Connop Thirlwall.

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BR 50 .T47 1880
Thirlwall, Connop, 1797-

Essays, speeches and sermonf
















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This volume contains a selection from the Essays, Sermons,
Speeches, Addresses, and miscellaneous writings of Bishop

The bulk of the Essays consists of those originally published in
the Philological Museum, a journal which was started by him and
his friend Julius Charles Hare, and intended, as the latter informs
us in his Preface, to forward " the knowledge and the love of
ancient literature," the main attention of the Editors being
directed " toward the two colossal edifices that stand forth amid
the ruins of the ancient world ; " and their main object being " to
illustrate the language, the literature, the philosophy, the histoiy,
the manners, the institutions, the mythology, and the religion of
Greece and Home." Foremost among these Essays is that on the
Irony of Sophocles, a masterpiece of philosophical criticism. To
these I have added two Essays read before the Royal Society of
Literature, of which the Bishop was for many years President.
They are now reprinted from its Transactions, by the kind per-
mission of the Council of that Society.

Of occasional Pamphlets I have selected those that seemed to
be of most permanent interest, or which, like that on " The Pan-
Anglican Synod," were characteristic of the author.

The Sermons collected in this volume have, with two or three
exceptions, already appeared in print. I should have been glad
to publish more out of the large number placed in my hands, and


especially some of the Ordination Sermons, together with the
Addresses delivered to the Candidates for Orders at Abergwili,
which the Bishop himself had selected as most suitable for pub-
lication ; but to have added these to the present volume would
have unduly swelled its size, and they would only have been
inserted by the sacrifice of other matter, which the world, I
believe, " would not willingly let die."

The Speeches on the admission of Jews into Parliament and on
the Disestablishment of the Irish Church were printed by the
Bishop ; those on the Revision of the Bible and the Athanasian
Creed are taken from the Chronicle of Convocation.

Two volumes of the Bishop's Letters will, I hope, appear in the
course of next year, one edited by the Dean of Westminster, and
the other by myself.

J. J. S. P.

Cambridge : 23rd October, 1877.



Ox the Irony of Sophocles {Reprinted from the Philological Museum)

Memxox Do. do.

On the Position of Scsa Do. do. Do. do.

Philip of Theangela Do. do.

On the Death of Paches Do. do.

Hannibal's Passage oyer the Alps Do. do.

On the Alleged Connexion between the Early History of Oreece
and Assyria {Bead before the Royal Society of Literature) .

On some Traditions relating to the Submersion of Ancient Citie
(Read before the Royal Society of Literature)


The Disabilities of the Jews. A Speech delivered in t he House of Lords, May
25th, 1848 ...

The Irish Church. A Speech delivered in the House of Lord*, June loth, 1869

The Athanasian Creed. A Speech delivered in the Upper Llousc of 'Convocation,
February 9th, 1S72 . .

Inaugural Address to the Philosophical Institution, Edinburgh, 1861 .

The Present State of Relations between Science and Literature. An

Address delivered at the Royal Institution of South Vales, December 6(h,


vao a








Works which remain, and "Wobi-8 which follow us. A Sermon pre*
the Charterhouse on Founder's Da, D r 12th, 1845

TheLoye of God the Groundwork <>. : ai r. Knowledge. A

in the Farhh Church >/ Swansea, on behalf of the Swansea National Schools,
August 12th, 1818

The Excellence oe Wisdom. A Sermon preached at the laying of the founda-
tion-stone of the Welsh Educational Institute, December \ot^, I




The Apostolical Commission. An Ordination Sermon preached at Abcrgwili

Church, December 2lst, 1851 354

English Education for the Middle Classes. A Sermon preached at the

open in g of St. John* s School, Hurstpiopoint, June 21st, 1853 . . 367

The Spirit or Truth, the Holy Sfirit. A Sermon preached before the

University of Cambridge, Mai/ 16th, 1869 ...... 38-5

The Two Malefactors crucified with Christ. A Sermon preach el in St.

