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Kingsley, Charles / Lectures Delivered in America in 1874
Transcribed from the 1875 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition by David
Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org


IN 1874



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_All rights reserved_


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In Memoriam.


BYFLEET: _August_ 1875.




Reverence for age, at least so it has long seemed to me, reverence for
age, I say, is a fair test of the vigour of youth; and, conversely,
insolence toward the old and the past, whether in individuals or in
nations, is a sign rather of weakness than of strength. And the cause, I
think, is this. The rich and strong young natures, which feel themselves
capable of original thought and work, have a corresponding respect for
those who, in the generations gone by, have thought and worked as they
hope to do hereafter. And this temper, understand me, so far from being
servile, or even merely conservative, usually accompanies true
independence of spirit. The young athlete, like the young race-horse,
does not despise, but emulate, his sire; even though the old victor be
long past his prime. The young soldier admires the old general; the
young midshipman the old admiral, just in proportion as he himself is
likely to be a daring and able officer hereafter. The son, when grown to
man’s estate, may say to his father, I look on you still with all respect
and admiration. I have learnt, and desire always, to learn from you.
But you must be to me now, not a dictator, but an example. You became
what you are by following your own line; and you must let me rival you,
and do you honour, by following mine.

This, I believe, is true of nations as well as of individuals. I do not
hesitate to say that, paradoxical as it may seem, the most original
races—those who have succeeded best and left their stamp most broadly and
permanently on the human race—have also been the most teachable, provided
they were allowed to learn in their own way and to adapt to their own
purposes any higher ancient civilisation with which they came in contact.
What more striking instances of this truth—for truth it is—than the
reverence of the free Republican Greek for the old despotic civilisation
of Egypt? and of the free Norseman, our own ancestor, for the old and
equally despotic civilisation of Rome?

These—the two most originative and most progressive races of Europe—had a
faith in, an awe of, the supposed or real wisdom of the men of old time,
which was often exaggerated into a superstition; but never—thanks to
their own innate force—degenerated into a bondage.

Pardon me this somewhat dry proœmium; and pardon me, too, if it leads me
on to a compliment to the American people, which I trust you will not
think impertinent.

For I have seen, and seen with joy, a like spirit in those Americans whom
it has been my good fortune to meet in my own land. I mean this:—That I
found in them, however self-teaching and self-determining they might be,
that genial reverence for antiquity which I hold to be the sign of a
truly generous—that is in the right sense of the grand old word—a truly
high-bred, nature. I have been touched, and deeply touched, at finding
so many of them, on landing for the first time at Liverpool, hurrying off
to our quaint old city of Chester to gaze on its old girdle of walls and
towers; Roman, Mediæval, Caroline; its curious ‘Rows’ of overhanging
houses; its fragments of Roman baths and inscriptions; its modest little
Cathedral; and the—really very few—relics of English history which it
contains. Even two banners of an old Cheshire regiment which had been in
the Peninsular war were almost as interesting, to some, as an illuminated
Bible of the early Middle Age. More than once have I had to repress the
enthusiasm of some charming lady and say, ‘But this is nothing. Do not
waste your admiration here. Go on. See the British Museum, its marbles
and its manuscripts—See the French Cathedrals; the ruins of Provence and
Italy; the galleries of Florence, Naples, Rome.’

‘Ah, but you must remember,’ was the answer, ‘these are the first old
things I ever saw.’

A mere sentiment? Yes: but as poets know, and statesmen ought to know,
it is by sentiment, when well directed—as by sorrow, when well used—by
sentiment, I say, great nations live. When sentiment dies out, and mere
prosaic calculation of loss and profit takes its place, then comes a
Byzantine epoch, a Chinese epoch, decrepitude, and slow decay.

And so the eagerness of those generous young souls was to me a good
augury for the future, of them, and of their native land. They seemed to
me—and I say again it touched me, often deeply—to be realising to
themselves their rightful place in the community of the civilised nations
of all lands, and of all times—realising to themselves that they were

Heirs of all the ages, foremost in the ranks of time;

and minded, therefore, like wise and noble heirs, not to despise and
squander, but to treasure and to use that inheritance, and the
accumulated labours of the mighty dead.

