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and priests. It is impossible, therefore, to overestimate the importance of the literary function. It is the one perpetual Priesthood, from age to age, teaching all men that God is still present in their lives. It is the true Ministry, ever presenting in new forms of beauty, in richer and more touching sermons, the eternal truth of nature and of life. To use the fine words of one to whom, as having above all given significance to this new literary movement, and as standing somewhat notably at its head, our language has already obviously pointed. “He that can write a true book to persuade England, is not he the bishop and archbishop, the primate of England, and of all England ?' I many a time say, the writers of newspapers, pamphlets, poems, books, these are the real working effective church of a modern country. Nay, not only our preaching, but even our worship, is it not too accomplished by means of printed books? The noble sentiment which a gifted soul has clothed for us in melodious words, which brings melody into our hearts-is not this essentially, if we will understand it, of the nature of worship? He who in any way shews us better than we knew before, that a lily of the field is beautiful, does he not shew it us as an effluence of the Fountain of all Beauty-as the handwriting made visible there of the great Maker of the Universe. He has sung for us, made us sing with him a little verse of a sacred Psalm. Essentially so. How much more he who sings, who says, or in any way brings home to our hearts the noble doings, feelings, darings and endurances of a brother man ! He has verily touched our hearts as with a live coal from the altar. Perhaps there is no worship more authentic. Literature, so far as it is Literature, is an apocalypse of Nature,' a revealing of the open secret.' It may well enough be named in Fichte's style a continuous revelation of the Godlike in the Terrestrial and Common. The Godlike does ever in very truth endure there; is brought out now in this dialect now in that, with various degrees of clearness : all true gifted Singers and Speakers are consciously or unconsciously doing so. The dark scornful indignation of a Byron, so wayward and perverse, may have touches of it; nay, the withered mockery of a French sceptic—his mockery of the False, a love and worship of the True. How much more the sphere-harmony of a Shakespeare and a Goethe: the cathedral music of a Milton; the humble genuine lark-notes of a Burns, -sky-lark, starting from the humble furrow, far overhead into the blue depths, and singing to us so genuinely there ! Fragments of a real Church Liturgy and body of Homilies, strangely disguised from the common eye, are to be found weltering in that huge froth-ocean of Printed speech we loosely call Literature! Books are our Church too.”——(Carlyle's Heroes and Hero Worship, pp. 263, 264.)
Mr. Carlyle's relation to Christianity.
It is obvious how complete is the reaction here against the spirit of our eighteenth century Literature. It is no less obvious, we doubt not, to most of our readers, that there is an important element of truth in all that is here said about the divine meaning that lies in every thing and in every man, and of the true dignity of Literature as the interpreter of this meaning. God is everywhere and in all things, and in him alone we live and move and have our being. All in us and around us is holy. The stamp of divinity is on all, and man is verily the true Shekinah, as Chrysostom said of eld. All genuine interpretation of man and nature, therefore—in other words, all genuine forms of Literature, are religious. There can never be, as our previous remarks have endeavoured strongly to shew, a disjunction between letters and religion without somewhat fatal injury to both. Where such a disjunction is recognised and defended, Christianity must dead, and Literature will be dwarfed and feeble and dying.
