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become the fellow of a college. But nothing system-
atic was done towards making the desired consumma-
tion a certainty or even a probability. The youth read
enormously, but he did not remember a tenth of what
he read, nor did he even take in the sense of half of
it as he went along. ' Books as books,' he says,
' were my delight, irrespective of their contents. I was
already marked out for the life of a student, yet little
that was in the books I read seemed to find its way
into my mind.' He found time for much besides



138 ON PATTISON'S MKM0IR3.

reading. He dcliglited in riding, in shooting rooks
in the Hall rookery, and in fishing for trout with
clumsy tackle and worm. Passion for country sports
was followed by passion for natural history in the
ordinary shape of the boy's fancy for collecting insects
and observing birds. He fell in with White's Natural
History of Sdhorne, read it over and over again, and
knew it by heart.

The love of birds, moths, butterflies, led on to the love
of landscape ; and altogether, in the course of the next six
or seven years, grew and merged in a conscious and declared
poetical sentiment and a devoted reading of the poets. I
don't suppose the temperament was more inclined to
festhetic emotion in me than in other youths ; but I was
highly nervous and delicate, and having never been at
school had not had sentiment and delicacy crushed out of
me ; also, living on the borderland of oak woods, with
greenlanes before me, and an expanse of wildheathcr extend-
ing into Northumberland behind, I was favourably placed
for imbibing a knowledge by contrast of the physical
features of Englaud. My eye was formed to take in at a
glance, and to receive delight from contemjilating, as a
whole, a hill and valley formation. Geology did not come
in till ten years later to complete the cycle of thought,
and to give that intellectual foundation which is required
to make the testimony of the eye, roaming over an undu-
lating surface, fruitful and satisfying. When I came in
after years to read The Prelude I recognised, as if it were
my own history which was being told, the steps by which
the love of the country-boy for his hills and moors grew
into poetical susceptibility for all imaginative presentations
of beauty in every direction (pp. 34, 35).

Perhaps it may be added that this was a prepara-



ON pattison's memoies. 139

tion for something more than merely poetical suscepti-
bility. By substituting for the definite intellectual
impressions of a systematic education, vague sensi-
bilities as the foundation of character, this growth of
sentiment, delicacy, and feeling for imaginative pre-
sentations of beauty, laid him peculiarly open to the
religious influences that were awaiting him in days to
come at Oxford.

In 1832 Pattison went up as a freshman to Oriel.
His career as an undergraduate was externally dis-
tinguished by nothing uncommon, and promised
nothing remarkable. He describes himself as shy,
awkward, boorish, and mentally shapeless and inert.
In 1833, however, he felt what he describes as the
first stirrings of intellectual life within him. ' Hitherto
I have had no mind, properly so-called, merely a boy's
intelligence, receptive of anything I read or heard.
I now awoke to the new idea of finding the reason of
things ; I began to suspect that I might have much
to unlearn, as well as to learn, and that I must clear
my mind of much current opinion which had lodged
there. The principle of rationalism was born in me,
and once born it was sure to grow, and to become the
master idea of the whole process of self-education on
which I was from this time forward embarked.' In
other words, if he could have interpreted and classified
his own intellectual type, he would have known that
it was the Eeflective. Keflection is a faculty that
ripens slowly ; the prelude of its maturity is often a
dull and apparently numb-witted youth. Though



140 ON pattison's memoirs.

Pattison conceived his ideal at the age of twenty, he
was five-and-forty before he finally and deliberately
embraced it and shaped his life in conformity to it.
The principle of rationalism, instead of growing,
seemed for twelve whole years to grow under, and to
be completely mastered by the antagonistic principles
of authority, tradition, and transcendental faith.