I saw this, I say, at Chester. And therefore I was not surprised to find
the pleasant experience repeated, and to even a higher degree, at
Westminster. A pleasant experience, I say. I know few more agreeable
occupations than showing a party of Americans round our own great Abbey;
and sentimentalising, if you will, in sympathy with them, over England’s

I pause to confess once more that it is almost an impertinence in me to
pay you such a compliment. You have a right to answer me—How could it be
otherwise?—Are we not educated people? Has not our taste been trained by
native authors, who were at least civilised enough to value the great
past, without the need of any European crossing the seas to tell us of
its wealth?

If you reprove me thus, I can but say that the reproof is just, and will
remain just, as long as your poets are what they are; and as long, above
all, as you reverence as much in America as we do in England, the poetry
of Mr. Longfellow. He has not, if I recollect aright, ever employed his
muse in commemorating our great Abbey; but that muse is instinct with all
those lofty and yet tender emotions which the sight of that great Abbey
should call out. He knows, as few know on our side of the wide water,
the effect, chastening and yet ennobling, of such architecture,
consecrated by such associations. He has not only perceived and drank in
all that is purest and noblest in the now sleeping last ten centuries:
but he has combined it, again and again, with that which is purest and
noblest in the waking and yearning present; and combined it organically
and livingly, as leaf and stem combines with flower and fruit. Yes; as
long as the poet who could write both the _Belfry of Bruges_ and _The
Village Blacksmith_ is read among you, there is no need for me to bid you
reverence the past; and little need, I trust, for me to tell those whom I
leave at home to reverence the present. For it is a fact—of which some
Americans may not be as well aware as they should be—that your exquisite
poet has exercised an influence in Britain it may be as great as, and
certainly more varied than, that which he has exercised in his native
land. With us—as, I presume, with you—he has penetrated into thousands
of Puritan homes, and awakened tens of thousands of young hearts to the
beauty and the nobleness of the old pre-Reformation age, and of that
romance and art from which their too exclusive hereditary training had,
until his time, shut them out. And he has thus, truly, done a sacred
deed in turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. That was
enough: but that is not the whole. He has, conversely, turned the hearts
of the fathers to the children. The world-wide humanity of his poems,
and, to be just, of all your American poets who have studied in his
school, has produced throughout Great Britain a just reverence and
affection for the American mind which will have—which has had
already—large social and political results. Be sure, be sure, that in
spite of passing jars, our empire will never be long unjust to yours,
while Mr. Longfellow and Mr. Lowell remain not merely the household
bards—though that is much—but counsellors, comforters, and trusted
friends to hundreds of thousands of gentle and earnest souls; from the
palace to the parsonage, from the little village shop to the farm-house
on the lonely down.

But there is another American author—who was the delight of my own youth,
and who should have been my teacher also, for he was a master of our
common tongue, and his prose is as graceful and felicitous as poor Elia’s
own, and it is certainly more manly—another American author, I say, who,
with that high-bred reverence for what is old, has told you already more
about Westminster Abbey, and told it better, than I am likely to tell it.
Need I say that I mean the lamented Washington Irving? Ah, that our
authors had always been as just to you as he was just to us; and indeed
more than just; for in his courtesy and geniality he saw us somewhat _en
beau_, and treated old John Bull too much as the poet advises us to treat
young and fair ladies—

Be to their faults a little blind,
Be to their virtues very kind.

But what a charming book is that old ‘Sketch-book.’ And what a charming
essay that on our great Abbey, set with such gems of prose as these,—

‘The sun was pouring down a yellow autumnal ray into the square of the
cloisters, beaming upon a scanty spot of grass in the centre, and
lighting up an angle of the vaulted passage with a kind of dusty
splendour. From between the arcades, the eye glanced up to a bit of blue
sky, or a passing cloud, and beheld the sun-gilt pinnacles of the Abbey
towering into the azure heaven.’

