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been produced in 1600, and the translation of the Essay not for three years later.
However this may be, it is interesting to find any points of analogy between a poetical creation, probably the most subtle and profound of Shakspere, and a living man actually coexistent with the poet, and who must doubtless often have seen in Paris men whom Shakspere conversed with but a few days afterwards in London. They had the same busy and fervid world around them-listened to the same tales of Eastern travel and American adventure; and all the great public events and personages in the foreground of the picture seen by one, were conspicuous in the background gazed at by the other. Very ordinary men—nay, inanimate things, derive an interest from our certainty that they were contemporary with those whom the world cannot forget. The celebrated and productive minds whose minds flowed on through the same days of storm and sunshine, seem each to reflect a light upon the other; and the group starts forward into distinctness and vividness, while the single figure might have seemed dim, cold, and stiff, as the recumbent effigy in a twilight chapel.'
THE COVENTRY GAOL CHAPLAIN TRIED BY
SIR,- In Reasoner No. 10 you briefly state that the Morning Chronicle of Saturday expressed its satisfaction that the Coventry candle clergyman had been compelled to resign his place; and treated with derision his attempted defence of his conduct which he has offered to the Secretary of State.'
The satisfaction at his dismissal, and the derision of his defence, will, I rejoice to think, be very generally shared in by the people of this country. But, sir, I should rejoice still more if an event like this would stimulate the public mind to reflect on the absurdity it practises, in paying, a nominal respect to a system of theology which must of necessity, ever and anon, produce such occurrences as these, whenever the faith, taught as sacred, takes firm root in the mind of an individual of a sensitive temperament—who, impressed with a firm conviction of the actual existence of such places as Heaven and Hell, begins to exemplify the power of his faith over the actions of his daily life.
I will ask your indulgence to permit me to offer a few remarks on this event, because I must candidly confess that the present generation of men appear to me to have a great objection to any body who either dares to believe or disbelieve in right earnest. The unbeliever who, on arriving at what is strangely called years of discretion, dares to speak out his own thoughts, and uses his discretion to reject what his godfathers and godmothers kindly promised for him in his baptism that he should believe, soon finds a storm gathering about his ears-old friends meet him with strange faces, or avoid him as one stricken with the plague-his more cautious, experienced companions advise him to keep his thoughts to himself, hint that he is trespassing on dangerous ground; and he is amazed to find that, by merely expressing opinions which to him appear
of the atmost importance for the world's welfare, he is exposing himself to suspicion and ill-will, if not to actual persecution.
But it fares no better with the conscientious Bible-reading, heavenaspiring, and hell-fearing man of faith. He, too, gets in a scrape the very moment he endeavours to show that, to him, 'God's Word is a living reality.' The hope of glory in heaven hereafter, and the dread of everlasting flames in that place where, as Burns has it,
Damned spirits roar and yell, tied to a stakeare not mere figures of speech wherewith to embellish a Sunday discourse, but awful realities--for ever before him-influencing every action of his life. He, too, becomes a troublesome character ; and the same worthy, respectable multitude which denounces the infidel, is equally indignant against the believer whenever he begins to believe in earnest, and to show by any action of his life the result of his intensity of faith.
A striking illustration of this is to be found in that very choice bit of news which has lately appeared in the papers, headed Extraordinary conduct of a Gaol Chaplain,' the facts being briefly these:- An unfortunate woman is found guilty at Coventry of having poisoned her husband, and society is about to take the customary vengeance by strangling the offender on the gallows. The judge tells her there is no hope in this world, but implores her to make her peace speedily with God, in order to escape his vengeance in the next. To assist her in this work society, in its zeal for the salvation of her soul, provides an ambassador from God, a priest—who, it appears, really does believe in Heaven and Hell
-to attend her. This holy man finds the wretched culprit—to use his own words of obtuse intellect.' His words have little effect: she refuses confession; and he knowing the tremendous consequences that must follow, having visibly before his eyes the fate that awaited her—beholding her as Lazarus beheld the rich man, far off in the fires of Hell, grievously tormented; this believing priest, driven, as he must have been, well-nigh to distraction, if at all possessed of sensitive feelings, by the awful task which he had but one little week to accomplish in—this Rev. Richard Chapman, did endeavour to stimulate the sinner to confession and repentance by giving her a slight foretaste of what was in reserve for her hereafter. 'He held a candle under her hand and scorched it, believing, as he says, that her mind would be more likely to be acted upon through the medium of the senses.
