Hugh Miller: Leading Articles (4)

Home Up Autobiography First Impressions Scenes and Legends Tales and Sketches The Betsey Miscellanea Site Search Main Index


[Previous Page]

――― ♦ ―――

THE reader must have often remarked, in catalogues of the writings of great authors—such as Dr. Johnson, and the Rev. John Cumming, of the Scotch Church, London—that while some of the pieces are described as acknowledged, the genuineness of others is determined merely by internal evidence.  We know, for instance, that the Doctor wrote the English Dictionary, not only because no other man in the world at the time could have written it, but also because he affixed his name to the title-page.  We know, too, that he wrote some of the best of Lord Chatham's earlier speeches, just because he said so, and pointed out the very garret in Fleet Street in which they had been written.  But it is from other data we conclude that, during his period of obscurity and distress, he wrote prefaces for the Gentleman's Magazine, for some six or seven years together,—data derived exclusively from a discriminating criticism; and his claim to the authorship of Taylor's Sermons rests solely on the vigorous character of the thinking displayed in these compositions, and the marked peculiarities of their style.  Now, in exactly the same way in which we know that Johnson wrote the speeches and the Dictionary, do we know that the Rev. John Cumming drew up an introductory essay to the liturgy of a Church that never knew of a liturgy, and that he occasionally contributes tales to morocco annuals, wonderful enough to excite the astonishment of ordinary readers.  To these compositions he affixes his name,—a thing very few men would have the courage to do; and thus are we assured of their authorship.  But there are other compositions to which he does not affix his name, and it is from internal evidence alone that these can be adjudged to him: it is from internal evidence alone, for instance, that we can conclude him to be the author of the article on the Scottish Church question which has appeared in Fraser's Magazine for the present month.

    May we crave leave to direct the attention of the reader for a very few minutes to the grounds on which we decide?   It is of importance, as Johnson says of Pope, that no part of so great a writer should be suffered to be lost, and a little harmless criticism may have the effect of sharpening the faculties.

    There is a class of Scottish ministers in the present day, who, though they detest show and coxcombry, have yet a very decided leaning to the picturesque ceremonies of the Episcopal Church.  They never weary of apologizing to our southern neighbours for what they term the baldness of our Presbyterian ritual, or in complaining of it to ourselves.  It was no later than last Sunday that Dr. Muir sorrowed in his lecture over the 'stinted arrangement in the Presbyterian service, that admits of no audible response from the people;' and all his genteeler hearers, sympathizing with the worthy man, felt how pleasant a thing it would be were the congregation permitted to do for him in the church what the Rev. Mr. Macfarlane, erst of Stockbridge, does for him in the presbytery.  Corporal Trim began one of his stories on one occasion, by declaring 'that there was once an unfortunate king of Bohemia;' and when Uncle Toby, interrupting him with a sigh, exclaimed, 'Ah, Corporal Trim, and was he unfortunate?'  'Yes, your honour,' readily replied Trim; 'he had a great love of ships and seaports, and yet, as your honour knows, there was ne'er a ship nor a seaport in all his dominions.'  Now this semi-Episcopalian class are unfortunate after the manner of the king of Bohemia.  The objects of their desire lie far beyond the Presbyterian territories.  They are restricted to one pulpit, they are limited to one dress; they have actually to read and preach from the same footboard; they are prohibited the glories of white muslin; liturgy have they none.  No audible responses arise from the congregation; the precentor is silent, save when he sings; their churches are organless; and though they set themselves painfully to establish their claim to the succession apostolical, the Hon. Mr. Percevals of the Church which they love and admire see no proof in their evidence, and look down upon them as the mere preaching laymen of a sectarian corporation.

    Thrice unfortunate men!  What were the unhappinesses of the king of Bohemia, compared with the sorrows of these humble but rejected followers of Episcopacy!

    Now, among this highly respectable but unhappy class, the Rev. John Cumming, of the Scotch Church, London, stands pre-eminent.  So grieved was Queen Mary of England by the loss of Calais, that she alleged the very name of the place would be found written on her heart after her death.  The words that have the best chance of being found inscribed on the heart of the Rev. Mr. Cumming are, bishop, liturgy, apostolical succession, burial service, organ, and surplice.  The ideas attached to these vocables pervade his whole style, and form from their continual recurrence a characteristic portion of it.  They tumble up and down in his mind like the pieces of painted glass in a kaleidoscope, and present themselves in new combinations at every turn.  His last acknowledged composition was a wonderful tale which appeared in the Protestant Annual for the present year, and—strange subject for such a writer—it purported to be a Tale of the Covenant.  Honest Peter Walker had told the same story, that of John Brown of Priesthill, about a century and a half ago; but there had been much left for Mr. Cumming to discover in it of which the poor pedlar does not seem to have had the most distant conception.

    Little did Peter know that John Brown's favourite minister 'held the sacred and apostolical succession of the Scottish priesthood.'  Little would he have thought of apologizing to the English reader for 'the antique and ballad verses' of our metrical version of the Psalms.  Indeed, so devoid was he of learning, that he could scarce have valued at a sufficiently high rate the doctrines of Oxford; and so little gifted with taste, that he would have probably failed to appreciate the sublimities of Brady and Tate.  Nor could Peter have known that the 'liturgy of the heart' was in the Covenanter's cottage, and that the 'litany' of the spirit breathed from his evening devotions.  But it is all known to the Rev. Mr. Cumming.  He knows, too, that there were sufferings and privations endured by the persecuted Presbyterians of those days, of which writers of less ingenuity have no adequate conception; that they were forced to the wild hill-sides, where they could have no 'organs,' and compelled to bury their dead without the solemnities of the funeral service.  Unhappy Covenanters!  It is only now that your descendants are beginning to learn the extent of your miseries.  Would that it had been your lot to live in the days of the Rev. John Cumming of the Scottish Church, London!

    He would assuredly have procured for you the music-box of some wandering Italian, and gone away with you to the wilds to mingle exquisite melody with your devotions, qualifying with the sweetness of his tones the 'antique and ballad' rudeness of your psalms; nor would he have failed to furnish you with a liturgy, by means of which you could have interred your dead in decency.  Had such been the arrangement, no after writer could have remarked, as the Rev. Mr. Cumming does now, that no 'pealing organ' mingled 'its harmony of bass, tenor, treble, and soprano' when you sung, or have recorded the atrocious fact, that not only was John Brown of Priesthill shot by Claverhouse, but actually buried by his friends without the funeral service.  And how striking and affecting an incident would it not form in the history of the persecution, could it now be told, that when surprised by the dragoons, the good Mr. Cumming fled over hill and hollow with the box on his back, turning the handle as he went, and urging his limbs to their utmost speed, lest the Episcopalian soldiery should bring him back and make him a bishop!

    It is partly from the more than semi-Episcopalian character of this gentleman's opinions, partly from the inimitable felicities of his style, and partly from one or two peculiar incidents in his history which lead to a particular tone of remark, that we infer him to be the writer of the article in Fraser.

    We may be of course mistaken, but the internal evidence seems wonderfully strong.  The Rev. Mr. Cumming, though emphatically powerful in declamation, has never practised argument,—a mean and undignified art, which he leaves to men such as Mr. Cunningham, just as the genteel leave the art of boxing to the commonalty; and in grappling lately with a strong-boned Irish Presbyterian, skilful of fence, he caught, as gentlemen sometimes do, a severe fall, and began straightway to characterize Irish Presbyterians as a set of men very inferior indeed.  Now the writer in Fraser has a fling á la Cumming at the Irish Presbyterians.  Popular election has, it seems, done marvellously little for them; with very few exceptions, their 'ministry' is neither 'erudite, influential, nor accomplished,' and their Church 'exhibits the symptoms of heart disease.'  Depend on it, some stout Irish Presbyterian has entailed the shame of defeat on the writer in Fraser.  Mr. Cumming, in his tale, adverts to the majority of the Scottish Church as 'radical subverters of Church and State, who claim the Covenanters as precedents for a course of conduct from which the dignified Henderson, the renowned Gillespie, the learnèd Binning, the laborious Denham, the heavenly-minded Rutherford, the religious Wellwood, the zealous Cameron, and the prayerful Peden, would have revolted in horror.'  The writer of the article brings out exactly the same sentiment, though not quite so decidedly, in what Meg Dodds would have termed a grand style of language.  At no time, he asserts, did non-intrusion exist in the sense now contended for in Scotland; at no time might not qualified ministers be thrust upon reclaiming parishes by the presbytery: and as for the vetoists, they are but wild radicals, who are to be 'classified by the good sense of England with those luminaries of the age, Dan O'Connell, John Frost, and others of that ilk.'  In the article there is a complaint that our majority are miserably unacquainted with Scottish ecclesiastical history; and there is special mention made of Mr. Cunningham as an individual not only ignorant of facts, but as even incapable of being made to feel their force.  In the Annual, as if Mr. Cumming wished to exemplify, there is a passage in Scottish ecclesiastical history, of which we are certain Mr. Cunningham not only knows nothing, but which we are sure he will prove too obstinate to credit or comprehend.  'The celebrated Mr. Cameron,' says the minister of the Scottish Church, London, 'was left on Drumclog a mangled corpse.'  Fine thing to be minutely acquainted with ecclesiastical history!  We illiterate non-intrusionists hold, and we are afraid Mr. Cunningham among the rest, that the celebrated Cameron was killed, not at the skirmish of Drumclog, but at the skirmish of Airdmoss, which did not take place until about a twelvemonth after; but this must result surely from our ignorance.  Has the Rev. Mr. Cumming no intention of settling our disputes, by giving us a new history of the Church?

