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William Lyon Phelps Essay on Thomas Hardy

by William Lyon Phelps

The father of Thomas Hardy wished his son to enter the church, and this object was the remote goal of his early education. At just what period in the boy's mental development Christianity took on the form of a meaningless fable, we shall perhaps never know; but after a time he ceased to have even the faith of a grain of mustard seed. This absence of religious belief has proved no obstacle to many another candidate for the Christian ministry, as every habitual church-goer knows; or as any son of Belial may discover for himself by merely reading the prospectus of summer schools of theology. There has, however, always been a certain cold, mathematical precision in Mr. Hardy's way of thought that would have made him as uncomfortable in the pulpit as he would have been in an editor's chair, writing for salary persuasive articles containing the exact opposite of his individual convictions. But, although the beauty of holiness failed to impress his mind, the beauty of the sanctuary was sufficiently obvious to his sense of Art.[Pg 34] He became an ecclesiastical architect, and for some years his delight was in the courts of the Lord. Instead of composing sermons in ink, he made sermons in stones, restoring to many a decaying edifice the outlines that the original builder had seen in his vision centuries ago. For no one has ever regarded ancient churches with more sympathy and reverence than Mr. Hardy. No man to-day has less respect for God and more devotion to His house.

Mr. Hardy's professional career as an architect extended over a period of about thirteen years, from the day when the seventeen-year-old boy became articled, to about 1870, when he forsook the pencil for the pen. His strict training as an architect has been of enormous service to him in the construction of his novels, for skill in constructive drawing has repeatedly proved its value in literature. Rossetti achieved positive greatness as an artist and as a poet. Stevenson's studies in engineering were not lost time, and Mr. De Morgan affords another good illustration of the same fact. Thackeray was unconsciously learning the art of the novelist while he was making caricatures, and the lesser Thackeray of a later day—George du Maurier—found the transition from one art to the other a natural progression. Hopkinson Smith and Frederic Remington, on a lower but dignified plane, bear witness[Pg 35] to the same truth. Indeed, when one studies carefully the beginnings of the work of imaginative writers, one is surprised at the great number who have handled an artist's or a draughtsman's pencil. A prominent and successful playwright of to-day has said that if he were not writing plays, he should not dream of writing books; he would be building bridges.

Mr. Hardy's work as an ecclesiastical architect laid the real foundations of his success as a novelist; for it gave him an intimate familiarity with the old monuments and rural life of Wessex, and at the same time that eye for precision of form that is so noticeable in all his books. He has really never ceased to be an architect. Architecture has contributed largely to the matter and to the style of his stories. Two architects appear in his first novel. In A Pair of Blue Eyes Stephen Smith is a professional architect, and in coming to restore the old Western Church he was simply repeating the experience of his creator. No one of Mr. Hardy's novels contains more of the facts of his own life than A Laodicean, which was composed on what the author then believed to be his death-bed; it was mainly dictated, which I think partly accounts for its difference in style from the other tales. The hero, Somerset, is an architect whose first meeting with his future wife occurs through his professional curiosity concerning[Pg 36] the castle; and a considerable portion of the early chapters is taken up with architectural detail, and of his enforced rivalry with a competitor in the scheme for restoration. Not only does Mr. Hardy's scientific profession speak through the mouths of his characters, but old and beautiful buildings adorn his pages as they do the landscape he loves. In Two on a Tower the ancient structure appears here and there in the story as naturally and incidentally as it would to a pedestrian in the neighbourhood; in A Pair of Blue Eyes the church tower plays an important part in a thrilling episode, and its fall emphasises a Scripture text in a diabolical manner. The old church at Weatherbury is so closely associated with the life history of the men and women in Far from the Madding Crowd that as one stands in front of it to-day the people seem to gather again about its portal....

