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his final leave-taking of the stage,] and to be dis-
missed at last. But I was heait-whole, heart-whole
to the last, Sir. What though a few drops did course
themselves down the old veteran's cheeks ; who could
help it. Sir.? I was a giant that night. Sir; and
could have played fifty parts, each as arduous as
Uozy. My faculties were never better, Sir. But I
was to be laid upon the shelf. It did nor suit the
public to laugh with their old servant any longer.
Sir. [Here some moisture has blotted a sentence



or two.] But I can play Polonius still, Sir; I can,
I can.

Your servant, Sir,

Joseph Munden.



Dear M , Though none of your acquaintance

can with greater sincerity congratulate you upon this
happy conjuncture than myself, one of the oldest of
them, it was with pain I found you, after the cere-
mony, depositing in the vestry-room what is called a
Protest. I thought you superior to this little sophis-
try. What, after submitting to the service of the
Church of England — after consenting to receive a
boon from her, in the person of your amiable con-
sort — was it consistent with sense, or common good
manners, to turn round upon her, and flatly taunt her
with false worship ? This language is a little of the
strongest in your books and from your pulpits, though
there it may well enough be excused from religious
zeal and the native warmth of nonconformity. But
at the altar, the Church of England altar, adopting
her forms and complying with her requisitions to the
letter, to be consistent, together with the practice, I
fear you must drop the language of dissent. You


are no longer sturdy Non Cons ; you are there Oc-
casional Conformists. You submit to accept the
privileges communicated by a form of words, ex-
ceptionable, and perhaps justly, in your view; but,
so submitting, you have no right to quarrel with the
ritual which you have just condescended to owe an
obligation to. They do not force you into their
churches. You come voluntarily, knowing the terms.
You marry in the name of the Trinity. There is no
evading this by pretending that you take the formula
with your own interpretation, (and so long as you can
do this, where is the necessity of Protesting ?) for the
meaning of a vow is to be settled by the sense of the
imposer, not by any forced construction of the taker:
else might all vows, and oaths too, be eluded with
impunity. You marry then essentially as Trinitarians ;
and the altar no sooner satisfied, than, (hey presto !)
with the celerity of a juggler, you shift habits, and
proceed pure Unitarians again in the vestry. You
cheat the Church out of a wife, and go home smiling
in your sleeves that you have so cunningly despoiled
the Egyptians. In plain English, the Church has
married you in the name of so and so, assuming that
you took the words in her sense ; but you outwitted
her : you assented to them in your sense only, and
took from her what, upon a right understanding, she
would have declined giving you.

This is the fair construction to be put upon all
Unitarian marriages as at present contracted ; and
so long as you Unitarians could salve your con-
sciences with the equivoque, I do not see why the
Established Church should have troubled herself at
all about the matter. But the Protesters necessarily
see further. Thev have some glimmerings of the



deception ; they apprehend a flaw somewhere ; they
would fain be honest, and yet they must marry not-
withstanding ; for honesty's sake, they are fain to
dehonestate themselves a little. Let me try the very
words of your own Protest, to see what confessions
we can pick out of them.

" As Unitarians therefore we (you and your newly
espoused bride) most solemnly protest against the
service (which yourselves have just demanded)
because we are thereby called upon, not only tacitly
to acquiesce, but to profess a belief in a doctrine
which is a dogma, as we believe, totally unfounded."
But do you profess that belief during the cere-
mony ; or are you only called upon for the profession
but do not make it ? If the latter, then you fall in
with the rest of your more consistent brethren, who
waive the Protest ; if the former, — then, I fear, your
Protest cannot save you.

