10 MARCH 1900, Page 17


DEAN MILMAN.* "SCHOLAR, poet, critic, historian, but above all these a per- fect Christian gentleman," Dean Milman was also a man of the world, and a most agreeable member of society at a period when society was most agreeable. Walter Scott and Byron were still alive when he entered it. and Sydney Smith, Whately, Macaulay, Stephen, Monckton Milnes, Rogers, Senior, Lords Holland and Lansdowne, and many others whom it would take too long to enumerate, were his contemporaries. His was an ideal life. His charming and beautiful wife "made," as he says in the dedication of his first book, "the poetry of life reality," and his domestic felicity was impaired only by the early deaths of three of his children, so early that after the first bitter sorrow was past they can have left none but sweet and tender recollections. Success crowned his endeavours in all that he undertook, and he possessed what Bacon calls the "letter of recommendation" of a handsome and impressive face and figure. He was brought up and distinguished himself at Eton and Oxford. He had a thorough English education,—an education which, with its traditions of truth, honour, and freedom, seems, by its results and with all its shortcomings, the best that any nation has as yet hit upon.

He entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in October, 1810. He was charmed with the place, but not with the teaching.

In a letter to his sister he writes : "What I am to learn here puzzles me at present, for of our three tutors one can,

lecture and never does, another cannot and always does, and the third neither can nor does " ; and in another letter he gives an amusing description of the Duchess of Oldenburg's (sister of the Czar Alexander) visit :—

"She determined to see everything, was tired getting up to the top of the Radcliffe Library, sat down and made the two Proctors sit on each side of her. Dialogue between her Highness and one of our noblemen May I ask what your Lordship's studies are ? " General, Madam.' 'But what particular books do you read P' None. Madam.' Dialogue the second (Duchess and Dr. Barnes, Sub-Dean of Christ Church) : Pray, Sir, may I ask what branch of literature you preside over?' 'None, Madam.' 'But what are you professor of ? " I am not a pro- fessor, Madam.' 'You take the part of theology, perhaps ? ' No-o, Madam.' 'Law, perhaps ? ' A still more puzzled 'No' followed from the Doctor, and he made the same answers to all the questions she put to him."

Milman's ode to Apollo, "splendid, beautiful, and majestic," as Christopher North calls it, won for him the Newdigate

in 1812. In 1813 he obtained a First Class in Classics and the prize for Latin verse, in 1815 was elected Fellow of his

College, and Professor of Poetry from 1821 to 1831. Many- sided and full of interest as his mind was, imagination seems to have been his dominant faculty. He was a poet first of all. The only drama intended for the stage, Fazio, was written while he was at Oxford. It was acted at the Surrey Theatre without his leave, and proved so successful that it

was put on the stage at Bath, and thence transported to London. Miss O'Neill thrilled the audience in the chief part, Bianca, which was afterwards taken by Fanny Kemble.

Many years later the present writer was in the theatre, and part of the time in the Dean's box, when it was acted by Ristori, whose pathetic impersonation of the heroine was very beautiful, and it was delightful to witness the gratification of the author. Unlike most translations, Fazio did very well in its foreign dress, as well nearly as Milman's own fine

* Henry Hart MIIman. Dean of St. Paul's : a Biographical Sketch. By his Son, Arthur Milman. LL.D. London : John Murray. [16s.] , dramatic translations—for which the unlearned have cause to be deeply grateful—the Agamemnon of Eschylus and the Baechanals, published with some beautiful classical lyries in 1864. The success of Fazio induced our poet to publish

Samor, Lord of the Bright City, an epic in twelve books, begun at Eton and finished at Oxford. No doubt there are

beautiful lines in it, and his biographer quotes a fine descrip- tion of the lighting of the beacons on the hills, but in the present redundancy of literature few people would be found willing to travel through its two hundred and ninety-six pages. There is scarcely time nowadays for epics.

Milman took Orders in 1816 and left Oxford in 1817. His father, Sir Francis Milman, physician to George Ill., was a man of refinement and cultivation, eminent in his profession, and much in the confidence of the Royal Family. Through the influence of Queen Charlotte, Lord Eldon conferred the living of St. Mary's, Reading, on the young priest. His parishioners looked on him at first very shyly on account of the enormity of his having written a play,—a play that had actually been performed on the stage. They were even more severely tried when their rector brought out his History of the Jews. In those days, when almost all religions people were bigoted Low Churchmen, belief in dogmas and formulas was imperative. Men were judged by their opinions. Any- thing like liberality was called Atheism, and in forgetfulness of the verse in the Psalms which describes the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea as rendered possible by a strong east wind, Milman's attempt at explaining some of the Old Testament miracles by natural causes was deemed rank heresy. "Parker, the bookseller," Milman wrote," said it was thirty years too soon," and this was proved in 1862, when a second edition was brought out with the following admirable preface :—

"These views, more free, it was then thought, and bolder than common, he dares to say not irreverent, have been his safeguard during a long and not unreflective life against the difficulties arising out of the philosophical and historical researches of our times ; and from such views many, very many of the best and wisest men whom it has been his blessing to know with greater or lesser intimacy, have felt relief from passing doubts and found the peace which is attainable only through perfect free- dom of mind. Others may have the happiness, a happiness he envies not, to close their eyes against, to evade, or to elude, these difficulties. Such is not the temper of his mind. With these views he has been able to follow out all the marvellous discoveries of science and all those hardly less marvellous, if leas certain, conclusions of historical, ethnological, linguistic criticisms in the serene confidence that they are utterly irrelevant to the truth of Christianity, to the truth of the Old Testament as far as its distinct and perpetual authority and its indubitable meaning."

