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and the childish confidence and unsuspiciousness of the reader are turned to account in a manner which exhibits, clearly enongh to those who have eyes to see beneath the surface, the subtlety and ingenuity of the writer. Of this class of books the best are perhaps, the “ Stories for Youth and Childhood,” extracted from the" Magazine for the Young;” and “ Langley School,” by writers of the same stamp, if not the same writers—in both of which there are some very clever and truthful illustrations of village life. In another walk of literature especial mention may be made of the “Child's Book of Ballads,” by the Author of « Hymns and Scenes of Childhood," which contains some very graceful and touching poetry, but with vastly too much in it about baptismal regeneration and the ministration of angels. Nor is it only in the realms of poetry and romance that these writers have displayed their activity. They have insinuated their peculiar doctrines into the pages of sober history, and written very pretty class-books for young people in which the blessed reformers of our religion are very scurvily treated, and “ Charles the Martyr ” canonized as a saint. The worst of it is that all these books are so cleverly written, and in all but the one point, answer so nearly the conditions required in works intended for the instruction of the yonng, that heads of families who have often time to do little more than glance at the books which they purchase for their children and dependents, are likely to fall into the trap that is laid for them, and to carry home the poison in their pockets. For our own part we can but greatly deplore the misdirection of so much good talent. “The pity of it, oh, Iago! the pity of it!”
But we have only now to speak of those works which treat especially of the condition of our rural population, or are intended especially for the perusal of the poor. From many of the tales to which we have alluded, there is, we repeat, to be derived a very clear impression of some aspects of village life. Apart, however, from their Tractarian tendencies, there is a manifest defect in the majority of them. The man has painted the picture, and he has painted the lion undermost. The failings of the poor are illustrated very truthfully and minutely, and their duties to one another, and to their richer neighbours, are set forth with sufficient distinctness. But the general inference to be drawn from them is, that the rich are continually doing their duty, and that the poor are continually failing in theirs. Now, it appears to us, that if the rich would only do their duty with a little more conscientiousness, they would not have to tell so many stories of the miserable errors of the poor.
There are two kinds of books which may be written for the benefit of the poor ; those which teach the poor their own duties, and those which teach the rich their duties towards them. It were not unworthy of the highest order of intelligence to write either the one or the other. If the two objects can be attained at the same time, so much the better. Hitherto the two subjects have been treated distinctly, and by very much the same class of writers. The Tractarian writers have been almost as busy in one direction as the other. They write very cleverly -and very craftily—on these subjects; and diffuse the welldisguised poison among all classes of their unsuspecting brethren. The authoress of Amy Herbert is, perhaps, the most remarkable of these writers. But we know no book of the kind more to be grieved over than Brampton Rectory; it is so almost good. It is the ordinary course of procedure with these writers to bring into a neglected parish, an earnest, energetic minister of the Tractarian school, intent on doing a great deal of good, in his own way; and, doubtless, doing some good in a way to which no reasonable Christian can object. He is active, which is good-he is clever, which is good-he is earnest, which is good-he is kindly, which is good-he is charitable, which is good-and in all these things he necessarily carries with him the sympathies of the reader. He interests himself deeply in the affairs of the parish—he makes the personal acquaintance of the parishioners-he improves the village schoolshe does many things which, as a Christian minister, it unquestionably behoves him to do; but, then, it appears in time, that he is a Christian minister of the new school, which places the Church before the Gospel, and believes in the efficacy of ceremonial signs. He has not been long in the parish before he bethinks himself of “restoring" the old church, and pulling down the old pews. He has great faith in certain forms of brick and mortar, and shapes of carved wood. Then he introduces new modes of church music. He sweeps the old village orchestra clean out of the gallery, and he gets together the most promising boys and girls of the village to teach them to chant the church service, and bungle through a so-called “anthem." He institutes a daily service at the expense of familyworship. Then he talks a great deal about the baptismal sign, and the "holy little children” that are made by the sprinkling of water -about the reverence due to the Church, and the great lessons taught in the Prayer-Book; but about the great fundamental truths of vital Christianity we find little in these books. The faith which is spoken of is faith in signs, and forms, and ceremonies, not faith in the atonement itself.
It would seem to be the object of the author of the “ Tale of the Four Sermons" to do that for evangelical Protestantism which others have done for the religion which borders more nearly upon the Church of Rome. Mr. Sullivan Earle has given, in imitation of the Tractarian writers, a sketch of a mo
“ Gilbert Arnold” and “ Companions of my Solitude."
del clergyman, with all the earnestness and activity of the pet parsons of the other school, but with no peculiar attachment to any set forms of truth and justice, or any especial faith in the efficacy of signs and ceremonies. Prayer to God—not through the intervention of the Church, but ascending from the heart of man right to the mercy-seat of God, and faith in the redeeming power of the blood of the Lamb—not in the baptismal cross and the eucharistic emblems—are the means by which, in this story, all things are accomplished. But it is not in this aspect that we desire to regard the “ Four Sermons,” but simply as a story of village life-one in which many important matters affecting the welfare of our rural communities are glanced at, or perhaps illustrated in the course of the narrative. It is plainly the work of one who has seen much of what he describes, and seems to have a three-fold object; for it illustrates, in the history of a prodigal son, who brings the gray hairs of his sainted father in sorrow to the grave, but tries to wash his own garments white in the blood of the Lamb, the efficacy of prayer, " the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man ;" it illustrates also, the efficacy of earnest preaching--of a warm, loving, gospel ministry, preaching forgiveness of sins; and it sets forth the duties of the rich towards the poor, and shows how much may be done by kindly intercourse between them, to raise the social and religious character of our English villages. The other volume which we have taken as our second text-book, is very different in external design from the first; but is written with kindred feeling. The two writers have obviously much in common with each other. They are working towards the same common end. In the colloquial essays, which are the vehicles of the opinions of the thoughtful author of Companions of my Solitude, there is much which might be placed side by side with the descriptive sketches of the Easter story.* But it is only so far as they relate to the aspects of village life in England, and especially to the relations subsisting between the rich and the poor, that we have anything to do either with the one work or the other.
The crying want of the times, is a want of frequent communication between the rich and the poor. Every rich man--we mean by these words, every man or woman of rank and education superior to those of the so-called “labouring classes"—may do an infinite deal of good by keeping up a kindly intercourse with his poorer neighbours. Women have, in this matter, greater facilities than men. They have, ordinarily, more time at their disposal ; and they can visit where men can not. Indeed, during the greater part of the day-perhaps, the whole of that portion of the day which is ordinarily at the disposal of our gentry for such purposes, the working man is away from his home. His wife and children are always to be found. The facilities of intercourse between rich and poor women are, therefore, tenfold greater than between rich and poor men. The working men are often little better than myths, when their wives and children are familiar realities. You may, indeed, be intimately acquainted with all the members of a village family, down to the very baby, before you know the father even by sight. Our main reliance, therefore, as the actual channel of communication, must be upon our English ladies. But, although theirs is the band that yields the seasonable assistance, and the tongue that utters the timely word of sympathy and consolation, it is the man whose duty it is to supply the one and to prompt the other; and whose earnestness or lukewarmness in the good cause, generally--not always, perhaps-regulates the amount of activity apparent in the well-doing of his wife or daughter.
* The peculiar application of the story to Easter is, that it is an illustration in the career of Gilbert Arnold, of " a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness."
Nor is it much to be regretted, that the direct intercourse should be mainly between the gentler members of the two classes. There is less reserve between women; and women are infinitely more docile. We might, indeed, be almost content to leave our working men to themselves-and, indeed, they are very much left to themselves—if we could only bring the women into frequent communication with the gentlewomen of our rural districts. There is nothing more demoralizing than a slovenly home. Domestic discomfort, after a day's work, sends a man to the bright fire and clean sanded floor of the village ale-house. It is of little use to rail at him, and say that he is a bad father and a brutal husband. We do the same thing ourselves-only in a finer way, and with less excuse for it. Domestic discomfort of a far less vexatious and intolerable character, drives gentlemen to their gorgeous club-houses, and induces them to accept bachelor invitations, which, if home were sufficiently attractive to retain them, would be impatiently rejected. We cannot expect a man, who has been toiling from early morning, not to look for some comfort and pleasure when the day's work is done. If he cannot find it at home, he will go abroad in search of it; so his money is wasted, his character is demoralized. His wife is neglected -his children are starved. Everything goes wrong. The evil perpetuates itself. The house becomes more untidy; the wife more querulous; the children more troublesome. The man and all his family are ruined; when a little more thought, and very little more labour, on the part of the wife, might have saved them all from destruction, by securing them a comfortable home.
This has been said very often before; but it is one of those
commonplaces which cannot be too often repeated, if it were only to indicate the incalculable benefit resulting from frequent intercourse between the rich and the poor. If the gentlewomen of our rural districts were in the frequent habit of visiting the village homes of the working classes, there would be fewer untidy cottages, and fewer disorderly families—there would be altogether more domestic cleanliness and regularity, and, therefore, more domestic happiness. It will not often happen, that the lady-visitor will be compelled to say much on the subject. In most cases the visit often repeated, will have all the desired effect. The cottage will be more cleanly; the children will be more tidy and better disciplined ; everything will be inore in its proper place. There is an instinctive desire in the breasts of the humbler classes, to keep up a decent appearance in the eyes of their richer neighbours. They begin, perhaps, by endeavouring to appear more cleanly and orderly than they really are, by preparing for the lady's visit, and after her departure suffering things to reassume their old aspect of untidiness and dirt. What they do, is done more from respect to their visitor, than from respect to themselves. But if these visits are frequently paid at no regularly recurring intervals, and at all hours of the day, there can be no pretence of cleanliness; spasmodic bursts of tidiness and regularity will not avail. The practice must become habitual ; and the habit once formed, that which was irksome soon becomes a pleasure, and what was done in the first instance from respect to others, will soon be done from self-respect. The sympathy of the rich makes the poor think better of themselves. People who feel that they are not cared for by others, soon become careless of themselves.
Great things, indeed, are these which our gentlewomen may do. Their visits to the cottages of the poor can rarely be unattended with good results, even if there be nothing but a brief conversation on ordinary topics. But, if a more active interest be taken by the visitor in what she sees, and what she hears--if she endeavour to aid, as well as to encourage, the orderly projects of the housewife--to help her, as the rich may always help the poor at small cost to themselves, to make her home more comfortable, of course the good results are proportionately great. Now, food and clothing are, doubtless, very important matters. The body must be protected against cold and hunger. But these are not the only evils of life; and there are other things besides food and clothing, which from our over-abundant stores, we may sometimes bestow upon the poor. But we seldom think of giving them anything but these bare necessaries of life, and there are many who would reproach their neighbours for “ putting ideas into the heads” of the poor, (as though any head could have