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d could he find to say to them ?' Except speaking at a wedding breakfast, which is indeed a similar kind of entertainment, I can imagine nothing harder. The greater the difficulty the greater the merit.
TO THE COUNTESS OF WEMYSS.
OXFORD, October 20, 1878. If, as you seem to think, it is probable that your illness will not get better, then we must make the most of what remains. It is a great thing in the later years of life to take a look round and see that everything which can be done for every member of a family has been done : children, servants, dependents, villagers. To accomplish this requires a great deal of feeling and understanding of character. There could be no better or more soothing way of managing a long illness (if you look forward to this) than completing every: thing, and setting everything right day by day.
I should not write to you in this way, if I did not know that you were quite capable of looking truth in the face. But on the other hand do not be too certain that your ‘illness' is not likely to get better. It is your duty for the sake of others to eke out life to the utmost, and to take all the means by change and climate and the like which can preserve and prolong it. The ways of disease are very strange, and there are few which do not yield to general improvement of health and perfect peace of mind.
Let me tell you something which has struck me greatly during the last fortnight, though not wholly applicable to yourself. A friend of mine had an illness similar in its general character to your own (I should explain that he is what is called a free-thinker, but also the best parish clergyman I have ever known, a man of the world, but wonderfully kind and disinterested). I saw him ten days since, and six weeks ago we thought him dying, but he is now fast recovering. He told me that in his illness he felt assured of his recovery ; that when he lay awake at night he used to hear the voice of God speaking to him and telling him that the sickness was not unto death, but for the improvement of life,' and
'that such and such things must be altered.' Some persons will think all this fanciful and superstitious, but I am inclined to believe that in strange ways great truths are taught us.
TO THE LADY ABERCROMBY.
OXFORD, October 22, 1878. Sir H. Rawlinson' talked about Afghanistan. His plans are (1) armed occupation of Candahar with railway to the Indus : about 4000 men needed. (2) Candahar to be the capital and Cabul decapitalized. (3) The Afghans to choose a new Ameer who is to govern with a British Resident. (4) Not to interfere in Herat, unless Russia tries to occupy it. Sir H. Rawlinson had got an acknowledged cylinder containing an account of the taking of Babylon by Cyrus. I like him and think him an able man. But I observe that he sings a very different note about the Old Testament from what he did twenty years ago.
Tell me of a new biography, or better, of an old one to read. . . . You will find Boswell on your return to London. I certainly have had greater pleasure out of that book than out of any other. I take it up anywhere and read it fifty times over. It is so full of wit and life and character. Besides, the much-abused eighteenth century has a singular attraction for me. They were such nice people, with a real society and strong characters, and they come so near to us.
We seem to be draggling in the mire, with all our ideas in a state of confusion, feeble and weak, confined to an age of Saturday and Whitehall Reviews, in which hardly anybody can talk across a table.
The French (not the Germans) seem to be beating us. There is a good deal of truth in the people who say that we are all becoming Atheists and Papists.
Excuse this grumble ; I could say something better of the age, and am quite aware and strongly affirm that we must take the world as it is and act upon it as we best may, yet I feel also a certain degree of dissatisfaction, especially with the
· Whom Jowett met at Woburn, October 13, 1878.
Church and with politics. The prospect is bad now and will be worse after the next election—the Liberals are losing their heads and becoming bitter and very un-English. They are getting into a position in which they can hardly avoid becoming violent Radicals. The only real question upon which they can unite is Disestablishment, and whosoever shall fall upon this rock 'shall be broken.' A disestablishment for increasing the power of the Church is what the English people never will stand, and this is what Gladstone desires. Besides, the strength of the Established Church is enormous and far greater than that of the Crown. If some one, bishop or statesman or peer, would undertake its reform, he might effect the greatest good ; but then it hates to be reformed, though it is willing enough to drift into the very opposite of its former self. Can a thing be true at one time and not at another, or in one country and not in another ? Questions to be asked ; and a person should keep his hold on religion as strong as ever while asking them.