Or this again, describing the general effect of Henry the Seventh’s
unrivalled chapel,—‘The very walls are wrought into universal ornament;
encrusted with tracery, and scooped into niches, crowded with the statues
of saints and martyrs. Stone seems, by the cunning labour of the chisel,
to have been robbed of its weight and density; suspended aloft as if by
magic; and the fretted roof achieved with the wonderful minuteness and
airy security of a cobweb.’

‘Dusty splendour,’ ‘airy security,’ epithets so unexpected, and yet so
felicitous, as to be seemingly accidental. Such are the tokens of that
highest art, which is—to conceal its own existence. After such speech as
that, what have I to tell you of the great old Abbey?

Yet there are one or two things, I dare to say, which Washington Irving
would have written differently had he visited Westminster, not forty
years ago, but now.

I think, in the first place, that if he visited the great Abbey now, he
would not have noticed that look of dilapidation at which he hints—and
perhaps had a right to hint—some forty years ago. Dilapidation, dirt,
and negligence are as hateful to us now, as to the builder of the newest
house outside. We too, for more than a generation past, have felt, in
common with the rest of England and with all the nations of Northern
Europe, that awakened reverence for Mediæval Art and Mediæval History,
which is—for good and for evil—the special social phenomenon of our
times; the natural and, on the whole, useful countercheck to that extreme
of revolutionary feeling which issues—as it did in Paris but three years
ago—in utter hatred and renunciation of the past, and destruction of its

To preserve, to restore, and, if not, to copy, as a sort of filial duty,
the buildings which our forefathers have left us, is now held to be the
very mark of cultivation and good taste in Britain. It may be that we
carry it too far; that by a servile and Chinese exactness of imitation we
are crippling what originality of genius may exist among our draughtsmen,
sculptors, architects. But we at least confess thereby that we cannot
invent and create as could our ancestors five hundred years ago; and as
long as that is the case it is more wise in us—as in any people—to
exhaust the signification and power of the past, and to learn all we can
from older schools of art and thought ere we attempt novelties of our own
which, I confess freely, usually issue in the ugly and the ludicrous.

Be that as it may, we of Westminster Abbey have become, like other
Englishmen, repairers and restorers. Had we not so become, the nation
would have demanded an account of us, as guardians of its national
mausoleum, the building of which our illustrious Dean has so well said—

‘Of all the characteristics of Westminster Abbey, that which most endears
it to the nation and gives most force to its name—which has, more than
anything else, made it the home of the people of England and the most
venerated fabric of the English Church—is not so much its glory as the
seat of the coronations, or as the sepulchre of the kings; not so much
its school, or its monastery, or its chapter, or its sanctuary, as the
fact that it is the resting-place of famous Englishmen, from every rank
and creed, and every form of genius. It is not only Reims Cathedral and
St. Denys both in one; but it is what the Pantheon was intended to be to
France—what the Valhalla is to Germany—what Santa Croce is to Italy. . .
It is this which inspired the saying of Nelson—Victory or Westminster
Abbey. It is this which has intertwined it with so many eloquent
passages of Macaulay. It is this which gives point to the allusions of
recent Nonconformist statesmen, least inclined to draw illustrations from
ecclesiastical buildings. It is this which gives most promise of
vitality to the whole institution. Kings are no longer buried within its
walls; even the splendour of pageants has ceased to attract. But the
desire to be buried in Westminster Abbey is as strong as ever.

‘This sprang, in the first instance, as a natural off-shoot from the
coronations and interments of the kings. Had they, like those of France,
of Spain, of Austria, of Russia—been buried far away in some secluded
spot, or had the English nation stood aloof from the English monarchy, it
might have been otherwise. The sepulchral chapels built by Henry the
Third and Henry the Seventh might have stood alone in their glory. No
meaner dust need ever have mingled with the dust of Plantagenets, Tudors,
Stuarts, and Guelphs. . . . But it has been the peculiar privilege of
the kings of England that neither in life nor in death have they been
parted from their people. As the Council of the Nation and the Courts of
Law have pressed into the Palace of Westminster, and engirdled the very
throne itself, so the ashes of the great citizens of England have pressed
into the sepulchre of the kings, and surrounded them as with a guard of
honour after their death. We are sometimes inclined bitterly to contrast
the placid dignity of our recumbent kings, with Chatham gesticulating
from the northern transept, or Pitt from the western door, or Shakspeare
leaning on his column in Poet’s Corner, or Wolfe expiring by the chapel
of St. John. But, in fact, they are, in their different ways, keeping
guard over the shrine of our monarchs and our laws; and their very
incongruity and variety become symbols of that harmonious diversity in
unity which pervades our whole commonwealth.’

