Page images
PDF
EPUB

whether even he would have been proof against the trials of a country rectory ; at Cambridge, indeed, he had quiet as much as he wished, but he had stimulus too : at Ingoldsby he would have had enforced quiet without the stimulus.

He was elected into the Royal Society, before its establishment by charter, in order to add lustre to it; for, though he never aimed at it, he had acquired long before his death a great reputation by his writings, which, as Mr. Chishull, the eminent bookseller of the day, said, ruled all the other booksellers in London.

He was a very laborious writer ; his works fill folio volumes, and are full of curious learning, with a strange streak of humour, descending at times to a coarseness of expression which would not be tolerated now.

His voice, as was said, was somewhat inward, and not suited to the pulpit ; and so he determined to give the world his thoughts in writing.

The Divine Dialogues are the Mystery of Godliness and the Mystery of Iniquity; the first of these being an exhaustive inquiry, in many books, into the nature and spirit of heathen religions. It may be said at once that his method of treating the subject is unjust ; he is far too anxious, in his zeal for the Truth, to attribute to them a licentious or contemptible origin and obscene or meaningless ceremonies. The “ Mysteries of Eleusis," which, according to

Socrates, had much symbolism of a strangely exalted type, are treated by More as both superstitious and dissolute—even Apollonius of Tyana, who, whether he existed actually or not, at least exhibits a high type of the Stoic ideal, is a solemn puppet in his eyes.

When he has, then, to his satisfaction demonstrated the worthless and debasing character of these riteswhich is surely to shut the eyes to the inextinguishable hunger for the holy expression of life, in worship, that has never really deserted the human race-he proceeds to bring the Christian faith upon the stage, and to show how it satisfies the deepest and highest instincts of humanity.

But More cannot be said to have been a Christian in the sense that Thomas-à-Kempis or Francis of Assisi were Christians; he did not hunger for the personal relation with Christ which is so profoundly essential to the true conception of the Christian ideal.

He was a devout, a passionate Deist ; he realised the indwelling of God's spirit in the heart, and the divine excellence of the Son of Man. But it was as a pattern, and not as a friend, that he gazed upon Him; the light that he followed was the uncovenanted radiance.

For it is necessary to bear in mind that More and the Cambridge Platonists taught that the Jewish knowledge of the mysteries of God had passed through some

rgely uper уала,

bas

tes

nex en of arted

the

how Es of

undiscovered channel into the hands of Pythagoras and Plato; and that the divinity of their teaching was directly traceable to their connection with Revelation. They looked upon Plato and Pythagoras as predestined vehicles of God's spirit, appointed to prepare the heathen world for the reception of the true mysteries, though not admitted themselves to full participation in the same.

Besides these books, which are profound and logical, and composed in a style which is admirable by comparison to the ordinary writing of the times. More drifted away into some rather grotesque speculations on the subject of Apocalyptical interpretation; of this, he says, humorously, himself, that while he was writing it “his nag was over free, and went even faster than he desired, but he thought it was the right way”—and there is something pathetic indeed in the mode in which the passionate seekers after truth of those times beat their heads against the various theories of the direct communication of God with man, such as warning dreams and visions, and the face of the heavens by night, The idea is beautifully presented in John Inglesant, where the hero says to his brother, who has produced a false horoscope of himself: "I would have you think no more of this, with which a wicked man has tried to make the heavens themselves speak falsely. .... Father

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

.

St. Clare taught it me among other things, and I have seen many strange answers that he has known himself but it is shameful that the science should be made a tool of by designing men."

This is said so naturally, with so simple and melancholy a faith, that it seems to me to reproduce the feeling of even the more refined and cultivated men of the time about such things in an infinitely affecting way.

Besides these there are published letters of Henry More's, prolix for the general reader, but interesting enough if the man's own personality appeals to you : some very disappointing hymns and didactic poems, stiff and unlovely to a strange degree for so deep and graceful a writer ; and many other

scattered works, such as the Enchiridion Ethicum, which it is impossible to analyse here.

More had a very facile style: he used to say that his friends had been always wanting him to go up upon a stall and speak to the people; but that was not his way: he should not have known what to have done in the world if he could not have preached at his fingers' ends. He said that when he sat down to write, though his thoughts were perfectly clear, yet they were too numerous ; and that he had to cut his way through them as through a wood. However, he would never correct : the thing must go as he first wrote it; “if he saw any faults in the first draft, he could correct them, though it was not easy to him—that this correction went against the grain and seldom seemed to him so savoury as the rest.” He was not inclined to overvalue his work. “ Like the ostrich," he said, “I lay my eggs in the sand, and hope they will prove vital and prolific in time."

Though he produced very voluminous writings, yet he sometimes manifested a strong and healthy repugnance to the task of expressing himself: he had none of the gloomy laboriousness that is never satisfied with its performance, and yet never takes a lively pleasure in it. When he had finished one of his more lengthy works, he said pleasantly to a friend, as he threw down his pen : “ Now for three months I will neither think a wise thought, nor speak a wise word, nor do a wise thing." Once in the middle of some troublesome work he said, with considerable irritation, to a friend who was sitting with him, “When I once get my hands out of the fire, I shall not very suddenly thrust them in afresh." In a letter to Dr. Worthington, Master of Jesus, he says: “I am infinitely pleased that I find my obligation of writing books not too fierce in me, and myself left free to my own more private meditations. I have lived the servant of the public hitherto : it is a great ease to me to be manumitted thus and left to the polishing of

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »