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probation with regard to a future life. As youth is an education for mature age, so may the whole of our earthly life be an education for a future existence.
• And if we were not able at all to discern how or in what way the present life could be our preparation for another, this would be no objection against the credibility of its being so. For we do not discern how food and sleep contribute to the growth of the body; nor could have any thought that they would before we had experience. Nor do children at all think on the one hand that the sports and exercises, to which they are so much addicted, contribute to their health and growth; nor, on the other, of the necessity which there is for their being restrained in them; nor are they capable of understanding the use of many parts of discipline, which, nevertheless, they must be made to go through in order to qualify them for the business of mature age. Were we not able, then, to discover in what respects the present life could form us for a future one, yet nothing would be more supposable than that it might, in some respects or other, from the general analogy of Providence. And this, for aught I see, might reasonably be said, even though we should not take in the consideration of God's moral government over the world. But, take in this consideration, and consequently, that the character of virtue and piety is a necessary qualification for the future state, and then we may distinctly see how and in what respects the present life may be a preparation for it.'
Butler's style is uniform throughout, and if it have no other merit, may be praised for honesty. It is wholly free from the artifices of the rhetorician; if it is wanting in charm, it is never weak; if it is sometimes obscure, it must be remembered that the author does not write for readers who find it a trouble to think. The bishop's obscurity was not due to negligence. Confusion and perplexity in writing,' he says, “is indeed without excuse; because anyone may, if he pleases, know whether he understands and sees
through what he is about; and it is unpardonable for a man to lay his thoughts before others when he is conscious that he himself does not know whereabouts he is, or how the matter before him stands. It is coming abroad in disorder, which he ought to be dissatisfied to find himself in at home.'
Butler weighed his thoughts rather than his words in an age when many distinguished writers were tempted to regard form as of more consequence than substance. It must be admitted, however, that if the ideal of fine literature be the expression of beautiful and richly suggestive thoughts in a style elevated by the imagination, and by a sense of rhythmical harmony, Bishop Butler's place is not among men of letters. His profound sense of the seriousness of life limited his range; but as a thinker, what he lost in versatility he probably gained in depth. The Analogy is a striking instance of a great work wholly without imagination, while full of the intellectual life which sustains the student's attention. There is not a dull page in the book, or one in which the author's meaning cannot be grasped by thoughtful readers. The work is full of weighty sayings on the power of conscience, the rule of right which a man has within him, the force of habit, the necessity of action in relation to belief, and the uselessness of passive impressions. It has been said that the defect of the eighteenth century theology 'was not in having too much good sense, but in having nothing besides,' and the straining after good sense, so prominent in Pope's age, affected alike, men of letters, philosophers, and theologians. The virtue was carried to excess and is conspicuous in Butler. He has his weaknesses both as a philosopher and a theologian, but the reader of the Analogy and of the three sermons on Human Nature, will be conscious that he is in the presence of a
William Warburton, Pope's commentator, was born at Newark-upon-Trent in 1698, and died
, William Warburton
as Bishop of Gloucester in 1779. The (1698-1779).
main argument of his principal work, The Divine Legation of Moses (1738-41), is based upon the astounding paradox that the legation of Moses must have been divine because he never invoked the promises or threatenings of a future state. The book is remarkable for its arrogance and lack of sweet reasonableness. It claims no attention from the student of English literature, neither would Warburton himself were it not for his association with Pope. Allusion has been already made to Crousaz's hostile criticism of the Essay on Man (1737) on the ground that it led to fatalism, and was destructive of the foundations of natural religion. Warburton, who had previously denounced the rank atheism' of the poem, now endeavoured to defend it, and how effectually he did so in Pope's judgment is seen in his grateful acknowledgment of the critic's labours. I know I meant just what you explain,' he wrote, “but I did not explain my own meaning as well as you. You understand me as well as I do myself, but you express me better than I could express myself.'
Dr. Conyers Middleton's estimate of what Warburton had done for Pope is more accurate: “You have evinced the orthodoxy of Mr. Pope's principles,' he says, 'but, like the old commentators on his Homer, will be thought, perhaps, in some places to have provided a meaning for him that he himself never dreamt of.'1
The poet and Warburton met for the first time in 1740, and the bookseller, Dodsley, who was present at the interview, was astonished at the compliments which Pope
I Middleton's Miscellaneous Works, vol. i., p. 402.
lavished on his apologist. Henceforth, until the poet's death, Warburton, who, according to Bishop Hurd, found an image of himself in his new acquaintance,' became his counsellor and supporter, and among other achievements added, as Ricardus Aristarchus, to the confusion of the Dunciad. Ultimately, as Pope's annotator, he produced much laborious and comparatively worthless criticism, and contrived by his immense fighting qualities as a critic and polemic to make a considerable noise in the world. One incident in the friendship of the poet and of the divine is worth recording. In 1741 Pope and Warburton were at Oxford together, and while there the Vice-Chancellor offered to confer on the poet the degree of D.C.L., and on Warburton that of D.D. Some hesitation, however, on the part of the university having occurred with regard to the latter, Pope wrote to his friend saying, “As for mine I will die before I receive one, in an art I am ignorant of, at a place where there remains any scruple of bestowing one on you, in a science of which you are so great a master. In short I will be doctored with you, or not at all.'
Warburton's stupendous self-assertion concealed to some extent his heavy style and poverty of thought. His aim was to startle by paradoxes, since he could not convince by argument. No one could call an opponent names in the Billingsgate style more effectively, and every man who ventured to differ from him was either a knave or a fool. • Warburton's stock argument,' it has been said, 'is a threat to cudgel anyone who disputes his opinion.' He was a laborious student, and the mass of work he accomplished exhibits his robust energy, but he has left nothing which lives in literature or in theology. He was,
, however, a man of various acquisitions, and won, for that reason, the praise of Dr. Johnson. The table is always full, sir. He brings things from the north and the south
and from every quarter. In his Divine Legation you are always entertained. He carries you round and round without carrying you forward to the point, but then you have no wish to be carried forward.'
Bentley's more concise description of Warburton's attainments deserves to be recorded. He was, he says, 'a man of monstrous appetite, but bad digestion.'
Warburton's Shakespeare appeared in 1747, his Pope in 1751. It cannot be said that either poet has cause to be grateful to his commentator. Of his Shakespeare a few words may be appropriately said here. In this pretentious and untrustworthy edition, Warburton accuses Theobald of plagiarism, treats him with contempt, and then uses his text to print from. In his Preface he declares that his own Notes “take in the whole compass of Criticism,' and he professes to restore the poet's genuine Text. Yet, as the editors of the Cambridge Shakespeare observe, there is no trace, so far as they have discovered, of his having collated for himself either the earlier Folios or any of the Quartos.' Warburton professed to observe the severe canons of literal criticism, and this suggested the title to Thomas Edwards of a volume in which the critic's editorial pretensions are attacked with some humour and much justice. We may
add that Bishop Hurd, Warburton's most intimate friend, edited his works in seven volumes (1788), and six years later, by way of preface to a new edition, published an Account of the Life, Writings, and Character of the Author.
1 The first edition of Edwards’s work was entitled Supplement to Mr. Warburton's edition of Shakespeare, 1747. The third edition (1750) was called The Canons of Criticism and Glossary by Thomas Edwards. Of this volume seven editions were published. Edwards, who was born in 1699, died in 1757.