physical help of those about her, but on their inadequate con- ceptions of her intellectual and spiritual needs. Self lay crushed, For her freedom to will there was but one outlet,—her will to recognise the will of God in whatever unwelcome circumstances it was declared. A spectacle of the conquering trust and strong love, stronger than death, manifested in her triumphant con- stancy, is surely a pledge of victory, and a sure ground of hope for suffering and despondent souls however heavy their burden may seem. She would have been the first to tell us, if she could have spoken, that never were moments of commune with spiritual powers sweeter than in her isolation. On June 14th her maid wrote : Mrs. Craven has never been able to say one word since. The right side is getting completely paralyzed. The doctor says she may last a very long time so, and that she may be able to speak a little.' "

She did live a long time, but she was never able " to speak a little." For ten months she sat or lay in this apparently awful solitude,—not awful to her who sixty-one years earlier bad poured forth her passionate joy in following the steps of the first martyrs,—and was just able to indicate by signs her profound delight on receiving the last sacraments, when the death that had lingered so long, at last laid hold upon her. Never was hunger and thirst after righteousness more sharply tested or more abundantly filled.

Yet Mrs. Craven was no mere saint. As Carlyle had noted, there was a great deal in her of the practical shrewdness and sagacity on which, in our opinion at least, Carlyle valued himself too highly, though Mrs. Craven did not value herself on it at all. She showed it most plainly in her always sane and practical political Liberalism. We will not refer to her very determined, and, as the Gladstonians will think, even bigoted and perverse, Unionism on the Irish question, for there, of course, we should be set down as prejudiced in her favour ; but we will refer to ber profound sympathy with the Neapolitan Liberalism which condemned altogether the ultramontane excuses advanced for King Bomba,—to the profound dismay which she felt at the inexorable and pedantic formalism of the so-called Henry V., when he refused to give up the white flag for the tricolour in France,—.Ind to the steady appreciation which she showed of Mr. Gladstone's enthusiastic idealisms, even when most of those of her own way of thinking were denouncing him as a• mere ambitious schemer for the Irish vote, while she, with far keener insight and wit, described him not as the mortal foe of Ireland, but as her "mortal friend." Perhaps she did not go far enough with Leo XIII. in urging the Royalist party in France to accept the Republic ; but if that were so, it was not from any want of moderation, but from something like nausea at the frantic irreligion and persecuting passion of the Republican majority of that day, which shocked and revolted her so much that she could hardly believe in the possibility of a tolerant and impartial Republican order. The Govern- ment that, as M. Thiers said, " divides us the least," seemed to her a Government which could not suppress its loathing for anything like faith and piety ; and she found it difficult to imagine that such a loathing could be overcome without the Republican party first evincing at least some com- punctions at its own narrow and fierce Paganism.

One of the most striking features of Mrs. Craven's life is the cordial friendship between her and her various personal attendants, which showed itself from the beginning to the end of her long and trying life. In all the vicissitudes of her fortune,—and she fell from wealth to very narrow means indeed,— the attachment between her and her servants was always one of the most sincere and tender kind. Eliza, Luigi, Nora, they all loved her ; and nothing is more tonohing than the account of poor Eliza's death-bed in a London hospital, with Mrs. Craven praying beside her and evincing the most lively gratitude that the poor girl caught, and responded to, the language of her prayer. One of the surest signs of Mrs. Craven's true and thoroughgoing spirituality, was the lasting friendship between her and her servants, both Neapolitan and English.

Mrs. Craven was fond of saying how completely she had identified herself with three countries. "I assure you, it is sad," she wrote in 1886 to Mrs. Bishop, "to have belonged so completely as I have done to three countries. The result is, that whether in Italy, in England, or in France, I have had a kind of home-sick feeling about the other two," and she repeats that remark with much emphasis in the following year. But the truth is that she really belonged still more to that far country in which she learned not to identify herself too absolutely with any of the three, and the home-sickness for which haunted her from her first experience in the Catacombs to the very close of her beautiful, and on the whole happy, though often very weary and severely tasked life. Her home-sickness was more for the spiritual world than for any country, however dear to her, in this. The great value of this delightful, though sometimes melancholy, story, is that Mrs. Bishop gives not merely Mrs. Craven's French, Italian, and English life and sympathies with the most delightful detail, but the deeper life and the more passionate sympathies which underlay and overruled them all.