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Four years in France ; or, Narrative of an English Family's
Residence there during that period; preceded by some Account of the Conversion of the Author to the Catholic Faith. London:
Colburn. 8vo. 1826. pp. 443. Ir this book were estimated by its real worth, and reduced to a size at all in proportion to its intrinsic importance, its “ wide circle" would indeed be contracted almost to a point. Of the narrative of the residence which occupies the greater part of the volume, we shall say very little; every body can make such books; and most people who take the trouble to write at all, can produce better. The book is distinguished by the repetition of old jokes, and some very needless and ridiculous attempts at wit—of which the author is particularly fond : a bad pun seems with him quite a sufficient answer to a good argument. He describes himself as a quiet man, of retired habits; if he be so, he would have more consulted his own ease, and the world might have given him credit for more importance and good sense, if he had forborne to enter the lists as an author.
The title page informs us, that the Narrative is preceded by “ some account of the Conversion of the Author to the Catholic Faith ;" this is certainly the most interesting part of the work. If a man of really good sense ever calmly and deliberately renounced Protestantism for the Romish Faith, the history of his conversionthe arguments by which he was convinced--the gradual manner in which conviction stole, as it were, upon his mind, would form a volume of paramount importance; but this is not the case with the " account” before us. The author appears to have been a weakminded man, who, after very little enquiry, abandoned the faith in which he had been educated, and threw himself into the arins of Catholicism. He states his reason for prefixing this “ account” to the volume now offered to the public, to be, that he may remove the prejudices with which the Narrative of his Residence would be read; but surely this is a very insufficient reason—his book is anonymous, and therefore no personal prejudice could exist; and if such a narrative were written with the feeling, and in the manner, in which we conceive it ought to be, the public would peruse it without knowing whether it was written by Catholic or Protestant. But the true meaning of this convert appears in every page; the Church from which he is a deserter, is the object of his attack; and it is his endeavour by illiberality and untruth to make others think as lightly of it as himself. For no other reason could there be introduced a variety of pretended witticisms, the aim of all which is to lower the personal character and respectability of the body of our divines, and insinuate that they are ignorant and unprincipled men. It was not at all necessary in the account of his own conversion to attack
either the doctrines or the practice of the Church from which he seceded; and his having done both of these, so far from tending to remove prejudice from his readers, was certain to produce it-especially when the arguments, or rather the statements, for he assumes every necessary fact, are well known to be untrue by all who have studied the subject in dispute.
The following is a short history of his conversion, He was born in 1768, of Protestant parents; his father and grandfather, of whom he speaks in very irreverent terms, having been clergymen of the Church of England. In his youth he was kindly treated by some Roman Catholic ladies; and, after his father's death, 'found, amongst his papers, a Roman Catholic book, the reading of which very much unsetiled his faith ; but, for worldly reasons, he nevertheless went to Oxford, and, notwithstanding his conscientious scruples, was, at his own request of course, in due time ordained deacon in the Church of England. Shortly afterwards he became acquainted with a Roman Catholic Clergyman of the name of Beaumont, and, after a reference to some passages in the works of Chrysostom, and to the writings of Nicole, Arnaud, and Bossuet, he, it would appear, in a very short time, and at the age of thirty, recanted Protestantism, and was received into the Catholic Church.
The first point upon which he became convinced, was that which every Protestant regards, and regards truly, as one of the most distinguishing differences between the two faiths, namely, transubstantiation; and, upon this subject, the book to which he particularly refers, is Arnaud's Perpuité. The object of this volume is to show, by reference to the works of the fathers, that the Church has always held the belief of transubstantiation, and he endeavours to demonstrate this fact century by century; but it is well known that this work has been triumphantly refuted by Protestant writers, with whose labors the author of the volume before us ought to have been familiar. Isolated passages of dark and doubtful meaning may be found in the works of the fathers, and ingenuity has never been wanting to turn them to the support of all sorts of opinions—the same also occurs in the Holy Scriptures; but both in the works of the Fathers, and in the Scriptures, there are certain clearly defined principles-doctrines so strongly enforced, that there can be no dispute about them, and amongst these doctrines, the Protestant faith, with regard to the Eucharist, is one. The works of Justid Martyr, Irenæus, Tertullian, Origen, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, Theodoret, Gelasius, Facundus, and others, during the first six hundred years of the Christian Ara, contain many passages, clearly pointing out, that they did not entertain the Roman Catholic belief upon this point, and the rise of the doctrine can also be shewn in the ninth and tenth centuries. We of course cannot enter into a long detail upon this subject, but we shall extract two passages, one from the works of St. Augustine, clearly showing what was his belief, and the other from Rabanus Maurus, Archbishop of Mentz, about 847, which as clearly points out the first rise of the doctrine. St. Augus
tine, in his treatise De Doctrina Christiana, (lib. iii. tom. iii.
