Imagens das páginas

lencies, but is not yet completed, a Second Part having to follow. The strange fragment called "Time's Revenges" is extremely powerful in its way. "The Glove," the last in the collection, is a tale told by the French Poet, "Peter Ronsard," or rather a new version of the old story-how a lady, to prove her own power and her lover's faith, threw her glove among wild beasts and bade the lover fetch it. Our readers may remember how Schiller and Leigh Hunt have treated this theme. Mr. Browning has "reversed the medal," and takes the lady's part with great tact and cleverness. In truth, this poem is marked by a wonderful command of language and an overflow of biting humour. On the whole, these Lyrics and Romances are well worthy of their author; and that is saying much. They are unlike any thing else we are acquainted with; for Southey's monodramas, very fine in their way, have another cast; and Tennyson's dramatic lyrics, such as "Ulysses," are more reflective and contemplative, though very noble also. That passion, that intensity, that power, which is the marked characteristic of Mr. Browning, is conspicuous throughout them. They are not altogether free from morbid tendencies and exaggerations,-witness "The Confessional," and "The Tomb at St. Praxed's," though both of these have merit: they are sometimes painful; but they are always forcible, and in some instances graceful and pleasant also.-We have noticed the series very cursorily, and Mr. Browning is not a Poet who can be done justice to in a few words. He must be illustrated and elucidated with care. No author more requires interpreters to stand betwixt him and the public: and where, in the present dearth of taste or common sense in the critical world, when the English of a Carlyle is thought sublime, and the artificial and conventional are in almost all cases preferred to the truthful, are we to look for such interpreters? Mr. Browning must bide his time, secure of his own greatness, and of the world's awaking sooner or later to a just appreciation of it. Even now a change is manifest; a new and complete edition of his works is called for, and proof is thereby afforded that the public is beginning to open its eyes.

We have said, on a former occasion, that Browning is most properly classed with Tennyson, and with Miss Barrett, now Mrs. Robert Browning and our poet's wife. The first has less intensity, but perhaps more grace and finish; at all events his talent is mainly and primarily lyric, while Mr. Browning's is almost exclusively dramatic. Mrs. Robert Browning possesses perhaps closer poetical affinities with her husband than with Tennyson, having displayed much of the same dramatic intensity. She is a very great poetess, probably the greatest this country

has possessed, and may yet achieve even nobler things than she has presented to us. These three, however, Tennyson and the Brownings (as we may now call them), possess in common a peculiar aristocratic grace and refinement, never perhaps exhibited in such an eminent degree, save by the ever matchless Shakspeare; and a certain deep pathos is also common to them, together with a general reality, of a kind which is almost new to poetry. They are not devoid of faults; and are addicted in some degree to the use of a marked phraseology of their own, which may be thought conventional. But, after all, we scarcely know how to blame this, since we believe it is natural to them.

ART. VII.-A Letter to the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury on the Actual Relations between Church and State. By the Hon. RICHARD CAVENDISH. Suggested by Mr. Baptist Noel's Essay. London Ollivier.

THE relations between Church and State constitute the great question of the present day, as they have for the last fifty years, and as they will probably for the next fifty. The adjustment of these relations, either by the entire prostration of the Church under the power and influence of a State altogether devoid of religion, or else by the liberation of the Church from many of those restraints which a Christian State placed upon her actions, will probably, sooner or later, take place. Whatever may be our views of the desirableness of maintaining those relations between Church and State which commenced with the Christianity of England, and which received their present shape at the Reformation, there is a party which must be consulted in the matter, and which holds no inconsiderable power; and that party is no other than the State itself. We may talk as much as we please of the duty of the State to be united with the Church. We may theorize away on the identity of Church and State, asserting as much as we please, that the State is imperfect if it be not another phase of the Christian Church. We may talk of the State possessing a conscience, and being bound to uphold the truth. But what, if the State is perfectly indifferent to all our arguments, and our wishes, and our theories? What, if the State lends itself to the views of a large portion of the community amongst us, who are always asserting that the State has nothing whatever to do with religion that it has no business to support any Established Church-that it has no right to make a choice among religious systems that its duty is to remain perfectly neutral-to discourage no error or unbelief-to leave religion to maintain and uphold itself—or to extend equal favour and power to all sects? We may protest against all this, and say that it is very wrongvery unchristian-and so forth;-but if it goes on notwithstanding;-if it is a clear and positive fact, that the State is under the influence of such views, and not under the influence of such principles as we believe to be right-would it not be a very unwise proceeding on our part to ignore the facts of the case, and shut our eyes to the actual steps which are leading to the overthrow of all that we hold right and necessary?

