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Art. III.-Introductory Lectures on Modern History. By Tho
MAS Arnold, D.D., Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford, and Head Master of Rugby School. 8vo. Oxford : 1842.
I MPERFECTLY as this volume of lectures, interrupted by the
death of its lamented author, answers the promise, to the fulfilment of which we looked so eagerly, little more than a year ago, when he was appointed to the Chair of Modern History at Oxford, we should feel ourselves guilty of no common degree of neglect if we omitted to notice it; for we may perhaps find no other occasion for paying our tribute of respect to one of the noblest minds and highest characters of these days, prematurely taken from us in the middle of a career of usefulness, which we believe we are guilty of no exaggeration in terming unparalleled in that line of life which Dr Arnold had adopted.
As far as they throw light on the literary and intellectual attainments of their author, these lectures are undoubtedly incomplete enough; and, regarded in that point of view, they possess the positive fault of attempting too many things at once. They are impressed with the peculiarly eager temperament, the perfervidum ingenium, the active, but somewhat desultory range of thought which display themselves, more or less, in every production of the writer. Who that has read much, and felt strongly, on any subject, and who has not yet acquired that last and somewhat melancholy gift of experience, the art of arranging and chastening the thoughts as they arise, when favoured with some opportunity of giving vent to his accumulated ideas, has not experienced the mixture of pleasurable excitement and embarrassment produced by the throng of multitudinous topics pressing forward for utterance ? This argument to be confuted, that to be urged, this long-cherished theory to be advanced, that well-remembered illustration to be furbished up for useand all to be compressed within the narrow compass prescribed by overruling circumstances ! Just so we can conceive of Dr Arnold—from his youth an insatiable reader of history, and at the same time an active controversialist, in whose head every series of phenomena naturally crystallized into a theory--when he suddenly found himself invested with the office of an historical teacher. We perceive at once, in the odd mixture of matters huddled together in these few pages, the variety of subjects which filled his mind, and the necessity under which he lay of disburdening himself of his feelings on each, as if the retention VOL. LXXVI. NO. CLIV.
of any part of his stores oppressed him. The province of history -the provinces of church and state- the characteristics of historical style-military ethics-military geography-national prejudices—religious and political parties in England—these are only some of the prominent topics rather glanced at than discussed in the pages before us; and put forward apparently as if for more extended consideration at some future time-topics on which he longed to speak his mind to the world, and could not abstain from a partial disclosure of it-topies, many of them, on which we shall have long to wait for an instructor as rich at once in zeal and knowledge.
But if this volume is to a certain extent disappointing, rather from the over-richness than meagieness of its contents, it will, if possible, add to the veneration with which its author's character is already regarded as a moral philosopher, and an instructor of the youth of England. It adds one more claim to those whichi the late head master of Rugby already possessed on public gratitude and veneration.
Every one accustomed to English society has observed the strength of that generous tie which, in after life, connects the pupil, especially when bred in our great public schools, with his former master. Even in ordinary cases, we by no means admit the truth of the ill-natured saying, that there is little of this affectionate remembrance, except where the scholar feels himself superior to his teacher. We believe it, on the contrary, to be the general rule, and that the exceptions arise only from causes discreditable either to the one party or the other. But, common as this feeling is, and derived as it is fiom many sources—from the instinctive attachment to old places and times—from sensie bility to kindness shown and interest manifested— from real gratitude for substantial services—we are bound to add that, as far as our own observation has gone, it rarely, very rarely, has the higher tincture of reverence. The quondam schoolboy may have a host of pleasant recollections associated with the memory of his old tutor: he may regarid him as the friend who directed his unformed taste—who introduced his youthful spirit into the magnificent domain of earthly knowledge-to whose counsels he may possibly be indebted for a few valuable hints in the conduct of life-more than this, who has imbued him with much of the spirit of a gentleman, and a love of fairness and honourable dealing; but in very few instances, indeed, does he remember him as his guide towards the accomplishment of the real ends of his being. We do not pause to examine into the cause of this deficiency: much may be owing to old peculiarities in the management of great schools, something to the character of many of our
most successful men in this line of life; but we think the fact will hardly be disputed. By far the most distinguished exception to the rule, with whom we are acquainted, was Dr Arnold. He possessed the art, which is perhaps not very uncommon, of winning in a peculiar manner the affections of boys, and directing their energies to whatever object he might himself hold out; but, what is much more rare, he made it the one great business of his life to give those affections and energies a religious direction. Distinguished as a schoolmaster in many respects, it was in this one that he was unrivalled. The mainspring of his success was his own deep affection for those placed under his care, which makes itself evident in every page of his sermons, chiefly addressed to the young. His was no entraining or engrossing religious eloquence, addressed as it were to minds in the mass, and carrying them away by movements of enthusiasm; but a gentle, watchful influence, directed steadily to individual temperaments; and above all, (which was partly the consequence of the thorough reality of his own religious impressions,) not leaving religion to stand alone, as something to be learnt and studied apart from all things else, but connecting it with all that is most naturally attractive to the honest heart of youth ;—with uncompromising love of truth, with manliness and independence, with love and with gratitude.
