Samuel Butler.

The fair haven: a work in defence of the miraculous element in Our Lord's ministry upon earth, both as against rationalistic impugners and certain orthodox defenders online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibrarySamuel ButlerThe fair haven: a work in defence of the miraculous element in Our Lord's ministry upon earth, both as against rationalistic impugners and certain orthodox defenders → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook






The Fair Haven

The Fair Haven

A Work in Defence of the Miraculous Element

in our Lord's Ministry upon Earth, both as against

Rationalistic Impugners and certain Orthodox Defenders^

by the late John Pickard Owen, with a Memoir

of the Author by William Bicker steth Owen.


Samuel Butler

Author of "Erewhon"
Or. 2

Now Reset ; and Edited, with an Introduction,
by R. A. Streatfeild

New York:

Mitchell Kennerley, 32, West 58th Street



11 r-,-'


Introduction by R. A. Streatfeild ix

Butler's Preface to the Second Edition . . xv
Memoir of the late John Pickard Owen . i


I. Introduction . . *. . . . .61

II. Strauss and the Hallucination Theory . . 83

III. The Character and Conversion of St. Paul . 105

IV. Paul's Testimony considered . . . .120

V. A Consideration of Certain Ill-judged Methods

of Defence ....... 134

VI. More Disingenuousness . . . . 153

VII. Difficulties felt by our Opponents . . .170

VIII. The Preceding Chapter Continued . . . 194

IX. The Christ-Ideal ...... 230

X. Conclusion ....... 255

Appendix ....... 273


By R. A. Streatfeild

THE demand for a new edition of The Fair Haven
gives me an opportunity of saying a few words
about the genesis of what, though not one of the most
popular of Samuel Butler's books, is certainly one of
the most characteristic. Few of his works, indeed,
show more strikingly his brilliant powers as a con-
troversialist and his implacable determination to get
at the truth of whatever engaged his attention.

To find the germ of The Fair Haven we should
probably have to go back to the year 1858, when
Butler, after taking his degree at Cambridge, was pre-
paring himself for holy orders by acting as a kind of
lay curate in a London parish. Butler never took
things for granted, and he felt it to be his duty to
examine independently a good many points of Chris-
tian dogma which most candidates for ordination
accept as matters of course. The result of his investi-
gations was that he eventually declined to take orders
at all. One of the stones upon which he then stumbled
was the efficacy of infant baptism, and I have no
doubt that another was the miraculous element of
Christianity, which, it will be remembered, was the
cause of grievous searchings of heart to Ernest Pontifex
in Butler's semi-autobiographical novel, The Way of
A 2 ix

x Introduction

All Flesh. While Butler was in New Zealand (1859-
64) he had leisure for prosecuting his Biblical studies,
the result of which he published in 1865, after his
return to England, in an anonymous pamphlet en-
titled " The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus
Christ as given by the Four Evangelists critically
examined." This pamphlet passed unnoticed ; prob-
ably only a few copies were printed and it is now
extremely rare. After the publication of Erewhon in
1872, Butler returned once more to theology, and
made his anonymous pamphlet the basis of the far
more elaborate Fair Haven, which was originally
published as the posthumous work of a certain John
Pickard Owen, preceded by a memoir of the deceased
author by his supposed brother, William Bickersteth
Owen. It is possible that the memoir was the fruit of
a suggestion made by Miss Savage, an able and witty
woman with whom Butler corresponded at the time.
Miss Savage was so much impressed by the narrative
power displayed in Erewhon that she urged Butler to
write a novel, and we shall probably not be far wrong
in regarding the biography of John Pickard Owen
as Butler's trial trip in the art of fiction a prelude
to The Way of All Flesh, which he began in 1873.

