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SECTION VI. - Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 2 and Memorials of Harriet Martineau 
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography and Memorials of Harriet Martineau, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
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With all the writing that I have particularised on my hands, it is not to be wondered at that November arrived before Mr. Atkinson was wanted, to finish off our work for press: and by that time, my winter course of lectures was due. So much for the “leisure,” and the “dulness” which distant friends have attributed to my life at the Lakes. This winter’s course was the arduous one of twenty lectures on the History of England, — the first of which was delivered on the fifth of November, and the last on the first of April, 1851. Amidst the undeniable overwork of that winter, I had a feeling, which I remember expressing to one friend at least, that this might probably be the last season of work for me. It seemed to me probable that, after the plain-speaking of the Atkinson Letters, I might never be asked, or allowed, to utter myself again. I had, on four previous occasions of my life, supposed the same thing, and found myself mistaken; but the “audacity,” (as a scientific reader called my practice of plain avowal) was so much greater in appearance (though not in reality) in the present case than ever before, that I anticipated excommunication from the world of literature, if not from society. This seems amusing enough, now, when I have enjoyed more prosperity since the publication of that volume, realised more money, earned more fame of a substantial kind, seen more of my books go out of print, and made more friendships and acquaintance with really congenial people than in any preceding four years of my life. But the anticipation was very sincere at the time; and I took care that my comrade in the work knew what my anticipation was. — There was to me, I must observe, no choice about making known, in this form or some other, my views at this period. From the time when, in my youth, I uttered my notions and was listened to, I had no further choice. For a quarter of a century past I had been answerable to an unknown number of persons for a declaration of my opinions as my experience advanced; and I could not stop now. If I had desired it, any concealment would have been most imprudent. A life of hypocrisy was wholly impracticable to me, if it had been endurable in idea; and disclosure by bits, in mere conversation, could never have answered any other purpose than misleading my friends, and subjecting me to misconception. So much for the necessity and the prudence of a full avowal. A far more serious matter was the duty of it, in regard to integrity and humanity. My comrade and I were both pursuers of truth, and were bound to render our homage openly and devoutly. We both care for our kind; and we could not see them suffering as we had suffered without imparting to them our consolation and our joy. Having found, as my friend said, a spring in the desert, should we see the multitude wandering in desolation, and not show them our refreshment? We never had a moment’s doubt or misgiving; though we anticipated (or I did, for I ought only to speak for myself) all manner of consequences which never ensued.
Just as I am writing on this subject, an old letter of mine to Mr. Atkinson is put before my eyes. It was written before the publication of “Eastern Life;” and I will insert a part of it, both because it indicates the kind of difficulty I had to deal with, on these occasions, and because it is an honest comfort to see what I had gained in courage, strength and cheerfulness in the three years which intervened between the publication of the two books.
“I am not afraid of censure,” I wrote in February 1848, “from individuals or from the world. I don’t feel, at present, any fear of the most thorough pulling to pieces that I suppose can ever befal me. The book once out, I am in for it, and must and will bear every thing. ... ... ... The fact is, however, — this book is, I believe, the greatest effort of courage I ever made. I only hope I may not fail in the proof. Some people would think the Population number of my Political Economy, and the Women and Marriage and Property chapters in my American books, and the Mesmerism affair, bolder feats: but I know that they were not. I was younger and more ardent then; and now the forecast and love of ease belonging to age are coming upon me. Then, I believed in a Protector who ordered me to do that work, and would sustain me under it: and, however I may now despise that sort of support, I had it then, and have none of that sort now. I have all that I want, I believe, in the absolute necessity of saying what I really believe, if I speak at all on those Egyptian and Mosaic subjects; and I would not exchange my present views, imperfect and doubtful as they are, — I had better say, I would not exchange my freedom from old superstition, if I were to be burned at the stake next month, for all the peace and quiet of orthodoxy, if I must take the orthodoxy with the peace and quiet. Nor would I, for any exemption, give up the blessing of the power of appeal to thoughtful minds. There was — —, the other day, at the reading of the Sinai part of my book. I should have expected her to be purely shocked at so much of it as to carry away a bad impression of the whole: but she was beyond all measure interested, — beyond any thing ever seen in her. So I would not have any thing otherwise than as it is, as to my fate in consequence of my opinions, or absence of belief. What I dread is being silenced, and the mortification and loss of the manner of it: (from a refusal to publish the book.) Yet, if it happens, I dare say it will become clear to me what I ought to do; and that is the only really important thing. ... ... ... ... Well: I have had plenty of painful enterprises to go through, and found support from the two considerations that I could not help being so circumstanced, and that I believed myself right. ... ... ... ... I will tell you of a terrible pain I have had about this matter of religious opinion. When I was at — in September, I was told about a Town Missionary, Mr. —, who desired particularly to see me. He came to the house, when it appeared, (— no, we knew it before; but, however,) he had formed himself upon my books, — the more serious ones particularly, — and we found, had taken up that notion of me which we know to be idealism, — all but idolatry. In every thing else he seemed a rational, as he certainly was a very interesting young man. Such a face! so full of life and happiness, — all made up of benevolence. He was delicate; and so was his young wife. He was then thinking of undertaking the — City Mission. He did so: and soon sank; — had influenza, and fell into rapid consumption. A friend of his at Birmingham wrote me that he declared himself dying, in his letter to her received that day: and she immediately wrote to suggest to me that a letter from me would gratify him. There was scarcely any thing I would not rather have done: but it was impossible to refuse. I wrote at once; and every word was as true to my own state of mind as what I write to you now: but I feared it would be taken for a Christian letter. There was not a word about the future, or of God, or even Christ. It was a letter of sympathy in his benevolent and happy life, and also, of course, in his present weakness. It reached him on the last day of his life. It was read to him. When a little revived, he asked for it, and read it himself; and then desired his wife to tell all who loved him of ‘this last flush on his darkness.’ This is dreadful pain to me. I feel as if I had told him a lie for my last words to him. I cannot now see how I could have acted otherwise. It would have been hard and unkind not to write: and it was impossible to disturb his life at the last. Yet I feel that that letter did not carry my real mind to him, and does not to the many who are reading it. His poor delicate young widow is strong in heart; but she has two young infants to maintain, and not a shilling in the world. But missionaries’ widows are, I believe, always cared for, — as I am sure they ought to be.”
It is cheering to read this letter now, and feel how much clearer and stronger my mind had become before the time arrived for the far greater enterprise which caused me so much less apprehension, and which was to release me for ever from all danger of misleading missionaries, or any body else, by letters of sympathy under solemn circumstances, which they would interpret by their preconceptions. I can write such letters now to all kinds of sufferers, in full assurance that, whether they satisfy or not, they are not misapprehended.
On the nineteenth of November, my friend and I revised his last letter, I wrote my preface, and we tied up our M.S. for press; and on the twentieth, he went away. As we were going to the coach he said, “I am glad we have done this work. We shall never repent it.” We next met in London, in the summer, when our book had run the gauntlet of all the reviews, and we found ourselves no worse for the venture we had made, and well satisfied that we had borne our testimony to the truth, — not in vain for many who had sorely needed the support and blessing which our philosophy had long afforded to ourselves.
When Mr. Atkinson was gone, the printing began; and I highly enjoyed the proof-correcting. That is always the time when I begin to relish any book that I have part in. The conception I enjoy, of course, or I should not write the book; but during the work I am doubtful, and the manuscript disgusts me. Then come the proofs, when one sees exactly, and in order, what one has really said; and the work appears to advantage. What my pressure of business was at that time is shown by a sad piece of weakness of mine, which I have sorely repented since; — trusting to the printing-office the proof-correcting of the Appendix. Almost three-fourths of the Appendix being sent in print to the office, and the rest in the remarkably good handwriting of a helpful neighbour, I did hope that errors might be avoided; and I inquired about it, and was assured that I might trust the printer. But never did I see such a shameful mess as those sheets; and never could I have conceived of such an ignorant sort of blunders being allowed to pass. I have never forgiven myself for my laziness in letting any part of the business out of my own hands.
The neighbour who helped me kindly in getting up the Appendix was a sickly retired clerk living close by my gate, — a man of good tastes and fond of reading. I, as I thought, hired him for a succession of evenings to write for me; and, by working together, we soon finished the business. He would not have supper, nor any refreshment whatever; and, to my consternation, (and admiration too) he declined all remuneration in such a way that I could only accept his gift of his time and labour. Since that time he has had the loan, daily, of my newspaper: — his wife buys milk of my dairy; and he sends me many a dish of trout; and I lend books to his good son. Thus we go on; and very pleasant it is.
