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most morbid page of Eousseau's Confesmns. For
months and months after the burden of 'dull, in-
sensible wretchedness,' ' bitter heartache,' weighed


upon him with unabated oppression. More than a
year after the catastrophe the sombre entries still
figure in his diary : — ' Very weary and wretched both
yesterday and to-day : all the savoiir of life is de-
parted :' — 'Very wretched all yesterday and to-day :
dull, gloomy, blank ; sleep itself is turned to sorrow.'
Nearly two whole years after the same clouds still
blacken the sky. 'I have nothing to which I look
forward with any satisfaction : no prospects ; my life
seems to have come to an end, my strength gone, my
energies paralysed, and all my hopes dispersed.'

It is true that frustrated ambition was not the
only key to this frightfully abject abasement. We
may readily believe him when he says that the
personal disappointment was a minor ingredient in
the total of mental suffering that he was now under-
going. His whole heart and pride had in the last few
years been invested in the success of the college ; it
was the thing on which he had set all his affections ;
in a fortnight the foundation of his work was broken
up ; and the wretched and deteriorated condition of
the undergraduates became as poison in his daily cup.
That may all be true enough. Still, whatever elements
of a generous public spirit sharply baffled may have
entered into this extraordinary moral breakdown, it
must be pronounced a painfully unmanly and unedi-
fying exhibition. It says a great deal for the Rector's
honesty and sincerity in these pages, that he should
not have shrunk from giving so faithful and prominent
an account of a weakness and a self-abandonment

154 ON pattison's memoirs.

which he knew well ciiuu^h that the world will only
excuse in two circumstances. The world forsives
almost anything to a man in the crisis of a sore
spiritual wrestle for faith and vision and an Everlast-
ing Yea ; and almost anything to one prostrated by
the shock of an irreparable personal bereavement.
But that anybody with character of common healthi-
ness should founder and make shipwreck of his life
because two or three unclean creatures had played
him a trick after their kind, is as incredible as that a
three-decker should go down in a street puddle.

It will not do to say that lack of fortitude is a
mark of the man of letters. To measure Pattison's
astounding collapse, we have a right to recall Johnson,
Scott, Carlyle, and a host of smaller men, whom no
vexations, chagrins, and perversities of fate could
daunt from fighting the battle out. Pattison was
thirty-eight when he missed the headship of his
college. Diderot was about the same age when the
torments against which he had struggled for the best
part of twenty arduous years in his gigantic task
seemed to reach the very climax of distraction. ' My
dear master,' he wrote to Voltaire, in words which it
is a refreshment under the circumstances to recall and
to transcribe, 'my dear master, I am over forty. I
am tired out with tricks and shufflings. I cry from
morning till night for rest, rest ; and scarcely a day
passes when I am not tempted to go and live in
obscurity and die in peace in the depths of my old
country. Be useful to men ! Is it certain that one

ON pattison's memoirs. 155

does more than amuse them, and that there is much
difference between the philosopher and the flute-
player? They listen to one and the other with
pleasure or with disdain, and they remain just what
they were. But there is more spleen than sense in
all this, I know — and back I go to the Encyclopaedia.'
And back he went — that is the great point — with
courage unabated and indomitable, labouring with
sword in one hand and trowel in the other, until he
had set the last stone on his enormous fabric.

Several years went by before Pattison's mind
recovered spring and equilibrium, and the unstrung
nerves were restored to energy. Fishing, the open
air, solitude, scenery, slowly repaired the moral
ravages of the college election. The fly rod ' was
precisely the resource of which my wounded nature
stood in need.' About the middle of April, after long
and anxious preparation of rods and tackle, with a
box of books and a store of tobacco, he used to set
out for the north. He fished the streams of Uredale
and Swaledale ; thence he pushed on to the Eden and
the waters of the Border, to Perthshire, to Loch
Maree, Gairloch, Skye, and the far north. When
September came, he set off" for rambles in Germany.
He travelled on foot, delighting in the discovery of
nooks and corners that were not mentioned in the
guidebooks. Then he would return to his rooms in
college, and live among his books. To the under-
graduates of that day he was a solemn and mysterious
figure. He spoke to no one, saluted no one, and