It has often been supposed that the elaborate para-
phernalia of mystification which Butler used in The
Fair Haven was deliberately designed in order to
hoax the public. I do not believe that this was the
case. Butler, I feel convinced, provided an ironical
framework for his arguments merely that he might
render them more effective than they had been when
plainly stated in the pamphlet of 1865. He fully ex-
pected his readers to comprehend his irony, and he

Introduction xi

anticipated that some at any rate of them would
keenly resent it. Writing to Miss Savage in March,
1873 (shortly before the publication of the book), he
said : " I should hope that attacks on The Fair Haven
will give me an opportunity of excusing myself, and
if so I shall endeavour that the excuse may be worse
than the fault it is intended to excuse." A few days
later he referred to the difficulties that he had en-
countered in getting the book accepted by a publisher :

" were frightened and even considered the scheme

of the book unjustifiable. urged me, as politely

as he could, not to do it, and evidently thinks I shall
get myself into disgrace even among freethinkers.
It's all nonsense. I dare say I shall get into a row
at least I hope I shall." Evidently there is here no
anticipation of The Fair Haven being misunderstood.
Misunderstood, however, it was, not only by reviewers,
some of whom greeted it solemnly as a defence of ortho-
doxy, but by divines of high standing, such as the late
Canon Ainger, who sent it to a friend whom he wished
to convert. This was more than Butler could resist,
and he hastened to issue a second edition bearing his
name and accompanied by a preface in which the
deceived elect were held up to ridicule.

Butler used to maintain that The Fair Haven did
his reputation no harm. Writing in 1901, he said :

" The Fair Haven got me into no social disgrace that
I have ever been able to discover. I might attack
Christianity as much as I chose and nobody cared one
straw ; but when I attacked Darwin it was a different
matter. For many years Evolution, Old and New, and
Unconscious Memory made a shipwreck of my literary
prospects. I am only now beginning to emerge from

xii Introduction

the literary and social injury which those two perfectly
righteous books inflicted on me. I dare say they
abound with small faults of taste, but I rejoice in having
written both of them."

Very likely Butler was right as to the social side of
the question, but I am convinced that The Fair Haven
did him grave harm in the literary world. Reviewers
fought shy of him for the rest of his life. They had
been taken in once, and they took very good care that
they should not be taken in again. The word went
forth that Butler was not to be taken seriously, what-
ever he wrote, and the results of the decree were
apparent in the conspiracy of silence that greeted not
only his books on evolution, but his Homeric works,
his writings on art, and his edition of Shakespeare's
sonnets. Now that he has passed beyond controversies
and mystifications, and now that his other works are
appreciated at their true value, it is not too much to
hope that tardy justice will be accorded also to The
Fair Haven. It is true that the subject is no longer the
burning question that it was forty years ago. In the
early seventies theological polemics were fashionable.
Books like Seeley's Ecce Homo and Matthew Arnold's
Literature and Dogma were eagerly devoured by
readers of all classes. Nowadays we take but a lan-
guid interest in the problems that disturbed our grand-
fathers, and most of us have settled down into what
Disraeli described as the religion of all sensible men,
which no sensible man ever talks about. There is,
however, in The Fair Haven a good deal more than
theological controversy, and our Laodicean age will
appreciate Butler's humour and irony if it cares little
for his polemics. The Fair Haven scandalised a good

Introduction xiii

many people when it first appeared, but I am not afraid
of its scandalising anybody now. I should be sorry,
nevertheless, if it gave any reader a false impression
of Butler's Christianity, and I think I cannot do better
than conclude with a passage from one of his essays
which represents his attitude to religion perhaps more
faithfully than anything in The Fair Haven : " What,
after all, is the essence of Christianity ? What is the
kernel of the nut ? Surely common sense and cheer-
fulness, with unflinching opposition to the charla-
tanisms and Pharisaisms of a man's own times. The
essence of Christianity lies neither in dogma, nor yet
in abnormally holy life, but in faith in an unseen
world, in doing one's duty, in speaking the truth, in
finding the true life rather in others than in oneself,
and in the certain hope that he who loses his life on
these behalf s finds more than he has lost. What can
Agnosticism do against such Christianity as this ? I
should be shocked if anything I had ever written or
shall ever write should seem to make light of these

August, 1913.

Butler's Preface to the Second Edition

THE occasion of a Second Edition of The Fair
Haven enables me to thank the public and my
critics for the favourable reception which has been
accorded to the First Edition. I had feared that the
freedom with which I had exposed certain untenable
positions taken by Defenders of Christianity might
have given offence to some reviewers, but no com-
plaint has reached me from any quarter on the score
of my not having put the best possible case for the
evidence in favour of the miraculous element in
Christ's teaching nor can I believe that I should
have failed to hear of it, if my book had been open
to exception on this ground.

