Puslapio vaizdai

When the pathway opened on the circular valley we have already described, with the cottages of the quiet and peaceful little hamlet seen clustered on the swelling ground beyond, with their light smoke curling upwards into the clear air, the flat bottom that intervened, once an unprofitable sheet of water, now covered with the richest possible crops, all resulting from his own beneficial outlay, we envied him the feelings that must have arisen in his heart. Here, in this wild and remote corner, he had provided food and comfort for a considerable number of human beings, to an extent which was, individually, much beyond what falls to the share of people in the same humble condition of life, even in some of the richest counties of fair England, and that at rents so small as to be scarcely more than nominal. Our wonder, indeed, might not be much if this were the only settlement of this kind in Sutherland, or if it were the only one so beneficently dealt with. But it only furnishes a fair and true sample of all those that are to be found around its coasts. As he followed the path through the corn, which concealed two-thirds of our height as we passed along, his inquiries were numerous as to the holders of the different possessions; and his remarks on their respective crops, and his commendations on their industry, appeared to give great gratification to their differ

ent owners.

We may mention, by the way, that at the period of which we are now writing, the fell potato disease was quite unknown in Sutherland; but in a few weeks afterwards it appeared, and this part of these poor people's crops having perished, want must have arisen among them to a very great extent. But forth stood their protector, and, at an expense probably much beyond that incurred for a similar purpose, which gave to a noble Italian family the well-merited, enviable, and still-enduring name of Frangipani, he has warded off this infliction; so that this season of scarcity will pass away over their heads like a fleeting cloud-its effects altogether unfelt, and altogether unknown, except from the reports they may hear of the miseries of others, who have less reason to bless the beneficence of the landlord.

How the crowd of men, women, and children, increased about him as he reached the site of the hamlet itself, where he was welcomed by showers of blessings! There he was entreated, with great modesty, to enter the house of the patriarch of the township, where he, and all of us who were of his company, were soon seated and hospitably entertained with bread and cheese; and the health of the owner of the cottage, and that of his noble guest, were mutually pledged with the kindliest feelings. After this, a familiar conversation took place, in which the economy and comforts of the family were fully inquired into and discussed; and this, as we have reason to know, by no means from any mere idle motive. But this was not the only domiciliary visit that the good man made; for he went from house to house, entering many of them, regardless of the smoke with which, according to the custom of

the country, and the predilection which Highlanders have for it, most of them were filled, rather as a matter of fancied addition to the comfort and warmth, perhaps, of the inmates, than as any evil of which they cannot rid themselves. He sat down humbly and unostentatiously, to converse with their owners, and was searching in his inquiries into their most minute concerns their marriages and births, their illnesses and deaths, soothing and consoling as he went, and questioning them as to their little wants, and giving substantial proofs of his desire to see them supplied. He was particularly solicitous about the success of the schools which he had established, both for girls and boys, and he called on the master and mistress, and made several new and beneficial arrangements regarding them. Meanwhile his family physician, a most benevolent man, had his head and his hands fully occupied by the swarm of patients, with all the ills that flesh is heir to, who came about him to benefit by his skill. The doctor inquired with exemplary patience into all their ailments-felt their pulses-looked at their tongues-noted down their names, and the prescriptions they required-examined their hurts, and their infirmities of all kinds-administered such immediate relief as he could—and promised to send them, without delay, such other remedies as required preparation. His very presence and words seemed to do them good, and many a pallid and despairing cheek appeared to have the flush of hope restored to it by his kindly manner and expressions.

By and bye, some of the elders of the place besought the Duke to go and look at a boatcreek at some little distance, for which they wanted something to be done in the way of improvement. The fact was, it was a miserable place, incapable of holding more than two or three boats, and with an entrance so narrow and so exposed to the long surges of the open sea, as to be difficult and dangerous either for ingress or egress. The proper haven of the hamlet is Loch Roe, which is one of the finest harbours for small craft that can anywhere be met with, but the pathway to it being rough and rocky, so that it was extremely troublesome to carry fishing gear or fish over it, it was rarely, if ever used, and the little creek in question was preferred, as being of easy access. But the Duke having been fully aware of the great advantages which Loch Roe possessed over the miserable creek, and having been made aware that these might be fully opened up to the poor people of Auch Melvich, though at considerable cost, by carrying a branch road from the Loch Inver road, which should touch at Loch Roe on its way to the hamlet, and which should thus connect the place not only with its natural harbour, but with the rest of the country, by affording it easy access to both, at once gave orders that it should be carried into execution at his own expense.