But while Mr. Hardy has drawn freely on his knowledge of architecture in furnishing animate and inanimate material for his novels, the great results of his youthful training are seen in a more subtle and profounder influence. The intellectual delight that we receive in the perusal of his books—a delight that sometimes makes us impatient with the work of feebler authors—comes largely from the architectonics of his literary structures. One never loses sight of Hardy the architect. In[Pg 37] purely constructive skill he has surpassed all his contemporaries. His novels—with the exception of Desperate Remedies and Jude the Obscure—are as complete and as beautiful to contemplate as a sculptor's masterpiece. They are finished and noble works of art, and give the same kind of pleasure to the mind as any superbly perfect outline. Mr. Hardy himself firmly believes that the novel should first of all be a story: that it should not be a thesis, nor a collection of reminiscences or obiter dicta. He insists that a novel should be as much of a whole as a living organism, where all the parts—plot, dialogue, character, and scenery—should be fitly framed together, giving the single impression of a completely harmonious building. One simply cannot imagine him writing in the manner of a German novelist, with absolutely no sense of proportion; nor like the mighty Tolstoi, who steadily sacrifices Art on the altar of Reality; nor like the great English school represented by Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope, and De Morgan, whose charm consists in their intimacy with the reader; they will interrupt the narrative constantly to talk it over with the merest bystander, thus gaining his affection while destroying the illusion. Mr. Hardy's work shows a sad sincerity, the noble austerity of the true artist, who feels the dignity of his art and is quite willing to let it speak for itself.

His earliest novel, Desperate Remedies, is more[Pg 38] like an architect's first crude sketch than a complete and detailed drawing. Strength, originality, and a thoroughly intelligent design are perfectly clear; one feels the impelling mind behind the product. But it resembles theplan of a good novel rather than a novel itself. The lines are hard; there is a curious rigidity about the movement of the plot which proceeds in jerks, like a machine that requires frequent winding up. The manuscript was submitted to a publishing firm, who, it is interesting to remember, handed it over to their professional reader, George Meredith. Mr. Meredith told the young author that his work was promising; and he said it in such a way that the two men became life-long friends, there being no more jealousy between them than existed between Tennyson and Browning. Years later Mr. Meredith said that he regarded Mr. Hardy as the real leader of contemporary English novelists; and the younger man always maintained toward his literary adviser an attitude of sincere reverence, of which his poem on the octogenarian's death was a beautiful expression. There is something fine in the honest friendship and mutual admiration of two giants, who cordially recognise each other above the heads of the crowd, and who are themselves placidly unmoved by the fierce jealousy of their partisans. In this instance, despite a total unlikeness in literary style, there was[Pg 39] genuine intellectual kinship. Mr. Meredith and Mr. Hardy were both Pagans and regarded the world and men and women from the Pagan standpoint, though the deduction in one case was optimism and in the other pessimism. Given the premises, the younger writer's conclusions seem more logical; and the processes of his mind were always more orderly than those of his brilliant and irregular senior. There is little doubt (I think) as to which of the two should rank higher in the history of English fiction, where fineness of Art surely counts for something. Mr. Hardy is a great novelist; whereas to adapt a phrase that Arnold applied to Emerson, I should say that Mr. Meredith was not a great novelist; he was a great man who wrote novels.

Immediately after the publication of Desperate Remedies, which seemed to teach him, as Endymion taught Keats, the highest mysteries of his art, Mr. Hardy entered upon a period of brilliant and splendid production. In three successive years, 1872, 1873, and 1874, he produced three masterpieces—Under the Greenwood TreeA Pair of Blue Eyes, and Far from the Madding Crowd; followed four years later by what is, perhaps, his greatest contribution to literature, The Return of the Native. Even in literary careers that last a long time, there seem to be golden days when the inspiration is unbalked by obstacles. It is interesting to contemplate the[Pg 40] lengthy row of Scott's novels, and then to remember that The Heart of MidlothianThe Bride of Lammermoor and Ivanhoe were published in three successive years; to recall that the same brief span covered in George Eliot's work the production of Scenes of Clerical LifeAdam Bede, and The Mill on the Floss; and one has only to compare what Mr. Kipling accomplished in 1888, 1889, and 1890 with any other triennial, to discover when he had what the Methodists call "liberty." Mr. Hardy's career as a writer has covered about forty years; omitting his collections of short tales, he has written fourteen novels; from 1870 to 1880, inclusive, seven appeared; from 1881 to 1891, five; from 1892 to 1902, two; since 1897 he has published no novels at all. With that singular and unfortunate perversity which makes authors proudest of their lamest offspring, Mr. Hardy has apparently abandoned the novel for poetry and the poetic drama. I suspect that praise of his verse is sweeter to him than praise of his fiction; but, although his poems are interesting for their ideas, and although we all like the huge Dynasts better than we did when we first saw it, it is a great pity from the economic point of view that the one man who can write novels better than anybody else in the same language should deliberately choose to write something else in which he is at his very best only second rate. The world[Pg 41] suffers the same kind of economic loss (less only in degree) that it suffered when Milton spent twenty years of his life in writing prose; and when Tolstoi forsook novels for theology.