It was while our evenings were thus filled up, that Mr. Quillinan, Wordsworth’s son-in-law, called one day, full of kindly pleasure, to tell me that I must dine with him next Thursday; and sadly blank he looked when I told him I was engaged every evening that week. Could I not put off my engagement? — No: Miss Brontë was coming on Monday; and I had business which must be finished first. His disappointment was great; for he had a benevolent scheme of bringing me into the favourable acquaintance of certain clergy of the neighbourhood, and of a physician whose further acquaintance I by no means desired. I have before mentioned that, from the first, I avoided visiting among all my neighbours, except a very few intimates; and of course, I had no intention of beginning now, when a book was in the press which would make them gnash their teeth at me in a month or two. Mr. Quillinan had ascertained from the whole party that they should be happy to meet me; and he enjoyed, as he told me, “bringing neighbours together, to like each other.” It had never occurred to him that I might not like to meet them; and sadly disconcerted he was. However, I promised to take Miss Brontë with me, one day, if he would dine early enough to enable my delicate guest to return before nightfall. That was a truly pleasant day, — no one being there, in addition to the family, but Mr. Arnold, from Fox How, and ourselves. And when “Currer” and I came home, there were proof-sheets lying; and I read her Mr. Atkinson’s three letters about the distribution of the brain. She was exceedingly impressed by what she called “the tone of calm power in all he wrote;” moreover, she insisted on having the whole book, when it came out; and no one, so little qualified by training to enter into its substance and method, did it more generous justice. She was very far indeed from sympathising in our doctrine; and she emphatically said so; but this did not prevent her doing justice to us, under our different view. In a preceding letter, she had said “I quite expect that the publication of this book will bring you troublous times. Many who are beginning to draw near to you will start away again affrighted. Your present position is high. Consequently there are many persons, very likely, precisely in the mood to be glad to see it lower. I anticipate a popular outcry which you will stand much as the Duke of Wellington would; — and in due time, it will die round you; but I think not soon.” A month afterwards she wrote, “Having read your book, I cannot now think it will create any outcry. You are tender of others: — you are serious, reverent and gentle. Who can be angry?” This appreciation, from one who declared (as she did to me) that our doctrine was to her “vinegar mingled with gall,” was honourable to her justice and candour. And so was the readiness with which she admitted and accepted my explanation that I was an atheist in the vulgar sense, — that of rejecting the popular theology, — but not in the philosophical sense, of denying a First Cause. She had no sympathy whatever with the shallow and foolish complaint that we were “taking away people’s faith.” She thought that nobody’s faith was worth much which was held, more or less, because I held it too; and of course she saw that truth and Man would never advance if they must wait for the weak, who have themselves no means of progression but by the explorations of the strong, or of those more disposed for speculation than themselves. As I have had occasion to say to some people who seem to have forgotten all they knew of the history of Opinion, and as Luther, and many others greater than I have had to say, “If your faith is worth any thing, it does not depend on me: and if it depends on me, it is not worth any thing.” This reminds me of an incident perhaps worth relating, in connexion with this absurd plea for standing still, which, under the laws of the mind, means retrogression.
When I was publishing “Eastern Life,” I rather dreaded its effects on two intimate friends of mine, widows, both far removed from orthodoxy, and zealous all their lives long for free thought, and an open declaration of it. If I might judge by their profession of principle, I should become more dear to them in proportion to my efforts or sacrifices in the discovery and avowal of truth: but I knew that they could not be so judged, because neither of them had encountered any serious trial of their principle. They bore “Eastern Life” better than I expected, — not fully perceiving, perhaps, the extent of the speculation about belief in a future life. In the “Atkinson Letters,” the full truth burst upon them; and it was too much for them. They had been accustomed to detail to me their visions of that future life, which were curiously particular, — their “heaven” being filled with the atmosphere of their respective homes, and framed to meet the sufferings and desires of their own individual minds. I never pretended to sympathise in all this, of course; but neither had I meddled with it, because I never meddle, except by invitation, with individual minds. After “Eastern Life,” they must have been thoroughly aware that they had not my sympathy; but, while they insisted (against my wish) in reading the “Atkinson Letters,” which was altogether out of their way, they blamed me excessively, — wholly forgetting their professions in favour of free-thought and speech. One partially recovered herself: the other had not power to do so. She went about every where, eloquently bemoaning my act, as a sort of fall, and doing me more mischief (as far as such talk can do damage) than any enemy could have done; and, by the time she began to see how she stood, she had done too much for entire reparation, — earnestly as I believe she desires it. As for the other, an anecdote will show how considerable her self-recovery was. The very woman who had taken on herself to inform me that God would forgive me was not long in reaching the point I will show. — She came to stay with me a year afterwards; and when she departed, I went down to the gate, to put her into the coach, when an old acquaintance greeted me, — an aged lady living some miles off. The two fellow-passengers talked me over, and the aged one related how fierce an opinionated old lady of the neighbourhood was against me, — without having read the book; — the narrator confessing that she herself thought I was “exceedingly wrong to take away people’s faith.” Did not my friend think so? She replied that if I was wrong on that ground, — in seeking truth, and avowing it in opposition to the popular belief, so was every religious reformer, in all times, — mounting up through Luther to St. Paul. “Why, that’s true!” cried the old lady. “I will remember that, and tell it again.” “And as to the moral obligation of the case,” continued my friend, “we must each judge by our own conscience: and perhaps Harriet is as able to judge as Mrs. —.” “Yes, indeed, and a great deal better,” was the reply.
