IT was natural that Mr. Bennett, after the toils, the griefs, the contentions of 1850 and 1851, should seek a little change of scene after that sad Lady Day. Accordingly, having paid visits to his mother at Chudleigh and his brother at Kemerton, he went abroad with his friend and churchwarden, Sir John Harington, who had been so long his strenuous supporter at S. Barnabas', and took with him his son, whom he wished to see something of the continent. Their plan was to go to Kissingen, in Bavaria, where Mr. Bennett was to take a course of the waters. It appears that he was ill after all that he had gone through, a fact which is by no means surprising.
First, however, the party went to some of the towns in Belgium, and his description of his impressions in a letter to his brother is worth recording.
"The cities in Flanders struck me as remarkable fulfilments of what we have always heard to be the Flemish character--excessive cleanliness of streets, order, activity; and, in the churches, a very simple and pure form of the Catholic faith--a very slight sprinkling of the more objectionable parts of their system; the clergy active and zealous, and seemingly very pastoral. It was a great gratification at Ghent to hear the old canons on their misereres chanting away the old Gregorian tones, a sound I had not heard since poor S. Barnabas'."
They then went to Cologne, Bonn, Mayence, and Frankfort, and, from Aschaffenburg, in Bavaria, Mr. Bennett writes to his mother a description of the place.
"After tea this evening we went out strolling about this town, and it struck me very much. No gas; no paving; a contempt for all kind of cleanliness. There is a palace of the King of Bavaria, a large, square, majestic place, with a huge tower at each corner; if a giant with a sword some six feet long had stalked out of the quadrangle it would have only been in perfect keeping. Such massive buildings, cathedrals, churches, palaces. 'Here I am. Here I have been for a thousand years. Here I shall be for a thousand years more. I despise your lath and plaster. They will have a succession of generations and all be in the dust twenty times over, while I stand here indestructible.' This is the kind of speech these great buildings make to me. And the hotels all the same: great staircases and passages, with banisters as thick as great trees, and stairs that bid the wear of feet defiance. Another thing--the furniture and decorations. Together with the massive structure is the peculiarly quaint and beautiful furniture. Curious old secretaires and wardrobes, opening in indescribable places, and beautifully made. We have not an idea of making such things. The great Exhibition may perhaps do us good in this, but I think our workmen have not the heart to set about such things."
On Friday, June 20, he continues this letter, from Kissingen. His picture of the journey is amusing when we think how we should accomplish it now.
"From Frankfort hither we came with two days' work by post, and such slow, phlegmatic German postillions. Between Aschaffenburg and this we went through twenty miles of one continuous forest--Silva Spissa--an old forest known and named by the Romans. [The Spessart.] There is a vast grandeur in these masses of things--Nature is larger here. Now for Religion! There indeed is the sore point. [By "sore point," which reads obscurely, he seems to mean that the contrast between the continental religion and the English was to the disadvantage of the latter.] Many things in very bad taste, but on the whole a great preponderance in its favor. More real Devotion; less fear of man; greater fear of God; keener sense for Adoration. The roads skirted all along by the Stations--Crucifices--Pietas--Pictures of the Blessed Virgin--all are at least outward signs of the faith of Christianity and that the people as a people are not ashamed of it. On S. Barnabas' Day I was at the Mass in Ghent--on the Octave, at Aschaffenburg--on Corpus Christi, here:--a most beautiful Festa and a holiday for the people. I went into the church about 8, full of men and women: High Mass: most beautiful music. But I did not like a somewhat too theatrical introduction of drums and violins and one female voice--which, however rich and beautiful as concert music, seemed too much for a Religious ceremony. At Frankfort we went on Sunday to the Benediction--most beautiful and impressive. There are faults--many,--I am not blind to them, but comparing with our own hard, cold, rationalistic service, all that I see here is infinitely preferable as a work of devotion. The people here are worshippers--is England?"
At Kissingen they stayed five weeks. Little did any of them think that their holiday at Kissingen was destined to be the subject of anxious and midnight debate in the House of Commons! Meanwhile, "unconscious of their doom," they enjoyed themselves at that town, and Mr. Bennett "went through a course of the waters, which were very beneficial to" him, he says.
