« AnteriorContinuar »
effort of will, there is the utmost alacrity and activity of movement, there is no looking back, no thought of giving up the struggle. The whole energy of mind and body is bent upon success; and till success is achieved, nothing is done. It would be easy to dwell on these points at greater length; but really the best commentary on the passage is supplied by the familiar facts of a well contested foot-race.” (pp. 147—149.)
The reflexion which suggests itself most forcibly in the perusal of this book is that which Dean Howson has expressed so admirably in the following words,—“God's Word is like God's World, very varied, very rich, very beautiful.” There is a reverence in the mode of dealing with his subject, a thoughtfulness in the reflexions, and a charm in the style of this book which is worthy of Dean Howson's justly acquired reputation. We commend it to the attention of our readers in the words of its concluding paragraph. “It is something to have obtained a deeper conviction than before of the inexhaustible charms and advantages of even the by-ways of Scripture.”
PROTESTANT SISTERHOODS AND ROMISH CONVENTS. Five Years in a Protestant Sisterhood, and Ten Years in a
Catholic Convent : an Autobiography. London : Longmans. 1869.
This book differs essentially from the class of writings to which it might be supposed to belong. It is not, for instance, published under the auspices of the Protestant Reformation Society, and does not bear the “imprimatur" of Dr. Cumming. It claims to be the work of a Roman Catholic lady, who has exchanged her old lamp for a new one; “who has bartered the Bible, which in her early years had been her rule of faith,” so far as she had been taught religion at all, “ for the apostolical and ecclesiastical traditions, and all other observances and constitutions of the Church" of Rome. We have a distinct assurance given, that “ the work is bona fide the narrative of a nun, and not a sensational make up ;” and the high position held by Messrs. Longmans, the publishers of the volume, is put forward as a sufficient guarantee to the public that it is what it professes to be. Without such an assurance, we must confess that, like Sir Hugh, we thought "we had spied a great peard under her muffler," but we suppose we must have been mistaken. Until we came upon the averment at the end of the volume, our im
pression had been, that it was the joint-stock production of some lady and her spiritual adviser, (the lady contributing the spite and the anecdotes, the gentleman the controversial theology,) with a definite ulterior object; but we do not profess infallibility, and accept the guarantee of Messrs. Longmans that the book is neither more nor less than what it distinctly professes to be.
Some account of the lady, so far as she thinks proper to make known the circumstances of her career, may form a suitable introduction to the revelations of her book. She professes to have been educated in the doctrines of the Church of England, and that, until ber twentieth year, her opinions were such as are usually denominated as Evangelical. Our readers will learn, we think, with some surprise, that "she had been taught to believe that a great deal of Popery remained in the Book of Common Prayer, and a great deal more (the italics are ours) in the Homilies and Articles! Moreover, that she was not allowed to learn the Church Catechism, and finished her education at a fashionable school, where the girls learned texts every Sunday, and flung the Bible from end to end of the school-room, after making jokes and puns over the sacred words. In this last exercise she professes not to have joined, but not to have reflected upon its being wrong. At seventeen she left school with the usual amount of accomplishments, but without one particle of solid instruction, and thenceforward seems to have taken her education into her own hands, devoting many hours of the day to solid reading. She usually attended an Independent Chapel, but occasionally a Free Church, and also a Chapel of Ease. Her progress in solid reading, considering the previous disadvantages of her education, must have been rapid and profound. She entered with great interest into the Gorham Case, which had just been decided, with a résumé of which she favours her readers. It seemed to her one of very great importance, and the question at issue to be a very simple one. She also engaged in very warm controversies with a Socinian, and professes to have suffered great agony of mind from the influence obtained over her by a friend with strong Calvinistic views. As she had satisfied herself, in her researches into the Gorham controversy, that the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration was taught in Holy Scripture, this did not seem quite reconcilable; but our sagacity may be at fault. About this time, in consequence of the habit of the clergy whose ministry she attended, marrying heiresses, and retiring from their clerical duties, there was a good deal of fluctuationin the doctrine of her religious teachers; but at last she took to attending her Parish Church, where the new Rector had daily prayers, and had instituted, “ to the extreme annoyance of mothers and nurses, a custom of pouring water on
infants brought to him for baptism.” Here again we are at fault; for we were under the impression that this practice was not novel, but usual. Upon what relates to what the lady terms her outward life, she is reticent. She makes allusion to some desolating sorrow which cast a blight upon her life at an early age, and which for two years kept her hovering between life and death. In this season of distress, Dr. Pusey's sermons, lent her by a friend, showed her that there “was work to be done by the broken-hearted and desolate.” Rapidly and unconsciously she was educated into Puseyism. She gave up her connection with the Bible Society, and began to wish for a confessor.
If this had been a fanciful, instead of what it claims to be, a real autobiography, we would have ventured to remind a lady who has not shrunk from such recondite works as those of Pacomius Rodriguez, and who quotes Horace's Satires, of counsels which must be familiar to her in the “Ars Poetica,"
Reddatur formæ.” We could imagine an intelligent foreigner, depicting in a religious novel what he might fancy to be the education of an English “Miss,” to have pourtrayed such an early education with profound unconsciousness of its absurdity. Or again, it might have been convenient for controversial purposes to have embodied in such a caricature as many distorted features as possible, where there was no intention or desire of producing a harmonious whole. But, in the present instance, we are constrained to say that what is averred to be truth is stranger than fiction ; and although we have ourselves met a good many odd people in the world, we are not conscious of ever having met any one so remarkable. It requires no small effort to realize that a young lady,—who at seventeen, on her own showing, was ignorant of well nigh everything except the fashionable dances of the season, some few pieces of music learned by rote, a little French and Italian of what Chaucer would term the use of Stratford-atte-Bowe; who had acquired a fatal facility in water-colours, some of Mrs. Slater's dates, and possibly the use of the globes, which we take to be the staple of the education our author means to describe,-could, notwithstanding her laudable efforts at self improvement, subsequently, while hovering between life and death for two more years, have so mastered religious controversy as to be competent, upon their merits, to renounce evangelical doctrines, and to adopt what she calls Puseyism. We do not think we shall be doing her serious injustice if we express a doubt how far she had any intelligent appreciation of either system, and whether she was not swayed by her feelings and her fancies, rather than by her
judgment. The ludicrous statements we have adverted to testify to her ignorance of evangelical religion at any rate, and carry with them their own refutation.
