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room attached to a great bedchamber forty feet long-vast corridors and antechambers chill as Labrador, no visitor but the Curé who came to say his Mass once a week, and M. le Percepteur, who was a scion of a noble family much come down in the world. Mrs. Craven seems to suppose, however, that the absence of all idea of riding on horse'back' is made up by the ideal picture, much better than England, of the party round the table, complacently listening to Fleurange.' We doubt whether that would be a general opinion here.
Mrs. Craven's views about politics are always sane and sensible, and full of excellent judgement. Notwithstanding all prepossessions she never abandoned the cause of Italy nor the fine delusion that the Catholic faith and political freedom ought to go together. And it cost her a great struggle, when the question of Roma capitale arose among the newly emancipated Italians, to harmonise her political sympathies with her obedience to the Church. This is from Naples in the first excitement of the new life :
Imagine how I enjoy sitting at table every day between my brother, who thinks as all Frenchmen do on these affairs, and Count Arrivabene, a young Garibaldian, à peine défroqué et débarbouillé from his prison at Gaeta, from which he was set free by an exchange of prisoners.
I feel sometimes as if I were on burning coals, and I feel a wild wish to escape, particularly when they bring forward that endless Roman question. Yet I will not conceal from you, as generally I do from others, that perceiving the moral force of these plebiscites which one after the other lead all the Italian cities towards junction in one great kingdom, I cannot shut out the hope that from Rome may at last come the gran rifiuto of her lost provinces, which would so greatly increase the spiritual power of the Papacy.'
We do not know whether this was more than the last flash of that visionary and enthusiastic Catholicism of 1830, which believed that new heavens and a new earth were to come from the union of the Church and Freedom; but it is touching to read of the devout imagination now when so many strange things and eventful years have come and
Mrs. Craven was equally sensible, which perhaps is still more wonderful, upon the question of Home Rule. Very few indeed are the French politicians who are impartial on this subject. It is a commonplace among them to compare Ireland with Poland as countries equally oppressed by an alien race and creed; and this opinion exists, or used to exist, as much among the most highly educated class of liberal
thinkers, taking the greater part of their political beliefs from England, as among the most ignorant of bigoted Catholics. We remember that Montalembert was not to be convinced on this subject, any more than the narrowest of country priests, notwithstanding even the strange fact, of which he and still more his family were a little ashamed, that his keen youthful perceptions had found out O'Connell to be a humbug at a very early period. (But what a genial humbug and a big one, instead of the small race of his shrieking successors!) It is curious, too, that in acknowledging this we all remain insensible to one great, if also small, influence continually at work in France, and the power of which it is difficult to overestimate. It shows even in the work before us. The English friends of a devout Catholic are very largely Irish-which is not a bull, though it may appear so. The English nurse or governess is so to a quite extraordinary extent. We have heard the most strenuous accents of Cork issuing from young French lips which had been trained in our Anglo-Saxon tongue by such means; the prepossession thus given is as subtle as universal, and it accounts for a great deal of pseudo-national feeling. With a similar partiality the English household gets its French bonne from Switzerland, and therefore misses any reflex action from the genuine French mind; though the honest Swiss are not likely to spread hostility at all events, whatever little imperfection in the way of accent they may bring with them. Mrs. Craven, however, knew enough of the question to have formed a right opinion about Home Rule, and she expresses it with great frankness, especially in respect to the Irish clergy, whose position she was evidently quite unable to reconcile with any Catholic or religious law.
I have read over attentively the pastorals of Dr. McCabe, and also the resolutions of the clergy of Cloyne. It is a language too different from that in which the Catholic people is addressed by its clergy all over the world to be conceivable for us, unless we are to understand that in Ireland it is the people who lead the clergy, and not the clergy who guide the people. Enough has been said of the virtues and wrongs of the Irish. It is now time, it seems to me, for their pastors el of their faults and of their crimes. England has for many been in a temper to listen to their grievances and to remedy justly, temperately, and clearly stated. Surely there must be n capable of doing this. Good heavens! if Poland was in the tuation, if they possessed religious and civil liberty, notwiththeir bad and cruel landlords, we should, as they would, feel ankful indeed; and we ourselves here, undergoing, as we are, us persecution (which, after all, is the worst of all grievances,
though the Irish clergy forget to remark it), how differently we are advised by the highest ecclesiastical authority. .. Of course, it is visible enough that the present Irish agitation is simply revolutionary, but that is why it is so astounding that the clergy so hesitatingly denounce it. Those whom at present there is an attempt to wrong outrageously, and who are in fact the victims of to-day, are the landlords. It is by them, therefore, that the clergy ought to stand.
All the persecutions of the Church in France, in Germany, and Italy seemed to me nothing in comparison with the disgrace which Ireland was inflicting on the Church. . . . I see in a paper of last night that the Irish bishops are strenuously opposing the proposal of many in England to bring about a renewal of relations between the Holy See and the English Government. It is my belief that they hate the English to such a degree that they had rather they did not become Catholics, or behave well to the Church, or indeed to themselves, because all these would be reasons for hating them less; and they worship their hatred, and cling to it more than to their faith. Those queer Catholics the Irish!' Mrs. Craven exclaims on another occasion. What is true for all the world is not true for Ireland according to their view, and the wrong done by an Irishman is not at all in their eyes like the same wrong done by any other man in the world. You and Mrs. La Touche cannot pretend to be among the Irish of the right sort, though I have not yet quite understood where one began and where one ceased to be an Irish man or woman. I am told, for instance, that Lord O'Hagan and Lord Emly are no longer to be considered as Irishmen-and so on of all those I like.'
