This series has ten easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Belief Versus Unbelief.
The English Civil War’s aftermath resulted in the death of the King, Charles I and the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s regime was unable to survive long after his death. The English substituted the son of Charles for the son of Cromwell. This was “The Restoration”.
Here’s three different points of view of Cromwell’s record and of the Restoration — very different points of view. Carlyle shows us in Cromwell one of his most admired heroes; Green gives us the modern historian’s dispassionate conclusions; while the contemporary narrative of the old diarist, Pepys, preserves the personal observations of a participator in the scenes which he describes. Charles II had spent years in exile on the Continent. He was finally proclaimed King of England at Westminster, May 8, 1660. Pepys describes his convoy from Holland to Dover, and his reception by the people who had invited him to return to his country and his throne.
Of Cromwell’s Rule In England and the Restoration
is the name of our selections from three of the most important authorities of this topic:
- On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History by Thomas Carlyle published in 1841.
- A Short History of the English People by John R. Green published in 1874.
- Diary by Samuel Pepys published in 1669.
For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selections are serialized in ten total installments for daily reading,
|Thomas Carlyle’s installments:||5|
|John R. Green’s installments:||3|
|Samuel Pepys’s installments:||2|
We begin with Thomas Carlyle.
Place: Great Britain
We have had many civil — wars in England; wars of Red and White Roses, wars of Simon de Montfort; wars enough which are not very memorable. But that war of the Puritans has a significance which belongs to no one of the others. Trusting to your candor, which will suggest on the other side what I have not room to say, I will call it a section once more of that great universal war which alone makes — up the true History of the World, — the war of Belief against Unbelief!
The struggle of men intent on the real essence of things, against men intent on the semblances and forms of things. The Puritans, to many, seem mere savage Iconoclasts, fierce destroyers of Forms; but it were more just to call them haters of untrue Forms. I hope we know how to respect Laud and his King as well as them. Poor Laud seems to me to have been weak and ill — starred, not dishonest; an unfortunate Pedant rather than anything worse. His “Dreams” and superstitions, at which they laugh so, have an affectionate, lovable kind of character. He is like a College — Tutor, whose whole world is forms, College — rules; whose notion is that these are the life and safety of the world. He is placed suddenly, with that unalterable, luckless notion of his, at the head not of a College but of a Nation, to regulate the most complex, deep — reaching interests of men. He thinks they ought to go by the old decent regulations; nay, that their salvation will lie in extending and improving these. Like a weak man, he drives with spasmodic vehemence toward his purpose; cramps himself to it, heeding no voice of prudence, no cry of pity: He will have his College — rules obeyed by his Collegians; that first; and till that, nothing. He is an ill — starred Pedant, as I said. He would have it the world was a College of that kind, and the world was not that. Alas! was not his doom stern enough? Whatever wrongs he did, were they not all frightfully avenged on him?
It is meritorious to insist on forms; Religion and all else naturally clothes itself in forms. Everywhere the formed world is the only habitable one. The naked formlessness of Puritanism is not the thing I praise in the Puritans; it is the thing I pity — praising only the spirit which had rendered that inevitable! All substances clothe themselves in forms: but there are suitable true forms, and then there are untrue unsuitable. As the briefest definition, one might say, Forms which grow round a substance, if we rightly understand that, will correspond to the real nature and purport of it, will be true, good; forms which are consciously put round a substance, bad. I invite you to reflect on this. It distinguishes true from false in Ceremonial Form, earnest solemnity from empty pageant, in all human things.
There must be a veracity, a natural spontaneity in forms. In the commonest meeting of men, a person making what we call “set speeches,” is not he an offence? In the mere drawing — room, whatsoever courtesies you see to be grimaces, prompted by no spontaneous reality within, are abvthing you wish to get away from. But suppose now it were some matter of vital concernment, some transcendent matter (as Divine Worship is), about which your whole soul, struck dumb with its excess of feeling, knew not how to form itself into utterance at all, and preferred formless silence to any utterance there possible — what should we say of a man coming forward to represent or utter it for you in the way of upholsterer — mummery? Such a man — let him depart swiftly, if he love himself! You have lost your only son; are mute, struck down, without even tears: an importunate man importunately offers to celebrate Funeral Games for him in the manner of the Greeks!
Such mummery is not only not to be accepted — it is hateful, unendurable. It is what the old Prophets called “Idolatry,” worshipping of hollow shows; what all earnest men do and will reject. We can partly understand what these poor Puritans meant. Laud dedicating that St. Catherine Creed’s Church in the manner we have it described, with his multiplied ceremonial bowings, gesticulations, exclamations: surely it is rather the rigorous formal Pedant, intent on his “College — rules,” than the earnest Prophet, intent on the essence of the matter!
Puritanism found such forms insupportable; trampled on such forms; — we have to excuse it for saying, No form at all rather than such! It stood preaching in its bare pulpit, with nothing but the Bible in its hand. Nay, a man preaching from his earnest soul into the earnest souls of men: is not this virtually the essence of all Churches whatsoever? The nakedest, savagest reality, I say, is preferable to any semblance, however dignified. Besides, it will clothe itself with due semblance by and by, if it be real. No fear of that; actually no fear at all. Given the living man, there will be found clothes for him; he will find himself clothes. But the suit — of — clothes pretending that it is both clothes and man — ! — We cannot “fight the French” by three — hundred — thousand red uniforms; there must be men in the inside of them! Semblance, I assert, must actually not divorce itself from Reality. If Semblance do — why, then there must be men found to rebel against Semblance, for it has become a lie! These two Antagonisms at war here, in the case of Laud and the Puritans, are as old nearly as the world. They went to fierce battle over England in that age; and fought — out their confused controversy to a certain length, with many results for all of us.
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