MISS YONGE began in the seventies to write the series of histories for children known as Aunt Charlotte's Stories. There are volumes on Scripture, English, French, German, Roman, and Greek history.
There are such numberless books of elementary history nowadays that it is probable these are out-of-date. Yet they are exceedingly good in plan, and the ones on English history and Scripture history do really lay foundations for more advanced books. The one on German history is perhaps the least successful. Miss Yonge also wrote the charming Evenings at Home, on the plan of the old favourite of bygone years.
Her industry was extraordinary. Mr. A. J. Butler speaks somewhere of the incredible diligence of the Middle Ages, but Miss Yonge's powers of work seem to us as wonderful as any medieval scholar's. She had a knack of writing three books at a time, a page of one and then a page of another, and then a third, while the first two dried, which is awe-inspiring even to read about; and her interest in all her work was unbounded and ever fresh.
In the seventies Miss Yonge wrote several short stories--Ps and Q's, for instance, which is a delightful account of a younger sister who decides she is 'put upon' by her excellent elder sisters. There is in this book one of the pleasantest of Miss Yonge's schoolboys. She also tried her hand on a bit of melodrama--Lady Hester--which is very readable, but highly improbable; and strange as it is that such a word should be applicable to anything Miss Yonge wrote, it is somewhat disagreeable--not, however, from any love-story. My Young Alcides is, on the other hand, to our thinking, as improbable as Lady Hester, but as charming as Lady Hester is unpleasant.
She also edited translations from French memoirs.
Now we must speak of more directly religious work. Five little books of questions on the Collects, Epistles, Gospels, Psalms, and Prayer Book, were written by her for her own Otterbourne children, and, where the Catechism has not replaced the Sunday-school, these books might be, and perhaps are, still useful to people who wish to follow the Church's guidance and teach their children the lessons of Collect and Gospel, of the Prayer Book and Psalter. There are no answers, and they are meant to aid the teacher in questioning a class of orderly children who have read their Gospel or Epistle, or learned their Collect, and who have Bibles in their hands to which to refer. And, by the way, would it not be possible for us, who so passionately cry out for religious teaching, to organize classes alike in country and town on some weekdays, and once again get into individual touch with Church children? With the Catechism on Sunday and some individual teaching in the week, a great deal may be done, and it is a great pity not to read the Bible with children and young people. The old-fashioned Bible-class has been dropped far too much by some who are very zealous for distinctive Church teaching, and it is sad that so many children are allowed to drop out of the Catechism or the Sunday-school, and are not carried on to really good definite Bible and Church history instruction in classes which are classes, not merely instructions, sometimes very feeble instructions, by a clergyman. Miss Yonge in her own day laid her children's foundations deep and strong.
As one turns over the Questions on the Gospels, one sees how thoroughly taught the children would be who had read the Gospel and had been questioned on it in the way she laid down. These little books would be quite useful to mothers who teach their own children.
Scripture Readings for Schools and Families, with Comments, began to appear in 1871.
They are selections from the Bible itself, and are intended to serve as readings for children from seven to fourteen years of age.
'Actual need,' she writes, 'has led me ... to endeavour to prepare a reading-book, convenient for study with children, containing the very words of the Bible, with only a few expedient omissions, and arranged in Lessons of such length as by experience I have found to suit with children's powers of accurate attentive interest. . . .'
The Scripture portion, with a very few notes explanatory of mere words, is bound up apart, to be used by children; while the same is also supplied with a brief comment, the purpose of which is either to assist the teacher in explaining the lesson, or to be used by more advanced young people.
The Readings are quite unique; there is as yet no other book at all on the same plan, and the knowledge and reverence shown in the comments are exactly what would be expected from the writer.
But it is to be feared five thick volumes are alarming to the ordinary parent, and yet anyone who began on the Old Testament side by side with Gospel Times, which leads on to Apostolic Times, would find it not at all impossible to work through Old and New Testament alike in three or four years' steady reading.
The space between the Old and New Testaments was not left unbridged by Miss Yonge, and her readers are guided through the finer portions of the Deutero-Canonical books, and are not left in ignorance of Judas Maccabeus and of the heroic mother of the seven sons.
Of course, the chief defect of these volumes is that all modern criticism is absolutely ignored; but for all that they contain a wonderful amount of information, and the plan of the books is excellent--so excellent that Professor Huxley praised it as an example of how the Bible should be read in schools. Perhaps the comments on the Gospel story are a little long and a little dull, but we are sure that they would help many a mother or governess who wishes to read the life of Christ with her pupils. The Old Testament comments are often spirited and illuminating, if we remember the standpoint from which they are written.
There is always in her comments a deep sense of the moral truth underlying all the history, and of the real value, purpose, and meaning of the Old Testament.
A later book was published in 1888, Conversations on the Prayer Book; it came out first in the Monthly Packet, and is a perfect mine of information. The book is in the form of conversations, and conversations seem to be a little out of favour nowadays.
Nevertheless, Miss Yonge's book might be read with much advantage by people just before or after their Confirmation. For quotation, the conversation on the subject of Confession which occurs in the chapter on 'The Visitation of the Sick' is an excellent example of Miss Yonge's teaching.
