Last modified on 2 November 2014, at 03:44

James Anthony Froude

I cut a hole in my heart and wrote with the blood.

James Anthony Froude (April 23 1818October 20 1894) was a controversial English historian, novelist, biographer, and editor of Fraser's Magazine.

QuotesEdit

Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity.
  • I cut a hole in my heart and wrote with the blood.
    • On the writing of his novel The Nemesis of Faith (1849), in a letter to Charles Kingsley, as quoted in Doubting Clerics : From James Anthony Froude to Robert Elsmere via George Eliot (1989) by Rosemary Ashton
  • Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity. For every false word or unrighteous deed, for cruelty and oppression, for lust or vanity, the price has to be paid at last.
    • "The Science of History", (5 February 1864); lecture published in Representative Essays (1885) by George Haven Putnam, p. 274; Lord Acton quoted the first sentence of this statement in an address "The Study Of History" (11 June 1895), and it has often since been misattributed to him. The phrase has also sometimes been misquoted as: Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral laws are written on the table of eternity.
  • The landlord may become a direct oppressor. He may care nothing for the people, and have no object but to squeeze the most that he can out of them fairly or unfairly. The Russian government has been called despotism tempered with assassination. In Ireland landlordism was tempered by assassination.
    Unfortunately the wrong man was generally assassinated. The true criminal was an absentee, and his agent was shot instead of him. A noble lord living in England, two of whose agents had lost their lives already in his service, ordered the next to post a notice in his Barony that he intended to persevere in what he was doing, and if the tenants thought they would intimidate him by shooting his agents, they would find themselves mistaken.
    • "On the Uses of a Landed Gentry" address in Edinburgh (6 November 1876), published in Short Studies on Great Subjects, Vol. III (1893), p. 406
  • Nature is less partial than she appears, and all situations in life have their compensations along with them.
    • Bunyan (1880), Ch. X, p. 175; a 2005 edition is also available from Kessinger Publishing ISBN 1-417-97107-X
  • Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.
    • Oceana, or, England and Her Colonies (1886) [C. Scribner's Sons, 1972, ISBN 083699096X, 9780836990966, 396 pages], p. 67
  • He came, bringing with Him the knowledge that God is a Being of infinite goodness; that the service required of mankind is not a service of form or ceremony, but a service of obedience.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 62.
  • The Providence that watches over the affairs of men works out of their mistakes, at times, a healthier issue than could have been accomplished by their wisest forethought.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 278.

The Nemesis of Faith (1849)Edit

First edition (1849) - Second edition (1849) - Third edition (1903)
I am convinced with Plato, with St. Paul, with St. Augustine, with Calvin, and with Leibnitz, that this universe, and every smallest portion of it, exactly fulfils the purpose for which Almighty God designed it.
I cannot think the disputes and jealousies of Heaven are tried and settled by the swords of earth.
His religion — not the Christian religion, but the religion of Christ — the poor man's gospel; the message of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of love; and, oh, how gladly would I spend my life, in season and out of season, in preaching this!
We have not yet found the liberty with which Christ has made us free. Infidels, Arthur! Ah, it is a hard word ! The only infidelity I know is to distrust God, to distrust his care of us, his love for us.
  • The moral of human life is never simple, and the moral of a story which aims only at being true to human life cannot be expected to be any more so.
    • Preface, Second edition (21 June 1849), added in response to some controversies and rumors caused by the publication of the first edition of his novel. There were no changes made in the text of the novel itself.
  • I am convinced with Plato, with St. Paul, with St. Augustine, with Calvin, and with Leibnitz, that this universe, and every smallest portion of it, exactly fulfils the purpose for which Almighty God designed it.
    • Preface, Second edition (21 June 1849)
  • Man is a real man, and can live and act manfully in this world, not in the strength of opinions, not according to what he thinks, but according to what he is.
    • Preface, Second edition (21 June 1849)
  • I do not dishonour the Bible. I honour it above all books. The New Testament alone, since I have been able to read it humanly, has to me outweighed all the literature of the world. It is because we dishonour it by making it an idol, and destroy its power by the foolish means with which we think to enhance it, that I have said what I have felt it my duty to say.
    • Preface, Second edition (21 June 1849)
  • I know that even in this faithless age there are many persons to whom the Bible is what it was to Calvin — its smallest word as really the voice of God, its most trifling part as sacred; and to these persons I know I shall have given very great pain. They may not believe me when I say I am sorry for it; but if they will not, at least they will believe with me, that those who fight against God are most fighting against themselves; that He can and will protect His truth, and that every blow which is aimed against it will not injure truth, but will recoil on the striker's head. So far they will go with me. In the prayer that it may be so, may they and I unite.
    • Preface, Second edition (21 June 1849)
  • I have nothing but myself to write about, no facts, no theories, no opinions, no adventures, no sentiments, nothing but my own poor barren individualism, of considerable interest to me, but I do not know why I should presume it will be so to you. Egotism is not tiresome, or it ought not to be, if one is sincere about oneself; but it is so hard to be sincere. Well, never mind, I mean to be, and you know me well enough to see through me when I am humbugging.
    • Markham Sutherland to Arthur "Letter I : Huntley Parsonage, September 4, 1843"
  • I scarcely know a professional man I can like, and certainly not one who has been what the world calls successful, that I should the least wish to resemble.
    • Letter I
  • You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.
    • Markham Sutherland's father, quoted in Letter I.
  • I cannot think the disputes and jealousies of Heaven are tried and settled by the swords of earth.
    • Letter II
  • I would sooner perish for ever than stoop down before a Being who may have power to crush me, but whom my heart forbids me to reverence.
