페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors]

the resolute determination to recognize nobleness under all disguises, which pervade this book, render it one of the best that can be put into the hands of young men.

In Past and Present, Carlyle reads a lesson to his generation from an episode in the history of the twelfth century. There exists, in monkish Latin, an account, written by "Jocelin of Brakelond," monk in the convent of St. Edmundsbury, Suffolk, of Samson, who was first monk and then abbot of the convent. This Samson was a highly remarkable man, and Jocelin, who knew him personally for many years, describes his appearance, his mishaps, his election to be abbot, his difficulties and ultimate success in managing the convent. Seen in the watery mirror of Jocelin's Latin, Samson had for ages been known to a few, and but a few. Jocelin's chronicle, edited for the Camden Society, came into Mr. Carlyle's hands, and once more Samson looks forth upon all the world as if in the lineaments of life. We know him henceforward as we do our familiar friends. His dream, at nine years old, of having been saved from Satan by St. Edmund, which caused his mother to take him, like another Samuel, to ihe convent; his journey to Italy on a mission from Abbot Hugo, which mission he executed with exemplary diligence and fidelity; his punishment by way of thanks when he returned; his wary, sagacious, vigilant conduct while the evil days of Abbot Hugo continued; his election to succeed old Hugo by the St. Edmundsbury monks in presence of King Henry II.; his troubles and consolations and final triumph as Abbot, are all set vividly before us. "A personable man of seven-and-forty," he is first introduced to us; "stout-made, stands erect as a pillar; with bushy eyebrows, the eyes of him beaming into you in a really strange way; the face massive, grave, with 'a very eminent nose;' his head al . most bald, its auburn remnants of hair, and the copious ruddy beard, getting slightly streaked with gray. This is Brother Samson; a man worth looking at." The scene in which he lived, the convent and the town adjoining, are thus made visible by Carlyle:

St. Edmundsbury.

Indisputable, though very dim to modern vision, rests on its hill-slope that same Bury, stow, or town of St. Edmund; already a considerable place, not without traffic, nay, manufactures, would Jocelin only tell us what . Jocelin is totally careless of telling: but, through dim fitful apertures, we can see Fullonet, "Fullers," see cloth-making; looms dimly going, dyevats, and old women spinning yarn. We have Fairs, too, Nundinoz, in due course; and the Londoners give us much trouble, pretending that they, ns a metropolitan people, are exempt from toll. Besides there is field-husbandry, with perplexed settlement of Convent rents; corn-ricks pile themselves within burgh, in their season; and cattle depart and enter; and even the poor weaver has his cow—" dung-heaps" lie quietly at most doors (ante foras, says the incidental Jocelin), for the town has yet no improved police. Watch and ward, nevertheless, we do keep, and have gates —as what town must not? thieves so abounding; war, icerra, such a frequent thing! Our thieves, at the Abbot's judgment - bar, deny; claim wager of battle; fight, arc beaten, and then hanged. "Kctcl, the thief," took this course; and it did nothing for him—merely brought us, and indeed himself, new trouble!

Every way a most foreign time. What difficulty, for example, has our Cetlerarius to collect the repselver, "reaping silver," or penny, which each householder is by law bound to pay for cutting down the Convent grain! Richer people pretend that it is commuted, that it is this and the other; that, in short, they will not pay it. Our Cellerariut gives up calling on the rich. In the houses of the poor, our Cellerarius finding, in like manner, neither penny nor good promise, snatches, without ceremony, what vadium (pledge, tcad) he can come at: a joint-stool, kettle, nay, the very house-door, "hostium;" and old women, thus exposed to the unfeeling gaze of the public, rush out after him with their distaffs and the angriest shrieks: "vetulce exibant cum eolis suis," says Jocelin, "minantes et aprobrantet."

What a historical picture, glowing visible, as St. Edmund's Shrine by night, after seven long centuries or so! Velula cum colis: my venerable ancient spinning grandmothers—ah! and ye, too, have to shriek, and rush out with your distaffs; and become female Chartists, and scold all evening with void door-way—and in old Saxon, as we in modern, would fain demand some Five-point Charter, could it be fallen in with, the earth being

[merged small][ocr errors]

too tyrannous! Wise Lord Abbots, hearing of such phenomena, did in time abolish or commute the reap-penny, and one nuisance was abated. But the image of these justly offended old women, in their old wool costumes, with their angry features, and spindles brandished, lives forever in the historical memory.