An apology is perhaps due for the adoption of a
pseudonym, and even more so for the creation of two
such characters as JOHN PICKARD OWEN and his
brother. Why could I not, it may be asked, have
said all that I had to say in my own proper person ?

Are there not real ills of life enough already ? Is
there not a " lo here ! " from this school with its gush-
ing " earnestness," its distinctions without differences,
its gnat strainings and camel swallowings, its pretence
of grappling with a question while resolutely bent
upon shirking it, its dust throwing and mystification,
its concealment of its own ineffable insincerity under
an air of ineffable candour ? Is there not a " lo there ! "


xvi Preface to Second Edition

from that other school with its bituminous atmo-
sphere of exclusiveness and self -laudatory dilettan-
teism ? Is there not enough actual exposition of
boredom come over us from many quarters without
drawing for new bores upon the imagination ? It
is true I gave a single drop of comfort. JOHN
PICKARD OWEN was dead. But his having ceased to
exist (to use the impious phraseology of the present
day) did not cancel the fact of his having once
existed. That he should have ever been born gave
proof of potentialities in Nature which could not be
regarded lightly. What hybrids might not be in
store for us next ? Moreover, though JOHN PICKARD
was dead, WILLIAM BICKERSTETH was still living, and
might at any moment rekindle his burning and
shining lamp of persistent self-satisfaction. Even
though the OWENS had actually existed, should not
their existence have been ignored as a disgrace to
Nature ? Who then could be justified in creating
them when they did not exist ?

I am afraid I must offer an apology rather than an
excuse. The fact is that I was in a very awkward
position. My previous work, Erewhon, had failed to
give satisfaction to certain ultra-orthodox Christians,
who imagined that they could detect an analogy
between the English Church and the Erewhonian
Musical Banks. It is inconceivable how they can have
got hold of this idea ; but I was given to understand
that I should find it far from easy to dispossess
them of the notion that something in the way of
satire had been intended. There were other parts of
the book which had also been excepted to, and
altogether I had reason to believe that if I defended

Preface to Second Edition xvii

Christianity in my own name I should not find
Erewhon any addition to the weight which my remarks
might otherwise carry. If I had been suspected of
satire once, I might be suspected again with no
greater reason. Instead of calmly reviewing the
arguments which I adduced, The Rock might have
raised a cry of non tali auxilio. It must always be
remembered that besides the legitimate investors in
Christian stocks, if so homely a metaphor may be
pardoned, there are unscrupulous persons whose
profession it is to be bulls, bears, stags, and I know
not what other creatures of the various Christian
markets. It is all nonsense about hawks not picking
out each other's eyes there is nothing they like
better. I feared The Guardian, The Record, The
John Bull, etc., lest they should suggest that from a
bear I now turned bull with a view to an eventual
bishopric. Such insinuations would have impaired
the value of The Fair Haven as an anchorage for
well-meaning people. I therefore resolved to obey
the injunction of the Gentile Apostle and avoid all
appearance of evil, by dissociating myself from the
author of Erewhon as completely as possible. At the
moment of my resolution JOHN PICKARD OWEN came
to my assistance ; I felt that he was the sort of man
I wanted, but that he was hardly sufficient in himself.
I therefore summoned his brother. The pair have
served their purpose ; a year nowadays produces
great changes in men's thoughts concerning Chris-
tianity, and the little matter of Erewhon having quite
blown over I feel that I may safely appear in my
true colours as the champion of orthodoxy, discard
the OWENS as other than mouthpieces, and relieve the

xviii Preface to Second Edition

public from uneasiness as to any further writings
from the pen of the surviving brother.

Nevertheless I am bound to own that, in spite of
a generally favourable opinion, my critics have not
been unanimous in their interpretation of The Fair
Haven. Thus, The Rock (April 25, 1873, and May 9,
1873), says that the work is " an extraordinary one,
whether regarded as a biographical record or a theo-
logical treatise. Indeed the importance of the volume
compels us to depart from our custom of reviewing
with brevity works entrusted to us, and we shall in
two consecutive numbers of The Rock lay before its
readers what appear to us to be the merits and de-
merits of this posthumous production."


" His exhibition of the certain proofs furnished of
the Resurrection of our Lord is certainly masterly
and convincing."


