Project Canterbury

Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey
by Henry Parry Liddon, D.D.

London: Longmans, 1894
volume three

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2002







 'The Golden Keys each eve and morn.

I see them with a heart forlorn,

Lest they should Iron prove to me--

O set my heart at liberty.

May I seize what Thou dost give,

Seize tremblingly and live.'

Lyra Apostoiica, xvi.


IT was not surprising that during the long hours of Pusey' s sickness and slow recovery in the autumn of 1846, he should feel more intensely than ever that solemn sense of personal sinfulness which had weighed upon him con–tinuously through his life.

In his sermon on  'The Entire Absolution of the Penitent'  he dealt in his own thorough way with the whole question of the doctrine and practice of Confession and Absolution, and with the Church authority for both. It is not necessary therefore here to shew that though the general practice of confession had died out in the English Church before the Church movement commenced, yet the theory and principle of personal confession and absolution was part and parcel of the system of the Church of England, re–cognized in Prayer-book and Canons, and supported by a long catena of sound Anglican divines. Moreover, the accidental allusions in history to its regular use by eminent ecclesiastics and laymen, though not very frequent, are of such a character as to shew that it was looked on as nothing foreign or exotic in the life of the Church of England.

At several moments of his earlier life Pusey had been forced by illness, or by trouble, to that solemn and search–ing converse with conscience which confession at once expresses and relieves. Thus, after his illness in 1831, we find him writing to Newman:--

 'I fear that often the desire of attaining some which I thought a great end, and the consciousness of being engaged in a good cause, has engrossed me too entirely, and made me think of my existence too much in reference to what might be accomplished by my means here, instead of looking pre-eminently to the preparing myself to meet my God.'

Again, his wife' s death in 1839 appeared to him to be a punishment for his own sins.


May 7, 1839.

You will pray for me that I may humbly and penitently resign her to Him Who gave her to me, and that the sins may be forgiven me for which, out of the usual order of His dealings, she, once so strong, is taken from me.

Pusey, to use his own words, dreaded his love of occupation, as a diversion from that close dealing with conscience which might lead to a true self-knowledge. It was in order to fix and deepen the sense of sin that he had offered, as an unnamed penitent, to build a church in Leeds. He looked upon his suspension in 1843 as a punishment for  'secret faults.'  When his daughter Lucy died he wrote in the same strain. Her death was a  'punishment for his sins.'  Keble deprecated this view:

Pusey still insisted on it.  'I am indeed,'  he wrote to Keble in April, 1844,  'in earnest that all my sorrows are the fruits of my own sins, and all my chastisements so many mercies.  " Ut nos hic urere et purgare, et in aeternum parcere digneris.”'

This being the state of his mind, and since in his public and private teaching he constantly insisted on the gravity of post-baptismal sin, and on the reality of the absolving power lodged in the, Church, it was inevitable that the question of making use of Confession himself should now present itself, with increasing urgency, as a matter of per–sonal duty. Especially when others came to him to make confessions, and to receive absolution, he must have asked himself whether he ought not to do as they did. But it must be remembered that, neither now nor at any other time in his life, did he treat the practice of private con–fession as a matter of absolute obligation on the part of any one. Besides, he had extreme difficulties in his own case. He was so overwhelmed with the consciousness of his sins that he shrunk from making a confessor of one of those friends with whom he was associated in common work, and outside this circle there was no one whom he could choose as a spiritual guide.

A full idea of his feelings and difficulties in the matter may be gathered from a letter addressed to Keble a few months later. Indeed, it is a letter so sacred in its con–fidence that a biographer might well shrink from publishing it, but at the same time it cannot well be withheld, if Pusey' s sense of personal sinfulness and of the gravity of sin is to be rightly understood.


St. Cyprian' s Day (Sept. 26), 1844.