With admirable breadth and marvellous picturesqueness the England of the period is placed before us.

England In The Twelfth Century.

How much is still alive in England; how much has not yet come into Iife! A Feudal Aristocracy is still alive, in the prime of life; superintending the cultivation of the land, and less consciously, the distribution of the produce of the land; judging, soldiering, adjusting; everywhere governing the people—so that even a Gurth born thrall of Cedric lacks not his due parings of the pigs he tends. Governing ;—and, alas! also game-preserving, so that a Robert Hood, a William Scarlet, and others, have, in these days, put on Lincoln coats, and taken to living, in some universal-suffrage manner, under the greenwood tree!

How silent, on the other hand, lie all cotton-trades and such-like; not a steeple-chimney yet got on end from sea to sea! North of the Humber, a stern Wilelmus Conquestor bumed the country, finding it unruly, into very stern repose. Wild fowl scream in those ancient silences, wild cattle roam in those ancient solitudes; the scanty sulky Norse-bred population all coerced into silence, feeling that, under these new Norman governors, their history has probably as good as ended. Men and Northumbrian Norse populations know little what has ended, what is beginning! The Kibble and the Aire roll down, as yet unpolluted by dyers' chemistry; tenanted by merry trouts and piscatory otters; the sunbeam and the vacant wind's-blast alone traversing those moors. Side by side sleep the coal-strata and the iron-strata for so many ages; no steam-demon has yet risen smoking into being. St. Mungo rules in Glasgow; James Watt still slumbering in the deep of time. Mancunium, Manceaster, what we now call Manchester, spins no cotton—if it be not wool " cottons," clipped from the backs of mountain sheep. The Creek of the Mersey gurgles, twice in the four-and-twenty hours, with eddying brine, clangorous with sea-fowl; and is a Lilher-pool, a lazy or sullen pool, no monstrous pitchy city, and sea-haven of the world! The centuries are big; and the birth - hour is coming, not yet come.

The main lesson of Abbot Samson's history, as read by Carlyle, is that the one essential thing, in order that men may be well governed and that institutions may prosper, is the discovery of fit men to rule the one and administer the other. Search out your heroes, he said to his contemporaries, if you have any among you, and set them, as Abbot Samson was set, to do the work of governing. Do not ask how many acres a man has, or how many guineas he has, or how long a pedigree he has, but whether there is heroic manhood, heroic valor, and worth, and insight, and energy in him, and if you find there is, put him in the seat of the governor.

CHAPTER VI.

HIS II ERO-WORSHIP.

X HAVE pledged myself to avoid deep discussion in these after-dinner talks, and taken leave to indulge my admiration rather than to assume the strut and sneer of censorship; but we have now arrived at a stage in the literary history of Carlyle at which it is impossible for me to avoid saying that there is much in his teaching on hero-worship to which I cannot assent. To the best of my recollection, I never, at the time of my hottest youthful enthusiasm for Carlyle, had any doubt that on this point he was in serious error; and the first thing in shape of a book that I published contained reasonings against Carlylian hero-worship, the soundness of which has seemed to me to be attested by the observation and experience of every year I have lived since then.

I beg the reader to note that, in objecting to hero-worship, I not only do not disparage great men—I not only admit the supreme importance, in all practical undertakings, of getting the right man into the right place—I not only believe that, unless institutions are souled by earnest and capable men, they have no more chance of prosperous and beneficent activity than dead bodies have of climbing mountains—but I specify, as one essential and weighty part of my contention, that heroworship obscures and neutralizes the value of the heroes who are worshipped. Hero-worship a. poet, and you make him a fantastic fool. Hero-worship a warrior, and he becomes, in the old Greek sense, a tyrant. Of course I am not imagining that Carlyle proposes actual worship to be rendered by man to man; but it is no imagination that he attaches a mystical

« 이전계속 »