    That portion of the internal evidence in the article before us which depends on style and manner, seems very conclusive indeed.  Take some of the avowed sublimities of the Rev. Mr. Cumming.  No man stands more beautifully on tiptoe when he sets himself to catch a fine thought.  In describing an attached congregation, 'The hearer's prayers rose to heaven,' he says, 'and returned in the shape of broad impenetrable bucklers around the venerable man.  A thousand broadswords leapt in a thousand scabbards, as if the electric eloquence of the minister found in them conductors and depositories.'

    Poetry such as this is still somewhat rare; but mark the kindred beauties of the writer in Fraser.  Around such men as Mr. Tait, Dr. M'Leod, and Dr. Muir, 'must crystallize the piety and the hopes of the Scottish Church.'  What a superb figure!  Only think of the Rev. Dr, Muir as of a thread in a piece of sugar candy, and the piety of the Dean of Faculty and Mr. Penney, joined to that of some four or five hundred respectable ladies of both sexes besides, all sticking out around him in cubes, hexagons, and prisms, like cleft almonds in a bishop-cake.  Hardly inferior in the figurative is the passage which follows: 'The Doctor (Dr. Chalmers) rides on at a rickety trot,—Messrs. Cunningham, Begg, and Candlish by turns whipping up the wornout Rosenante, and making the rider believe that windmills are Church principles, and the echoes of their thunder solid argument.  A ditch will come; and when the first effects of the fall are over, the dumbfounded Professor will awake to the deception, and smite the minnows of vetoism hip and thigh.'  The writer of this passage is unquestionably an ingenious man, but he could surely have made a little more of the last figure.  A dissertation on the hips and thighs of minnows might be made to reflect new honour on even the genius of the Rev. Mr. Cumming.

    It is mainly, however, from the Episcopalian tone of the article that we derive our evidence.  The writer seems to hold, with Charles II., that Presbyterianism is no fit religion for a gentleman.  True, the Moderates were genteel men, of polish and propriety, such as Mr. Jaffray of Dunbar, who never at synod or presbytery did or said anything that was not strictly polite; but then the Moderates had but little of Presbyterianism in their religion, and perhaps, notwithstanding their 'quiet, amiable, and courteous demeanour,' little of religion itself.  It is to quite a different class that the hope of the writer turns.  He states that 'melancholy facts and strong arguments against the practical working of Presbytery is at this moment impressing itself in Scotland on every unprejudiced spectator;' that there is a party, however, 'with whom the ministerial office is a sacred investiture, transmitted by succession through pastor to pastor, and from age to age,—men inducted to their respective parishes, not because their flocks like or dislike them, but because the superintending authorities, after the exercise of solemn, minute, and patient investigation, have determined that this or that pastor is the fittest and best for this or that parish;' that there exist in this noble party 'the germs of a possible unity with the southern Church;' and that there is doubtless a time coming when the body of our Establishment, 'sick of slavery under the name of freedom, and of sheer Popery under Presbyterian colours, shall send up three of their best men to London for consecration, and Episcopacy shall again become the adoption of Scotland.'  Rarely has the imagination of the poet conjured up a vision of greater splendour.  The minister of the Scotch Church, London, may die Archbishop of St. Andrews.  And such an archbishop!  We are told in the article that 'the channel' along which ministerial orders are to be transmitted is the pastors of the Church, whether they meet together in the presbytery, or are compressed and consolidated in the bishop.'  But is not this understating the case on the Episcopal side?  What would not Scotland gain if she could compress and consolidate a simple presbytery, such as that of Edinburgh—its Chalmers and its Gordon, its Candlish and its Cunningham, its Guthrie, its Brown, its Bennie, its Begg—in short, all its numerous members—into one great Bishop John Cumming, late of the Scotch Church, London!  The man who converts twenty-one shillings into a gold guinea gains nothing by the process; but the case would be essentially different here, for not only would there be a great good accomplished, but also a great evil removed.  As for Dr. Chalmers, it is 'painfully evident,' says the writer of the article, 'that he regards only three things additional to a "supernal influence" as requisite to constitute any one a minister—a knowledge of Christianity, and endowment, and a parish;' and as for the rest of the gentlemen named, they are just preparing to do, in an 'ecclesiastical way in Edinburgh, what Robespierre, Marat, and others did in a corporal way in the Convention of 1793.'

    Hogarth quarrelled with Churchill, and drew him as a bear in canonicals.  Had he lived to quarrel with the Rev. John Cumming, he would in all probability have drawn him as a puppy in gown and band; and no one who knows aught of the painter can doubt that he would have strikingly preserved the likeness.  As for ourselves, we merely indulge in a piece of conjectural criticism.  The other parts of the article are cast very much into the ordinary type of that side of the controversy to which it belongs: there is rather more than the usual amount of misrepresentation, inconsistency, and abuse, with here and there a peculiarity of statement.  Patrons are described as the 'trustees of the supreme magistrate, beautifully and devoutly appointed to submit the presentee to the presbytery.'  Lord Aberdeen's bill is eulogized as suited to 'confer a greater boon on the laity of Scotland than was ever conferred on them by the General Assembly.'  The seven clergymen of Strathbogie are praised for 'having rendered unto God the things that are God's,' 'their enemies being judges.'

    The minority of the Church contains, it is stated, its best men, and its most diligent ministers.  As for the majority, they have been possessed by a spirit of 'deep delusion;' their only idea of a 'clergyman is a preaching machine, that makes a prodigious vociferation, and pleases the herd.'  They are destined to become 'contemptible and base;' their attitude is an 'unrighteous attitude;' they are aiming, 'like Popish priests,' at 'supremacy' and a deadly despotism; through the sides of the people; they are 'suicidally divesting themselves of their power as clergymen, by surrendering to the people essentially Episcopal functions;' they are 'wild men,' and offenders against the 'divine headship;' and the writer holds, therefore, that if the Establishment is to be maintained in Scotland, they must be crushed, and that soon, by the strong arm of the law.  We need make no further remarks on the subject.  To employ one of the writer's own illustrations, the history of Robespierre powerfully demonstrates that great vanity, great weakness, and great cruelty, may all find room together :n one little mind.

March 10, 1842.

――― ♦ ―――


SIR,—Upon hearing read aloud your remarks [21] in the Witness of Saturday the 28th ultimo, upon the danger of investing the mere building in which we meet for public worship with a character of sanctity, an English gentleman asked, 'How does the writer of that article reconcile with his views our Saviour's conduct, described by St. John, ii. 14-17, and by each of the other evangelists?'

     Though quite disposed to agree with the purport of your remarks, and fully aware that the tendency of the opinions openly promulgated by a large section of the clergy of the Church of England is to give 'the Church' the place which should be occupied by a living and active faith in our Saviour, I found it difficult to meet this gentleman's objections, and only reminded him that you made a special exception in the case of the Jewish temple.  Brought up from childhood, as Englishmen are, with almost superstitious reverence for the buildings 'consecrated' and set apart for religious uses, it is difficult to meet objections founded on such strong prejudices as were evident in this case.

    If any arguments suggest themselves to you, to show that the passage above referred to cannot be fairly employed in the defence of the Church of England tenets, in favour of consecrating churches, and of reverence amounting almost to the worship of external objects devoted to religious purposes, you will oblige me by stating them.—I remain, Sir, Your obedient servant,                     A

    The passage of Scripture referred to by the 'English Gentleman' here as scarcely reconcilable with the views promulgated in the Witness of the 28th ult. runs as follows:—

'And Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money, sitting; and when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables ; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise.'