I must pain you in return far more than what you say can pain me. I am quite unfit to think anything or express anything, one way or the other, about what you tell me, except that it seems a marvellous part of God' s dealings with people in our Church, that He is giving them such quickened apprehensions of sin. But as you give me a hint that you might ask an opinion of me, I must speak, though it will very much pain you. My dear wife' s illness first brought to me, what has since been deepened by the review of my past life, how, amid special mercies and guardianship of God, I am scarred all over and seamed with sin, so that I am a monster to myself; I loathe myself; I can feel of myself only like one covered with leprosy from head to foot; guarded as I have been, there is no one with whom I do not compare myself, and find myself worse than they; and yet thus wounded and full of sores, I am so shocked at myself, that I dare not lay my wounds bare to any one: since I have seen the benefit of con–fession to others, I have looked round whether I could unburthen myself to any one, but there is a reason against every one. I dare not so shock people: and so I go on, having no such comfort as in good Bp. Andrewes'  words, to confess myself  'an unclean worm, a dead dog, a putrid corpse,'  and pray Him to heal my leprosy as He did on earth, and to raise me from the dead: to give me sight, and to forgive me the 10,000 talents; and I must guide myself as best I can, because, as things are, I dare not seek it elsewhere.

     You will almost be surprised that, being such, I should attempt, as I do, to guide any. I cannot help it. Those whom I in any way guide were brought to me, and by experience or reading, or watching God' s guidance of them, I do what I can, and God Who loves them has blessed them through me, though unworthy. But I am trying to learn to wish to influence nothing on any great scale; to prefer, I mean, every one' s judgment to my own, and only to get for myself as I best may, and for any souls whom He employs me any way to minister to. When I can, it is a comfort to use words classing myself with other sinners: it is a sort of disowning of what people make of me. I hope all this will not shock you, too much, or do you harm, the real testimony to the life of the Church is not in such as me but in simple people, such as my own dear child: He is working marvels among such; it quite amazes me to see His work with individual souls. So then pray be not dismayed at what I write. I have not said so much to any one for fear of dismaying them. It seemed as if I had no right. But there is abundant, super-abundant proof of God' s great grace with people' s souls in our Church, though I am a poor miserable leper…

I grieve thus to grieve you, but I cannot help it.

                                      Ever your unworthy but still affectionate

                                                                                             E. B. P.

Such language as this, the reader will bear in mind, must not be construed by the ordinary use of conventional language even in Christian society. But it is rather the expression of that estimate of human sin and of the sinner' s utter unworthiness in the sight of God which underlies, for instance, the language of the General Confession in the prayer-book, and which in all ages has been characteristic of those really advanced in holiness of life. St. Paul was not hyperbolical when he called himself  'the chief'  of sinners. Similar thoughts about themselves have been entertained by saints of all ages--by the dying Augustine; by St. Francis of Assisi and Bishop Andrewes; by St. Vin–cent de Paul and John Bunyan; by St. Francis of Sales and John Wesley; by St. Philip Neri and Charles Simeon. Pusey' s guide and correspondent, Keble, also habitually wrote and expressed himself, with reference to his own life, in similar terms. His penitence, it has been said, poured itself out in language which to many would seem extrava–gant; and he could speak of  'self-abhorrence as a duty, a necessity, and a joy.'

This language of saintly men has always been mis–understood; it has been thought by some to be unreal, and by others to point to the practice of heinous sin, of which they were absolutely guiltless. For instance, Charles Simeon had written of himself:--

 'I scarcely ever join in the confession of our Church without per–ceiving, almost as with my bodily organs, my soul as a dead and putrefied carcass; and I join in that acknowledgment,  " There is no health in us," in a way that none but God Himself can conceive.'

And in consequence of this temper one of his friends thought that  'his frequent sighs and groans were indications of something habitually and essentially wrong in his con–duct.'  The truth, of course, is that with nearness to God comes a new and more exacting standard of sin and holi–ness: and sins of temper or of self-assertion are naturally referred to in terms which the blunted sensibilities of men of the world would only apply to the grossest acts of wickedness.  'I have heard of Thee,'  cried the saint of old,  'by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.'