Before leaving Auch Melvich the Duke invited all the people to come to Loch Inver on a certain day which he named, when he was to give prizes

for boat races, to which they all cordially as- extremely difficult country, that was formerly quite sented.

The Duke was followed by the whole population to the place in Loch Roe, where the boat lay to receive him, and there we all embarked with him, except the doctor, whose labours being not yet nearly completed, he was left on the rocks, still feeling pulses and prescribing, it being so arranged that he was to return by another conveyance. The Duke was no sooner on board than he received three hearty parting cheers from his people, to whom he made his acknowledgments with moistened eyes. It is not every great Highland proprietor who can afford to go on, as the Duke does, and as his excellent mother did before him, expending, year after year, the whole of the revenue of this vast estate on the country, and the people who yield it. Neither are there many to be found who could, at their own expense, make some four or five hundred miles of roads, as good as those in any gentleman's pleasure grounds in England, in an

impervious, but which may now be travelled over in every part by carriages of all kinds, without meeting with a single turnpike gate, or being asked for toll-every yard of these roads being kept in repair at the expense of the proprietor. Neither do we elsewhere see numerous inns, elegant in structure, and possessing all the comforts of the best-appointed English houses of that description, start up wherever they are wanted, at the touch of the golden wands of other Highland proprietors, as they have done from that of the Dake, all over the Sutherland territory. But in regard to these visitations of Christian kindness of which we have had the good fortune to witness the example, which we have now attempted, though faintly, to describe, there are few who have it not in their power to bestow them, and therefore we may fairly be permitted to hold up this pattern for imitation, and to call upon others to go and do likewise.



days ago, we never so much as saw his portrait.

The veil has at length been removed. In the interesting volumes before us we find, and principally in his own words, a full and faithful register of the leading events in his life, and of the more interesting movements in his spiritual history. The book is arranged on a plan somewhat similar to that adopted in Carlyle's work on Cromwell. The biography constitutes an intermitting chain between the numerous letters, and is executed in a modest and intelligent manner.

luable excerpts from his journals, and to the whole are appended interesting though slight notices of his character, from the pen of Mr. Sheppard.

BY GEORGE GILFILLAN, AUTHOR OF A “GALLERY OF LITERARY PORTRAITS." THERE are two classes of character of whom the biography is likely to be peculiarly interesting. One includes those whose lives have been passed in the glare of publicity—who have bulked largely || in public estimation, and who have mingled much with the leading characters of the age. The life of such includes in it, in fact, a multitude of lives, and turns out to be, not a solitary picture, but an entire gallery of interesting portraits. The other class comprises those of whom the world knows little, but is eager to know much-who, passing their lives in severe seclusion, have, neverthe-Besides his correspondence, there are large and valess, given such assurance of their manhood as to excite in the public mind an intense curiosity to know more of their habits, feelings, and history. Such an one was John Foster. While his works were widely circulated, and produced a profound impression upon the thinking minds of the country, himself was to the majority only a name. Few could tell what he was, or where he lived-what were the particulars of his outward history, or what had been the course of his mental training. He published little, he seldom appeared at public meetings, his name was never in the newspapers when he wrote, it was generally in periodicals of limited circulation and sectarian character, and when he preached, it was to small audiences and in obscure villages. There thus hung about him a certain shade of mystery, shaping itself to the colossal estimate of his genius which prevailed. He appeared a great man under hiding; and while some of his ardent admirers found or forced their way into his grisly den, and ascertained the prominent features of his character, and facts in his life, more were left in the darkness of mystification and conjecture. For twenty years, for instance, we ourselves have been enthusiasts in reference to this writer's genius, and yet, till a few


Reserving a few extracts, and some remarks on his style as a letter-writer, till afterwards, we proceed, in addition to what we have said elsewhere of Foster, to state, while still fresh and lively, the impressions which this work has left upon our minds in regard to his idiosyncracy. Fortunately, they are not of such a kind as to induce us, in many respects at least, to reverse our previous opinions. Those points in his character, however, on which new light has fallen are of no ordinary importance.