From Kissingen Mr. Bennett and his party went to Wiirtzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Ratisbon, Lintz, and thence down the Danube to Vienna.
From Vienna he writes giving his impressions of Kissingen.
"At Kissingen the old priest was a remarkable specimen of simple-mindedness and pastorality of character, leading his flock like sheep. (By the way, I was much delighted here to see the shepherd always preceding his flock, and the sheep following him as a matter of course.) I had a conversation with the priest and he told me all his ways and plans. His simple-mindedness in the articles of his faith and his charity towards those who disagreed or doubted was beautiful. The Services, Litanies, Hymns, Psalms, all, to my surprise, in German. The only service in Latin was the Mass. This had been the case with the churches in the diocese by permission of the Bishop for about 200 years.
"At Bamberg and Ratisbon, both Catholic towns, we saw the utmost extent in regard to ritual purity to which the Roman Communion may be restored. The King of Bavaria had in propria persona and proprio sumptu restored both these magnificent cathedrals, expelling every image and wax figure and taper, and removing every side altar save one in each church.
"We were all, as you may imagine, astonished at the marvel. It is worth any one's while to see for himself what the Catholic Religion may be and how beautiful it is when so administered.
"A strange contrast and mixture was presented at Nuremberg, which is a two-thirds Lutheran town, for there the people, though following the doctrines and practices of Luther, have retained the most offensive parts of the corrupt Roman system--images of the Virgin and Child with flowers, garlands, etc. Carvings of the Holy Trinity, Altars and Lights in profusion (lighted at the services), many Altars at the side decked with Crucifixes, etc., etc.,--all these had been retained--while in the midst there was one solitary 'Geistlicher' to perform the Service. Truly cold and barren it is--psalm-singing while the people sit and prayer while they stand. Kneeling is an abomination. The Geistlicher lights six candles at the altar (poor S. Barnabas'!)--says that portion of the service which regards the Communion with back to the people and facing a great Crucifix, six feet high, most beautiful, the work of Albert Dürer--while at the right hand is the piscina, etc., and at his left the Tabernacle, all retained--and he dismisses the people with Apostolical blessing, stretching out both arms, and then, with his right hand in the air, making the sign of the cross.--Poor S. Barnabas'! We ought to have been run down for being Lutherans, not Romans. In the sermon the Geistlicher introduces prayer, in which invariably he prays for the sick by name and for the Dead, always beginning with the invocation of the Blessed Trinity.
"You may be sure that in attending these services and learning from the people, the principal gratification was the thought that, in no one of my customs introduced at S. B,, I had, as accused by the Bishop, been copying Rome; how for every one of them there was good Lutheran authority."
From Vienna they went to Milan, and he writes from there, September 23, 1851--
"We have just arrived at this famous city after a week's most severe travelling and other perils; and right glad I am to get a little rest. I thought to have found some letters here, from Mary and one of the two 'young ladies,' as I told them to direct hither. There may be a mistake at the post-office, so I must wait patiently; for the authorities at the post-office are most despotic and sometimes take it into their heads not to give out the letters. I trust I shall hear soon.
"We have very little deviated from our intentions all along, keeping very closely to the line of Bamberg, Nuremberg, Ratisbon, the Danube, Vienna. Thence to Ischl, Munich, Innsbruck in the Tyrol, crossing the Alps in the highest pass (the Stelvio) from Innsbruck to the Lago di Como--and now Milan. The last week has been the severest. Halfway up the Stelvio we were greeted with a severe snowstorm, which blocked us up twenty-four hours, and we had to make up our night quarters at a wretched roadside inn--Trefoi--and spend the whole day in looking at the snow descending. We amused ourselves somewhat by getting sledges and going about on the snow and with practising pistol shooting! We did get some food (but it was as much as could be said) and some fire, but it was very cold and severe. All these inconveniences were, however, amply made up by the magnificence of the scene. It is the highest pass in Europe. The Ortler, highest point of the Alps, being 12,810 feet above the level of the sea, and the pass itself 9040, the whole being under perpetual snow for 800 feet below the pass. I should think we must have been among the very last travellers who will have made the ascent this year. After this wintry scene and temperature you may conceive how agreeable a change it was to come down upon the lake of Como and its beautiful waters, so gentle and mild.
