Chapter 4.

{188} A FEW days later, Carlton, Sheffield, and Reding were talking together after dinner out of doors about White.

"How he is altered," said Charles, "since I first knew him!"

"Altered!" cried Sheffield; "he was a playful kitten once, and now he is one of the dullest old tabbies I ever came across."

"Altered for the better," said Charles; "he has now a steady, sensible way of talking; but he was not a very wise person two years ago; he is reading, too, really hard."

"He has some reason," said Sheffield, "for he is sadly behindhand; but there is another cause of his steadiness which perhaps you know."

"I! no indeed," answered Charles.

"I thought of course you knew it," said Sheffield; "you don't mean to say you have not heard that he is engaged to some Oxford girl?"

"Engaged!" cried Charles; "how absurd!"

"I don't see that at all, my dear Reding," said Carlton. "It's not as if he could not afford it; he has a good living waiting for him; and, moreover, he is thus {189} losing no time, which is a great thing in life. Much time is often lost. White will soon find himself settled in every sense of the word—in mind, in life, in occupation."

Charles said that there was one thing which could not help surprising him, namely, that when White first came up he was so strong in his advocacy of clerical celibacy. Carlton and Sheffield laughed. "And do you think," said the former, "that a youth of eighteen can have an opinion on such a subject, or knows himself well enough to make a resolution in his own case? Do you really think it fair to hold a man committed to all the random opinions and extravagant sayings into which he was betrayed when he first left school?"

"He had read some ultra-book or other," said Sheffield; "or had seen some beautiful nun sculptured on a chancel-screen, and was carried away by romance—as others have been and are."

"Don't you suppose," said Carlton, "that those good fellows who now are so full of 'sacerdotal purity,' 'angelical blessedness,' and so on, will one and all be married by this time ten years?"

"I'll take a bet of it," said Sheffield: "one will give in early, one late, but there is a time destined for all. Pass some ten or twelve years, as Carlton says, and we shall find A. B. on a curacy, the happy father of ten children; C. D. wearing on a long courtship till a living falls; E. F. in his honeymoon; G. H. lately presented by Mrs. H. with twins; I. K. full of joy, just accepted; L. M. may remain what Gibbon calls 'a column in the midst of ruins,' and a very tottering column too." {190}

"Do you really think;" said Charles, "that people mean so little what they say?"

"You take matters too seriously, Reding," answered Carlton; "who does not change his opinions between twenty and thirty? A young man enters life with his father's or tutor's views; he changes them for his own. The more modest and diffident he is, the more faith he has, so much the longer does he speak the words of others; but the force of circumstances, or the vigour of his mind, infallibly obliges him at last to have a mind of his own; that is, if he is good for anything."

"But I suspect," said Reding, "that the last generation, whether of fathers or tutors, had no very exalted ideas of clerical celibacy."

"Accidents often clothe us with opinions which we wear for a time," said Carlton.

"Well, I honour people who wear their family suit; I don't honour those at all who begin with foreign fashions and then abandon them."

"A few more years of life," said Carlton, smiling, "will make your judgment kinder."

"I don't like talkers," continued Charles; "I don't think I ever shall; I hope not."

"I know better what's at the bottom of it," said Sheffield; "but I can't stay; I must go in and read; Reding is too fond of a gossip."

"Who talks so much as you, Sheffield?" said Charles.

"But I talk fast when I talk," answered he, "and get through a great deal of work; then I give over; but you prose, and muse, and sigh, and prose again." And so he left them. {191}

"What does he mean?" asked Carlton.

Charles slightly coloured and laughed: "You are a man I say things to I don't to others," he made answer; "as to Sheffield, he fancies he has found it out of himself."

Carlton looked round at him sharply and curiously.

"I am ashamed of myself," said Charles, laughing and looking confused; "I have made you think that I have something important to tell, but really I have nothing at all."

"Well, out with it," said Carlton.

"Why, to tell the truth,—no, really, it is too absurd. I have made a fool of myself."

He turned away, then turned back, and resumed:

"Why, it was only this, that Sheffield fancies I have some sneaking kindness for ... celibacy myself."

"Kindness for whom?" said Carlton.

"Kindness for celibacy."

There was a pause, and Carlton's face somewhat changed.

"Oh, my dear good fellow," he said kindly, "so you are one of them; but it will go off."

"Perhaps it will," said Charles: "oh, I am laying no stress upon it. It was Sheffield who made me mention it."

A real difference of mind and view had evidently been struck upon by two friends, very congenial and very fond of each other. There was a pause for a few seconds.

"You are so sensible a fellow, Reding," said Carlton, "it surprises me that you should take up this notion." {192}

"It's no new notion taken up," answered Charles; "you will smile, but I had it when a boy at school, and I have ever since fancied that I should never marry. Not that the feeling has never intermitted, but it is the habit of my mind. My general thoughts run in that one way, that I shall never marry. If I did, I should dread Thalaba's punishment."

Carlton put his hand on Reding's shoulder, and gently shook him to and fro; "Well, it surprises me," he said; then, after a pause, "I have been accustomed to think both celibacy and marriage good in their way. In the Church of Rome great good, I see, comes of celibacy; but depend on it, my dear Reding, you are making a great blunder if you are for introducing celibacy into the Anglican Church."

"There's nothing against it in Prayer Book or Articles," said Charles.

"Perhaps not; but the whole genius, structure, working of our Church goes the other way. For instance, we have no monasteries to relieve the poor; and if we had, I suspect, as things are, a parson's wife would, in practical substantial usefulness, be infinitely superior to all the monks that were ever shaven. I declare, I think the Bishop of Ipswich is almost justified in giving out that none but married men have a chance of preferment from him; nay, the Bishop of Abingdon, who makes a rule of bestowing his best livings as marriage portions to the most virtuous young ladies in his diocese." Carlton spoke with more energy than was usual with him.

Charles answered, that he was not looking to the expediency {193} or feasibility of the thing, but at what seemed to him best in itself, and what he could not help admiring. "I said nothing about the celibacy of clergy," he observed, "but of celibacy generally."

"Celibacy has no place in our idea or our system of religion, depend on it," said Carlton. "It is nothing to the purpose, whether there is anything in the Articles against it; it is not a question about formal enactments, but whether the genius of Anglicanism is not utterly at variance with it. The experience of three hundred years is surely abundant for our purpose; if we don't know what our religion is in that time, what time will be long enough? There are forms of religion which have not lasted so long from first to last. Now enumerate the cases of celibacy for celibacy's sake in that period, and what will be the sum total of them? Some instances there are; but even Hammond, who died unmarried, was going to marry, when his mother wished it. On the other hand, if you look out for types of our Church, can you find truer than the married excellence of Hooker the profound, Taylor the devotional, and Bull the polemical? The very first reformed primate is married; in Pole and Parker, the two systems, Roman and Anglican, come into strong contrast."

"Well, it seems to me as much a yoke of bondage," said Charles, "to compel marriage as to compel celibacy, and that is what you are really driving at. You are telling me that any one is a black sheep who does not marry."

"Not a very practical difficulty to you at this moment," said Carlton; "no one is asking you to go {194} about on Cœlebs' mission just now, with Aristotle in hand and the class-list in view."

"Well, excuse me," said Charles, "if I have said anything very foolish; you don't suppose I argue on such subjects with others."

Chapter 2-5

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