21 NOVEMBER 1925, Page 26


Reminiscences of a Maynooth Professor. By Walter McDonald (Cape. 18s.) Reminiscences of a Maynooth Professor. By Walter McDonald (Cape. 18s.) VERY many hard things were said of Maynooth, both in Ireland and outside it, during recent troubles in Ireland. The charge usually was that the spaciousness of the old education had narrowed to a sort of parochialism ; and that the later students there could bear no comparison with the much travelled and more learned priests of an older day. The interest of this simple and fervent autobiography is that one of its chief instructors for a generation or more wrestled to widen the realm of doctrine against spiritual inferiors who insisted that teachers and taught must wear the blinkers of a narrower orthodoxy. Dr. Walter McDonald, appointed to teach the picked pupils at Maynooth, was an ardent believer in science and felt deeply its conflict with some of the dogma of the Church. His book on Motion—about which he writes a very great deal—was put on the index expurga- torius ; but the condemnation of its orthodoxy did not include a condemnation of the author ; and year after long year Dr. McDonald struggled to impress his philosophic views on his pupils and simultaneously obey the orders of official orthodoxy. He succeeded, without losing calm, or charm of character; thanks perhaps to the safety valve of an auto- biographical confession that was to appear posthumously and release the half rebel thoughts. One noble sentence records the spiritual struggle that he shared with so many of his peers in history. " It was only by God's great mercy I did not altogether renounce the faith ; as I fear I should have done ultimately had I not satisfied myself of the truth —or the tenability—of more liberal principles than those in which I was brought up." The main interest of the book is theological. An ardent militant reformer wrestles against rusted shackles and against his own loyalty to his Church ; but not only Roman Catholics will find interest in this record of the life of a very fine and lovable character. Dr. McDonald was an observer as well as a reforming philosopher. As a patriot he was grievously disillusioned -on his first visit to New York. " It was, as I have said, disillusionment, for I knew how many of our people had landed here during the latter half of the nineteenth century, most of them with the great advantage of knowing the language of the country. Yet here were Germans—many, if not most of them Jews— who did not know a word of English when they came, and sec how they held the business of New York in their hands." Many professional travellers have gone round the world and not discovered more than Mr. McDonald on his first afternoon in New York. Some readers will regret that Mr. Denis Gwynn, his literary executor, has omitted a chapter giving a resume of his book on Peace and War. It would have interested a wide circle.