Hard and grievous it is, that in any case an insti-
tution so broad and general as the union of man and
wife should be so cramped and straitened by the
hands of an imposing hierarchy, that to plight troth
to a lovely woman a man must be necessitated to
compromise his truth and faith to Heaven ; but so it
must be, so long as you chuse to marry by the
forms of the Church over which that hierarchy pre-

Therefore, say you, " we Protest." O poor and
much-fallen word " Protest ! " It was not so that the
first heroic reformers protested. They departed out of
Babylon once for good and all ; they came not back
for an occasional contact with her altars ; a dallying,
and then a protesting against dalliance; they stood
not shuffling in the porch, with a Popish foot within,


and its lame Lutheran fellow without, halting betwixt.
These were the true Protestants. You are Pro-

Besides the inconsistency of this proceeding, I
must think it a piece of impertinence — unseasonable
at least, and out of place — to obtrude these papers
upon the officiating clergyman, to offer to a public
functionary an instrument which by the tenor of his
function he is not obliged to accept, but, rather, he
is called upon to reject. Is it done in his clerical
capacity ? he has no power of redressing the grievance.
It is to take the benefit of his ministry and then insult
him. If in his capacity of fellow Christian only, what
are your scruples to him, so long as you yourselves
are able to get over them, and do get over them by
the very fact of coming to require his services ? The
thing you call a Protest might with just as good a
reason be presented to the churchwarden for the time
being, to the parish clerk, or the pew opener.

The Parliament alone can redress your grievance,
if any. Yet I see not how with any grace your
people can petition for relief, so long as, by the very
fact of your coming to Church to be married, they do
bond fide and strictly relieve themselves. The Upper
House, in particular, is not unused to these same
things called Protests, among themselves. But how
would this honourable body stare to find a noble Lord
conceding a measure, and in the next breath, by
a solemn Protest disowning it ! A Protest is a
reason given for non-compliance, not a subterfuge for
an equivocal occasional compliance. It was reason-
able in the primitive Christians to avert from their
persons, by whatever lawful means, the compulsory
eating of meats which had been offered unto idi^ls. I.


dare say the Roman Prefects and Exarchats had
plenty of petitioning in their days. But what would
a Festus, or Agrippa, have replied to a petition to
that effect, presented to him by some evasive Laodi-
cean, with the very meat between his teeth, which he
had been chewing voluntarily rather than abide the
penalty? Relief for tender consciences means no-
thing, where the conscience has previously relieved
itself; that is, has complied with the injunctions
which it seeks preposterously to be rid of. Relief for
conscience there is properly none, but what by better
information makes an act appear innocent and lawful,
with which the previous conscience was not satisfied
to comply. All else is but relief from penalties, from
scandal incurred by a complying practice, where the
conscience itself is not fully satisfied.

But, say you, we have hard measure ! The Quakers
are indulged with the liberty denied to us. They are ;
and dearly have they earned it. You have come in (as
a sect at least) in the cool of the evening; at the
eleventh hour. The Quaker character was hardened
in the fires of persecution in the seventeenth century;
not quite to the stake and faggot, but little short
of that, they grew up and thrived against noisome
prisons, cruel beatings, whippings, stockings. They
have since endured a century or two of scoffs, contempts ;
they have been a bye-word, and a nay-word ; they
have stood unmoved ; and the consequence of long
conscientious resistance on one part is invariably, in
the end, remission on the other. The legislature,
that denied you the tolerance, which I do not know
that at that time you even asked, gave them the liberty
which, without granting, they would have assumed.
No penalties could have driven them into the Churches.


This is the consequence of entire measures. Had
the early Quakers consented to take oaths, leaving a
Protest with the clerk of the court against them in
the same breath with which they had taken them, do
you in your conscience think that they would have
been indulged at this day in their exclusive privilege of
Affirming ? Let your people go on for a century or
so, marrying in your own fashion, and I will warrant
them before the end of it the legislature will be
willing to concede to them more than they at present