"Most probably we shall be in England the middle of February, what then is to be done--as to house and dwelling--I know not, but trust in God."
In the next letter, from Venice, October 5, he is expecting to be recalled home by the impending death of his stepfather, Colonel Brandreth, and tells his brother he is ready to come. "Do what you like in regard of me. I am any one's servant NOW."
Speculation, meanwhile, was vigorous as to what he would do; it is summed up by Mr. Greville in his Memoirs: "whether he would go over to Rome, or start a new sect for himself." The first supposition was natural enough; so many of the same school had taken that course, in despair of the Church of England. But the second alternative only displays the astonishing ignorance then existing (as now) among men of the world as to the aims of the Oxford Movement in general and the utter misconception in particular as to Mr. Bennett's teaching and position. "A new sect!" when his fundamental point was the necessity of obedience to the Church and acceptance of her doctrines; "a new sect!" when his own resignation was due to his strong feeling of "nothing without the Bishop." But Mr. Bennett was no more for the first alternative than for the second, and might have said prophetically, with some witty punster of later days in like position, "I shall neither recede nor secede, but succeed."
And the opportunity of succeeding very soon came. In November, 1851, the Vicarage of FROOME (so he himself, after the first year or two, always spells the word), in Somerset, became vacant by the death of Mr. Phillott, and on December 19 the living was offered to Mr. Bennett by the Marchioness of Bath, acting on behalf of her son, who was a minor.
The courage needed for this appointment can hardly be realized now, but the outcry which it caused, and which indeed Lady Bath must have been fully prepared for, will show in a new light to what extent Protestant prejudice ran in those days and, what is here more immediately interesting, how terrible then was the name of "Bennett."
A few words about Lady Bath, to whom Mr. Bennett and the Church owed so much, must by no means be omitted from our history. She was the daughter of the first Lord Ashburton, and, living at the Grange, near Alresford, had been acquainted in her younger days with many of the great writers and statesmen of the time. In later days she was the friend of Keble, Pusey, and other leaders of the Church. When her son attained his majority, she moved from Longleat to Muntham Court, in Sussex, and much of her time was spent in doing good among the poor, and in setting forward, both by money and advice, the restoration of many a dilapidated church.
"Her presence," says a memorial of her at the time of her death, "was an inspiration, but she never 'taught or preached by words. Her life was her one admonition. The invisible world was to her the reality; this present life the dream; and this also was the source of the courageous enthusiasm which dominated her whole life. She never flinched or shrank back or compromised; she simply practised like a child what she knew to be right, carrying out the noble motto carved on the wall of Muntham Court--
"'Fais ce que tu dois
Advienne que pourra.'"
To this course she kept when she appointed Mr. Bennett as Vicar of Froome, and when the appointment was so furiously assailed.
"I was ever grateful," writes the venerable Lord Nelson, himself, through a long life, a worker for the Church, "to the Marchioness of Bath for acting up to the traditions of her family, in providing for Mr. Bennett a resting-place at Froome. In doing this she befriended a second Bishop Kenn."
The presentation was made in the end of December, 1851. On January 2, 1852--
"fifty-six of the people of Froome (of whom five were the clergy, and of whom nine soon after expressed their regret at having signed it, and returned to the parish church, so that the real number was forty-two) sent a protest to the patron, and forwarded a copy to the Bishop (Richard Bagot)."
This memorial stated that those who signed it "owed it to God, to their flocks, to their children, to their servants, and to themselves, to protest against" Mr. Bennett's appointment. Only this small number, out of a population of 12,000, could be got to sign this protest.
Lady Bath replied on the following day, that the appointment was made, and could not be revoked. The Bishop replied that he was
"fully satisfied that Mr. Bennett has a firm, deep-rooted attachment to our own Church, and to all the doctrines of the Church of England, repudiating all Romish doctrines."