The secret is to be found in what is the key to
Pattison's whole existence, and of what he was more
conscious at first than he seems to have been in later
days. He was affected from first to last by a pro-
found weakness of will and character. Few men of
eminence have ever lived so destitute of nerve as
Pattison was — of nerve for the ordinary demands of
life, and of nerve for those large enterprises in litera-
ture for which by talent and attainment he was so
admirably qualified. The stamp of moral difaillance
was set upon his brow from the beginning. It was
something deeper in its roots than the temporary
self-consciousness of the adolescent that afilicted him
in his early days at Oxford. The shy and stiff under-
graduate is a familiar type enough, and Pattison is
not the only youth of twenty of whom such an account
as his own is true : —

This inability to apprehend the reason of my social
ill success had a discouraging consequence upon the growth
of my character. I was so convinced that the fault was
in me, and not in the others, that I lost anything like
firm footing, and succumbed to or imitated any type, or
set, witli which I was brought in contact, esteeming it
better than my own, of which I was too ashamed to stand



ON pattison's MEMOIES. 141

by it and assert it. Any rough, rude, self-confident fellow,
who spoke out what he thought and felt, cowed me, and
I yielded to him, and even assented to him, not with that
yielding which gives way for peace's sake, secretly think-
ing itself right, but with a surrender of the convictions to
his mode of thinking, as being better than my own, more
like men, more like the world (p. 48).

This fatal trait remained unalterable to the very
end, but as time went on things grew worse. No-
body knows what deliberate impotence means who
has not chanced to sit upon a committee with Patti-
son. Whatever the business in hand might be, you
might be sure that he started with the firm conviction
that you could not possibly arrive at the journey's
end. It seemed as if the one great principle of his life
was that the Sons of Zeruiah must be too hard for
us, and that nobody but a simpleton or a fanatic
would expect anything else. ' With a manner,' he
says of himself, ' which I believe suggested conceit, I
had really a very low estimate of myself as compared
with others. I could echo what Bishop Stanley says
of himself in his journal : " My greatest obstacle to
success in life has been a want of confidence in my-
self, under a doubt whether I really was possessed of
talents on a par with those around me." ' Very late
in life, talking to Mr. Morison, he said in his pen-
sive way, ' Yes, let us take our worst opinion of our-
selves in our most depressed mood. Extract the
cube root of that, and you will be getting near the
common opinion of your merits.'

He describes another side of the same over-



142 ON pattison's memoiks.

spreading infirmity when he is exi)Uiining why it was
always impossible for him ever to be anything but a
Liberal. 'The restlessness of critical faculty,' he
says, ' has done me good service when turned upon
mj^self. / have never enjoyed any self-satisfaction in
anything I have ever done, for I have inevitably made
a mental comparison with how it might have been
better done. The motto of one of my diaries, " Quic-
quid hie operis fiat poenitet " may be said to be the
motto of my life ' (p. 254). A man who enters the
battle on the back of a charger that has been ham-
strung in this way, is predestined to defeat. A fre-
quent access of dejection, self - abasement, distrust,
often goes with a character that is energetic, perse-
vering, effective, and reasonably happy. To men of
strenuous temper it is no paradox to say that a fit of de-
pression is often a form of repose. It was D'Alem-
bert, one of the busiest of the workers of a busy cen-
tury, who said this, or something to this effect — that
low spirits are only a particular name for the mood
in which we see our aims and acts for what they really
are. Pattison's case was very different. With him,
except for a very few short years, despair was a
system and an unreasoned pessimism the most rooted
assurance of his being. He tells a thoroughly charac-
teristic story of himself in his days as an undergrad-
uate. He was on the coach between Birmingham
and Sheffield. Two men shared the front seat with
him, and conversed during the whole of the journey
about the things which he was yearning to know



ON tattison's MEMoms. 143

and to learn. ' I tried once or twice to put in my
oar, but it was a failure : I was too far below their
level of knowledge ; I relapsed into enchanted listen-
ing. I thought to myself, " There exists there such
a world, but I am shut out of it, not by the accidents
of college, but by my own unfitness to enter " ' (p.
148). Mankind suffers much from brassy incompe-
tency and over-complacency, but Pattison is only one
of many examples how much more it may lose in a
man who has ability, but no fight and no mastery
in him. As we have all been told, in this world a
man must be either anvil or hammer, and it always
seemed as if Pattison deliberately chose to be anvil
— not merely in the shape of a renunciation of the
delusive pomps and vanities of life, but in the truly
questionable sense of doubting both whether he could
do anything, and whether he even owed anything
to the world in which he found himself.