David's, Carmarthen, on Good Friday 401

The Resurrection not Incredible. A Sermon preached at _ Carmarthen on

Easter Day ........... 411


Diocesan Synods. A Letter to the Rev. Canon Seymour, with some Remarks on a

Letter of the Rev. J. W. Joyce 427

The Episcopal Meeting of 1867. A Letter to the Lord Archbishop of Can-
terbury ............ 445


Speech on the Revision of the Bible, delivered in the Upper House

of Convocation on February 10th, 1870 465

Two Letters to the Editor of The Rock, occasioned by the foregoing

Speech 467

Other Speeches on the Revision of the Bible, delivered in the Upper
House of Convocation on February 14th and February 16th,
1871 472

Notes on Contemporary Questions 481



Some readers may be a little surprised to see irony attributed
to a tragic poet : and it may therefore be proper, before we
proceed to illustrate the nature of the thing as it appears in the
works of Sophocles, to explain and justify our application of the
'term. We must begin with a remark or two on the more
ordinary use of the word, on that which, to distinguish it from
the subject of our present inquiry, we will call verbal iron//.
This most familiar species of irony may be described as a figure
which enables the speaker to convey his meaning with greater
force by means of a contrast between his thought and his expres-
sion, or, to speak more accurately, between the thought which he
evidently designs to express, and that which his words properly
signify. The cases in which this figure may be advantageously
employed are so various as to include some directly opposite in
their nature. For it will serve to express assent and approbation
as well as the contrary. Still as a friend cannot be defended
unless against an enemy who attacks him, the use of verbal irony
must in all cases be cither directly or indirectly polemical. I < i.s
a weapon properly belonging to the armoury of controversy, and
not fitted to any entirely peaceable occasion. Tin's is not the Less
true because, as the enginery of war is often brought out, and
sham fights exhibited, for the public amusement in lime of peace,
so there is a sportive irony, which instead of indicating any con-
trariety of opinion or animosity of feeling, is the surest sign .>!'
perfect harmony and goodwill. And as there is a mode of


expressing sentiments of the utmost esteem and unanimity by
an ironical reproof or contradiction, so there is an ironical self-
commendation, by which a man may playfully confess his own
failings. In the former case the speaker feigns the existence of
adversaries whose language he pretends to adopt : in the latter
he supposes himself surrounded, not as he really is by indulgent
friends, but by severe judges of his actions, before whom it is
necessary for him to disguise the imperfections of his character.
But where irony is not merely jocular, it is not simply serious,
but earnest. With respect to opinion, it implies a conviction so
deep, as to disdain a direct refutation of the opposite party : with
respect to feeling, it implies an emotion so strong, as to be able to
command itself, and to suppress its natural tone, in order to vent
itself with greater force.

Irony is so inviting an instrument of literary warfare, that there

are perhaps few eminent controversial writers who have wholly

abstained from the use of it. But in general even those who employ

it most freely reserve it for particular occasions, to add weight and

point to the gravest part of the argument. There is however an

irony which deserves to be distinguished from the ordinary species

by a different name, and which may be properly called dialectic

irony. This, instead of being concentrated in insulated passages,

and rendered prominent by its contrast with the prevailing tone of

the composition, pervades every part, and is spread over the

whole like a transparent vesture closely fitted to every limb of the

body. The writer effects his purpose by placing the opinion of

his adversary in the foreground, and saluting it with every

demonstration of respect, while he is busied in withdrawing one

by one all the supports on which it rests : and he never ceases to

approach it with an air of deference, until he has completely

undermined it, when he leaves it to sink by the weight of its own

absurdity. Examples of this species are as rare as those of the

other are common. The most perfect ever produced are those

which occur in Plato's dialogues. In modern literature the finest

specimens may be found in the works of Pascal, and of Plato's

German translator, who has imbibed the peculiar spirit of the


Platonic irony in a degree which has perhaps never heen equalled.
One of the most unfortunate attempts ever made at imitating this
character of the Platonic dialogue is Bishop Berkeley's Minute
Philosopher. Examples of a more superficial kind, where the
object is rather ridicule than argument, will readily present
themselves to the reader's recollection. The highest triumph of
irony consists not in refutation and demolition. It requires that,
while the fallacy is exposed and overthrown by the admissions
which it has itself demanded, the truth should be set in the clearest
light, and on the most solid ground, by the attempts made to
suppress and overwhelm it.