On the 23rd the protesters obtained a legal opinion from Dr. Twiss, and on the 24th they prepared a "caveat "against the institution of Mr. Bennett. But it was too late, for on Saturday, the 24th, the Bishop instituted Mr. Bennett to the living. The following day he "read himself in."
Mr. Bennett's "Induction "(which it may be well to explain, for the benefit of the unlearned in such matters, is a different thing from "Institution") seems to have been carried out on the same day as his Institution. To this ceremony of "Induction," which must be performed at the church itself, Lady Bath accompanied Mr. Bennett, amid the infuriated demonstrations of a noisy crowd, and, according to some accounts, showers of stones and eggs. Her courageous determination in the presentation, brought upon her a vast amount of abuse, and it was proposed in a leading article in the Times to abolish private patronage entirely!
The scene of battle was now removed to the arena of the House of Commons. The Government of Lord John Russell was at an end. To still the uproar about the "Papal Aggression," Lord John had brought in the "Ecclesiastical Titles" Bill, which provided punishments for those who should assume the title of Bishop of a see in Great Britain, not being Bishops of the Church of England. He explained, however, that it was not intended to enforce this Act, but merely to assert the supremacy of the Crown. On this, Punch put forth Leech's amusing cartoon, depicting the Prime Minister as "The boy who chalked up 'No POPERY '(on Cardinal Wiseman's door) and then ran away." Punch claims that this cartoon overturned the Government, and that Russell himself said it did more to turn out his Government than all the efforts of his political opponents. However this may be, it is certain that this curious policy of passing a Bill not intended for use, his alienation of many supporters, especially the Irish, by his "Durham Letter," and perhaps, a little, Mr. Bennett's showing in his "First Letter," that Lord John had been a participator in all the "popery" of S. Barnabas',--all these things had weakened his position, and although he was actually defeated by Lord Palmerston over a Militia Bill, there is little doubt that Lord John's tortuous ecclesiastical policy was largely the cause of his fall. On February 27, 1852, Lord Derby became Prime Minister.
It chanced that there was in the House of Commons in those days a member for Cockermouth who rejoiced in the chivalrous name of Horsman. He was "a ruling elder of the kirk," and now thought that he perceived an opportunity of becoming famous, if for nothing else, at any rate as the champion of the most Protestant faith. Accordingly he gave notice on February 18, that he intended to call attention to the subject of Mr. Bennett's appointment to Froome. The change of Government delayed his efforts till April 20, on which day he hurled his spear at Mr. Bennett, at the Marchioness of Bath, and at the Bishop of Bath and Wells--a terrible trio! This missile took the form of a motion--
"that a humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to direct inquiry to be made whether due respect was paid to the decrees of the Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical of the Church of England in the recent institution of Mr. Bennett to the Vicarage of Froome."
Mr. Horsman, in support of this motion, drew an awful picture of the terrors of the people of Froome, who were supposed to be represented by the gallant forty-two who had signed the protest to Lady Bath.
Instead of forty-two, one would have imagined the whole 12,000 inhabitants in an uproar.
"The people of Froome in an agony of apprehension! in a panic of terror" (such were the glowing colours of his description), "knowing what had taken place in London, and fearing lest a repetition might take place in Froome, rushed to the Lady who exercised the patronage of the vicarage, deprecated the appointment, and entreated her to abstain from a step which might produce the most deplorable results."
But, alas! to these forty-two screams of alarm the Lady and the Bishop had alike turned a deaf ear.
The hon. member then explained to the House the enormities of Mr. Bennett's doctrine. A certain cleric, so far back as the appointment to S. Paul's, had remonstrated with the Bishop.
"I have not found" (had said this Protestant controversialist) "even in the Oxford Tracts, abounding as they do in awful errors, anything in the way of false doctrine more pernicious than in Mr. Bennett's published Sermons."
Then came the crowning enormity of Mr. Bennett--his conduct during his holiday at Kissingen.