Earlier than this is the volume of Beginnings of Church History, and it is most useful as a summary of the Acts. But no one could, we think, read it through consecutively. It is very long. The best way of using it is to have it as a reference, and read chapters from it from time to time in illustration of history. The chapters on Charles the Great, for instance, would be excellent to read on Sunday, when the weekday history lessons had touched on that monarch, and so on.
Mothers who try to teach schoolboys a little European history in the holidays will find in it, as in all Miss Yonge's books, an extraordinary amount of information, and a sense of God's purpose working in the Church of God; of the real, deep, underlying unity of the Church; of the truth that the history of the Church in the most modern days is a continuation of the story which was begun on the Day of Pentecost, and will end when 'He comes to judge the quick and the dead.'
Musings on the 'Christian Year,' bound up with Gleanings of Recollections of the Rev. John Keble, appeared in 1871. We have already spoken of and quoted from the Recollections of Keble. They and the Musings came out in the Packet. The Musings, or Meditations, on the 'Christian Year' are beautiful. When we remember that the writer sat so long at Keble's feet and drank in all that he could teach her, we feel no one could be a more fitting interpreter. Alas! so few of us find time on Sundays to read even our Christian Year, much less to glance at the comment. But surely every now and then the Musings might accompany our reading, for they bring us into the atmosphere of the Christian Year, so calm and bracing and sobering.
For a specimen we will give part of the comment on the beautiful poem for Easter Eve in the Christian Year. Miss Yonge writes:
'In a verse of extraordinary beauty we are thus exhorted:
"When tears are spent, and thou art left alone
With ghosts of blessings gone,
Think thou art taken from the cross, and laid
In Jesus' burial shade;
Take Moses' rod, the rod of prayer, and call
Out of the rocky wall
The fount of holy blood; and lift on high
Thy grovelling soul that feels so desolate and dry."
'For thou art in this rocky wilderness of a world a prisoner of hope, who should turn and look to the stronghold of Zion above, singing in hope of the promise of the future. Joseph, his father's darling, lay imprisoned in the pit, not knowing how he should be saved, but sure that God would save him; and so "a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." For this is what it is to be "buried with Christ in baptism by His death," to be dead with Him to the world, and our life hidden with Him.'
In 1877 appeared Womankind, with which many of us had made acquaintance in the Monthly Packet. This is a volume of essays on the life of women who belong to the leisured classes, and abounds in practical good sense and deep religious feeling. A good deal of it is quaint and decidedly old-fashioned. The chapter, perhaps, which most excited ungodly mirth in one's mind is the one on dress; yet how full of good sense the book is! Perhaps we who were just growing up in the seventies, and were adorers of Miss Yonge, found it easier to take these admonitions as they were showered upon us each month than if we had had them given to us in a book of decidedly dull appearance, and certainly some of us thankfully acknowledge that we were and are the better for Womankind.
How good much of it is now! The protest against mothers who contrive that all their grown-up daughters' time should be frittered away in writing invitations and arranging flowers; the words on culture, on how to see sights, and, to pass to a perfectly different subject, on 'spiritual direction'--how excellent they all are! To this day one is thankful to have read in one's youth:
'Of all hateful kinds of gossip, one of the most shocking is that about the different ways of confessors. It is not only irreverent, but a dishonourable breach of sacred confidence. The priest is bound to absolute secrecy with regard to his penitent; the penitent is just as much so with regard to any peculiarities of his. Besides, where can the real penitence be, if there is levity enough to make such observations?
'Again, we know how the poor plead that they do not see that such and such a person is the better for going to church or being a communicant, and bring up all his faults against him.
'It is the same with those who are known to be in the habit of using Confession. The world has laid hold of a truth here. They ought to be better than other people, or else they bring scandal on their profession.
'Relations are quick to note the errors of one another, especially if their notions are not the same, and outbreaks of temper, selfishness, evil-speaking, or worldliness, will be cited as proofs of the incompetency of the system that has not cured them.
'Now, ill-temper is sometimes a bodily or nervous affection . . . but the other faults are all wilful ones, and their continuance unrepressed can only spring either from dishonest confessions, from want of earnestness in following out the remedies, or from that terrible levity, before mentioned, which presumes on pardon--to go on in sin. Therefore the person who is not striving to improve under this system is in the double danger which is enhanced by all misused helps. . . .
'Nor does spiritual guidance at all mean putting oneself into the hands of one who will exact blind obedience--exercise priestcraft, as it is called. Such influence as we were reminded of in Domine Freylinghausen exists wherever there are weak women and ministers who try to rule them. [A really charming story of the Dutch settlers in America, by Miss Wilford. It came out in the Packet in the early seventies. Tartuffe was surely a layman.] The Pharisees devoured widows' houses. And there were those in S. Paul's time who led captive silly women. Moliere has shown off a Tartuffe, and Dickens a Gradgrind. But these men (Tartuffe, Gradgrind) prevailed by flattery and outward show, not by the stern and strictly guarded relations of priest and penitent. The leading is not an attempt to direct in the common ways of life, but an assistance in dealing with sins, and in rising to higher and deeper devotion. To those who feel the exceeding danger of drifting into bad habits and worldly customs, and heaping sin upon sin for want of warning, it is an inestimable boon, supplying the lack of those voices of home whose praise or blame were our "waymarks sure" in our childhood.