    It will perhaps be remembered by our readers, that in referring to the Scotch estimate of the sacredness of ecclesiastical edifices, we employed words to the following effect:—'We (the Scotch people) have been taught that the world, since it began, saw but two truly holy edifices; and that these, the Tabernacle and the Temple, were as direct revelations from God as the Scriptures themselves, and were as certain embodiments of His will, though they spoke in the obscure language of type and symbol.'  Now the passage of Scripture here cited is in harmonious accordance with this view.  It was from one of these truly holy edifices that our Saviour drove the sheep and oxen, and indignantly expelled the money-changers.  Without, however, begging the whole question at issue—without taking for granted the very point to be proven, i.e. the intrinsic holiness of Christian places of worship—the text has no bearing whatever on the view taken by the 'English Gentleman.'  If buildings such as York Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's, be holy in the sense in which the temple was holy, then the passage as certainly applies to them as it applied, in the times of our Saviour, to the sacred edifice which was so remarkable a revelation of Himself.  But where is the evidence of an intrinsic holiness in these buildings?  Where is the proof that the rite of consecration is a rite according to the mind of God?  Where is the probability even that it is other than a piece of mere will-worship, originated in the dark ages; or that it confers one whit more sanctity on the edifice which it professes to render sacred, than the breaking a bottle of wine on the ship's stem, when she is starting off the slips, confers sanctity on the ship?  Stands it on any surer ground than the baptism of bells, the sacrifice of the mass, or the five spurious sacraments?  If it be a New Testament institution, it must possess New Testament authority.  Where is that authority?

    Can it be possible, however, that the shrewd English really differ from us in our estimate?  We think we have good grounds for holding they do not.  On a late occasion we enjoyed the pleasure of visiting not only York Cathedral, but Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's, and saw quite enough to make even the least mistrustful suspect that the professed Episcopalian belief in the sacredness of ecclesiastical edifices is but sheer make-belief after all.  The 'English Gentleman' refers to the example of our Saviour in thrusting forth the money-changers from the temple, as a sort of proof that ecclesiastical edifices are holy; and we show that it merely proves the temple to have been holy.  The passage has, however, a direct bearing on a somewhat different point: it constitutes a test by which to try the reality of this ostensible belief of English Episcopalians in the sacredness of their churches and cathedrals.  If the English, especially English Churchmen, act with regard to their ecclesiastical buildings in the way our Saviour acted with regard to the temple, then it is but fair to hold that their belief in their sacredness is real.  But if, on the contrary, we find them acting, not as our Saviour acted, but as the money-changers or the cattle-sellers acted, then is it equally fair to conclude that their belief in their sacredness is not a real belief, but a piece of mere pretence.  In the north transept of York Minster there may be seen a table like a tomb of black Purbec marble, supported by an iron trellis, and bearing atop the effigy of a wasted corpse wrapped in a winding sheet.  'This monument,' says a little work descriptive of the edifice, 'was erected to the memory of John Haxby, formerly treasurer to the church, who died in 1424; and in compliance with stipulations in some of the ancient church deeds and settlements, occasional payments of money are made on this tomb to the present day.'  Here, at least, is one money-changing table introduced into the consecrated area, and this not irregularly or surreptitiously, like the money-changing tables which of old profaned the temple, but through the deliberately formed stipulations of ecclesiastical deeds and settlements.  The state of things in St. Paul's and Westminster, however, throws the money-table of York Minster far into the shade.  The holinesses of St. Paul's we found converted into a twopenny, and those of Westminster into a sixpenny show.  For the small sum of twopence one may be admitted, at an English provincial fair, to see the old puppet exhibition of Punch and Judy, and of Solomon in all his glory; and for the small sum of twopence were we admitted, in like manner, to see St. Paul's, to see choir, communion-table, and grand altar, and everything else of peculiar sacredness within the edifice.  The holinesses of Westminster cost thrice as much, but were a good bargain notwithstanding.  Would English Churchmen permit, far less originate and insist in doggedly maintaining, so palpable a profanation, did they really believe their cathedrals to be holy?  The debased Jewish priesthood of the times of our Saviour suffered the money-changers to traffic unchallenged within the temple; but they did not convert the temple itself into a twopenny show: they did not make halfpence by exhibiting the table of shew-bread, the altar of incense, and the golden candlestick, nor lift up corners of the veil at the rate of a penny a peep.  It is worse than nonsense to hold that a belief in the sacredness of ecclesiastical buildings can co-exist with clerical practices of the kind we describe: the thing is a too palpable improbability; the text quoted by the Englishman is conclusive on the point.  Would any man in his senses now hold that the old Jewish priests really believed their temple to be holy, had they done, what they had decency enough not to do—converted it into a raree-show?  And are we not justified in applying to English Churchmen the rule which would be at once applied to Jewish priests?  The Presbyterians of Scotland do not deem their ecclesiastical edifices holy, but there are certain natural associations that throw a degree of solemnity over places in which men assemble to worship God; and in order that these may not be outraged, they never convert their churches into twopenny showboxes.  Practically, at least, the Scotch respect for decency goes a vast deal further than the English regard for what they profess, very insincerely it would seem, to hold sacred.

    We have said there is quite as little New Testament authority for consecrating a place of worship as for baptizing a bell; and if in the wrong, can of course be easily set right.  If the authority exists, it can be no difficult matter to produce it.  We would fain ask the reader to remark the striking difference which obtains between the Mosaic and the New Testament dispensations in all that regards the materialisms of their respective places of worship.  We find in the Pentateuch chapter after chapter occupied with the mechanism of the tabernacle.  The pattern given in the mount is as minutely described as any portion of the ceremonial law, and for exactly the same reason: the one as certainly as the other was 'a figure of things to come.'  How exceedingly minute, too, the description of the temple!  How very particular the narrative of its dedication!  The prayer of Solomon, Heaven-inspired for the occasion, forms an impressive chapter in the sacred record, that addresses itself to all time.  But when the old state of things had passed away,—when the material was relinquished for the spiritual, the shadow for the substance, the type for the antitype,—we hear no more of places of worship to which an intrinsic holiness attached, or of imposing rites of dedication.  Not in edifices deemed sacred was the gospel promulgated, so long as the gospel remained pure, but in 'hired houses' and 'upper rooms,' or 'river-sides, where prayer was wont to be made,' in chambers on the 'third loft,' often in the streets, often in the market-place, in the fields and by solitary waysides, on shipboard and by the sea-shore, 'in the midst of Mars Hill' at Athens, and, when persecution began to darken, amid the deep gloom of the sepulchral caverns of Rome.  The time had evidently come, referred to by the Saviour, when neither in the temple at Jerusalem, nor on the mountain deemed sacred by the Samaritans, was the Father to be worshipped; but all over the world, 'in spirit and in truth.'  Until Christianity had become corrupt, we do not hear even of ornate churches, far less of Christian altars, of an order of Christian priests, of the will-worship of consecration, or of the presumed holiness of insensate matter,—all unauthorized additions of man's making to a religion fast sinking at the time under a load of human inventions,—additions which were in no degree the more sacred, because filched, amid the darkness of superstition and error, from the abrogated Mosaic dispensation.  The following is, we believe, the first notice of fine Christian churches which occurs in history; we quote from the ecclesiastical work of Dr. Welsh, and deem the passage a significant one: 'From the beginning of the reign of Gallienus till the nineteenth year of Diocletian,' says the historian, 'the external tranquillity of the Church suffered no general interruption.  The Christians, with partial exceptions, were allowed the free exercise of their religion.  Under Diocletian open profession of the new faith was made even in the imperial household; nor did it prove a barrier to the highest honours and employments.  In this state of affairs the condition of the Church seemed in the highest degree prosperous.  Converts were multiplied throughout all the provinces of the empire; and the ancient churches proving insufficient for the accommodation of the increasing multitudes of worshippers, splendid edifices were erected in every city, which were filled with crowded congregations.  But with this outward appearance of success, the purity of faith and worship became gradually corrupted; and, still more, the vital spirit of religion suffered a melancholy decline.  Pride and ambition, emulation and strifes, hypocrisy and formality among the clergy, and superstitions and factions among the people, brought reproach on the Christian cause.  In these circumstances the judgments of the Lord were manifested, and the Church was visited with the severest persecution to which it ever yet had been subjected.'