I certainly had no idea how little faith Christians have in their own faith till I saw how ill their courage and temper can stand any attack upon it. And the metaphysical deists who call themselves free-thinkers are, if possible, more alarmed and angry still. There were some of all orders of believers who treated us perfectly well; and perhaps the settled-orthodox had more sympathy with us than any other class of Christians. They were not alarmed, — safely anchored as they are on the rock of authority; and they were therefore at leisure to do justice to our intentions, and even to our reasoning. Having once declared our whole basis to be wrong, — their own being divine, — they could appreciate our view and conduct in a way impossible to persons who had left the anchorage of authority, and not reached that of genuine philosophy. Certainly the heretical, — from reforming churchmen to metaphysical deists, — behaved the worst. The reviews of the time were a great instruction to us. They all, without one exception, as far as we know, shirked the subject-matter of the book, and fastened on the collateral, antitheological portions. In regard to these portions, the reviewers contradicted each other endlessly. We had half a mind to collect their articles, and put them in such juxtaposition as to make them destroy one another, so as to leave us where they found us. It is never worth while, however, to notice reviews in their bearing upon the books they discuss. When we revert to reviews, so-called, it is for their value as essays; for it is, I believe, a thing almost unknown for a review to give a reliable account of the book which forms its text, if the work be of any substance at all. This is not the place for an essay on reviewing. I will merely observe that the causes of this phenomenon are so clear to me, and I think them so nearly unavoidable, that I have declined reviewing, except in a very few instances, since the age of thirty; and, in those few instances, my articles have been avowedly essays, and not, in any strict sense, reviews.
As for the “outcry” which “Currer Bell” and many others anticipated, I really do not know what it amounted to, — outside of the reviewing world. If I knew, I would tell: but I know very little. To the best of my recollection, we were downright insulted only by two people; — by the opinionated old lady (above eighty) above referred to, and by one of my nearest relations; — the former in a letter to me (avowing that she had not seen the book) and the latter in print. Another old lady and her family, with whom I was barely acquainted, passed me in the road thenceforth without speaking, — a marriage into a bishop’s family taking place soon after. Others spoke coldly, for a time; and one family, from whom more wisdom might have been expected, ceased to visit me, while continuing on friendly terms. I think this is all, as regards my own neighbourhood. My genuine friends did not change; and the others, failing under so clear a test, were nothing to me. When, in the evenings of that spring, I went out (as I always do, when in health) to meet the midnight on my terrace, or, in bad weather, in the porch, and saw and felt what I always do see and feel there at that hour, what did it matter whether people who were nothing to me had smiled or frowned as I passed them in the village in the morning? When I experienced the still new joy of feeling myself to be a portion of the universe, resting on the security of its everlasting laws, certain that its Cause was wholly out of the sphere of human attributes, and that the special destination of my race is infinitely nobler than the highest proposed under a scheme of “divine moral government,” how could it matter to me that the adherents of a decaying mythology, — (the Christian following the heathen, as the heathen followed the barbaric-fetish) were fiercely clinging to their Man-God, their scheme of salvation, their reward and punishment, their arrogance, their selfishness, their essential pay-system, as ordered by their mythology? As the astronomer rejoices in new knowledge which compels him to give up the dignity of our globe as the centre, the pride, and even the final cause of the universe, so do those who have escaped from the Christian mythology enjoy their release from the superstition which fails to make happy, fails to make good, fails to make wise, and has become as great an obstacle in the way of progress as the prior mythologies which it took the place of nearly two thousand years ago. For three centuries it has been undermined, and its overthrow completely decided,* as all true interpreters of the Reformation very well know. To the emancipated, it is a small matter that those who remain imprisoned are shocked at the daring which goes forth into the sunshine and under the stars, to study and enjoy, without leave asked, or fear of penalty. As to my neighbours, they came round by degrees to their former methods of greeting. They could do no more, because I was wholly independent of all of them but the few intimates on whom I could rely. As one of these last observed to me, — people leave off gossip and impertinence when they see that one is independent of them. If one has one’s own business and pleasure and near connexions, so that the gossips are visibly of no consequence to one, they soon stop talking. Whether it was so in my case, I never inquired. I am very civilly treated, as far as I see; and that is enough.