'If we look at biography, we shall find religious melancholy far more common among those who try to do everything for themselves, trusting merely to their own sensations, than to those who have kept to the way traced by our Lord for His Church, in which is found the constant joy of pardon and peace.'
Of course, much of Womankind is quite out of date. Women can go about alone in London, and may even smoke cigarettes, without ceasing to be well-bred and good people. And Miss Yonge's views on medical education for women are absolutely wrong, as she would be the first to acknowledge now.
There are some words on underdoing and undoing, which we quote, as much to the point now as when they were first written.
'Talk is one of the great enemies of living a wise and useful life. It is even more a snare to the grown-up woman than to the child. . . .
'To many women, especially those who have belonged to large families, one continual stream of passing chatter seems a necessary of life. They are unhappy when alone, and cannot sit at home, for want of someone to speak to.'
Miss Yonge shows us, however, the other side:
'Conversation is emphatically an art to be studied for home consumption ... it is a duty ... to share in conversation and talk with full spirit and interest.'
And we must quote another word in the chapter on Health:
'To the invalid, whose self is so painfully present in pain, weakness, or lassitude, shall I venture to say anything that has not been much better said in the books I mentioned?
'Yes, one word I will try to say. Perhaps you are grieved at feeling yourself so unlike the gracious invalids you read of, so loved by all. You feel it very hard and neglectful if you are left alone, yet you do not know how to bear with the others when they come, and you are glad when you can manage to be only dull, not snappish. People petted you, and thought nothing too much for you when you were very ill; now that illness is permanent they are getting tired of you, when you really want them.
'There is nothing for it but to dwell more and more on Him who is shutting you into your chamber to commune with Him. Dwell on His love and His sufferings for you, and you will find it easier to give the love and sympathy that will draw others to you, and do your best to be of some use to someone. . . . You can do easy matters the busy have no time for; you can be their memory, send kind messages . . . write letters that sometimes are much valued. It is the old story so often enforced in parable and allegory: our cross grows lighter so soon as we set our hand to aid in bearing that of another.'
Womankind concludes with a beautiful chapter on 'Going in.' She writes:
'I meant when I chose this title . . . that riding on the crest of the wave, and then beginning to fall below it, which must befall many of us."
We are sure much of what she says in this is wrung out of her own experience. She speaks of the trial which comes to most who have been successful and who find others going beyond them.
'We enjoy progress,' she writes, 'as long as we go along with it, but there often conies a time when the progress gets beyond us. And then! Are we to be drags, or stumbling-blocks, or to throw ourselves out of the cause altogether? . . .
'What shall we say? Each generation must think for itself, and each will best love all that was the achievement of its prime. The power of sympathy with what lies behind us, and what advances beyond us, is very different in different persons.
'Some young people treat all that their elders thought or did as old-world rubbish, barely tolerate their mothers, and openly contemn their aunts. These will advance the shortest distance of all, and be the very first to be stranded and left behind breathless, grumbling and scolding at the wave which passes beyond them, for their powers and sympathies are the shallowest and weakest.
'Others have a deep love of the past, and strike their roots far down; they honour and feel with those who have built the steps on which they stand, and, striking a just balance between old efforts and new culture, life's experiences and hope's intuitions, let themselves be guided on so far that their own spring forward . . . and their power of going along with the coming generation are much greater. . . .
'A welding together of the new and the old is the thing needful. Not that the young should treat everything old as worn out and ridiculous. It has been the strength and glory of England that she has been built on her old foundations instead of sweeping them away; but when we pass the bounds of our own youth, we have to bear in mind that it is narrow intolerance on the part of the elder generation which provokes the younger into a general overthrow as soon as they have the power.
'The review in the Literary Churchman of the Idylls of the King drew forth a beautiful moral--namely, that Arthur had made the Round Table his ideal of the perfection of mankind and knighthood, and for that very reason arose the quest of the San Greal, leading above and beyond, and breaking up the Round Table to the grief and sorrow of Arthur. And it is this which befalls every generation unless they live in an age of decadence. A quest will rise out of their Round Table. Their juniors will not rest with their idea of perfection, but will strain on to something beyond and more their own. It will often seem to spoil and break up the older scheme. That which was the vision of youth, and of which fruition has barely come, is viewed with patronizing pity as a mere first essay, and the lesson of good-humour we learnt when our towers of wooden bricks were overthrown, that the younglings might use their materials, was so long ago that it is hard to recall it ... but the very same qualities have to be called into play--unselfishness and candour. If we can only eliminate self and get rid of personal feeling, we shall be able to judge much more fairly whether our knights have gone off after a San Greal or a phantom, a Una or a Duessa. . . .
'It is widowhood that sometimes brings the changes--sometimes simply the being outrun and surpassed in progress as our breath grows shorter and our enterprise less ardent.
'Well, what is our part? Surely to try to be helpers to the best of our abilities. There will be some who lag behind, and who will be glad of a helping hand, and to whom our old-fashioned aid may be valuable. And if we endeavour to be kind and friendly, understanding the purport of the novelties, and granting the good in them, we shall get our counsel listened to, and may bring about that happiest union of "fervent old age and youth serene" which is symbolized by our grey old Gothic buildings mantled by their green creepers.