Throughout the whole of these volumes we have been impressed with the idea of a mind imperfectly reconciled and indifferently adjusted to the state of society of which it was a part-to the creed to which it had declared its adherence-to the very system of things which surrounded it. This is true of many independent and powerful spirits; but in Foster's mind the antagonism has this peculiarity-it is united to deep reverence and to sincere belief. It is not the fruit of any captious or malignant disposition-it does not spring from any sinister motive. The guilty wish is

Edited by J. E. Ryland; with Notices of Mr. Foster as a preacher and companion. By John Sheppard. London: Jackson and Walford. 1816.

"O ill to me the lot awarded,

Thou evil Pythian god."

never, with him, the parent of the gloomy thought. | got in wrath, and has faithfully transmitted to The tremendous doubts which oppress him have many besides Foster, who may with her exclaimforced themselves into the sphere of his soul, and hang there as if sustained by the power of some dark enchantment. You see his mind labouring From man, thus too utterly bare before him, under an eclipse which will not pass away. In he turns away, with a deep pensive joy, to Nature, contemplation of the mysteries of earth and time, feeling that she is true, were all else untrue-that he stands helpless. Indeed, such gloomy cogita- she is beautiful, were all else deformed-that she tions formed so large a part of his mental scenery, stands innocent and erect, though her tenant has and had so long rivetted his gaze, that you can al- fallen-and, like a child in his mother's arms, most conceive him disappointed had they suddenly does he repose, regaining old illusions, and redisappeared. Like the prisoner of Chillon, who, calling long-departed dreams of joy. There is habituated to the gloom of his dungeon, and hav- something to us peculiarly tender and pathetic ing made friends with his dismal companions, at in Foster's love of Nature. It is not so much. last “regained his freedom with a sigh;" Foster an admiration as it is a passionate and porpewould have stared strangely, and almost unhap- tual longing. It is not a worship, but a love. pily, though it had been at the apparition of the He throws his being into Nature. It is as "New Heavens and the New Earth" arising in if he felt his heart budding in the spring trees, room of the present, which his melancholy fancy his pulse beating high in the midnight tempest had so dreadfully discoloured. The causes of and in the ocean billow, his soul shooting up, this habitual gloom seem to have been complex. like living fire, into Snowdon, as he gazes upon it; In the first place, he was naturally a man of a or we might almost imagine him the divorced spirit morbid disposition. His mind fastened and clung of some lovely scene, yearning and panting after to the dark side of every question to the more renewed communion, "gazing himself away" into rugged horn of each great dilemma-to the sha- the bosom of Nature again, while the murmuring dows, and not to the lights, of every picture. To of streams, and the song of breezes, and the waving do this was with him an instinct, which, instead of pines, were singing of these strange nuptials, of repressing, he nursed into a savage luxury. the soft epithalamium. He engages in mystic Secondly, He was for a large portion of his life converse with the Creation. He seeks for meana solitary, struggling, and disappointed man- ings in her mighty countenance, which are not preaching to people who did not understand him, always revealed to him. He asks her awful and struggling with straitened circumstances, and un- unanswered questions. He seems to cry out to sustained, till middle-age, by the sympathy of any the river, "What meanest thou, thou eloquent female friend. Had a man of his temperament babbler, wilt thou never speak plain, wilt thou met sooner with the breeze of general and gener- never shape me any distinct utterance, from the ous appreciation; and, above all, had he found in vague and soft tumults of thine everlasting song?" youth such a kindred and congenial spirit as after- -to the rocks and mountains, "Will ye never rewards, in his accomplished and gifted wife, he had veal those secrets of an elder day, which are piled lived a much happier and more useful existence, up in your massive walls; to your solemn hieroand taken a kindlier, and, we trust, a truer view glyphics shall there never arrive the key?" but of the world and of mankind. Thirdly, As an elo- to add, in stern resignation, "Be it so, then; quent writer elsewhere observes, Foster never gave retain your tremendous silence, or utter on your himself a real scientific education, and although inarticulate sounds; better these than the jargon, possessed of keenest sagacity, never rose into the the laughter, and the blasphemies of the reptile sphere of a great and a trained philosopher. He and miscreant race of man; to you, my dumb was to this what a brave bandit is to a regular kindred, I am nearer and dearer than to those soldier. Scientific culture is sure to beget scientific that so speak." calm.