Mr. Bennett went to Kissingen apparently in something of the capacity of Chaplain to Sir John Harington. At that moment, after spending every penny of his own savings on S. Barnabas', he was probably not able to afford any foreign travel on his own account. It was then, and to the end of his life, as we shall see hereafter, his opinion that we are guilty of schism in setting up public chapels and chaplains in foreign dioceses, but as a private chaplain he considered himself (at any rate at that time) as justified in giving communion to his own travelling party. Therefore, after celebrating for his friends, it was his custom to attend the Mass of the Roman church in the place, and not to attend the services of the English chapel there. These fearful misdeeds were not to be concealed. Accordingly Mr. Horsman solemnly read to the House (which was, says Mr. Bennett, "as it were, frightened at some great impending calamity--bewildered, amazed, stupefied ") the following letter from a "gentleman "who was, it seems, a "professor at one of the seminaries near London." It was addressed to a curate at Macclesfield of the name of Pratt.
"An English clergyman, whose name in the hotel book was Bennett, wearing the peculiarly longitudinal vestment affected by the Puseyite clergy, and travelling in company with Sir John Harington, churchwarden of S. Barnabas', lodged for three weeks at the Hotel de Russie, Kissingen, on the same floor with my rooms. My attention was called to him in the first instance by hearing the German waiters, etc., talking about him--his conduct, with that of his friend> being calculated to attract inquiry as to his religion, the general idea being that he was a Jesuit or a Capuchin. I then found that he and his friend went every morning between seven and eight, as was said, to the Roman Catholic church to the morning service. I never myself saw him in the Roman Catholic church, because I never went there, but I can testify as to the regularity of his morning excursions, and, as every one said that their object was to attend Mass, I presume there is no reason to doubt the fact. During the same period, neither he nor any of his party were to be seen on Sundays at the English chapel. I likewise heard him inquiring about a missal, and saw a Capuchin, or some such monk, going in and out of his room. But I cannot with truth asseverate [Probably means "assert."] that within my knowledge he was his inseparable companion. My rooms were unluckily next to Sir John Harington's; unluckily, as I was very ill, and Sir John constantly talked in so loud a voice that nearly all his talk was forced upon me, the partitions between German rooms being, as you probably know, almost ventriloqual. [Such is the professorial word and such the professorial spelling thereof!] I was therefore compelled to hear long details about Roman Catholic matters exclusively in which Mr. Bennett was constantly implicated. The whole effect was to leave no doubt on my mind whatever that Mr. Bennett was a thorough Romanist, and I considered it so settled that I was never so astonished as at perceiving in the papers his appointment to Froome."
It is much to be hoped that this learned gentleman did not "profess" either English or Latin; nor yet manners!
In spite, however, of Mr. Bennett's iniquities, as they appeared to the "professor," he had been instituted to the living, and it was, in the opinion of Mr. Horsman, "a new papal aggression."
Disraeli, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, opposed the motion on various grounds: that the proposed Commission of Inquiry would have no power to obtain evidence and no authority; that other remedies existed and should first be used; that the House of Commons was not a tribunal which should decide upon questions of this sort, and that they would be establishing a precedent "pregnant with difficulty and embarrassment--a precedent for continual mischievous interferences." It would have been well if he had always talked so sensibly on the affairs of the Church.
Sir R. Inglis opposed on the same ground as Disraeli--that the House of Commons was not a tribunal.
Pakington, Colonial Secretary, likewise opposed the motion, as did also Lord John Russell, now Opposition leader, who, however, "hedged" by wishing that the Government would consider what steps should be taken.
Mr. Gladstone pointed out that Mr. Horsman was incorrect in several particulars.
A sort of promise of an inquiry of the law officers was given by the Government, and the motion was defeated by 100 to 80, the chief members of the Government voting against it.
