Following close upon the heels of Principles of Education came The Journal of a Home Life (1867) and its sequel After Life (1868). The relationship of these volumes to the earlier work would be obvious to anyone reading the three works in the order of their publication. Miss Sewell, in addition, has explained the thematic connections between these works in her Autobiography "I also undertook a new Tale which, in accordance with the suggestion of a friend, was intended to show the actual working of certain ideas I had, shortly before, put forth in a work bearing the title Principles of Education" (p. 117). The preface to Home Life, dated at Ashcliff, 1867, also declares the author's intention to illustrate the principles of education and to demonstrate the difficulty of carrying out these principles in ordinary life. Because the form is that of a journal, the point of view is first person. The narrator, Mrs. Anstruther, is a widow left: with four young children and two teen-age stepdaughters. As the story opens she is preparing to receive the stepdaughters, aged approximately fifteen and thirteen, who have been staying at their grandmother's home. Home Life concerns itself with the adjustments of the new family to one another and the problems Mrs. Anstruther encounters as she undertakes the education of the six children: Ina and Cecil, the two step-daughters; Agnes, age 9; Charley, who is at home only on holidays from boarding school; and Essie and Hugh, not yet out of the nursery. In her endeavors Mrs. Anstruther is supported by a neighbor, Mrs. Bradshaw, who becomes an excellent friend, and hindered by Mrs. Penryhn, the grandmother of lha and Cecil, who is jealolous of Mrs. Anstruther and tries in insidious ways to subvert her authority. A major center of interest is the family who occupy the house next door beyond the locked garden gate. There Marietta, a charming half-Italian girl, tries to keep in order her erratic and, it turns out later, drug-consuming aunt, Mrs. Randolph, with the occasional help of a steir; b it much loved uncle, the estranged husband of Mrs. Randolph.
Home Life begins on May 8, 18--, and ends on February 15 of the following year. After Life is much more diffused in time and s-oace, covering a period of seven years. Spatially the scene shifts from France, where the consumptive Cecil, for whose sake Mrs. Anstruther intends to winter at Pau, dies and is buried; to the interior of Spain, where Mrs. Anstruther accompanies Marietta in search of the latter's aunt, who has been "abducted" by the villains of the piece, Lady Chase and Baron Von Brunnen; and back to Boulogne, where Mrs. Anstruther has brought Ina to secure the agreed separation from the young man of her choice, whose mother objects to the match. Meanwhile there are intervals back in England sufficient to allow two romances, Ina's and Agnes's, to develop. Marietta's engagement is effected during the travels on the continent. On foreign soil, as at home, Mrs. Anstruther clings tenaciously to her principles of education, much of the learning having to do with marriage and other duties of adult life. ("After life" simply signifies adult life; it does not denote life after death, though the latter is always in the background of the narrator's thoughts.) Marietta's apprenticeship culminates in a happy marriage, appropriate to her ebullient but unselfish nature. Ina's courtship, because she has not been open and free of self-seeking but means to do right, ends in a tolerable marriage. For Agnes, who is being groomed for sainthood, life's hard lesson is to be that of renunciation. Still less than eighteen years old, Agnes must reconcile herself to the death of her fiancé in India.
The chief suspense of the narrative centers around the promise, extracted from Mrs. Anstruther beside her husband's deathbed, that none of his daughters shall marry a Penryhn on pain of being disinherited. Whenever chance brings John Penryhn, her nephew by marriage, into close contact with her family, Mrs. Anstruther very carefully avoids giving Jomi and Ina, the prettiest of the girls, the occasion to develop an attraction for one another. The reader, along with Mrs. Anstruther, experiences a profound shock when John proposes to the child-like, otherworldly Agnes�an event so poorly prepared for that the reader feels duped. The few intimations of interest recalled by Mrs. Anstruther�after the fact�hardly increase one's credulity. Indeed the whole plot seems rather improbable despite the fact that the travel episodes and some of the characters are drawn from life, and the deathbed promise was suggested by "a somewhat similar engagement" which had come to the author's attention (Autobiography, pp. 118-19).
So much for the plot structure of Home Life and After Life, which is actually more elaborate than the foregoing summary suggests. The author herself confessed in the Autobiography, thirty years after the publication of these novels, that she felt that the pair "deserved a more cordial-welcome than it received. " Reflecting on its composition, she continues, "I know that I gave more thought to it than to any of my other tales, with the exception of Margaret Percival, and certainly the plot is worked out more thoroughly than it is in them" (Autobiography, p. 117). Miss Seweli's analysis of the problem inherent in Home Life and After Life continues with a most interesting discussion of the limits imposed by first-person point-of-view:
But I made a mistake in bringing it out, which would probably have stood in the -way of its popularity, independent of the fact that sensation novels were the fashion of the day.