And, again-By what modes and in what ways are we, as practical men, to produce an alteration in the present state of things, so as to avoid the ruin which it threatens to bring down on us?

The broad and simple facts of the case are these. The State, in the time of Henry VIII. and during the reigns of the Tudor and Stuart dynasties, i. e. up to the period of the Revolution of 1688, allied the Church to itself by the closest ties, with a view of governing the country by means of it. The State was so closely attached to the Church, that it interfered in its internal arrangements, was assiduous in promoting its efficiency, and endeavoured by statutes, and by all means in its power, to make the Church co-extensive with the nation. Failing in this attempt, through the intrigues of Romanists backed by foreign aid, and the turbulence of puritans and other sectarians which issued in a civil war and the subversion of the government, the State at length, in the reign of King William, adopted the principle of toleration (which James II. had sought to introduce for the benefit of the Church of Rome); and the Dissenters (with the exception of Romanists and Socinians) were freed from all penalties. Here was a very great change in the relations of Church and State. The moment that the toleration of Dissenters from the Church of England was conceded by Government, it was plain, that the State no longer could regard the Church as the sole instrument for promoting the religious welfare of the country and the security of the State. Other bodies were recognized at once as undeserving of blame, and as possessed of power. The State ceased at that moment to be connected as it had been with the Church. It had failed in creating uniformity: it was obliged to recognize diversity of discipline and creeds.

From that time the State became latitudinarian in its character. The latitudinarian Tennison occupied the Primacy. The latitudinarian divines were in favour. The State became indifferent to the order and discipline of the Church; and hence, on slight and insufficient pretexts, the Convocation of the Church of England was prohibited from exercising its functions. The bishoprics and other benefices of the Church were permitted to fall into the hands of the minister of the day, either as matters of private patronage, or with a view to sustain the interests of some political party.

At length a latitudinarian State, only attached to Protestantism by political motives, was acted on by the ideas which arose from the fermentation of the French Revolution. Hence arose the continued struggles of sectarian bodies, such as the Romanists, to subvert the exclusive privileges held by the Established Church;

or to gain an equality of status for themselves. Hence, too, the gradual relaxation of all those laws which had fenced in the prerogatives of the Church of England, and the diminution or withdrawal of the aid which had formerly been extended to Church objects. The whole course of the State in England, since the epoch of the French Revolution, exhibits the spectacle of a Government without any strong religious principles, acted on by the persevering energies and activities of certain classes for the advancement of their own designs. The State had no power of resisting these efforts, because it had no deep principle to fall back upon. It possessed no conscience of its own, and, therefore, could not consistently reject the demands of alleged conscience. It had relinquished the old principle which connected its support of the Church of England with its own religious tenets: the statesmen of the nineteenth century, into whose hands the power once exercised by the Sovereigns of England had fallen, were not, like the Tudors and the Stuarts, bound by their own convictions, or, at least, by their professions and their policy, to an exclusive support of the Church, as the way of truth. Fifty years have exhibited the steady progress of a latitudinarian State in the direction of evil, and not of good. The statesman of the present day, who might feel disposed to act on higher and more Christian principle, finds himself hampered by the precedents of 160 years. The whole course of legislation sets in one direction; the spirit of the age sets in one direction. Each statesman as he rises, bends before the current. We may, and sometimes do, for a timenay, for a long time, arrest the progress of evil in one point; but it always succeeds in the long run. The State is steadily becoming more and more unchristianized.

This state of things does not arise from any specifically irreligious character amongst statesmen in the present day. When we look back upon the statesmen of Charles II., or on those of King William, or the Georges, we do not recognize in them any character, as individuals, which causes the statesmen of the present day to contrast unfavourably with them. Perhaps we may say that, at present, there is higher and purer personal character, and better individual intention, than in any former period; and yet, notwithstanding this, the whole policy in regard to Church matters, which has prevailed for the last generation or two, is decidedly and increasingly irreligious. The great cause of this alienation from a religious policy is the divided state of public opinion throughout the empire, which the State reflects more and more; so that amidst contending forces, and directions, and impulses, the religious principle held in theory by the State

« AnteriorContinuar »