Sybil, or The Two Nations

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Chapter 12

"And how do you find the people about you, Marney?" said Lord de Mowbray seating himself on a sofa by his guest.

"All very well, my lord," replied the earl, who ever treated Lord de Mowbray with a certain degree of ceremony, especially when the descendant of the crusaders affected the familiar. There was something of a Puck-like malignity in the temperament of Lord Marney, which exhibited itself in a remarkable talent for mortifying persons in a small way; by a gesture, an expression, a look, cloaked too very often with all the character of profound deference. The old nobility of Spain delighted to address each other only by their names, when in the presence of a spick-and-span grandee; calling each other, "Infantado," "Sidonia," "Ossuna," and then turning round with the most distinguished consideration, and appealing to the Most Noble Marquis of Ensenada.

"They begin to get a little uneasy here," said Lord de Mowbray.

"We have nothing to complain of," said Lord Marney. "We continue reducing the rates, and as long as we do that the country must improve. The workhouse test tells. We had the other day a case of incendiarism, which frightened some people: but I inquired into it, and am quite satisfied it originated in purely accidental circumstances; at least nothing to do with wages. I ought to be a judge, for it was on my own property."

"And what is the rate of wages, in your part of the world, Lord Marney?" inquired Mr St Lys who was standing by.

"Oh! good enough: not like your manufacturing districts; but people who work in the open air, instead of a furnace, can't expect, and don't require such. They get their eight shillings a week; at least generally."

"Eight shillings a week!" said Mr St Lys. "Can a labouring man with a family, perhaps of eight children, live on eight shillings a week!"

"Oh! as for that," said Lord Marney; "they get more than that, because there is beer-money allowed, at least to a great extent among us, though I for one do not approve of the practice, and that makes nearly a shilling per week additional; and then some of them have potatoe grounds, though I am entirely opposed to that system.

"And yet," said Mr St Lys, "how they contrive to live is to me marvellous."

"Oh! as for that," said Lord Marney, "I have generally found the higher the wages the worse the workman. They only spend their money in the beer-shops. They are the curse of this country."

"But what is a poor man to do," said Mr St Lys; "after his day's work if he returns to his own roof and finds no home: his fire extinguished, his food unprepared; the partner of his life, wearied with labour in the field or the factory, still absent, or perhaps in bed from exhaustion, or because she has returned wet to the skin, and has no change of raiment for her relief. We have removed woman from her sphere; we may have reduced wages by her introduction into the market of labour; but under these circumstances what we call domestic life is a condition impossible to be realized for the people of this country; and we must not therefore be surprised that they seek solace or rather refuge in the beer-shop."

Lord Marney looked up at Mr St Lys, with a stare of high-bred impertinence, and then carelessly observed, without directing his words to him, "They may say what they like, but it is all an affair of population."

"I would rather believe that it is an affair of resources," said Mr St Lys; "not what is the amount of our population, but what is the amount of our resources for their maintenance.

"It comes to the same thing," said Lord Marney. "Nothing can put this country right but emigration on a great scale; and as the government do not choose to undertake it, I have commenced it for my own defence on a small scale. I will take care that the population of my parishes is not increased. I build no cottages and I destroy all I can; and I am not ashamed or afraid to say so."

"You have declared war to the cottage, then," said Mr St Lys, smiling. "It is not at the first sound so startling a cry as war to the castle."

"But you think it may lead to it?" said Lord Mowbray.

"I love not to be a prophet of evil," said Mr St Lys.

Lord Marney rose from his seat and addressed Lady Firebrace, whose husband in another part of the room had caught Mr Jermyn, and was opening his mind on "the question of the day;" Lady Maud, followed by Egremont, approached Mr St Lys, and said, "Mr Egremont has a great feeling for Christian architecture, Mr St Lys, and wishes particularly to visit our church of which we are so proud." And in a few moments they were seated together and engaged in conversation.

Lord Mowbray placed himself by the side of Lady Marney, who was seated by his countess.

"Oh! how I envy you at Marney," he exclaimed. "No manufactures, no smoke; living in the midst of a beautiful park and surrounded by a contented peasantry!"

"It is very delightful," said Lady Marney, "but then we are so very dull; we have really no neighbourhood."