156 ON tattison's mkmoirs.

kept his eyes steadily fixed on infinite space. He
dined at the high table, but uttered no word. He
never played the part of host, nor did he ever seem
to be a guest. He read the service in chapel when
his turn came ; his voice had a creaking and impassive
tone, and his pace was too deliberate to please young
men with a morning appetite. As he says here, he
was a complete stranger in the college. We looked
upon him with the awe proper to one who was
supposed to combine boundless erudition with an
impenetrable misanthropy. In reading the fourth
book of the Ethics, we regarded the description of the
High-souled Man, with his slow movements, his deep
tones, his deliberate speech, his irony, his contempt
for human things, and all the rest of the paraphernalia
of that most singular personage, as the model of the
inscrutable sage in the rooms under the clock. Patti-
son was understood to be the Megalopsuchos in the
flesh. It would have been better for him if he could
have realised the truth of the healthy maxim that
nobody is ever either so happy or so unhappy as he
thinks. He would have been wiser if he could have
seen the force in the monition of Goethe : —

Willst du dir ein hiibscli Leben ziinmern,
Must uins Vergangne dich iiicht bekiiiiimern,
Und wiire dir audi was verloren,
Musst immer tliun vvie neu geboren ;
Was jeder Tag will, soUst du fragen,
Was jeder Tag will, wird er sagen ;
Musst dich an eigncm Thnn ergetzen,
Was audre thun, das wirst du schatzen ;

ON pattison's memoirs. 157

Besonders keinen Menschen hassen,
Uiid das Uebrige Gott iiberlassen.

{Zahme Xenien, iv. )

Wouldst fasliion for thyself a seemly life ? —
Then fret not over what is past and gone ;
And spile of all thou mayst have lost behind
Vet act as if thy life were just begun :
What each day wills, enoxighfor tlice to knov\
What each day wills, the day itself will tell ;

Bo thine oiun task, and he therewith content.
What others do, that shall thou fairly judge ;

Be sure that thou no brother mortal hate.

And all besides leave to the master Power.

At length 'the years of defeat and despair,' as lie
calls them, came to an end, though ' the mental and
moral deterioration ' that belonged to them left heavy
traces to the very close of his life. He took a lively
interest in the discussions that were stirred by the
famous University Commission, and contributed ideas
to the subject of academic reform on more sides than
one. But such matters he found desultory and un-
satisfying ; he was in a state of famine ; his mind was
suffering, not growing ; he was becoming brooding,
melancholy, taciturn, and finally pessimist (pp. 306,
307). Pattison was five-and-forty before he reached
the conception of what became his final ideal, as it had
been in a slightly different shape his first and earliest.
He had always been a voracious reader. When ' the
flood of the Tractarian infatuation broke over him,
he naturally concentrated his studies on the Fathers
and on Chui'ch History. That phase, in his OAvn
term, took eight years out of his life. Then for five

158 ON i'attison's memoirs.

years more lie was absorbed iu tcacliing and forming
the young mind. The catastrophe came, and for five
or six years after that he still remained far below ' the
pure and unselfish conception of the life of the true
student, which dawned upon him afterwards, and
which Goethe, it seems, already possessed at thirty.'
Up to this time — the year 1857, or a little later — his
aims and thoughts had been, in his own violent phrase,
polluted and disfigured by literary ambition. He had
felt the desire to be before the world as a writer, and
had hitherto shared ' the vulgar fallacy that a literary
life meant a life devoted to the making of books.'
'It cost me years more of extrication of thought
before I rose to the conception that the highest life is the
art to live, and that both men, women, and books are
equally essential ingredients of such a life' (p. 310).

We may notice in passing, what any one will see
for himself, that in contrasting his new conception so
triumphantly with the "vulgar fallacy from which he
had shaken himself free, the Eector went very near
to begging the question. When Carlyle, in the
strength of his reaction against morbid introspective
Byronism, cried aloud to all men in their several
vocation, 'Produce, produce; he it hut the infinitesi-
mallest jyroduct, produce,^ he meant to include production
as an element inside the art of living, and an indis-
pensable part and parcel of it. The making of books
may or may not belong to the art of living. It depends
upon the faculty and gift of the individual. It would
have been more philosophical if, instead of ranking

ON pattison's memoirs, 159

the life of study for its own sake above the life of
composition and the prej^aration for composition,
Pattison had been content wdth saying that some men
have the impulse towards literary production, wliile
in others the impulse is strongest for acquisition, and
that he found out one day that nature had placed him
in the latter and rarer class. It is no case of ethical
or intellectual superiority, as he fondly supposed, but
only diversity of gift.

