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borne in mind that, on account of the more convenient geographical position of England and the greater prestige of her form of speech, the ever increasing number of foreigners who strive to acquire the English language and a knowledge of English culture will naturally turn to her for guidance and instruction.
A TWENTIETH CENTURY TROLLOPE?
(Should a Bishop read novels? I am not sure what the orthodox answer to this question is, but I know that some of them do, even the famous ones. Their biographies give them away. It is recorded for instance of the English Bishops, Stubbs and Creighton, both famous historians as well as holders of the Episcopal office, that they were confirmed novel readers. Perhaps in their case it was a recoil from the severe repression of the imaginative faculty demanded of the modern scientific historian. Or it may be due to a reaction from the exacting, and sometimes exasperating, routine of ecclesiastical administration. In any case, the present writer has to confess that he shares with his illustrious brethren named above their love of fiction, and as he very seldom has any time to spare for this relaxation till late at night, has sacrificed a good many hours of sleep to the indulgence of this failing, if failing it be).
The foregoing is not an apology, but an explanation of my choice of a subject, a notable novel called The Cathedral, by Hugh Walpole, which has recently been issued. I might as a Bishop put forward the ecclesiastical suggestions of the title as an excuse for writing about the book. I do not, however, propose to deal with it from that angle more than I can help, but rather, so far as my prepossessions will allow, from the point of view of the lover of good fiction.
The title of this paper is taken from a phrase in a review of the book which I read the other day. I have added a note of interrogation because the comparison of the two men seems to me a very doubtful one, even allowing for all the difference of outlook implied in the qualification "Twentieth Century.' Trollope wrote a number of stories giving an intimate picture of the inner life of an English Cathedral circle. His life-like presentation both of incident and characters is all the more remarkable, if, as is generally understood, he had no first-hand knowledge of his subject. But Trollope was content to be a faithful chronicler of Cathedral life with its
cabals and intrigues, sometimes rather sordid, but always amusing, only giving the turn to events required, as the reading public of his day demanded, to enable the virtuous to triumph in the long run, and the less virtuous to receive meet punishment. It is true that he had the invaluable gift of making his characters live. Mrs. Proudie is as real as Mrs. Gamp. But Trollope never attempted to go below the surface of things. He shows little sense of the tragedy underlying much that he records. At times he allowed himself to indulge in a polished and urbane irony, but he went no deeper than that. With him, the story was the main thing, and within clearly-marked limits he was exceedingly successful in attaining his object, which was that of turning certain material into an interesting and amusing tale, and that material he found in the more human side of Cathedral dignitaries and the lesser Clergy, as shown in what might be called ecclesiastical politics.
Now in The Cathedral the author gives one the impression that he is not tied to his material at all, but that he could have produced the effects at which he is aiming just as well in any other milieu which he happened to select; for instance, in political life. His main object is not to produce a life-like picture of a particular Cathedral circle in the 'nineties, though incidentally he is quite successful in so doing, in spite of one or two minor technical inaccuracies. I was myself Headmaster of an English Cathedral Grammar School for six years, and can testify from my own experience to the exactness with which the general atmosphere of this particular phase of English life is reproduced. So like in its peculiar features is one Cathedral circle to another that, so far as the general setting, including the minor characters, is concerned I might have been reading about the Cathedral which I knew. The little group of ladies, connexions of past or present Church dignitaries, or else sufficiently well born to be admitted to the exclusive circle of the 'Precincts', the whole interest of whose life was centred in the microcosm of the Cathedral; the family doctor; the pompous and autocratic head Verger; the Chapter Clerk who had risen from the ranks; all these were to be found there, just as they are depicted in this book. But this accuracy, though important and attractive, is only a com
paratively minor detail. Our author has something bigger than that in his mind, bigger even than the telling of an excellent and enthralling story, an object which he incidentally achieves.
The fact is that the book, though about happenings connected with a Christian Cathedral, is essentially Pagan in motive. Or if that epithet be thought due to episcopal prejudice, I am willing to substitute Greek for Pagan. It is saturated with the spirit of Greek tragedy. The peculiar distinction which the book possesses is due to this quality. We are constantly made to feel, sometimes by subtle hint, sometimes by more open suggestion, that behind the characters there are powerful elemental forces at work which are too strong for them. Of this they themselves are dimly conscious. In the Archdeacon this vague apprehension produces alternate fits of rage and fear; in his antagonist and vanquisher, Canon Ronder, a haunting misgiving that his intrigues have let loose forces beyond his control, bringing about results that he neither foresaw nor desired. Falk, the Archdeacon's son, who loves his father deeply, deliberately and with full knowledge of the terrible blow that it will be to the Archdeacon, runs away with and marries the daughter of a disreputable publichouse keeper in the same town, impelled thereto not by physical passion, for the girl is no vulgar siren, nor does she try to entrap him, but by an irresistible conviction which he can neither explain nor entirely understand, that only by taking this step will he be enabled fully to realize his life. Davray the artist becomes a hopeless victim to drink and has his mind turned by the stern, overwhelming beauty and grandeur of the Cathedral which he came to study and paint, yet retains, even in the lowest depths of his degradation, a fearful devotion to his destroyer, from which he cannot keep away. The Archdeacon's wife is driven to abandon him by a cold, relentless hatred of her husband, so strong that it has the effect of some malignant external force working upon her rather insignificant personality, as much as by her love for the man for whom she leaves him. And over them all towers the Cathedral, sphinx-like, majestically beautiful, but with something sinister and threatening in its beauty; the creation
of men's hands, yet, as if it possessed a living personality, seeming to control and dispose of men's lives for generation after generation. In all this there is the suggestion of something in human life more powerful than the strongest of men. But this something is emphatically not the Christian God. It is far more akin to the relentless Até of the Greeks.
Archdeacon Brandon, too, the central figure of the story, might, mutatis mutandis, have stepped straight out of a Greek Tragedy, or formed the subject of one of the inimitable stories of Herodotus. For his outstanding characteristic was a quality that the Greeks called 'hubris', a word not easy to translate, but which implies in a man an overweening self-confidence and love of mastery, with the power to force his will upon others; a conviction of infallibility based upon a sure and certain belief that he is a favourite of the gods, and that they must be on his side, and a pitying contempt for those whom he is obliged to crush, because in their foolish ignorance they have dared to oppose him. The utter downfall of such a man the Greeks believed to be merely a question of time, for the gods did not brook any rivalry, or encroachment, on their prerogatives; they allowed him to reach his zenith, and then ruthlessly struck him down. A man need not necessarily be what is commonly called bad or wicked to suffer this fate; indeed, he might be actuated by what appeared to him to be noble motives, aiming at power for the sake of serving some worthy cause. But if he became too strong, too fortunate in his undertakings, too highly honoured among men, too selfcomplacent and exultant in his success, then the divine Nemesis would certainly fall upon him and destroy him.
This is exactly what happens to Archdeacon Brandon. The opening of the story pictures him in a mood of extraordinary exaltation. He knows that his will has become practically law in all that concerns his beloved Cathedral. All the citizens of Polchester recognize him as the greatest power in the place. He firmly believes that in getting his own way and doing his own will in everything he is doing the will of God. So convinced is he in this belief, that he feels himself to be rather a partner on almost equal terms with the Deity, than merely an instrument in His hands. Immediately Nemesis