'Yes, but when we are elderly, and not old, we don't seem to attain these venerable graces. Indeed, we often do not feel ourselves ageing. . . . It is ... possible ... to fall into ways that have very little to be said for them. A resolute determination still to affect youth, externally; or, again, diligent cultivation of some form of bad health, or anything that puts us out of real sympathy with the younger generation, and fixes our attention on ourselves, our grievances, our comforts, is a form of this dangerous elderliness--dangerous because it is letting the heart go to sleep. . . . The way to go through this elderly period is to recollect that whatever drops from us here should be so much taken away from between us and our view of heaven. If we are becoming less necessary here, it is surely that the links and bonds of our earthly life may fall away, and our gaze upwards be clearer and steadier.
'To see the truth and take it cheerfully is wisdom; and if we find ourselves shelved before our time, it is well to recollect that, after all, we were but God's instruments, and that He knows best whether we are blunted or not.
'Nay, our neighbours may know what we do not.
'The Archbishop of Cordova thought that his best sermon which Gil Bias was forced to declare "sentait un pexi l'apoplexie," and it may be best to take a hint in all humility.
'"A calm undressing, waiting silently," is the best thing that can befall us as well as the trees. And though it is pleasanter to give things up than to have them taken away, let us remember that we are never so safe as when our will lies undiscerned by all but God.'
Somehow, as we read these words, so full of deep humility, the conviction forces itself upon us that, if only good people would reflect on this problem of 'going in,' there would be less of that unedifying dislike of their 'successors'--of people who have taken the place we either filled ourselves or saw once filled by one we loved.
And the chapter on Old Age is very beautiful. The description of those old people who 'seem to live already in a soft halo of heavenly light, ready to interest themselves kindly in what concerns us, but their minds and thoughts chiefly occupied with the home that they are nearing--the Land of the Leal.'
There is a warning that it is possible in old age to fall into a state where,
'as the force of mind and body lessen, the old tendencies kept in check by custom or regard to opinion get the mastery, such as querulousness or peevishness, hasty exertions of authority from a piteous doubt whether it can still be exercised, apparent avarice from the want of power to judge expenditure, terrible distrust of others and their motives, constant self-assertion, alienating all, and then resenting their standing aloof. Oh, mournful condition! And yet, may it not await any of us? "Forsake me not, O God, in mine age, when I am old and grey-headed." Those, as far as we can see, whom God does preserve from this state are those who have guarded themselves carefully through life from giving way to petulant emotion, and have tried to live in the love and fear of God, not only doing obvious outward duty, but making communion with God rest and joy. Those who thus live may hope to realize that
'"Nor shall dull age, as worldlings say,
The heavenward flame annoy;
The Saviour cannot pass away,
And with Him lives our joy."'
Surely it is well to pray for such an old age, if age is to be our portion.
Dear Miss Yonge, no doubt prayed for that old age, which was granted to her in full abundance. It seems to us that in Womankind she revealed more of her own inner self, of the love and devotion to our Lord which were the mainspring of her life, than in any other book.
The book shows her as she was, with all her power and also all her limitation. She was intensely reserved, and it was not often in her books that she spoke very openly of the deep things of God and of the soul. The Pillars of the House, perhaps, tells us more of her deep convictions than any other story. But in Womankind she now and then allows herself to speak quite freely and from the heart.
It is curious, also, to notice another point in Miss Yonge's books. She wrote mainly for women. Her earlier books undoubtedly had a certain amount of popularity among men; but so far as she had any sense of a mission, we are sure she only thought of her own sex. This is much more pronounced in her later books, however. She understands the ordinary English schoolboy, good or naughty.
She speaks of some schoolboy writing to her about the utter muffs ladies (Miss Yonge never speaks of men and women) made of schoolboys, and instanced Norman May (which shows the schoolboy was limited). Miss Yonge goes on to say: 'I always thought Farrar's boys, who always died as soon as they began to be good, very immoral.'
And she can put on her canvas all kinds and sorts of English gentlemen and respectable English working men. The modern villain of any class is beyond her. Her scoundrels in the historical tales are the most convincing of her wicked men, possibly because we know so much less about the period.
Miss Yonge is intensely simple, direct, and perhaps somewhat wanting in artistic faculty. She is singularly inferior in this respect to Mrs. Gaskell, whose stories are on quite as limited a canvas, but who produces effects as different from any of Miss Yonge's as are the sketches of a real artist from the photographs of the best camera. That is where Miss Yonge falls short of real greatness. She photographs with extraordinary fidelity, and her people are real people; but she has no idea of construction or of plot, nor does she ever face great questions or problems, but, as Mrs. Dyson said in 1857:
'Charlotte sent us the Saturday Review of her . . . It is clever enough, and the praise just, we think. But the reviewer would never enter into her principles, and evidently wants her to undertake the great social questions, as Mrs. Gaskell and suchlike writers. Why she may not take her own line, instead of imitating them or trying to compete with Shakespeare, one cannot comprehend.'
What gives her work value is, first of all, that her characters in the best of her books are all alive and impress themselves upon us; we cannot forget them, and, what is more, we do not wish to forget them: they become real friends, whose tastes, opinions, examples, have directed our own.
