« PreviousContinue »
In “ Westward Ho !” his last novel, Mr. Kingsley has become right English once again, to celebrate, in his wholehearted, thorough-going, stick-at-nothing fashion, the glorious days of “good Queen Bess.” Here, with his usual ethical aim, he has combined a historico-ethical one. In the character of Amyas Leigh-whose name is historical, as one of the five Devon men who sailed round the world with Drake—he has addressed himself to the presentation of a manly ideal, “ one not even knowing whether he is good or not, but just doing the right thing, without thinking about it, as simply as a little child, because the Spirit of God is with him," in contrast with the Jesuit, Eustace Leigh, “trying to be good with all his might and main, according to certain approved methods and rules which he has got by heart; and, like a weak oarsman, feeling and fingering his spiritual muscles over all day to see if they are growing.
He has further had the design of doing honour to the reign of Elizabeth, as the time in which, under her liberal encouragement of all capacity in men, our world-wide commerce took its real spring, strengthening England for that last great world-duel with Spain, which, for Mr. Kingsley, is the grapple of light and darkness, of religious freedom and the Inquisition, of political freedom and tyranny. The book is further a glorification of North Devon-her beautiful combes, her bright rivers, her ripe and rosy maidens, her stout mariners and great sea-captains, of Plymouth, and Bideford, and Clovelly. For North Devon in Elizabethan days was not only a mother of commerce, but, as was ever the case then, a nursery of great naval commanders by the operation of the same causes.
Mr. Kingsley has “read up" the time right carefully, and has studied Hakluyt to purpose, with the other records, English and Spanish, of the marvellous achievements of the adventurers on the Spanish main, the fame and profit whereof made the cry of “ Westward ho!” the motto of English enterprise and energy in the sixteenth century. Nor has he less had in view the inculcation of a bitter hatred and contempt for Jesuitism, as the deadly enemy of manhood, truth and liberty, civil and religious. It cannot be denied that Mr. Kingsley shows himself “a good hater.” But though he may find warrant enough, in the authentic history of the time--for everything he advances to justify the tone he takes on this subject, which we do not doubt-it seems to us that, considering rules of art merely, he would have given more force to the dark parts of his pictures, had he relieved them with more light than is diffused from the solitary figure of the amiable Fray Gerundio.
The same tendency to monotone in colouring which has led him to paint his Jesuits all black, has been at work in determining the hues in which he clothes his English worthies. We cannot consent to believe, with Mr. Kingsley, that there was no good thing in the Jesuits, any more than we can forget the barbarities and brutalities of the English filibusterers of the Spanish main. The former were surely not all fiends, nor the latter all angels; especially when we remember the part taken by England—in the person too of one of Mr. Kingsley's own worthies, John Hawkins—in the establishment of the slavetrade. Contenting ourselves, for the present, with this protest against Mr. Kingsley's passionate way of distributing his black and white, we pass to the pleasanter duty of characterizing the great power and life that run riot in the pages of “Westward Ho!”
The length to which this article has already run prevents our giving even an outline of the story, which carries its hero from his quiet Devonshire home-after landing him from his voyage round the world under Drake-to Ireland, to fight the Spanish invaders entrenched in Smerwick-fort--back to Jesuithunting and love-passages in Devon-out in the Golden Hind to Newfoundland, on Humphrey Gilbert's ill-starred search for a north-west passage, a quest fatal to so many noble hearts-back to the home of the Bideford merchant, desolate by the flight of his daughter, the “Rose of Torridge,” with the smoothtongued Spanish prisoner, Don Guzman Maria Magdalena Sotomayor de Soto-forth again on his quest of revenge and the golden city, to the Caribbean Seas and the shores of the Spanish main—through his three years' wanderings with his gallant handful of Devonians among the tropic forests and along the mighty waters of the Orinoco and the Amazon to Cartagena, and the capture of the great Spanish goldgalleon-and then home to happy Devon once more, there to prepare for the last act, the battle with the great Armada, and the retribution which crowns he whole. ere is a canvas worthy of such a painter as Mr. Kingsley, and boldly and blithesomely he sweeps the colour about it, revelling with almost equal mastery, now in the limning of a delicious western combe, with its grey walls, and wooded stream dancing down to the blue sea; anon in the rich hues of a tropic island shore, or the mighty trees and gorgeous flowers, and birds and creeping things of the South American forest. And there are personages to his hand worthy to people such landscapes in the stout, loving, unconsciously-heroic Amyas,-ever seeing but the thing to be done, and doing it with no question; his brother Frank, the delicate and courtly euphuist, the friend of Spenser and of Sydney; and Eustace, the cowardly and crooked pupil of Jesuit teachers; and the Jesuits themselves ; and gentle Mrs. Leigh, a Christian matron and mother; and the Rose of Torridge, fair Mistress Salterne, and honest Will Cary, and poor fat little Jack Brindlecombe, and the subtle Spaniard Don Guzman, and Salvation Yeo, the storm-beaten old sailor and Anabaptist smiter, and the savage maiden, Ayacanora. And, these principal personages enumerated, we might inake up as long a list of secondary but still notable portraits, as of stout Sir Richard Grenfell of Stow, and Raleigh and Spenser-both somewhat tedious, to our thinking-and the old sea-dogs of Devon, Drake and Hawkins and Fenner, and a score besides, for whom let our readers go to the book itself, to which we send them, with an undertaking that, once taken up, it will not be laid down again till the last ship of the Armada has sunk under the waters beneath the English cannon and God's artillery together.