As to more distant connexions, I can only say the same thing. I had many scolding letters; but they were chiefly from friends who were sure to think better of it, and who have done so. For a time there was a diminution of letters from mere acquaintances, and persons who wanted autographs, or patronage, or the like: but these have increased again since. I went to London the summer after the publication of the book, and have done so more than once since; and my friends are very kind. I think I may sum up my experience of this sort by saying that this book has been an inestimable blessing to me by dissolving all false relations, and confirming all true ones. No one who would leave me on account of it is qualified to be my friend; and all who, agreeing or disagreeing with my opinions, are faithful to me through a trial too severe for the weak are truly friends for life. I early felt this; and certainly, no ardent friendships of my youthful days have been half so precious to me as those which have borne unchanged the full revelation of my heresies. As to my fortunes, — I have already said that my latest years have been the most prosperous since the publication of my Political Economy series.
When my friends in Egypt and I came down from, and out of, the Great Pyramid, we agreed that no pleasure in the recollection of the adventure, and no forgetfulness of the fatigue and awfulness of it should ever make us represent the feat as easy and altogether agreeable. For the sake of those who might come after us, we were bound to remember the pains and penalties, as well as the gains. In the same way, I am endeavouring now to revive the faded impressions of any painful social consequences which followed the publication of the “Atkinson Letters,” that I may not appear to convey that there is no fine to pay for the privilege of free utterance. I do not remember much about a sort of pain which was over so long ago, and which there has been nothing to revive; but I am aware in a general way, that the nightly mood which yields me such lofty pleasure, under the stars, and within the circuit of the solemn mountains, was not always preserved; and that, if I had not been on my guard in advance, and afterwards supported by Mr. Atkinson’s fine temper, I might have declined into a state of suspicion, and practice of searching into people’s opinion of me. To renew the impressions of the time, I have now been glancing over Mr. Atkinson’s letters of that spring, which I preserved for some such purpose: and I am tempted to insert one or two, as faithful reflexions of his mood at the time, which was the guide and aid of mine. This reminds me that one of our amusements at the time was at the various attempts, — in print, in letters, and in conversation, — to set us at variance. One of our literary magnates, who admires the book, said that this was the first instance in history of an able man joining a woman in authorship; and the novelty was not likely to be acquiesced in without resistance. In print, Mr. Atkinson was reproached, — in the face of my own preface, — with drawing me into the business, and making me his “victim,” and so forth, by persons who knew perfectly well that, so far from wanting any aid in coming forward, he had lectured, and published his lecture, containing the same views, both physiological and anti-theological, before we had any acquaintance whatever: and, on the other hand, I was scolded for dragging forth a good man into persecution which I had shown I did not myself care for. On this sort of charge, which admitted of no public reply, (if he had replied to any thing) Mr. Atkinson wrote these few words, — after reading the one only review which stooped to insult, — insult being, in that instance, safe to the perpetrator by accident of position. “The thing that impressed me, in reading that review was, — how ingenious men are in seeking how to poison their neighbours, and how men themselves do just what they accuse others of doing. Honest scorn I don’t at all mind: but I don’t like a wrong or undue advantage being taken. I don’t like a cabman to charge a shilling extra when one is with ladies, thinking you won’t dispute it. All our principles of honour and justice and benevolence seem to me to be implicated in questions of truth; and in this, I certainly feel firm as a rock, and with the courage of the lion:—that the position is to be maintained, and the thing to be done, and there’s an end of it, — be the consequences what they may.” Then came a letter to him, “candidly advising” him to do himself justice, as speedily as might be, by publishing something alone, to repair the disadvantage of having let a woman speak under the same cover: and on the same day, came a letter to me, gently reproving my good-nature in lending my literary experience to any man’s objects. Sometimes the volume was all mine, and sometimes all his, — each taking the advantage of the other’s name. There was a good deal of talk to the same purpose; and Mr. Atkinson’s comment on this policy was, — “the aim is evident, — to stir up jealousy between us. But it won’t do. They don’t know the man, — nor the woman either.”