Then, there is in the books a passion for goodness--that is, the goodness which implies high-minded-ness, absolute honesty, unselfishness, and an incapacity for evil. She cares so much more for goodness than for anything else. And she has, as Mr. Henry Sidgwick pointed out in the words already, quoted, an extraordinary gift for investing the dullest situations, the most commonplace occupations, not merely with interest, or with gentle satire, but with romance. Miss Yonge is one of the most romantic of writers. She does feel what Mr. Chesterton has so well expressed, that 'romance lies not upon the outside of life, but absolutely in the centre of it; she sees all the glory and beauty that lie behind the dull routine of life, and that, after all, is romance.' And this faculty is lacking in many people who sneer at the supposed goody-goodiness of Miss Yonge's books. Goody-goodiness is just the defect they have not. Some of them may be dull, or limited, or wanting in plot, but goody-goody they are not.
We should like here to quote a letter to Miss Ireland Blackburne:
'Here are two proofs of your conversation,which, by-the-by, must be headed "A Conversation on Books." It will not go in this time, so you will have plenty of opportunity to do what you please with it. A conversation on Archbishop Trench's book must precede it, to give the old man a chance of hearing it, as it is by a young relation of his own--young, I mean, compared with him. If I have this by the 1st of March, it will be all right.
'I once had the pleasure of meeting Lord Houghton at Mr. Gibbs', and I remember talking over with him some curious papers of Hawthorne's that nobody else seemed to appreciate.
'I am afraid that Life of George Eliot will do a great deal of mischief. It has always seemed to me a fearful thing that, for the sake of her genius and power, her defiance of all moral and religious principle in her own life should be sunk and forgotten as if it had been a sort of heroism. The underlying feeling in all her books seems to be fatalism, and the farther she drifted away from the training of her youth, the more they failed even as works of art. What a contrast between Adam Bede and Daniel Deronda I I imagine, as the Saturday says, that the real fact was that the essentially feminine character (not genius) was really mastered by Lewes, and that a good man could have made her do grandly good work--so that the whole seems to me a lesson against delivering up our conscience to any leader. It seems to me that what she had was a marvellous power of drawing memorable portraits, but that she gradually used up her stock. Besides this, Maggie Tulliver is a special pleading for herself--and in that way very touching--like that little poem about brother and sister; but her ideals, like Daniel Deronda himself, are utter failures. Romola fails--the book, I mean--because she had no religious power left wherewith to appreciate Savonarola, and so made him political. Of course Tito is one of her terrible successes.'
And Miss Yonge's romance is the romance of duty, of obedience, of loyalty. 'Der Gehorsani ist die erste Pflicht,' she would have said with the Grand Master in Schiller's ballad, and we wonder much if she ever read Browning, and what she would have made of Pompilia, of the Duchess whose flight Browning so commends, of many another who broke the bounds of conventionality and of stereotyped duty. No doubt she would have recognized that here again were new fulfillings of the way of God.
She read enormously, and it is delightful to see how whole-hearted a lover of Scott she was.
Besides Scott and Shakespeare, and, of course, the Christian Year and Lyra Innocentium, she evidently loved I Promessi Sposi, and, like so many of the people of the Oxford Movement, the romances of De la Motte Fouque. Spenser she knew, and Pope, and great writers of the eighteenth century. Her much-loved Louis Fitzjocelyn reads to his lady-love from the sonnets of Lope de Vega, and we are sure Miss Yonge loved them. As was to be expected, several eminent writers were disliked by her.
Miss Yonge knew her Homer and her Virgil, and the tragedians of Greece.
The criticism in this letter, written in 1887, is not unjust:
'I have been reading an article in the National Review, showing how utterly Carlyle misquoted Cromwell's speeches, and absolutely neglected shoals of contemporary papers which would have spoilt his conception of his idol. It is curious, but, really, poor old Carlyle must have been a good deal of a humbug for all his bluster.'
She read vast numbers of chronicles and memoirs. One of her undated letters to Miss Barnett, probably in the early sixties, says:
'I hope you have Euge'nie de Guerin. You are one of the people to like her especially and extremely, with her sweet religious, pastoral spirit and . . . devotion to her brother. I am exceedingly in love with her myself.'
She was extremely fond of reading aloud, and she loved biographies.
Miss Yonge had naturally very little knowledge of the stress and strain of modern problems. She was interested in Arthur Hamilton, an imaginary biography which was written by an eminent man of letters in the early days of his distinguished career. She writes of him as of a real person, and says to the Dean of Lincoln: 'A. must have known him at Trinity. He must have just missed Dr. Moberly at Winchester.' She goes on:
'What I think wants to be understood now especially is how far want of faith is to be treated as Sin. The Bible and the Church have always done so (query). And now even the good seem to think it is only to be dealt with as a misfortune, and that one does the most awful harm by denouncing it.'
She writes to
Miss Yonge was always hopeful. Miss Barnett once:
'I do not think the mass of the world is as morally bad as it was then [in the Middle Ages]. The great saints and the great sinners are much alike in all times, I suppose, and I am afraid there are fewer ignorant simple saints. But I think the goodness of mediaeval times is altogether a delusion; and though I do not like "progress cant," I think the good should be owned, and not only the evil.'