Pusey' s indecision on this matter was brought to a close, partly by the extreme mental distress which followed on Newman' s secession, and partly by the new and constraining stimulus to his conscience which had been occasioned by his sermon in February, 1846, on the  'Entire Absolution of the Penitent.'  He is thinking of himself when, as was his wont, he speaks in general terms,  'People have through years of life purposed to confess (if God enable them) at their death. But what instinctive reverence for Almighty God tells them should be done before death, should, if possible, be done in life' . The illness at. Tenby caused him finally to make up his mind. Those who know anything of the ex–periences of the human soul can recognize in the course of such events as these the leadings of God' s providence.

On his returning to Oxford after this illness in the autumn of 1846, he first of all wrote to Keble, asking for some rules for himself as a penitent:--


Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Deo gratias, 1846.


Will you give me some penitential rules for myself? I hardly know what I can do, just now, in a bodily way, for nourish–ment I am ordered; sleep I must take when it comes; cold is bad for me; and I know not whether I am strong enough to resume the hair-cloth. However, I hope to try. But I should like to do something because I am bid; for I am weary of being under no authority; and yet I have not, I suppose, been under any, any way, for nearly twenty years. For although at one time I wished to fancy myself under a Bishop, I yet really am under none, and do, in everything almost, what I will; which is an unnatural state. I can hardly make rules for myself which take time: in health one employment treads on another, and except perhaps in Passion Week, and not always then, I have no interruption of occupation: so that my whole life is irregular. I do mostly what I can, when I can: and anything I set myself, I can dispense myself from, for some seeming charity.

God bless you ever and requite you all your kindness.

                                     Yours affectionately, but His most unworthy servant,

                                                                                                                   E. B. P.

Keble' s humble nature shrank from taking Pusey at his word. He thought that the troubles of the time were  'providential modes of real penance, whereby one is merci–fully permitted to supply the want of those more direct and outward penances which one naturally thinks of in the first place, but which in His inscrutable wisdom and good–ness, God often seems to interdict.'  Pusey, in reply, wrote on the same day (All Saints'  Day, 1846), begging Keble to hear his confession. Keble assented, and after some allusions to the date, added:  'Do not punish yourself'  too sharply in the meantime. I suppose compunction of heart is the thing: and if that is longer kept up by a less measure of outward rigour, the less should be preferred.'

Into the preparation for his confession Pusey carried the whole intensity of his character. He gave a full month to the work. His letters to Keble show how the sense of sin possessed and depressed him. He could no longer address Keble as friend, but only as  'father' : he was unworthy to sign himself  'your very affectionate,'  and substituted  'grateful'  or  'unworthy.'  Keble could not allow this to pass without notice.  'I beseech you,'  he wrote,  'do not leave off calling me friend.'  Pusey proposed to go for the occasion to a lodging in Hursley; he wished  'to make a sort of Retreat.'  He would not go to the vicarage as a visitor. He even shrank from using Hursley Church for his confession:

 'I could not bear,'  he wrote,  'to associate your altar with my miseries.'   'Come to me,'  he wrote afterwards,'  please, when it suits you; but when you come, come as God' s priest: if I might ask, do not shake hands, or--anything of this world.'

Pusey had also been importunate in begging Keble for a rule of penitential discipline.

 'As to directing you,'  answered Keble,  'I know I shall be utterly bewildered, were it only from ignorance and inexperience. You must really think beforehand what is most likely to do you good. Mere suffering is the first and simplest thought: but then there are duties to be done. And have we a right to disqualify ourselves for them? Is it not best to leave it to the Almighty to do so if He see fit, by sickness?'

Pusey could not rest in these general considerations, however incontrovertible. He must have some definite prescription: but he would furnish his guide with the knowledge of his own condition, which might enable him to write it.

