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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

i go   The Enfant Terrible of Literature

vantage of the robbers themselves is infamy. For* the
Churches are but institutions for the saving of men's souls
from hell.

This is true enough. Nevertheless it is untrue that in
practice any Christian minister, knowing what he preaches
to be both very false and very cruel, yet insists on it because
it is to the advantage of his own order. In a way the
preachers believe what they preach, but it is as men who
have taken a bad 10 note and refuse to look at the evidence
that makes for its badness, though, if the note were not theirs,
they would see at a glance that it was not a good one. For
the man in the street it is enough that what the priests teach
in respect of a future state is palpably both cruel and absurd
while, at the same time, they make their living by teaching
it and thus prey upon other men's fears of the unknown. If
the Churches do not wish to be misunderstood they should
not allow themselves to remain in such an equivocal position.

But let this pass. Bunyan, we may be sure, took all that
he preached in its most literal interpretation; he could
never have made his book so interesting had he not done so.
The interest of it depends almost entirely on the unquestion-
able good faith of the writer and the strength of the impulse
that compelled him to speak that which was within him. He
was not writing a book which he might sell, he was speaking
what was borne in upon him from heaven. The message he
uttered was, to my thinking, both low and false, but it was
truth of truths to Bunyan.

No. This will not do. The Epistles of St. Paul were truth
of truths to Paul, but they do not attract us to the man who
wrote them, and, except here and there, they are very un-
interesting. Mere strength of conviction on a writer's part
is not enough to make his work take permanent rank. Yet I
know that I could read the whole of The Pilgrim's Progress
(except occasional episodical sermons) without being at all
bored by it, whereas, having spent a penny upon Mr. Stead's
abridgement of Joseph Andrews, I had to give it up as putting
me out of all patience. I then spent another penny on an
abridgement of Gulliver's Travels, and was enchanted by it.
What is it that makes one book so readable and another so
unreadable ? Swift, from all I can make out, was a far more
human and genuine person than he is generally represented,