    • Letter II
  • The war of good and evil is mightiest in mightiest souls, and even in the darkest time the heart will maintain its right against the hardest creed.
    • Letter II
  • It may be from some moral obliquity in myself, or from some strange disease; but for me, and I should think too for every human being in whose breast a human heart is beating, to know that one single creature is in that dreadful place would make a hell of heaven itself. And they have hearts in heaven, for they love there.
    • Letter II
  • I believe that fallen creatures perish, perish for ever, for only good can live, and good has not been theirs; but how durst men forge our Saviour's words "eternal death" into so horrible a meaning? And even if he did use other words, and seem to countenance such a meaning for them (and what witness have we that He did, except that of men whose ignorance or prejudice might well have interpreted these words wrongly as they did so many others?)
    • Letter II
  • I know but one man, of more than miserable intellect, who in these modern times has dared defend eternal punishment on the score of justice, and that is Leibnitz; a man who, if I know him rightly, chose the subject from its difficulty as an opportunity for the display of his genius, and cared so little for the truth that his conclusions did not cost his heart a pang, or wring a single tear from him. And what does Leibnitz say? That sin, forsooth, though itself be only finite, yet, because it is against an Infinite Being, contracts a character of infinity, and so must be infinitely punished. It is odd that the clever Leibnitz should not have seen that a finite punishment, inflicted by the same Infinite Being, would itself of course contract the same character of infinity.
    • Letter II
  • I could never fear a God who kept a hell prison-house. No, not though he flung me there because I refused. There is a power stronger than such a one; and it is possible to walk unscathed even in the burning furnace.
    • Letter II
  • I would not so dishonour God as to lend my voice to perpetuate all the mad and foolish things which men have dared to say of Him. I believe that we may find in the Bible the highest and purest religion ..... most of all in the history of Him in whose name we all are called. His religion — not the Christian religion, but the religion of Christ — the poor man's gospel; the message of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of love; and, oh, how gladly would I spend my life, in season and out of season, in preaching this! But I must have no hell terrors, none of these fear doctrines; they were not in the early creeds, God knows whether they were ever in the early gospels, or ever passed His lips. He went down to hell, but it was to break the chains, not to bind them.
    • Letter II
  • Show me if I am wrong. It is easy to be mistaken. But do not tell me it is wicked of me to have thought all this, for it is not — I am certain it is not.
    • Letter II
  • The Mahometans say their Koran was written by God. The Hindoos say the Vedas were; we say the Bible was, and we are but interested witnesses in deciding absolutely and exclusively for ourselves. If it be immeasurably the highest of the three, it is because it is not the most divine but the most human. It does not differ from them in kind; and it seems to me that in ascribing it to God we are doing a double dishonour; to ourselves for want of faith in our soul's strength, and to God in making Him responsible for our weakness. There is nothing in it but what men might have written; much, oh much, which it would drive me mad to think any but men, and most mistaken men, had written. Yet still, as a whole, it is by far the noblest collection of sacred books in the world; the outpouring of the mind of a people in whom a larger share of God's spirit was for many centuries working than in any other of mankind, or who at least most clearly caught and carried home to themselves the idea of the direct and immediate dependence of the world upon Him. It is so good that as men looked at it they said this is too good for man: nothing but the inspiration of God could have given this. Likely enough men should say so; but what might be admired as a metaphor became petrified into a doctrine, and perhaps the world has never witnessed any more grotesque idol-worship than what has resulted from it in modern Bibliolatry. And yet they say we are not Christians, we cannot be religious teachers, nay, we are without religion, we are infidels, unless we believe with them. We have not yet found the liberty with which Christ has made us free. Infidels, Arthur! Ah, it is a hard word ! The only infidelity I know is to distrust God, to distrust his care of us, his love for us. And yet that word! How words cling to us, and like an accursed spell force us to become what they say we have become.
    • Letter III
  • The evidence of religion — ah, I know where the true evidence lies, by the pleadings of my own heart against me. Why, why must it be that all these alien histories, these strange theories and doctrines, should be all sown in together in the child seed-bed with the pure grain of Christianity? so that in after years it is impossible to root them out without trampling over rudely on the good. And we must do it. They may be harmless, growing there unrecognised; but, known for what they are, their poison opens then, and they or we must die.
    • Letter III
  • There is a village in the wood, two or three miles from here — there was an abbey there once. But there is nothing left of the abbey but its crumbling walls, and it serves only for a burying-ground and for sentimental picnic parties. I was there to-day; I sat there a long time, I do not know how long — I was not conscious of the place. I was listening to what it was saying to me. I will write it down and look at it, and you shall look at it: an odd enough subject for a Christian ruin to choose — it began to talk about paganism. "Do you know what paganism means? " it said. Pagani, Pagans, the old country villagers. In all history there is no more touching word than that one of Pagan.