The form I had chosen was a Journal. To describe the look, manners, and tone of voice of the writer, Mrs. Anstruther, was therefore out of the question. I put into her mouth the words which I felt I should have uttered myself; I made her act as I thought it likely I should have acted myself; I described her feelings from my own experience; and then when I presented her to the public my friends said, "What a dreadful caricature of yourself — we can't endure her. " I had given the features, but not the expression; the form, but not the spirit of the words. It had never struck me that it was necessary to say, what in fact, writing in the first person, could not be said, "Mrs. Anstruther's words were severe, but her tone and manner were loving."
What did not occur to Miss Sewell, apparently, was the almost impossible burden she had given her narrator, who might more appropriately have been called "Mrs. Instructor," in asking her to convey the sum of the author's wisdom on educating children and young women. The manner in which Mrs. Anstruther goes about her task is tedious, to say the least. Several examples will make clear the author's teaching method.
Mrs. Anstruther's preparation for the arrival of her stepdaughters in the cottage at Dernham, in Chapter II of Home Life, illustrates the principles expounded in "Purity, " Chapter XXII of Principles of Education. To the stepmother about to receive her two early-teen charges, it is important to "insure privacy for each" in the attic room which they are to share. Ina and Cecil will thus be spared the indignities which their stepmother had had to endure when, as a child among sisters and their guests, denied "a screen to make a dressing closet," she had been "forced into intimacy of the most undesirable kind."1 The dreadful consequences of the "intimacy" are explained as follows:
The utter absence of reserve in habits, brought on equal unreserve in conversation; and those-evening gossipings, as we sat in our dressinggowns round the fire, and discussed subjects which we should not have ventured to approach if we had met in the drawing-room in our ordinary attire, did me mischief-which I can feel to this day. [Home Life, p. 15]
The above is evidently intended as the practical exemplification of the following observations, begun in a tone of irony, from the chapter on "Purity" in Principles of Education:
And in this full confidence in nature and simplicity, the children are left more and more to themselves, and allowed free intercourse with the young friends who have been chosen to be their companions. As occasion arises, they share the same room with them .... No one suspects the slightest evil. They do, indeed, sit up too late, and gossip together over the fireside; but all girls will do this; and they are so young . . . !
They are so young! There lies the fallacy. . . . If young girls are . . . herded together without care, and if they have had their first delicacy of feeling blunted by neglect in the nursery, they will do and say whatever suggests itself at the moment, with all the more zest, because they are conscious, though they know not why, that it is forbidden. [Principles, p. 286]
The "blunting" of the "first delicacy of feeling" is in turn traceable to coeducational housing in the nursery. (See Principles, pp. 283-84.) To prevent such unseemly mixing of the sexes little Hugh will share a room with his brother Charley, and little Esther will sleep with sister Agnes and the nurse.
One smiles at what, by twentieth century standards, seems an extreme form of mid-Victorian prudishness. A closer look, however, will indicate that even in matters of purity, a reasonable via media is the goal. Purity is not a mere turning away from "defilement" so as to pretend it does not exist. The overprotectiveness practiced by mothers who deny their daughters access to the cottages of the poor, "lest they should hear or see things which may shock their delicacy" is deplored. (See Principles of Education, pp. 290-91). By the same token, telling a child that babies grow in beanfields will only provoke further curiosity. The rule of thumb for dealing with a child's questions concerning sex — though the author would never use the word "sex" in this connection — is quite a sensible one in any generation: "When the occasion presents itself naturally, tell what must be known, and tell it simply, without comment, or caution, or haste; above all, without any show of mystery, but as a mere question of fact" (Principles, p. 299). To the reader's disappointment, perhaps, the narrator of Home Life and After Life neglects to provide a model conversation on the question of where babies come from. But perhaps it would be difficult for the author to determine the degree to which such dialogue would contribute to the reader's "real purity. " Real purity, according to the author's definition, involves again the principle of the golden mean. We shall have achieved purity when "we shall be able to confront life as it is, we shall not fear to see it in its true colours, so far as that knowledge is needful for God's service, though not one degree beyond [italics the author's]; and we shall turn away in greater disgust from the shams and pretences of virtue than from the most openly acknowledged vice" (Principles of Education, p. 291).
