Charles Kingsley.

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Copyright, 1899, by
J. F. Taylor & Company




My Dear Parents: —

When you shall have read this book, and considered
the view of human relationships which is set forth in it, you
will be at no loss to discover why I have dedicated it to you,
as one paltry witness of an union and of a debt which,
though they may seem to have begun with birth, and to
have grown with your most loving education, yet cannot
die with death : but are spiritual, indefeasible, eternal in the
heavens with that God from whom every fatherhood in

heaven and earth is named.

C K.



EXCEPT to scholars, the fifth century — which
saw the downfall of the Roman Empire and
of the old pagan beliefs and the rise of the Chris-
tian Church and of the Gothic nations to power
in the world — was almost a sealed book till, in
1851-2/ Hypatia appeared in Eraser's Magazine,
and told the story in burning words of the most
striking period of that great world-struggle.

Though possibly Charles Kingsley may be more
widely known as the author of Westward Ho ! —
a romance which especially appeals to the modern
English-speaking people, — his place among the
authors of the Victorian Age will be largely
determined by the more highly-finished novel of

" You have succeeded," wrote Chevalier Bunsen
shortly after it appeared, " in epicizing, poetically
and philosophically, one of the most interesting
and eventful epochs of the world, clothing the
spirits of the age in the most attractive fable ; you
resuscitate the real history of the time and its lead-
ing characters so poetically that we forget that
instruction is being conferred upon us in every

1 *• Hypatia " was first published in book form in 1853.

viii Introduction

More than twenty years later Dean Stanley, in
speaking of its author from a somewhat different
standpoint, said: "His moral enthusiasm, ... in
the pages of Hypatia, has scathed with everlast-
ing brand the name of the Alexandrian Cyril and
his followers for their outrages on humanity and
morality in the name of a hollow Christianity
and a spurious orthodoxy. Read, if you would
learn some of the most impressive lessons of eccle-
siastical history; read and inwardly digest those
pages, perhaps the most powerful he ever wrote,
which close that wonderful story discriminating
the destinies which awaited each of its characters
as they passed, one after another, ' each to his
own place.' "

And what a wealth of characters does the story
contain ! The young neophyte, Philammon, fresh
from the peaceful cells of the desert Laura, waken-
ing suddenly to the true meanings of life, love, and
the Church in Alexandria, — the mart for all the
nations " from the Crimea to Cadiz," and second
hardly to Rome itself as a seat of learning; the
would-be priest-ruler, the Patriarch Cyril, of whom
Theodoret wrote later, *' His death made those
who survived him joyful, but it grieved most prob-
ably the dead ; and there is cause to fear lest, find-
ing him too troublesome, they should send him
back to us;" the saintly Augustine of Hippo,
founder, one might almost say, of the Catholic
Church, and the genial warrior-bishop, Synesius;
Victoria, and Majoricus, her father; Orestes the

Introduction ix

Prefect, steeped in voluptuousness, and ready to
turn philosopher, Christian, or possibly Jew, as best
might aid his aspirations to the imperial purple ;
Pelagia-Aphrodite, and Pelagia, the woman; the
handful of world-conquering Goths, led by the
royal Amal and grand old Prince Wulf ; Miriam
the Jewess, and the black philosopher, Endaemon ;
and last — for in a measure the character domi-
nates the peerless Hypatia's self — Raphael Aben-
Ezra, the Jew of the line of David, the philosopher,
the Christian catechumen.

It is not easy to recall another novel containing
at once historic and created characters more pow-
erfully drawn or skilfully placed in their surround-
ings. It is the accurate and vivid drawing of the
viise-en-schie that adds so much, not only to its
beauty as a work of art, but to its historic value.
And in the scenes at the triumph of Orestes, the
deaths of the Amal and of Miriam, and, above all,
the appalling climax of monkish fanaticism on the
altar steps of the Caesareum, — the altar of God
himself, — in these the author rises to the height
of dramatic imagery.

