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English preaching had been so long encumbered, and at uniting the language of reality and practical sense with names and words which, in the minds of so many of the educated classes, had become closely associated with notions of sectarianism or extravagance.
It was published in 1828, immediately after his removal to Rugby, and had a rapid circulation. Many, both then and long afterwards, who most differed from some of his more peculiar opinions, rejoiced in the possession of a volume which contained so much in which they agreed, and so little from which they differed. The objections to its style or substance may best be gathered from the following extracts of his own letters :
1. “ If the sermons are read, I do not care one farthing if the readers think me the most unclassical writer in the English language. It will only remove me to a greater distance from the men of elegant minds with whom I shall most loathe to be associated. But, however, I have looked at the sermons again, with a view to correcting the baldness which you complain of, and in some places, I have endeavoured to correct it. And I again assure you, that I will not knowingly leave unaltered any thing violent, harsh, or dogmatical. I am not conscious of the ex cathedrâ tone of my sermons—at least not beyond what appears to me proper in the pulpit, where one does in a manner speak ex cathedrâ. But I think my decided tone is generally employed in putting forward the sentiments of Scripture, not in drawing my own conclusions from it.”
2. In answer to a complaint that “they carry the standard so high as to unchristianize half the community," he says, " I do not see how the standard can be carried higher than Christ or his Apostles carry it, and I do not think that we ought to put it lower. I am sure that the habitually fixing it so much lower, especially in all our institutions and public practice, has been most mischievous.”
3. “ I am very much gratified by what you say of my sermons; yet pained to find that their tone is generally felt to be so hard and severe. I believe the reason is, that I mostly thought of my pupils in preaching, and almost always of the higher classes, who I cannot but think have commonly very little of the ' bruised reed’ about them. You must remember that I never had the regular care of a parish, and therefore have seen comparatively little of those cases of a troubled spirit, and of a fearful and anxious conscience, which require comfort far more than warning. But still, after all, I fear that the intense mercy of the Gospel has not been so prominently represented as it should have been, while I have been laboring to express its purity."
Meanwhile, his friends had frequently represented to him the desirableness of a situation which would secure a more certain provision, and a greater sphere of usefulness than that which he occupied at Laleham; and he had been urged, more than once, to stand for the Mastership at Winchester, which he had declined first from a distrust of his own fitness or inclination for the office, and afterwards from more general reasons.
But the ex
pense of the neighbourhood of Laleham had already determined him to leave it, and he was framing plans for a change of life, when, in August, 1827, the head-mastership of Rugby became vacant by the resignation of Dr. Wool, who had
held it for twenty-one years. It was not till late in the contest for the situation that he finally resolved to offer himself as a candidate. When, therefore, his testimonials were sent in to the twelve trustees, noblemen and gentlemen of Warwickshire, in whom the appointment rests, the canvass for the office had advanced so far as to leave him, in the opinion of himself and many of his friends, but little hope of success. On the day of the decision, the testimonials of the several candidates were read over in the order in which they had been sent in; his own were therefore among the last ; and whilst none of the trustees were personally acquainted with him, few if any of them, owing to the lateness of his appearance, had heard his name before. His testimonials were few in number, and most of them couched in general language, but all speaking strongly of his qualifications. Amongst them was a letter from Dr. Hawkins, now Provost of Oriel, in which it was predicted that, if Mr. Arnold were elected to the head-mastership of Rugby, he would change the face of education all through the public schools of England. The trustees had determined to be guided entirely by the inerits of the candidates, and the impression produced upon them by this letter, and by the general confidence in him expressed in all the testimonials, was such, that he was elected at once, in December, 1827. In June, 1828, he received Priest's orders from Dr. Howley, then Bishop of London ; in April and November of the same year took the degrees of B.D. and D.D.; and in August entered on his new office.
Lhe following letters and extracts have been selected, not so much as important in themselves, but rather as illustrating the course of his thoughts and general views at this period.