Life is troublesome : I wish you well through all its trials.
December 24, 1878. I often think of the troubles which arise in family lifethree-fourths of them from misunderstandings of character. Parents love their children they would live or die for themthey desire their estates to be in perfect order at their decease; and yet they do not see what the tender plant wants, especially in childhood and youth. It is sensitive, and they do not enter into its feelings; it comes crying for sympathy, and they answer with a jest or good-natured laugh, and the child shrinks into itself and is crushed.' This is the history of many a sensitive creeper. But I do not think that the parents are to be blamed. They had no idea of what they were doing, and if they could ever be made to understand it their lives would be saddened. They are greatly to be pitied ; this is the sad condition of human things. Besides, it is never possible to estimate what was the child's own fault and what
was due to the defect or blindness of the parent; some weaker persons are always throwing back the blame on their fathers and mothers, tutors and the like.
Then again comes the other critical relation-of marriage. Two persons, of different families and antecedents, who have inherited different characters, expect to have a perfect harmony of thoughts and feelings--a sort of kingdom of heaven upon earth. But is this reasonable? At any rate, if it is possible at the end of married life it can rarely be so at the beginning. One is, perhaps, full of sympathy, ready to give it to all, and asking it of others; the other, though their feelings may be as deep, is incapable of expressing sympathy. Now if, instead of lamenting this, which cannot be helped (for changes of character cannot be effected in a day or in a year), persons would fully acknowledge it and simply try to meet the difficulty, life would be happier and better. They cannot change the characters of others, but they can adapt their own to them; they can fulfil the duties of life in a spirit which every one respects ; they can gather a circle of the very best friends around them, gathered from every class, and exercise the best kind of influence on society. A man or woman who sacrifices themselves for others may have a hard fight of it, but they cannot be unhappy ; and if their temperament is such that they need sympathy they should seek it, if I may use a religious expression, in divine love. Only let us be on our guard against yielding to feelings instead of striving in every word and thought to meet the difficulties which beset us ; and no one who sacrifices themselves for others should let this be found out.
I do not think that cynicism is a good thing—it destroys the seriousness of a family; and while it seems to place a man above the world, greatly weakens his hold upon it, and upon all knowledge. But it sometimes arises (such a strange thing is human nature) from a sensitiveness which has become numbed, and really is a sort of irony seeking to protect itself against the world. The late Lord Westbury, who was famous for his rasping tongue, had covered himself with sort of rind, and the part within was really too soft or unsound to be of any use. And I have a friend, reputed to be a 'cynic,'
who told me, 'I can truly say that the thought of my mother is never for an hour absent from my mind.' I was greatly touched by this.
Is it not possible to see through men and women everywhere, and yet only to use this knowledge for their good ? It is necessary for the safety of life that we should understand the characters of those among whom we are placed. But if we are only critical, or only capable of feeling pain at differences, then blind affection, 'which covers a multitude of sins,' is far better. It is useless to be intelligent if we see only the defects of others, and fail to recognize in others the good elements upon which we might work.
To R. B. D. MORIER, C.B.
January 22, 1879.
kind sympathy about poor Knight, which is a comfort to me, as far as the great kindness of a friend can be a comfort ; for this is a very heavy blow to me. I shall not find another like him, so free from selfishness and ambition and so devoted (with great abilities) to intellectual pursuits.
None of your letters please me so much as the egotistical ones, when they tell me of your own successful doings. Indeed these strokes of policy will appear much more considerable twenty years hence, when the consequences of them are developed, than at present. And in a year or two, perhaps, at Paris or Constantinople, or, when Bismarck is off the scene, at Berlin, you will have the opportunity of work in a larger sphere. I suppose that you think about everything that goes on.
OXFORD, April 22, 1879 I am so bad a correspondent that I hardly expect others to write to me. For letter-writing unlimited leisure is required, and this I never have. But I am very pleased to get letters, though I only repay them by calls, which seems