The philosopher is taught to take a wide, In forming, however, such a view of man and comprehensive, dispassionate, and rounded view of of life, Foster has committed, we think, an enorthings, which never frets his heart, if it often fails mous error-the great mistake of his history. He to satisfy his intellect. Foster's glimpses of truth, has failed to see the beauty of life, its hopeful tenon the contrary, are intense and vivid, but com- dencies, the dignity of that discipline which is paratively narrow, and are tantalising in exact ripening man for a nobler destiny, the soul of proportion to their vividness and intensity. He goodness which underlies even the evils, the sees his points in a light so brilliant that it deepens abuses, and the mistakes of the world, and the the surrounding darkness. His minute mode of glory which springs from human suffering, and insight, too, contributed to his melancholy. He shines through human tears. In all this he sees looks at objects so narrowly that, as to a micro- little else than unmitigated and unredeemed misery scope, they present nothing but naked and en- and guilt, and flies to the prospect of death for larged ugliness. His eye strips away all those relief, as the opium-eater to his drug, or the fine illusions of distance which are, after all, drunkard to his dram-bottle. "I have yet," he as real as the nearer and narrower view. This is says, toward the close of his life, "one luminary, the curse which blasts him-to see too clearly, and the visage of death." And in the rising of that the lens through which he looks becomes truly a pale luminary, that ghostly sun, he expects a reply terrible crystal. Like Cassandra, he might well to all his questionings, and a rest to all the wanwail for his fatal gift. It is a dowry which she derings of his spirit. Surely he expected far too

much from such a source.


For, in the first place, since the tale of the universe is infinite, can it be told all at once to a finite being? It is beyond even the might of Death to give to a mind infinite illumination, to which it has failed to give infinite capacity. It may, it must, greatly extend the view, and brighten the medium; but to suppose that it instantly makes all mysteries plain, were to leave little to do for the vast eternity beyond it. Besides, may not mystery continue to be an atmosphere fit for rearing certain future, as it is for rearing certain present, conditions of spiritual being. The caterpillar and the butterfly respire the same air. Certain plants, and those of a strong and hardy kind, grow best in the shade. To suppose that death should explain every enigma is, in fact, to enthrone it in the room of Omnipotence. Thirdly, unless first we be reconciled to life, unless we learn to interpret its sublime hieroglyphics, to feel its divine beauty, to read its open secret," to adore while we wonder at its darkest dispensations, what can death do for us? The man who, loathing, despising, reviling life, finding only desolation and barrenness in all its borders, turns away from under the vine and the fig tree, sits with lonely Jonah under his withered gourd, saying, "I do well to be angry, even unto death," is guilty of cowardice, if not of essential suicide: he may be a gifted, but is hardly a heroic man. "It is," says Schiller, "a serious thing to die—it is a more serious thing to live." So it is a great and glorious thing to die; it is a thing greater, more glorious, god-like, to live a resigned, active, and "blessed," if not happy life. the language of Sartor Resartus, Foster has been in the everlasting no; he has been in the centre of indifference, but he has not reached the everlasting yea; he has not heard, or not received, its sweet and solemn evangel-he has tarried too long in the valley of the shadow of death, and spent many needless hours in the dungeon of the giant Despair, and, worse, has dreamed, that to come forth from its threshold was to reach the Celestial City by a single step!