It is probable that one reason why Mr. Hardy quit novel-writing was the hostile reception that greeted Jude the Obscure. Every great author, except Tennyson, has been able to endure adverse criticism, whether he hits back, like Pope and Byron, or whether he proceeds on his way in silence. But no one has ever enjoyed or ever will enjoy misrepresentation; and there is no doubt that the writer of Jude felt that he had been cruelly misunderstood. It is, I think, the worst novel he has ever written, both from the moral and from the artistic point of view; but the novelist was just as sincere in his intention as when he wrote the earlier books. The difficulty is that something of the same change had taken place in his work that is so noticeable in that of Björnson; he had ceased to be a pure artist and had become a propagandist. The fault that marred the splendid novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles ruined Jude the Obscure. When Mr. Hardy wrote on the title-page of Tess the words, "A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented," he issued defiantly the name of a thesis which the story (great, in spite of this) was intended to defend. To a certain extent, his interest in the argument blinded his artistic sense;[Pg 42] otherwise he would never have committed the error of hanging his heroine. The mere hanging of a heroine may not be in itself an artistic blunder, for Shakespeare hanged Cordelia. But Mr. Hardy executed Tess because he was bound to see his thesis through. In the prefaces to subsequent editions the author turned on his critics, calling them "sworn discouragers of effort," a phrase that no doubt some of them deserved; and then, like many another man who believes in himself, he punished both critics and the public in the Rehoboam method by issuing Jude the Obscure. Instead of being a masterpiece of despair, like The Return of the Native, this book is a shriek of rage. Pessimism, which had been a noble ground quality of his earlier writings, is in Jude merely hysterical and wholly unconvincing. The author takes obvious pains to make things come out wrong; as in melodramas and childish romances, the law of causation is suspended in the interest of the hero's welfare. Animalism, which had partially disfigured Tess, became gross and revolting in Jude; and the representation of marriage and the relations between men and women, instead of being a picture of life, resembled a caricature. It is a matter of sincere regret that Mr. Hardy has stopped novel-writing, but we want no more Judes. Didactic pessimism is not good for the novel.

The Well-Beloved, published in 1897, but really[Pg 43] a revision of an earlier tale, is in a way a triumph of Art. The plot is simply absurd, almost as whimsical as anything in Alice in Wonderland. A man proposes to a young girl and is rejected; when her daughter is grown, he proposes to the representative of the second generation, and with the same ill fortune. When her daughter reaches maturity, he tries the third woman in line and without success. His perseverance was equalled only by his bad luck, as so often happens in Mr. Hardy's stories. And yet, with a plot that would wreck any other novelist, the author constructed a powerful and beautifully written novel. It is as though the architect had taken a wretched plan and yet somehow contrived to erect on its false lines a handsome building. The book has naturally added nothing to his reputation, but as a tour de force it is hard to surpass.

It is pleasant to remember that a man's opinion of his own work has nothing to do with its final success and that his best creations cannot be injured by his worst. Tolstoi may be ashamed of having written Anna Karenina, and may insist that his sociological tracts are superior productions, but we know better; and rejoice in his powerlessness to efface his own masterpieces. We may honestly think that we should be ashamed to put our own names to such stuff as Little Dorrit, but that does not prevent us from admiring the splendid genius that[Pg 44]produced David Copperfield and Great Expectations. Mr. Hardy may believe that Jude the Obscure represents his zenith as a novelist, and that his poems are still greater literature; but one reading of Jude suffices, while we never tire of rereading Far from the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native. Probably no publisher's announcement in the world to-day would cause more pleasure to English-speaking people than the announcement that Thomas Hardy was at work on a Wessex novel with characters of the familiar kind.