It is convenient here to notice a second group of historical stories, which, although not attaining to the merits of the first group, are interesting; one or two, at least, have something of the old charm.
Stray Pearls we noticed before. Unknown to History is a story of a supposed daughter of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bothwell, and gives us an interesting, quiet picture of both Mary and Elizabeth. One episode, the Anthony Babington conspiracy, is admirable. Miss Yonge makes us feel the fascination of Mary, and realize the wretched perplexities and miseries of Shrewsbury, who was so long her custodian.
The Reputed Changeling is, to our mind, quite admirable. The Puritan Major Oakshott, whose son Peregrine became possessed with the belief that he was the changeling his nurses believed him to be; the gentle heroine, Anne Woodford, and her fortunes at the Court of King James, are described in Miss Yonge's most spirited manner, and there is plenty of adventure.
Grisley Grisell is a story of the Wars of the Roses, and is an ingenious bit of work, suggested to the author by the story of Patient Griselda. It is quite worth reading, but the charm of the earlier stories has vanished, and the number of historical characters is not a little confusing.
There are several other historical stories which were published by the National Society.
Miss Yonge never lost the love for courage, for heroism, for 'the Happy Warrior.' There is a letter of hers to Mr. Palgrave, which may be quoted here, which shows her feeling for Scott. Mr. Palgrave had been writing to ask her about an article on Scott by Keble.
'MY DEAR MR. PALGRAVE,
'The shortest way will be to send you our number, to which you are very welcome as long as it can be of any use to you--though I should like to have it again ultimately.
'You will see that a good deal of the scope of the article goes to the influence of Scott's works in preparing minds for the Church movement, but the suppressed poetry breaking out is the main idea. I mean rather the suppressed inclinations finding vent in poetry. Do you know the account of a visit to Abbotsford given in the Life of Mrs. Hemans? She seems to have had the power of drawing out his grand nature in conversation. I suppose that, though her verses are weak, she had a rare power of poetical discernment; at least, almost all the subjects of her poems are so poetical in themselves that the poems provoke me as if she had been watering them down. But it was she who recorded Scott's grand speech about noble blood shed in a hopeless cause, and for that the world owes her much gratitude. [The saying of Scott's is quoted in The Daisy Chain: 'Never let me hear that brave blood has been shed in vain. It sends a roaring voice down through all time.'] I think there is a poem in the Lyra Innocentium suggested by that description of Scott as a young child clapping his hands and crying, "Bonnie! bonnie!" at every flash of lightning. There is something very engaging in Crabbe's Life, but I think most of his verses are more stories than poems. S. Osyth's is the one that seems to me most poetical, and that is little more than a song. Do you not think that there are too many of Mrs. Mozley's family living for her life to be really sketched? I suspect it will be shadowed out in her brother's, if he gets a tolerably worthy biographer (and how can he?). One thing struck me much: how the line of argument in the Apologia resembled that in the Fairy Bower--I mean, of course, that part of the Apologia where Dr. Newman vindicates his truth. Do you know her last book, Family Adventures? She died while it was in the press. People tell me it is very like the Newmans in their youth. I only saw her once, when I was quite a young girl."
We come now to the group of Miss Yonge's later stories--Nuttie's Father, Chantry House, Two Sides of a Shield, Beechcroft at Rockstone, That Stick, The Long Vacation.
These need not detain us very long. In some of them we meet old friends, Mays and Underwoods and Mohuns, but the old charm has almost vanished, and there is an absolute lack of atmosphere in the four last named. Chantry House to some extent breathes the old aroma, and has a delightful ghost story.
'I can't help being attracted by ghost discussions, and there are some things that I very decidedly believe.'
In both Nuttie's Father and That Stick Miss Yonge tries to draw villains, and fails, especially where she wants to show us a really wicked man of the world in the father of Nuttie. And Miss Yonge often fails to see anything good in the modern girl. There is an extraordinary commonness about some of her girls. Some years before she wrote a little tale in the Blue Bell Series, a set of stories which seems to have come to a premature end. In this, which is called The Disturbing Element, the girls are well described, but they are terribly uninteresting in the later stories. She felt herself that her modern stories failed somewhat. She writes to Miss Black-burne:
'I don't care much for Nuttie myself. I am getting too old to write of the swing of modern life; I don't see enough of it.'
Yet even in this book there are some vivid sketches, especially of the bright, brave Scotch girl who made so gallant a stand in poverty.
In these later years the aspect of politics was often distressing to Miss Yonge, who was by nature and conviction a Conservative, and she writes with delightful vehemence to Miss Ireland Blackburne:
'Thank you for your letter and exposition of Lord Hartington's views. I think it is very hard on Lords Salisbury and Iddesleigh, who have been stanch, religious Churchmen all their lives, to be accused of making a party cry of the Church's danger; and it was not they, but the Record, who published the scheme of the 400 robbers. It seems to me that, if Lord Hartington and the "moderate Liberals" did not love their party and their power better than their Church, they would throw over Chamberlain and his crew instead of tampering with "the present" and Gladstone's shameful talk of "dim and distant future"; but they had rather ruin the Church than not be in office or lose their elections. . . . And then they say it is a Tory cry! Who put out the Radical programme? Were not the Tories to take it up? They, at least, have never tried to despoil the Church, whereas Whiggery has murdered an Archbishop, expelled our best clergy, and brought the dead Walpole blight over the Church. I don't see how she can be expected to love it.
