THE greatest kindness Mr. Morris Fuller could have done to the memory of his ancestor would have been to let it alone. A more confused, wearisome, irritating book than this biography we have not read for many a day. We do not say that the writer is shallow, that he is not acquainted with the history of the period, or that he does not understand Fuller. He is not without learning, but from the literary standpoint he is wholly without judgment. Instead of taking the reader steadily along a clear and cheerful road, he leads him into pitfalls on one side. into brambles on the other, or more frequently across a monotonous desert, so that if, when the end of the journey is reached, and the book closed, there be a sigh of gratitude, it is by no means intended for the author.
The style, says Mr. Fronde, echoing the opinion of Carlyle.
"was, and is, the skin, an essential part of the living organisation." Mr. Fuller's style, let ns hope, is not a part of the man, not a skin, but a cloak, for it is bad all round,—clumsy, careless, unidiomatic, and grandiloquent. In the preface he states that through life he has been collecting materials for this work, and that a recent change of residence, bringing him within easy distance of the British Museum, has enabled him at last " to externalise this desire ;" and at the close of the preface Mr.
Morris Fuller expresses a hope that the trials of the Church may "eventuate in the salvation of souls." In another place be writes that Fuller, " to externalise his thoughts, composed a sermon." Big words are dear to Mr. Morris Fuller. Exeter, he observes, has from the earliest times been "a centre of all military enterprises eventuating westwards ;" and of Thomas Fuller at Waltham we read,—" It was here, then, that our author devoted himself with recreated enthusiasm to the composition and publication of some worthy books,' which became correlated with the same locality."
Sometimes, perhaps, the clumsiness of the author's style is more conspicuous than its inaccuracy. In the following passages the meaning is tolerably clear, but they illustrate rather strikingly the slovenly composition of the narrative :— " Fuller had the greatest respect for his uncle's character and attainments, being much thrown with him in his early days, and he followed the Bishop's churchmansbip all through life, with a very large circle of his connections, which, indeed, did very much to perpetuate it." Again :—" Attracted by the fame of his preaching, select and rapt audiences would gather round the well-known and deservedly popular lecturer at St. Clement's as we have remembered to have seen gather round Melvill, and heard used to come from all parts to hear Watts Wilkinson in the last generation." Instances of repetition are not infrequent. On page 1ti, for example, we learn where Fuller was born and baptised, and on page 21 the same facts are recorded again. Towards the end of Volume I. the writer states bow Fuller had to submit to the" interrogations of the Triers, and applied to John Howe for advice on the occasion. In the second volume the fact is repeated, but at greater length. Sometimes a duplicate statement contains a blunder to boot. On page 60 we read that, according to an earlier biographer, Faller would have been elected to a fellowship at Queen's College, but that the statutes forbade two fellowships to be held together by natives of one county. The writer adds that he might have had a dispensation, but declined it,—a statement which Mr. Fuller considers altogether unfounded. Will it be credited that, after having written thus on page 61, and added, "The reason why he was passed over has always been a mystery to ns," the biographer, upon page 66, repeats the story of the fellowship and proposed dispensation which he had just proved to be erroneous?
The inaccuracies which mark a careless revision of the press are noticeable, and sometimes there are mistakes of a more important kind. In the years 1647-49, the author states that Bishop Jeremy Taylor was one of Fuller's patrons. Taylor was not made a Bishop until 1668—but let that pass ; it is more important to observe that in those years he was a banished clergyman, living under the protection of the Earl of Carbery.
No doubt, as Mr. Fuller observes, contributions for the ejected Clergy may have passed through his trustworthy hands ; but this fact would not constitute him a patron. Of Taylor, by the way, a familiar anecdote related on page 81, Volume I., is repeated upon page 371. Some of Mr. Morris Fuller's opinions are as objectionable as his style. He is welcome to his high estimate of the " martyr-King " Charles I , whose execution was of more service to Monarchy than to the Commonwealth; but, considering what the Restoration produced, and how low England sank under the second Charles,—not morally alone, but politically,—it seems strange that a clergyman of our day, with the pages of history open before him, should be able to write as follows :
" The dawn of the . Restoration was now at hand, and the rosyfingered morn of the coming day was beginning to Blume the Eastern heavens. The sun of Imperialism was once more slowly, but surely, rising upon this free and happy country with political healing in its wings, never more, we trust, to set in this Imperial kingdom, and a morn was about to break destined to usher in the full meridian of constitutional freedom and liberty, both in Church and State. The movement of the approach of the Royal chariot-wheels was being heard quite close, even at the very doors."
We will not dwell longer on a work which, in all respects save one, is disappointing and unsatisfactory. A great number of
pages are devoted to extracts from Fuller's multifarious writings, and whenever this old divine is allowed to speak for himself he is always worthy of attention. Unfortunately, these volumes have not even the merit of an index, so that, though a great quantity of information about Fuller is to be found in them, the reader is compelled to search for it as best he may.
