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Thoughts on the Proposed Dissolution of the Cambridge Camden
Society, suggested for the Consideration of the Members. By a MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE. London: Rivingtons. Cam
bridge: Stevenson. 1845. . We cannot conceal our unqualified apprehension, that the step contemplated by the executive of the Camden Society is one which reaches farther, and is more important in many bearings, than, perhaps, its Committee at present contemplate. We can speak, then, of this Society entirely ab extra: and we desire to be among the first to acknowledge how entirely and frankly we sympathize with its main object; an object which, apart from many peculiarities, and even some petulance perhaps, it has most usefully carried out. It is now high time, and we do so the rather because opposite views on some points have appeared in these pages, to acknowledge that the Camden Society has borne a willing witness against the cold, irreligious, grasping, rationalizing spirit of our own unhappy days. Its active members have nobly sacrificed much of peace and worldly advantages to what they, and in the main rightly, conceive the path of duty: they have acquired immense stores of a peculiar learning, and they have unquestionably done that for the Church of England which has never been done since the Reformation. The Camden Society has successfully vindicated for the Church of England its unbroken connexion with the ancient Catholic body; it has shown practically, and by a reference to facts, that the best way to make our own Church dignified and impressive upon the better part of man, his spiritual nature, is to bring out in the details and circumstances of worship, a heavenly spirit, costliness, and, above all, reality. It has watched against and prevented much profanity and irreverence; it has cultivated and formed a rising school of Christian artists, men'who pursue their calling in a religious spirit : it has called out noble deeds of munificence and self-denial: it has enlisted in the service of the Church zeal and activity, which, without its auspices, would have been frittered away in unworthy pursuits; and all this apart from a cold, technical and ästhetical, and merely antiquarian skill. It has gained extensive confidence; and this, as it is high praise, would have been impossible, unless there had been something very noble in its main purpose and aim. The very fact.of its reinarkable success is a significant
proof that it has, under a single phase, done the Church's work.
That all this expanding sphere of usefulness should be at once destroyed is a very serious thing-serious, that is, for the Church itself. For the Church practically to disavow and denounce this Society, amounts to an admission that all these works are not of the Church, foreign from its spirit, and matters not only indifferent, but worthless, for a Christian Society to entertain and pursue. This would be a very distressing conclusion to many earnest minds among us, who have not the slightest sympathy with the peculiar eccentricities of individual tempers. But we take the question on the very highest grounds, when we ask, What are the peculiar reasons which now render imperative or expedient the dissolution of a body, with such undeniable witnesses to its spirit in the main ?
The implied and expressed withdrawal of confidence by authorities, to whom its Committee is pledged in certain ties of obedience and respect. And yet what does this lack of confidence amount to ? To faults found with certain details, not to its main object. This is one view of the subject. But let the Committee think whether, after all, with such extensive objects and successes, they are bound by this technical view of deference to supposed authorities. Of course, in a healthy state of the Church, such a view ought to prevail. But is the Church of England in such a positive condition ? Is not its de facto position one of anomalous duties and responsibilities? Are we not all, more or less, thrown upon individual, rather than corporate duties? Such may be, and is, an unhealthy and transitional state; but it is our condition in Providence: it is one in which we can no longer, much as we may desire it, act upon simple and comprehensive theories. If the living authorities of the Church did, as a fact, -or rather if they could, for we question not so much their will as their power,-execute all the Church's work, there would be no occasion for self-originated exertions. But we must take things as we find them. If we are convinced that we are acting in the Church's spirit, and in dutiful obedience to its laws, and doing the Church's york, these are opportunities and advantages mercifully thrown within our grasp, not lightly to be foregone. Our duties to dormant authorities are not the same as those to energetic ones. To abandon a course of usefulness from contingent perplexities, is other than an exercise of faith: it is a tacit admission that objections, which we know to be worthless, are, and ought to be, influential. It is not our duty to yield to aggressive influcnces, nor to admit their weight. Neither is it quite fair, even to those who are forced to condemn the Camden Society, to
construe such condemnation too rigidly and technically. Great allowances must be made for those compromises which the best of men are forced to submit to; and we must not press too closely, or scrutinize too rigidly, what is extorted from them under such circumstances.
We are much mistaken, too, if the objections which certain parties had taken to these details were not fast vanishing. In point of fact, the Committee, in discontinuing their publications, such as the Ecclesiologist, had well nigh divested themselves of every thing in their proceedings calculated to give offence. That they were in the main sympathized with by a very large body of Churchmen, is notorious; witness the names proposed for membership at the very meeting which announced the Committee's proposal. And that their usefulness was not at all diminished, is clear from the applications for advice from various quarters up to the last moment.
Besides, the Camden Society formed a home and a life for those whom we should be sorry to see detached from their duties hitherto cheerfully paid to the Church of their baptism. With a rival communion adopting the same principles of action, and holding out formidable solicitations and engaging promises of sympathy, we should deplore the additional confidence which the breaking up of such a school as this Society has formed would afford to The Anglo-Roman body in England. Zeal and munificence, which is now spent upon us, might be offered to others, who would feel no scruples in attracting and absorbing it. We might be converting what, at the worst, is but a harmless and unprofitable speculation among ourselves into a compact and energetic hostility against us.