The following morsel may serve to show our view of the large class of censors who, believing nothing themselves, of theology or any thing else, were scandalised at our “shaking the faith” of other people. A lawyer of this class, avowing that he had not read the book, launched “a thunderbolt” at me, — possibly forgetting how many “thunderbolts” I had seen him launch at superstitions, like that of a future life, and at those who teach them. Mr. Atkinson’s remark on this will not take up much space. “Bravo —! A pretty lawyer he, to give judgment before he has read his brief! What a Scribe it is! lawyer to the backbone! I wish he would tell us what truths we may be allowed to utter, and when. Certainly it seems a pity to hurt any one’s feelings: but Christianity was not so tender about that: nor does Nature seem very particular. It is all very fine, talking about people’s religious convictions; but what is to become of those who have no such convictions, — that increasing crowd filling up the spaces between the schisms of the churches? The Church is rotting away daily. Convictions are losing their stability. Men are being scattered in the wilderness. Shall we not hold up a light in the distance, and prepare them a shelter from the storm? The religious people, you will see, will respect us more than the infidels, who have no faith in truth, no light but law, no hope for Man but his fancies, (“convictions.”) — No, I don’t feel any thing at “thunderbolts” of this kind, I assure you. I think it more like the squash of a rotten apple. Let such thunderbolts come as thick as rain; and they will not stir a blade of grass.” On April eleventh, my friend wrote, in reply to some accounts of excursions with two nieces, who were staying with me.
“Here is a nice packet of letters from you. It is delightful to read your account of your doings. You have no time to be miserable and repent, — have you? no time to be thinking of your reputation or your soul. Your cheerful front to the storm and active exertions will make you respected; and remember, the Cause requires it. It would be hard for a Christian to be brave and cheerful in a Mahomedan country, with any amount of pitying and abusing; and so you have not a fair chance of the effect of your faith on your happiness in life, — as it will be for all when the community think as you do, and each supports each, and sympathy abounds. ... ... ... As for Dr. B. and the rest, — when men don’t like the end, of course they find fault with the means. How could it be logical and scientific if it leads to a different conclusion from them: — them — yes, all of them thinking differently! F. in “Fraser” does not think any thing of a future life from instinct, or a God from design: but these points are just what the others insist on. To my mind, F.’s article and the one in the “Westminster” are full of sheer assertion and error and bad taste. I think they want logic, science, or whatever they may term it. If I am wrong and unscientific, why do they not put me right? — taking the “Letters” as a mere sketch, of course, and presenting only a few points of the subject. It is but a slight sketch of the head, leaving the whole figure to be completed. The fact is, these reviewers skip over the science to the theology, and talk nonsense when they feel uncomfortably opposed, — perhaps insulted. I don’t mean in the least to argue that I am not wrong: only, those who think so ought to show how and why. Mr. F. reasons from analogy when my chief argument is in opposition to those analogical reasonings. The analogy with Christ is curious, as showing how minds are impressed with resemblances. Some see a man with the slightest curve of the nose, and say “how like the Duke of Wellington!” or with a club-foot, and say “how like Byron!” I am certainly well contented with F.’s praise; for one reason only: that people won’t think you so foolish in bringing me forward in the way you have. As for the book, it is left by the critics just where it was: nothing disproved, — neither the facts nor the method, nor Bacon: and after all, if mine is “a careless sketch,” (and I dare say it is) the question is the truth of what it contains. If these men are such good artists, they will read the fact out of a rough sketch. F. throws out that idea about Bacon again, and calls it a moral fault in me. I cannot see it, especially as I am supported by others well acquainted with Bacon. The sin was of a piece with the rest of his doings, — in a measure essential at the time for getting a hearing at all for his philosophy: and F. forgets that if Bacon was an atheist, there was no offence against sacred matters, seeing that he did not consider them sacred, but ‘the delirium of phrenetics;’ and thus it was rather a showing of respect and yielding. I do not see that this can spoil him as an authority, any more than Macaulay spoils him: and if it did, he had better be no authority at all than an authority against science. Lord Campbell says Bacon was accustomed in his youth to ridicule religion, thinks the Paradoxes were his, but that in riper years he probably changed his opinion; the only reason given for which is a sentence in the Advancement of Learning, — his earliest great work. The passage there is, ‘A little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, &c;’ which is absurd, if it were insisted on by Campbell. (I suppose Pope’s ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing,’ is taken from this passage.) Of course, people will say I am wrong; but let them show it, with all their logic; and we shall see who has the best of it. — So you think the storm is at its height. It shows how little I know of it, — I thought it was all over. The organ now playing a wretched tune before my windows is more annoyance than all their articles put together. If they generally speak so of it, methinks there must be something in it, and they are not indifferent to it. Your American correspondent is quite a mystic. What curious turns and twists the human mind takes, before it gets into the clear road of true philosophy, walking through the midst of the facts of Nature, the view widening and clearing at every step! Men like — and — don’t like our book because it makes so little of theirs and all their study, by taking a more direct line to the results. I can’t think what — can have to say that has not been said. So he is reading Comte, is he? I hope it will do him good. — Make Dr. — understand that repetition of the general fact was not the thing required or intended. I had other things to say, and to press into a mere notice. It is this very fact of incompleteness, &c., &c., that I believe Bacon would have praised. There is nothing cut and dried. There are facts; and in a certain order; a form for thinking men to work upon, — not to satisfy superficial men with a show of completeness. There are ‘particulars not known before for the use of man,’ which is better than all their logic: the one is mere measure and music, — the other ‘for future ages,’ — the grain of mustard seed only, perhaps, but a germ full of life. The first letters are a sketch expository of my views on mental science and the means of discovery; and the following letters merely an example (like Bacon’s Natural History) of the kind of fact that will throw light on the nature of the mind’s action, out of which, when extended and arranged in order, inductions are to be made of the laws of action. The rest is little more than conversational replies to your questions.”