It seems strange that a Church and Monarchy-man so justly distinguished should have received nothing at the Restoration beyond the empty title of Doctor of Divinity, and yet not strange, perhaps, since official promotion rarely goes by merit ; and even Jeremy Taylor—the greatest Churchman of that day, and the most eloquent writer of his or perhaps of any century—was exiled to an Irish diocese. Fuller, indeed, lived only a year after the return of Charles, and honours would probably have come to him bad his life been spared ; but less worthy men were preferred at once. Fuller held the extreme views in vogue at that time among Royalists ; he believed in the divine right of kings, and assuredly a large share of that divinity was needed to "hedge " Charles II. The happy event of his return made Fuller a poet, or to quote Prior's phrase, a " verseman." The following passage will show his skill, or want of it, in this department of litera ture :
" Long live our gracious Charles, second to nono
In honour who ere sat upon the throne ; Be you above your ancestors renowned Whose goodness wisely doth your greatness bound ; And knowing you may be what you would, Are pleased to be only what you should."
The biographer observes that Fuller's poetry " is not of the highest order ;" and for once we entirely agree with him. In fulsomeness, it is on a par with the strain of Dryden on the same occasion, who told Charles awl his goodness only was above the laws ; but Dryden's lines, false though they be in sentiment, are not doggerel. There is one link, by the way, between the great poet of the Restoration and Thomas Fuller. They were both natives of the same village, the latter, who was born in 1608, the birth-year of Milton, being Dryden's senior by more than twenty years. Aldwincle, in Northamptonshire, consists of two parishes. Fuller was born at St. Peter's Vicarage, his father being, to use his own expression, "the painful preacher" of that parish. Dryden was born, there is little doubt, in the parsonage-house of All Saints, the parish of which his maternal grandfather was the rector. Considering the style of divine and poet, the short space of time that separates them is remarkable. Dryden, especially in his free and idiomatic prose, belongs to the moderns ; Fuller, by his quaint turn of expression, his love of alliteration and grotesqueness of ilhistration, has more affinity with Andrews and Donne. His wit, which is always ready, has an old-world flavour about it. On every page he reminds the reader that he lived two centuries ago. But what delightful wit it is—always kindly, wholesome, and homely, full of the most unexpected turns, rich in fancy, racy in expression. Faller is as wise, too, as he is witty, though the wit sometimes conceals the wisdom ; in his merriest moods he is not a jester, for the reader never doubts that he is alike honest and earnest. It would be interesting, did space and -ability allow, to mark the points/3f affinity and contrast between Fuller and Jeremy Taylor. Both were Royal chaplains, both suffered under the Commonwealth; Taylor was twice imprisoned ; his house was plundered, his estate seized, and his family driven out of doors. Fuller lost his post at the Savoy, lost his library also, and became a wanderer. Taylor was with • Gerard's forces when that commander was defeated at Cardigan ; Faller was in Exeter when the capital of the West was besieged by the Parliamentary Army. Before that he had done good service to the Royalists at Basinghouse, where we are told his ardour so inspirited the garrison that Sir William Waller was forced to raise the siege. Both men at length found havens of rest in " the great storm which dashed the vessel of the Church in pieces "—the one at Golden Grove, the other at Waltham— and both made that time of retirement one of intense literary activity. Both must have been voracious readers, and were • voluminous writers ; and in both the fertility of fancy and aptness of illustration carry the reader on his way rejoicing. They were true men living up to the faith they held ; but Taylor was by far the greater writer. His learning, which was prodigious, forms now a drag upon his fame ; but his eloquence is matchless, his tenderness most winning, and in his lovely glimpses of Nature we forget the rhetorician in the poet. Taylor's Liberty of Prophesying is as masterly in argument as the Areopagitica of Milton, and it covers wider ground ; his Life of Christ, uncritical though it be, is—well, not superseded by Archdeacon Farrar's; but it is mainly in the Holy Living and Holy Dying that the heart of the man finds utterance. The faults of these divine books are not slight, but some of them belong to the age more than to the writer ; and all of them count for little in comparison with the practical good-sense, the thoughtful wisdom, the tender pathos, 'the earnest persuasiveness, the irresistible charm of style which give to these volumes the place of living friends. No book of Fuller's has a similar hold upon us ; but to those who appreciate his vein there is not a volume he has written which fails to give pleasure. His Holy and Profane State and his Holy Was. -are probably the most popular. Sometimes the illustrations used by Taylor to enforce a truth are as quaint and droll as Fuller's. Here is one, taken from the Holy Living, which might have been written by the latter :—" He that threw a stone at a dog, and hit his cruel step-mother, said that although he intended it otherwise, the stone was not quite lost." And the following, which are due to Fuller, might readily be accepted as Taylor's by a reader familiar with his method :—" They that marry ancient people merely in expectation to bury them, lay themselves in hopes some one may come and cut the halter." And again :—" A father that whipt his son for swearing, and swore himself while he whipt him, did more harm by his example than good by his correction."
We may add, in ending this somewhat discursive paper, that if there were many points of resemblance between Fuller and Taylor in thdr lives, there. as one also in their deaths. Fuller died of fever in his fifty-fourth year, and Taylor of the same complaint in his fifty-fifth, the illness in both cases lasting only .a few days.