This plan, however, of commencing God's judgment in this world does not please the present age, although our fathers practised it on a much grander scale. An outcry is raised, the magistrates dismiss the clergyman, and seek for one with less zeal and more discretion, who, if criminals will not listen to fair words, will allow them to go to the devil their own way. The other, however, evidently continues to believe his method justifiable, and defends himself in a letter to the inagistrates, in which he says that whilst the hand was burning he addressed the victim thus :•What is this compared with the flames of hell, where your whole frame will be in torment for hundreds of years if you depart this life without making an acknowledgement of your guilt? This, he says, is sufficient to show that he was actuated by the kindest motives in what he did. I
have heard more than one person denounce both the deed and the language as extremely brutal, and I have no doubt this is the general thought on the subject--but the mischief is, that very few will take the trouble to investigate the evil, and seek to discover from whit source this brutality is derived. Feel as you will on the subject, you cannot help observing the apparent honesty of purpose which the defence of the Chaplain discloses. He, from his youth upwards, had continually heard and read the frightful sentence— Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' What was there to him that would not appear justifiable to save his fellow creature from this tremendous doom? Who can be angry with such zeal ? Not they consistently who hold the faith of man's future existence as set forth in the New Testament. There would be no outcry if there were any actual belief in the public mind that everlasting damnation awaits the unrepented sinner. The truth is, there is very little belief in this doctrine. Men shudder at it, and dismiss it from their minds. But few have courage to confess their unbelief. They cannot exist without priests, and priests cannot do without the devil and future torments. Their occupation is gone the moment people learn to root out these ugly phantorcs from their minds, and say boldly to each other—these tales of horror we will bear with no longer. For what then will be the use of all their talking about redemptions, incarnations, and atonements? The whole structure will crumble down with the foundation stone—for say what they will, fear is that foundation stone; and fear, which has ever been the fatal degrading curse of our race—by which the priest has held us in the bondage of mental slavery-must pass away as man emerges from the gloom of the past into the bright sunshine of coming days of knowledge and truth.
I feel a strong conviction that this event gives evidence of a more humane feeling being abroad than that which the religious of the day foster, and which the Rev. Mr. Chapman had imbibed and displayed in its extreme intensity. But we are bound, on an opportunity like this, to say-turn your indignation from the individual, and direct it against the system which has corrupted his intellect, and made him, and those who think like him, the slaves of grovelling superstition.
Think of the gross absurdity which is continually before our eyes, whenever a capital punishment is about to take place. We are, all of a sudden, wonderfully anxious about the eternal welfare of the culprit. We cannot forgive him, or tolerate his existence even within the walls of a dungeon. Long years of repentance would not wash out his guilt in the eyes of bis offended fellow-men-but, nevertheless, we give him one week, with a priest by his side, to prepare him for the glories and delights of Paradise. What an absurdity! Where is the punishment? If the accounts of our gaol chaplains are correct, the greater part of our most hardened criminals become, under their care, in one short week, meet companions for the saints in glory. Why, in God's name, should we hang them if they are so easily convertible into angels. Here we are, translating them from a state of existence in which, at the least, the stings of conscience must make the murderer’s life a very hell whilst he treads the earth-we translate them from this, by a twist of the neck, into the realms of joy and felicity.
But, on the other hand, where do criminals of obluse intellect go ? Oh, Christian legislators, who profess to believe in the eternal damnation of sinners, think for a moment! You give the wretch one week only to work out his or her salvation. The jurymen say Guilty; the Judge records sentence; the Sheriff is ordered to do his duty; and off go
Judge, Jury, Sheriff, and Magistrates to their dinners, or to the Assize Balls, or to the Theatre—which is generally opened under the patronage of the High Sheriff--and you leave the parson and the criminal together, and, according to your faith, the eternal fate of the latter depends upon the influence which can, in one short week, be effected on his mind by the former. Do not be angry with the priest because he is in earnest on this service, whilst you either drive the horrid thought from your minds, or what is more likely, totally disbelieve the fire and brimstone part of the business. If his office be an absurdity, dismiss him. If hanging be an absurd and useless remnant of the barbarous customs of our ancestors, which fails in its attempts to repress crime, try some more rational means 10 mect the evil. If the creed of past generations has become worn out, exercising no holy influence over the mind of man, but rather shocking and disgusting his moral sensibilities, when some credulous zealot seeks to put faith into practice-why not cease the miserable deceit of a conventional reverence for what has, in reality, no hold upon your mind or feelings, and against which the intelligence of the country is in actual rebellion? It is time the mask we have worn should be taken away, and we should learn to look each other fairly in the face, and from man to man words of truthfulness and honesty be heard, instead of those of dissimulation and cant. Dalston, September 10, 1849.