Either the institution of marriage depends not for
its validity upon hypocritical compliances with the
ritual of an alien Church, (and then I do not see why
you cannot marry among yourselves, as the Quakers,
without their indulgence, would have been doing to
this day,) or it does depend upon such ritual compli-
ance, and then in your Protests you offend against a
divine ordinance. I have read in the Essex Street
Liturgy a form for the celebration of marriage. Why
is this become a dead letter? O it has never been
legalised I — that is to say, in the law's eye it is no
marriage. But do you take upon you to say, in the
view of the Gospel it would be none ? Would your
own people at least look upon a couple so paired, to
be none ? But the case of dowries, alimonies, inherit-
ances, &c., which depend for their validity upon the
ceremonial of the Church by law established — are
these nothing ? That our children are not legally
Filii Nullius — is this nothing ? I answer, nothing ;
to the preservation of a good conscience, nothing;
to a consistent Christianity, less than nothing. Sad
worldly thorns they are indeed, and stumbling blocks,
well worthy to be set out of the way by a legislature



calling itself Christian ; but not likely to be removed
in a hurry by any shrewd legislators, who perceive
that the petitioning complainants have not 'so much
as bruised a shin in the resistance; but, prudently
declining the briars and the prickles, nestle quietly
down in the smooth two-sided velvet of a Protesting
Occasional Conformity. — I am, dear sir,

With much respect, yours, &c.,




My Dear Sir, — The question which you have done me
the honour to propose to me, through the medium of
our common friend Mr. Grierson, I shall endeavour
to answer with as much exactness as a limited obser-
vation and experience can warrant.

You ask — or rather, Mr. Grierson in his own in-
teresting language asks for you— " Whether a person
at the age of sixty-three, with no more proficiency
than a tolerable knowledge of most of the characters
of the English alphabet at first sight amounts to, by
dint of persevering application, and good masters,

a docile and ingenuous disposition on the part of

the pupil always pre-supposed— may hope to arrive,
within a presumable number of years, at that degree
of attainments, which shall entitle the possessor to
the character, which you are on so many accounts
justly desirous of acquiring, of a learned many


This is fairly and candidly stated — only I could
wish that on one point you had been a little more
explicit. In the mean time, I will take it for granted,
that by a " knowledge of the alphabetic characters,"
you confine your meaning to the single powers only,
as you are silent on the subject of the diphthongs and
harder combinations.

Why truly, Sir, when I consider the vast circle of
sciences — it is not here worth while to trouble you
with the distinction between learning and science— ^
which a man must be understood to have made the
tour of in these days, before the world will be willing
to concede to him the title which you aspire to, I am
almost disposed to reply to your inquiry by a direct
answer in the negative.

However, where all cannot be compassed, a great
deal that is truly valuable may be accomplished. I
am unwilling to throw out any remarks that should
have a tendency to damp a hopeful genius : but I
must not in fairness conceal from you that you have
much to do. The consciousness of difficulty is some-
times a spur to exertion. Rome — or rather, my dear
Sir, to borrow an illustration from a place, as yet
more familiar to you — Rumford — Rumford — was not
built in a day.

Your mind as yet, give me leave to tell you, is in
the state of a sheet of white paper. We must not
blot or blur it over too hastily. Or, to use an opposite
simile, it is like a piece of parchment all be-scrawled
and be-scribbled over with characters of no sense or
import, which we must carefully erase and remove,
before we can make way for the authentic characters
or impresses, which are to be substituted in their
etead by the corrective hand of science.

VOL. vi. D


Your mind, my dear Sir, again resembles that same
parchment, which we will suppose a little hardened
by time and disuse. We may apply the characters,
but are we sure that the ink will sink ?

You are in the condition of a traveller, that has
all his journey to begin. And again, you are worse
off than the traveller which I have supposed — for you
have already lost your way.

You have much to learn, which you have never
been taught ; and more, I fear, to unlearn, which you
have been taught erroneously. You have hitherto,
I dare say, imagined, that the sun moves round the
earth. When you shall have mastered the true solar
system, you will have quite a different theory upon
that point, I assure you. I mention but this instance.
Your own experience, as knowledge advances, will
furnish you with many parallels.