Another of these letters was written when I was ill under an attack of influenza, which disabled me from duly enjoying a visit I was paying in the north of the district, and from getting on with my next great scheme. After telling me how ill every body was at that time, he says:
“It is sad to be making your visit now. As to our concerns, — there is no saying how the next post may alter every thing. There really is no place for an ill feeling, or a disturbed one, if we could but keep it so in view. It seems to me that life is either too holy, or a matter too indifferent to be moved by every silly thought or angry feeling. With regard to what they say about us, it is only precisely what you anticipated they would say: and it seems to me that after all is said, our facts and position remain untouched. It seems that we ought to have something to bear. I value this more every day. If I can be safe from flatterers and inducements to indulgence, I will be thankful for all the rest, and smile at all their scandal, and their great discovery that I am not allwise. It all presents some new matter for contemplation; and if we cannot absolutely love our enemies, at least we may thank them for showing us our faults, which flattering friends hide from us. It seems all kinds of things must happen to us before we can become at all wise. First, we must become disenchanted of many delusions, that we may discover the pure gold through all the alloy which passes with it in the current coin of life. The Idols of the Market are inveterate; but down they must go, if we would be in the least wise: and the process must be healthful when one does not become soured, but feels one’s heart rather expanding and warming than cooling with years; and more thankful for every kindness, and not exacting as formerly. — I have been staying a few days in the country. We went over to a charming place, one day. Such a common! Perfectly beautiful! Acres of cherry-blossom, and splendid furze, like heaps of living gold; and the dark pine-trees rising from the midst! But one can’t describe such things. I walked about there alone while the others were shooting young rooks, — the parson at the head of them. I had a little volume which pleased me much. It was never published. ... ...
... ... There does not seem to be any chance of my having got at Comte’s ideas through any indirect channel; and I know nothing of him directly. Knight’s volume by Lewes is the whole of my acquaintance with him. What I do think is by labour in the fields or wild commons, and on the bench in the Regent’s Park. — That unqualified condemnation of us in regard to Bacon looks rather like the condemnation by prejudiced and ignorant divines which Bacon grieves over. The whole matter is not worth wasting good feelings upon: but it should rather bring them forth, not injured, but strengthened. If, from being ill, we cannot depend on our forces, we can only make the best of it. I will soon tell you what I think I can best do now, in furtherance of our subject. All before us seems clear and sure, and the prospect even full of gaiety, if only I knew that you were quite well again. We must have our sad moments that we may have our wise ones.”
Here is his Good Friday letter, written amidst the ringing of church bells. It begins with a comment on an unhappy aged person, — of whom we had been speaking.
