Page images
PDF
EPUB

throughout England, is to be sought the chief and enduring monument of Dr. Arnold's Head-mastership at Rugby.

EXTRACT FROM A LETTER OF DR. MOBERLY, HEAD-MASTER OF WIN

CHESTER “ Possibly,” he writes, after describing his own recollections as a schoolboy, “other schools may have been less deep in these delinquencies than Winchester ; I believe that in many respects they were. But I did not find, on going to the University, that I was under disadvantages as compared with those who came from other places; on the contrary, the tone of young men at the University, whether they came from Winchester, Eton, Rugby, Harrow, or wherever else, was universally irreligious. A religious under-graduate was very rare, very much laughed at when he appeared ; and I think I may confidently say, hardly to be found among public-school men; or, if this be too strongly said, hardly to be found, except in cases where private and domestic training, or good dispositions, had prevailed over the school habits and tendencies. A most singular and striking change has come upon our public schools—a change too great for any person to appreciate adequately, who has not known them in both these times. This change is undoubtedly part of a general improvement of our generation in respect of piety and reverence, but I am sure that to Dr. Arnold's personal earnest simplicity of purpose, strength of character, power of influence, and piety, which none who ever came near him could mistake or question, the carrying of this improvement into our schools is mainly attributable. He was the first. It soon began 10 be matter of observation to us in the University, that his pupils brought quite a different character with them to Oxford than that which we knew elsewhere. I do not speak of opinions ; but his pupils were thoughtful, manly-minded, conscious of duty and obligation, when they first came to college ; we regretted, indeed, that they were often deeply imbued with principles which we disapproved, but we cordially acknowledged the immense improvement in their characters in respect of morality and personal piety, and looked on Dr. Arnold as exercising an influence for good, which (for how many years I know not) had been absolutely unknown to our public schools.

"I knew personally but little of him. You remember the first occasion on which I ever had the pleasure of seeing him: but I have always felt and acknowledged that I owe more to a few casual remarks of his in respect of the government of a public school, than to any advice or example of any other person. If there be improvement in the important points of which I have been speaking, at Winchester, (and from the bottom of my heart I testify with great thankfulness that the improvement is real and great,) I do declare, in justice, that his example encouraged me 10 hope that it might be effected, and his hints suggested to me the way of effecting it.

“I fear that the reply, which I have been able to make to your question, will hardly be so satisfactory as you expected, as it proceeds so entirely upon my own observations and inferences. At the same time I have had, perhaps, unusual opportunity for forming an opinion, having been six years at a public school at the time of their being at the lowest,-having then mingled with young men from other schools at the

University, having had many pupils from different schools, and among them several of Dr. Arnold's most distinguished ones ; and at last, having had near eight years' experience, as the master of a school, which has undergone in great measure the very alteration, which I have been speaking of. Moreover, I have often said the very things, which I have here written, in the hearing of men of all sorts, and have never found any body disposed to contradict them.

Believe me, my dear Stanley,

Yours most faithfully,

GEORGE MOBERLY."

CHAPTER IV.

GENERAL LIFE AT RUGBY.

it was natural that with the wider range of duty, and the more commanding position which Dr. Arnold's new station gave him, there should have been a new stage in his character and views, hardly less marked intellectually, than that which accompanied his change from Oxford to Laleham had been morally. The several subjects of thought, which more or less he had already entertained, especially during the two or three preceding years, now fell rapidly one by one into their proper places. Ready as he still was to take the advice of his friends in practice, his opinions now took a more independent course ; and whatever subsequent medification they underwent, came not from without, but from within. Whilst he became more and more careful to reconcile his own views with those, whom, in ages pastor present, he reverenced as really great men, the circle within which he bestowed his veneration became far more exclusive. The purely practical element sank into greater subordination to the more imaginative and philosophical tendencies of his mind; in works of poetical or speculative genius, which at an earlier period he had been inclined to depreciate, he now, looking at them from another point of view, took an increasing delight. Even within the letters of the first year there is a marked alteration down to the very form of his handwriting, and the very mode of addressing his friends. The character which has already been given of his boyish verses at Oxford, becomes less and less applicable to the simple and touching fragments of poetry in which from time to time he expressed the feelings of his later years. The change of style of his published writings from the baldness of his earlier works to the vigorous English of his mature age, indicates the corresponding impuise given to his powers, and the greater freedom and variety of his new range of thought.

With his entrance, therefore, on his work at Rugby, his public

life, (if it may so be called,) no less than his professional lise, Properly begins. But what was true of the effect of his own character in his sphere as a teacher, is hardly less true of it in his sphere as an author. His works were not merely the inculcations of particular truths, but the expression of his whole mind; and excited in those who read them a sentiment almost of personal regard or of personal dislike, as the case might be, over and above the approbation or disapprobation of the opinions which they contained. Like himself, they partook at once of a practical and speculative character, which exposed them, like himself, to considerable misapprehension. On the one hand, even the niost permanent of them seemed to express the feeling of the hour which dictated them. On the other hand, even the most transitory seemed to express no less the fixed ideas, by which his whole life was regulated; and it may be worth while, therefore, in regard to both these aspects, without descending into the details and circumstances of each particular work, which the ensuing correspondence will of itself sufficiently describe to offer briefly a few remarks which may serve as a preface to all of them.