    'In the great cities, where men gather in their crowds and the work of the world is done, and the fate of the world is determined, there it is that the ideas of succeeding eras breed and grow and gather form and power, and grave out the moulds for the stamp of after ages. There it was, in those old Roman times, that the new faith rose in its strength, with its churches, its lecture-rooms, its societies. It threw down the gorgeous temples, it burnt their carved cedar work, it defiled the altars and scattered the ashes to the winds. The statues were sanctified and made the images of saints, the augurs' colleges were rudely violated, and they who were still faithful were offered up as martyrs, or scattered as wanderers over the face of the earth, and the old gods were expelled from their old dominion — the divinity of nature before the divinity of man. … Change is strong, but habit is strong too; and you cannot change the old for new, like a garment. Far out in the country, in the woods, in the villages, for a few more centuries, the deposed gods still found a refuge in the simple minds of simple men, who were contented to walk in the ways of their fathers — to believe where they had believed, to pray where they had prayed. What was it to these, the pomp of the gorgeous worship, the hierarchy of saints, the proud cathedral, and the thoughts which shook mankind? Did not the sky bend over them as of old in its calm beauty, the sun roll on the same old path, and give them light and warmth and happy sunny hearts? The star-gods still watched them as they slept — why should they turn away? why seek for newer guardians? Year by year the earth put on her robes of leaves and sweetest flowers — the rich harvests waved over the corn-fields, and the fruit-trees and the vineyards travailed as of old; winter and summer, spring and autumn, rain and sunshine, day and night, moving on in their never-ending harmony of change. The gods of their fathers had given their fathers these good things; had their power waxed slack? Was not their powerful hand stretched out still? Pan, almighty Pan! He had given, and he gave still.
    • Letter IV
  • Who shall say that those poor peasants were not acting in the spirit we most venerate, most adore; that theirs was not the true heart language which we cannot choose but love? And what has been their reward? They have sent down their name to be the by-word of all after ages; the worst reproach of the worst men — a name convertible with atheism and devil-worship.
    • Letter IV
  • Once, once for all, if you would save your heart from breaking, learn this lesson — once for all you must cease, in this world, to believe in the eternity of any creed or form at all. Whatever grows in time is a child of time, and is born and lives, and dies at its appointed day like ourselves.
    • Letter IV
  • Life is change, to cease to change is to cease to live; yet if you may shed a tear beside the death-bed of an old friend, let not your heart be silent on the dissolving of a faith.
    • Letter IV
  • Carlyle! Carlyle only raises questions he cannot answer, and seems best contented if he can make the rest of us as discontented as himself; and all the others, all, that is, who have any power at all, fight beside religion, either as if it were not worth saving, or as if it had nothing to do with them.
    • Letter V
  • Do you not think that sometimes when matters are at the worst with us, when we appear to have done all which we ourselves can do, yet all has been unavailing, and we have only shown we cannot, not we will not, help ourselves; that often just then something comes, almost as if supernaturally, to settle for us, as if our guardian angel took pity on our perplexities, and then at last obtained leave to help us? And if it be so, then what might only be a coincidence becomes a call of Providence, a voice from Heaven, a command.
    • Letter VI
  • Life is more than a theory, and love of truth butters no bread: old men who have had to struggle along their way, who know the endless bitterness, the grave moral deterioration which follow an empty exchequer, may well be pardoned for an over-wish to see their sons secured from it; hunger, at least, is a reality...
    • Letter VI
  • I believe in God, not because the Bible tells me that he is, but because my heart tells me so; and the same heart tells me we can only have His peace with us if we love Him and obey Him, and that we can only he happy when we each love our neighbour better than ourselves.
    • Letter VI
  • The men that write books, Carlyle says, are now the world's priests, the spiritual directors of mankind.
    • Letter VI
  • Oh ! what a frightful business is this modern society; the race for wealth — wealth. I am ashamed to write the word. Wealth means well-being, weal, the opposite of woe. And is that money? or can money buy it? We boast much of the purity of our faith, of the sins of idolatry among the Romanists, and we send missionaries to the poor unenlightened heathens, to bring them out of their darkness into our light, our glorious light; but oh! if you may measure the fearfulness of an idol by the blood which stains its sacrifice, by the multitude of its victims, where in all the world, in the fetish of the poor negro, in the hideous car of Indian Juggernaut, can you find a monster whose worship is polluted by such enormity as this English one of money!
    • Letter VII
  • I suppose, at the smallest average, for the making of a single rich man, we make a thousand whose life-long is one flood-tide of misery. The charnel-houses of poverty are in the shadow of the palace; and as one is splendid, so is the other dark, poisonous, degraded. How can a man grow rich, except on the spoils of others' labour? His boasted prudence and economy, what is it but the most skilfully availing himself of their necessities, most resolutely closing up his heart against their cries to him for help?
    • Letter VII
  • To be enthusiastic about doing much with human nature is a foolish business indeed; and, throwing himself into his work as he was doing, and expecting so much from it, would not the tide ebb as strongly as it was flowing? It is a rash game this setting our hearts on any future beyond what we have our own selves control over. Things do not walk as we settle with ourselves they ought to walk, and to hope is almost the correlative of to be disappointed.
    • Arthur's first summary
  • I think there is a spiritual scent in us which feels mischief coming, as they say birds scent storms.
    • Letter IX
  • Charity is from person to person; and it loses half, far more than half, its moral value when the giver is not brought into personal relation with those to whom he gives.
    • Letter IX
  • That in these times every serious person should not in his heart have felt some difliculty with the doctrines of the incarnation, I cannot helieve. We are not as we were. When Christianity was first published, the imagination of mankind presented the relation of heaven to earth very differently from what it does now.
    • Letter X
  • I will be candid. I believe God is a just God, rewarding and punishing us exactly as we act well or ill. I believe that such reward and punishment follow necessarily from His will as revealed in natural law, as well as in the Bible. I believe that as the highest justice is the highest mercy, so He is a merciful God. That the guilty should suffer the measure of penalty which their guilt has incurred, is justice. What we call mercy is not the remission of this, but rather the remission of the extremity of the sentence attached to the act, when we find something in the nature of the causes which led to the act which lightens the moral guilt of the agent. That each should have his exact due is Just — is the best for himself. That the consequence of his guilt should he transferred from him to one who is innocent (although that innocent one he himself willing to accept it), whatever else it be, is not justice. We are mocking the word when we call it such. If I am to use the word justice in any sense at all which human feeling attaches to it, then to permit such transfer is but infinitely deepening the wrong, and seconding the first fault by greater injustice. I am speaking only of the doctrine of the atonement in its human aspect, and as we are to learn anything from it of the divine nature or of human duty.