To use

Before proceeding to speak of Foster's merits, we have, in corroboration of these remarks, to advance against him one or two serious charges, made more in sorrow than in anger. We charge him, in the first place, with a sort of moral cowardice, which it is painful to observe in a man of such gigantic proportions. In his views of moral evil there is more of the fascinated fear of the planet-struck than of the strong courage of the combatant. He looks at it rather than seeks to strike it down. Knowing that Omnipotence alone can prostrate it in its entireness-that Omniscience alone can explain its existence he is not sufficiently alive to the facts that it is reducible, that every one may, in some degree, reduce it, that each smallest reduction proves that it is not infinite, and that the farther you reduce evil, the nearer you reach the solution of the great problems-why it is, and whence it rose. He seems sometimes to regard the efforts of men to remove, or mitigate, moral, or even physical, evil, with as much contempt as he would the efforts of barbarians, with


their cries and kettle-drums, to drive away an eclipse from off the face of the sun. His own attempts to abate evil are thus paralysed. keeps, indeed, his post-he maintains the contestbut it is languidly, and with frequent looks cast behind, toward a great reserve of force which he expects to be brought, but which is slow to come, into action. It is the old story of the waggoner and Hercules. The road is miry, the wain is heavy, he is weary, how easy it were for the god to come down and perform the task. And because he will not yet, Foster becomes sullen, disappointed, and all but desperate. Let no one say that we are not fair judges of a mind so peculiar as his, that we know not what doubts and difficulties oppressed him, or how they affected his spirit. Every thinking mind is haunted, more or less, by precisely those questions which Foster felt himself unable to solve. Luther felt them in the Warteburg, but bated on account of them not one jot of heart or hope. Evil there was in the world; he was sent to make it less; that was all he knew, and that was quite sufficient for his resolute and robust spirit. Howard felt them in his Circumnavigation of Charity," but instead of speculating as to why prisons were needed at all, he went on and made them better. Every missionary to the heathen feels such difficulties meeting him in their very darkest shapes, and yet perseveres in his holy work, and if he can smite away but a finger from the black colossal statue of evil which stands up before him, is content. Should any deem that we misrepresent Foster's feelings and sentiments on this subject, we refer them to his journals and letters, and particularly to that most withering and unhappy letter addressed to the Rev. John Harris, author of the " Great Teacher," &c.

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We find not less distinct evidence of the same disease in his contributions to the Eclectic, particularly in his review of Chalmers's Astronomical Discourses-in our opinion a very forced, clumsy, and unsatisfactory critique. There, at the supposition of snow existing in some of the other planets, he startles in terror, seeing in it a sign that Evil has found its way there as well as here. He is so frightened at this little speck as almost to back out from the discoveries of modern astronomy altogether. Now, we think this a cowardice unworthy, yet characteristic of Foster; for, in the first place, what is there so terrific in snow, the pure, innocent, beautiful meteor, falling from heaven like the shed feathers of the celestial dove, or lying, a many-millioned mirror to the moonbeams? Should not, on the contrary, that far gleam be welcomed as a proof of unity among the heavenly bodies, as attesting the omnipresence of certain general laws, shall we say ?— as a white signal from that stranger land, to tell us that a race of beings, not altogether unallied to us, are there, it may be, engaged in similar struggles, and destined to similar triumphs with ourselves? But, secondly, is snow necessarily the sign of a curse, or a certain indication of the existence of sin? This, we think, springs from a theory universally held at one time by a certain school of theologians, which the researches of

geology have exploded, and which Foster's power- | Author impossible, and which, a priori, throws ful intellect ought, apart from these, to have taught him to reject, that every species of physical evil is the product of moral, that every slight inconvenience, as well as formidable mischief, may be traced to the same root. Such an absurd theory teaches its votaries to cower under the falling snow as under the curse of the Eternal-to find a new testimony to the existence of evil in the icicles-glorious ear-rings!-which each morning hangs under the eaves; and in every sound, from the earthquake to the sneeze, to overhear the voice of Sin. No; this will never do. Step forth, John Foster, like a brave man, into that strange snow of Mars, and peradventure thou mayest find a braver Evan Dhu, kicking away a luxurious snow-ball from under the head of his retainer, or a gallant footman offering himself up to the wolves in his master's stead, or a noble little band of explorers cutting their perilous passage to the summit of some wilder Wetterhornfiner spectacles, be sure, than wert thou to see ever so many perfect, and perfectly insipid ladies and gentlemen, reclining in some lazy lubberland of perpetual sunshine. Step forth, bathe in the bracing cold of the clime, confront its stern winds, consider its laws of austere and awful progress, and come back a healthier, happier, and better