Having now introduced the lady, we proceed to make some comments upon her book. It contains about 300 pages, of which about 200 are devoted to her five years' adventures in a Protestant Sisterhood, and 100 to her experiences in a Romish Convent. The two parts are quite distinct, like the Edipus Rex and the Edipus Coloneus; but, like the plays referred to, form a connected whole. We have already stated our views as to how far we consider her a competent judge of doctrine; but she hopes that she has carefully narrated facts “ without passion or prejudice,” and “avoiding every exaggeration, and even the least shadow of misrepresentation.” We have sometimes wondered, as we read her book, what would have been the result if she had dipped her pen into gall instead of ink, and if she had given way to passion or prejudice, or been tempted to exaggeration and misrepresentation. We do not know whether the publishers' guarantee extends to the facts as well as the writer; but from the passage we have already quoted, we suppose it must, except so far as negligence or human infirmity may have betrayed her into venial inaccuracy,
In the earlier of the two dramas two personages are preeminently conspicuous, a Dr. Smithson and a Miss Jones (evi. dently fictitious names, but adumbrating real persons). The Doctor was the lady's first confessor. He is described as "sighing frequently: indeed he had a habit of sighing, or rather of uttering a sort of plaintive murmur.” The author does not seem to have been much satisfied with her confession. It took place in a fashionably furnished drawing room, in front of a little picture which Dr. Smithson took out of a book. By, we suppose, a kind of prolepsis, she felt it was personal, not sacramental ; or else even at that early period she had convinced herself of what many seem hardly yet to understand, that the “ English Church has carefully excluded confession from the Sacraments.” Shortly afterwards she entered the Sisterhood of a Miss Langdon at Helston Street, an establishment carried on according to a rule given it by Dr. Smithson, coinciding almost verbally with the rules of the Romish Sisters of Mercy. It was, as she says, slightly doctored for the benefit of the Sisters; and still more so for the benefit of the Bishop, who “was completely taken in.” In the Bishop's copy con. fession was altogether omitted ; and as he objected also to prayers for the dead, by an ingenious suggestion of Dr. Smithson they were not said aloud, as it was not respectful. The vows of the Sisters were made in private to Dr. Smithson, and kept from the knowledge of the Bishop. As the author Vol. 68.- No. 378.
remarks, "they were constantly preaching up the Church and submission to the Church, and as constantly defying their Bishops, acting against their wishes, not openly and honourably —a course which might have merited self-respect, as well as the respect of others—but with, I had almost said, mean secrecy.” As she further remarks sardonically, “such a line of conduct, if carried out in the Church Catholic, would have been termed Jesuitical by Protestants."
On the whole, the author seems to have been fairly contented with the Helston Establishment; and might have continued so, had it not been for the intervention of the lady termed Miss Jones, to whom, as our French neighbours would say, one-half the volume is consecrated. We have neither time nor space to furnish any adequate conception of the lady in question and her proceedings, and as the most compendious mode select the following notices from the Table of Contents:
“ CHAPTER V.–Midnight expedition in search of a lunatic nurse.
“CHAPTER VI. — Charitable labours greatly exaggerated — The orphans few and neglected. . . . . Money recklessly wasted everywhere.
“CHAPTER VII.-Painful facts about Miss Jones's intercourse with Dr. Smithson.
“CHAPTER VIII.—Miss Jones's view of the duties of a Superior Her luxurious living and indolence--The excuse for it-Examples of the obedience Miss Jones required from the Sisters-A midnight expedition-A'Child' sent at night to get soup for Miss Joneslliness and death of this lady- Miss Jones's cruel neglect of the poor sufferer-Miss Jones's views of obedience—She took as her model the Protestant idea of a 'Lady Abbess '-Her luxuriousness and self-indulgence-Some account of a Lay Sister-Her trials, and opinion of Miss Jones--Miss Jones's selfishness-Experience of it by another Lay Sister--A contradiction published by a Sister who knew but little of the matter.
“CHAPTER IX.-Miss Jones's idea of the state necessary for a Lady Abbess-Occupations of the Sisters—A printing press set up -- Our utter solitude and misery-A silent recreation—A summons from Office to the Superioress-- The Sisters left in the Oratory till midnight- The Oratory incensed when Miss Jones attended the Office, and the Sisters required to stand-Miss Jones never went to church, though able to walk about and drive—Dr. Smithson used to say the Communion Service for her alone, contrary to the Rubric and Seventy-first Canon.
" CHAPTER X.—The Sisters were not allowed to see their relatives, or to write to them-I wish to leave the Sisterhood, and am persuaded to remain-A railway journey, and arrival at midnight I am left alone on the steps of Miss Jones's house, in a large city, at midnight-A day and night at a fashionable hotel-My indignation at this proceeding-Another journey and another residence- A cottage in the country-Our employment-My companion appointed