Painful as must be a true picture of life in that
age, a true picture of life in the nineteenth century
is, alas, not much different; and as the author of
Hypatia tells his readers, " I have shown you New
Foes under an Old Face, — your likenesses in
toga and tunic, instead of coat and bonnet. One
word before we part. The same devil who tempted
these old Egyptians tempts you. The same God

X. Introduction

who would have saved these old Egyptians, if they
had willed, will save you, if you will. Their sins
are yours, their errors yours, their doom yours,
their deliverance yours. There is nothing new
under the sun. The thing which has been is that
which shall be. Let him that is without sin among
you cast the first stone, whether at Hypatia or
Pelagia, Miriam or Raphael, Cyril or Philammon."

M. K.


A PICTURE of life in the fifth century must
needs contain much which will be painful
to any reader, and which the young and innocent
will do well to leave altogether unread. It has to
represent a very hideous, though a very great,
age ; one of those critical and cardinal eras in the
history of the human race in which virtues and
vices manifest themselves side by side — even, at
times, in the same person — with the most startling
openness and power. One who writes of such
an era labors under a troublesome disadvantage.
He dare not tell how evil people were ; he will not
be believed if he tells how good they were. In
the present case that disadvantage is doubled ; for
while the sins of the Church, however heinous,
were still such as admit of being expressed in
words, the sins of the heathen world, against which
she fought, were utterly indescribable; and the
Christian apologist is thus compelled, for the sake
of decency, to state the Church's case far more
weakly than the facts deserve.

Not, be it ever remembered, that the slightest
suspicion of immorality attaches either to the
heroine of this book, or to the leading philosophers
of her school, for several centuries. Howsoever
base and profligate their disciples, or the Mani-

xii Preface

chees, may have been, the great Neo-PIatonists

were, as Manes himself was, persons of the most
rigid and ascetic virtue.

For a time had arrived in which no teacher who
did not put forth the most lofty pretensions to
righteousness could expect a hearing. That Divine
Word, who is " The Light who lighteth every man
which Qometh into the world," had awakened in
the heart of mankind a moral craving never be-
fore felt in any strength, except by a iew isolated
philosophers or prophets. The Spirit had been
poured out on all flesh ; and from one end of the
Empire to the other, from the slave in the mill to
the emperor on his throne, all hearts were either
hungering and thirsting after righteousness, or
learning to do homage to those who did so. And
He who excited the craving, was also furnishing
that which would satisfy it ; and was teaching man-
kind, by a long and painful education, to distin-
guish the truth from its innumerable counterfeits,
and to find, for the first time in the world's life, a
good news not merely for the select few, but for all
mankind without respect of rank or race.

For somewhat more than four hundred years,
the Roman Empire and the Christian Church, born
into the world almost at the same moment, had
been developing themselves side by side as two
great rival powers, in deadly struggle for the pos-
session of the human race. The weapons of the
Empire had been not merely an overwhelming
physical force, and a ruthless lust of aggressive

Preface xiii

conquest: but, even more powerful still, an un-
equalled genius for organization, and a uniform
system of external law and order. This was gen-
erally a real boon to conquered nations, because it
substituted a fixed and regular spoliation for the
lortuitous and arbitrary miseries of savage warfare :
but it arrayed, meanwhile, on the side of the Em-
pire the wealthier citizens of every province, by
allowing them their share in the plunder of the
laboring masses below them. These, in the coun-
try districts, were utterly enslaved ; while in the
cities, nominal freedom was of little use to masses
kept from starvation by the alms of the govern-
ment, and drugged into brutish good-humor by a
vast system of public spectacles, in which the realms
of nature and of art were ransacked to glut the
wonder, lust, and ferocity of a degraded populace.

Against this vast organization the Church had
been fighting for now four hundred years, armed
only with its own mighty and all-embracing mes-
sage, and with the manifestation of a spirit of
purity and virtue, of love and self-sacrifice, which
had proved itself mightier to melt and weld
together the hearts of men, than all the force and
terror, all the mechanical organization, all the
sensual baits with which the Empire had been
contending against that Gospel in which it had
recognized instinctively and at first sight, its inter-
necine foe.

