« PreviousContinue »
enjoy his laugh at the Haymarket, or have his feelings warmed, till they boil over at his eyes, at the Victoria (that was once the Coburg); so you see, as the bishops can't decently stir from the Church to the playhouse, they've set their heads together to bring the playhouse to the Church. And this accounts for all their fuss in the Church about what the playhouse people call the "dresses and decorations." They seem to think that religion isn't enough of itself, unless it's "splendidly got up." Whereupon they want to go back to the old properties of crosses and candlesticks, and so forth, to fill the pews. Well, when the bishopsthe grey, sober men, the fathers of the Churchhave this hankering after a bit of show, it isn't to be expected that the young fellows will refuse the finery. Certainly not. Whereupon they're bringing in all sorts of fashions, it seems. They don't think it enough to belong to the Army of Martyrs, unless they've very handsome regimentals.
In some of the churches they 've revived what they call the offertory. It's this. At a certain part of the service, they send round a bag or a pocket at the end of a stick to all the people, to put money in. I have seen the same sort of thing used in the streets to reach to the first-floors, when the tumblers go about. Well, this money is gathered for a-many things; but John Bull doesn't like it.
They say the crocodile has his tender part somewhere about his belly-John's vital part is his breeches-pocket. Nevertheless, there's no doubt that the Bishop of Exeter-for he's very strong upon the offertory-has introduced it to make religion, what is so very much liked in England, select and respectable. You see the people who can't afford to drop their Sunday shillings and sixpences, won't have the face to go to worship at all-or they may turn Dissenters, and so the Established Church, like the Opera-house, will be made a place for what the Standard (I can tell you that is a religious paper, though you may never hear of it) calls the "better classes." Poor people may turn Anabaptists, or anything of that sort that's very cheap. Purple and fine linen a'n't for everybody; no, isn't there good stout sound cloth, and striped cotton?
The Bishop of London has been in very hot water with the folks at Tottenham about the Sunday silver, which they won't pay at all. Well, he says they needn't pay it for a twelvemonth. So it seems that a truth isn't a truth all at once, it takes a year to grow. According to the Bishop, it would seem that truth was born like a tadpole, that wanted time afore it came to be a perfect frog.
Well, then, there's another notion about. It's said that the wants of the people are so many that
it's quite out of the power of the labouring clergy to attend to 'em. It would be worse than drayman's work. And so it has been recommended that there should be a sort of Church militia raised in addition to the regulars. It was only last night that I drove down to Fulham a very chatty sort of man-I think the under-butler of the Bishop of London. Well, he talked a good deal about this militia; they're to be called Deacons, I think, and are to be considered a sort of a parson; like young ravens not yet come to their full black.
Well, it was quite plain that he hoped to be one of 'em, for he said the places would be open to anybody, really pious, of the humblest parts. He was very talkative, and said these deacons would have all the comforts of the monks, without any of their vows; going to people's houses; worming themselves into their families, and learning all their business carnal-yes, I think carnal was his wordand spiritual. When I asked him if, like the monks, they were to wear gowns and hoods (as I'd seen 'em at the Coburg), he winked very knowingly, and said, with the blessing of Providence, that might come. At all events, they might begin with letters and numbers worked in gold or silver in their collars; and, something after the new police, have a pink or purple strap about their cuffs when upon spiritual duty.
Folks are in a mighty stir about the matter; but I think Exeter and London might bring all the people of their own minds, if they only knew how to go about the business. I've just been reading Miss Martineau about mesmerism, and she says this: "It is almost an established opinion among some of the wisest students of mesmerism, that the mind of the somnambule [you must ask somebody about these words] mirrors that of the mesmerist." And then she goes on to say, "It certainly is true to a considerable extent, as is pretty clearly proved when an ignorant child-ignorant, especially, of the Bible-discourses of the Scriptures and divinity when mesmerised by a clergyman."
Now the bishops have nothing to do but to mesmerise the people-I'm sure I've known parsons who've done wonders with sleepy congregations— have only to get 'em "to mirror their minds," and they may do as they please with crosses, and surplices, and saints, and offertory, and all that. In a word, the Bishops of Exeter and London have only to send all their flocks well to sleep, to shear 'em after what fashion they like. As yet, my dear grandmother, I haven't given nothing to the offertory, and I won't agree to the move about the surplice. But flesh is weak. I can't tell how long I may hold out. Fashion's a strong thing, and always strongest when it sets towards
the Church. The day may come when I may take my grey mare-as I'm told they take all the animals in Italy-to be blessed and sprinkled on the feast of St Anthony, and the Bishop of London may do the job for her. But I'll hold out as long as I can. In the mean time, let me have your prayers, and believe me your affectionate grandson, JUNIPER HEDGEHOG.
P.S.-I did intend to write to cousin Bridget, but Lumpy's called me away for a long job.
LETTER III.—To Mrs Hedgehog of New York.
MY DEAR GRANDMOTHER,—We're all safe for a time; the Pope hasn't quite got hold of us yet. You recollect when I was a boy, how I would fling stones, and call names, and go among other boys pelting 'em right and left, and swearing I didn't mean to hurt 'em, but played off my pranks only for their good? And then, when I used to get into a terrible fight, you remember how you used to come in at the last minute, and carry me off home just as I was nearly giving in? And then, how afterwards I used to brag that if grandmother hadn't