On May n, Mr. Horsman, all impatience, inquired what steps the Government proposed to take, and pressed for an answer. Disraeli answered that "the attention of the Government had been unremitting [Credat Judaeus!], and that he hoped soon to be able to give an answer." This hope he realized on May 14, when he informed Mr. Horsman that the Crown lawyers had reported that her Majesty had no means of efficient inquiry; that the Church Discipline Act gave sufficient power, and any parishioner might have put it in force, but none had done so, and, finally (which was the cream of the joke), that if the House of Commons had passed Mr. Horsman's motion they would have been advising the Queen TO VIOLATE THE BILL OF RIGHTS!
"Dizzy," internally smiling, produced this alarming reply with becoming gravity, and the House of Commons turned pale at the thought of the enormity into which it had so nearly been betrayed. But the irrepressible Horsman was again upon his legs with further questions, on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed the House that "a very different story was told in some letters about the events at Kissingen," and Mr. Gladstone said he could show that the Bishop had acted quite correctly.
Yet again, on May 19 and 20, Mr. Horsman had explanations to make and questions to ask; and on the latter day Lord Castlereagh solemnly put a question "whether Mr. Bennett were a member of the Church of England," a question which, after receiving a letter from Mr. Bennett, he withdrew on the 24th. But on the 28th the subject of Mr. Bennett was again before the House, when Mr. Yorke said that--
"in justice to Mr. Bennett, who was, he was proud to say, a friend of his, and whom he honoured as one of the best men living, he thought it right to say that the reverend gentleman had already been judged by the parishioners of Froome. He [Mr. Yorke] held in his hand a memorial, in the course of signature, which had already been signed by 1039 of the parishioners, in which they expressed their sympathy with him, and their deep regret at the uncourteous and unkind treatment he had received."
He added that the parish church was crowded and the number of communicants increased.
Mr. Horsman, undaunted by defeat, was again to the fore on July 8, and gained his first success, only to meet in the end with a more ridiculous fiasco.
On that day he moved for a Select Committee "to inquire into the circumstances connected with the institution of Mr. Bennett to the Vicarage of Froome." He had now some new tales with which to terrify the House, among others that Mr. Bennett carried about with him a stone altar "which was set up and Mr. Bennett performed religious service before it."
At this point the proceedings were enlivened by a curious incident. Mr. Feargus O'Connor, either in his excitement at Mr. Horsman's eloquence, or with the Irish object of "creating a confession," gave Sir R. Hall, who sat next to him, a "dig in the ribs." Sir R. Hall, not appreciating this delicate attention, "complained to the Speaker. Mr. Speaker reproved Mr. O'Connor, who addressed Mr. Speaker excitedly and incoherently." At last, however, he was persuaded to apologize to Sir R. Hall, and the incident terminated. Mr. O'Connor was soon after sent to an asylum.
After this interlude Mr. Gladstone defended Mr. Bennett. The churchwarden, Mr. Miller, had sent him a letter, in which he said that
"the appointment is not unacceptable to the parishioners. The inhabitants of Froome are under great obligations to the House of Thynne, but none do they more cheerfully recognize and more gratefully appreciate than the appointment of Mr. Bennett. Congregations have increased by a third, and last Sunday there was a congregation of 2000."
Gladstone also again defended the Bishop, who had (he said) subjected Mr. Bennett to a due examination as to his opinions.
Sir W. Page Wood explained that this was a grave constitutional question.
Then Mr. Goulburn moved an amendment--that the words be "a Select Committee to inquire into the state of the law affecting the institution to benefices in the Church of England," thus making the motion general, not personal. But this was too much in the way of common sense for the House, and they negatived the amendment.
Finally Mr. Horsman carried his motion, and the House agreed to the appointment of a Select Committee by 156 to in.
It now devolved on Mr. Horsman to nominate his committee, and accordingly, after preliminary skirmishes on June 10 and n, he drew up his line of battle. His list contained the Home Secretary (S. H. Walpole), the Solicitor General, Sir D. Dundas, Gladstone, Sir W. Page Wood, Mr. Newdegate, and others. But, alas! there was an immediate mutiny in the ranks. Mr. Gladstone refused to act because the proceedings were unconstitutional. Walpole objected to the Committee altogether. On subsequent evenings others backed out of it on one ground or another; the House was, in fact, weary of Mr. Horsman, and wished Mr. Bennett's vicarage had been in the moon, or at any rate "at Jericho." Some humorous member had proposed that Mr. Horsman be himself a member of the Committee, and in the result he found himself a committee of one, and announced that he had abandoned the idea of proceeding any further.