We acknowledge, therefore, in the warmest manner the earnest efforts of Mr. Carlyle to vindicate the religious character of all true Literature. No one has spoken more noble and touching words on this subject; and it has appeared at times to ourselves strangely repugnant that we should yet be obliged to reckon him very far from a friend to Christianity. So truly Christian-wise does he often speak, that when we class him, as we have done, at the head of the antichristian section of our Literature, our heart almost misgives us. It is not that we care what any of his worshippers and followers may say to this, but a voice within us bids us tremble lest we do him injustice. The calmer and clearer view of the matter, however, will never allow us any other conclusion. We find as we study him, and the more we study him the more plainly we find, that Literature is not only with him religious but religion. It is not only a divine teacher, but the Divine Teacher, and the only one left for man in these latter days. Any more special religion than that which is written on the face of nature and in the soul of man, Mr. Carlyle evidently disclaims. He will have no apocalypse save that of which Literature is the acknowledged interpreter. Man, if he will only open his eyes to the beauty which environs him, and listen to the “ still small voice” which speaks from within his own heart, and allow himself to enter into clear and calm commanion with the eternal laws of the universe, becomes religious in the highest sense possible for him. And it is just the glory of Literature that it is her peculiar mission to reveal ever more radiantly this beauty, and awaken ever more powerfully this inner voice, and so place man in ever more clearly conscious and calmly intelligent relation to the great laws of his being, and of all being. In characteristic and unmistakable speech, we are told that “the Maker's Laws, whether they are promulgated in Sinai Thunder to the ear or imagination, or quite otherwise promulgated, are the Laws of God; transcendent, everlasting, imperatively demanding obedience from all men. This, without any thunder, or with never so much thunder, thou, if there be any soul left in thee, canst know of a truth. The Universe, I say, is made by Law; the great Soul of the World is just and not unjust. Look thou, if thou have eyes or soul left, into this great shoreless Incomprehensible; in the heart of its tumultuous Appearances, Embroilments and mad Time-Vortexes, is there not silent, eternal, an All-just, an All-beautiful, sole Reality and ultimate controlling Power of the Whole? This is not a figure of speech; this is a fact. The fact of gravitation known to all animals is not surer than this inner Fact which may be known to all men. . . . . Rituals, Liturgies, Credos, Sinai Thunder ; I know more or less the history of these; the rise, progress, decline and fall of these. Can thunder from all the thirty-two Azimuths repeated daily for centuries of years make God's laws more godlike to me? Brother, no. Perhaps I am grown to be a man now, and do not need the thunder and the terror any longer : perhaps I am above being frightened ; perhaps it is not fear but Reverence alone that shall now lead me! Revelations, Inspirations? Yes, and thy own God-created Soul; dost thou not call that a revelation ? Who made thee? Where didst thou come from? The Voice of Eternity, if thou be not a blasphemer and poor asphyxied mute, speaks with that tongue of thine! Thou art the latest birth of nature; it is the Inspiration of the Almighty' that giveth thee understanding! my brother, my brother.”—(Past and Present, pp. 307-9.)
If any doubt could have remained as to the real meaning of all such utterances, and as to the real significance of the relation which Mr. Carlyle occupies to Christianity, it must at length have been sufficiently removed by the appearance of his Life of Sterling, which we have made the occasion of these remarks. To us, we will confess at once, that this book is a very mournful one—the most mournful we have read for many a day. It is not, perhaps, that after all Mr. Carlyle had previously written, we had any right to expect a different book. We now at least clearly enough see that we had no such right. And yet somehow we had expectations regarding it, which, in almost every respect, have been miserably disappointed. We are conscious of admiring Mr. Carlyle in some respects so genuinely, of honouring so heartily the fine and “rarely bestowed” gift of genius which God has given him; he has withal such a noble insight into Humanity in this nineteenth century, and such a warm and vigorous sympathy with its perplexities, its wrongs, and its miseries, that Sterling's Life.
371 we looked (the expectation had somehow laid itself so closely to our heart, that we now wonder at ourselves a little) to this book at last for some light to be thrown on the weltering chaossome breaking of day o'er the confused darkness in which he had hitherto delighted to dwell. The subject was one to encourage us in this expectation: the story of a life which had gone astray amid this same darkness and perplexity in which so many are now wandering-of one who had sought truth with a pure and earnest aim, and yet only found (if, indeed, he had been so far successful) some faint forecasts of it, when he departed to the eternal Silence. Here, if ever, was an opportunity of building on the broken fragments of such a life, some " sunny dome” of faith and hope for all weary travellers on the same pathway. For any other purpose than this the life was not worth recounting,-certainly not worth again recounting. If Sterling's career was not to teach us in our present imbroglio of faiths and superstitions some lesson of religion, then it had not, that we can see, any lesson at all to teach. It had better, with many others, have remained unwritten; or, at least, enough had been said and written about it. However vain, therefore, we may now see that our expectation was in the matter, we cannot yet think it was altogether unreasonable.