I can scarcely approve of the intention, which
Mr. Grierson informs me you had contemplated, of
entering yourself at a common seminary, and work-
ing your way up from the lower to the higher forms
with the children. I see more to admire in the
modesty, than in the expediency, of such a resolu-
tion. I own I cannot reconcile myself to the
spectacle of a gentleman at your time of life seated,
as must be your case at first, below a Tyro of four or
five — for at that early age the rudiments of education
usually commence in this country. I doubt whether
more might not be lost in the point of fitness, than
would be gained in the advantages which you propose
to yourself by this scheme.

You say, you stand in need of emulation ; that
this incitement is nowhere to be had but at a public
school ; that you should be more sensible of your


progress by comparing it with the daily progress ol
those around you. But have you considered the
nature of emulation, and how it is sustained at those
tender years, which you would have to come in com-
petition with ? I am afraid you are dreaming of
academic prizes and distinctions. Alas ! in the
university, for which you are preparing, the highest
medal would be a silver penny, and you must graduate
in nuts and oranges.

I know that Peter, the great Czar — or Emperor —
of Muscovy, submitted himself to the discipline of a
dock-yard at Deptford, that he might learn, and
convey it to his countrymen, the noble art of ship-
building. You are old enough to remember him, or
at least the talk about him. I call to mind also other
great princes, who, to instruct themselves in the
theory and practice of war, and set an example of
subordination to their suDjects, have condescended to
enrol themselves as private soldiers ; and, passing
through the successive ranks of corporal, quarter-
master, and the rest, have served their way up to the
station, at which most princes arewilling enough to set
out — of General and Commander-in-G^hief over their
own forces. But — besides that there is oftentimes
great sham and pretence in their show of mock
humility — the competition which they stooped to was
with their co-evals, however inferior to them in birth.
Between ages so very disparate, as those which you con-
template, I fear there can no salutary emulation subsist.

Again, in the other alternative, could you submit to
the ordinary reproofs and discipline of a day-school ?
Could you bear to be corrected for your faults ? Or
how would it look to see you put to stand, as must be
the case sometimes, in a corner ?

D 2


I am afraid that the idea of a public school in your
circumstances must be given up.

But is it impossible, my dear Sir, to find some
person of your own age — if of the other sex, the more
agreeable perhaps — whose information, like your
own, has rather lagged behind their years, who
should be willing to set out from the same point with
yourself, to undergo the same tasks — thus at once
inciting and sweetening each other's labours in a sort
of friendly rivalry ? Such a one, I think, it would not
be difficult to find in some of the western parts of
this island — about Dartmoor for instance.

Or what if, from your own estate — that estate
which, unexpectedly acquired so late in life, has
inspired into you this generous thirst after knowledge,
you were to select some elderly peasant, that might
best be spared from the land, to come and begin his
education with you, that you might till, as it were,
your minds together — one, whose heavier progress
might invite, without a fear of discouraging your
emulation ? We might then see — starting from an
equal post — the difference of the clownish and the
gentle blood.

A private education then, or such a one as I have
been describing, being determined on, we must in the
next place look for a preceptor; for it will be some
time before either of you, left to yourselves, will
be able to assist the other to any great purpose in his

And now, my dear Sir, if in describing such a
tutor as I have imagined for you, I use a style a little
above the familiar one in which I have hitherto
chosen to address you, the nature of the subject must
be my apology. Difficile est de scientiis inscienter


loqui ; which is as much as to say that " in treating
of scientific matters it is difficult to avoid the use of
scientific terms." But I shall endeavour to be as
plain as possible. I am not going to present you
with the ideal of a pedagogue, as it may exist in my
fancy, or has possibly been realized in the persons of
Buchanan and Busby. Something less than perfec-
tion will serve our turn. The scheme which I
propose in this first or introductory letter, has refer-
ence to the first four or five years of your education
only; and in enumerating the qualifications of him
that should undertake the direction of your studies, I
shall rather point out the miniimim, or least, that I
shall require of him, than trouble you in the search of
attainments neither common nor necessary to our
immediate purpose.

He should be a man of deep and extensive know-
ledge. So much at least is indispensable. Something
older than yourself, I could wish him, because years
add reverence.