'Don't you think that Conservatism gets great injustice done it in being supposed averse to all improvements?
'One can't sweep a house when the enemy are trying to destroy it. All one's powers are spent in defence.
'Can you explain to me the difference between a Liberal and a Radical, or why Liberals always make common cause with Radicals, and wish to put it in their power to ruin the Church and expel religious education? They say, "Oh no, we don't wish it." Then they help to do it all the same. Can you expect the Church to trust them?
'I know, of course, that the Church must not be political, but do not Liberals show themselves her natural enemies? What have they done to her in France?
'You say that is a warning, but why are Churchpeople to give up their consciences and throw away their loyalty for fear of being persecuted? I am utterly miserable about it all, for it seems to me that the principle of Liberalism is to let the multitude have its own way; and as there will always be more folly and rapaciousness in the world than wisdom and conscience, it seems to me that the glory of England is gone.
'There! Please forgive me for writing bitterly, but I do feel most cruelly the destruction of the Church, and the attacks on all I have thought good and great.
'C. M. YONGE.'
She writes again to Miss Blackburne:
'I could not get time to answer your last letter immediately, as I have been very busy in various ways, and, as you may suppose, much disappointed in the elections, in proportion no doubt to your satisfaction. But I see no safety now, humanly speaking, for the Church, or anything else that is worth preserving, unless the moderate Liberals will make a stand, which I see no signs of their intending.
'You say Mr. ----- disapproves of the State assisting in religious education. We have come to a pass in which no one expects it to do so; all we ask is that it should not try to stifle religious education, and I think no one can deny that the Council of Education do so as much as they dare, and that the strong and avowed desire is to prevent the clergy from giving a Church education even to their own children in the religious hour, and that if free education comes in, it will be at the cost of religious education.
'As to the colonies, I think representation of them here would be a very good thing. I suppose the long distances were the original hindrance.
'I believe Conservatives would be as glad as anyone to facilitate (but not compel) transfer of land. I can't understand how honest men could be content to owe their election to the deceits put about. I don't know if the stories were true about taking a halter to the poll to bring home a cow, but I do know of a man who expected a slice of the squire's grounds, of belief that the Conservatives would put a penny on the loaf, of free schools being taken to mean being free not to send your children to school, and a list of Mr. Strachey's promises in the paper to-day is a strange thing. Nor will Gladstone denounce attempts on the Church. It is only "not just yet." You say not this century! Poor comfort when there are only fourteen years more to come. Alas! alas! I feel they have given up to destruction all that is precious and holy.
'C. M. YONGE.'
What would Miss Yonge have said to the Education Bill of 1906?
She says in another letter to the same friend:
'Next time I have to set down "Likes and Dislikes," I shall put a General Election as my chief antipathy.'
Miss Yonge in her later years took up a fresh bit of work. She edited a little paper, Mothers in Council, the organ of the more educated mothers of the Mothers' Union, and contributed to it many papers. Changes came to her in these last fifteen years. Mr. Julian Yonge sold Otterbourne House, and died very soon after; Miss Yonge's companion and friend, Miss Walter, died in 1897, and once more she was able to receive her friends at Elderfield. The Vicar of Otterbourne, Mr. Henry Bowles, had married one of her nieces, and this was a great pleasure to her.
In a letter she writes to Miss Blackburne, who was at Hyères:
'I always fancied Hyères the most of these resorts, perhaps because my father was there to take charge of a consumptive cousin in 1816-17, and he used to talk of the sheets of big blue violets. He had been at Waterloo, and was with the army of occupation, and this cousin came out for the fashionable cure of living in a cow-house. ... It must have answered in this case, for the patient lived to die an Admiral over seventy, though he had a cough all his life.'
In 1893 a presentation was made to Miss Yonge on her seventieth birthday. It consisted of an address signed by all who cared for her and for her books, and who would subscribe one shilling. The sum subscribed amounted to £200, and out of this a lich-gate was given to Otterbourne Churchyard, and an afternoon-tea table and set were bought by her for herself. She writes to the Dean of Salisbury after the presentation of the birthday address:
'It was a wonderful surprise, for the secret had been very well kept, and the day before I had a present from my former and present scholars which gave me great delight. £200 came with the autographs. . . .
'I do feel that Mr. Keble's blessing, "Prosper Thou the work of her hands upon her," has been most marvellously fulfilled, and this has brought me to think that the peculiar care and training that were given me by my father, Mr. Keble and M. A. D. [Miss Dyson] seem to have been appointed to make me a sort of instrument for popularizing Church views that might not have been otherwise taken in; and so I am thankful to believe that is my place as a polished corner.'
A few years later a sum of money was collected and given to her, in order to found a scholarship for the girls of Winchester High School, to be held at one of the women's colleges in Oxford or Cambridge.