Exactly how much knowledge of evil is "needful for God's service" might prove as difficult to ascertain as whether a contemporary film has "redeeming social value." Hence some of the principles of sexual knowledge and behavior lack thorough exemplification in Home Life and After Life. Other aspects of moral training for small children come in for fuller treatment. Dealing with cruelty and obstinacy, for instance, is discussed at length in Principles of Education. In Chapter III, having invoked the history of Israel to establish the point that rules are for children, principles for adults — the entire Mosaic law being taken somewhat simplistically as the grand example of rules — the author urges upon the adult authority figure a minimum of explanation and sufficient action to insure obedience to the adult's command. In Home Life Mrs. Anstruther's little Hugh, preparing to pull the wings off a butterfly, receives a sharp rebuke and a tap on the hand. His mother's comment on her own response is: "I thought that better than a dissertation upon natural history, or an appeal to what his own feelings would be if he had his arms and legs pulled off — an operation which to him would appear to be perfectly painless. I find there are a good many things in morals which, like the Latin declensions, must be taught first and explained afterward" (Home Life, p, 56). On another occasion Mrs. Anstruther demonstrates her method for dealing with Hugh's obstinacy. When he refuses to pick up a marble he has dropped, she takes possession of the marble and requires him to sit on a stool for ten minutes.2 This time the principle of authority is enunciated in the words: "You would not do it when I wished you to do it; and now I won't allow you to do it" (Home Life, p. 83).
Teaching the proper use of money is one of the concerns of Chapter XVI in Principles of Education, "Education in Justice as the Antidote to Selfishness. " Here again the child is Tto be treated in a somewhat different manner from an adult. The reader is urged not to demand sacrifice of a child but simply to show him the just claims of others. An allowance should be given as early as is feasible, and its amount should be proportionate to the means of the child's family. It is a mistake to be overly generous or indulgent with a child, for "unselfish mothers make selfish children" (p. 213). The principle of stewardship for an adult is based on a sense of balance, proportion, and the ever-present station-in-life criterion. From the "treasury of God" we take "that which is necessary [the author's italics] for the maintenance of the station in life in which God has placed us" (p. 214). But alongside the maintenance criterion goes that of self-denial, and it does seem that in striving for the via media between "lawful self-interest" and "self-denial, " the author suggests a paradox not easily to be resolved: " . . . the greater are the necessities of luxury which surround us, the greater should be the unostentatious self-denial which we practise" (p. 216). Brought up on this principle and never allowed to be "benevolent by proxy," the child will be likely to treble his gifts to others when his allowance is trebled, says Miss Sewell, but he must be taught that dues come before benevolences.
Mrs. Anstruther of course gives allowances to her children. However, achievement often falls short of aim in this aspect of the training of the young, according to Mrs. Anstruther's comments on Ina's handling of money in the second volume of After Life. Although Ina has had a good allowance and been taught to think of money as a responsibility, Mrs. Anstruther finds her stepdaughter insensitive to the claims of justice, despite the fact that she has acquired a reputation for generosity. Two cases in point are cited: First, it never occurs to Ina, when the stay in Boulogne is contemplated, to offer to pay half the expenses for lodgings, despite the fact that, since attaining her majority, she is comparatively rich. On the other hand, she will be likely to give her stepmother an expensive velvet dress which Mrs. Anstruther will find few occasions to wear. Analogously, rather than offer to share in the expenses of Charley's education, Ina has given him a check for �20 to be spent as he pleases�a gift which, Mrs. Anstruther fears, will only encourage the boy's "naturally extravagant habits."3 Mrs. Anstruther finds herself in a difficult position in regard to teaching Ina the claims of justice over "generosity" because any complaint will seem like ingratitude on her part.