 'I am,'  he wrote,  'a great coward about inflicting pain on myself, partly, I hope, from a derangement of my nervous system; hair-cloth I know not how to make pain: it is only symbolical, except when worn to an extent which seemed to wear me out. I have it on again, by God' s mercy. I would try to get some sharper sort. Lying hard I like best, unless it is such as to take away sleep, and that seems to unfit me for duties. Real fasting, i. e. going without food, was very little discomfort, except in the head, when the hour of the meal was over, and Dr. W[ootten] said and says,  " It was shortening my life." Praying with my arms in the form of a cross seemed to distract me, and act upon my head, from this same miserable nervousness. I think I should like to be bid to use the discipline. I cannot even smite on my breast much because the pressure on my lungs seemed bad. In short, you see, I am a mass of infirmities. But I might be able to do something, in faith, if I was bid to do it.'

Before however Pusey could complete this duty of making his confession, he had to discharge another which he would willingly have postponed or delegated to other hands. He had promised some months before to take his turn as University preacher on Advent Sunday, Nov. 29; and a sermon always made a great demand on his thought and time, until it was over. Now he had at the same time to prepare for the University pulpit, and for making his confession.

The subject of the sermon was already determined on. On St. Luke' s Day, October 18, Dr. Jeune, the Master of Pembroke College, when preaching before the University, had attacked Pusey for his sermon on Absolution in the preceding February. Pusey had  'neither time nor strength of head'  to reply as he could have wished: but having written something, he sent the polemical part of his sermon to Keble.


Christ Church [Nov. 12], 1846.

... Will you kindly look at these pages? Dr. Jeune preached on St. Luke' s Day a sermon against Confession (which he has since published), pulling mine to pieces, quoting passages throughout, trying to show Confession to be Roman not English, and saying that one who taught as I do is  'a Romanist.'  Connecting this with the difficulties of Bittlestone in the diocese of Worcester, I thought it might be good to vindicate the use of Confession as Anglican. The whole of this is really an answer to Dr. Jeune, but I have not used his words, nor alluded to him otherwise than in p. 1,'  since it has been denied.'

Dr. J. puts the question upon a fair issue, (1) that we are not allowed to use the Form in the Visitation for the Sick in private confessions: (2) that it does not mean to remit sins, but to absolve from Church censures. In both, of course, he must fail: so that it is good ground, if one may take it, and at the same time brings before people again the question whether it may not be a duty to them.

                            Yours very gratefully,


Keble replied at once:--

 'I see nothing for which I am not very thankful in your  " part of a sermon." One is sorry that the pulpit should be a place of excep–tions and rejoinders. But, in this case, I scarce see how it could be helped.'

The sermon is an Advent sermon to which a polemical turn is imparted by the necessity of replying to Dr. Jeune. It dwells less on the absolving power than on the duty and happiness of true repentance. The text,  'Whose sins ye remit they are remitted,'  is exchanged for,  'If we would judge ourselves we should not be judged.'  The preacher does indeed traverse Dr. Jeune' s two positions. To the arbitrary assumption that the confession and absolution which the Prayer-book prescribes for the sick room might not be used on other private occasions, Pusey answers in effect that the Church, having allowed the efficacy of absolution of sins, cannot conceivably limit its use by the physical condi–tion of the sinner, and that at any rate the need of confession is often not less felt in health than in sickness. To the theory that the absolution in the Visitation Service relates only to the removal of Church censures, Pusey rejoins that the portion of the old Latin form which might have been understood to relate to such censures is omitted from the English office, and that part only is retained'  which directly relates to the remission of sins. In the case of public Church censures, the priest would be already well-informed, and there would be no need of confession: the absolution is given for sins disclosed in confession, of which the priest previously knew nothing.  'What waste,'  exclaims the preacher,  'of precious moments on which eternity may hang, to  " move the sick to confess sins," and then in solemn words, which sinful men may well tremble to use, to absolve him," if truly penitent,  "  from all his sins," if this solemn act is not of value to his soul, or relates only to Church censures, under which these sins do not come

But the predominant elements of the sermon are of a personal and devotional kind; and they are lighted up with a new meaning when we know, as none of his hearers knew at the time, that the preacher himself had been going through a great spiritual struggle to attain to true penitence, and that he was even then practising what he was preaching. He is speaking to himself in such a pas–sage as the following:--

 'Penitent thyself thou shalt learn to speak to the hearts of penitents. Thou knowest too well the wounds which enter the soul; thou wilt know the healing wherewith the Great Physician shall have healed thee. Thou knowest the sorrows and plague of thine own heart; thou wilt know the comfort, wherewith thou shalt be comforted of God' .