Honoured by such a trust, we who serve God daily in the great Abbey are
not unmindful of the duty which lies on us to preserve and to restore, to
the best of our power, the general fabric; and to call on government and
on private persons to preserve and restore those monuments, for which
they, not we, are responsible. A stranger will not often enter our Abbey
without finding somewhere or other among its vast arcades, skilled
workmen busy over mosaic, marble, bronze, or ‘storied window richly
dight;’ and the very cloisters, which to Washington Irving’s eye were
‘discoloured with damp, crumbling with age, and crusted with a coat of
hoary moss,’ are being repaired till that ‘rich tracery of the arches,
and that leafy beauty of the roses which adorn the keystones’—of which he
tells—shall be as sharp and bright as they were first, 500 years ago.

One sentiment, again, which was called up in the mind of your charming
essayist, at the sight of Westminster Abbey, I have not felt myself: I
mean its sadness. ‘What,’ says he, ‘is this vast assembly of sepulchres
but a treasury of humiliation? a huge pile of reiterated homilies on the
emptiness of renown and the certainty of oblivion.’

So does that ‘mournful magnificence’ of which he speaks, seem to have
weighed on him, that he takes for the motto of his whole essay, that
grand Elizabethan epigram—

When I behold, with deep astonishment,
To famous Westminster how there resort
Living in brasse or stony monument,
The Princes and the worthies of all sort;
Do I not see re-formed nobilitie,
Without contempt, or pride, or ostentation,
And look upon offenseless majestie,
Naked of pomp or earthly domination?
And how a play-game of a painted stone
Contents the quiet, now, and silent sprites,
Whom all the world, which late they stood upon,
Could not content, nor quench their appetites.
Life is a frost of cold felicities;
And death the thaw of all our vanities.

True, true—who knows it not, who has lived fifty years in such a world as
this?—and yet but half the truth.

Were there no after-life, no juster home beyond the grave, where each
good deed—so spake the most august of lips—shall in no wise lose its
reward—is it nought, _virûm volitare per ora_, to live upon the lips of
men, and find an immortality, even for a few centuries, in their hearts?
I know what answer healthy souls have made in every age to that question;
and what they will make to the end, as long as the respect of their
fellow-creatures is, as our Creator meant that it should be, precious to
virtuous men. And let none talk of ‘the play-game of a painted stone,’
of ‘the worthless honours of a bust.’ The worth of honour lies in that
same worthlessness. Fair money wage for fair work done, no wise man will
despise. But that is pay, not honour; the very preciousness whereof—like
the old victor’s parsley crown in the Greek games—is that it had no
value, gave no pleasure, save that which is imperishable, spiritual, and
not to be represented by gold nor quintessential diamond.

Therefore, to me at least, the Abbey speaks, not of vanity and
disappointment, but of content and peace.

The quiet now and silent sprites

of whom old Christolero sings, they are content; and well for them that
they should be. They have received their nation’s thanks, and ask no
more, save to lie there in peace. They have had justice done them; and
more than one is there, who had scant justice done him while alive. Even
Castlereagh is there, in spite of Byron’s and of Shelley’s scorn. It may
be that they too have found out ere now, that there he ought to be. The
nation has been just to him who, in such wild times as the world had not
seen for full three hundred years, did his duty according to his light,
and died in doing it; and his sad noble face looks down on Englishmen as
they go by, not with reproach, but rather with content.