Along with purity, good temper, and generosity, a cardinal point in Miss Sewell's principles of moral education is truth. Here, as with the proper handling of money, Ina has been a challenge to Mrs. Anstruther. Ina's small deceits and "mysteries" add up to a lack of trustworthiness which plagues their family life from Ina's sixteenth year up to her less than satisfactory marriage at twenty-three. Whether it is carrying clandestine messages from Lady Chase to Mrs. Randolph, concealing an expensive present from a beau, or contracting that most abhorrent of all arrangements in the author's mind — a secret engagement — ina manages always to put her stepmother in a bad light in the community, along with inflicting private pain by her half truths and withheld information. The trouble with Ina seems ironically to be her unwillingness to riskoffending or paining anyone. Caught between her Grandmother's wish that she encourage Lord Hopeton's attentions and her stepmother's cautions on the subject, she seems scarcely able to think for herself or to act independently. To keep everyone happy she resorts to deceit — not downright lying but simply allowing each person to draw a different conclusion on the matter at hand. In the end all parties must suffer. Elizabeth Sewell had made the point, in Principles of Education (pp. 192-02),that habitual untruthfulness stems from "moral cowardice," in the first place, and can only be aggravated by severe reproof. Still s.-ie allows Ina to undergo, at the hands of Mrs. Anstruther, what must surely have seemed an inquisition to the sensitive girl, who apparently had never been allowed to be a child.
Mrs. Anstruther, as narrator, gives the reader a number of clues o Ina's problem. In the early pages of Home Life she characterizes In yet sixteen, as too correct and self-conscious, a girl whose qualities are admirable when she forgets to be a "young lady." Mrs. Anstruther has the reader's sympathy when she comments, "As a rule, I do not think I admire juvenile 'young ladies.' They savor too much of the dancing school, and the dress-maker's show-room" (Home Life, p. 25). It is clear from what we are told of Mrs. Penrhyn, the grandmother and former guardian, that she has not, given her deviousness and emphasis on form and fashion, provided the model for "reality with our fellow creatures" (Principles, p. 192) essential to a child's grasp of truth. So poor Ina, pretty, agreeable, and meaning to do right, has to strive against the vanity and worldliness that have become a part other nature. The mother-mentor sees her task as helping Ina tear out these vices ana plant humility and truth in their stead.
Cecil and Agnes, whose personalities differ radically from Ina' s, pose quite different problems for Mrs. Anstruther, and in so doing, provide a vehicle for exhibiting the elasticity of the author's philosophy of education. Cecil, around fourteen when she becomes Mrs. Anstruther's charge, is a more spontaneous, unselfish child than her sister Ina; in fact, the only defects mentioned are a lack of intellectual ambition and untidiness with her cherished zoological collection. Three years later Mrs. Anstruther can declare, borrowing an idea from Topsy, that "I let her grew." Then, adding that she has loved the child "God only knows how dearly," the narrator goes on: "Of positive teaching or direction she has had little or nothing, except in the way of regular study. She has not seemed to require it. The pure transparent mind . . . has simply reflected heaven, and so it has become heavenly" (After Life, I, 12). Suitably enough, since poor consumptive Cecil is destined;or Heaven within a matter of months!
Cecil, being too good for this world, leaves it at seventeen; Agnes, five years her stepsister's junior and also unfit for this world, must remain in it and adjust to it. "Pre-Baphaelite" in purity and simplicity and lacking Cecil's sunny nature, she exhibits the over-scrupulous conscience that the author imputes to herself and a number other heroines, including Sally in The Experience of Life and Myra Cameron in A Glimpse o^ the World. On the debit side for Agnes are "a habit of tormenting herself by questions which cannot be answered" and "a most sensitive nervous temperament. " On the credit side is "a power of love and self-devotion" which strikes the narrator as more a woman's than a child's, yet her very goodness will be useless, Mrs. Anstruther realizes, unless she can "put a little reason and common sense into it" (Home Life, pp. 160, 182).4
The steady work habits which her mother insists upon help to divert Agnes from her morbid fancies, but humor and a sense of proportion are the gift of the Bradshaw family, with whom Agnes lives while her mother is over- seas. Refreshingly outspoken and irreverent but goodhearted, Mrs. Bradshaw is far and away the most delightful character in Home and After Life. Her letters to Mrs. Anstrutber, like her conversation, reveal the other side of Elizabeth Missing Sewell — the spirit of fun beneath the decorous, serious demeanor. One step beyond Mrs. Bradshaw is her son Colonel Bradshaw, who actually enjoys watching Agnes suffer the perplexity which his "badinage" brings on. At the age of eleven or twelve Agnes cannot tell when the Colonel is joking, and Mrs. Bradshaw, in a letter to her friend, pictures most vividly the horror reflected in Agnes's large violet eyes in the following situation:
We were talking of some old acquaintances — Indian people — especially of a widow . . . married again, to a man much younger than herself. The colonel censured the marriage . . . and thought it a great pity the Suttee was abolished . . . and. . . went on to declare that he should get up a petition to Parliament for the restoration of the Suttee . . . (After Life, 1:41).