In the evening of the day Pusey wrote to his mother,  'All is well, and I too, by God' s mercy. Sermon 1º long. A little tired in the afternoon, but not in the evening.'

On the following Tuesday, December 1, he went to Hursley and made his confession; and before leaving he sent a thank-offering in money for Hursley Church,  'from one who feels himself unworthy to offer it himself.'  A day or two later he wrote more at length.


Oxford, Dec. 7, 1846.


I dare not write much, yet thus much I may say, in comfort for all the sorrow I gave you last week, that I cannot doubt but that through your ministry and the power of the keys, I have received the grace of God, as I know not that I ever did before. I can no more doubt of His mercy vouchsafed to me thus far, than of my own past misery. All indeed is very bad. ... However, things seem with me other than they ever were before; at least, I seem to hate myself more thoroughly, and, bad as my prayers are, still to have a love and hope I never knew before. So although, through my wretchedness, you have seen that what is seeming may be hollow, yet through God' s unbounded mercy you will have seen anew that His grace is vouch–safed through His Ordinances to penitents, however fallen. You will pray that it be not in vain. You will know, in some little measure, what a hard task is before me. To think of myself as last in God' s sight (had He made me such) would be nothing; but to feel that I have had gifts of nature and drawings, above others, and to feel that this wreck is my own making, it is very bitter. ... May it only be healing. And then I found my late sermon printed. Alas! what a key you have to it. I hardly know how I cquld have got through it now. Oh, that that miserable, miserable thing should be I! Yet I trust, by His mercy, it is no more I. It ought to have out one' s heart open to read it. However, do not think (I pray) that I need comfort. It seems to me the most blessed sorrow (when occupation does not take it away) I ever felt. God would not deal thus with me, if He had not pardoned me….

May God requite you.

                       In Him your very affectionate and grateful son,

                                                                                            E. B. P.

Pusey  'had brought with him a disciplinary rule of life for himself, which Keble was to sanction. Its chief pecu–liarity is its definite and practical, character. It was not an attempt to regulate feelings or states of mind, but to shape life by practical efforts. Nor does it seem to have been taken from any known external source whatever: it was suggested by his own experience.

Some of these rules were of an ascetic description, which the majority of people in our day cannot even understand much less admire, but which may not on that account be less valuable, at any rate in some cases, in forming the Christian character. Pusey, under the guidance of the Apostle' s habit of keeping his body under subjection, made rules for all his outward life, with Keble' s sanction. He resolved, for instance, to be in bed by eleven o' clock if possible: to rise at six, after giving  'five minutes to collect himself and commend himself to God' ; to wear hair-cloth always by day unless ill; to use a hard seat by day, and a hard bed by night; not to wear gloves or protect his hands; to travel as poorly as possible, except when health, or pressure of time, or duty to his mother, obliged him to do otherwise; to eat his food slowly, and penitentially,  'making a secret confession of unworthiness to use God' s creatures, before every meal' ; not to take wine or beer, unless obliged to do so by a physician; to abstain, as strictly as his physician would permit; never to notice anything unpleasant in what was set on table, but to take it by preference, and in a penitential spirit.