And however pure and high-minded the motives which have suggested a dissolution, the world will be tardy in admitting them. The world will attribute it to disappointed activity- to personal pique-to popular clamour-and to such unworthy motives. The dissolution must wear an unreal look, as it bears the marks of palpable haste ; it must seem as though there were some personal motive held back--concealed, yet influential. It is easy enough to resign a post of usefulness because troublesome, but our probation may be to untie the knot, or to bear it, however galling, not to cut it. We think, then, that the Committee are bound either to reconsider their proposed step, or to take measures for reconstructing the Society on such a foundation as, admitting the force of present duties, and the inadequacy of present means to fulfil them, shall effectually prevent such a conflict of expediency for the future. For it is unquestionable -and this consideration has not had its full, or any, weight that the great body of its non-resident members have no duties
whatever towards University or other authorities, which press with such conscientious stringency on the present executive Committee.
Of the pamphlet which has occasioned these remarks, we have not much to say, except that, with some rather superfluous transcendentalism, it fairly enough represents the views which influenced the suggested dissolution. It does not pretend to suggest any future course: except the paradox, that the present objects of the Society will be best discharged, by its ceasing to do anything. A corporate existence has been the secret of its present success : individually, its members can do less than nothing. We are very sorry that the writer has been betrayed, at p. 7, into a piece of what looks like irreverence: but this comes of fine writing.
Utilitarianism Unmasked. A Letter to the Rer. M. A. Gathercole,
on the Life, Death, and Philosophy, of Jeremy Bentham. By the
Rer. John F. Colls, D.D. London: Bell. 1844. IF Jeremy Bentham had been a good man, instead of what he was, he could not have had a meaner attack upon him than this pamphlet. The fact really elevates him: Jeremy Bentham seems to stand on high ground after reading a few pages; such extreme pettiness, littleness, tenuity, pervades all Dr. Colls has to say. There is an extravagant inferiority in the performance. The reminiscences are of an extremely immoderate paltriness, that exceeds, we think, anything we ever saw in the anecdote department. The issues of an unfriendly memory are apt to be small: these are the very smallest specimens of this small species. The author goes on, page after page, in this way, with imperturbable gravity, and utter unconsciousness of the exhibition he is making of himself. A style of unwearied, unbroken inflation bears him along. The materials are almost too poor even to be ludicrous. It is only occasionally that they rise to that level. E.g. the comments on the early affectionate period of his intercourse with Bentham :
• I will not, however, do his memory so much injustice, as to • refuse to admit that, during the first few years of my residence with him, he took every pains to impress me with a love and even a reverence for his character and talents, treating me with almost parental kindness, and frequently speaking of me as " his own boy ;" while, in his notes to me during my occasional absence from the “Hermitage," I was often so prime a favourite with him as to be addressed as his “Erer dear Jack!” But I
nerer could bring my heart thoroughly to respond to these * ostensible marks of endearment; since I always fancied I could discover, under the guise of all this external friendship, “the selfish motive” by which, it appears, he subsequently confessed that his conduct towards others was almost incariably gorerned. ' -P. 12.
Again :- When at Ford Abbey, he would frequently, in the * morning, before breakfast, play at“ Fives" with me, in an inner
hall, well adapted for the purpose, at the farther end of what used to be called “ the Monk's Walk.” This was a favourite
game both at Merchant Taylors' and at Westminster School ; ' but when he was at the latter—the “serninary of sound learn
ing,” (as he used ironically to call it) – he was too young and ' too puny a boy to take a part in such amusements: so slender • and delicate, indeed, was he in those days, (as I have often • heard him say,) that, in going up and down stairs even, he • could only manage one step at a time; though when I first
knew him, which must have been when he was about seventy * years of age, he was active, hale, and strong: however, when
playing with one so many years my senior, I felt that I ought to put the curb upon my inclination; and so, generally, • allowed him to be the winner. But, once or twice, I was • inconsiderate enough, in the ardour of the contest, to return • his balls so quickly, as to become myself the victor. I tried to • wear the laurels which I had so fairly won, with as much mo• desty as a lad of fifteen or sixteen could, under these circum* stances, be supposed to assume: nevertheless, the palm of
superiority, on the part of my grey-headed antagonist, was * yielded with a very indifferent grace.'-- Pp. 13, 14.
Another “trial of corporeal agility' follows:-- In this instance, the most accomplished and beautiful lady (as I thought, in those days, my eyes had ever seen) had the satisfaction of * beating him by the superior swiftness of her foot. The fair ' heroine was no other than Lady Romilly, who, with her amiable • daughter and Sir Samuel, were then on a visit to their old * friend for a few days during the long vacation. Bentham had • challenged her ladyship to run with him to the end of the long gravel-walk in his pleasure-grounds; and, as usual, in the full confidence of his superior strength of body as well as of mind, vauntingly insisted that he would be the first to reach the goal: the challenge was at once accepted, and, at a given signal, they set off together; but “so light a foot could ne'er wear s out the everlasting flint.” Her ladyship took the lead at
the first bound, and completely distanced her pursuer before * they had run through half the course, in spite of the most stre* nuous efforts of her facetious host to get before her, aided and