The General Election came in August, and the electors of Cockermouth, basely neglectful of the heroism of their Protestant champion, chose another member instead of him.
In his "Second Letter to Lord John Russell," Mr. Bennett comments on all these proceedings. It was published between the elections in August and the meeting of Parliament in November, 1852.
"Happily for the nation and for me," he says, "the Parliament elected in 1847 is now extinct."
He goes on to liken the proceedings to a sort of trial: "myself the accused--Mr. Horsman the council for the prosecution--the House of Commons the jury." And he complains that (as an accused person should be) he had not been informed beforehand what the charge was; the particulars of Mr. Horsman's charge not having been given until the evening before; that consequently there was no one in the House to answer for him. "There was only one brief in Court, and that for the prosecution."
"The Courts never allow hearsay evidence." But nevertheless the House of Commons had done so.
"Turn, my Lord, to the evidence, and your practised eye will observe how it depends on mere tittle-tattle and gossip. There are the observations of waiters at a German hotel; there is the talk of some English travellers sojourning in a strange place; above all, there is the evidence of the anonymous eavesdropper listening at key-holes and applying his ears to 'ventriloquial walls.' We are told that this 'gentleman' is a 'Professor' in some place of education near London; but his name is not given by Mr. Horsman--so far fortunately. What this 'Professor' heard through the 'ventriloquial' wall we are not told. He only gives his inference drawn from what he heard--not the very things he heard. It is thus. The 'Professor 'communicates his inference from what he heard through the wall to a Macclesfield curate; the Macclesfield curate, being at Clifden in the County of Galway and having received the mural intelligence from the 'Professor,' conveys it to the Achill Herald. Then the Achill Herald is transmitted to the clients at Froome; then the clients at Froome give instructions on the same to their counsel in the House of Commons; and the counsel in the House of Commons delivers his inference from the 'Professor's' inference to the Court! And what does it all amount to? There is something about a 'missal,' something about 'morning excursions,' and something about' Rome.' To the fact of having a missal I plead guilty; to the morning excursions I plead guilty; and to the fact that my conversation did frequently turn on the subject of Rome I plead guilty. But then, my Lord, what is the conclusion? That a Bishop of the English Church is condemned by the House of Commons because he institutes a priest who has a missal, takes morning excursions, and talks about Rome. May we not say with Hippolyta--
'This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard;'
or rather, if we treat it at all seriously, may we not apply to the learned gentleman the saying of the Son of Sirach: 'A fool will peep in at the door into the house, but he that is well nurtured will stand without. It is the rudeness of a man to hearken at the door, but a wise man will be grieved at the disgrace'?"
Mr. Bennett next points out that the House, being unversed in such matters, should have imitated a law court in getting expert evidence as to the matters in question. In the end they had consulted the lawyers, who after four weeks' deliberation gave their opinion already mentioned as to the Bill of Rights.
"I turn to the Bill of Rights," says Mr. Bennett, "and I find it there said that 'The lords spiritual and temporal and commons declare: 3. That the Commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes and ALL OTHER COMMISSIONS AND COURTS OF LIKE NATURE ARE ILLEGAL AND PERNICIOUS!"
Mr. Bennett asks whether the House of Commons, "brimful of religious liberty," wished to go back to the Ecclesiastical tyranny of Elizabeth or of James II.?
"Review the case," he says. "Slander and falsehood had been greedily taken in and listened to for months; the privileges of the House sheltered its members against the law of libel which otherwise might have given the Attorney General a different opportunity of explaining the Bill of Rights, and the Solicitor General another platform for expounding the Canons ecclesiastical.
"The Government, desirous of showing its affection for the Church, and yet not exactly knowing how to punish the priest without implicating the Bishop, held a dubious balance between policy and truth, and destroyed both.