Content, I say, and peace. Peace from their toil, and peace with their
fellow-men. They are at least at rest. _Obdormierunt in pace_. They
have fallen asleep in peace. The galled shoulder is freed from the
collar at last. The brave old horse has done his stage and lain down in
the inn. There are no more mistakes now, no more sores, no more falls;
and no more whip, thank God, laid on too often when it was least needed
and most felt.

And there are no more quarrels, too. Old personal feuds, old party
bickerings, old differences of creed, and hatreds in the name of the God
of love—all those are past, in that world of which the Abbey is to me a
symbol and a sacrament. Pitt and Fox, Warren Hastings and Macaulay, they
can afford to be near to each other in the Abbey; for they understand
each other now elsewhere; and the Romish Abbot’s bones do not stir in
their grave beside the bones of the Protestant Divine whom he, it may be,
would have burned alive on earth.

In the south aisle of Henry the VIIth’s Chapel lies in royal pomp she who
so long was Britain’s bane—‘the daughter of debate, who discord still did
sow’—poor Mary Queen of Scots. But English and Scots alike have
forgotten the streams of noble blood she cost their nations; and look
sadly and pityingly upon her effigy—why not?

Nothing is left of her
Now but pure womanly.

And in the corresponding aisle upon the north, in a like tomb—which the
voice of the English people demanded from the son of Mary Stuart—lies
even a sadder figure still—poor Queen Elizabeth. To her indeed, in her
last days, Vanity of vanities—all was vanity. Tyrone’s rebellion killed
her. ‘This fruit have I of all my labours which I have taken under the
sun’—and with a whole book of Ecclesiastes written on her mighty heart,
the old crowned lioness of England coiled herself up in her lair, refused
food, and died, and took her place henceforth opposite to her ‘dear
cousin’ whom she really tried to save from herself—who would have slain
her if she could, and whom she had at last, in obedience to the voice of
the people of England, to slay against her will. They have made up that
quarrel now.

Ay, and that tomb is the sacred symbol of a reconciliation even more
pathetic and more strange. Elizabeth lies—seemingly by her own desire—in
the same vault as her own sister, Mary Tudor. ‘Bloody Mary,’ now, no
more. James the First, who had no love for either of them, has placed at
the head of the monument ‘two lines,’ as has been well said, ‘full of a
far deeper feeling than we should naturally have ascribed to him’—

‘Fellows in the kingdom, and in the tomb, Here we sleep; Mary and
Elizabeth the sisters; in hope of the resurrection.’

I make no comment on those words; or on that double sepulchre. But did I
not say well, that the great Abbey was a place of peace—a place to remind
hardworked, purblind, and often, alas! embittered souls—

For Mother Earth she gathers all
Into her bosom, great and small.
Ah! could we look into her face,
We should not shrink from her embrace.

Yes, all old misunderstandings are cleared up by now in that just world
wherein all live to God. They live to God; and therefore the great Abbey
is to me awful indeed, but never sad. Awful it ought to be, for it is a
symbol of both worlds, the seen and the unseen; and of the veil, as thin
as cobweb, yet opaque as night, which parts the two. Awful it is; and
ought to be—like that with which it grew—the life of a great nation,
growing slowly to manhood, as all great nations grow, through ignorance
and waywardness, often through sin and sorrow; hewing onward a devious
track through unknown wildernesses; and struggling, victorious, though
with bleeding feet, athwart the tangled woods and thorny brakes of stern

Awful it is; and should be. And, therefore, I at least do not regret
that its very form, outside, should want those heaven-pointing spires,
that delicate lightness, that airy joyousness, of many a foreign
cathedral—even of our own Salisbury and Lichfield. You will see in its
outer shape little, if any, of that type of architecture which was, as I
believe, copied from scenery with which you, as Americans, must be even
more familiar than were the mediæval architects who travelled through the
German forests and across the Alps to Rome. True, we have our noble
high-pitched snow-roof. Our architect, like the rest, had seen the
mountain ranges jut black and bare above the snows of winter. He had
seen those snows slip down in sheets, rush down in torrents from the sun,
off the steep slabs of rock which coped the hill-side; and he, like the
rest, has copied in that roof, for use as well as beauty, the mountain

But he has not, as many another mediæval architect has done, decked his
roofs as Nature has decked hers, with the spruce and fir-tree spires,
which cling to the hill-side of the crag, old above young, pinnacle above
pinnacle, whorl above whorl; and clothed with them the sides and summit
of the stone mountain which he had raised, till, like a group of firs
upon an isolated rock, every point of the building should seem in act to
grow toward heaven, and the grey leads of the Minster roof stand out amid
peaks and turrets rich with carven foliage, as the grey rocks stand out
of the primæval woods.