To his age and great learning, he should be blest
with a temper and a patience, willing to accommodate
itself to the imperfections of the slowest and meanest
capacities. Such a one in former days Mr. Hartlib
appears to have been, and such in our days I take
Mr. Grierson to be ; but our friend, you know, un-
happily has other engagements. I do not demand a
consummate grammarian ; but he must be a thorough
master of vernacular orthography, with an insight
into the accentualities and punctualities of modern
Saxon, or English. He must be competently instructed
(or how shall he instruct you ?) in the tetralogy, or
first four rules, upon which not only arithmetic, but
geometry, and the pure mathematics themselves,


are grounded. I do not require that he should have
measured the globe with Cook, or Ortelius, but it is
desirable that he should have a general knowledge (I
do not mean a very nice or pedantic one) of the great
division of the earth into four parts, so as to teach
you readily to name the quarters. He must have
a genius capable in some degree of soaring to the
upper element, to deduce from thence the not much dis-
similar computation of the cardinal points, or hinges,
upon which those invisible phenomena, which natu-
ralists agree to term winds, do perpetually shift and
turn. He must instruct you, in imitation of the old
Orphic fragments, (the mention of which has pos-
sibly escaped you,) in numeric and harmonious
responses, to deliver the number of solar revolutions,
within which each of the twelve periods, into which
the Annus Vulgaris, or common year, is divided, doth
usually complete and terminate itself. The inter-
calaries, and other subtle problems, he will do well
to omit, till riper years, and course of study, shall
have rendered you more capable thereof. He must
be capable of embracing all history, so as from the
countless myriads of individual men, who have
peopled this globe of earth — for it is a globe — by
comparison of their respective births, lives, deaths,
fortunes, conduct, prowess, &c., to pronounce, and
teach you to pronounce, dogmatically and catecheti-
cally, who was the richest, who was the strongest,
who was the wisest, who was the meekest man, that
ever lived ; to the facilitation of which solution, you
will readily conceive, a smattering of biography
would in no inconsiderable degree conduce. Leaving
the dialects of men, (in one of which I shall take
leave to suppose you bv this time at least superfici-



ally instituted,) you will learn to ascend with him to
the contemplation of the unarticulated language,
which was before the written tongue ; and, with the
aid of the elder Phrygian or iEsopic key, to interpret
the sounds by which the animal tribes communicate
their minds — evolving moral instruction with delight
from the dialogue of cocks, dogs, and foxes. Or
marrying theology with verse, from whose mixture a
beautiful and healthy offspring may be expected, in
your own native accents (but purified) you will keep
time together to the profound harpings of the more
modern or Wattsian hymnics.

Thus far I have ventured to conduct you to a "hill-
side, whence you may discern the right path of a
virtuous and noble education ; laborious indeed at
the first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full
of goodly prospects and melodious sounds on every
side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more

With best respects to Mr. Grierson, when you
see him,

I remain, dear Sir, your obedient servant,

April ist, 1823.

1 Milton's 1 lactate on Education, addrtssed to Mr. Hartlib.


1 AM the miserablest man living. Give me counsel,
dear Editor. I was bred up in the strictest principles
of honesty, and have passed my life in punctual adhe-
rence to them. Integrity might be said to be ingrained
in our family. Yet I live in constant fear of one day
coming to the gallows.

Till the latter end of last Autumn I never experi-
enced these feelings of self-mistrust, which ever since
have embittered my existence. From the apprehension
of that unfortunate man,^ whose story began to make
so great an impression upon the public about that
time, I date my horrors. I never can get it out of
my head that I shall some time or other commit a
forgery, or do some equally vile thing. To make
matters worse, I am in a banking-house. I sit
surrounded with a cluster of bank notes. These were
formerly no more to me than meat to a butcher's dog.
They are now as toads and aspics. I feel all day like
one situated amidst gins and pitfalls. Sovereigns,
which I once took such pleasure in counting out, and
scraping up with my little tin shovel, (at which I was

Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 3 of 29)