    There are few more valuable chapters in Locke than the one in which he traces some of the gravest errors that infest human life to a false association of ideas.  But of all his illustrations, employed to exhibit in the true light this copious source of error, there is not one half so striking as that furnished by the false association which connects the holiness that can alone attach to the living and the immortal, with earth, mortar, and stone, pieces of mouldering serge, and bits of rotten wood.  Nearly one half of the errors with which Popery has darkened and overlaid the religion of the Cross, have originated in this particular species of false association.  The superstition of pilgrimages, with all its long catalogue of crime and suffering, inclusive of bloody wars, protracted for ages,—

                     'When men strayed far to seek
 In Golgotha Him dead who lives in heaven,'—

the idolatry of relics, so strangely revived on the Continent in our own times,—the allegorical will-worship embodied in stone and lime, which Puseyism is at present so busy in introducing into the Church of England, and which renders every ecclesiastical building a sort of apocryphal temple, full, like the apocryphal books, of all manner of error and nonsense,—a thousand other absurdities and heterodoxies besides,—have all originated in this cause.  True, such association is most natural to man, and, when of a purely secular character, harmless; nay, there are cases in which it may be even laudably indulged.  'When I find Tully confessing of himself,' says Johnson, 'that he could not forbear at Athens to visit the walks and houses which the old philosophers had frequented or inhabited, and recollect the reverence which every nation, civil and barbarous, has paid to the ground where merit has been buried, I am afraid to declare against the general voice of mankind, and am inclined to believe that this regard which we involuntarily pay to the meanest relique of a man great and illustrious, is intended as an incitement to labour, and an encouragement to expect the same renown if it be sought by the same virtues.'  We find nearly the same sentiment eloquently expounded in the Doctor's famous passage on Iona.  But there exists a grand distinction between natural feelings proper in their own place, and natural feelings permitted to enter the religious field, and vitiate the integrity of revelation.  It is from the natural alone in such cases that danger is to be apprehended; seeing that what is not according to the mental constitution of man, is of necessity at once unproductive and shortlived.  Let due weight be given to the associative feeling, in its proper sphere,—let it dispose us to invest with a quiet decency our places of worship,—let us, at all events, not convert them into secular counting-rooms or twopenny show-boxes; but let us also remember that natural association is not divine truth—that there attaches no holiness to slated roofs or stone walls—that under the New Testament dispensation men do not worship in temples, which, like the altar of old, sanctified the gift, but in mere places of shelter, that confer no sacredness on their services; and that the 'hour has come, and now is, when they that worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.'

April 15, 1846.

――― ♦ ―――

OUR last conveyed to our readers the mournful intelligence of the illness and death of the Rev. Alexander Stewart of Cromarty,—a man less known, perhaps, than any other of nearly equal calibre, or of a resembling exquisitiveness of mental faculty, which his country has ever produced, but whose sudden removal has, we find, created an impression far beyond the circle of even his occasional hearers, that the spirit which has passed away was one of the high cast which nature rarely produces, and that the consequent blank created in the existing phalanx of intellect is one which cannot be filled up.  Comparatively little as the deceased was known beyond his own immediate walk of duty or circle of acquaintanceship, it is yet felt by thousands, of whom the greater part knew of him merely at second-hand by the abiding impression which he had left on the minds of the others, that, according to the poet,

'A mighty spirit is eclipsed; a power
 Hath passed from day to darkness, to whose hour
 Of light no likeness is bequeathed—no name.'

The subject is one with which we can scarce trust ourselves.  There are no writings to which we can appeal, for Mr. Stewart has left none, or at least none suited to convey an adequate impression of his powers; and yet of nothing are we more thoroughly convinced, than that the originality and vigour of his thinking, and the singular vividness and force of his illustrations, added to a command of the principles of analogical reasoning, which even a Butler might have envied, entitled him to rank with the ablest and most extraordinary men of the age.  Coleridge was not more thoroughly original, nor could he impart to his pictures more vividness of colouring, or more decided strength of outline.  In glancing over our limited stock of idea, to note how we have come by it, we find that to two Scotchmen of the present century we stand more largely indebted than to any of their contemporaries, either at home or abroad.  More of their thinking has got into our mind than that of any of the others; and their images and illustrations recur to us more frequently.  And one of these is Thomas Chalmers; the other, Alexander Stewart.

    There is an order of intellect decidedly original in its cast, and of considerable power, to whom notwithstanding originality is dangerous.  Goldsmith, when he first entered on his literary career, found that all the good things on the side of truth had already been said; and that his good things, if he really desired to produce any, would require all to be said on the side of paradox and error.  'When I was a young man,' he states, in a passage which Johnson censured him for afterwards expunging, 'being anxious to distinguish myself, I was perpetually starting new propositions.  But I soon gave this over, for I found that generally what was new was false.'  Poor Edward Irving formed a melancholy illustration of this species of originality.  His stock of striking things on the side of truth was soon expended; notoriety had meanwhile become as essential to his comfort as ardent spirits to that of the dram-drinker, or his pernicious drug to that of the inveterate opium-eater; and so, to procure the supply of the unwholesome pabulum, without which he could not continue to exist, he launched into a perilous ocean of heterodoxy and extravagance, and made shipwreck of his faith.  His originality formed but the crooked wanderings of a journeyer who had forsaken the right way, and lost himself in the mazes of a doleful wilderness.  Not such the originality of the higher order of minds; not such, for instance, the originality of a Newton, of whom it has been well said by a distinguished French critic, that 'what province of thought soever he undertook, he was sure to change the ideas and opinions received by the rest of men.'  One of the most striking characteristics of Mr. Stewart's originality was the solidity of the truths which it always evolved.  His was not the ability of opening up new vistas in which all was unfamiliar, simply because the direction in which they led was one in which men's thought had no occasion to travel, and no business to perform.  It was, on the contrary, the greatly higher ability of enlarging, widening, and lengthening the avenues long before opened upon important truths, and, in consequence, enabling men to see new and unwonted objects in old, familiar directions.  That in which he excelled all men we ever knew, was the analogical faculty—the power of detecting and demonstrating occult resemblances.  He could read off as if by intuition—not by snatches and fragments, but as a consecutive whole—that older revelation of type and symbol which God first gave to man; and when privileged to listen to him, we have recognised, in the evident integrity of the reading, and the profound and consistent wisdom of what the record conveyed, a demonstration of the divinity of its origin, not less powerful and convincing than that to be found in any department of the Christian evidences yet opened up.  Compared with even the higher names in this department, we have felt under his ministry as if, when admitted to the company of some party of modern savans employed in deciphering a hieroglyphic-covered obelisk of the desert, and here successful in discovering the meaning of an insulated sign, and there of a detached symbol, we had been suddenly joined by some sage of the olden time, to whom the mysterious inscription was but a piece of common language written in a familiar alphabet, and who could read off fluently and as a whole what the others could but darkly and painfully guess at in detached and broken parts.

    To this singular power of tracing analogies there was added in Mr. Stewart an ability of originating the most vivid illustrations.  In some instances a single stroke produced a figure that swept across the subject-matter of his discourse like the image of a lantern on a wall; in others, he dwelt upon the picture produced, finishing it with stroke after stroke, until it filled the whole imagination, and sank deep into the memory.  We remember hearing him preach on one occasion on the return of the Jews, as a people, to Him whom they had rejected, and the effect which their sudden conversion could not fail to have on the unbelieving and Gentile world.  Suddenly his language, from its high level of eloquent simplicity, became at once that of metaphor: 'When Joseph,' he said, 'shall reveal himself to his brethren, the whole house of Pharaoh shall hear the weeping.'  Could there be an allusion of more classical beauty, or more finely charged with typical truth?  And yet such was one of the common and briefer exercises of the illustrative faculty in this gifted man.  On another occasion we heard him dwell on that vast profundity characteristic of the scriptural representations of God, which ever deepens and broadens the longer and the more thoroughly it is explored, until at length the student—struck at first by its expansiveness, but conceiving of it as if it were a mere measured expansiveness—finds that it partakes of the unlimited infinity of the divine nature itself.  Naturally and simply, as if growing out of the subject, like a green berry-covered misletoe on the mossy trunk of a reverend oak, there sprang up one of his more lengthened illustrations.  A child bred up in the interior of the country has been brought for the first time to the sea-shore, and carried out to the middle of one of the noble friths that indent so deeply our line of coast; and on his return he informs his father, with all a child's eagerness, of the wonderful expansiveness of the ocean which he has seen.  He went out, he tells, far amid the great waves and the rushing tides, till at length the huge hills seemed diminished into mere hummocks, and the wide land itself appeared along the waters but as a slim strip of blue.  And then when in mid-sea the sailors heaved the lead; and it went down, and down, and down, and the long line slipped swiftly away over the boat-edge coil after coil, till, ere the plummet rested on the ouse below, all was well-nigh expended.  And was it not the great sea, asks the boy, that was so vastly broad, and so profoundly deep?  Ah! my child, exclaims the father, you have not yet seen aught of its greatness,—you have sailed over merely one of its little arms.  Had it been out into the wide ocean that the seamen had carried you, you would have seen no shore, and you would have found no bottom.  In one rare quality of the orator, Mr. Stewart stood alone among his contemporaries.  Pope refers, in one of his satires, to a strange power of creating love and admiration by just 'touching the brink of all we hate;' and Burke, in some of his nobler passages, happily exemplifies the thing.  He intensified the effect of his burning eloquence by the employment of figures so homely, nay, almost so repulsive in themselves, that a man of lower powers who ventured their use would find them efficient merely in lowering his subject and ruining his cause.  We may refer, in illustration, to Burke's celebrated figure of the disembowelled bird, which occurs in his indignant denial that the character of the revolutionary French in aught resembled that of the English.  'We have not,' he says, 'been drawn and trussed, in order that we may be filled, like stuffed birds in a museum, with chaff and rags, and paltry blurred shreds of paper about the rights of man.' Into this perilous but singularly effective department, closed against even superior men, Mr. Stewart could enter safely and at will.  We heard him, scarce a twelvemonth since, deliver a discourse of singular power, on the sin-offering of the Jewish economy, as minutely particularized by the divine penman in Leviticus.  He described the slaughtered animal—foul with dust and blood—its throat gashed across—its entrails laid open—and steaming in its impurity to the sun, as it awaited the consuming fire, amid the uncleanness of ashes outside the camp,—a vile and horrid thing, which no one could see without experiencing emotions of disgust, nor touch without contracting defilement.  The picture appeared too painfully vivid, its introduction too little in accordance with the rules of a just taste.  It seemed a thing to be covered up, not exhibited.  But the master in this difficult walk well knew what he was doing.  'And that,' he said, as if pointing to the strongly-coloured picture he had just completed, 'and that is SIN.'  By one stroke the intended effect was produced, and the rising disgust and horror transferred from the revolting material image to the great moral evil.