03.) when laying down rules for the correct expounding of Scripture, says, “ If the speech be a precept forbidding some heinous wicked ness or crime, or commanding us to do good, it is not figurative; but if it seem to command any heinous wickedness or crime, or to forbid that which is profitable or beneficial to others, it is figurative. For example, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you : this seems to command a heinous wickedness and crime, therefore it is a figure; commanding us to communicate of the passion of our Lord, and with delight and advantage to lay up in our memory, that his flesh was crucified and wounded for us.” Nothing can be clearer than these words of a Roman Catholic Saint.
The words of Rabanus-Maurus* are, “Some of late, not having a right opinion concerning the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord, have said, that this is the body and blood of our Lord, which was born of the Virgin Mary, and in which our Lord suffered upon the cross, and rose from the dead; whiCH ERROR we have opposed with all our might.” This was about the year 847. Two passages so clearly opposed to transubstantiation, when joined to the absurdity of the doctrine itself—its defiance of common sense-nay, its impossibility-are quite sufficient to counterbalance the flimsy reasonings of a host like the author of the work before us. We say it is impossible, and so it is; we speak reverently when we assert, that even the power of the Almighty is insufficient to achieve it. It implies a contradiction, and therefore it is impossible. Christ spake, “this is my body," and the Roman Catholics believe, that the bread was then actually converted into the flesh and blood of Christ, although it remained to all appearance unchanged, and the body of Christ was then before them ; the body was therefore in two places, apparent before them, and yet in the bread." The arrant absurdity of this doctrine is so great, that it is most extraordinary how any one should believe it; but it must remain with the Roman Catholics, and it will in time annihilate them; absurd as it is, they cannot relinquish it; their Church is infallible, or it is nothing! it has once adopted the doctrine, and their infallibility is destroyed if they repudiate it. It is the foundation of their faith, and indeed it is a wide and ample one. The man who can believe it, may believe any thing; he who cannot, is no Roman Catholic, and we sufficiently destroy the religion by shewing the untruth of this one point.
Memoirs of Mrs. Siddons ; interspersed with Anecdotes of Authors
and Actors. By James Boaden, Esq. London : Colburn.
1827. 2 vols. Tuese volumes are something like the “ More Last Words of Mr. Baxter," or the hashing up of remnants on the day after a feast. The “ Memoirs of John Kemble” gave to the world all the information of which Mr. Boaden was possessed, not only upon subjects connected with the stage, but upon almost every other subject; for Mr. B. is not one of those scrupulous authors who imagine it to be necessary to adhere to the matter suggested in their title pages. He delights to ramble into affairs not in the most remote degree connected with the person of whom he professes to treat; and the reader cannot therefore by any stretch of foresight imagine what delectable matters he may meet with in one of Mr. B.'s volumes- ." perhaps it may turn out a song, perhaps turn out a sermon." Thus in the volumes now before us--the Memoirs, let it be remembered, of Mrs. Siddons-we have a comparison between the manner in which Cromwell treated the children of Charles I., and the manner in which the French Revolutionists treated those of Louis XVI. We have also an account of the sale of the Houghton Gallery of Pictures, with part of a priced catalogue; a speech of Mr. Pitt in answer to Mr. Burke; and
* Epist, ad Heribaldum, c. 33.
many other things quite as relevant, as new, and as nearly concerning Mrs. Siddons. But this is not the only good quality Mr. Boaden possesses ; he not only inserts a great deal that has no connection whatever with his subject, but just as appropriately contrives' to omit all the information that people expect to find in books of this description. The little anecdotes—the traits of character --the remarks and observations which form the chief merit of biography, and enable readers to judge of the real character of the person treated of, much better, and more safely, than can be done from unlimited panegyric or unfounded conjectures—all these pass by unnoticed. If Mr. Boaden could not furnish such particulars, he should have left the Memoirs of Mrs.