That part of the mediæval builder’s task was left unfinished, and indeed
hardly attempted, by our Westminster architects, either under Henry III.,
Edward I., or Henry V.

Their Minster is grand enough by grave height and severe proportion; and
he who enters stooping under that low-browed arch of the north door,
beneath the beetling crag of weatherworn and crumbling stone, may feel
like one who, in some old northern fairy tale, enters a cave in some lone
mountain side where trolls and dragons guard the hoards of buried kings.

And awful it is, and should be still, inside; under that vaulted roof a
hundred feet above, all more mysterious and more huge, and yet more soft,
beneath the murky London air.

But sad I cannot call it. Nor, I think, would you feel it sad, when you
perceive how richly successive architects have squandered on it the
treasures of their fancy; and made it, so they say, perhaps the most
splendid specimen in the world of one of those stone forests, in which
the men of old delighted to reproduce those leafy minsters which God, not
man, has built; where they sent the columns aloft like the boles of giant
trees, and wreathed their capitals, sometimes their very shafts, with
vines and flowers; and decked with foliage and with fruit the bosses
above and the corbels below; and sent up out of those corbels upright
shafts along the walls, in likeness of the trees which sprang out of the
rocks above their head; and raised those walls into great cliffs; and
pierced those cliffs with the arches of the triforium, as with wild
creatures’ caves or hermits’ cells; and represented in the horizontal
string-courses and window-sills the strata of the rocks; and opened the
windows into wide and lofty glades, broken, as in the forest, by the
tracery of stems and boughs, through which were seen, not only the outer,
but the upper world. For they craved—as all true artists crave—for light
and colour; and had the sky above been one perpetual blue, they might
have been content with it, and left their glass transparent. But in our
dark dank northern clime, rain and snowstorm, black cloud and grey mist,
were all that they were like to see outside for six months in the year.
So they took such light and colour as nature gave in her few gayer moods,
and set aloft in their stained glass windows the hues of the noonday and
of the sunset, and the purple of the heather, and the gold of the gorse,
and the azure of the bugloss, and the crimson of the poppy; and among
them, in gorgeous robes, the angels and the saints of heaven, and the
memories of heroic virtues and heroic sufferings, that they might lift up
the eyes and hearts of men for ever out of the dark sad world of the cold
north, with all its coarsenesses and its crimes, towards a realm of
perpetual holiness, amid a perpetual summer of beauty and of light: as
one who, from between the black jaws of a narrow glen, or from beneath
the black shade of gigantic trees, catches a glimpse of far lands gay
with gardens and cottages; and purple mountain ranges; and the far-off
sea; and the hazy horizon melting into the hazy sky; and finds his soul
led forth into an infinite, at once of freedom and repose.

Awful, and yet not sad; at least to one who is reminded by it, even in
its darkest winter’s gloom, of the primæval tropic forest at its two most
exquisite moments—its too brief twilight, and its too swift dawn.

Awful, and yet not sad; at least to an Englishman, while right and left
are ranged the statues, the busts, the names, the deeds, of men who have
helped, each in his place, to make my country, and your country too, that
which they are.

For am I not in goodly company? Am I not in very deed upon my best
behaviour? among my betters? and at court? Among men before whom I
should have been ashamed to say or do a base or foolish thing? Among men
who have taught me, have ennobled me, though they lived centuries since?
Men whom I should have loved had I met them on earth? Men whom I may
meet yet, and tell them how I love them, in some other world? Men, too,
whom I might have hated, and who might have hated me, had we met on this
poor piecemeal earth; but whom I may learn to regard with justice and
with charity in the world where all shall know, even as they are known?
Men, too—alas! how fast their number grows—whom I have known, have loved,
and lost too soon; and all gleaming out of the gloom, as every image of
the dead should do, in pure white marble, as if purged from earthly
taint? To them, too—

Nothing is left of them
Now but pure manly.