LORD JOHN RUSSELL AND THE ITALIAN REFUGEES.
MR. JOSEPH HUME, as Chairman of the Italian Refugee Committee, has addressed a letter to Lord John Russell on the subject of the conduct which Mr. More O'Ferral, in his discretion as Civil Governor of Malta, thought proper to pursue towards the refugees who fled from French protection after the surrender of Rome. Mr. Hume, very naturally, after stating the facts of the case, ventures to express a hope that 'her Majesty's government will visit with marked disapprobation this discreditable act of its representative at Malta ;' and the gronnd on which he does so is, that such conduct is a violation of the principle upon which we have generally acted, and which is now received with universal and heartfelt assent, namely—that of extending a generous and fearless hospitality to political exiles of every class, from every country, and of every cause.'
Lord John Russell has replied, dated from "Balmoral,' where the Court then was, and this letter is one of the most perfect specimens of Whiggery extant. His Lordship, of course, admits the justness of the principle. He does more; he makes a boast of having proclaimed it in the House of Commons when the land was invaded, in February 1848, with the cast off prime ministers and sovereigns of Europe. His Lordship applauds himself for having afforded a proof of the usual observance of ihis rule by suffering refugees of all kinds to reside in London; and
then he proceeds to state that the Governor of Malta, however, was of opinion that, although the refugees from Rome (not Roman refugees in great part) might safely be allowed to proceed to England, he could not be responsible for their remaining in Malta. They were therefore detained on board ship for some ten days or a fortnight, with the exception of the sick, and of the women and children, who were allowed to land.'
Setting aside, for the moment, the Whiggish piece of criticism upon the kind of refugees--the broad difference, pointed out so ostentatiously and maliciously by his acute Lordship, between refugees from Rome, and • Roman refugees '-- we respectfully say that there are reasons to doubt whether this statement is quite true.
It appears that, according to the noble Lord, 'there has existed during the past year a sort of circulating society of revolutionists, who have appeared sometimes in Paris, sometimes in Berlin, sometimes in Baden; and who were especially in great strength and numbers at Rome. It is not consistent,' sagely continues his Lordship, with the peace and good government of Malta, although it may be consistent with the peace and security of London, to have numerous bands of this revolutionary association at Malta.' And then, with that refined and graceful impertinence which characterises the style and language of his Lordship, when discoursing of popular parties, he proceeds to assert that it would be as pleasant an occupation to them (the circulating revolutionists, viz.: the defenders of Rome] to stir up dissensions in Malta as to head a riot in Berlin or in Baden!'
Odillon Barrot has said no more ; Nicholas of Russia and Cardinal Oudinot believe no less. The revolutions of '48 and '49 have been works of sport--according to these astute and philosophical politicians-the games of grown men-who, with wonderful ubiquity, defended Radstadt and Rome at one and the same time, while, for recreation, they did a litile duty at Venice, or got up a row in Berlin! The heroic champions and martyrs of Italian Independence—a far more sacred cause, my Lord, than the maintenance of British Whiggery-you stigmatise as a sort of circulating society of revolutionists. The crime of these men was fighting for hearth and home; for deliverance from priestcraft, and for freedom from Imperial despotism. For this your inferior officer refused them permission to land on the soil of a British dependency. For this you are grateful; in this you agree with the Catholic ruler—a man, politically, after your own heart, doubtless. You know, as we know, and the heroes of Rome, whoever they were, well knew, that in Rome was being contested one of the great conflicts of freedom against absolutism. And yet you sympathise with priestcraft, popedom, the inquisition, and Austrian dominion in Italy! It is worthy of him who, as your Lordship may remember, rose up from the Treasury benches, one night, and sneeringly called the defence of Hungary against her mortal foes, an 'insurrection !
And so, although Lord Grey, with my Lord's 'full concurrence, has expressed his approbation of the course pursued by the Governor of Maltn,' we rest in the belief that our countrymen will record their strong disapprobation of the course pursued by this trinity of persecutors.