to be written by some one who could ; if he has omitled them, he has performed his task but badly. What value can there be, for instance, in such a piece of intelligence as the following ? “When going to her station in the bed-chamber, she heard the smart and pointed manner of Garrick, and from the wing saw him ascend the ladder; no doubt she felt some alarm-how she should conduct herself in the scene with him which was immediately to follow ; and hoped, probably prayed, that she might not diminish his usual effect.” We must have better authority than no doubt” of Mr. Boaden, before we can believe any thing of the sort; this, however, is his general style; the page that is now by chance open before us, contains three successive sentences beginning—" It may hardly be suspected"_“I can imagine”—and “ I'do not imagine;" and these mere suppositions run through the book. As to any family information, that, of course, was too much in the usual style of such books to be given by Mr. Boaden--no one can know from perusing these pages
whether Mrs. Siddons is a wife or a widow; nor can we learn how many children she has had, or what have been their fortunes or their fates. To any one who has seen Mrs. Siddons act, these bulky volumes will disclose scarcely any thing; and they who have not seen her act, know almost as much as they will find here. Criticism frequently very silly and pointless, and a repetition of stage history, about which more than enough was said in the Life of Kemble,
are all the book contains. “ The Memoirs of Kemble" were for the most part book-making; but this work is still more apparently so. Two volumes would have contained all--more than all—that is worth preserving in both the publications; which ought, indeed, to have been compressed into one; they refer to one space of time, to two persons of the same family, to two actors at the same theatre, and in the same plays; the author who treats of either of them, must of course include the other; and to make two separate books, is useless and ridiculous. It is as if an author, desirous of writing a History of England during the joint reign of William and Mary, should publish first a History of William, and follow it with the history of his partner on the throne.
The book is dedicated to the King, in terms of which we are certain the good sense of His Majesty will disapprove. What can be more palpably ridiculous--- what can be more gross flattery, than the following: “ This is not a proper place for the display of your MAJESTY'S VIRTUES, they are read in the GLORIES OF YOUR EMPIRE, and they stoop even to the decoration of your CAPITAL. lance of your MAJESTY's observation is every Where; and in the attention to the condition of your subjects, your government is PATRIARCHAL?” What can be thought of an author who writes that His Majesty's virtues stoop to the decoration of London---that is, we suppose, that his virtues constructed Regent Street? Or of the wisdom of the man who tells His Majesty that he is like Abraham?
The style in which the book is written is very poor; and whole pages of it are sometimes arrant nonsense: for instance, the attack upon Catherine Macaulay, pages 39 to 41, vol. ii., and the remarks upon the performance on January 30, 1792, from pages 293 to 295, also in vol.ii.; what is the meaning of either of these pretty passages, we cannot tell---we leave them to the curious' in bad writing.
Throughout the whole 800 pages, little can be found worthy of extract; but we will give our readers the most interesting anecdote in the book, and also an extract from a letter of Mrs. Siddons. The anecdote to which we refer, is the following account of a first interview with Mr. Garrick, communicated to Mr. Boaden 'by Mr, John Bannister.
““I was,' says Mr. Bannister,' a student of painting in the Royal Academy, when I was introduced to Mr. Garrick. One morning I was shown into his dressing room, where he was before a glass preparing to shave: a white night-cap covered his forehead ; his chin and cheeks were enveloped in soap suds ; a razor cloth was placed upon his left shoulder; and he turned and smoothed the shining blade with so mucb dexterity, that I longed for a beard to imitate bis incomparable method of handling the razor.
“"Eh! well-what, young man-so-eh? You are still for the stage? Well, now, what character do you, should you, like to-ch?'
"I should like to attempt Hamlet, sir.'
“'Eh! what, Hamlet the Dane? Zounds! that's a bold-a-Have you studied the part ?' 'I have, sir.' Well, don't you mind my shaving; speak your speech, the speech to the ghost-I can hear you. Come, let's have a roll and a tumble' (a phrase of his often used to express a probationary specimen). “• After a few hums and haws, and a disposing of my hair, so that it might