"We must turn to the volume on Casaubon for a
fuller interpretation of the oracle. ' The scholar,'
says the author, 'is greater than his books. The
result of his labours is not so many thousand pages
in folio, but himself. . . . Learning is a peculiar com-
pound of memory, imagination, scientific habit, accurate
observation, all concentrated, through a prolonged
period, on the analysis of the remains of literature.
The result of this sustained mental endeavour is not
a book, but a man. It cannot be embodied in print,
it consists in the living word. True learning does
not consist in the possession of a stock of facts — the
merit of a dictionary — but in the discerning spirit, a
power of appreciation, judicium as it was called in the
sixteenth century — which is the result of the posses-
sion of a stock of facts.'

The great object, then, is to bring the mind into
such a condition of training and cultivation that it
shall be a perfect mirror of past times, and of the
present, so far as the incompleteness of the present
will permit, 'in true outline and proportion.' Momm-


sun, Grote, Droysen, full short of the ideal, because
they drugged ancient history with modern politics.
The Jesuit learning of the sixteenth century was
sham learning, because it was tainted with the in-
terested motives of Church patriotism. To search
antiquity with polemical objects in view, is destructive
of 'that equilibrium of the reason, the imagination,
and the taste, that even temper of philosophical calm,
that singleness of purpose,' which were all required
for Pattison's ideal scholar. The active man has his
uses, he sometimes, but never very cheerfully, admits.
Those who at the opening of the seventeenth century
fought in literature, in the council-chamber, in the
field, against the Church revival of their day, may be
counted among worthies and benefactors. ' But for
all this, it remains true, that in the intellectual sphere
grasp and mastery are incompatible with the exigencies
of a struggle.'

The reader will hardly retain gravity of feature
before the self-indulgent, self-deceiving sophistication
of a canon, which actually excludes from grasp and
mastery in the intellectual sphere Dante, Milton,
and Burke. Pattison repeats in his closing pages his
lamentable refrain that the author of Paradise Lost
should have forsaken poetry for more than twenty
years ' for a noisy pamphlet brawl, and the unworthy
drudgery of Secretary to the Council Board ' (p. 332).
He had said the same thing in twenty places in his
book on Milton. He transcribes unmoved the great
poet's account of his own state of mind, after the

ON pattison's memoirs. 161

physicians had warned him that if he persisted in
using his remaining eye for his pamphlet, he would
lose that too. 'The choice lay before me,' says
Milton, ' between dereliction of a supreme duty and
loss of eyesight : in such a case I could not listen to
the physician, not if ^sculapius himself had spoken
from his sanctuary. I could not but obey that inward
monitor, I knew not what, that spake to me from
heaven. I considered with myself that many had
purchased less good with worse ill, as they who give
their lives to reap only glory, and I therefore con-
cluded to employ the little remaining eyesight I was
to enjoy in doing this, the greatest service to the
common weal it was in my power to render.' And
so he wrote the Second Defence, and yet lived long
enough, and preserved sublimity of imagination
enough, to write the Paradise Lost as well. Mr.
Goldwin Smith goes nearer the mark than the Rector
when he insists that ' the tension and elevation which
Milton's nature had undergone in the mighty struggle,
together with the heroic dedication of his faculties to
the most serious objects, must have had not a little
to do both with the final choice of his subject and
with the tone of his poem. " The great Puritan epic "
could hardly have been written by any one but a
militant Puritan' (Lectures and Essays, p. 324). In
the last page of his Memoirs, Pattison taxes the poet
with being carried away by the aims of ' a party whose
aims he idealised.' As if the highest fruitfulness of
intellect were ever reached without this generous


162 ON pattison's memoirs.

faculty of idealisation, which Pattison, here and
always, viewed with such icy coldness. Napoleon
used to say that what was most fatal to a general was
a knack of combining objects into pictures. A good
officer, he said, never makes pictures ; he sees objects,
as through a field-glass, exactly as they are. In the
art of war let us take Napoleon's word for this ; but
in ' the art to live ' a man who dreads to idealise aims
or to make pictures, who can think of nothing finer
than being what Aristotle calls avOeKaa-ro'i, or taking
everything literally for what it is, will sooner or later
find his faculties benumbed and his work narrowed to
something for which nobody but himself will care,
and for which he will not himself always care with
any sincerity or depth of interest.