    • Letter X
  • To suppose that by our disobedience we have taken something away from God, in the loss of which He suffers, for which He requires satisfaction, and that this satisfaction has been made to Him by the cross sacrifice (as if doing wrong were incurring a debt to Him, which somehow must be paid, though it matters not by whom), is so infinitely derogatory to His majesty, to every idea which I can form of His nature, that to believe it in any such sense as this confounds and overwhelms me. In the strength of my own soul, for myself, at least, I would say boldly, rather let me bear the consequences of my own acts myself, even if it be eternal vengeance, and God requires it, than allow the shadow of my sin to fall upon the innocent.
    • Letter X
  • I know that in early ages men did form degraded notions of the Almighty, painting Him like themselves, extreme only in all their passions : they thought He could he as lightly irritated as themselves, and that they could appease His anger by wretched offerings of innocent animals. From such a feeling as this to the sense of the value of a holy and spotless life and death — from the sacrifice of an animal to that of a saint — is a step forward out of superstition quite immeasurable. That between the earnest conviction of partial sight, and the strong metaphors of vehement minds, the sacrificial language should have been transferred onwards from one to the other, seems natural to me; perhaps inevitable. On the other hand, through all history we find the bitter fact that mankind can only be persuaded to accept the best gifts which Heaven sends them, in persecuting and destroying those who are charged to be their bearers.
    • Letter X
  • I do not disbelieve that in some mysterious transcendental sense, as involved in the system of the entire universe, with so vast an arc that no faculty of man can apprehend its curve, that in some such sense the Catholic doctrine of the atonement may be true. But a doctrine out of which, with our reason, our feeling, our logic, I at least can gather any practical instruction for mankind — any deeper appreciation of the attributes of God, any deeper love for Him, any stimulant towards our own obedience — such a doctrine I cannot find it. I bury what I am to think of it in the deepest corner of my own heart, where myself I fear to look.
    • Letter X
  • I think Nature, if she interests herself much about her children, must often feel that, like the miserable Frankenstein, with her experimenting among the elements of humanity, she has brought beings into existence who have no business here; who can do none of her work, and endure none of her favours; whose life is only suffering; and whose action is one long protest against the ill foresight which flung them into consciousness.
    • Arthur's second commentary
  • You cannot reason people into loving those whom they are not drawn to love; they cannot reason themselves into it; and there are some contrarieties of temper which are too strong even for the obligations of relationship.
    • Arthur's second commentary
  • Why is it thought so very wicked to be an unbeliever? Rather, why is it assumed that no one can have difficulties unless he be wicked? Because an anathema upon unbelief has been appended as a guardian of the creed. It is one way, and doubtless a very politic way, of maintaining the creed, this of anathema. When everything may be lost unless one holds a particular belief, and nothing except vulgar love of truth can induce one into questioning it, common prudence points out the safe course; but really it is but a vulgar evidence, this of anathema.
    Genuine belief ended with persecution. As soon as it was felt that to punish a man for maintaining an independent opinion was shocking and unjust, so soon a doubt had entered whether the faith established was unquestionably true.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • A man is born into the world — a real man — such a one as it has never seen; he lives a life consistently the very highest; his wisdom is the calm earnest voice of humanity; to the worldly and the commonplace so exasperating, as forcing upon them their own worthlessness — to the good so admirable that every other faculty is absorbed in wonder. The one killed him. The other said, this is too good to be a man — this is God. His calm and simple life was not startling enough for their eager imagination; acts of mercy and kindness were not enough, unless they were beyond the power of man. To cure by ordinary means the bruised body, to lift again with deep sympathy of heart the sinking sinner was not enough. He must speak with power to matter as well as mind; eject diseases and eject devils with command. The means of ordinary birth, to the oriental conception of uncleanness, were too impure for such as he, and one so holy could never dissolve in the vulgar corruption of the grave.
    Yet to save his example, to give reality to his sufferings, he was a man nevertheless. In him, as philosophy came in to incorporate the first imagination, was the fulness of humanity as well as the fulness of the Godhead. And out of this strange mixture they composed a being whose life is without instruction, whose example is still nothing, whose trial is but a helpless perplexity. The noble image of the man is effaced, is destroyed. Instead of a man to love and to follow, we have a man-god to worship. From being the example of devotion, he is its object; the religion of Christ ended with his life, and left us instead but the Christian religion.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • The conviction of the martyr that the stake is the gate of Paradise, diminishes the dignity of the suffering in proportion to its strength. If it be absolute certainty, the trial is absolutely nothing. And that all-wise Being who knew all, who himself willed, erected, determined all, what could the worst earthly suffering he to him to whom all the gates which close our knowledge were shining crystal? What trial, what difficulty was it all to him? His temptation is a mockery. His patience, meekness, humility, it is but trifling with words, unless he was a man, and but a man.
    And yet what does it not say on the other side for mankind, that the life of one good man, which had nothing, nothing but its goodness to recommend it, should have struck so deep into the heart of the race that for eighteen hundred years they have seen in that life something so far above them that they will not claim a kindred origin with him who lived it. And while they have scarcely bettered in their own practice, yet stand, and ever since have stood, self-condemned, in acknowledging in spite of themselves that such goodness alone is divine.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • People canvass up and down the value and utility of Christianity, and none of them seem to see that it was the common channel towards which all the great streams of thought in the old world were tending, and that in some form or other when they came to unite it must have been. That it crystallized round a particular person may have been an accident; but in its essence, as soon as the widening intercourse of the nations forced the Jewish mind into contact with the Indian and the Persian and the Grecian, such a religion was absolutely inevitable.