Mrs. Bradshaw, being the sort of person who can relish the head-on collision of Agnes's naiveté with the Colonel's propensity for teasing and still know when to "interfere and explain," is eminently well qualified for broadening the practical wisdom of both Agnes and Mrs. Anstruther. The good woman's refusal to worship the clergy as a superior race and to submit unquestioningly to their authority is, for example, a healthy antidote to Mrs. Anstruther's Oxford-conditioned reverence for the profession. Mrs. Bradshaw's perspective on the clergy has another function as well. It reveals to the reader that Miss Sewell is now able to view the surpliced beings as fellow humans, well meaning but fallible. This interpretation is corroborated by Miss Sewell's remark, in the Autobiography (p. 116), concerning the characterization of the Reverend Dr. Kingsbury of A Glimpse of the World (1863): "I had learnt . . . to take a wider view of clerical characteristics. I no longer supposed that every clergyman must be perfect, or formed exactly upon the Oxford model."
Miss Sewell's newfound ability to smile at clerical pecadillos is seen in a variety of ways in Home Life and After Life. Both Mrs. Bradshaw and Mrs. Anstruther work in the Sunday School. On one occasion Mrs. Bradshaw accuses the "worthy" but "idiotic" rector of "red-tapism" which exhausts the patience of the children and makes them hate Sunday School, while denying the teachers the selection of their own curriculum. In another instance she objects that the rector, though possessing "head brains" lacks "hands and feet brains, " as where he places a poorly corked hot water bottle on the back of a servant, mistaking the bending man for a footstool, and thereby unleashes "Vesuvius." When Mrs. Anstruther responds by requesting Mrs. Bradshaw not to "talk in this random way . . . before any of the children" because they may not be able to "separate the man from his office" (Home Life, pp. 113, 127, 378-79), Mrs. Bradshaw is wont to reply in this style: "Now, my dear Mrs. Anstruther, after all, you are no wiser than your neighbors. What is respect worth if it can't stand a little bantering?" (p. 113).
Neither friend moves more than a few inches toward the other in the matter of clerical authority. Although Mrs. Anstruther may privately concur in some other friend's opinions (to the extent of referring to the rector as "a pope"), she declares herself to be "not of the private-action school" and therefore intending to do what the rector says (Home Life, p. 125). Although Mrs. Bradshaw may declare that she is learning something from the trouble into which lack of reserve has gotten her, she doesn't change much (Home Life, p. 299). Still each woman learns to accept the other as she is,and the reader perceives the via media between the two styles, which represents the ideal woman and ideal teacher.
As with so many other Sewell novels, in Home Life and After Life, characterization is superior to plot, though the discrepancy is not as marked as in the earlier works. Mr. Randolph's convenient death by lightning is the only really objectionable resort to coincidence, although the chance meetings of the Anstruther party with Lady Chase and her entourage at varions points on the continent seem rather contrived. Characterizations, too, are somewhat uneven. Charley and his friends make unconvincing schoolboys, and it is hard to fathom the attraction of the "donnish" (Mrs. Bradshaw's word) Mr. Neville for the animated Marietta. Miss Sewell is at her best, as usual, with adolescent giris and with mature women, such as Aunt Bessie, "the one so-called stupid member of a clever family, but the one without whom it would seem that no one could get on comfortably" — the "simply religious" person whose sincerity is "read in every word and action" (Home Life, pp. 218-19)..