For The Dynasts, which covers the map of Europe, transcends the sky, and deals with world-conquerors, is not nearly so great a world-drama as A Pair of Blue Eyes, that is circumscribed in a small corner of a small island, and treats exclusively of a little group of commonplace persons. Literature deals with a constant—human nature, which is the same in Wessex as in Vienna. As the late Mr. Clyde Fitch used to say, it is not the great writers that have great things happen to them; the great things happen to the ordinary people they portray. Mr. Hardy selected a few of the southwestern counties of England as the stage for his prose dramas; to this locality he for the first time, in Far from the Madding Crowd, gave the name Wessex, a name now wholly fictitious, but which his creative imagination has made so real that it is constantly[Pg 45] and seriously spoken of as though it were English geography. In these smiling valleys and quiet rural scenes, "while the earth keeps up her terrible composure," the farmers and milkmaids hold us spellbound as they struggle in awful passion. The author of the drama stands aloof, making no effort to guide his characters from temptation, folly, and disaster, and offering no explanation to the spectators, who are thrilled with pity and fear. But one feels that he loves and hates his children as we do, and that he correctly gauges their moral value. The very narrowness of the scene increases the intensity of the play. The rustic cackle of his bourg drowns the murmur of the world.

Mr. Hardy's knowledge of and sympathy with nature is of course obvious to all readers, but it is none the less impressive as we once more open books that we have read many times. There are incidentally few novelists who repay one so richly for repeated perusals. He seems as inexhaustible as nature herself, and he grows stale no faster than the repetition of the seasons. It is perhaps rather curious that a man who finds nature so absolutely inexorable and indifferent to human suffering should love her so well. But every man must love something greater than himself, and as Mr. Hardy had no God, he has drawn close to the world of trees, plains, and rivers. His intimacy with nature is[Pg 46] almost uncanny. Nature is not merely a background in his stories, it is often an active agent. There are striking characters in The Return of the Native, but the greatest character in the book is Egdon Heath. The opening chapter, which gives the famous picture of the Heath, is like an overture to a great music-drama. The Heath-motif is repeated again and again in the story. It has a personality of its own, and affects the fortunes and the hearts of all human beings who dwell in its proximity. If one stands to-day on the edge of this Heath at the twilight hour, just at the moment when Darkness is conquering Light—the moment chosen by Mr. Hardy for the first chapter—one realises its significance and its possibilities. In Tess of the D'Urbervilles the intercourse between man and nature is set forth with amazing power. The different seasons act as chorus to the human tragedy. In The Woodlanders the trees seem like separate individualities. To me a tree has become a different thing since I first read this particular novel.

Even before he took up the study of architecture, Mr. Hardy's unconscious training as a novelist began. When he was a small boy, the Dorchester girls found him useful in a way that recalls the services of that reliable child, Samuel Richardson. These village maids, in their various love-affairs, which necessitated a large amount of private correspondence,[Pg 47] employed young Hardy as amanuensis. He did not, like his great predecessor, compose their epistles; but he held the pen, and faithfully recorded the inspiration of Love, as it flowed warm from the lips of passionate youth. In this manner, the almost sexless boy was enabled to look clear-eyed into the very heart of palpitating young womanhood, and to express accurately its most gentle and most stormy emotions; just as the white voice of a choir-child repeats with precision the thrilling notes of religious passion. These early experiences were undoubtedly of the highest value in later years; indeed, as the boy grew a little older, it is probable that the impression deepened. Mr. Hardy is fond of depicting the vague, half-conscious longing of a boy to be near a beautiful woman; everyone will remember the contract between Eustacia and her youthful admirer, by which he was to hold her hand for a stipulated number of minutes. Mr. Hardy's women are full of tenderness and full of caprice; and whatever feminine readers may think of them, they are usually irresistible to the masculine mind. It has been said, indeed, that he is primarily a man's novelist, as Mrs. Ward is perhaps a woman's; he does not represent his women as marvels of intellectual splendour, or in queenly domination over the society in which they move. They are more apt to be the victims of their own affectionate hearts. One[Pg 48] female reader, exasperated at this succession of portraits, wrote on the margin of one of Mr. Hardy's novels that she took from a circulating library, "Oh, how I hate Thomas Hardy!" This is an interesting gloss, even if we do not add meanly that it bears witness to the truth of the picture. Elfride, Bathsheba, Eustacia, Lady Constantine, Marty South, and Tess are of varied social rank and wealth; but they are all alike in humble prostration before the man they love. Mr. Hardy takes particular pleasure in representing them as swayed by sudden and constantly changing caprices; one has only to recall the charming Bathsheba Everdene, and her various attitudes toward the three men who admire her—Troy, Boldwood, and Gabriel Oak. Mr. Hardy's heroines change their minds oftener than they change their clothes; but in whatever material or mental presentment, they never lack attraction. And they all resemble their maker in one respect; at heart every one of them is a Pagan. They vary greatly in constancy and in general strength of character; but it is human passion, and not religion, that is the mainspring of their lives. He has never drawn a truly spiritual woman, like Browning's Pompilia.