    It was the development of Judaism in being the fulfilment of the sacrificial theory, and the last and purest conception of a personal God lying close above the world, watching, guiding, directing, interfering. Its object was no longer the narrow one of the temporal interests of a small people. The chrysalis had burst its shell, and the presiding care extended to all mankind, caring not now for bodies only but for souls. It was the development of Parsism in settling finally the vast question of the double principle, the position of the evil spirit, his history, and the method of his defeat; while Zoroaster's doctrine of a future state was now for the first time explained and justified; and his invisible world of angels and spirits, and the hierarchies of the seven heavens, were brought in subjection to the same one God of the Jews.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • It is alike self-contradictory and contrary to experience, that a man of two goods should choose the lesser, knowing it at the time to be the lesser. Observe, I say, at the time of action. We are complex, and therefore, in our natural state, inconsistent, beings, and the opinion of this hour need not be the opinion of the next. It may be different before the temptation appear; it may return to be different after the temptation is passed; the nearness or distance of objects may alter their relative magnitude, or appetite or passion may obscure the reflecting power, and give a temporary impulsive force to a particular side of our nature. But, uniformly, given a particular condition of a man's nature, and given a number of possible courses, his action is as necessarily determined into the course best corresponding to that condition, as a bar of steel suspended between two magnets is determined towards the most powerful. It may go reluctantly, for it will still feel the attraction of the weaker magnet, but it will still obey the strongest, and must obey. What we call knowing a man's character, is knowing how he will act in such and such conditions. The better we know him the more surely we can prophesy. If we know him perfectly, we are certain.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • While we find such endless differences between the actions of different men under the same temptations, or of the same man at different times, we shall yet be unable to find any link of the chain undetermined by the action of the outward circumstance on the inner law; or any point where we can say a power lay in the individual will of choosing either of two courses — in other words, to discover sin. Actions are governed by motives. The power of motives depends on character, and character on the original faculties and the training which they have received from the men or things among which they have been bred.
    Sin, therefore, as commonly understood, is a chimera.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • Our instinct has outrun our theory in this matter; for while we still insist upon free will and sin, we make allowance for individuals who have gone wrong, on the very ground of provocation, of temptation, of bad education, of infirm character. By and by philosophy will follow, and so at last we may hope for a true theory of morals. It is curious to watch, in the history of religious beliefs, the gradual elimination of this monster of moral evil. The first state of mankind is the unreflecting state. The nature is undeveloped, looking neither before nor after; it acts on the impulse of the moment, and is troubled with no weary retrospect, nor with any notions of a remote future which present conduct can affect; and knowing neither good nor evil, better or worse, it does simply what it desires, and is happy in it. It is the state analogous to the early childhood of each of us, and is represented in the common theory of Paradise — the state of innocence.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • It is an old remark, that as men are, such they paint their gods; and as in themselves the passionate, or demonic nature, long preponderated, so the gods they worshipped were demons like themselves, jealous, capricious, exacting, revengeful, the figures which fill the old mythologies, and appear partly in the Old Testament. They feared them as they feared the powerful of their own race, and sought to propitiate them by similar offerings and services.
    Go on, and now we find ourselves on a third stage; but now fast rising into a clearing atmosphere. The absolute worth of goodness is seen as distinct from power; such beings as these demon gods could not he the highest beings. Good and evil could not coexist in one Supreme; absolutely different in nature, they could not have a common origin; the moral world is bipolar, and we have dualism, the two principles, coeternal, coequal.
    By and by, again, the horizon widens. The ultimate identity of might and right glimmers out feebly in the Zenda Vesta as the stars come out above the mountains when we climb out of the mist of the valleys. The evil spirit is no longer the absolute independent Ahriman; but Ahriman and Ormuzd are but each a dependent spirit; and an awful formless, boundless figure, the eternal, the illimitable, looms out from the abyss behind them, presently to degrade still farther the falling Ahriman into a mere permitted Satan, finally to be destroyed.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • Finally rises philosophy, which, after a few monstrous efforts from Calvin to Leibnitz to reconcile contradictions and form a theodice, comes out boldly in Spinozism to declare the impossibility of the existence of a power antagonistic to God; and defining the perfection of man's nature, as the condition under which it has fullest action and freest enjoyment of all its powers, sets this as a moral ideal hefore us, toward which we shall train our moral efforts as the artist trains his artistic efforts towards his ideal. The success is various, as the faculties and conditions which God has given are various; but the spectre which haunted the conscience is gone. Our failures are errors, not crimes — nature's discipline with which God teaches us; and as little violations of His law, or rendering us guilty in His eyes, as the artist's early blunders, or even ultimate and entire failures, are laying store of guilt on him.