Oxford, May 28, 1817. I thank you very heartily for the kindness which all your letter displays, and I cannot better show my sense of it, than by telling you without reserve my feelings and arguments on both sides of the question, The study of the law, in many respects, I think I should like, and certainly it holds out better encouragement to any ambitious particles which I may have in my nature than the church does. But I do not think, if I know myself, which perhaps is begging an important question, that my sober inclinations would lead me to the law so much as to the church. I
am sure the church would be the best for me, for as I hope never to enter it with light views, so the forming my mind to a proper sense of the clerical duties, and then an occasion and call for the practice of them imme. diately succeeding, would I trust be most beneficial to me. To effect this, I have great advantages in the advice and example of many of my friends here in Oxford, and whether I know myself or not is another question, but I most sincerely feel that I could with most pleasure devote myself to the employments of a clergyman; and that I never should for a moment put any prospects of ambition or worldly honour in competition with the safe happiness which I think a clergyman's life would grant me. Seriously, I am afraid of the law: I know how much even here I am led away by various occupations from those studies and feelings which are essential to every man; and I dare not risk the consequences of such a necessary diversion of mind from all religious subjects as would be caused by my atiending to a study so engrossing as that of law. To this I am sure in your eyes nothing need be added; but besides I doubt whether my health would support so much reading and confinement to the house ; and after all, knowing who are at this moment contending for the prizes of the law, it would I think be folly to stake much on the chance of my success. Again, my present way of life enables me to be a great dealat home with my mother, aunt, and sister, who are all so circumstanced, that I should not think myself justified in lightly choosing any occupation that would separate me greatly from them. On the other hand, if I find that I cannot conscientiously subscribe to the articles of the Church, be assured I never will go into orders, but even then I should doubt whether I could support either the expense or labour of the law. I hope you have overrated my “ambitious disputations and democratical” propensities; if, indeed, I have not more of the two first than of the last, I think I should not hesitate about my fitness for the church, as far as they are concerned. I think you have not quite a correct notion of my political faith ; perhaps I have not myself, but I do not think I am democratically inclined, and God forbid I should ever be such a clergyman as Horne Tooke.
Laleham, September 20, 1819. Poor dear old Oxford ! if I live till I am eighty, and were to enjoy all the happiness that the warmest wish could desire, I should never forget, or cease to look back with something of a painful feeling on the years we were together there, and on all the delights that we have lost; and I look forward with extreme delight to my intended journey, down to the audit in October, when I shall take a long and last farewell of my old haunts, and will, if I possibly can, yet take one more look at Bagley Wood, and the pretty field, and the wild stream that flows down between Bullington and Cowley Marsh, not forgetting even your old friend, the Lower London Road. Well, I must endeavour to get some such associations to combine with Laleham and its neighbourhood ; but at present all is harsh and ruffled, like woods in a high wind, only I am beginning 10 love my own little study, where I have a sofa full of books, as of old, and the two verse books lying about on it, and a volume of Herodotus ; and where I sit up and read or write till twelve or one o'clock. .
(On a proposal of a Mastership at Winchester.)
Laleham, October 28, 1819. I might defer any discussion of the prospects which you recommend to me till we meet, were it a subject on which I could feel any hesitation in making up my mind. But, thanking you as I do very sincerely for the kindness of your suggestion, the situation which you advise me to try for, is one which nothing but the most positive call of duty would ever induce me to accept, were it even offered to me. It is one which, in the first place, I know myself very ill qualified to fill; and it would besides completely upset every scheme which I have formed for my future comfort in life. I know that success in my present undertaking is of course doubtful; still my chance is, I think, tolerably fair, not indeed of making my fortune, but of earning such an income as shall enable me to live with economy as a married man; and, as far as I can now foresee, I should wish to continue for many years at Laleham, and the house, which I have got on a lease, is one which I already feel very well inclined to regard as my settled and permanent home in this world. My present way of life I have tried, and am perfectly contented with it: and I know pretty well what the life of a master of Winchester would be, and feel equally certain that it would be to me excessively disagreeable. I do not think you could say any thing to shake me for an instant on this head ; still believe me that I am very much obliged to you for the friendliness of your recommendation, which I decline for reasons that in all probability many people would think very emply and ridiculous.