“Age is a sad affair. If men went out of life in the very fulness of their powers, in a flash of lightning, one might imagine them transferred to heaven: but when the fruit fails, and then the flower and leaf, and branch after branch rots by our side while we yet live, we can hardly wish for a better thing than early death. Yes; it is true; — we do good to those to whom we have done good: we insult those we have insulted. Goodness is twice blessed: but hatred cankers the soul; and there is no relief, no unction, but in hating on. But of all the sad effects of age, the saddest is when as in this case a person reverses the noble principle of his life, — like the insane mother who detests the child she has so tenderly nurtured and loved. Every thing is flimsy, wrong, illogical, which does not confirm such an one in his own opinions: as a lady declared last evening who had been accusing me of not giving a fair consideration to the other side of the question, while I was recommending her to read so and so. ‘Well,’ said she, ‘it does not signify talking: in plain truth, I do not care to know about any body’s views or reasons which will not confirm me in my own faith.’ This was a sudden burst of honest pride, and eagerness, in the midst of the confusion, to hold tight where she had got footing. Notions are worth nothing which are uttered in irritation partly, and in ignorance greatly, and in the spirit of old age, — not of Christ or of Paul. If what I have said is wrong in logic or in fact, it is no use abusing us: the thing is to exhibit the error; and I am sure none will be more thankful for the correction than I. F— is the only one who has tried to do this; and I thank him for it, though I think him wholly wrong on matters of fact. — The book is objected to on religious grounds. Now, what is the use of all the millions spent, of all the learning of the colleges, and of all the parsons, — as thick as crows over the land, — if they cannot correct what is ‘shallow’ and ‘superficial?’ No; they feel otherwise than as they assert. They fear that however arrogant or superficial the book may be, there is substance in the midst of it; there is danger to the existing state of things; and they dare not honestly face the facts, and meet the argument which they declare to be too superficial to deceive any one. They dare not honestly and fairly do it. Shame upon the land! With that skulking phantom of a dressed-up faith that dares not face the light, in broad day: with God upon their lips, and preaching Christ crucified, they fear to encounter God’s truth by the way side! Why does Gavazzi waste his breath upon the Pope? Let him face the wide world, and denounce its false faith, and show them how God walks with them in Nature as he did by Adam in Eden, and they hide away in shame, worship the devil, and feed on the apple of sin every day of their lives. Men are subdued by fear. There is no faith in change, in progress, in truth, in virtue, in holiness. It is a terror-stricken age; and men fly to God to save them, and God gives them truth in his own way; and they receive it not. There is every kind of stupid terror got up about the Great Exhibition. F. is in terror about phreno-mesmerism: he would drown himself, — go out of the world if the thing were true. They like ‘Deerbrook’ — yes, as a picture: but the spirit of ‘Deerbrook’ is not in them, or they would love the spirit of the author of ‘Deerbrook.’ Well! it is not so bad as Basil Montagu used to say. ‘My dear Atkinson, they will tear you to pieces.’ It is something then to say what we have said, and remain in a whole skin. ... ... ... The world is ripe if there were but the towering genius that would speak to it. We are all dead asleep. We want rousing from a lethargy, that we may listen to the God of heaven and of earth who speaks to us in our hearts. The word of God is in every man, if he will listen. God is with us in all Nature, if we will but read the written law; written not on tables of stone, but on the wide expanse of nature. Yes, the savage is more right. God is in the clouds, and we hear him in the wind. Yes; and in the curse of ignorance, and the voice of reprobation, there too is God, — warning us of ignorance, — of unbelief of temper, — putting another law in our way, that we may read and interpret the book of fate. O! that some great teacher would arise, and make himself heard from the mountain top! The man whom they crucified on this day gave a Sermon on a mount. It is in every house, in every head; it is known, passage after passage: but in how few has it touched the heart, and opened the understanding! Men are but slowly led by pure virtue or by pure reason. They require eloquence and powerful persuasion; deep, solemn, unceasing persuasion. The bible is a dead letter. Men worship the air and call it God. God is truth, law, morals, noble deeds of heroism, conscience, self-sacrifice, love, freedom and cheerfulness. Men have no God. It is yet to be given them. They have but a log, and are croaking and unsatisfied; and tomorrow they try King Hudson or the devil.”
The looking over these letters has revived my recollection of the really critical time at which they were written, — the trials of which I had forgotten as completely as the fatigues of the outside, and the gloomy horror of the inside of the Pyramid. — I shall say nothing of the counterpart of the experience; of the vast discoveries of sympathy, the new connexions, the pleasant friendships, and the gratitude of disciples which have accrued to us, from that time to the present hour. The act was what I had to give an account of, and not its consequences. The same reasons which have deterred me from exhibiting the praises awarded to other works are operative here. — I will conclude the whole subject with observing that time shows us more and more the need there is of such testimony as any of us can give to the value of philosophy, and of science as its basis. Those who praised us and our book, in print or in conversation, seem to have no more notion than those who condemned us of the infinite importance of philosophy, — not only to intellectual wisdom, but to goodness and happiness; and, again, that, in my comrade’s words, “the only method of arriving at a true philosophy of Mind is by the contemplation of Man as a whole, — as a creature endowed with definite properties, capable of being observed and classified like other phenomena resulting from any other portion of Nature.” The day when we agreed upon bearing our testimony, (in however imperfect a form) to these great truths was a great day for me, in regard both to my social duty and my private relations. Humble as was my share in the book, it served to bring me into a wide new sphere of duty; and, as to my private connexions, it did what I have said before; — it dissolved all false relations, and confirmed all true ones. Its great importance to me may excuse, as well as account for, the length to which this chapter of my life has extended.
[* ]As Comte pithily puts it, the three reformers who were all living at the same time, provided among them for the total demolition of Christianity, — Luther having overthrown the discipline, Calvin the hierarchy, and Socinus the dogma.