    • Fragments of Markham's notes
  • Scepticism, like wisdom, springs out in full panoply only from the brain of a god, and it is little profit to see an idea in its growth, unless we track its seed to the power which sowed it.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • We start with enthusiasm — out we go each of us to our task in all the brightness of sunrise, and hope beats along our pulses; we believe the world has no blanks except to cowards, and we find, at last, that, as far as we ourselves are concerned, it has no prizes; we sicken over the endless unprofitableness of labour most when we have most succeeded, and when the time comes for us to lay down our tools we cast them from us with the bitter aching sense, that it were better for us if it had been all a dream. We seem to know either too much or too little of ourselves — too much, for we feel that we are better than we can accomplish; too little, for, if we have done any good at all, it has heen as we were servants of a system too vast for us to comprehend. We get along through life happily between clouds and sunshine, forgetting ourselves in our employments or our amusements, and so long as we can lose our consciousness in activity we can struggle on to the end. But when the end comes, when the life is lived and done, and stands there face to face with us; or if the heart is weak, and the spell breaks too soon, as if the strange master-worker has no longer any work to offer us, and turns us off to idleness and to ourselves; in the silence then our hearts lift up their voices, and cry out they can find no rest here, no home. Neither pleasure, nor rank, nor money, nor success in life, as it is called, have satisfied, or can satisfy; and either earth has nothing at all which answers to our cravings, or else it is something different from all these, which we have missed finding — this peace which passes understanding — and from which in the heyday of hope we had turned away, as lacking the meretricious charm which then seemed most alluring.
    I am not sermonizing of Religion, or of God, or of Heaven, at least not directly.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • We call heaven our home, as the best name we know to give it.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • You will never have perfect men, Plato says, till you have perfect circumstances. Perhaps a true saying! — but, till the philosopher is born who can tell us what circumstances are perfect, a sufficiently speculative one. At any rate, one finds strange enough results — often the very best coming up out of conditions the most unpromising. Such a bundle of odd contradictions we human beings are, that perhaps full as many repellent as attracting influences are acquired, before we can give our hearts to what is right.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Long devotions are a weariness to healthy children. If, unhappily, they have been made unhealthy — if they have been taught to look into themselves, and made to imagine themselves miserable and fallen, and every moment exciting God's anger, and so need these long devotions — their premature sensibility will exhaust itself over comparative trifles; and, by and by, when the real occasion comes, they will find that, like people who talk of common things in superlatives, their imagination will have wasted what will then be really needed. Their present state will explain to themselves the unreality of their former state; but the heart will have used out its power, and thoughts, which have been made unreal, by an unreal use of them, will be unreal still, and for ever.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Woe to the unlucky man who as a child is taught, even as a portion of his creed, what his grown reason must forswear.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • What is right or duty without power? To tell a man it is his duty to submit his judgment to the judgment of the church, is like telling a wife it is her duty to love her husband — a thing easy to say, but meaning simply nothing. Affection must be won, not commanded.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Minds vary in sensitiveness and in self-power, as bodies do in susceptibility of attraction and repulsion. When, when shall we learn that they are governed by laws as inexorable as physical laws, and that a man can as easily refuse to obey what has power over him as a steel atom can resist the magnet?
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Belief is the result of the proportion, whatever it he, in which the many elements which go to make the human being are combined. In some the grosser nature preponderates; they believe largely in their stomachs, in the comforts and conveniences of life, and being of such kind, so long as these are not threatened, they gravitate steadily towards the earth. Numerically this is the largest class of believers, with very various denominations indeed; bearing the names of every faith beneath the sky, and composing the conservative elements in them, and therefore commonly persons of much weight in established systems. But they are what I have called them: their hearts are where I said they were, and as such interests are commonly selfish, and self separates instead of unites, they are not generally powerful against any heavy trial. Others of keener susceptibility are yet volatile, with slight power of continuance, and fly from attraction to attraction in the current of novelty. Others of stronger temper gravitate more slowly, but combine more firmly, and only disunite again when the idea or soul of the body into which they form dies out, or they fall under the influence of some very attractive force indeed. It may be doubted, indeed, whether a body which is really organised by a living idea can lose a healthy member except by violence.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Now, to a single-minded man, who is either brave enough or reckless enough to surrender himself wholly to one idea, and look neither right nor left, but only forward, what earthly consequences may follow is not material. Persecution strengthens him; and so he is sure he is right, whether his course end in a prison or on a throne is no matter at all. But men of this calibre are uncommon in any age or in any country — very uncommon in this age and this country.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Fling away your soul once for all, your own small self; if you will find it again. Count not even on immortality.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Look not to have your sepulchre built in after ages hy the same foolish hands which still ever destroy the living prophet. Small honour for you if they do build it; and may be they never will build it.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Once in our lives we have all to choose. More or less we have all felt once the same emotions. We have not always been what the professions make of us. Nature made us men, and she surrenders not her children without a struggle. I will go back to my story now with but this one word, that it is these sons of genius, and the fate they meet with, which is to me the one sole evidence that there is more in "this huge state" than what is seen, and that in very truth the soul of man is not a thing which comes and goes, is builded and decays like the elemental frame in which it is set to dwell, but a very living force, a very energy of God's organic Will, which rules and moulds this universe.
    For what are they? Say not, say not, it is but a choice which they have made; and an immortality of glory in heaven shall reward them for what they have sacrificed on earth. It may be so; but they do not ask for it. They are what they are from the Divine power which is in them, and you would never hear their complainings if the grave was the gate of annihilation.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Say not they have their reward on earth in the calm satisfaction of noble desires, nobly gratified, in the sense of great works greatly done; that too may be, but neither do they ask for that. They alone never remember themselves; they know no end but to do the will which beats in their hearts' deep pulses. Ay, but for these, these few martyred heroes, it might be after all that the earth was but a huge loss-and-profit ledger book; or a toy machine some great angel had invented for the amusement of his nursery; and the storm and the sunshine but the tears and the smiles of laughter in which he and his baby cherubs dressed their faces over the grave and solemn airs of slow-paced respectability.