    We had fondly hoped that for a man so singularly gifted, and who had but reached the ripe maturity of middle life, there remained important work yet to do.  He seemed peculiarly fitted, if but placed in a commanding sphere, for ministering to some of the intellectual wants, and for withstanding with singular efficiency some of the more perilous tendencies, of the religious world in the present day.  That Athenian thirst for the new so generally abroad, and which many have so unhappily satisfied with the unwholesome and the pernicious, he could satisfy with provision at once sound and novel.  And no man of the age had more thoroughly studied the prevailing theological errors of the time in their first insidious approaches, or could more skilfully indicate the exact point at which they diverge from the truth.  But his work on earth is for ever over; and the sense of bereavement is deepened by the reflection that, save in the memory of a few, he has left behind him no adequate impress of the powers of his understanding or of the fineness of his genius.  It is strange how much the lack of a single ingredient in a man's moral constitution—and that, too, an ingredient in itself of a low and vulgar cast—may affect one's whole destiny.  It was the grand defect of this gifted man, that that sentiment of self-esteem, which seems in many instances so absurd and ridiculous a thing, and which some, in their little wisdom, would so fain strike out from among the components of human character, was almost wholly awanting.  As the minister of an attached provincial congregation, a sense of duty led him to study much and deeply; and he poured forth viva voce his full volumed and many-sparkling tide of eloquent idea as freely and richly as the nightingale, unconscious of a listener, pours forth her melody in the shade.  But he could not be made to understand or believe, that what so impressed and delighted the privileged few who surrounded him was equally suited to impress and delight the many outside, or that he was fitted to speak through the press in tones which would compel the attention not merely of the religious, but also of the literary world.  And so his exquisitely-toned thinking perished like the music of the bygone years, has died with himself, or, we should perhaps rather say, has gone with him to that better land, where all those fruits of intellect that the human spirits of greatest calibre have in this world produced, must form but the comparatively meagre beginnings of infinite, never-ending acquirement.

    Mr. Stewart was one of the eminently excellent and loveable, and his entire character of the most transparent, childlike simplicity.  The great realities of eternity were never far distant from his thoughts.  Endowed with powers of humour at least equal to his other faculties, and a sense of the ludicrous singularly nice, he has often reminded us in his genial moments, when indulging most freely, of a happy child at play in the presence of its father.  Never was there an equal amount of wit more harmlessly indulged, or from which one could pass more directly or with less distraction to the contemplation of the matters which pertain to eternity.  And no one could be long in his company without having his thoughts turned towards that unseen world to which he has now passed, or without receiving emphatic testimony regarding that Divine Person who is the wisdom and the power of God.

    We have seen it stated that Mr. Stewart 'was slow to join the non-intrusion party, and to acquiesce in the necessity of the secession.'  On this point we are qualified to speak.  No one enjoyed more of his society during the first beginnings of the controversy, or was more largely honoured with his confidence, than the writer of these remarks; and the one point of difference between Mr. Stewart and him in their discussions in those days was, that while the writer was sanguine enough to anticipate a successful termination to the Church's struggle, his soberer anticipations were of a character which the Disruption in 1843 entirely verified.  But with the actual result full in view, he was yet the first man in his parish—we believe, in his presbytery also—to take his stand, modestly and unassumingly as became his character, but with a firmness which never once swerved or wavered.  Nay, long ere the struggle began, founding on data with which we pretend not to be acquainted, he declared his conviction to not a few of his parishioners, that of the Establishment, as then constituted, he was to be the last minister in that parish.  We know nothing, we repeat, of the data on which he founded; but he himself held that the conclusion was fairly deducible from those sacred oracles which no man more profoundly studied or more thoroughly knew.  Alas! what can it betoken our Church, that we should thus see such men, at once its strength and its ornament, so fast falling around us, like commanding officers picked down at the beginning of a battle, and that so few of resembling character, and none of at least equal power, should be rising to occupy the places made desolate by their fall!

November 13, 1847.

――― ♦ ―――

©Special Collections, Glasgow University Library.


Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was the first Moderator of the Free Church Assembly.  This Calotype is by D. O. Hill and Robert Adamson, and dates to 1844.—ED.

