MIS is a book, the sincerity and earnestness of which no one can mistake, and showing very considerable power as well. It is founded, the author (or authoress) tells us, on fact, though of course events are modified, and the tale probably constructed out of more than one set of incidents of the same class ; and there is no external event in it which seems inconsistent with the knowledge of the world possessed by every person of much experience of life. But the trnthfulness of the book seems to us considerably dimin- ished by one or two distorted representations of moral truths, and one distorted representation of religious truth the effect of which Will be to sow a feeling that it is a piece of moral and religious advocacy, rather than of moral and religious justice.
The title sufficiently suggests that the subject of the book is the painful subject of seduction and its terrible consequences to women. And here we think is the first great misrepresentation—a misrepre- sentation of the state of young men's consciences on the subject. That there are too many purely selfish and bad men like Colonel Courtney, who would think merely of their own pleasure, nor hesi- tate a moment at the guilt of ruining and casting off such a girl as Lois Brook, no one can doubt : but that they are comparatively the few, and indefinitely fewer in number than men of the class intended to be represented by Hugh Lingard, good-natured, kindly men, of easy selfish habits, not without a real reverence for what is better, with no respect for their own purity of nature, but a good deal for the purity of others, no one, we think, who knows the world would doubt either : and we do entirely disbelieve that such a man as Hugh Lingard would ' have been guilty of the treachery and (negative) cruelty here described to a child like Annie Brook, or that if he had made her his victim, under the evil influence of Colonel Courtney, he would not have felt the responsibility of permanently providing for her, and keep- ing her from the lower depths into which he well knew that when deserted she would otherwise sink. It is, we believe, a great mistake to think deliberate seduction and desertion a common vice ;—uncommon as any high standard of virtue is among young men, a man must be uncommon in the other direction, a really * Hidden Depths. 2 Toll. Laudon: Ed.nouhtm aud Douala.,
bad man, who would not hesitate to destroy a young and innocent girl, and then throw her off to fall as she might ; and Hugh. Lingard is not so conceived or represented. Such a one as he. would, if he had been led into seducing Annie Brook, have. felt it a cause of permanent self-reproach, possibly have remained faithful to her, and certainly have provided for her in a way to. keep her from the necessity of a deeper and more degrading fall. Nothing is gained by over-painting the vice of society. Seduc- tion in its worst forms is the most devilish of vices, and such men. as Hugh Lingard are guilty enough, but not of the same class as,— of a class more numerous by tens of thousands than,—auch men as Colonel Courtney. As a rule, men of this class Would think seduction odious and cruel, would not even make friends. of men openly apologizing for it, and if guilty of it themselves would feel very keenly the responsibilities it entailed upon them for their victims. Another misrepresentation, which is implied rather than expressed in this book, is the insinuation that while. women have almost all the misery and shame,—which is but too- true,—of a sin in which both men and women would be, if equally responsible, equally guilty, men have, as a rule, almost all the responsibility, and therefore almost all the guilt. This is no doubt true of such cases as those described in Hidden Depths, cases where men of culture, knowledge of the world, and the coolness of prac- tised profligacy, deliberately withdraw young girls of no culture, no knowledge of the world, and little power of resisting superior skill and rank, from beneath their father's roof. But how many cases are there in which the guilt of the first contaminating influ- ence lies with the woman? Where both are in the working class, at least as many we should say of one as of the other ; and even in the middle class, women who have already fallen themselves are usually the first cause of the loss of purity in men. No doubt there is infinitely less cruelty, because less external and apparent misery inflicted, than in the case of ordinary seduction. Still, if the truth is told, let it be told candidly. The guilt of destroy- ing lives, of cutting off human beings from all hope of recovery, no doubt lies chiefly with men. But the guilt of first destroying purity, of multiplying this future scourge for their own sex, lies chiefly with women. It is impossible to speak the truth on this subject if you are to fall into the too habitual strain of speaking of men as the sole originators of this most destructive of vices.