His best men, from the moral point of view, are closest to the soil. Gabriel Oak, in Far from the Madding Crowd, and Venn, in The Return of the Native, are, on the whole, his noblest characters.[Pg 49] Oak is a shepherd and Venn is a reddleman; their sincerity, charity, and fine sense of honour have never been injured by what is called polite society. And Mr. Hardy, the stingiest author toward his characters, has not entirely withheld reward from these two. Henry Knight and Angel Clare, who have whatever advantages civilisation is supposed to give, are certainly not villains; they are men of the loftiest ideals; but if each had been a deliberate black-hearted villain, he could not have treated the innocent woman who loved him with more ugly cruelty. Compared with Oak and Venn, this precious pair of prigs are seen to have only the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees; a righteousness that is of little help in the cruel emergencies of life. Along with them must stand Clym Yeobright, another slave to moral theory, who quite naturally ends his days as an itinerant preacher. The real villains in Mr. Hardy's novels, Sergeant Troy, young Dare, and Alec D'Urberville, seem the least natural and the most machine-made of all his characters.

Mr. Hardy's pessimism is a picturesque and splendid contribution to modern fiction. We should be as grateful for it in this field as we are to Schopenhauer in the domain of metaphysics. I am no pessimist myself, but I had rather read Schopenhauer than all the rest of the philosophers put together,[Pg 50] Plato alone excepted. The pessimism of Mr. Hardy resembles that of Schopenhauer in being absolutely thorough and absolutely candid; it makes the world as darkly superb and as terribly interesting as a Greek drama. It is wholly worth while to get this point of view; and if in practical life one does not really believe in it, it is capable of yielding much pleasure. After finishing one of Mr. Hardy's novels, one has all the delight of waking from an impressive but horrible dream, and feeling through the dissolving vision the real friendliness of the good old earth. It is like coming home from an adequate performance of King Lear, which we would not have missed for anything. There are so many make-believe pessimists, so many whose pessimism is a sham and a pose, which will not stand for a moment in a real crisis, that we cannot withhold admiration for such pessimism as Mr. Hardy's, which is fundamental and sincere. To him the Christian religion and what we call the grace of God have not the slightest shade of meaning; he is as absolute a Pagan as though he had written four thousand years before Christ. This is something almost refreshing, because it is so entirely different from the hypocrisy and cant, the pretence of pessimism, so familiar to us in the works of modern writers; and so inconsistent with their daily life. Mr. Hardy's pessimism is the one deep-seated conviction[Pg 51] of his whole intellectual process.

I once saw a print of a cartoon drawn by a contemporary Dresden artist, Herr Sascha Schneider. It was called "The Helplessness of Man against Destiny." We see a quite naked man, standing with his back to us; his head is bowed in hopeless resignation; heavy manacles are about his wrists, to which chains are attached, that lead to some fastening in the ground. Directly before him, with hideous hands, that now almost entirely surround the little circle where he stands in dejection, crawls flatly toward him a prodigious, shapeless monster, with his horrid narrow eyes fixed on his defenceless human prey. And the man is so conscious of his tether, that even in the very presence of the unspeakably awful object, the chains hang loose! He may have tried them once, but he has since given up. The monster is Destiny; and the real meaning of the picture is seen in the eyes, nose, and mouth of the loathsome beast. There is not only no sympathy and no intelligence there; there is an expression far more terrible than the evident lust to devour; there is plainly the sense of humour shown on this hideous face. The contrast between the limitless strength of the monster and the utter weakness of the man, flavours the stupidity of Destiny with the zest of humour.

