Frank Leward: Memorials
Mr. Saunders to Frank
Mr. Saunders to Frank.
Dear Frank I have been going to write to you for a long time to tell you how delighted I am to hear of your prowess in fight against the Muscovite upsetter of the peace of Europe. What nonsense it seems that because one man is proud and vainglorious three or four several peoples must array themselves to blow one another into space or make them individually hobble about ever after upon wooden legs. The dear old page 245Bampton lecturer as I sometimes call him knows nothing about these things. His prophetic soul is here grievously at fault. Saint Augustin has proved himself to be fallible. He has got into his pious mediæval brain some curious ideas about the Eastern Church with which he Bampton sole infallible representative of Christianity in the West is to coalesce and teach the Pope a lesson. The Pope not being infallible only Bampton incapable of error. Do write to him and tell him what I say it will make him angry. He hardly ever writes to me unless I do or say something to rouse him from his all engrossing briefs, and I do enjoy his wrathful epistles, it seems so funny to be lectured and scolded by an old pupil whom once I could have birched if he made a mistake.
I sometimes think angelic essences, or whatever goes to make angelic beings that which they may be, I sometimes think it would make them laugh were they to behold two small men about to blow one or both of themselves into space because of an idle word, or some supposed insult, which might easily be explained if either had the sense to do it—what shall we say about war—no laughter then I apprehend among angelic quires, only tears to see thousands blowing thousands away, not for any misunderstanding of theirs, but for the pride and anger of some one else who is not blown away at all. And then these thousands, Frank, after hard lives and little sport, and much suffering, to be finished up at last only by the cannons power to blow away. Are they compensated afterwards in that place whither they are blown or elsewhere? Bampton has no doubt at all and page 246confidently says yes. Would that I could too with equal certainty.
I do believe this that the belief is implanted in the minds of ordinary people for their good by a wise design of Providence. The question is does it end there? I have no doubt the great end of that wise Providence in all its laws is our present happiness. To the great Supervisor of the Universe it may matter little whether we small men and women doing our small businesses on this small earth should lie to one another or tell the truth, but to the small people it matters much for if they lie they are unhappy if they always are truthful they may be glad. Therefore is it made a law and supposed to be punishable to lie. So of thieveries, robberies, murders, rapes, and such like. Our greatest enemies are ourselves in our conduct to one another, we are for ever destroying true happiness, there must therefore, if true happiness is to be secured, be found some potent force to keep those in order who would not do right purely because it tends to happiness to do so, who cannot see clearly enough, and far enough before them, to perceive what is for their own good, who foolishly imagine they will get greater good to themselves by doing harm to others, therefore is it made an implanted idea that they will be punished or rewarded in a future state according to whether their actions have tended towards the happiness or the grief of their fellow-creatures. And to make this feeling the stronger the more complete and perfect the implanted idea is that whatever the future lot may be it shall be eternal.
This idea is no new thing nor is it peculiar to Christians. page 247The Greeks and Romans believed in some dim island of the blest where great heroes, heroism as shown in fight being their idea of goodness, dwelt and enjoyed some sort of everlasting existence without pain. The Red Indian has a similar belief, and I suppose your friends the Maories are not without it. Zoroaster taught the Persians a doctrine almost identical with Christianity. Hasn't the Buddhist something of the sort. The Musal-man certainly has as he willingly gives up his life for his faith exclaiming "here is our field of labour" and pointing to his pictured Paradise, as most of the best of us often point "there is our rest". The quiet German draws the distinction "Earth is our Fatherland Heaven is our home". The Brahmin has the same general idea, though with him it is an ocean of Brahm or love in which he hopes to loose himself some day. A future state of eternal happiness though individually unconscious. Con Feu Tseu taught his Mongolians the same. His was the idea of Joss the Deity, as a great policeman ready to take up and punish for ever those almond eyed Mongolians who interfere with the happiness in the land of flowers of their brother Mongolians. And why all this? Does the universality of the belief prove its truth? Rather does it not prove a design of the great Designer that the unthinking populace should believe it in order that they may be made to behave the better on earth and, so be happier during their short sojourn upon it.
Shake not then their faith but be reasonable. To the higher kind I believe the very doubt of a future must tend to make their lives more glorious, so that they may page 248at least exalt themselves while they do live above the mere instinctive animals, and some day going leave a trail of glory behind. And when the time comes for them to depart gently to yield up that which a good God has only lent not given, allow it, not without a sigh perhaps, but without a murmur, to return to Him who lent it, and thank Him for the Joan. Feeling that though this life has had its dark days and has not been without its troubles joy has surpassed pain, and though there have often occurred to their minds many problems they would fain have solved, though they would e'en have had answers to many questions that have never been explained, and knowledge of phenomena now surrounded by mist, and light on a path often obscure and dark, yet that but for the giver of all good they never would have known anything at all, or tasted of any of the joys the love and affection so freely provided for the sons of men. So, thankful for what they have had, and feeling they have no right to complain of the want of that which they desire and have not, they thankfully yield up their lives like the olive tree, as Antoninus says, yields up her fruit and blesses the hand that spoils her.
Think of these things and tell me what you think, but an if you doubt feel your doubt to be sacred, breathe it not to the uninitiated, thwart not the will of God.
"To see the children sporting on the shore" to the poetic mind of our greatest poet may bring an intimation of immortality, the philosopher too may "hear the mighty-voices" —will they for us be "rolling evermore"? "Ecco il gran problema."page 249
Go on oh hero of a hundred fights amongst your heroes fighting for liberty against tyranny and despotism, and let us know often of all you do and see, and when the fight shall be over come back to us poor quiet peaceful folks shoulder your crutch, if you have one, and show how fields were won.
I have seen some of your letters to Bampton. I want your account of Inkerman I cannot understand that battle. I am my dear boy your affectionate friend
A. M. Saunders.