Let us take another illustration of the false excln-
siveness of the definition, in which Pattison erected a
peculiar constitutional idiosyncrasy into a complete
and final law for the life literary. He used to con-
tend that in many respects the most admirable literary
figure of the eighteenth century was the poet Gray.
Gray, he would say, never thought that devotion to
letters meant the making of books. He gave himself
up for the most part to ceaseless observation and
acquisition. By travelling, reading, noting, with a
patient industry that would not allow itself to be
diverted or perturbed, he sought and gained the
discerning spirit and the power of appreciation which
make not a book but a man. He annotated the
volumes that he read with judgment; he kept bo-

ON pattison's memoiks. 163

tanical calendars and thermometrical registers ; he
had a lively curiosity all round ; and, in Gray's own
words, he deemed it a sufficient object of his studies
to know, wherever he was, what lay within reach
that was worth seeing — whether building, ruin, park,
garden, prospect, picture, or monument — to whom it
had ever belonged, and what had been the charac-
teristic and taste of different ages. ' Turn author,'
said Gray, ' and straightway you expose yourself to
pit, boxes, and gallery : any coxcomb in the world
may come in and hiss if he pleases ; ay, and what is
almost as bad, clap too, and you cannot hinder him.'

Nobody will be inclined to quarrel with Gray's
way of passing his life, and the poet who had pro-
duced so exquisite a masterpiece as the Elegy had a
fair right to spend the rest of his days as he pleased.
But the temptations to confound a finicking dilet-
tantism with the ' art to live ' are so strong, that it
is worth while to correct the Rector's admiration
for Gray by looking on another picture — one of
Gray's most famous contemporaries, who in variety
of interest and breadth of acquired knowledge was
certainly not inferior to him, but enormously his supe-
rior. Lessing died when he was fifty-two (1729-1781);
his life was two years shorter than Gray's (1716-
1771), and nearly twenty years shorter than Pattison's
(1813-1884). The Rector would have been the last
man to deny that the author of LaoJcoon and the Wolf-
enbiittel Fragments abounded in the discerning spirit
and the power of appreciation. Yet Lessing was one

164 ON pattison's memoirs.

of the most incessantly productive minds of his age.
In art, in religion, in literature, in the drama, in the
whole field of criticism, he launched ideas of sove-
reign importance, both for his own and following
times, and, in Nathan the Wise, the truest and best
mind of the eighteenth century found its gravest and
noblest voice. Well might George Eliot at the Berlin
theatre feel her heart swelling and the tears coming
into her eyes as she ' listened to the noble words of
dear Lessing, whose great spirit lives immortally in
this crowning work of his ' {Life, i. 364). Yet so far
were ' grasp and mastery ' from being incompatible
with the exigencies of a struggle, that the varied,
supple, and splendid powers of Lessing were exer-
cised from first to last in an atmosphere of contro-
versy. Instead of delicately nursing the theoretic
life in the luxury of the academic cloister, he was
forced to work like a slave upon the most uncon-
genial tasks for a very modest share of daily bread.
' I only wished to have things like other men,' he
said in a phrase of pathetic simplicity, at the end of
his few short months of wedded happiness ; ' I have
had but sorry success.' Harassed by small persecu-
tions, beset by paltry debts, passing months in loneli-
ness and in indigence, he was yet so possessed, not
indeed by the winged daemon of poetic creation, but
by the irrepressible impulse and energy of produc-
tion, that the power of his intellect triumphed over
every obstacle, and made him one of the greatest
forces in the wide history of European literature.

ON pattison's memoies. 165

Our whole heart goes out to a man who thus, in spite
alike of his own impetuous stumbles and the blind
buffets of unrelenting fate, yet persevered to the last
in laborious, honest, spontaneous, and almost artless
fidelity to the use of his talent, and after each repulse
only came on the more eagerly to ' live and act and
serve the future hours.' It was Lessing and not
Rousseau whom Carlyle ought to have taken for his
type of the Hero as Man of Letters.