We dare not venture further on considerations of such deep and sacred importance. It is more to our purpose, and more connected with the subject of these lectures, to trace the steps by which he was wont to lead the mind from feeling to thinking; from the formation of a religious character, his first and main object, to the formation of opinion on religious as well as other subjects. The first rule with him was, to follow the truth at all hazards-regardless in what apparent difficulties it may involve us—regardless into what bad company it may lead us. The absolute right and duty of the mind to judge for itself, the total negation of any human authority binding in matters of faith-these are points on which he insisted, in season and out of season, if we may so express ourselves, with an ardour which not only rendered him very unpopular, as well it might, with persons of different opinions, but frequently exposed him to charges of imprudence and rashness from those who in the main agreed with him. This ardour proceeded, no doubt, in part from natural impetuosity of disposition ; but it also arose from a deep conviction, that the one great thing wanted, and in these times especially, is, to infuse into the mind the power and the will to rest self-balanced ;-to incite it to implant in itself the seeds of principles, which neither the recklessness of business nor pleasure, nor
the thousand influences of party, might afterwards eradicate. The lines of Goethe• Denn der Mensch, der su schwankenden Zeiten auch Schwankend
gesinnt ist, Der vermehret das Uebel, und breitet es weiter und weiter;
Aber wer fest auf dem Sinne beharrt, der bildet die Welt sich,'— might almost be inscribed as the motto to the whole collection of his ethical and historical works. And his great endeavourno one could set the example better than himself-was so to discipline the mind, as to reconcile freedom of belief with real humility of spirit; to reconcile the unqualified rejection of authority, when imposed as binding, with docility and submissiveness towards it when propounded as an object of respect ;-a reconcilement by no means difficult in itself, and possibly more common in practice than is generally imagined. Clear of his own way between the conflicting claims of authority and individual responsibility, he regarded with utter contempt the charges of presumption, so indiscriminately brought against all those who venture to differ from received opinions. Will-worship, as he well knew, is quite as fatally manifested in wilful and passionate adherence to such opinions, as in wilful and passionate rejection of them. The rule of humility does not mark out the line to be taken by the man of conscience, when authority and argument are in opposition; but the manner and spirit in which his choice must be made. Nor is it difficult to apply, as he would have bidden us, to the controversies of the present day, the lesson intended to be conveyed in the following noble vindication of the Puritan character :"To
say that the Puritans were wanting in humility, because they did not acquiesce in the state of things which they found around them, is a mere extravagance, arising out of a total misapprehension of the nature of humility, and of the merits of the feeling of veneration. All earnestness and depth of character is incompatible with such a notion of humility. A man deeply penetrated with some great truth, and compelled, as it were, to obey it, cannot listen to every one who may be indifferent to it, or opposed to it. There is a voice to which he already owes obedience—which he serves with the humblest devotion, which he worships with the most intense veneration. It is not that such feelings are dead in him, but that he has bestowed them on one object and they are claimed for another. To which they are most due is a question of justice: he may be wrong in his decision, and his worship may be idolatrous ; but so also may be the worship which his opponents call upon him to render. If, indeed, it can be shown, that a man admires and reverences nothing, he may justly be taxed with want of humility; but this is at variance with the very notion of an earnest character, for its earnestness consists in its devotion to some one object, as opposed to a proud or contemptupus indifference. But if it be meant that reverence in itself is good, so
that the more objects of veneration we have the better is our character, this is to confound the essential difference between veneration and love. The excellence of love is its universality; we are told that even the Highest Object of all cannot be loved if inferior objects are bated. And with some exaggeration in the expression, we may admit the truth of Coleridge's lines
“ He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man, and bird, and beast :' Iosomuch that, if we were to hear of a man sacrificing even his life to save that of an animal, we could not help admiring him. But the excellence of veneration consists purely in its being fixed upon a worthy object; when felt indiscriminately, it is idolatry or insanity. To tax any one, therefore, with want of reverence, because he pays no respect to what we venerate, is either irrelevant or is a mere confusion. The fact, so far as it is true, is no reproach, but an honour; because to reverence all persons and all things is absolutely wrong: reverence shown to that which does not deserve it, is no virtue—no, nor even an amiable weakness, but a plain folly and sin. But if it be meant that he is wanting in proper reverence, not respecting what is to be really respected, that is assuming the whole question at issue, because what we call divine he calls an idol ; and as, supposing that we are in the right, we are bound to fall down and worship; so, supposing him to be in the right, he is no less bound to pull it to the ground and destroy it.'-(P. 268.)
Those who have thus learnt the real characteristics of veneration and humility, will understand the lesson which the history of the world so abundantly teaches—that self-will and pride play their vagaries quite as wantonly under the banner of authority as under that of private judgment;—a lesson renewed to us by the experience of every day, to the great astonishment of that part of the world which is taken in by fine professions.
It will be readily perceived, from this as well as a hundred other passages in his works, that Dr Arnold made it a great part of his business to carry on war against prejudices; and certainly a more determined, we might almost say a more indiscriminating warfare, was never waged. Those among our prejudices to which we are apt to give the tenderest names, and treat as peculiarly creditable to ourselves, met from him with no more quarter than the rest. Perhaps it may be thought, even by those who most admire the singleness of his devotion to truth, that in some instances his zeal was so unscrupulous that he ran the risk of rooting out good feelings along with mere weaknesses; but such was the character of the man. Take, for instance, the following attack on the virtue of patriotism, as vulgarly understood :
• But here that feeling of pride and selfishness interposes, which, under the name of patriotism, has so long tried to pass itself off for a virtue.