Some of the best strokes of characterization take the form of imagery and may or may not reflect the author's conscious intent. There is, for example, the locked door between two gardens — the Anstruthers' and the Randolphs' — which Ina contrives to open in order to communicate with Mariett Randolph and which Mrs. Anstruther promptiy locks up until that moment of distress when Ina, in a state of shock from Mr. Randolph's tragedy, must be brought home by the shortest route. Locking the door against the Bandolphs conveys so well the disdain of Mrs. Anstruther for the questionable Mrs. Randolph, who, apart from being an undutiful wife, seems guilty chiefly by association with Lady Chase, who in turn lives apart from her husband and entertains scandalous persons. One wonders whether Miss Sewell has any idea of how obnoxiously self-righteous Mrs. Anstruther sounds when, near the beginning of Home Life, she writes in her journal of Mrs. Randolph and her niece:
If she were only a few degrees worse than she is, I might cut her; but as things are, I can see that Mrs. Bradshaw hopes that in some way I shall be of use to her. And to complete my annoyance, a note from Marietta to Ina was sent in this afternoon, whilst we were reading history, begging for the loan of Tennyson's Poems. . . . I can say nothing against lending the book; if it were Byron, I might object . . . [Home Life, p. 88]
Despite her resistance, however, the fact remains that Mrs. Anstruther does become involved in trying to help Mrs. Randolph, even after learning thatshe gambles and takes drugs, and later she acknowledges that Marietta's influenc on Ina has been all to the good (After Life, I, 10). One wonders whether Miss Sewell might have in mind more than devotional feelings when she has Mrs. Anstruther write in a Christmas-day entry:
This is not a journal of what people call spiritual experiences; I could never keep that. It always seems to me that my best feelings are like the lovely figure of a young girl I once heard of, as having been discovered in a cave in Greece. It had been buried for centuries, and whilst it lay hidden, . . .it retained all its freshness and grace; but no sooner was it exposed to the outward air, and the curious gaze of man, than it crumbled to dust [Home Life, pp. 217-18]
Does the doctrine of reserve in expression of religious feeling carry over int reserve in expression of human affection for Anstruther-Sewell? Only in Mr Bradshaw can warmth, spontaneity, and affirmation of all of life as God's creation show itself plainly; and the reader senses that Miss Sewell, like Mrs. Anstruther, is not fully at ease with Mrs. Bradshaw. She "rubs the dust off the butterfly's wings so mercilessly" (After Life 11:54).
Despite the tension that one feels as thesis, Mrs. Anstruther merges with her antithesis, Mrs. Bradshaw, to form a synthesis, and the wisdom of the middle way hovers over these last novels of Miss Sewell a peaceful autumn mood. In the Journal entry for November 14, not quite halfway through Home Life, Mrs.'Anstruther, sets the tone for the entire work. Referring to Keble's November description in the Christian Year, she goes on to comment: "Autumn, strange to say, makes me feel younger than summer. There is no discordance or jar; nothing to make me wish that I could feel as I have felt, or be what I have been,' I am more contented: I have no striving after the unattainable" (Home Life, p. 168). Near die end of After Life, Mrs. Anstruther describes a late autumn day, with "its vaporous atmosphere and bluish mistiness, " on which a "particular impression" is made by "a straggling purple chrysanthemum, which had outlived its generation, and stood up flauntingly in front of a dark evergreen" (After Life 11:215-16). The evergreen is obviously a symbol of eternity. Does the chrysanthemum image translate into "I have lived long enough to see my ideas become outmoded and to acknowledge my inadequacy to accomplish my own goals; still I have my pride and will carry on till the last day of my life ?" One suspects so, though the ratio of pride to humility is variable. The flyleaf motto of After Life is, after all, "L'homme propose, mais Dieu dispose."
In the final pages of After Life. Elizabeth Sewell relates the concept of awaiting God's disposal of human affairs to the process of educating children. The method of letting go and letting grow which had come naturally to Mrs. Anstruther with Cecil, and painfully with Agnes, she is at last able to apply to Ina as well. In the conclusion to her journal, written seven years after Ina's marriage, Mrs. AAnstruther reflects on the maturity that marriage and motherhood have brought to Ina. In spite of a husband who is her intellectual inferior and an extremely difficult mother-in-law, Ina manages well and is relatively happy. Firmer religious principles, had her stepmother succeeded more fully in her educational purposes, might have enabled Ina to choose more wisely. Still the elder woman can find comfort in the patience with which Ina has borne her trials and the resulting improvemen in her character. This is essentially the logic of Calvin's Uses of Adversity which Mrs. Anstruther argues convincingly. She does not attempt to explain why Cecil, who was good already, had to die young, or why the spiritual Agnes had to suffer through the death of her young man, except to say that these are matters to be left in God's hands.
The appropriate conclusion to be drawn from the course of Ina's life is, then, for the narrator of Home and After Life and for the author herself "that education is a negative not a positive work — it is God who trains and teaches, and that our chief business is to remove obstacles (if one may be permitted so to speak) out of His way" (After Life II, 282). Does this view of education negate the "principles of education" which Home and After Life were written to illustrate ? Emphatically not, the author would say. Rather it is the ultimate principle of education on which all else rests: The educator simply cuts away obstacles to growth as the sculptor might cut away excess marble in order to form the perfect statue. For the educator, the material and the artist being human, the product will always bo less than perfect.
Last modified 18 March 2008