Laleham, November 20, 1819. This day eight years, about this time, we were assembled in the Junior Common Room, to celebrate the first foundation of the room, and had been amused by hearing Bartholomew's song about " Musical George,” and “ Political Tommy," and now, of the party then assembled, you are the only one still left in Oxford, and the rest of us are scattered over the face of the earth to our several abodes. There is a “souvenir interessant" for you, as a Frenchman would say, and one full well fitted for a November evening. But do you know that I am half disposed to quarrel with you, instead of giving you“ Souvenirs ”—for did you not covenant to write to me first?.
Indeed, in the pictures that I have to form of my future life, my friends have always held a part ; and it has been a great delight to me to think, that M. will feel doubly and naturally bound to so many of them, that she will have little trouble in learning to love them, and the benefits which I have received from my Oxford friendships have been so invaluable, as relating to points of the very highest importance, that it is impossible for me ever to forget them, or to cease to look on them as the greatest blessings I have ever yet enjoyed in life, and for which I have the deepest reason to be most thankful. Being then separated from you all, I am most anxious that absence should not be allowed to weaken the regard we bear each other; and besides, I cannot forego that advice
and assistance which I have so long been accustomed to rely on, and with which I cannot as yet at least safely dispense: for the management of my own mind is a thing so difficult, and brings me into contact with much that is so strangely mysterious, that I stand at times quite bewildered, in a chaos where I can see no light either before or behind. How much of all this is constitutional and physical I cannot tell, perhaps a great deal of it ; yet it is surely dangerous to look upon all the struggles of the mind as arising from the state of the body or the weather, and so resolve to bestow no attention upon them. Indeed I think I have far more reason to be annoyed at the extraordinary apathy and abstraction from every thing good, which the routine of the world's business brings with it, there are whole days in which all the feelings or principles of belief, or of religion altogether, are in utter abeyance : when one goes on very comfortably, pleased with external and worldly comforts, and yet would find it difficult, if told to inquire, to find a particle of Christian principle in one's whole mind. It seems all quite moved out bodily, and one retains no consciousness of a belief in any one religious truth, but is living a life of virtual Atheism. I suppose these things are equalized somehow, but I am often inclined to wonder at and to envy those who seem never to know what mental trouble is, and who seem to have nothing else to disturb them than the common petty annoyances of life, and when these let them alone, then they are iv durabeing. But I would compound for all this, if I could but find that I had any liking for what I ought to like; but there is the Sunday School here, for instance, which I never visit without the strongest reluctance, and really the thought of having this to do makes me quite dread the return of the Sunday. I have got it now entirely into my own hands, so attend it I must and will, if I can answer for my perseverance, but it goes sadly against me.
TO J. T. COLERIDGE, ESQ.
Laleham, November 29, 1819.2 At last I am going to redeem the promise which I made so long ago, and to give you some account of our summa rerum. I have had lately the additional work of a sermon every week to write, and this has interfered very much with my correspondence ; and I fear I have not yet acquired that careful economy of time which men in your profession often so well practice, and do not make the most of all the odd five and ten minutes spaces which I get in the course of the day. However, I have at last begun my letter, and will first tell you that I still like my business very well, and what is very comfortable, I feel far more confidence in myself than I did at first, and should not now dread having the sole management of pupils, which at one time I should have shrunk from. (After giving an account of the joint arrangement of the school and the pupils with his brother-in-law ;) Buckland is naturally fonder of the school, and is inclined to give it the greatest part of his attention ; and I, from my Oxford habits, as naturally like the other part of the business best; and thus I have extended my time of reading with our four pupils in the morning before breakfast, from one hour to two. Not that I dislike being in the school,