Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

The Enfant Terrible of Literature    189

certain fundamental ideas of right and wrong which our
consciences most instinctively approve ; its notion of heaven
is hardly higher than a transformation scene at Drury Lane ;
it is essentially infidel. " Hold out to me the chance of a
golden crown and harp with freedom from all further worries,
give me angels to flatter me and fetch and carry for me, and
I shall think the game worth playing, notwithstanding the
great and horrible risk of failure ; but no crown, no cross for
me. Pay me well and I will wait for payment, but if I have
to give credit I shall expect to be paid better in the end."

There is no conception of the faith that a man should do
his duty cheerfully with all his might though, as far as he
can see, he will never be paid directly or indirectly either
here or hereafter. Still less is there any conception that
unless a man has this faith he is not worth thinking about.
There is no sense that as we have received freely so we should
give freely and be only too thankful that we have anything
to give at all. Furthermore there does not appear to be even
the remotest conception that' this honourable, comfortable
and sustaining faith is, like all other high faiths, to be brushed
aside very peremptorily at the bidding of common-sense.

What a pity it is that Christian never met Mr. Common-
Sense with his daughter, Good-Humour, and her affianced
husband, Mr. Hate-Cant; but if he ever saw them in the
distance he steered clear of them, probably as feeling that
they would be more dangerous than Giant Despair, Vanity
Fair and Apollyon all together—for they would have stuck
to him if he had let them get in with him. Among other
things they would have told him that, if there was any truth
in his opinions, neither man nor woman ought to become a
father or mother at all, inasmuch as their doing so would
probably entail eternity of torture on the wretched creature
whom they were launching into the world. Life in this world
is risk enough to inflict on another person who has not been
consulted in the matter, but death will give quittance in full.
To weaken our faith in this sure and certain hope of peace
eternal (except so far as we have so lived as to win life in
others after we are gone) would be a cruel thing, even though
the evidence against it were overwhelming, but to rob us of
it on no evidence worth a moment's consideration and,
apparently, from no other motive than the pecuniary ad-