The earliest launch was a disappointment. He
had set his heart upon a first class, but he had not
gone to work in the right way. Instead of concen-
trating his attention on the task in hand, he could
only in later days look back with amazement ' at the
fatuity of his arrangements and the snail-like pro-
gress with which he seemed to be satisfied.' He was
content if, on his final review of Thucydides, he got
through twenty or thirty chapters a day, and he re-
read Sophocles ' at the lazy rate of a hundred and
fifty lines a day, instead of going over the difficult
places only, which might have been done in a week'



144 ON PATTISON'S MEMOIRS.

' There must,' he says, ' have been idleness to boot,
but it is difficult to draw the line between idleness
and dawdling over work. I dawdled from a mixture
of mental infirmity, bad habit, and the necessity of
thoroughness if I was to understand, and not merely
remember.' The dangerous delights of literary dis-
persion and dissipation attracted him. Among his
books of recreation was Johnson's Lives of the Poets.
' This I took in slowly, page by page, as if by an
instinct ; but here was a congenial subject, to which,
when free, I would return, and where I would set up
my habitation.'

It was probably a reminiscence of these vacations
at Hauxwell that inspired the beautiful passage in
his Milton, where he contrasts the frosty Ode to the
Nativity with the Allegro and Penseroso. 'The two
idylls,' he says, ' breathe the free air of spring and
summer and of the fields round Horton. They are
thoroughly naturalistic ; the choicest expression our
language has yet found of the fresh charm of country
life, not as that life is lived by the peasant, but as it
is felt by a young and lettered student, issuing at
early dawn or at sunset from his chamber and his
books. All such sights and sounds and smells are
here blended in that ineffable combination which
once or twice, perhaps, in our lives has saluted our
young senses before their perceptions were blunted
by alcohol, by lust, or ambition, or diluted by the
social distractions of great cities' (Pattison's Milton,
24).



ON pattison's memoiks. 145

For the examination school no preparation could
have been worse. It was no wonder that so uncalcu-
lating an adjustment of means and ends resulted in a
second class (1836). The class was not merely a
misfortune in itself, but threatened to be a bar to the
fulfilment of his lifelong dream of a fellowship. He
tried his fortunes at University, where he was beaten
by Faber ; and at Oriel, his own college, where he was
iDeaten by the present Dean of St. Paul's. 'There
was such a moral beauty about Church,' it was said
by a man not peculiarly sensitive about moral beauty,
' that they could not help liking him.' Though Patti-
son had failed, Newman sent him word that there
were some who thought that he had done the best.
He made two more unsuccessful attempts, in one of
them the triumphant competitor being Stanley, the
famous Dean of a later day. At last, in November
1838, he was elected to a Yorkshire fellowship at
Lincoln College. ' No moment in all my life,' he
says, ' has ever been so sweet as that Friday morning,
when Radford's servant came in to announce my elec-
tion, and to claim his five shillings for doing so.' Yet
if the curtain of fate could have been raised, his elec-
tion to the Lincoln fellowship might have disclosed
itself as the central misfortune of his life.

' All this while,' he says, ' I was rushing into the
whirlpool of Tractarianism ; was very much noticed by
Newman— in fact fanaticism was laying its deadly
grip around me.' He had come up from Yorkshire
with what he calls his ' home Puritan religion almost

VOL. 111. L



14 f) ON TATTISON'S MKMOIRS.

narrowed to two points — fear of God's wrath and
faitli in the doctrine of the Atonement.' He found
Newman and his allies actively dissolving this hard
creed by means of historical, i)liilosoj)hical, and reli-
gious elements which they summed up in the idea of
the Church. This idea of the Church, as Pattison
truly says, and as men so far removed from sympathy
with dogma as J. S. Mill always admitted, ' was a
widening of the horizon.' In another place {Mind,
i. 83-88) the Rector shows the stages of sjjeculation in
Oxford during the present century. From 1800 oi
1810 to 1830 the break-up of the old lethargy took
the form of a vague intellectualism ; free movement,
but blind groping out of the mists of insular preju-
dice in which reaction against the French Revolution
had wrapped us. Then came the second period from
1830 to 1845. Tractarianism was primarily a religi-
ous movement ; it was a revival of the Church spirit
which had been dormant since the expiry of Jacobit-
ism at the accession of George III. But it rested
on a conception, however imperfect, of universal
history ; and it even sought a basis for belief in a
philosophic exposition of the principle of aiithority.