Again, we think the author of this book morally and spiritually mistaken in separating this sin so absolutely from all other sins, as regards its sinfulness. No doubt for women it is infinitely more disastrous in its consequences. Young girls in the lower clan may be deceitful and lie, and even be guilty of little dishonestlea as regards property, and unless they go far enough to get committed to prison they may avoid ruin, come under good influence, and turn out in the end characters of some real nobility. But if they are tempted by the excess of even a true and pure affection to lose their purity,—perhaps often a less sin than deceit of a deliberate kind, and surely less than any treachery,—the chance of their rapid degradation under the present unjust severity of society is enor- mous. But this is a result of social injustice, not of truth and right. And we are inclined to think that the dinouement of this book tends to encourage that false estimate. When on Annie Brook's death-bed Ernestine Courtney discovers that Hugh Lingard had been guilty of the shameful sin of seducing, and then cruelly abandoning Annie Brook,—though his penitence and humiliation are represented as profound, and though the author's effort has been to show that the love between Ernestine and Hugh Lingard had been intense, and as far as possible, where one of them had been so guilty, true and pure, it is assumed as a thing beyond question that she could never become the wife of a man so sinful. Would it have been the same if she had discovered. him to be guilty of solemnly preaching a faith he did not believe, or of killing another in a duel, or of taking a deliberate bribe to advo- cate politically what he thought mischievous and wrong,—or of any other sin, or if you please crime, consistent with penitence and a nature capable of true and profound love? If so, the author is Consistent, but we doubt if he delineates the highest kind of love in his hero ine,—which would probably, like God's, cling to a man on whom it was once fixed, so long as she saw any hope of helping him without guilt to herself. But we suspect that our author Would have represented his heroine as clinging to her lover even through any other sin than this, but that a sin which he strives to prove capable of forgiveness and final redemption in a woman, is deemed almost beyond it in a man. We do not wish to diminish any effect this book may have in trimming the balance between the terrible injustice of our present social opinion, which crushes women for sins for which it barely blames men, and the just fed- ing On the subject. But we think it would have had more effect in
this direction, if it had striven leas to throvt all hegult where only some of it should rest.
As to the religious element in Hidden Depths, we have also nottiething to say. With much that is fine and true, it eon- tains one Moat. unnatural picture of a young man of the highest and most refined purity of nature, whose life has not only been ruled by his religious faith, but filled by it, who even meets the doom of early -death from consumption with a sort Of joy, so strong is his vision of the spiritual world, coming during the last year of his -life tinder the influence of ate of the modern freethinking Oxford tutors, a Mr. Vincent,—a man described as self-denying and high-minded, living only for others and for in- tellectual truth,—as losing all his faith under the cold analysis to Which the historical evidences of Scripture are submitted by Mr. Vincent, falling into absolute Atheism, and then plunging into dissipation and vice to drown his misery. We say the picture is in a high degree unnatural, and we believe it also to be mischievous. It is unnatural because, as the author himself admits, the root of faith is in doing the will of God. He quotes more than once the Words of our Lord, "If any man will do-His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself," and yet he, turns round quite inconsistently, and tells us,—as indeed his story obliges him to de,—that "true virtue can have no existence except On a foundation of dogmatic truth.", Now which is it to be? Is insight into God's truth to come of doing God's -will or not? If it is, then neither Reginald Courtney nor Mr. Vincent himself should ever have lost hold on the 'reality of divine love, for they are both represented as good men willing to spend themselves in goodness. Yet both are robbed of their faith, and One of his virtue as the result of losing his faith. If virtue -comes of sound dogma, this is intelligible enough, but then all the author's teaching in the earlier part of the book falls at once to the ground. The truth is, as Mr. Riabetteon used to teach so powerfully, that amidst-all the intellectual perplexities of our day the faith in right, the hared of sin, is the anchor which will still hold a mind like this of Reginald Courtney's, and would till it has weathered the storm.
Nor is it merely that this picture is unnatural. It is also mis- -ohievous. Our author does not see that if faith in God and
Christ of the highest and most real kind is once attained, to -represent it as fading away under the influence of a keen his-
torieal analysis of the external evidence of certain books in Scripture, is to represent it as not spiritual knowledge, but traditionary teaching after all. Such faith as is here described -should have modified the impression produced by the historical evidences analyzed, instead of the crumbling away of the histori- tal evidences undermining the faith, it is real want of faith at the bottom, not faith, Which inveighs as this author does against
any examination, however profound and searching, of historical -or any other evidences of God's revelation. There is nOimpres- .5ion more dangerous than that left upon us by this part of Hidden .Depths,—that there- is something wrong in the most anxious and arrofound sifting of the historical side of revelation, and still more in z'onveying the impression that a personal knowledge of God, Otherwise acquired, will vanish away beneath such a study. It is true, we believe, that tiny one who went without a religious nature -and religious wants to the merely historical discussion of Chris- tianity, would petadade himself there was no truth in it. But it is certainly the most false and fatal admiesion, that one who had a profoundly religions nature, and a direct faith in God and Christ that rested in prayer, should find it all slipping away from him under the influence of really open, eager, and unprejudiced historical study. Faith in revelation would be worth very little if this were the ease. The truth is that it is the most difficult problem of modern times to adjust the intellectual view of Chris- tiatity-s-the view. Which gaits from free historical inquiry—to the spiritual view. But it is a disloyalty to the truth itself to admit that no adjustment is possible, or that those who labour in this cause,—like the new Oxford teachers,—are traitors to it. We may be sute that no spiritual *idly of Christian truth can afford to dispense With the most candid and most impartial intel- lectual scholarship, atry more than the latter can dispense with the :former.
We have been obliged to express at more length than we wished our dissent from some of the conclusions of a book in itself noble in spirit, and possessed by a very earnest and on the whole a deep and catholic Christian faith. We should be very sorry not to give our heartiest support to the general purpose of thispowerfulstory, though we have said thus much by way of rectifying some of what seem to us its errors.