" To the sincerely inquiring doubter, the striking
way in which the truth of the Resurrection is ex-
hibited must be most beneficial, but such a character
we are compelled to believe is rare among those of
the schools of neology."


" Mr. OWEN'S exposition and refutation of the hal-
lucination and mythical theories of Strauss and his
followers is most admirable, and all should read it
who desire to know exactly what excuses men make
for their incredulity. The work also contains many
beautiful passages on the discomfort of unbelief, and
the holy pleasure of a settled faith, which cannot fail
to benefit the reader."

Preface to Second Edition xix

On the other hand, in spite of all my precautions,
the same misfortune which overtook Erewhon has
also come upon The Fair Haven. It has been suspected
of a satirical purpose. The author of a pamphlet
entitled Jesus versus Christianity says :

" The Fair Haven is an ironical defence of ortho-
doxy at the expense of the whole mass of Church
tenet and dogma, the character of Christ only
excepted. Such at least is our reading of it, though
critics of the Rock and Record order have accepted
the book as a serious defence of Christianity, and
proclaimed it as a most valuable contribution in aid
of the faith. Affecting an orthodox standpoint it
most bitterly reproaches all previous apologists for
the lack of candour with which they have ignored or
explained away insuperable difficulties and attached
undue value to coincidences real or imagined. One
and all they have, the author declares, been at best,
but zealous ' liars for God/ or what to them was
more than God, their own religious system. This
must go on no longer. We, as Christians having a
sound cause, need not fear to let the truth be known.
He proceeds accordingly to set forth the truth as he finds
it hi the New Testament ; and in a masterly analysis of
the account of the Resurrection, which he selects as the
principal crucial miracle, involving all other miracles,
he shows how slender is the foundation on which the
whole fabric of supernatural theology has been reared."

" As told by our author the whole affords an ex-
quisite example of the natural growth of a legend."

" If the reader can once fully grasp the intention

xx Preface to Second Edition

of the style, and its affectation of the tone of indig-
nant orthodoxy, and perceive also how utterly j
destructive are its ' candid admissions ' to the whole
fabric of supernaturalism, he will enjoy a rare treat.
It is not however for the purpose of recommending
what we at least regard as a piece of exquisite humour,
that we call attention to The Fair Haven, but &c. &c."

This is very dreadful ; but what can one do ?

Again, The Scotsman speaks of the writer as being
" throughout in downright almost pathetic earnest-
ness." While The National Reformer seems to be in
doubt whether the book is a covert attack upon
Christianity or a serious defence of it, but declares
that both orthodox and unorthodox will find matter
requiring thought and answer.

I am not responsible for the interpretations of my
readers. It is only natural that the same work should
present a very different aspect according as it is
approached from one side or the other. There is only
one way out of it that the reader should kindly
interpret according to his own fancies. If he will do
this the book is sure to please him. I have done the
best I can for all parties, and feel justified in appeal-
ing to the existence of the widely conflicting opinions
which I have quoted, as a proof that the balance has
been evenly held, and that I was justified in calling
the book a defence both as against impugners and

defenders ' S. BUTLER.

Oct. 8, 1873.

Memoir of
The late John Pickard Owen

Chapter I

r I ""HE subject of this Memoir, and Author of the
JL work which follows it, was born in Goodge
Street, Tottenham Court Road, London, on the
5th of February, 1832. He was my elder brother
by about eighteen months. Our father and mother
had once been rich, but through a succession of un-
avoidable misfortunes they were left with but a
very moderate income when my brother and myself
were about three and four years old. My father
died some five or six years afterwards, and we only
recollected him as a singularly gentle and humorous
playmate who doted upon us both and never spoke
unkindly. The charm of such a recollection can
never be dispelled ; both my brother and myself
returned his love with interest, and cherished his
memory with the most affectionate regret, from the
day on which he left us till the time came that the
one of us was again to see him face to face. So sweet
and winning was his nature that his slightest wish
was our law and whenever we pleased him, no
matter how little, he never failed to thank us as

2 Memoir

though we had done him a service which we should
have had a perfect right to withhold. How proud
were we upon any of these occasions, and how we
courted the opportunity of being thanked ! He did
indeed well know the art of becoming idolised by
his children, and dearly did he prize the results of
his own proficiency ; yet truly there was no art
about it ; all arose spontaneously from the well-
spring of a sympathetic nature which knew how to
feel as others felt, whether old or young, rich or
poor, wise or foolish. On one point alone did he
neglect us I refer to our religious education. On
all other matters he was the kindest and most careful
teacher in the world. Love and gratitude be to his
memory !