1. Greatly as his practical turn of mind was modified in his later years, and averse as he always was to what are technically called "practical men,” yet, in the sense of having no views, however high, which he did not labour to bring into practice sooner or later, he remained eminently practical to the end of his life. “I always think,” he used to say, "of that magnificent sentence of Bacon, 'In this world, God only and the angels may be specta“ Stand still

, and see the salvation of God," he observed in allusion to Dr. Pusey's celebrated sermon on that passage, "was true advice to the Israelites on the shores of the Red Sea; but it was not the advice which is needed in ordinary circumstances; it would have been false advice when they were to conquer Canaan." “I cannot,” he said, “ enter fully into these lines of Wordsworth

tors.'

To me the meanest flower that breathes can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.' There is to me something in them of a morbid feeling-Ife is not long enough to take such intense interest in objects theniselves so little. Secluded as he was, both by his occupations and his domestic habits, from contact with the world, even more ihan most men in his station, yet the interest with which, now more than ever, he entered into public affairs, was such as can rarely be felt by men not actually engaged in the government of the country. The life of a nation, he said, was to him almost as distinct as that of an individual; and whatever might be his habitual subjects of public interest - the advance of political and social reform,-the questions of peace and war,-ihe sufferings of the poorer classes,—the growth of those rising commonwealths

in the Australian colonies, where, from time to time, he entertained an ardent desire to pass the close of his life, in the hope of influencing, if possible, what he conceived to be the germs of the future destinies of England and of the world,-came before him with a vividness, which seemed to belong raiher 10 a citizen of Greece or Rome, than to the comparative apathy and retirement of the members of modern states.

It was of course only or chiefly through his writings, that he could hope to act on the country at large; and they accordingly, almost all, became inseparably bound up with the course of public events. They were not, in fact, so much words as deeds; not so much the result of an intention to instruct, as of an incontrollable desire to give vent to the thoughts that were struggling within him. "I have a testimony to deliver," was the motive which dictated almost all of them. “I must write or die," was an expression which he used more than once in times of great public interest, and which was hardly too strong to describe what he felt. If he was editing Thucydides, it was with the thought that he was engaged, “not on an idle inquiry about remote ages and forgotten institutions, but a living picture of things present, fitted not so much for the curiosity of the scholar, as for the instruction of the statesman and the citizen." (Pret: vol. iii. p. xxii.) If he felt himself called upon to write the History of Rome, one chief reason was, because it could be understood by none so well as by those who have grown up under the laws, who have been engaged in the parties, who are themselves citizens of our kingly commonwealth of England.” (Pref. vol. i. p. vii.) If he was anxious to set on foot a Commentary of the Scriptures, it was mostly at times, when he was struck by the reluctance or incapacity of the men of his own generation to apply to their own cocial siate the warnings of the Apostles and Prophets. If he was desirous of maintaining against the Oxford school his own views of the Church, it was that, " when he looked at the social condition of his countrymen," he “could not doubt that here was the work for the Church of Christ to do, that none else could do it, and that with the blessing of her Almighty Head she could." (Serm. vol. iv. Pref. p. cxv.)

It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, if that impatience of present evil, which belonged alike to his principles and his disposition, appeared in his writings, and imparted 10 them-often, probably, unknown to himself-something, if not of a polemical aspect, at least of an attitude of opposition and attack, averse though he was himself to controversy, and carefully avoiding it with *those whom he knew personally, even when frequently challenged to enter upon it. “ The wisdom of winter is the folly of spring," was a maxim with him, which would often explain changes of feeling and expression that to many might seem inconsistencies. "If I were living in London," he said, " I should not talk against the evil tendencies of the clergy, any more than if I were living in Oxford I should talk against the evil tendencies of the political economists. It is my nature always to attack that evil which seems to me most present.” It was thus a favourite topic, in his expusition of Scripture, lo remark how the particular sins of the occasion were denounced, the particular forms of Antichrist indicated often without the qualification, which would have been required by the presence of the opposite danger. “Contrast," he used to say, “ihe language of the first chapter of Isaiah, when the hierarchy of Judah was in its full pride and power, with the language of the second chapter of Malachi, when it was in a etate of decline and neglect.”

Connected with this, was the peculiar vehemence of language, which he often used, in speaking of the subjects and events of the day. This was indeed partly to be accounted for by his eagerness to speak out whatever was in his mind, especially when moved by his keen sense of what he thought evil-partly by the natural simplicity of his mode of speech, which led him to adopt phrases in their simplest sense, without stopping to explain them or suspecting that they would be misunderstood. But with regard to public principles and parties, it was often more than this. With every wish to be impartial, yet his natural temperament, as he used himself to ackowledge, made it difficult for him to place himself completely in another's point of view; and thus he had a tendency to judge individuals, with whom he had no personal acquaintance, from his conception of the party to which they belonged, and to look at both through the medium of that strong power of association, which intluenced materially his judgment, not only of events, but of men, and even of places. Living individuals, therefore, and existing principles, became lost to his view in the long line of images, past and future, in which they only formed one link. Every political or ecclesiastical movement suggested to him the recollection of its historical representative in past times,—and yet more, as by an instinct, half religious and half historical, the thought of what he conceived 10 be the prototypes of the various forms of error and wickedness denounced by the Prophets in the Old Testament, or by our Lord and his Apostles in the New. And looking not backwards only, but forwards, to their remotest consequences, and again guiding himself, as he thought, by the example of the language of St. Paul, who "seemed to have had his eye fixed in vision rather upon the full-grown evil of later times, than upon the first imperfect show—the faint indications of it—in his own time,” (Serm. vol. v. p. 346,) he saw in them the germs of mischief yet to come,-not only the mischief of their actual triumph, but the mischief of the reaction against them.

There was besides a peculiar importance attaching, in his view, to political questions, with which every reader of his works

« PreviousContinue »