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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

304          Truth and Convenience

A Clergyman's Doubts

Under this heading a correspondence appeared in the
Examiner, 15^/2- February to i^th June, 1879. Butler wrote
all the letters under various signatures except one or perhaps two.
His first letter purported to come from "An Earnest Clergyman "
aged forty-five, with a wife, five children, a country living worth
£400 a year, and a house, but no private means. He had ceased
to believe in the doctrines he was called upon to teach. Ought he
to continue to lead a life that was a lie or ought he to throw up his
orders and plunge himself, his wife and children into poverty ?
The dilemma interested Butler deeply: he might so easily have
found himself in it if he had not begun to doubt the efficacy of
infant baptism when he did. Fifteen letters followed, signed
11 Cantab'1 " Oxoniensis" and so forth, some recommending one
course, some another. One, signed " X.Y.Z.," included "The
Righteous Man " which will be found in the last group of this
volume, headed "Poems." From the following letter signed
" Ethics " Butler afterwards took two passages (which I have
enclosed, one between single asterisks the other between double
asterisks), and used them for the " Dissertation on Lying"
which is in Chapter V of Alps and Sanctuaries.

To the Editor of the Examiner.

Sir: I am sorry for your correspondent " An Earnest
Clergyman " for, though he may say he has " come to smile at
his troubles/' his smile seems to be a grim one. We must all
of us eat a peck of moral dirt before we die, but some must
know more precisely than others when they are eating it;
some, again, can bolt it without wry faces in one shape, while
they cannot endure even the smell of it in another. " An
Earnest Clergyman " admits that he is in the habit of telling
people certain things which he does not believe, but says he
has no great fancy for deceiving himself. " Cantab " must, I
fear, deceive himself before he can tolerate the notion of de-
ceiving other people. For my own part I prefer to be deceived
by one who does not deceive himself rather than by one who
does, for the first will know better when to stop, and will not
commonly deceive me more than he can help. As for the
other—if he does not know how to invest his own thoughts
safely he will invest mine still worse ; he will hold God's most