The present writer may be permitted to add another reminiscence. In 1896 I was staying at Shawf ord, near Winchester, with the late Dr. Robert Moberly and his family; we had taken rooms together for a few days' of the Easter holidays. Miss Yonge, with whom I had had a slight acquaintance, very kindly came to see me, and we walked back to Otterbourne over the downs. As we went she began to talk of Church matters, of the Lux Mundi school of thought, of the Christian Social Union. She could not, she said, feel in sympathy with much of these newer phases of thought. I ventured then to remind her of what she herself had put into Dr. May's mouth, as to the Quest of the Holy Grail and the perplexity it had caused King Arthur. She smiled and seemed to like the allusion. I longed to say much more and to ask her many questions, but time was short and my shyness was great.
We went to Evensong at Otterbourne. I have always felt that evening to have been one of the supreme moments of my life. It was an extraordinary privilege to kneel just once by the writer who had more than anyone else influenced one's mind in the early days of youth, had helped one to care for the Church and for all that the Church implies, who had been one's first teacher. Miss Yonge, indeed, had stood for much in the life of a motherless child, who had very little outward help or guidance, who had found in The Daisy Chain her first real friends, and who had learned from Miss Yonge to love the Christian Year and many another book.
There are greater writers of more original genius to whom one owes much, but I think there are none whom one thanks so gratefully for what she taught one to reverence and to love.
In this connection I may be permitted to quote a letter to myself. She wrote to me at the time of my husband's death:
'Will you allow one who is almost a stranger to you personally, to express my deep sympathy and sorrow when I saw the notice in the paper of the awful blow that has fallen on you? I know from Annie Moberly of your great kindness on my birthday last year, and that leads me to hope that you will not feel a few words from an old woman an intrusion; though pray do not try to answer them, as I shall hear of you from Annie. I have thought of you in my prayers, and may you and your children have full comfort and joy in communion alike with those gone before and with the Comforter and great Head of the Church.
'A very dear friend of mine, Mrs. Gibbs, whose name you know in connection with Keble College, used to say that the losses of her husband and several of her children had made "Therefore with Angels and Archangels," etc., more to her than ever. If you do not know William Tupper's sonnet, "Ye saints in Heaven, dear Jesu's Body Glorious, From Abel to the babe baptized but now," ask Annie to show it to you. Mrs. Keble used to keep a copy in her pocket.
'Yours very sincerely,
'C. M. YONGE.'
A short time before this Miss Yonge wrote about Newman, whose letters had just been published:
'What seems to 'me to be the fact ... is that, having been brought up in the Protestant school of thought, and worked out Catholicity for himself, when everybody thundered at the Tracts, etc., he thought the fault lay in the Church of England, not only in the blundering of individuals, and he did not wait to see her clear herself. And then I think that he had, apparently, never thoroughly followed the times between the separation from the Greek Church and the Reformation. Hurrell Froude was doing it, but there has been so much less research [about that period?] that H. F. takes for granted that Roman Ritual is necessarily Apostolical, without (apparently) having found out about equally Apostolical rites that Rome had crushed--e.g., Gallican, Spanish, not to say our own Uses. And now we have all that was like a day-dream to them.'
She writes from Salisbury:
'Dean Church's beautiful book [History of the Oxford Movement] came in time for me to work it in with the Cardinal [Newman's Letters]. It is a sort of key. By the way, there is a mistake--I don't know whether J. H. N.'s or Miss Mozley's--about the consecration of a church to which he could not go in 1838: it is said to be Hursley, but it really was Otterbourne. Hursley was not consecrated, of course, till years after. I read Hurrell Froude immediately after . . . then I read Dean Church, who is most delightful every way, and how he does scathe the Hebdomadal Board! How like it was to the seed bursting and bringing forth much fruit! What beautiful sketches there are of Mr. Keble and Charles! It seems to me the real portrait of Mr. Keble.
'Those letters between "Jemima" and J. H. N. are most--I should say interesting, but that the word has been spoilt. It is altogether a wonderful book. I still think that patience was wanting, but partly from the not having grown up in the love of the Mother Church.'
We are reaching the end now. Miss Yonge was happy and full of interest, and devoted to her work and her teaching of the Otterbourne children.
One old friend after another passed away, and she was left almost the only one of her generation. Miss Dyson and Miss Barnett were gone. She wrote of the approaching death of Miss Bigg-Wither, one of her earliest friends:
'MY DEAR MRS. NORSWORTHY,
'I must write a few lines to thank you for your account of my dear old friend, who, I feel, is lying in the land of Beulah, though broken by these times of distress. It was something the same with good old Judge Patteson, father of the Bishop. He had a throat complaint that he knew must bring final choking. And when it had very nearly come, as he revived, he said, "The beautiful angel is gone, but he will soon come again!" I am very glad you can be constantly with her. . . . With much love to my dear M. A.
'Yours very sincerely,
'C. M. YONGE.'
Miss Yonge was spared all gradual decay; she lay down one spring afternoon, just as the daffodils she loved so well were coming into bloom, and she passed away after her last Communion, on the Eve of the Annunciation, 1901.
She lies in Otterbourne Churchyard, and we who loved her and who realize how bravely, how cheerfully she had worked, and striven, and borne disappointments, perplexities, bereavements--we who, even though we cannot now see truth exactly as she saw it, yet know that to her we owe love and gratitude for the ideal she held up, the hopes she inspired, the love she kindled--feel Otterbourne is for ever to us a hallowed spot.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.