"I think that such a great advantage," said Lady Mowbray: "I must say I like my friends from London. I never know what to say to the people here. Excellent people, the very best people in the world; the way they behaved to poor dear Fitz-Warene, when they wanted him to stand for the county, I never can forget; but then they do not know the people we know, or do the things we do; and when you have gone through the routine of county questions, and exhausted the weather and all the winds, I am positively, my dear Lady Marney, aux abois, and then they think you are proud, when really one is only stupid."

"I am very fond of work," said Lady Marney, "and I talk to them always about it."

"Ah! you are fortunate, I never could work; and Joan and Maud, they neither of them work. Maud did embroider a banner once for her brother; it is in the hail. I think it beautiful; but somehow or other she never cultivated her talent."

"For all that has occurred or may occur," said Mr St Lys to Egremont, "I blame only the Church. The church deserted the people; and from that moment the church has been in danger and the people degraded. Formerly religion undertook to satisfy the noble wants of human nature, and by its festivals relieved the painful weariness of toil. The day of rest was consecrated, if not always to elevated thought, at least to sweet and noble sentiments. The church convened to its solemnities under its splendid and almost celestial roofs amid the finest monuments of art that human hands have raised, the whole Christian population; for there, in the presence of God, all were brethren. It shared equally among all its prayer, its incense, and its music; its sacred instructions, and the highest enjoyments that the arts could afford."

"You believe then in the efficacy of forms and ceremonies?"

"What you call forms and ceremonies represent the divinest instincts of our nature. Push your aversion to forms and ceremonies to a legitimate conclusion, and you would prefer kneeling in a barn rather than in a cathedral. Your tenets would strike at the very existence of all art, which is essentially spiritual."

"I am not speaking abstractedly," said Egremont, "but rather with reference to the indirect connection of these forms and ceremonies with another church. The people of this country associate them with an enthralling superstition and a foreign dominion."

"With Rome," said Mr St Lys; "yet forms and ceremonies existed before Rome."

"But practically," said Egremont, "has not their revival in our service at the present day a tendency to restore the Romish system in this country?"

"It is difficult to ascertain what may be the practical effect of certain circumstances among the uninformed," said Mr St Lys. "The church of Rome is to be respected as the only Hebraeo-christian church extant; all other churches established by the Hebrew apostles have disappeared, but Rome remains; and we must never permit the exaggerated position which it assumed in the middle centuries to make us forget its early and apostolical character, when it was fresh from Palestine and as it were fragrant from Paradise. The church of Rome is sustained by apostolical succession; but apostolical succession is not an institution complete in itself; it is a part of a whole; if it be not part of a whole it has no foundation. The apostles succeeded the prophets. Our Master announced himself as the last of the prophets. They in their turn were the heirs of the patriarchs: men who were in direct communication with the Most High. To men not less favoured than the apostles, the revelation of the priestly character was made, and those forms and ceremonies ordained, which the church of Rome has never relinquished. But Rome did not invent them: upon their practice, the duty of all congregations, we cannot consent to her founding a claim to supremacy. For would you maintain then that the church did not exist in the time of the prophets? Was Moses then not a churchman? And Aaron, was he not a high priest? Ay! greater than any pope or prelate, whether he be at Rome or at Lambeth.

"In all these church discussions, we are apt to forget that the second Testament is avowedly only a supplement. Jehovah-Jesus came to complete the 'law and the prophets.' Christianity is completed Judaism, or it is nothing. Christianity is incomprehensible without Judaism, as Judaism is incomplete; without Christianity. What has Rome to do with its completion; what with its commencement? The law was not thundered forth from the Capitolian mount; the divine atonement was not fulfilled upon Mons Sacer. No; the order of our priesthood comes directly from Jehovah; and the forms and ceremonies of His church are the regulations of His supreme intelligence. Rome indeed boasts that the authenticity of the second Testament depends upon the recognition of her infallibility. The authenticity of the second Testament depends upon its congruity with the first. Did Rome preserve that? I recognize in the church an institution thoroughly, sincerely, catholic: adapted to all climes and to all ages. I do not bow to the necessity of a visible head in a defined locality; but were I to seek for such, it would not be at Rome. I cannot discover in its history however memorable any testimony of a mission so sublime. When Omnipotence deigned to be incarnate, the Ineffable Word did not select a Roman frame. The prophets were not Romans; the apostles were not Romans; she, who was blessed above all women, I never heard she was a Roman maiden. No, I should look to a land more distant than Italy, to a city more sacred even than Rome."

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