And now the Church had conquered. The weak
things of this world had confounded the strong.

xiv Preface

In spite of the devilish cruelties of persecutors;
in spite of the contaminating atmosphere of sin
which surrounded her ; in spite of having to form
herself, not out of a race of pure and separate
creatures, but by a most literal "new birth" out
of those very fallen masses who insulted and per-
secuted her; in spite of having to endure within
herself continual outbursts of the evil passions in
which her members had once indulged without
check; in spite of a thousand counterfeits which
sprang up around her and within her, claiming to
be parts of her, and alluring men to themselves by
that very exclusiveness and party arrogance which
disproved their claim ; in spite of all, she had
conquered. The very emperors had arrayed them-
selves on her side, Julian's last attempt to restore
paganism by imperial influence had only proved
that the old faith had lost all hold upon the hearts
of the masses ; at his death the great tide-wave of
new opinion rolled on unchecked, and the rulers
of earth were fain to swim with the stream ; to
accept, in words at least, the Church's laws as
theirs ; to acknowledge a King of kings to whom
even they owed homage and obedience; and to
call their own slaves their " poorer brethren," and
often, too, their " spiritual superiors."

But if the emperors had become Christian, the
Empire had not. Here and there an abuse was
lopped off; or an edict was passed for the visitation
of prisons and for the welfare of prisoners ; or a
Theodosius was recalled to justice and humanity

Preface xv

for a while by the stern rebukes of an Ambrose.
But the Empire was still the same: still a great
tyranny, enslaving the masses, crushing national
life, fattening itself and its officials on a system of
world-wide robbery ; and while it was paramount,
there could be no hope for the human race. Nay,
there were even those among the Christians who
saw, like Dante afterwards, in the " fatal gift of
Constantine," and the truce between the Church
and the Empire, fresh and more deadly danger.
Was not the Empire trying to extend over the
Church itself that upas shadow with which it had
withered up every other form of human existence ;
to make her, too, its stipendiary slave-official, to be
pampered when obedient, and scourged whenever
she dare assert a free will of her own, a law beyond
that of her tyrants ; to throw on her, by a refined
hypocrisy, the care and support of the masses on
whose life-blood it was feeding? So thought many
then, and, as I believe, not unwisely.

But if the social condition of the civilized world
was anomalous at the beginning of the fifth cen-
tury, its spiritual state was still more so. The uni-
versal fusion of races, languages, and customs,
which had gone on for four centuries under the
Roman rule, had produced a corresponding fusion
of creeds, an universal fermentation of human
thought and faith. All honest belief in the old
local superstitions of paganism had been long dying
out before the more palpable and material idolatry

of Empe'-or-worship ; and the gods of the nations,


xvi Preface

unable to deliver those who had trusted in them,
became one by one the vassals of the " Divus
Caesar," neglected by the philosophic rich, and only
worshipped by the lower classes, where the old
rites still pandered to their grosser appetites, or
subserved the wealth and importance of some
particular locality.

In the meanwhile, the minds of men, cut adrift
from their ancient moorings, wandered wildly over
pathless seas of speculative doubt, and especially
iii the more metaphysical and contemplative East,
attempted to solve for themselves the questions of
man's relation to the unseen by those thousand
schisms, heresies, and theosophies (it is a disgrace
to the word philosophy to call them by it), on the
records of which the student now gazes bewildered,
unable alike to count or to explain their fantasies.

Yet even these, like every outburst of free hu-
man thought, had their use and their fruit. They
brought before the minds of churchmen a thousand
new questions which must be solved, unless the
Church was to relinquish for ever her claims as the
great teacher and satisfier of the human soul. To
study these bubbles, as they formed and burst on
every wave of human life ; to feel, too often by sad
experience, as Augustine felt, the charm of their
allurements; to divide the truths at which they
aimed from the falsehood which they offered as its
substitute; to exhibit the Catholic Church as pos-
sessing, in the great facts which she proclaimed, full
satisfaction, even for the most subtle metaphysical