Yes, while their monuments remind me that they are not dead, but
living—for all live to God—then awed I am, and humbled; better so: but
sad I cannot be in such grand company.

I said, the men who helped to make my country, and yours too. It would
be an impertinence in me to remind most of you of that. You know as well
as I that you are represented just as much as the English people, by
every monument in that Abbey earlier than the Civil Wars, and by most
monuments of later date, especially by those of all our literary men.
You know that, and you value the old Abbey accordingly. But a day may
come—a generation may come, in a nation so rapidly increasing by foreign
immigration, as well as by home-born citizenship—a generation may come
who will forget that fact; and orators arise who will be glad that it
should be forgotten—for awhile. But if you would not that that evil day
should come then teach your children—That the history and the freedom of
America began neither with the War of Independence, nor with the sailing
of the Pilgrim Fathers, nor with the settlement of Virginia; but 1500
years and more before, in the days when our common Teutonic ancestors, as
free then as this day, knew how

In den Deutschen Forsten
Wie der Aar zu horsten,

when Herman smote the Romans in the Teutoburger-Wald, and the great Cæsar
wailed in vain to his slain general, ‘Varus, give me back my legions!’
Teach your children that the Congress which sits at Washington is as much
the child of Magna Charta as the Parliament which sits at Westminster;
and that when you resisted the unjust demands of an English king and
council, you did but that which the free commons of England held the
right to do, and did, not only after, but before, the temporary tyranny
of the Norman kings.

Show them the tombs of English kings; not of those Norman kings—no Norman
king lies buried in our Abbey—there is no royal interment between Edward
the Confessor, the last English prince of Cerdic’s house, and Henry the
Third, the first of the new English line of kings. Tell them, in justice
to our common forefathers, that those men were no tyrants, but _kings_,
who swore to keep, and for the most part did keep, like loyal gentlemen,
the ancient English laws, which they had sworn in Westminster Abbey to
maintain; and that the few of them who persisted in outraging the rights
or the conscience of the free people of England, paid for their perjury
with their crowns, or with their lives. And tell them, too, in justice
to our common ancestors, that there were never wanting to the kings, the
nobles, or the commons of England, since the days when Simon de Montfort
organised the House of Commons in Westminster Hall, on the 2nd of May,
1258—there were never wanting, I say, to the kings, the nobles, or the
commons of England, counsellors who dared speak the truth and defend the
right, even at the risk of their own goods and their own lives.

Remind them, too—or let our monuments remind them—that even in the worst
times of the War of Independence, there were not wanting, here in
England, statesmen who dared to speak out for justice and humanity; and
that they were not only confessed to be the leading men of their own day,
but the very men whom England delighted to honour by places in her
Pantheon. Show them the monuments of Chatham, Pitt, and Fox—Burke sleeps
in peace elsewhere—and remind them that the great earl, who literally
died as much in your service as in ours, whose fiery invectives against
the cruelties of that old war are, I am proud to say, still common-places
for declamation among our English schoolboys, dared, even when all was at
the worst, to tell the English House of Lords—‘If I were an American, as
I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I
never would lay down my arms—never, never, never!’

Yes—an American as well as an Englishman may find himself in the old
Abbey in right good company.

Yes—and I do not hesitate to say, that if you will look through the
monuments erected in that Abbey, since those of Pitt and Fox—you will
find that the great majority commemorate the children, not of
obstruction, but of progress; not of darkness, but of light.

Holland, Tierney, Mackintosh, Grattan, Peel, Canning, Palmerston, Isaac
Watts, Bell, Wilberforce, Sharp, the Macaulays, Fowell Buxton, Francis
Horner, Charles Buller, Cobden, Watt, Rennell, Telford, Locke, Brunel,
Grote, Thackeray, Dickens, Maurice—men who, each in his own way, toiled
for freedom of some kind; freedom of race, of laws, of commerce, of
locomotion, of production, of speech, of thought, of education, of human
charity, and of sympathy—these are the men whom England still delights to
honour; whose busts around our walls show that the ancient spirit is not
dead, and that we, as you, are still, as 1500 years ago, the sons of
freedom and of light.