Without departing from the analogy that pervades the various
kinds of verbal irony, we may speak of a practical iron;/, which is
independent of all forms of speech, and needs not the aid of words.
Life affords as many illustrations of this, as conversation and books
of the other. But here we must carefully distinguish between
two totally different kinds, which, though they may often out-
wardly coincide, spring from directly contrary feelings. There is
a malignant, or at least a wanton irony, in the practical sense, by
which a man humours the folly of another, for the purpose of
rendering it more extravagant and incorrigible, whether it be
with the further aim of extracting materials for ridicule from it,
or of turning it to some still less liberal use. Specimens of this
kind arc perpetually occurring in society, and ancient and modern
comedy is full of them. But this same irony has a darker side,
which can excite only detestation and horror, as something belong-
ing rather to the nature of a fiend than of a man. Such is the
flattery which, under the mask of friendship, deliberately cherishes
passions, and panders to wishes, which are hurrying their uncon-
scious slave into ruin. Such is the spirit in which Timon gives
his gold to Alcibiadcs and his companions, and afterwards to
the thieves: though in the latter case he is near defeating his
own purpose by the irony of his language, which compels one of
the thieves to say : " He has almost charmed me from my profes-
sion by persuading me to it." Such is the irony wit h which the
weird women feed the ambitious hopes of Macbeth, and afterward

B 2


lull him into a false " security, mortals' chief est enemy," when

they have been commanded to

" raise such artificial sprites
As by the strength of their illusion
Shall draw him on to his confusion,"


" He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and hear
His hopes 'bove wisdom, grace, and fear."

Such, but more truly diabolical, is the irony with which in Faust
the Spirit of Evil accompanies his victim on his fatal career, and
with which, by way of interlude, he receives the visit of the young

But there is also a practical irony which is not inconsistent
with the highest degree of wisdom and benevolence. A man of
superior understanding may often find himself compelled to assent
to propositions which he knows, though true in themselves, will
lead to very erroneous inferences in the mind of the speaker,
because either circumstances prevent him from subjoining the
proper limitations, or the person he is addressing is incapable of
comprehending them. So again a friend may comply with the
wishes of one who is dear to him, though he foresees that they will
probably end in disappointment and vexation, either because he
conceives that he has no right to decide for another, or because he
thinks it probable that the disappointment itself will prove more
salutary than the privation. Such is the conduct of the affec-
tionate father in the parable, which is a type of universal applica-
tion : for in every transgression there is a concurrence of a
depraved will, which is the vice of the agent, with certain outward
conditions, which may be considered as a boon graciously bestowed,
but capable of being perverted into an instrument of evil, and a
cause of misery. It must have occurred to most men, more
especially to those of sanguine temperament, and whose lives
have been chequered with many vicissitudes, now and then to
reflect how little the good and ill of their lot have corresponded
with their hopes and fears. All who have lived long enough in
the world must be able to remember objects coveted with im-
patient eagerness, and pursued with long and unremitting toil,


which in possession have proved tasteless and worthless : hours
embittered with anxiety and dread by the prospect of changes
which brought with them the fulfilment of the most ardent wishes :
events anticipated with trembling expectation which arrived,
passed, and left no sensible trace behind them ; while things of
which they scarcely heeded the existence, persons whom they met
with indifference, exerted the most important influence on their
character and fortunes. When, at a sufficient interval and with
altered mood, we review such instances of the mockery of fate, we
can scarcely refrain from a melancholy smile. And such, we
conceive, though without any of the feelings that sometimes
sadden our retrospect, must have been the look which a superior
intelligence, exempt from our passions, and capable of surveying
all our relations, and foreseeing the consequences of all our actions,
would at the time have cast upon the tumultuous workings of our
blind ambition and our groundless apprehensions, upon the phan-
toms we raised to chase us, or to be chased, while the substance
of good and evil presented itself to our view, and was utterly