The significance which, in almost every quarter had been found to attach to the life of John Sterling, was a religious one. What save this could it be? In Literature,—undoubtedly gifted as he was, and full from the beginning of a certain bloom and rich promise, which yet never ripened, and did not seem to be greatly ripening - he had scarcely achieved for himself a name. He has left behind him nothing that will not soon be forgotten amid the endless article-writing and “ blotting of white paper" in our day. This Carlyle himself sees very well and acknowledges. Sterling's performance and real or seeming importance in this world,” he says, “ was actually not of a kind to demand an express Biography, even according to the world's usages. His character was not supremely original; neither was his fate in the world wonderful. What he did was inconsiderable enough; and as to what it lay in him to have done, this was but a problem now beyond possibility of settlement. Why had a Biography been inflicted on this man? why had not No-biography, and the privilege of all the weary, been his lot ?"
To which emphatic query he strangely enough replies by writing another biography of this man, and from what reason? From one just the very opposite of that which, in the feeling of so many, had alone imparted significance and interest to the life of Sterling. Because Archdeacon Hare bad viewed the life of his friend mainly in a religious light, and dwelt upon it perhaps somewhat exclusively in this light-for this reason, and to correct the false effects, as he believes, of the picture thus drawn, Mr. Carlyle has re-written his life. He and some correspondent (who seems, in a very marked sense, to be an alter ego—a Carlyle the second,) do not hesitate, in fact, to express considerable indignation at the misrepresentations in which they conceive the figure of Sterling to stand in the Memoir of the Archdeacon. He appears to them to be treated in it merely as a clergyman, in which capacity he only acted for eight months, and the relations of which were, in no degree, the most important of his life. “A pale sickly shadow in torn surplice," writes this correspondent, " is presented to us here, weltering, bewildered amid heaps of what you call Hebrew Old-clothes : wrestling with impotent impetuosity to free itself from the baleful imbroglio, as if that had been its one function in life; who, in this miserable figure, would recognise the brilliant, beautiful, and cheerful John Sterling, with his ever-flowing wealth of ideas, fancies, imaginations; with his frank affections, inexhaustible hopes, audacities, activities, and general radiant vivacity of heart and intelligence, which made the presence of him an illumination and inspiration wherever he went? It is too bad. Let a man be honestly forgotten when his life ends; but let him not be misremembered in this way. To be hung up as an eeclesiastical scarecrow, as a target for heterodox and orthodox to practise archery upon, is no fate that can be due to the memory of Sterling. It was not as a ghastly phantasm, choked in Thirty-ninearticle controversies, or miserable Semitic, Anti-semitic streetriots, in scepticisms, agonized self-seekings, that this man appeared in life.”—(P. 6.)
Now while it is no special concern of ours to defend Archdeacon Hare's portrait of his friend, we have no hesitation in saying that he appears to us,— with all the evidence now before us,- to have apprehended and rendered the real meaning of Sterling's life, upon the whole, more truly than Mr. Carlyle. In the present biography we no doubt see Sterling in a more varied and complete light-generally, indeed, in a quite different light; yet all the obvious efforts of Mr. Carlyle to crush the matter out of sight, fail to convince us that the religious phase of Sterling's career was not, for others at least, the most significant and noteworthy through which he passed. If it did not possess all the importance which it assumes in Hare's memoir, it was yet the most important feature claiming public attention. It was the point of view especially from which those beyond the mere circle of Sterling's companionship felt that his life had any peculiar interest for them. It very naturally, therefore, assumed the prominence it did in the hands of the Archdeacon, although