DR. LAKE AT BALLIOL.
[TO THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."]
am disappointed, and in a sense humbled, by observing with how little general notice the figure of Dr. Lake—a figure which seemed so interesting and impressive to my youthful imagination—has been suffered to pass from the scene; and I, therefore, venture to put into shape one or two random recollections of him drawn chiefly from the period of my residence at Balliol some forty years ago. In fairness both to him and to myself, I should mention that, though he was always very kind to me, he and I were not quite in sym- pathy ; and, moreover, that at the time when I knew him best he seems to have been passing through a stage of specula- tive languor,—to have been, in fact, a sort of intellectual chrysalis, unlike what he is said to have been during the obscure activity of his early life, and also unlike what he afterwards became when he so mounted aloft as Warden and Dean that majores pennas ilium exterulisse loqueris.
The defeat of Lake by Goalburn, when both stood for the Head-Mastership of Rugby, was ascribed by some to the prevalent impression that the former shared the Liberalism of Arnold. After that defeat he appears to have regarded speculative prudence as the chief of a philosopher's cardinal virtues. At all events, to some of us who were disciples of Jowett, he seemed, like Mark Pattison, to be a disenchanted idealist. But he showed his disenchantment in a different way. Though an admirer of Pattison, I cannot read his Memoir without parodying Pope and exclaiming, "The sourest cynio is a saint turned sour." Lake, on the other hand, was—not to speak of higher motives—too much a man of action to blow the trumpet of disillusion. He regularly and unosten- tatiously did the work of a College tutor. Yet, highly accom- plished and agreeable though he was, he was not very popular with the enthusiasts of the College, who, rightly or wrongly, regarded him as a wet blanket. Doubtless he, in his turn, suspecting himself to be so regarded, became more and more estranged from them and their habit of mind; and doubtless, also, his influence was vastly more beneficial than they imagined. Directly and indirectly, he may have done some- thing towards enabling the College to temper the flightiness of the dove with the wisdom of the serpent. Or perhaps it would be a more appropriate metaphor to say that to the atmosphere of Balliol, which was at times morbidly stimu- lating, he supplied the needful element of azote. On the whole, judging by my personal impressions, I should conclude that, if he had sat for his literary portrait to Trollope, he would have figured as a more scholarly and altogether superior Archdeacon Grantley. He ought to have been born in the good old times, when he would have been just the man to be made a Bishop.
Odd stories were told of not over-friendly encounters of wits between Jowett and Lake. These may have been apocryphal, but it is certain that there was no love lost between the two men. In my undergraduate days I once found Lake reading Mr. Gladstone's book on Homer which had been then recently published, and I remarked to him that, in Jowett's opinion, the distinguished author had ascribed more to Homer than Homer himself ever dreamt of; was this criticism just? "Possibly, to some extent," answered Lake, with a grim smile. "But Mr. Jowett would allow only a minimum. I think there is more in Homer, just as I think
there is more in the Bible, than he would acknowledge." Then, with an evident allusion to my veneration for Jowett, be touched on the propensity of youth towards somewhat promiscuous hero-worship. His concluding words have stuck in my memory : "In all my life I have only known three men Cif commanding greatness,—Arnold, Newman, Gladstone."
" jowett once told me that the distinctive impress left by the chief public schools on their alumni remains markedly visible at College; but I could not get him to explain in what the distinction consists. I afterwards put the question to Lake, whose answer was to the following effect : "The ablest Rugbeians bring to Balliol a rather precocious familiarity with the problems of life. Their solutions of these problems may be crude, but seem to be given at first hand. One of our &holm* who came from Rugby, expressed himself in his English Essay with an epigramatic smartness which seemed to me to be, in so young a man, not quite natural or healthy. Harrow men, on the other hand, know nothing of such matters, but wish to be taught. They look on metaphysics as a mere will-o'-the-wisp." The criticism on Harrovians surprised me a good deal; but I am bound to add that, when I was at Harrow, many of us were great admirers, if not worshippers, of Macaulay, who in his essays on Bacon and on Ranke treats metaphysicians and their works with undisguised contempt.
'Ake, on one occasion at least, spoke very unflatteringly of Browning; and I should have expected him to feel a similar prejudice against Carlyle. But, in fact, he gratefully acknow- ledged his obligations to Carlyle, who, he said, was the first to make him thoroughly understand the good results which were brought about by the French Revolution.
A circumstance which Lake told me about Dr. Vaughan, who at the time was still Head-Master of Harrow, may con- clude this letter. He said that Vaughan, besides knowing nothing whatever of the Fathers, was not well up in English literature. - This latter fact, if fact it was, is easily accounted for by the manifold and incongruous objects of attention— the sermons, the floggings, and the parental "visitations "- which make such cruel inroads into a Head-Master's leisure. Nevertheless, I expressed surprise, alleging that, on my asking Vaughan to recemmend me a speech for Speech Day, he had quoted on the spot and with perfect fluency a long extract from Erskine's defence of Stockdale. Lake laughed : "Does not the passage contain something about a Red Indian and a tomahawk ?" I assented. "I remember it well. That was the speech which Vaughan recited at Rugby, and it is the only piece of English prose that he knows." This may be an exaggeration ;, but the anecdote has an old Rugbeian—I had almost said a Tom Brown—flavour about it which to me, at least, is attractive.—I am, Sir, Sic.,