But it is not only in the lives of individuals that man's short-
sighted impatience and temerity are thus tacitly rebuked by the
course of events : examples still more striking are furnished by
the history of states and institutions. The moment of the highest
prosperity is often that which immediately precedes the most
ruinous disaster, and (as in the case not only of a Xerxes, ;.
Charles the Bold, a Philip the Second, and a Napoleon, hut of
Alliens, and Sparta, and Carthage, and Venice,) it is the sense of
security that constitutes the danger, it is the consciousness of
power and the desire of exerting it that cause the downfall. It
is not however these sudden and signal reverses, the fruit of over-
ling arrogance and insatiable ambition, that wo have here
principally to observe: but rather an universal law, which mani-
fests itself, no less in the moral world than in the physical,
according to which the period of inward languor, corruption, and
decav, which follows that of maturity, presents an aspect more
dazzling and commanding, and to those who look only at the


surface inspires greater confidence and respect, than the season of
youthful health, of growing but unripened strength. The power
of the Persians was most truly formidable when they first issued
from their comparatively narrow territory to overspread Asia with
their arms. But at what epoch in their history does the Great
King appear invested with such majesty, as when he dictated the
peace of Antalcidas to the Greeks ? And yet at this very time the
throne on which he sate with so lofty a port was so insecurely
based, that a slight shock would have been sufficient, as was soon
proved, to level it with the dust-
It was nearly at the same juncture that Sparta seemed to have
attained the summit of her power ; her old enemy had been
reduced to insignificance ; her two most formidable rivals con-
verted into useful dependants ; her refractory allies chastised and
cowed : in no quarter of the political horizon, neither in nor out
of Greece, did it seem possible for the keenest eye to discover any
prognostics of danger ; her empire, says the contemporary his-
torian, appeared in every respect to have been now established on
a glorious and solid base. Yet in a few years the Spartan women
saw for the first time the smoke of the flames with which a hostile
army ravaged their country in the immediate neighbourhood of
the capital ; and a Spartan embassy implored the pity of the
Athenians, and pleaded the magnanimity with which Sparta in
her day of victory had preserved Athens from annihilation, as a
motive for the exercise of similar generosity toward a fallen
enemy. The historian sees in this reverse the judgment of the
gods against treachery and impiet} r . But when we inquire about
the steps by which the change was effected, we find that the
mistress of Greece had lost nearly a thousand of her subjects,
and about four hundred of her citizens, at the battle of

It would be impertinent to accumulate illustrations which will
present themselves uncalled to every reader's mind : we might
otherwise find some amusement in comparing the history of great
cities with that of their respective states, and in observing how
often the splendour of the one has increased in proportion to the


weakness and rottenness of the other. The ages of conquest and
of glory had passed before Rome began to exhibit a marble front ;
and the old consuls who in the wars of a century scarcely quelled
the Samnite hydra, and who brought army after army into (lie
field to be destined by Hannibal, would have gazed with wonder
on the magnificence in the midst of which the master of the
empire, in anguish and dismay, called upon Varus to restore his
three legions. Yet Rome under Augustus was probably less
gorgeous than Byzantium under Constantino, whose city was no
unapt image of the ill which Dante deplored, as the consequence,
though not the effect, of his conversion.* But instead of dwelling
on the numerous contrasts of this kind which history suggests in
illustrating the fragile and transitory nature of all mortal great-
ness, we shall draw nearer to our main point, and shall at the
same time be taking a more cheering view of our subject, if we
observe, that, as all things human are subject to dissolution, so
and for the same reason it is the moment of their destruction that
to the best and noblest of them is the beginning of a higher
being, the dawn of a brighter period of action. When we reflect
on the colossal monarchies that have succeeded one another on the
face of the earth, we readily acknowledge that they fulfilled the
best purpose of their proud existence, when they were broken up
in order that their fragments might serve as materials for new
structures. We confess with a sigh that the wonders of Egypt
were not a mere waste of human labour, if the sight of them
inspired the genius of the Greeks. But we should have been
more reluctant to admit that this nation itself, which stands so
solitary and unapproachable in its peculiar excellence, attained its
highest glory, when, by the loss of its freedom and its power, it
was enabled to diffuse a small portion of its Bpirit through the
Roman world: had it not been that il was the destiny of this
Roman world to crumble into dust, and to be trampled by hordes
of barbarians, strangers to arts and letters. Yet we can believe
this, and things much more wonderful, when we contemplate that

