[The follow passage appears in Stopford A. Brooke's Life and Letters (1865). George P. Landow, Professor of English and the History of Art, Brown University, has scanned it from the text of the 1902 edition (see bibliography) and formatted it in HTML.]

We knew Kingsley's heart, his zeal and earnestness; and if any of his sentences were liable to misconstruction, we ought 'patiently to have waited till time and our own explanations could have supplied what was wanting. . . . The Son of God said many things very liable to be misunderstood; and sober people thought them very dangerous, protested against them, 'Lest the Romans should come and take away their place and nation." I admit the rashness of Kingsley's verbiage ; but rashness is a thing to be loved, not rebuked. My brother, or another officer of his name, by the last 'Gazette,' was rather too forward in the action with the Kaffirs, and fought them with a few men nearly alone. The commanding officer said it was rash, for he lost several men, but praised his gallantry warmly. I wish to God we had a little soldier's spirit in our Church! . . .

(No! the Church of England will endure no chivalry, no dash, no effervescing enthusiasm. She cannot turn it to account, as Rome turns that of Loyolas and Xaviers. We bear nothing but sober prosaic routine; and the moment any one with heart and nerve fit to be the leader of a forlorn hope appears, we call him a dangerous man, and exasperate him by cold unsympathising reproofs, till he becomes a Dissenter and a demagogue. . . . Well, I suppose God will punish us, if in no other way, by banishing from us all noble spirits, like Newman and Manning, in one direction, and men like Kingsley in another, leaving us to flounder in the mud of commonplace, unable to rise or sink above the dead level. Day by day my hopes are sinking. We dare not say the things we feel. Who can? Who possibly may, when Records, Guardians, brother ministers, and lay hearers are ready at every turn to call out heterodoxy? It is bondage more than Roman. And if a man sets his face like a flint, and desperately runs amuck with his eyes shut, caring not who is offended, then he injures his own spirit, becomes, like noble Carlyle, ferocious, and loses the stream of living waters in dry desert sand, fructifying nothing, but only festering into swamp shallows . . . Imprudence, half-truths, rash cries of sympathetic torture. Yes! But through all these I would hold fast by a man if I were sure he was sound ill heart, and meant differently from what he seemed to mean. ... I hold to heart, to manhood and nobleness, not correct expression. I try to judge words and actions by the man, not the man by his words and actions. . . . What I have said in behalf of Kingsley I have said quite as strongly from my own pulpit in behalf of Tractarians. By standing by a man I mean not adopting his views, if they are not our own, but tolerating them, and that to an almost unlimited extent — unlimited, at least, in comparison with the limits which the most liberal I know propose. And if I were convinced he meant rightly, then by standing by him I should include defending and explaining. . . .1 am afraid my illustrations are somewhat too military, but I was rocked and cradled to the roar of artillery, and I began life with a preparation for, and appointment to, the 3rd Dragoons. Dis aliter visum.' [197-98]

You may here see how deliberately he used much of that language which, in some instances, might be condemned as marking vehement onesidedness on his part; how perfectly he was conscious of those complimentary balancing truths which were apparently forgotten by him when he urgently insisted on others which he looked on as neglected. This also is further seen when he writes : —

'Kingsley assumes, perhaps more than I should, that human selfishness lies at the bottom of our social evils. I believe that the contravention of laws which will avenge themselves, as, for instance, improvidence and foolish marriages, have had their share in the production of our present embarrassment ; and that it is one thing to cry woe to those who have kept back the hire of the labourers who have reaped down their fields, and another to denounce it against those whose fault has been partly ignorance, partly supineness. But then (he adds) "this is my opinion, mine only," he having a right to his. Moreover, he may be more right than I think. Our foolish sentiment in promoting marriages, and declaring submission to a brute instinct a Christian duty; our non-education of the people through party squabbles; our suffering a vast population to grow up while Church extension meant only more churches and more salaries ; and while bishops in parliament defending the Church meant only bishops rising whenever the stipends of the Church were in danger, and sitting still when corn laws, or any other great measure affecting the numbers and food of the people, came into question. All these things, when I think of them, make me doubt whether Kingsley's theory has not a deep, deep, awful truth at the bottom. Besides, for 3000 years it was the theory and tone of God's best and truest of His prophets, His brave ones ; and I shrink from saying, very authoritatively, that his view is wrong, though at present I do think it imperfect.

'It is quite true that Kingsley took no notice of the blessings of constituted order, &c. But they were no very particular blessings to the wretches who were rising by thousands before his tortured imagination. Blessings to you and to me, and to nobles, and well-to-do tradesmen, and to all Belgravia; but Kingsley felt he had something else to do besides lauding our incomparable constitution — viz. to declare the truth that there is an emancipation yet unaccomplished, which will be woe to Belgravia, and to hock-drinking tradesmen, and to us, the ministers of the Church, if we do not accomplish.' [198-99]

If, for many reasons besides the sorrow of even seeming to have needed such words of expostulation and rebuke, one might be painfully reluctant to copy out these passages, yet surely no one, revering my friend's character, and desiring to have it fully represented, would have one of them suppressed. I think he would not, for the very reason which might at first seem to require this suppression. For not only are ^-they plainly distinguished from that railing fanaticism of the mere demagogue with which, on a superficial glance, they might be confounded; but they are, in fact, essentially, nay, antithetically opposed to it. ThisČis seen in the consciousness that may be discerned in even the most vehement of my friend's utterances, of all the force belonging to every view of the question in debate that was urged by his correspondent. He could also sympathise with the motives and feelings of those who were sincerely resisting him. 'Nevertheless,'he says, in the same letter from which the above extracts are taken —

'I repeat I do you warmly justice. If I did not, I assure you I should not have taken the trouble to write as warmly and strongly as I have done ; I should have let my sad and indignant feelings remain pentup. I have poured them out to you, because I do think it is worth it, and that there is a much greater chance of union by so doing. I am sure of you, as of myself, that you are not on the side of the Pharisaisms and Respectabilities in the sense in which I spoke of them. Respectabilities, in a now familiar Carlylean sense, is a word implying, at least to me, persons like Balaam, or persons who are respectable, and nothing more ; persons who are simply and selfishly conservative — not Conservatives, because I honour many of them, but persons who hate stir and reformation, because these get down to facts, and disturb cobwebs.' [Ch IX, Brighton 1851, pp. 199; ellipses in original text]

References

Brooke, Stopford A. Life and Letters of Fred[erick]. W. Robertson, M. A., Incumbent of Trinity Chapel, Brighton, 1847-53. People's Edition. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co., 1902.


Victorian Overview Religion F. W. Robertson

Last modified 7 December 2007