But, beside these statesmen who were just and true to you, and therefore
to their native land, there lie men before whose monuments I would ask
thoughtful Americans to pause—I mean those of our old fighters, by land
and sea. I do not speak merely of those who lived before our Civil Wars,
though they are indeed our common heritage. And when you look at the
noble monuments of De Vere and Norris, the fathers of the English
infantry, you should remember that your ancestors and mine, or that of
any other Englishman, may have trailed pike and handled sword side by
side under those very men, in those old wars of the Netherlands, which
your own great historian, Mr. Motley, has so well described; or have
sailed together to Cadiz fight, and to the Spanish Main, with Raleigh or
with Drake.

There are those, again, who did their duty two and three generations
later—though one of the noblest of them all, old Admiral Blake, alas!
lies we know not where—cast out, with Cromwell and his heroes, by the
fanatics and sycophants of the Restoration—whom not only we, but Royalty
itself, would now restore, could we recover their noble ashes, to their
rightful resting-place.

And these, if not always our common ancestors, were, often enough, our
common cousins, as in the case of my own family, in which one brother was
settling in New England, to found there a whole new family of Kingsleys
while the other brother was fighting in the Parliamentary army, and
helping to defeat Charles at Rowton Moor.

But there is another class of warriors’ tombs, which I ask you, if ever
you visit the Abbey, to look on with respect, and let me say, affection
too. I mean the men who did their duty, by land and sea, in that long
series of wars which, commencing in 1739, ended in 1783, with our
recognition of your right and power to be a free and independent people.
Of those who fought against you I say nought. But I must speak of those
who fought for you—who brought to naught, by sheer hard blows, that
family compact of the House of Bourbon, which would have been as
dangerous to you upon this side of the ocean as to us upon the other; who
smote with a continual stroke the trans-Atlantic power of Spain, till
they placed her once vast and rich possessions at your mercy to this day;
and who—even more important still—prevented the French from seizing at
last the whole valley of the Mississippi, and girdling your nascent
dominion with a hostile frontier, from Louisiana round to the mouth of
the St. Lawrence.

When you see Wolfe’s huge cenotaph, with its curious bronze bas-relief of
the taking of the heights of Abraham, think, I pray you, that not only
for England, but for you, the ‘little red-haired corporal’ conquered and

Remember, too, that while your ancestors were fighting well by land, and
Washington and such as he were learning their lesson at Fort Duquesne and
elsewhere better than we could teach them, we were fighting well where we
knew how to fight—at sea. And when, near to Wolfe’s monument, or in the
Nave, you see such names as Cornwallis, Saumarez, Wager, Vernon—the
conqueror of Portobello—Lord Aubrey Beauclerk, and so forth—bethink you
that every French or Spanish ship which these men took, and every convoy
they cut off, from Toulon to Carthagena, and from Carthagena to Halifax,
made more and more possible the safe severance from England of the very
Colonies which you were then helping us to defend. And then agree, like
the generous-hearted people which you are, that if, in after years, we
sinned against you—and how heavy were our sins, I know too well—there was
a time, before those evil days, when we fought for you, and by your side,
as the old lion by the young; even though, like the old lion and the
young, we began, only too soon, tearing each other to pieces over the
division of the prey.

Nay, I will go further, and say this, paradoxical as it may seem:—When
you enter the North Transept from St. Margaret’s Churchyard you see on
your right hand a huge but not ungraceful naval monument of white marble,
inscribed with the names of Bayne, Blair, Lord Robert Manners—three
commanders of Rodney’s, in the crowning victory of April 12, 1782—fought
upon Tropic waters, over which I have sailed, flushed with the thought
that my own grandfather was that day on board of Rodney’s ship.

Now do you all know what that day’s great fight meant for you,—fought
though it was, while you, alas!

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