But if the body was to be mortified, much more the mind. Pusey resolved  'to mortify curiosity in all the ways I can' ; to look at nothing out of curiosity; to keep the eyes down when walking, except for the sight of nature, associating himself mentally with the Publican; to ask himself before reading anything whether it was God' s will that he should read it; never to set aside solid work in order to read newspapers or letters. His rules about the use of speech will explain to those who can remember it the peculiarities of his conversation; its stern repression of all humour, its profound seriousness, its unexpected pauses and silences, its grave and charitable protests. He determined not to speak of himself or of his work, whenever he could help doing so; to blame another only after asking himself the question,  " Would my Lord have me say it?" and to accompany the blame by an act of self-humiliation; to soften, if possible, any unfavourable judgment of others  'that he heard; to give way in argument wherever it was  'not a duty to maintain his opinion; to avoid excitement or jesting when speaking, except when with children,  " as  'unfit for me”; to pray daily for semnotes to interrupt no one else when speaking; to stop, if interrupted; to give way if another should begin speaking at the same time; never to argue in Chapter against any opinion of (except for some grave cause), but, at most, simply to explain; never to complain of anything which happens  " either to himself or to the Church, since his own sins were the cause of the one, and might contribute to the other; never to mention bodily pain except as an explanation of silence which might be misunderstood; always to acknow–ledge ignorance of a subject, unless it was inexpedient, as distinct from humiliating, to do so; to address every one, especially inferiors in rank, as his superiors in the sight of God; to thank all who waited on him heartily, and calling to mind that he did not deserve anything at their hands.

Pusey did nothing by halves; and he resolved to bring his devotions and his ministerial work under the domain of penitential rule. The sense of penitence was to colour all the departments of prayer and even praise. He would join in Intercessions,  'as unfit to be heard for any one' ; in the Gloria Patri and Pater noster, as  'unworthy to take on my lips the Name I have so dishonoured' ; in profes–sions of duty in the Psalms, as  'what I would do, but the contrary of what I have done' ; in Thanksgiving,  'to thank God that I am not in hell, and for my absolution, and that the devil did not enter into me altogether, as he did into Judas' ; in the responses after the Commandments, so as to  'pray for the conversion of the worst sinners--myself chief~'  He also resolved:--

 'To pray God to enable me to pray before each break in the Service, at the beginning of Psalms, Canticles, before singing Creeds, hearing each Lesson, and three times in the Litany, and before Communion service, and immediately after any distraction, and then to try to throw my whole soul into the prayers; to write down how often I omit this.'

Other resolves about devotions were:--

 'To repeat the Penitential Psalms or verses of them when walking alone, or in Chapter. Always to repeat any prayer in which I have been distracted [during the Church service] as fervently as I can, as soon as I may, after returning home. To pray for some grace at every Communion, and be watchful to treasure it, and now, at first, at least, humble penitential love. To pray God daily for any trouble which may be good for my soul, and not injure the Church. To pray God daily, if it be good for me, to give me sharp bodily pain before I die, and His Grace in it.'

The same spirit was carried into his ministerial work; he was to do everything in the spirit of a penitent. He would  'aim at commencing every ministerial act with inward confession,'  that he was  'so very unfit to be a minister of God.'  Another rule was,  'Always in taking my place in the Cathedral, or on going to the Altar, to make an act of humiliation, as one who ought to be shut out from it. The first shall be last.'  Another,  'To hear all the very worst confessions, very penitentially, as worse myself.'  Another,  'To give advice or opinion to any person, as being unfit to speak.  " O take not the word of Thy Truth utterly out of my mouth.”'  Another,  'In any undertaking or plan, as in the case of St. Saviour' s or the Sisters, or thinking or praying for them, to pray God that it be not marred through my sins.'  Another,  'Not to desire to minister to any one, as being unfit, but to pray God that it may be as is best for their souls, and that if [I do minister to them] I may learn of them.'  Another,  'To minister to holy persons (as , -- &c.), as so very unfit even to be with them.'

Other rules were to deal with general habits:--

 'To aim to offer all acts to God and to pray for His grace in them before commencing them, as conversations, while people are coming into the room or before I enter a room, each separate letter which I write, each course of study, and in the course of each of these, if continued long, and His pardon at the end, and note down omissions.