Pattison, like most of the superior minds then at
Oxford, was not only attracted, but thoroughly over-
mastered by this great tide of thought. He worked
at the Lives of the Saints, paid a visit to the cloisters
at Littlemore, and was one of Newman's closest dis-
ciples, though he thinks it possible that Newman
even then, with that curious instinct which so often



ON tattison's memoies. 147

marks the religious soul, had a scent of his latent
rationalism. A female cousin, who eventually went
over to Eome, counted for something among the
influences that drove him into 'frantic Puseyism.'
When the great secession came in 1845 Pattison
somehow held back and was saved for a further de-
velopment. Though he appeared to all intents and
purposes as much of a Catholic at heart as Newman
or any of them, it was probably his constitutional
incapacity for heroic and decisive coui'ses that made
him, according to the Oxford legend, miss the omni-
bus. The first notion of the Church had expanded
itself beyond the limits of the Anglican Communion,
and been transformed into the wider idea of the
Catholic Church. This in time underwent a further
expansion.

Now the idea of the Catholic Church is only a mode
of conceiving the dealings of divine Providence with the
whole race of mankind. Reflection on the history and
condition of humanity, taken as a whole, gradually con-
vinced me that this theory of the relation of all living
beings to the Supreme Being was too narrow and inade-
quate. It makes an equal Providence, the Father of all,
care only for a mere handful of si^ecies, leaving the rest
(such is the theory) to the chances of eternal misery. If
God interferes at all to procure the happiness of mankind,
it must be on a far more comprehensive scale than by
providing for them a Church of which far the majority
of them will never hear. It was on this line of thought,
the details of which I need not pursue, that I passed out
of the Catholic phase, but slowly, and in many years, to
that highest development when all religions appear in
tlieir historical light as efforts of the human spirit to come



148 ON pattison's memoirs.

to an understanding with that Unseen Power whose pres-
sure it feels, but whose motives are a riddle. Thus
Catholicism dropped off me as another husk which I had
outgrown (pp. 327-328).

So a marked epoch came to its close, and this was
one of the many forms in which the great Anglican
impulse expended itself. While NeAvman and others
sank their own individuality in religious devotion to
authority and tradition, Pusey turned what had been
discussion into controversy, and from a theologian
became a powerful ecclesiastical manager. Others
dropped their religious interests, and cultivated cyni-
cism and letters. The railway mania, the political
outbursts of 1848, utilitarian liberalism, all in turn
swept over the Oxford field, and obliterated the old
sanctuaries. Pattison went his own way alone. The
time came when he looked back upon religion with
some of the angry contempt with which George Eliot
makes Bardo, the blind old humanist of the fifteenth
century, speak of his son, who had left learning and
liberal pursuits, ' that he might lash himself and howl
at midnight with besotted friars — that he might go
wandering on pilgrimages befitting men who knew
no past older than the missal and the crucifix.'

It is a critical moment in life when middle age
awakens a man from the illusions that have been
crowning the earlier years with inward glory. Some
are contemptuously willing to let the vision and the
dream pass into easy oblivion, while they hasten to
make up for lost time in close pursuit of the main



ON pattison's memoirs. 149

chance. Others can forgive anything sooner than
their own ex|)loded ideal, and the ghost of their dead
enthusiasm haunts them with an embittering presence.
Pattison drops a good many expressions about his
Anglo-Catholic days that betray something like vin-
dictiveness — which is certainly not philosophical,
whatever else it was. But his intellectual faculties
were too strong to let him feed on the poison of a
reactionary antipathy to a deserted faith. Puseyism,
as he says, dropped away from him for lack of nutri-
tion of the religious brain, — which perhaps at the
best was more like an artificial limb than a natural
organ in a man of Pattison's constitution. For some
five years he was inspired by a new and more genuine
enthusiasm — for forming and influencing the minds
of the young. He found that he was the possessor
of what, for lack of a better name, he calls a magnetic
power in dealing with the students, and his moral
ascendency enabled him to make Lincoln the best
managed college in Oxford.