She thought, however, that Home Rule would be attained, although it would be fatal all round. The Bill will pass 'unopposed by the Lords, and the time of its failure in Ireland will then begin.' This, we may suppose, was the opinion of Holland House, from which she dates this fortunately erroneous prophecy. It is a little tantalising to find a good many letters from Holland House, with all its traditions of brilliant talk, and intellectual interest, with extremely little in them. To be sure, the great day of that remarkable lions' den and literary autocracy was over; still it must have had, we should imagine, echoes round it of the greatness of the past. Here is one sketch among the very few that are worth quoting :
'Mr. Gladstone, next to whom I sat at dinner at Lord Granville's the other day, was most pleasant, talkative, brilliant, eager, full of poetry and earnestness, and yet to my mind how visionary on some points and how unpractical! We talked of everything, and it certainly was most interesting. One thing he said with an energy which added to the feeling he expressed, that the growth of infidelity was the one evil to be resisted before all others, and that whoever served the cause of Faith and Christianity was doing the greatest of
all deeds to be done. "In comparison with that nothing whatever signifies much in this world." I said it was a good thing for England that her prime minister should utter such words.'
But these scraps of the world grow less and less as the book draws to an end. The letters to Sir M. Grant Duff are almost the only exceptions to the strictly religious correspondence, and her friendship with him is a piquant touch in the fading life. That so grave a personage should have used a sort of calendar compiled by a pious enthusiast, with all the dates and memorial days of the Récit,' should have kept up some half-century after the end of that youthful romance and tragedy the gentle recollection of Alex and Eugénie and their tender sayings, sending little sprigs of jasmine to the sole survivor on certain anniversaries, is one of the most curious things in literature, touching in its reality and very pleasantly demonstrative of the 'soft place' which is always to be found in a good heart-if it were not for the faintest lurking sense of humour in these kind sentimentalities from so unlikely a quarter. They bring us back pleasantly to the book which is Mrs. Craven's chief title to be remembered in literature, though it is not literature properly so called, nor, as she and her admirers often repeat, a book at all in the ordinary sense of the word. Here are some little indications from her own hand of the way in which that book moved other souls to whom it was a revelation. Towards the end of her life Mrs. Craven made a last visit to Boury, then in a second set of hands, the present proprietors having learnt to take pride in the associations of the place:
'Still more astonishing and gratifying is the fact of the many visitors who come, some from very great distances, to pray in the little churchyard. A man had been there the day before who had come all the way from Lille to spend an hour there and he has written to me since a letter, which has touched me deeply, to explain to me in what kind of a way he had been helped by those whose story he had read, and why he thanked me so much for having written it. He speaks with a kind of passionate affection of them all. He is an employé on the railroad. A girl, too, a very nice young Alsatian, with whom the Récit had made me acquainted, went off the other day to Boury to place a wreath on my mother's grave, because, she said, she was the one she turned to with the greatest love whilst reading the book, and she felt she must go and thank me.'
Here, however, is another amusing side of the question :--'I had a letter the other day which would have amused you from a young man-very young, I suppose-who called himself un obscur
étudiant, and dated from the very centre of the pays latin. He had been reading for the first time the "Récit d'une Sœur," and had to say about it a great deal that was touching and flattering for me to hear. But what he was annoyed at was that such a beautiful book should be so very little known, and should never have been spoken of. At first this remark made me laugh a little then I reflected that if this young reader is only twenty-two or twenty-four, it is very natural that he should never have heard of it, and I feel thankful that one of quite another generation should read it with so much pleasure.'
Mrs. Craven lived to be eighty-three, and then--may we not say without irreverence that there are people who have no luck in this world?-after all her brilliant talk, her love of social intercourse, the many things she had to say which choked' her sometimes in her occasional solitudes, was stricken down by that most terrible of maladies paralysis, and lay for ten months, a long lifetime in such circumstances, bound in chains more hard than iron, speechless, as unable to communicate with those about her as if she had been dead. The conclusion is so tragic, that the heart aches painfully in sympathy with the sufferer bound to that nightmare, life in death. In the later months of her long agony she seems to have given forth a murmur, inarticulate, which one of her tender nurses calls her cantilena, and from the varying tones of which some guesses at her meaning, so far, at least, as feeling went, could be divined: there could not be a more piteous picture of human weakness. Upon this last act it is too heartrending to dwell. On April 3, 1891, the ill-luck and the frequent trials came to an end, and a few days after she rejoined the many whom she had loved and lost at Boury, where a few years before her always loving and faithful husband had also been laid. This world could scarcely have given more to a woman than was given to her-youth, love, happiness, reputation, sorrow, trouble, and anguish, and in the end an oblivion at which she was able to smile.