THERE are some two or three slight advantages which real merit has, that fictitious merit has not; among the rest, an especial advantage, which, we think, should recommend it to at least the quieter members of society—the advantage of being unobtrusive and modest.  It presses itself much less on public notice than its vagabond antagonist, and makes much less noise; it walks, for a time at least, as if slippered in felt, and leaves the lieges quite at freedom to take notice of it or no, as they may feel inclined.  It is content, in its infancy, to thrive in silence.  It does not squall in the nursery, to the disturbance of the whole house, like 'the major roaring for his porridge.'  What, for instance, could be quieter or more modest, in its first stages, than the invention of James Watt? what more obtrusive or noisy, on the contrary, than the invention of Mr. Henson?  And we have illustrations of the same truth in our Scottish metropolis at the present moment, that seem in no degree less striking.  Phreno-mesmerism and the calotype have been introduced to the Edinburgh public about much the same time; but how very differently have they fared hitherto!  A real invention, which bids fair to produce some of the greatest revolutions in the fine arts of which they have ever been the subject, has as yet attracted comparatively little notice; an invention which serves but to demonstrate that the present age, with all its boasted enlightenment, may yet not be very unfitted for the reception of superstitions the most irrational and gross, is largely occupying the attention of the community, and filling column after column in our public prints.  We shall venture to take up the quieter invention of the two as the genuine one,—as the invention which will occupy most space a century hence,—and direct the attention of our readers to some of the more striking phenomena which it illustrates, and some of the purposes which it may be yet made to subserve.  There are few lovers of art who have looked on the figures or landscapes of a camera obscura without forming the wish that, among the hidden secrets of matter, some means might be discovered for fixing and rendering them permanent.  If nature could be made her own limner, if by some magic art the reflection could be fixed upon the mirror, could the picture be other than true?  But the wish must have seemed an idle one,—a wish of nearly the same cast as those which all remember to have formed at one happy period of life, in connection with the famous cap and purse of the fairy tale.  Could aught seem less probable than that the forms of the external world should be made to convert the pencils of light which they emit into real bona fide pencils, and commence taking their own likenesses?  Improbable as the thing may have seemed, however, there were powers in nature of potency enough to effect it, and the newly discovered art of the photographer is simply the art of employing these.  The figures and landscapes of the camera obscura can now be fixed and rendered permanent,—not yet in all their various shades of colour, but in a style scarce less striking, and to which the limner, as if by anticipation, has already had recourse.  The connoisseur unacquainted with the results of the recent discovery, would decide, if shown a set of photographic impressions, that he had before him the carefully finished drawings in sepia of some great master.  The stronger lights, as in sketches done in this colour, present merely the white ground of the paper; a tinge of soft warm brown indicates the lights of lower tone; a deeper and still deeper tinge succeeds, shading by scarce perceptible degrees through all the various gradations, until the darker shades concentrate into an opaque and dingy umber, that almost rivals black in its intensity.  We have at the present moment before us—and very wonderful things they certainly are—drawings on which a human pencil was never employed.  They are strangely suggestive of the capabilities of the art.  Here, for instance, is a scene in George Street,—part of the pavement; and a line of buildings, from the stately erection at the corner of Hanover Street, with its proud Corinthian columns and rich cornice, to Melville's Monument and the houses which form the eastern side of St. Andrew Square.  St. Andrew's Church rises in the middle distance.  The drawing is truth itself; but there are cases in which mere truth might be no great merit: were the truth restricted here to the proportions of the architecture, there could be nothing gained by surveying the transcript, that could not be gained by surveying the originals.  In this little brown drawing, however, the truth is truth according to the rules of lineal perspective, unerringly deduced; and from a set of similar drawings, this art of perspective, so important to the artist —which has been so variously taught, and in which so many masters have failed—could be more surely acquired than by any other means.  Of all the many treatises yet written on the subject, one of the best was produced by the celebrated Ferguson the astronomer, the sole fruit derived to the fine arts by his twenty years' application to painting.  There are, however, some of his rules arbitrary in their application, and the propriety of which he has not even attempted to demonstrate.  Here, for the first time, on this square of paper, have we the data on which perspective may be rendered a certain science.  We have but to apply our compasses and rules in order to discover the proportions in which, according to their distances, objects diminish.  Mark these columns, for instance.  One line prolonged in the line of their architrave, and another line prolonged in the line of their bases, bisect one another in the point of sight fixed in the distant horizon; and in this one important point we find all the other parallel lines of the building converging.  The fact, though unknown to the ancients, has been long familiar to the artists of comparatively modern times,—so familiar, indeed, that it forms one of the first lessons of the drawing-master.  The rule is a fixed one; but there is another rule equally important, not yet fixed,—that rule of proportion by which to determine the breadth which a certain extent of frontage between these converging lines should occupy.  The principle on which the horizontal lines converge is already known, but the principle on which the vertical lines cut these at certain determinate distances is not yet known.  It is easy taking the latitudes of the art, if we may so speak, but its longitudes are still to discover.  At length, however, have we the lines of discovery indicated: in the architectural drawings of the calotype the perspective is that of nature itself; and to arrive at just conclusions, we have but to measure and compare, and ascertain proportions.  One result of the discovery of the calotype will be, we doubt not, the production of completer treatises on perspective than have yet been given to the world.  Another very curious result will be, in all probability, a new mode of design for the purposes of the engraver, especially for all the illustrations of books.  For a large class of works the labours of the artist bid fair to be restricted to the composition of tableaux vivants, which it will be the part of the photographer to fix, and then transfer to the engraver.  To persons of artistical skill at a distance, the suggestion may appear somewhat wild.  Such of our readers, however, as have seen the joint productions of Mr. Hill and Mr. Adamson in this department, will, we are convinced, not deem it wild in the least.  Compared with the mediocre prints of nine-tenths of the illustrated works now issuing from the press, these productions serve admirably to show how immense the distance between nature and her less skilful imitators.  There is a truth, breadth, and power about them which we find in only the highest walks of art, and not often even in these.  We have placed a head of Dr. Chalmers taken in this way beside one of the most powerful prints of him yet given to the public, and find from the contrast that the latter, with all its power, is but a mere approximation.  There is a skinniness about the lips which is not true to nature, the chin is not brought strongly enough out; the shade beneath the under lip is too broad and too flat; the nose droops, and lacks the firm-set appearance so characteristic of the original; and while the breadth of the forehead is exaggerated, there is scarce justice done to its height.  We decide at once in favour of the calotype—it is truth itself; and yet, while the design of the print—a mere approximation as it is—must have cost a man of genius much pains and study, the drawing in brown beside it was but the work of a few seconds: the eye of an accomplished artist determined the attitude of the original, and the light reflected from the form and features accomplished the rest.  Were that sketch in brown to be sent to a skilful engraver, he would render it the groundwork of by far the most faithful print which the public has yet seen.  And how interesting to have bound up with the writings of this distinguished divine, not a mere print in which there might be deviations from the truth, but the calotype drawing itself!  In some future book sale, copies of the Astronomical Discourses with calotype heads of the author prefixed, may be found to bear very high prices indeed.  An autograph of Shakespeare has been sold of late for considerably more than an hundred guineas.  What price would some early edition of his works bear, with his likeness in calotype fronting the title?  Corporations and colleges, nay, courts and governments, would outbid one another in the purchase.  Or what would we not give to be permitted to look even on a copy of the Paradise Lost with a calotype portrait of the poet in front—serenely placid in blindness and adversity, solacing himself, with upturned though sightless eyes, amid the sublime visions of the ideal world?  How deep the interest which would attach to a copy of Clarendon's History of the Civil War, with calotypes of all the more remarkable personages who figured in that very remarkable time—Charles, Cromwell, Laud, Henderson, Hampden, Strafford, Falkland, and Selden,—and with these the Wallers and Miltons and Cowleys, their contemporaries and coadjutors!  The history of the Reform Bill could still be illustrated after this manner; so also could the history of Roman Catholic Emancipation in Ireland, and the history of our Church Question in Scotland.  Even in this department—the department of historic illustrations—we anticipate much and interesting employment for the photographer.

    We have two well-marked drawings before us, in which we recognise the capabilities of the art for producing pictures of composition.  They are tableaux vivants transferred by the calotype.  In the one [22] a bonneted mechanic rests over his mallet on a tombstone—his one arm bared above his elbow; the other wrapped up in the well-indicated shirt folds, and resting on a piece of grotesque sculpture.  There is a powerful sun; the somewhat rigid folds in the dress of coarse stuff are well marked; one half the face is in deep shade, the other in strong light; the churchyard wall throws a broad shadow behind, while in the foreground there is a gracefully chequered breadth of intermingled dark and light in the form of a mass of rank grass and foliage.  Had an old thin man of striking figure and features been selected, and some study-worn scholar introduced in front of him, the result would have been a design ready for the engraver when employed in illustrating the Old Mortality of Sir Walter.  The other drawing presents a tableau vivant on a larger scale, and of a much deeper interest.  It forms one of the groups taken under the eye of Mr. Hill, as materials for the composition of his historic picture.  In the centre Dr. Chalmers sits on the Moderator's chair, and there are grouped round him, as on the platform, some eighteen or twenty of the better known members of the Church, clerical and lay.   Nothing can be more admirable than the truthfulness and ease of the figures.  Wilkie, in his representations of a crowd, excelled in introducing heads, and hands, and faces, and parts of faces into the interstices behind,—one of the greatest difficulties with which the artist can grapple.  Here, however, is the difficulty surmounted—surmounted, too, as if to bear testimony to the genius of the departed—in the style of Wilkie.  We may add further, that the great massiveness of the head of Chalmers, compared with the many fine heads around him, is admirably brought out in this drawing.

    In glancing over these photographic sketches, one cannot avoid being struck by the silent but impressive eulogium which nature pronounces, through their agency, on the works of the more eminent masters.  There is much in seeing nature truthfully, and in registering what are in reality her prominent markings.  Artists of a lower order are continually falling into mere mannerisms—peculiarities of style that belong not to nature, but to themselves, just because, contented with acquirement, they cease seeing nature.  In order to avoid these mannerisms, there is an eye of fresh observation required—that ability of continuous attention to surrounding phenomena which only superior men possess; and doubtless to this eye of fresh observation, this ability of continuous attention, the masters owed much of their truth and their power.  How very truthfully and perseveringly some of them saw, is well illustrated by these photographic drawings.  Here, for instance, is a portrait exactly after the manner of Raeburn.  There is the same broad freedom of touch; no nice miniature stipplings, as if laid in by the point of a needle—no sharp-edged strokes: all is solid, massy, broad; more distinct at a distance than when viewed near at hand.  The arrangement of the lights and shadows seems rather the result of a happy haste, in which half the effect was produced by design, half by accident, than of great labour and care; and yet how exquisitely true the general aspect!  Every stroke tells, and serves, as in the portraits of Raeburn, to do more than relieve the features: it serves also to indicate the prevailing mood and predominant power to the mind.  And here is another portrait, quiet, deeply-toned, gentlemanly,—a transcript apparently of one of the more characteristic portraits of Sir Thomas Lawrence.  Perhaps, however, of all our British artists, the artist whose published works most nearly resemble a set of these drawings is Sir Joshua Reynolds.  We have a folio volume of engravings from his pictures before us; and when, placing side by side with the prints the sketches in brown, we remark the striking similarity of style that prevails between them, we feel more strongly than at perhaps any former period, that the friend of Johnson and of Burke must have been a consummate master of his art.  The engraver, however, cannot have done full justice to the originals.  There is a want of depth and prominence which the near neighbourhood of the photographic drawings renders very apparent: the shades in the subordinate parts of the picture are more careless and much less true; nor have the lights the same vivid and sunshiny effect.  There is one particular kind of resemblance between the two which strikes as remarkable, because of a kind which could scarce be anticipated.  In the volume of prints there are three several likenesses of the artist himself, all very admirable as pieces of art; and all, no doubt, sufficiently like, but yet all dissimilar in some points from each other.  And this dissimilarity in the degree which it obtains, one might naturally deem a defect—the result of some slight inaccuracy in the drawing.  Should not portraits of the same individual, if all perfect likenesses of him, be all perfectly like one another?  No; not at all.  A man at one moment of time, and seen from one particular point of view, may be very unlike himself when seen at another moment of time, and from another point of view.  We have at present before us the photographic likenesses of four several individuals—three likenesses of each—and no two in any of the four sets are quite alike.  They differ in expression, according to the mood which prevailed in the mind of the original at the moment in which they were imprinted upon the paper.  In some respects the physiognomy seems different; and the features appear more or less massy in the degree in which the lights and shadows were more or less strong, or in which the particular angle they were taken in brought them out in higher or lower relief.