Had this speculation on snow been only a passing reverie, it had been unworthy any serious notice. But, like the snow on the dusky and dark-red brow of Mars, it lies significant-a still settled index of much behind and beyond it. It involves in it all the elements of Foster's quarrel with the system of things; for, as assuredly as in Byron's case, it was a quarrel; nor were their grounds so dissimilar as might have been at first supposed. Neither knew the real meaning of that grand old fable of Prometheus, as shadowing forth the history of man, nay, forming a dim but colossal type of that higher mystery-the mystery of godliness-bearing to it such a resemblance as does a battlement of evening clouds to the mountains over which it stands, and whose shapes it mutely mimics the glory of suffering, the beauty of sorrow, as teachers, friends, guides, were to them in a great measure veiled. Unphilosophically confounding physical and moral evil, of which the one seemed to them the monstrous body, the other the malignant soul of some portentous and unearthly shape, they both bow before it to the one it becomes a god, his only god, detested and adored; to the other, an object of melancholy wonder and powerless hatred. deed, so similar are the feelings of Foster to those entertained and expressed by the Byron school of sceptics, that, as a profound thinker recently remarked to us, the change of a single word will serve to identify them. The Byron-ling says, since so and so is the case, the Deity must be this and that; Foster, and his foster-bairns say, if it were this and that, the Deity were so and so.

discredit upon any theory of explanation propounded by himself. His attitude is that of one who confounds the shade over his own mind with the universe which it discolours, in whose eye (as in the well-known fable) the monster-fly swallows up the sun, and who, because he is capable of asking the infinite question, imagines that, therefore, he is able, or entitled to receive, the infinite reply. Nothing but such an infinite answer could appease such inquiries as Foster asks at the earth and the heavens. And because the earth spins round, and the skies shine on in silence, and no such reply as he craves will ascend from their deepest caverns, or come down from their loftiest summits, Foster is disappointed, the more in proportion to his love, just as the more you love any individual, the more you are chagrined if he will not answer you some curious question, but remains obstinately dumb. And though, as we have said, he is fond of questioning Nature, and loves her old and solemn harmonies, he is no "Fine-ear" to catch that subtler speech, that fairy music, that " language within language," that angelic strain, which some few purged and prepared spirits, who can the “bird language fully tell, and that which roses say so well," hear, or seem to hear, in the rustle of the leaves awakened at midnight from their dreams of God-in the great psalm of the autumn blasts in the sweet self-talk of the love-sick summer waves-in the blue smile of the sky-nay, in the hush of evening, and the stammering sparkle of the stars. To these low and silvery whispers, piercing the clash of all common and terrific sounds, like the calm No of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, heard amidst the idolatrous symphonies and cymbals on the plain of Dura, Foster's ear is deaf as Byron's. He is aware of their existence, indeed; he listens to hear them, but they will not speak to him their profoundest tidings; he hears only a great tumult, but knows not what it is-a tumult of grandeur, terror— sweet, and despairing tones, endlessly intermingled-and dies, believing that God is Love, but not feeling, with Tennyson, that

"Every cloud that spreads above and veileth love itself

is Love."

What Foster demands is precisely that which cannot here, perhaps never, be granted: it is a logical demonstration of the goodness and wisdom of God: such a demonstration seems impossible: it supposes the possibility of a just doubt on such a subject; and yet if this doubt do once In- enter the mind, no mere argument can ever expel it. It represents the question as to the character of Deity in the light of a dreadful game, which may possibly go against him. It proves, after all, no more than this-that there is a very high probability that God is not a demon. On such bladders do some men try to swim on the ocean of the infinite mind. Far better to plunge into it at once, trusting implicitly and fearlessly to those voices within the soul-to those whispers in nature to those smiles on earth below and heaven

But, secondly, we charge Foster with taking up an attitude of view and observation which rendered any just conception of the universe or its above-to those indefinite but profound impres

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