"Another weary night and another weary night; Maynooth first, then Froome; the 8th of June arrived, and then another debate which the Government, openly denying, secretly lent its voice to foster and encourage.
"You will remind me, my Lord, that the Government voted against the Committee of Inquiry. I am aware that they voted against it; but they spoke in favour of it. 'Cabinet Ministers alleged themselves anxious for inquiry,' says Mr. Horsman (Morning Chronicle, June 9, 1852).
"No wonder the debate of June 8 ended in a division against the Government No wonder, my Lord, that the House involved itself in a dilemma, from which it could not be extricated without altogether lowering its character and approaching very nearly to the confines of the ludicrous. It was the just punishment of the whole series of debates, and of those who took part in them, that they came to the conclusion which they did. The creation which they had so incautiously raised up, as in the case of Frankenstein, became a monster from which they all fled away; and no sooner had they obtained their Committee of Inquiry than they found they had nothing to inquire into. They had a Committee, but they had no members. They had raised their child among them; but each man said it was none of his. They looked in wonder at the achievement of their long and anxious debates, and each man asked the other how it got there; and they crept out of the dilemma as best they could, in something between a laugh and a cry--
"'Quid dignum tanto feret hic promissor hiatu?
Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus!'"'
[Horace, "Ars Poetica," 138: "What will this promisser give us worthy of such a wide open mouth? The mountains are in labour, nothing will be born but a ridiculous mouse."]
Mr. Bennett then proceeds to demolish a number of accusations which Mr. Horsman had brought against him, among others the story of the consecrated stone. "I never was possessed of a consecrated stone," he replies.
"Well, my Lord," he says, after enumerating all these tales, "need I go on? This kind of deliberate, helter-skelter assertion, as a fact, of any matter that seemed to bubble up on the surface of the imagination of the late member for Cockermouth, is very painful. It is like one whom you may remember--
oV r epea fresin hsin akosma te poll ate hdh
["Iliad," ii. 212: "Thersites, who had by heart sayings many and disgraceful, kept on scolding with endless words."]
We cannot tell where to meet him; he has so many tales to tell, so many witnesses of wonderful things they never saw, so many
"But, my Lord, I will not weary you."
Thus Mr. Bennett put his accusers in the pillory; and the reader, who has gone through the debates, will quite agree that that House of Commons, that Government, and that member for Cockermouth, all richly deserved it. But the pamphlet, like other "sequels," did not have, it seems, so large a circulation as the "First Letter" had.
In the remainder of this letter Mr. Bennett reviews Mr. Horsman's statements about the Bishop and the institution to Froome, the protest of the forty-two parishioners, and his attendance at Mass. The Bishop had acted in perfect accordance with the Canons. The protest of the forty-two had been supplemented by a petition of 103 persons signed at a private factory, and met by a counter address signed in five days by 1032 parishioners. The "deplorable results "which Mr. Horsman expected were that the communicants had increased from 620 in February and May, 1851, to 710 in the corresponding period of 1852.
"The crowded state of the parish church," says this address, "and the increased number of communicants afford the best proof that you have not been thrust upon an unwilling congregation."
As to the attendance at Roman Catholic places of worship when abroad, he defends himself upon the principle that as Romanists are in schism in this country, so are we in foreign dioceses if we set up altar against altar in them. This view he afterwards set forth more strongly still in a little book published later in his life. He also points out that innumerable other clergymen had attended Mass (some confessedly out of mere curiosity) in Roman Catholic countries, and among them the Bishop of Oxford (Wilberforce) at the very moment Mr. Horsman was delating Mr. Bennett in the House for this shocking crime! He reminds his Lordship that on July 22, 1851, the LORD CHANCELLOR and Lady Truro, with a large number of Protestant notabilities, went to the marriage of Lord E. Howard, and afterwards attended Mass at the chapel of the Bavarian Embassy, the Lord Chancellor giving away the bride.
With this letter the Horsman affair came to an end. Lord Derby's Government was succeeded in December, 1852, by Lord Aberdeen's. Henceforth the House of Commons let Mr. Bennett alone, and he settled quietly down to his thirty-four years' work at Froome.