    We shall venture just one remark more on these very interesting drawings.  The subject is so suggestive of thought at the present stage, that it would be no easy matter to exhaust it; and it will, we have no doubt, be still more suggestive of thought by and by; but we are encroaching on our limits, and must restrain ourselves, therefore, to the indication of just one of the trains of thought which it has served to originate.  Many of our readers must be acquainted with Dr. Thomas Brown's theory of attention,—'a state of mind,' says the philosopher, 'which has been understood to imply the exercise of a peculiar intellectual power, but which, in the case of attention to objects of sense, appears to be nothing more than the co-existence of desire with the perception of the object to which we are said to attend.'  He proceeds to instance how, in a landscape in which the incurious gaze may see many objects without looking at or knowing them, a mere desire to know brings out into distinctness every object in succession on which the desire fixes.  'Instantly, or almost instantly,' continues the metaphysician, 'without our consciousness of any new or peculiar state of mind intervening in the process, the landscape becomes to our vision altogether different.  Certain parts only—those parts which we wished to know particularly—are seen by us; the remaining parts seem almost to have vanished.  It is as if everything before had been but the doubtful colouring of enchantment, which had disappeared, and left us the few prominent realities on which we gaze; or rather as if some instant enchantment, obedient to our wishes, had dissolved every reality beside, and brought closer to our sight the few objects which we desired to see.'  Now, in the transcript of the larger tableau vivant before us—that which represents Dr. Chalmers seated among his friends on the Moderator's chair—we find an exemplification sufficiently striking of the laws on which this seemingly mysterious power depends.  They are purely structural laws, and relate not to the mind, but to the eye,—not to the province of the metaphysician, but to that of the professor of optics.  The lens of the camera obscura transmits the figures to the prepared paper, on quite the same principle on which in vision the crystalline lens conveys them to the retina.  In the centre of the field in both cases there is much distinctness, while all around its circumference the images are indistinct and dim.  We have but to fix the eye on some object directly in front of us, and then attempt, without removing it, to ascertain the forms of objects at some distance on both sides, in order to convince ourselves that the field of distinct vision is a very limited field indeed.  And in this transcript of the larger tableau vivant we find exactly the same phenomena.  The central figures come all within the distinct field.  Not so, however, the figures on both sides.  They are dim and indistinct; the shades dilute into the lights, and the outlines are obscure.  How striking a comment on the theory of Brown!  We see his mysterious power resolved in that drawing into a simple matter of light and shade, arranged in accordance with certain optical laws.  The clear central space in which the figures are so distinct, corresponds to the central space in the retina; it is the attention-point of the picture, if we may so speak.  In the eye this attention-point is brought to bear, through a simple effort of the will, on the object to be examined; and the rest of the process, so pleasingly, but at the same time so darkly, described by the philosopher, is the work of the eye itself.

――― ♦ ―――

IT has been remarked by Sir James Mackintosh, that there are four great works, in four distinct departments of knowledge, which have more visibly and extensively influenced opinion than any other productions of the human intellect.  The first of these is the Treatise on the Law of War and Peace, by Grotius.  It appeared about two centuries ago; and from that period downwards, international law became a solid fact, which all civilised countries have recognised, and which even the French Convention, during the Reign of Terror, dared, in its madness, to outrage but for a moment.  The second is the Essay on the Human Understanding, by Locke.  It struck down, as with the blow of a hatchet, the wretched mental philosophy of the dark ages,—that philosophy which Puseyism, in its work of diffusing over the present the barbarism and ignorance of the past, would so fain revive and restore, and which has been ever engaged, as its proper employment, in imparting plausibility to error and absurdity, and in furnishing apology for crime.  The third was the Spirit of Laws, by Montesquieu.  It placed legislation on the basis of philosophy; and straightway law began to spring up among the nations out of a new soil.  The fourth and last great work—An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith—was by far the most influential of them all.  'It is,' says Sir James, 'perhaps the only book which produced an immediate, general, and irrevocable change in some of the most important parts of the legislation of all civilised states.  Touching those matters which may be numbered, and measured, and weighed, it bore visible and palpable fruit.  In a few years it began to alter laws and treaties, and has made its way throughout the convulsions of revolution and conquest to a due ascendant over the minds of men, with far less than the average obstructions of prejudice and clamour, which check the channels through which truth flows into practice.'

    And yet, though many of the seeds which this great work served to scatter sprung up thus rapidly, and produced luxuriant crops, there were others, not less instinct with the vital principles, of which the germination has been slow.  The nurseryman expects, in sowing beds of the stone-fruit-bearing trees, such as the plum or the hawthorn, to see the plants spring up very irregularly.  One seed bursts the enveloping case, and gets up in three weeks; another barely achieves the same work in three years.  And it has been thus with the harder-coated germens of the Wealth of Nations.  It is now exactly eighty years since the philosopher set himself to elaborate the thinking of his great work in his mother's house in Kirkcaldy, and exactly seventy years since he gave it to the world.  It appeared in 1776; and now, for the first time, in 1846, the Queen's Speech, carefully concocted by a Conservative Ministry, embodies as great practical truths its free-trade principles.  The shoot—a true dicotyledon—has fairly got its two vigorous lobes above the surface: freedom of trade in all that the farmer rears, and freedom of trade in all that the manufacturer produces; and there cannot be a shadow of doubt that it will be by and by a very vigorous tree.  No Protectionist need calculate, from its rate of progress in the past, on its rate of progress in the future.  Nearly three generations have come and gone since, to vary the figure, the preparations for laying the train began; but now that the train is fairly ready and fired, the explosion will not be a matter of generations at all.  Explosions come under an entirely different law from the law of laying trains.  It will happen with the rising of the free-trade agitation as with the rising of water against a dam-head stretched across a river.  Days and weeks may pass, especially if droughts have been protracted and the stream low, during which the rising of the water proves to be a slow, silent, inefficient sort of process, of half-inches and eighth-parts; but when the river gets into flood,—when the vast accumulation begins to topple over the dam-dyke,—when the dyke itself begins to swell, and bulge, and crack, and to disgorge, at its ever-increasing flaws and openings, streams of turbid water,—let no one presume to affirm that the after-process is to be slow.  In mayhap one minute more, in a few minutes at most, stones, sticks, turf, the whole dam-dyke, in short, but a dam-dyke no longer, will be roaring adown the stream, wrapped up in the womb of an irresistible wave.  Now there have been palpable openings, during the last few months, in the Protectionist dam-head.  We pointed years since to the rising of the water, and predicted that it would prevail at last.  But the droughts were protracted, and the river low.  Good harvests and brisk trade went hand in hand together; and the Protectionist dam-head—though feeble currents and minute waves beat against it, and the accumulation within rose by half-inches and eighth- parts—stood sure.  But the river is now high in flood—the waters are toppling over—the yielding masonry has begun to bulge and crack.  The Queen's Speech, when we consider it as emanating from a Conservative Ministry, indicates a tremendous flaw; the speech of Sir Robert Peel betrays an irreparable bulge; the sudden conversions to free-trade principles of officials and place-holders show a general outpouring at opening rents and crannies: depend on it, Protectionists, your dam-dyke, patch or prop it as you please, is on the eve of destruction; yet a very little longer, and it will be hurtling down the stream.