 'Never, if I can, to look at beauty of nature, without inward con–fession of unworthiness.

 'To make mental acts, from time to time, of being inferior to every one I see [especially the poor, or when preaching, or the neglected, or the very degraded, or children, or if I catch any one' s eyes].

 'To drink cold water at dinner, as only fit to be where there is not a drop  " to cool this flame.”

 'To make the fire to me from time to time the type of hell.

 'Always to lie down in bed, confessing that I am unworthy to lie down except in hell, but so praying to lie down in the Everlasting Arms.

 'Whenever I cannot take the last place outwardly, to take it inwardly.

 'To make act of internal humiliation, whenever any mark of out–ward respect is shown me (as by young men, college servants, &c. at Christ Church).'

Pusey made rules also to help him in bringing every thought under the constant empire of rule. He would aim at not letting his imagination dwell on unreal circum–stances or situations, but to drive all thoughts of this life away, except of what is actual or impending. When thoughts arose which were the consequence of past sins, he would say,  'Lord, have mercy.'  When enabled to think anything in any way good, he would thank God as quickly as he could,  'if only by one thought.'  He would impress on himself that  'nothing is my own but my sins.'

Pusey proposed some rules which his adviser disallowed. Keble was anxious lest Pusey should humble himself at the expense of others.  'One is not,'  he wrote,  'always to say what one really thinks of oneself, even when in some respects the subject might seem to call for it.'  In the same way, Pusey must be careful not to do harm to social inferiors by expressing his sense of moral inferiority to them. As to those points there was no difficulty: but there were others behind. Pusey was very anxious  'to use  " the discipline" every night with Psalm 51.'  Keble did not advise it. Pusey entreated.  'I still scruple,'  wrote Keble,  'about the discipline. I could but allow, not enjoin it to any one.'  Another rule which Pusey begged to have set him was,  'Not to smile, if I can help it, except with children, or when it seems a matter of love (like one who has just escaped the fire).'  But Keble hesitated.  'I should not be honest,'  he wrote,  'were I not to con–fess that I cannot yet reconcile myself to the not smiling. Is it not a penalty on others, more than on oneself?'  Pusey' s proposal not to read letters when he was engaged in serious work, in order to mortify curiosity, leads Keble to observe,  'I suppose the rule about reading letters relates to the time when you receive them; my temptation often is rather to leave them unread.'  Keble, who was fond of saying that we may always learn from those to whom we minister, when returning the rules wrote to Pusey:  'May I copy those of  'the rules which seem as if they would help me? Of course not any which you would rather not.'  Whatever he may have thought of this, Pusey could not but consent: he sent Keble a copy of the rules, adding:--

 'Forgive me if I cannot but be anxious that you should not put upon yourself what is only for such as me. I am naturally of strong constitution: you are not. . .. Again, I cannot compose out walking; you can. To me then to repeat Penitential Psalms is to escape idleness (and it is very badly done at the best). From you it might take away some of the little leisure you have to write for the children of the Church.'

Keble writes in reply:--


Hursley, 2nd Wed. in Advent [Dec. 9], 1846.

My dearest Friend, and Son that ought to be Father, and something more than I can say,-- It is but little that I can write to you just now--little in every sense, compared with what it ought to be--but God be thanked if He has made His precious gifts available to you through the like of me: but what if I should myself be adokimos--will not all this greatly add to my burden? You must pray for me, you must indeed, for I really told you the simple truth about myself, and though He has been very merciful to me, I know I am very very wanting--callous as I some–times feel, at other times it quite frightens me to think of other persons'  contrition whose story is nothing like so shameful as mine: but enough of this just now. Only do pray simply that I may be contrite--that is really what I want and need. You need not fear my treating myself too austerely: my tendencies and habits, I am sorry to say, lie far too much the other way, and circumstances besides are against it: yet I hope that by His great blessing the having your Rules by me will be of use: were it only for the feeling of shame which will come over one at the thought of such a thing being in one' s desk while one is all ease and comfort. At the same time, when I think of all your illnesses, I half repent of having put my name to some of the outward Rules: but you really must remember that they are your own not mine, I being so soft and so ignorant, and that I can ill afford to bear the responsibility of bringing any sort of illness upon you. For my sake, and for all our sakes, be not hard upon yourself-- remember what is said about  'often infirmities.'  If it were not for paining you, I should scruple about your kind and too-large gift to Hursley Church: it is not a case of pressing need, and I am not afraid of funds falling short: but as it is I can only say, God make it a blessing to you, and repay you a thousandfold all the comfort and help you have been and are to me: but I try to make allowance for that--and now no more about self.