As a glorification of Elizabeth and her England—a holding up of unconscious rectitude and manly hardihood as the jewels of English character, a picture of the great struggle, in the old world and the new, of England and Protestantism against Spain and the Inquisition—“Westward-Ho" is a book which had yet to be written, and has been written in a worthy spirit by Mr. Kingsley. As we have said, he may have distributed his light and shade too much in masses, but this does not prevent him, like a true artist as he is, from employing great delicacy of workmanship in the details of every part, whether of his landscape or his figures.
We have already exceeded our limits, and instead of baiting our review with extracts, we will simply refer our readers to the story, for a justification of all we have said in its praise.
And here we must leave Mr. Kingsley for the present, with gratitude to him for what he has done, with eager looking forward to what he has yet to do. In many respects we look on his novels as of more interest than any contemporary works of the same class, but above all in that they are the work of a firm believer in Christian revelation, and a clergyman not so blinded by his calling as to be mistaken about the great want of the noblest young minds at this time—we mean, a standing point from which they may attain to the conviction of God's just dealings with man. That such a standing point is needed among all classes, we feel assured from all we see and hear and read. The want of it is felt alike among the young men of our upper classes at the universities; among the youth of the trading class, in their counting-houses, their shops, and clubs; among the artizans in their work places and their homes. It is to the honour of the Church of England, that in
Dr. Arnold, Mr. Maurice, Mr. Kingsley, and others of their school, she has found clergymen to point the way, by following which, if by any road whatever, that standing point may be attained, through their teaching, namely, that here, in this world, round about us, in our daily life at home, in our dealings with each other out of doors, is to be found the kingdom of God; and that the true function of the preacher, the teacher, and the worker, is to reveal the law of this kingdom, and bring all into citizenship thereof.
It remains to be seen how the Church of England will view this teaching and its prophets. She looked unkindly on Arnold ; she has deprived Mr. Maurice of his professorship at her pet college; she listens, puzzled and uneasy, to the trumpet blasts of Kingsley; and views with alarm, but, as yet, without venturing a formal protest, the efforts of these teachers and others like them among the working men of our towns, who have hitherto refused altogether to listen to her teaching. All her antecedents lead us to fear that she will end by rejecting these, her most devoted and far most useful sons, from her pale, as she did John Wesley.
Meanwhile, whatever comes of them, their work is prospering and will prosper, to the binding up of many bleeding hearts, the establishing of many unstable faiths, the winning back to the Christian fold of many who, dissatisfied with unbelief, are yet too strong to be put to sleep by the opium of Tractarianism, and too manly to be satisfied with the womanish hysterics of one Evangelical school, or the Manichean self-seeking of another.
ART. VI.-ROMANISM, PROTESTANTISM, AND
1. National Unthankfulness : its Fruits and Punishment.
A Sermon preached in the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, Wells, on Sunday, November 5, 1854. By George Anthony Denison, M.A., Archdeacon of Taunton. Masters,
Bond-street. 2. The Eighth of December 1854. Some Account of the Defi
nition of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Mother of God ; with the Dogmatic Bull of His Holiness, and a Preface by a Priest of the Diocese of Westminster.
T. Jones, Paternoster-row, London. 1855. 3. Rome : the New Dogma and Our Duties. A Sermon
preached before the University of Oxford on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1855. By
the Lord Bishop of Oxford. J. H. Parker, London. 4. Archdeacon Hare's Last Charge. J. W. Parker, London. 5. Vindication of Luther. By Archdeacon Hare. Second
Edition. J. W. Parker. 1855. 6. Letters of John Calvin. Compiled from the original MSS.,
and Edited, with Notes, by Dr. Jules Bonnet. Hamilton,
Adams, and Co. 1855. 7. Theological Essays. By Rev. F. D. Maurice, M.A., Chaplain
of Lincoln's Inn. Second Edition. 1854. Macmillan. 8. Examination of Mr. Maurice's Theological Essays. By R. S.
Candlish, D.D. Nisbet and Co. 1854. 9. Sermons by the late Rev. Frederick W. Robertson, M.A., of
Trinity Chapel, Brighton. Smith, Elder, and Co., London. 1855. THILE the English guards were keeping the Russian hosts
at bay on the terrible day of Inkermann, Archdeacon Denison was calling on the nation to humiliate itself for the gross unthankfulness it has displayed in the matter of its deliverance from the Roman Catholic conspiracy of two hundred and fifty years ago. Our readers will not easily guess the grounds of this charge. The Archdeacon might well in future years reproach us for unthankfulness, if, after this great deliverance from the Russian power, we do not vigilantly secure ourselves against Russian despotism. He might well reproach us if, after such an escape from tyrannical ambition, we should ourselves stretch forth the tyrant's