The present writer will not be suspected of the
presumption of hinting or implying that Pattison
himself was a dilettante, or anything like one. There
never was a more impertinent blunder than when
people professed to identify the shrewdest and most
widely competent critic of his day with the Mr.
Casaubon of the novel, and his absurd Key to all
Mythologies. The Sector's standard of equipment
was the highest of our time. ' A critic's education,'
he said, ' is not complete till he has in his mind a
conception of the successive phases of thought and
feeling from the beginning of letters. Though he
need not read every book, he must have surveyed
literature in its totality. Partial knowledge of lit-
erature is no knowledge' {Fortnightly Review, Nov.
1877, p. 670). For a man to know his way about
in the world of printed books, to find the key to
knowledge, to learn the map of literature, ' requires a
long apprenticeship. This is a point few men can
hope to reach much before the age of forty ' {Milton,

166 ON pattison's memoirs.

There was no dilettantism here. And one must
say much more than that. Many of those in whom
the love of knowledge is liveliest omit from their
curiosity that part of knowledge which is, to say the
least of it, as interesting as all the rest — -insiglit,
namely, into the motives, character, conduct, doc-
trines, fortunes of the individual man. It was not
so with Pattison. He was essentially a bookman, but
of that high type — the only type that is Avorthy of a
spark of our admiration — which explores through
books the voyages of the human reason, the shifting
impulses of the human heart, the chequered fortunes
of great human conceptions. Pattison knew that he
is very poorly equipped for the art of criticism who
has not trained himself in the observant analysis of
character, and has not realised that the writer who
seeks to give richness, body, and flavour to his work
must not linger exclusively among texts or abstract
ideas or general movements or literary effects, but
must tell us something about the moral and intel-
lectual configuration of those with whom he deals. I
had transcribed, for an example, his account of Eras-
mus, but the article is growing long, and the reader
may find it for himself in the Encyclopcedia Britannica
(viii. 515 a).

Though nobody was ever much less of a man of the
world in one sense, yet Pattison's mind was always in
the world. In company he often looked as if he were
thinking of the futility of dinner-party dialectics,
where all goes too fast for truth, where people miss

ON pattison's memoirs. 167

one another's points and their own, where nobody
convinces or is convinced, and where there is much
surface excitement with little real stimulation. That
so shrewd a man should have seen so obvious a fact
as all this was certain. But he knew that the world
is the real thing, that the proper study of mankind is
man, and that if books must be counted more instruc-
tive and nourishing than affairs, as he thought them
to be, it is still only because they are the most
complete record of what is permanent, elevated, and
eternal in the mind and act of man. Study with him
did not mean the compilation of careful abstracts of
books, nor did it even mean the historic filiation of
thoughts and beliefs. It was the building up before
the mind's eye of definite conceptions as to what
manner of men had been bred by the diversified
agencies of human history, and how given thoughts
had shaped the progress of the race. This is what,
among other things, led him to spend so much time
(p. 116) on the circle of Pope and Addison and

We have let fall a phrase about the progress of the
race, but it hardly had a place in Pattison's own
vocabulary. 'While the advances,' he said, 'made
by objective science and its industrial applications
are palpable and undeniable everywhere around us,
it is a matter of doubt and dispute if our social and
moral advance towards happiness and virtue has
been great or any.' The selfishness of mankind might
seem to be a constant quantity, neither much abated

168 ON pattisom's memoirs.

nor much increased since history began. Italy and
France are in most material points not more civilised
than they were in the second century of our era.
The reign of law and justice has no doubt extended
into the reign of hyperborean ice and over Sarmatian
plains : but then Spain has relapsed into a double
l)arbarism by engrafting Catholic superstition upon
Iberian ferocity. If we look Eastward, we see a
horde of barbarians in occupation of the garden of
the Old World, not as settlers, but as destroyers
(Age of Beason, in Fortnightly Review, March 1877,

The same prepossessions led him to think that all
the true things had been said, and one could do no
better than hunt them up again for new uses. Onr
business was, like Old Mortality, to clear out and cut

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