    For what purpose, do we say?  Simply in the hope of awakening, to a sense of their true interest, ere it be too late, a class of the Scottish people in which we feel deeply interested,—we mean the tenant agriculturists of the kingdom.  They have in this all-important crisis a battle to fight; and if they do not fight and win it, they will be irrevocably ruined by hundreds and thousands.  The great Protectionist battle—the battle in which they may make common cause with their landlords if they will, against the League, and the Free-Trade Whigs, and Sir Robert Peel, and Adam Smith, and the Queen—is a battle in which to a certainty they will be beat.  They may protract the contest long enough to get so thoroughly wearied as to be no longer fit for the other great battle which awaits them; but they may depend on it as one of the surest things in all the future, that they will have to record a disastrous issue.  They must be defeated.  We would fain ask them—for it is sad to see men spending their strength to no end—to look fairly at the aspect things are beginning to wear, and the ever-extending front which is arraying against them.  We would ask them first to peruse those chapters in Adam Smith which in reality form the standing-ground of their opponents,—chapters whose solid basis of economic philosophy has made anti-corn-lam agitation and anti-corn-law tracts and speeches such formidable things.  We would ask them next to look at the progress of the League, at its half-million fund, its indomitable energy and ever-growing influence.  We would then ask them to look at the recent conversions of Whig and Tory to free-trade principles, at the resignation of Sir Robert Peel, and the proof the country received in consequence, that in the present extremity there is no other pilot prepared to take the helm; at the strangely marked Adam Smith cast of the Queen's Speech; and at the telling facts of Sir Robert's explanatory statement.  We request them to take a cool survey of all these things, and to cogitate for themselves the issue which they so clearly foretell.  It seems as certain that free-trade principles are at last to be established in Britain, as that there is a sun in the sky.  Nor does there seem much wisdom in fighting a battle that is inevitably to be lost.  The battle which it is their true interest to be preparing to fight, is one in which they must occupy the ground, not of agriculturists, but simply of tenants: it is a battle with the landlords, not with the free-traders.

    We believe Dr. Chalmers is right in holding that, ultimately at least, the repeal of the corn-laws will not greatly affect the condition of our agriculturists.  There is, however, a transition period from which they have a good deal to dread.  The removal of the protective duties on meat and wool has not had the effect of lowering the prices of either; but the fear of such an effect did for a time what the repeal of the duties themselves failed to do, and bore with disastrous consequences on the sheep and cattle market.  And such a time may, we are afraid, be anticipated on the abolition of the corn-laws.  Nay, it is probable that, even when the transition state shall be over, there will be a general lowering of price to the average of that of the Continent and America,—an average heightened by little more than the amount of the true protective duties of the trade,—the expense of carriage from the foreign farm to the British market.  And woe to the poor tenant, tied down by a long lease to a money-rent rated according to the average value of grain under the protective duties, if the defalcation is to fall on him!  If he has to pay the landlord according to a high average, and to be paid by the corn-factor according to a low one, he is undone.  And his real danger in the coming crisis indicates his proper battle.  It is not with his old protector Sir Robert that he should be preparing to fight; it is, we repeat, with his old ally the landholder.  Nay, he will find, ultimately at least, that he has no choice in the matter.  With Sir Robert he may fight if it please him, and fight, as we have shown, to be beaten; but with the landlord he must fight, whether he first enter the lists with Sir Robert or no.  When his preliminary struggle shall have terminated unsuccessfully, he shall then without heart, without organization, without ally, have to enter on the inevitable struggle,—a struggle for very existence.  We of course refer to landlords as a class: there are among them not a few individuals with whom the tenant will have no struggle to maintain,—conscientious men, at once able and willing to adjust their demands to the circumstances of the new state of things.  But their character as a class does not stand so high.  Many of their number are in straitened circumstances,—so sorely burdened with annuities and mortgages, as to be somewhat in danger of being altogether left, through the coming change, without an income; and it is not according to the nature of things that the case of the tenant should be very considerately dealt with by them.  When a hapless crew are famishing on the open sea, and the fierce cannibal comes to be developed in the man, it is the weaker who are first devoured.  Now we would ill like to see any portion of our Scotch tenantry at the mercy of wild, unreasoning destitution in the proprietor.  We would ill like to see him vested with the power to decide absolutely in his own case, whether it was his tenant that was to be ruined, or he himself that was to want an income, knowing well beforehand to which side the balance would incline.  Nor would we much like to see our tenantry at the mercy of even an average class of proprietors, by no means in the extreme circumstances of their poorer brethren, but who, with an unimpeachable bond in their hands, that enabled them to say whether it was they themselves or their tenant neighbours who were to be the poorer in consequence of the induced change, would be but too apt, in accordance with the selfish bent of man's common nature, to make a somewhat Shylock-like use of it.  Stout men who have fallen into reduced circumstances, and stout paw-sucking bears in their winter lodgings, become gradually thin by living on their own fat; and quite right it is that gross men and corpulent bears should live on their own fat, just because the fat is their own.  But we would not deem it right that our proprietors should live on their farmers' fats: on the contrary, we would hold it quite wrong, and a calamity to the country; and such, at the present time, is the great danger to which the tenantry of Scotland are exposed.  Justice imperatively demands, that if some such change is now to take place in the value of farms, as that which took place on the regulation of the currency in the value of money, the ruinous blunder of 1819 should not be repeated.  It demands that their actual rent be not greatly increased through the retention of the merely nominal one; that the tenant, in short, be not sacrificed to a term wholly unchanged in sound, but altogether altered in value.  And such, in reality, is the object for which the farm-holding agriculturists of Scotland have now to contend.  It is the only quarrel which they can prosecute with a hope of success.

    We referred, in a recent number, when remarking on the too palpable unpopularity of the Whigs, to questions which, if animated by a really honest regard for the liberties of the subject, they might agitate, and grow strong in agitating, secure of finding a potent ally in the moral sense of the country.  One of these would involve the emancipation of the tenantry of England, now sunk, through one of the provisions of the Reform Bill, into a state of vassalage and political subserviency without precedent since at least the days of Henry VIII.  It has been well remarked by Paley, that the direct consequences of political innovations are often the least important; and that it is from the silent and unobserved operation of causes set at work for different purposes, that the greatest revolutions take their rise.  'Thus,' he says, 'when Elizabeth and her immediate successor applied themselves to the encouragement and regulation of trade by many wise laws, they knew not that, together with wealth and industry, they were diffusing a consciousness of strength and independency which could not long endure, under the forms of a mixed government, the dominion of arbitrary princes.'  And again: 'When it was debated whether the Mutiny Act—the law by which the army is governed and maintained—should be temporal or perpetual, little else probably occurred to the advocates of an annual bill, than the expediency of retaining a control over the most dangerous prerogative of the Crown—the direction and command of a standing army; whereas, in its effect, this single reservation has altered the whole frame and quality of the British constitution.  For since, in consequence of the military system which prevails in neighbouring and rival nations, as well as on account of the internal exigencies of Government, a standing army has become essential to the safety and administration of the empire, it enables Parliament, by discontinuing this necessary provision, so to enforce its resolutions upon any other subject, as to render the king's dissent to a law which has received the approbation of both Houses, too dangerous an experiment any longer to be advised.'  And thus the illustration of the principle runs on.  We question, however, whether there be any illustration among them more striking than that indirect consequence of the Reform Bill on the tenantry of England to which we refer.  The provision which conferred a vote on the tenant-at-will, abrogated leases, and made the tiller of the soil a vassal.  The farmer who precariously holds his farm from year to year cannot, of course, be expected to sink so much capital in the soil, in the hope of a distant and uncertain return, as the lessee certain of a possession for a specified number of years , but some capital he must sink in it.  It is impossible, according to the modern system, or indeed any system of husbandry, that all the capital committed to the earth in winter and spring should be resumed in the following summer and autumn.  A considerable overplus must inevitably remain to be gathered up in future seasons; and this overplus remainder, in the case of the tenant-at-will, is virtually converted into a deposit, lodged in the hands of the landlord, to secure the depositor's political subserviency and vassalage.  Let him but once manifest a will and a mind of his own, and vote, in accordance with his convictions, contrary to the will of the landlord, and straightway the deposit, converted into a penalty, is forfeited for the offence.  It is surely not very great Radicalism to affirm that a state of things so anomalous ought not to exist—that the English tenant should be a freeman, not a serf—and that he ought not to be bound down by a weighty penalty to have no political voice or conscience of his own.  The simple principle of 'No lease, no vote,' would set all right; and it is a principle which so recommends itself to the moral sense as just, that an honest Whiggism would gain, in agitating its recognition and establishment, at once strength and popularity.  But there are few Scotch tenants in the circumstances of vassalage so general in England.  They are in circumstances in which they at least may act independently; and the time is fast coming in which they must either make a wise, unbiassed use of their freedom, or be hopelessly crushed for ever.

January 28, 1846.

[Next Page]


[Home] [Up] [Autobiography] [First Impressions] [Scenes and Legends] [Tales and Sketches] [The Betsey] [Miscellanea] [Site Search] [Main Index]