    Yes, genius alone is the Redeemer; it bears our sorrows, it is crowned with thorns for us; the children of genius are the church militant, the army of the human race. Genius is the life, the law of mankind, itself perishing, that others may take possession and enjoy. Religion, freedom, science, law, the arts, mechanical or heautiful, all which gives respectability a chance, have heen moulded out by the toil and the sweat and the blood of the faithful; who, knowing no enjoyment, were content to he the servants of their own born slaves, and wrought out the happiness of the world which despised and disowned them.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Life complete, is lived in two worlds; the one inside, and the one outside. The first half of our days is spent wholly in the former; the second, if it is what it ought to be, wholly in the latter — till our education is almost finished; theories are only words to us, and church controversy is not of things but of shadows of things. Through all that time life and thought beyond our own experience is but a great game played out by book actors; we do not think, we only think we think, and we have been too busy in our own line to have a notion really of what is beyond it. But while so much of our talk is so unreal, our own selves, our own risings, fallings, aspirings, resolutions, misgivings, these are real enough to us; these are our hidden life, our sanctuary of our own mysteries.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • Happily I had very early learned the fallacy of building much on logic and verbal argument. Single sets of truths I knew to be as little conclusive in theology as in physics; and, in one as in the other, no theory to be worth anything, however plausibly backed up with Scripture texts or facts, which was not gathered bona fide from the analysis of all the attainable phenomena, and verified wherever possible by experiment.
    "Here is a theory of the world which you bring for my acceptance: well, there is the world; try — will the key fit? can you read the language into sense by it?" was the only method; and so I was led always to look at broad results, at pages and chapters, rather than at single words and sentences, where for a few lines a false key may serve to make a meaning. So of these broad observations I only expected a broad solution.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • It was brought home to me that two men may be as sincere, as earnest, as faithful, as uncompromising, and yet hold opinions far asunder as the poles. I have before said that I think the moment of this conviction is the most perilous crisis of our lives; for myself, it threw me at once on my own responsibility, and obliged me to look for myself at what men said, instead of simply accepting all because they said it. I begin to look about me to listen to what had to be said on many sides of the question, and try, as far as I could, to give it all fair hearing.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • For me this world was neither so high nor so low as the Church would have it; chequered over with its wild light shadows, I could love it and all the children of it, more dearly, perhaps, because it was not all light.
    • Confessions Of A Sceptic
  • The trials of life will not wait for us. They come at their own time, not caring much to inquire how ready we may be to meet them.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • A dreamer he was, and ever would be. Yet dreaming need not injure us, if it do but take its turn with waking; and even dreams themselves may be turned to beauty, by favoured men to whom nature has given the powers of casting them into form.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • Women's eyes are rapid in detecting a heart which is ill at ease with itself, and, knowing the value of sympathy, and finding their own greatest happiness not in receiving it, but in giving it, with them to be unhappy is at once to be interesting.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • How can we help loving best those who first gave us possession of ourselves? All the day long they were together: living as they did, they could not help being so; only parting at night for a few short hours to dream over the happy past day, and to meet again the next morning, the happier for their brief separation. It was a new life to him: what had often hung before him as a fairy vision — what he had longed for, but never found; and here, as if sent down from heaven, was what more than answered to his wildest dreams. Now for the first time he found himself loved for himself — slighted and neglected as he had been .... suddenly he was singled out by a fascinating woman, who made no secret of the pleasure his friendship gave her.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • Some few intense enjoyments are given us in life; among them all, perhaps, there is none with so deep a charm as to sit by the side of those we love, and watch them sleeping. Sleep is so innocent, so peaceful in its mystery and its helplessness; and sitting there we can fancy ourselves the guardian angels holding off the thousand evils imagination paints for ever hanging over what is most precious, most dear to us. The long deep-drawn breathing; the smile we love to hope is called up over the features by our own presence in the heart; there are no moments in life we would exchange for the few we have spent by the side of these.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • She would gladly have been more to him than she could be — because she felt (she did not deny it to herself) that she would sooner have been his wife than Leonard's. But why, because they could not be all to one another, must they be as nothing?
    • Arthur's commentary
  • It is ill changing the creed to meet each rising temptation. The soul is truer than it seems, and refuses to be trifled with.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • It is strange, when something rises before us as a possibility which we have hitherto believed to be very dreadful, we fancy it is a great crisis; that when we pass it we shall be different beings; some mighty change will have swept over our nature, and we shall lose entirely all our old selves, and become others. … Yet, when the thing, whether good or evil, is done, we find we were mistaken; we are seemingly much the same — neither much better nor worse; and then we cannot make it out; on either side there is a weakening of faith; we fancy we have been taken in; the mountain has heen in lahour, and we are perplexed to find the good less powerful than we expected, and the evil less evil.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • Our characters change as world eras change, as our features change, slowly from day to day. Nothing is sudden in this world. Inch hy inch; drop by drop; line by line. Even when great convulsions shatter down whole nations, cities, monarchies, systems, human fortunes, still they are but the finish, the last act of the same long preparing, slowly devouring change, in which the tide of human affairs for ever ebbs and flows, without haste, and without rest.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • When a woman's heart is flowing over for the first time with deep and passionate love, she is all love. Every faculty of her soul rushes together in the intensity of the one feeling; thought, reflection, conscience, duty, the past, the future, they are names to her light as the breath which speaks them; her soul is full.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • All, all nature is harmonious, and must and shall be harmony for ever; even we, poor men, with our wild ways and frantic wrongs, and crimes, and follies, to the beings out beyond us and above us, seem, doubtless, moving on our own way under the broad dominion of universal law. The wretched only feel their wretchedness: in the universe all is beautiful. Ay, to those lofty beings, be they who they will, who look down from their starry thrones on the strange figures flitting to and fro over this earth of ours, the wild recklessness of us mortals with each other may well lose its painful interest. Why should our misdoings cause more grief to them than those of the lower animals to ourselves? Pain and pleasure are but forms of consciousness; we feel them for ourselves, and for those who are like ourselves. To man alone the doings of man are wrong; the evil which is with us dies out beyond us; we are but a part of nature, and blend with the rest in her persevering beauty.