Milman was, in fact, a pioneer of the school of Maurice,

Robertson, Stanley, and other seekers after truth. "It was in the earlier years of his residence at Reading that his brilliant poetical career may be said to have culminated by the publication of his three religious dramas—' The Fall of Jerusalem' (1820), the 'Martyr of Antioch' (1822), and later

on an historical tragedy, 'Anne Boleyn.' " In spite of their merit, the intense pathos, and even gloom, of the subjects, heightened by the knowledge that events like those described must really have occurred, make these tragedies painful reading to all except the young and prosperous, among whom at that time was certainly the author himself. The hymns and lyrics interspersed are some of them more beautiful even than the hymns contributed by Milman to Bishop Heber's collection.* Of the lyrics containedlin the

dramas Milman's biographer quotes a few stanzas. The first is from The Fall of Jerusalem :— " For Thou wert born of woman : Thou didst come,

0 Holiest ! to this world of sin and gloom, Not in Thy dread omnipotent array : And not by thunders strewed Was Thy tempestuous road : Nor indignation burns before Thee on Thy way. But Thee, a soft and naked child, Thy mother undefiled, In the rude manger laid to rest From off her virgin breast."

Equally beautiful are Margarita's ecstatic song when led to execution at Antioch :—

• There are eight of the latter : the best known are "Ride on, ride on in majesty," for the 6th Sunday in Lent, and " When our heads are bow'd with woe," for the 16th Sunday alter Trinity.

"What means you blaze on high ?

The empyrean sky, Like the rich veil of some proud Lane is rending.

I see the star-paved land Where all the angels stand, Even to the highest height in burning rows ascending "-

the well - known funeral anthem,* "Brother thou hast gone before us," and that most pathetic hymn of the bereaved parents in Belshazzar :— "0 Thou that wilt not break the bruiskl reed,

Nor heap fresh ashes on the mourner's brow, Nor rend anew the wounds that inly bleed, The only balm of our affliction Thou, Teach us to bear Thy chastening wrath, 0 God !

To kiss with quivering lips—still humbly kiss—Thy rod."

The variety and amount of work accomplished by Milman is astonishing, and he put the same ability and energy into whatever his hand found to do, whether in the duties of a parish priest at Reading or the direction of a great Cathedral. Miss Mitford, who was one of his parishioners, wrote of him " Mr. Milman reads and preaches enchantingly," and he was

equally welcome to the poor among his flock. In 1835 we follow him to Westminster. Here he found a wide field for

his abundant activity. He wrote to Sir Edwin Pearson in 1856 that "nothing could be done for the moral state of the swarming population without an extensive demolition of the wretched buildings which they inhabited. As a member of the Chapter, as Chairman of the Vestry, as intermediator

between the parties interested under the office of Woods and Forests, I took an active and prominent share in these discussions." No wonder that on receiving the offer in 1849 of the Deanery of St. Paul's a sigh of relief

escaped from his lips as he looked up and said, "Thank goodness, no more vestries." He had now more leisure for literary work. The claims of society were not so urgent

as at Westminster, where he and Mrs. Milman received almost everybody worth knowing in the beautiful house in the cloisters which was given to them as a residence; and their departure was a cause of great regret to all who had the privilege of visiting them. Not that they gave up seeing their friends, but, of necessity, distance added to the diffi- calties of meeting in London. It is needless to say with what dignity and usefulness the Dean exercised his various avocations. There was no question affecting the Church in which he did not take part, and always with sense and liberality. No one that ever saw him in his grand Cathedral

will ever forget his fine commanding presence and sonorous voice. His reading of the Funeral Service for the Duke of Wellington, the responses repeated by the whole congrega- tion, was intensely affecting. He threw himself warmly into Archbishop Tait's scheme of giving evening services in the Cathedrals, inaugurated them in St. Paul's, and regularly attended them until his health failed. In 1865 his greatest prose work, The History of Latin. Christianity, appeared. No doubt his imaginative faculty was a great element in the picturesque effect of his prose. None but a poet could have written the chapter on John Huss and the Council of Con-

stance,—and Archbishop Whately in his Rhetoric, speak- ing of the influence of a vivid imagination in a historian, gives as an illustration a passage in Milman's Bampton Lectures, describing the entrance of an Apostle of the the Gospel into one of the splendid cities of Asia or Greece.

The small space at our disposal renders it impossible to mention, however succinctly, all the occupations and achieve- ments of so full and active a life. His son says that the

hour before breakfast was the one he set apart for his literary work. The rest of a happy home left him at liberty to pursue his objects abroad, and he had excellent health,

which did not give way till the summer of 1868. "He had taken a house, Queen's Lodge, in the neighbourhood of Ascot, and there in the full exercise of all his brilliant mental activities, in the midst of the peaceful country sights and sounds to which he was so sensitively alive, actually engaged in conversation with friends for whom he had the highest regard, the summons came. On August 29th he had a stroke of paralysis, which on the 24th of the following month had a fatal termination. He was carried to his rest with simple pomp, and laid with singular propriety in the crypt of the grand Cathedral over which as Dean he had so long presided."

* This anthem was sung at Dean Billman's funeral.