My mother loved us no less ardently than my
father, but she was of a quicker temper, and less
adept at conciliating affection. She must have been
exceedingly handsome when she was young, and
was still comely when we first remembered her ; she
was also highly accomplished, but she felt my father's
loss of fortune more keenly than my father himself,
and it preyed upon her mind, though rather for our
sake than for her own. Had we not known my father
we should have loved her better than any one in the
world, but affection goes by comparison, and my
father spoiled us for any one but himself ; indeed, in
after life, I remember my mother's telling me, with
many tears, how jealous she had often been of the
love we bore him, and how mean she had thought it
of him to entrust all scolding or repression to her,
so that he might have more than his due share of our
affection. Not that I believe my father did this

Memoir 3

consciously ; still, he so greatly hated scolding that
I dare say we might often have got off scot free when
we really deserved reproof had not my mother under-
taken the onus of scolding us herself. We therefore
naturally feared her more than my father, and fearing
more we loved less. For as love casteth out fear,
so fear love.

This must have been hard to bear, and my mother
scarcely knew the way to bear it. She tried to up-
braid us, in little ways, into loving her as much as
my father ; the more she tried this, the less we could
succeed in doing it ; and so on and so on in a fashion
which need not be detailed. Not but what we really
loved her deeply, while her affection for us was in-
surpassable ; still, we loved her less than we loved
my father, and this was the grievance.

My father entrusted our religious education en-
tirely to my mother. He was himself, I am assured,
of a deeply religious turn of mind, and a thoroughly
consistent member of the Church of England ; but
he conceived, and perhaps rightly, that it is the
mother who should first teach her children to lift
their hands in prayer, and impart to them a know-
ledge of the One in whom we live and move and
have our being. My mother accepted the task gladly,
for in spite of a certain narrowness of view the natural
but deplorable result of her earlier surroundings
she was one of the most truly pious women whom I
have ever known ; unfortunately for herself and us
she had been trained in the lowest school of Evangeli-
cal literalism a school which in after life both my
! brother and myself came to regard as the main obstacle
to the complete overthrow of unbelief ; we therefore

4 Memoir

looked upon it with something stronger than aversion,
and for my own part I still deem it perhaps the most
insidious enemy which the cause of Christ has ever
encountered. But of this more hereafter.

My mother, as I said, threw her whole soul into
the work of our religious education. Whatever she
believed she believed literally, and, if I may say so,
with a harshness of realisation which left very little
scope for imagination or mystery. Her plans of
Heaven and solutions of life's enigmas were direct
and forcible, but they could only be reconciled with
certain obvious facts such as the omnipotence and
all-goodness of God by leaving many things abso-
lutely out of sight. And this my mother succeeded
effectually in doing. She never doubted that her
opinions comprised the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth ; she therefore made haste to
sow the good seed in our tender minds, and so far
succeeded that when my brother was four years old
he could repeat the Apostles' Creed, the General
Confession, and the Lord's Prayer without a blunder.
My mother made herself believe that he delighted
in them ; but, alas ! it was far otherwise ; for, strange
as it may appear concerning one whose later life was
a continual prayer, in childhood he detested nothing
so much as being made to pray and to learn his Cate-
chism. In this I am sorry to say we were both heartily
of a mind. As for Sunday, the less said the better.

I have already hinted (but as a warning to other
parents I had better, perhaps, express myself more
plainly), that this aversion was probably the result of
my mother's undue eagerness to reap an artificial
fruit of lip service, which could have little meaning

Memoir 5

to the heart of one so young. I believe that the severe
check which the natural growth of faith experienced
in my brother's case was due almost entirely to this
cause, and to the school of literalism in which he had
been trained; but, however this may be, we both of

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibrarySamuel ButlerThe fair haven: a work in defence of the miraculous element in Our Lord's ministry upon earth, both as against rationalistic impugners and certain orthodox defenders → online text (page 1 of 20)