* Inf. xix. 115 — 117. Ahi, Cosluntin, < 1 i quanto mal fu matre, Nbn la to

version, ma quella dote Clio da to prese il primo ricco l'uhv.

8 bishop thirlwall's literary remains.

new order of things, which followed what seemed so frightful a
•darkness, and such irretrievable ruin.

AVe must add one other general remark before we proceed to
apply the preceding. There is always a slight cast of irony in
the grave, calm, respectful attention impartially bestowed by an
intelligent judge on two contending parties, who are pleading their
causes before him with all the earnestness of deep conviction, and
of excited feeling. What makes the contrast interesting is, that
the right and the truth lie on neither side exclusively : that there
is no fraudulent purpose, no gross imbecility of intellect, on
either : but both have plausible claims and specious reasons to
allege, though each is too much blinded b}^ prejudice or passion
to do justice to the views of his adversary. For here the irony
lies not in* the demeanour of the judge, but is deeply seated in the
case itself, which seems to favour each of the litigants, but really
eludes them both. And this too it is that lends the highest degree
of interest to the conflicts of religious and political parties. For
when we believe that no principle, no sentiment, is involved in the
contest, but that each of the rival factions is equally selfish, and
equally insincere, we must look on with indifference or disgust,
unless some other interests are likely to be affected by the issue.
Our attention is indeed more anxiously fixed on a struggle in
which right and wrong, truth and falsehood, virtue and vice, are
manifestly arrayed in deliberate opposition against each other.
But still this case, if it ever occurs, is not that on which the mind
dwells with the most intense anxiety. For it seems to carry its
own final decision in itself. But the liveliest interest arises when
by inevitable circumstances characters, motives, and principles
are brought into hostile collision, in which good and evil are so
inextricably blended on each side, that we are compelled to give
an equal share of our sympathy to each, while we perceive that no
earthly power can reconcile them ; that the strife must last until
it is extinguished with at least one of the parties, and yet that
this cannot happen without the sacrifice of something which we
should wish to preserve. Such spectacles often occur in human
affairs, and agitate the bystanders with painful perplexity. But a


review of history tends to allay this uneasiness, by affording us on
many such occasions, a glimpse of the balance held by an invisible
hand, which so nicely adjusts the claims of the antagonists, that
neither is wholly triumphant, nor absolutely defeated: each per-
haps loses the object he aimed at, but in exchange gains some-
thing far beyond his hopes.

The dramatic poet is the creator of a little world, in which he
rules with absolute sway, and may shape the destinies of the
imaginary beings to whom he gives life and breath according to
any plan that he may choose. Since however they are men
whose actions he represents, and since it is human sympathy that
he claims, he will, if he understands his art, make his administra-
tion conform to the laws by which he conceives the course of
mortal life to be really governed. Nothing that rouses the feel-
ings in the history of mankind is foreign to his scene, but as he is
confined by artificial limits, he must hasten the march of events,
and compress within a narrow compass what is commonly found
diffused over a large space, so that a faithful image of human
existence may bo concentrated in his mimic sphere. From this
sphere however he himself stands aloof. The eye with which he

Online LibraryConnop ThirlwallEssays, speeches and sermons → online text (page 1 of 46)