From 1848 to 1851 he describes his absorption in
the work of the college as complete. It excluded all
other thoughts. In November that incident occurred
which he calls the catastrophe of his life. The head-
ship of the college fell vacant, and for several weeks
he was led to believe that this valuable prize was
within his grasp. At first the invincible diffidence of
his nature made it hard for him to realise that exalta-
tion so splendid was possible. But the prospect once
opened, fastened with a fatally violent hold upon his



150 ON tattison's memoirs.

imagination. The fellows of Lincoln College, who
were the electors, were at that time a terribly de-
graded body. The majority of them were no more
capable of caring for literature, knowledge, education,
Ijooks, or learning than Squire Western or Commodore
Trunnion. One of them, says Pattison, had been
reduced by thirty years of the Lincoln common-room
to a torpor almost childish. Another was ' a wretched
crdtin of the name of Gibbs, who was always glad to
come and booze at the college port a week or two
when his vote was wanted in support of college
abuses.' The description of a third, who still sur-
vives, is veiled by editorial charity behind significant
asterisks. That Pattison should be popular with such
a gang was impossible. Such an Alceste was a
standing nuisance and reproach to the rustic Acastes
and Clitandres of the Lincoln bursary. They might
have tolerated his intellect and overlooked his indus-
try, if his intellect and his industry had not spoiled
his sociability. But irony and the ars tacendi are not
favourite ingredients in the boon companion. Pattison
never stayed in the common-room later than eight in
the evening, and a man was no better than a skeleton
at a feast who left good fellows for the sake of going
over an essay with a pupil, instead of taking a hand
at whist or helping them through another bottle.

We need not follow the details of the story.
Pattison has told them over again, with a minuteness
and a sourness that show how the shabby business
rankled in his soul to the very last. It was no battle



ON PATTISON'S MEMOIES. 151

of giants, like the immortal Thirty Years' War between
Bentley and the Fellows of Trinity. The election at
Lincoln College, which was a scandal in the university
for many a long day after, was simply a tissue of paltry
machinations, in which weakness, cunning, spite, and
a fair spice of downright lying showed that a learned
society, even of clergymen, may seethe and boil with
the passions of the very refuse of humanity. Intri-
cate and unclean intrigues ended, by a curious turn
of the wheel, in the election of a grotesque divine,
whom Pattison, with an energy of phrase that recalls
the amenities of ecclesiastical controversy in the six-
teenth century, roundly designates in so many words
as a satyr, a ruffian, and a wild beast. The poor
man was certainly illiterate and boorish to a degree
that was a standing marvel to all ingenuous youths
who came up to Lincoln College between 1850 and
1860. His manners, bearing, and accomplishments
were more fitted for the porter of a workhouse than
for the head of a college. But he served the turn by
keeping out Pattison's rival, and whatever discredit
he brought upon the society must be shared by those
who, Avith Pattison at their head, brought him in
against a better man. All this unsavoury story might
as well have been left where it was.

The reaction was incredibly severe. There has
been nothing equal to it since the days of the Psalmist
were consumed like smoke, and his heart was withered
like grass. ' My mental forces,' says Pattison, ' were
paralysed by the shock ; a blank, dumb despair filled



152 ON PATTISON'S MEMOIRS.

me ; a chronic heartache toolv possession of me,
perceptible even through sleep. As consciousness
gradually returned in the morning, it was only to
bring with it a livelier sense of the cruelty of the
situation into which I had been brought.' He lay in
bed until ten o'clock every morning to prolong tlic
semi-oblivion of sleep. Work was impossible. If he
read, it was without any object beyond semi-forget-
fulness. He was too much benumbed and stupefied
to calculate the future. He went through the forms
of lecturing, but the life and spirit were gone. Teach-
ing became as odious to him as it had once been
delightful. His Satan, as he calls the most active of
the enemies who had thus ruined his paradise, planned
new operations against him, by trying, on the grounds
of some neglected formality, to oust him from his
fellowship. ' Here,' cries Pattison, ' was a new abyss
opened beneath my feet ! My bare livelihood, for I
had nothing except my fellowship to live upon, was
threatened ; it seemed not unlikely that I should be
turned into the streets to starve. Visitatorial law,
what it might contain ! It loomed before me like an
Indian jungle, out of which might issue venomous
reptiles, man-eating tigers, for my destruction.'

This is not the language of half-humorous exaggera-
tion, but a literal account of a mind as much over-
thrown from its true balance as is disclosed in the


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