Preface xv'i

cravings of a diseased age ; — that was the work of
the time ; and men were sent to do it, and aided in
their labor by the very causes which had produced
the intellectual revolution. The general inter-
mixture of ideas, creeds, and races, even the mere
physical facilities for intercourse between different
parts of the Empire, helped to give the great
Christian fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries a
breadth of observation, a depth of thought, a large-
hearted and large-minded patience and tolerance,
such as, we may say boldly, the Church has since
beheld but rarely, and the world never; at least,
if we are to judge those great men by what they
had, and not by what they had not, and to believe,
as we are bound, that had they lived now, and not
then, they would have towered as far above the
heads of this generation as they did above the
heads of their own. And thus an age, which, to
the shallow insight of a sneerer like Gibbon, seems
only a rotting and aimless chaos of sensuality and
anarchy, fanaticism and hypocrisy, produced a
Clement and an Athanase, a Chrysostom and an
Augustine; absorbed into the sphere of Christian-
ity all which was most valuable in the philosophies
of Greece and Egypt, and in the social organization
of Rome, as an heirloom for nations yet unborn ;
and laid in foreign lands, by unconscious agents,
the foundations of all European thought and

But the health of a Church depends, not merely
on the creed which it professes, not even on the

xviii Preface

wisdom and holiness of a few great ecclesiastics,
but on the faith and virtue of its individual mem-
bers. The mens sana must have a corpus sanum
to inhabit. And even for the Western Church, the
lofty future which was in store for it would have
been impossible, without some infusion of new and
healthier blood into the veins of a world drained
and tainted by the influence of Rome.

And the new blood, at the era of this story, was
at hand. The great tide of those Gothic nations,
of which the Norwegian and the German are the
purest remaining types, though every nation of
Europe, from Gibraltar to St. Petersburg, owes to
them the most precious elements of strength, was
sweeping onward, wave over wave, in a steady
southwestern current, across the whole Roman ter-
ritory, and only stopping and recoiling when it
reached the shores of the Mediterranean. Those
wild tribes were bringing with them into the magic
circle of the Western Church's influ'.nce the very
materials which she required for the building up
of a future Christendom, and which she could find
as little in the Western Empire, as in the Eastern ;
comparative purity of morals ; sacred respect for
women, for family life, law, equal justice, individual
freedom, and, above all, for honesty in word and
deed; bodies untainted by hereditary effeminacy,
hearts earnest though genial, and blest with a
strange willingness to learn, even from those whom
they despised ; a brain equal to that of the Roman
in practical power, and not too far behind that

Preface xix

of the Eastern in imaginative and speculative

And their strength was felt at once. Their van-
guard, confined with difficulty for three centuries
beyond the Eastern Alps, at the expense of san-
guinary wars, had been adopted, wherever it was
practicable, into the service of the Empire; and
the heart's core of the Roman legion was com-
posed of Gothic officers and soldiers. But now
the main body had arrived. Tribe after tribe was
crowding down to the Alps, and trampling upon
each other on the frontiers of the Empire. The
Huns, singly their inferiors, pressed them from
behind with the irresistible weight of numbers;
Italy, with her rich cities and fertile lowlands.,
beckoned them on to plunder; as auxiliaries, they
had learned their own strength and Roman weak-
ness; 2i casus belli "w^-s soon found. How iniqui-
tous was the conduct of the sons of Theodosius, in
refusing the usual bounty, by which the Goths were
bribed not to attack the Empire ! The whole
pent-up deluge burst over the plains of Italy, and
the Western Empire became from that day forth a
dying idiot, while the new invaders divided Europe
among themselves. The fifteen years before the
time of this tale had decided the fate of Greece;
the last four that of Rome itself. The countless
treasures which five centuries of rapine had ac-
cumulated round the Capitol had become the prey
of men clothed in sheepskins and horsehide; and
the sister of an emperor had found her beauty,

XX Preface

virtue, and pride of race, worthily matched by
those of the hard-handed Northern hero who led
her away from Italy as his captive and his bride, to
found new kingdoms in South France and Spain,
and to drive the newly-arrived Vandals across the
Straits of Gibraltar into the then blooming coast-
land of Northern Africa. Everywhere the man-
gled limbs of the Old World were seething in the
Medea's caldron, to come forth whole, and young,
and strong. The Longbeards, noblest of their
race, had found a temporary resting-place upon
the Austrian frontier, after long southward wander-
ings from the Swedish mountains, soon to be
dispossessed again by the advancing Huns, and,
crossing the Alps, to give their name for ever to
the plains of Lombardy. A few more tumultuous
years, and the Franks would find themselves lords
of the Lower Rhineland ; and before the hairs of
Hypatia's scholars had grown gray, the mythic
Hengst and Horsa would have landed on the
shores of Kent, and an English nation have begun
its world-wide life.