    Poor consolers are such thoughts, for they are but thoughts, and, alas! our pain we feel.
    • Arthur's commentary
  • How true it is that arguments have only power over us while the temper is disposed to listen to them!
  • Perhaps the heart does not deceive; never does give a false answer, except to those double-minded unhappy ones who do care about themselves, and so play tricks with it and tamper with it.

The Influence of the Reformation on the Scottish Character (1865)Edit

Lecture in Edinburgh, "The Influence of the Reformation on the Scottish Character" (November 1865); published in Short Studies on Great Subjects
  • It remains a lesson to all time, that goodness, though the indispensable adjunct to knowledge, is no substitute for it; that when conscience undertakes to dictate beyond its province, the result is only the more monstrous.
    It is well that we should look this matter in the face; and as particular stories leave more impression than general statements, I will mention one, perfectly well authenticated, which I take from the official report of the proceedings:—Towards the end of 1593 there was trouble in the family of the Earl of Orkney. His brother laid a plot to murder him, and was said to have sought the help of a 'notorious witch' called Alison Balfour. When Alison Balfour's life was looked into, no evidence could be found connecting her either with the particular offence or with witchcraft in general; but it was enough in these matters to be accused. She swore she was innocent; but her guilt was only held to be aggravated by perjury. She was tortured again and again. Her legs were put in the caschilaws — an iron frame which was gradually heated till it burned into the flesh — but no confession could be wrung from her. The caschilaws failed utterly, and something else had to be tried. She had a husband, a son, and a daughter, a child seven years old. As her own sufferings did not work upon her, she might be touched, perhaps, by the sufferings of those who were dear to her. They were brought into court, and placed at her side; and the husband first was placed in the 'lang irons' — some accursed instrument; I know not what. Still the devil did not yield. She bore this; and her son was next operated on. The boy's legs were set in 'the boot,' — the iron boot you may have heard of. The wedges were driven in, which, when forced home, crushed the very bone and marrow. Fifty-seven mallet strokes were delivered upon the wedges. Yet this, too, failed. There was no confession yet. So, last of all, the little daughter was taken. There was a machine called the piniwinkies — a kind of thumbscrew, which brought blood from under the finger nails, with a pain successfully terrible. These things were applied to the poor child's hands, and the mother's constancy broke down, and she said she would admit anything they wished. She confessed her witchcraft — so tried, she would have confessed to the seven deadly sins — and then she was burned, recalling her confession, and with her last breath protesting her innocence.
    It is due to the intelligence of the time to admit that after this her guilt was doubted, and such vicarious means of extorting confession do not seem to have been tried again.
    Yet the men who inflicted these tortures would have borne them all themselves sooner than have done any act which they consciously knew to be wrong. They did not know that the instincts of humanity were more sacred than the logic of theology, and in fighting against the devil they were themselves doing the devil's work. We should not attempt to apologise for these things, still less to forget them. No martyrs ever suffered to instil into mankind a more wholesome lesson — more wholesome, or one more hard to learn. The more conscientious men are, the more difficult it is for them to understand that in their most cherished convictions, when they pass beyond the limits where the wise and good of all sorts agree, they may be the victims of mere delusion. Yet, after all, and happily, such cases were but few, and affected but lightly the general condition of the people.
  • The student running over the records of other times finds certain salient things standing out in frightful prominence. He concludes that the substance of those times was made up of the matters most dwelt on by the annalist. He forgets that the things most noticed are not those of every-day experience, but the abnormal, the extraordinary, the monstrous. The exceptions are noted down, the common and usual is passed over in silence. The philosophic historian, studying hereafter this present age, in which we are ourselves living, may say that it was a time of unexampled prosperity, luxury, and wealth; but catching at certain horrible murders which have lately disgraced our civilisation, may call us a nation of assassins. It is to invert the pyramid and stand it on its point. The same system of belief which produced the tragedy which I have described, in its proper province as the guide of ordinary life, has been the immediate cause of all that is best and greatest in Scottish character.

Quotes about FroudeEdit

We seem to be in companionship with a spirit who is transfusing himself into our souls, and so vitalising them by his superior energy, that life, both outward and inward, presents itself to us in higher relief, in colours brightened and deepened. ~ George Eliot
  • After my death I wish no other herald, no other speaker of my living actions, to keep my honour from corruption, but such an honest chronicler as Froude.
    • Thomas Carlyle, as quoted in a Punch cartoon (shown above), which emphasized some of the less pleasant and impressive aspects of Carlyle's life revealed in Froude's biographical writings and publications. (30 December 1882), p. 303
  • Froude's novel must be introduced to the twentieth century with the distinction of being the only book piously burnt at Oxford in the nineteenth century. On February 27, 1849, a few weeks after its publication, Professor Sewell, lecturer in Exeter College, vehemently denounced the work in his lecture, and discovering that a student present had a copy before him seized it furiously and dashed it in the Hall fire.
  • We seem to be in companionship with a spirit who is transfusing himself into our souls, and so vitalising them by his superior energy, that life, both outward and inward, presents itself to us in higher relief, in colours brightened and deepened.

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