Now this is a correct picture of life as Mr. Hardy[Pg 52] sees it. His God is a kind of insane child, who cackles foolishly as he destroys the most precious objects. Some years ago I met a man entirely blind. He said that early in life he had lost the sight of one eye by an accident; and that years later, as he held a little child on his lap, the infant, in rare good humour, playfully poked the point of a pair of scissors into the other, thus destroying his sight for ever. So long an interval had elapsed since this second and final catastrophe, that the man spoke of it without the slightest excitement or resentment. The child with the scissors might well represent Hardy's conception of God. Destiny is whimsical, rather than definitely malicious; for Destiny has not sufficient intelligence even to be systematically bad. We smile at Caliban's natural theology, as he composes his treatise on Setebos; but his God is the same who disposes of man's proposals in the stories of our novelist.

"In which feat, if his leg snapped, brittle clay,And he lay stupid-like,—why, I should laugh;And if he, spying me, should fall to weep,Beseech me to be good, repair his wrong,Bid his poor leg smart less or grow again,—Well, as the chance were, this might take or elseNot take my fancy....'Thinketh, such shows nor right nor wrong in Him,Nor kind, nor cruel: He is strong and Lord."

Mr. Hardy believes that, morally, men and women[Pg 53] are immensely superior to God; for all the good qualities that we attribute to Him in prayer are human, not divine. He in his loneliness is totally devoid of the sense of right and wrong, and knows neither justice nor mercy. His poem New Year's Eve[3] clearly expresses his theology.

Mr. Hardy's pessimism is not in the least personal, nor has it risen from any sorrow or disappointment in his own life. It is both philosophic and temperamental. He cannot see nature in any other way. To venture a guess, I think his pessimism is mainly caused by his deep, manly tenderness for all forms of human and animal life and by an almost abnormal sympathy. His intense love for bird and beast is well known; many a stray cat and hurt dog have found in him a protector and a refuge. He firmly believes that the sport of shooting is wicked, and he has repeatedly joined in practical measures to waken the public conscience on this subject. As a spectator of human history, he sees life as a vast tragedy, with men and women emerging from nothingness, suffering acute physical and mental sorrow, and then passing into nothingness again. To his sympathetic mind, the creed of optimism is a ribald insult to the pain of humanity and devout piety merely absurd. To hear these suffering men and women utter prayers of devotion and sing hymns[Pg 54] of adoration to the Power whence comes all their anguish is to him a veritable abdication of reason and common sense. God simply does not deserve it, and he for one will have the courage to say so. He will not stand by and see humanity submit so tamely to so heartless a tyrant. For, although Mr. Hardy is a pessimist, he has not the least tincture of cynicism. If one analyses his novels carefully, one will see that he seldom shows scorn for his characters; his contempt is almost exclusively devoted to God. Sometimes the evil fate that his characters suffer is caused by the very composition of their mind, as is seen in A Pair of Blue Eyes; again it is no positive human agency, but rather an Æschylean conception of hidden forces, as in The Return of the Native; but in neither case is humanity to blame.

This pessimism has one curious effect that adds greatly to the reader's interest when he takes up an hitherto unread novel by our author. The majority of works of fiction end happily; indeed, many are so badly written that any ending cannot be considered unfortunate. But with most novelists we have a sense of security. We know that, no matter what difficulties the hero and heroine may encounter, the unseen hand of their maker will guide them eventually to paths of pleasantness and peace. Mr. Hardy inspires no such confidence. In reading[Pg 55] Trollope, one smiles at a cloud of danger, knowing it will soon pass over; but after reading A Pair of Blue Eyes, or Tess, one follows the fortunes of young Somerset in A Laodicean with constant fluctuation of faint hope and real terror; for we know that with Mr. Hardy the worst may happen at any moment.

However dark may be his conception of life, Mr. Hardy's sense of humour is unexcelled by his contemporaries in its subtlety of feeling and charm of expression. His rustics, who have long received and deserved the epithet "Shakespearian," arouse in every reader harmless and wholesome delight. The shadow of the tragedy lifts in these wonderful pages, for Mr. Hardy's laughter reminds one of what Carlyle said of Shakespeare's: it is like sunshine on the deep sea. The childlike sincerity of these shepherd farmers, the candour of their repartee and their appraisal of gentle-folk are as irresistible as their patience and equable temper. Everyone in the community seems to find his proper mental and moral level. And their infrequent fits of irritation are as pleasant as their more solemn moods. We can all sympathise (I hope) with the despair of Joseph Poorgrass: "I was sitting at home looking for Ephesians and says I to myself, 'Tis nothing but Corinthians and Thessalonians in this danged Testament!"