But some great Providence forbade to our race,
triumphant in every other quarter, a footing be-
yond the Mediterranean, or even in Constantinople,
which to this day preserves in Europe the faith
and manners of Asia. The Eastern World seemed
barred, by some stern doom, from the only influence
which could have regenerated it. Every attempt
of the Gothic races to establish themselves beyond
the sea, whether in the form of an organized king-



dom, as the Vandals attempted in Africa ; or of a
mere band of brigands, as did the Goths in Asia
Minor under Gainas ; or of a praetorian guard, as
did the Varangens of the middle age ; or as reli-
gious invaders, as did the Crusaders, ended only in
the corruption and disappearance of the colonists.
That extraordinary reform in morals, which, ac-
cording to Salvian and his contemporaries, the
Vandal conquerors worked in North Africa, availed
them nothing ; they lost more than they gave.
Climate, bad example, and the luxury of power
degraded them in one century into a race of help-
less and debauched slaveholders, doomed to utter
extermination before the semi-Gothic armies of
Belisarius ; and with them vanished the last chance
that the Gothic races would exercise on the East-
ern World the same stern yet wholesome discipline
under which the Western had been restored to life.
The Egyptian and Syrian Churches, therefore,
were destined to labor not for themselves, but
for us. The signs of disease and decrepitude were
already but too manifest in them. That very pecu-
liar turn of the Graeco-Eastern mind, which made
them the great thinkers of the then world, had
the effect of drawing them away from practice to
speculation ; and the races of Egypt and Syria
were effeminate, over-civilized, exhausted by cen-
turies during which no infusion of fresh blood had
come to renew the stock. Morbid, self-conscious,
physically indolent, incapable then, as now, of per-
sonal or political freedom, they afforded material

xxii Preface

out of which tanatics might easily be made, but
not citizens of the kingdom of God. The very
ideas o£ family and national life — those two divine
roots of the Church, severed from which she is
certain to wither away into that most godless and
most cruel of spectres, a religious world — had
perished in the East from the evil influence of the
universal practice of slaveholding, as well as from
the degradation of that Jewish nation which had
been for ages the great witness for those ideas ;
and all classes, like their forefather Adam — like,
indeed, "the old Adam" in every man and in every
age — were shifting the blame of sin from their
own consciences to human relationships and duties
— and therein, to the God who had appointed them ;
and saying as of old, *' The woman whom thou
gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and
I did eat." The passionate Eastern character, like
all weak ones, found total abstinence easier than
temperance, religious thought more pleasant than
godly action ; and a monastic world grew up all
over the East, of such vastness that in Egypt it was
said to rival in numbers the lay population, pro-
ducing, with an enormous decrease in the actual
amount of moral evil, an equally great enervation
and decrease of the population. Such a people
could offer no resistance to the steadily-increasing
tyranny of the Eastern Empire. In vain did such
men as Chrysostom and Basil oppose their per-
sonal influence to the hideous intrigues and vil-
lanies of the Byzantine court; the ever-downward



career of Eastern Christianity went on unchecked
for two more miserable centuries, side by side with
the upward development of the Western Church;
and, while the successors of the great Saint Greg-
ory were converting and civilizing a new-born
Europe, the Churches of the East were vanishing
before Mohammedan invaders, strong by living
trust in that living God, whom the Christians, while
they hated and persecuted each other for argu-
ments about Him, were denying and blaspheming
in every action of their lives.

But at the period whereof this story treats, the
Graeco-Eastern mind was still in the middle of its
great work. That wonderful metaphysic subtlety,
which, in phrases and definitions too often un-
meaning to our grosser intellect, saw the symbols
of the most important spiritual realities, and felt
that on the distinction between homoousios and
hontoiousios might hang the solution of the whole
problem of humanity, was set to battle in Alexan-
dria, the ancient stronghold of Greek philosophy,

Online LibraryCharles KingsleyThe works of Charles Kingsley (Volume 6) → online text (page 1 of 40)