I hope before this time you will have great comfort from your London journey--mine was merely about external matters; but there were a great many comfortable things, and I do hope matters are rather settling among us. My dear wife continues pretty well and very grateful to you. Accept both our kind love--and believe me, my dear son, yet fatherly friend, your very affectionate father in Christ (is it not almost too daring to say so ?),

                                                                         J. K.

The spiritual relationship thus established between Pusey and Keble continued until the death of the latter in 1866. Three times at least in every year Pusey went to Hursley in order to make his confession; and the times of these visits were also used by the friends for talking over urgent religious questions. In one sense this arrangement must be regretted, at least by the biographer; as much of the highest interest which would otherwise have survived in correspondence was thus irrecoverably lost.

Pusey' s rule of life which Keble thus sanctioned was a rule for himself. It was the product of his own mind, and it was suited to his own case and temperament. No mistake could be greater than to suppose that he recom–mended it for general use: every soul, he used to say, has its own history, and must be treated separately. In advising others he was wont to be indulgent as to matters in which he was severe with himself:  'You live in the world,'  he would say,  'more than I do, and you would naturally do this or that' ; or  'You have not much con–stitution to fall back on, and must not attempt too much.'  Though his language in speaking of faults of temper or of self-assertion in his own case was as vehement as we have seen, he would deal in a spirit of the utmost gentleness with far graver faults in the case of others.

In addition to all these rules for his life, it must be borne in mind that, as has already been said, he had, ever since his wife' s death in 1839, avoided all social gatherings. He re–frained from dining with his brother Canons in Chapter; and he begged Archdeacon Manning, when staying at Cuddesdon with Bishop Wilberforce, to save him from an invitation which it would be difficult either to accept or to decline. About this time he wrote to his eldest brother, who had asked him to a dinner-party at Pusey, in the following terms


[Undated, but 1845 or 1846.]

I had rather say in writing that I feel myself more and more unfit for anything like a dinner-party. It does not suit me in health, or any way, body or mind. It is now six years since I have dined out, although when in your own house I have gladly seen the friends you kindly wished to see me.

But it is an understood thing among my friends that I do not dine out, and I should get into endless inconsistencies by meeting friends at dinner at your house whom I do not meet elsewhere. Thus to-day a friend declined for me an invitation to meet Gladstone and Hook and other friends from Lord Wicklow on the ground that I had left off dining out for years. Of course, you and Lord W. are very different, but still I have now an answer everywhere; whereas if I once begin again it is very difficult to stop, and to refuse to meet the same persons elsewhere. Yet I never feel so little satisfied with myself as at a party of any sort, and I shrink from any step towards getting back to them.

I am really sorry not to do anything you wish me to do, but my present life of comparative loneliness seems to me to have been marked out for me by God' s Providence, and I find myself best thus.

Your very affectionate brother,

                                        E. B. P.

Pusey' s solitary life was in harmony with a standard and practices of penitence which others could only attempt at some risk of unreality; but his example is not on that account the 1 valuable. All the world cannot, and should not if it could, wear a hermit' s garb and live austerely: but the example of the Baptist is not therefore less valuable, as a reformer of society no less than as a saint of God, for men of all nations and of all time.




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