Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.

And next, though every competent reader must do justice to Pattison’s distinction as a man of letters, as a writer of English prose, and as a critic of what is noble and excellent and what is base and poor in literature, there is a curious want of completeness, a frequent crudity and hardness, a want, which is sometimes a surprising want, of good sense and good taste, which form unwelcome blemishes in his work, and just put it down below the line of first-rate excellence which it ought to occupy.  Morally, in that love of reality, and of all that is high and noble in character, which certainly marked him, he was much better than many suppose, who know only the strength of his animosities and the bitterness of his sarcasm.  Intellectually, in reach, and fulness, and solidity of mental power, it may be doubted whether he was so great as it has recently been the fashion to rate him.



[28] Essays by the late Mark Pattison, sometime Rector of Lincoln College.  Collected and arranged by Henry Nettleship, M.A., Corpus Professor of Latin in the University of Oxford. Guardian, 1st May 1889.

This is a very interesting but a very melancholy collection of papers.  They are the remains of the work of a man of first-rate intellect, whose powers, naturally of a high order, had been diligently and wisely cultivated, whose mind was furnished in a very rare degree with all that reading, wide and critical, could give, and which embraced in the circle of its interest all that is important to human life and society.  Mr. Pattison had no vulgar standard of what knowledge is, and what goodness is.  He was high, sincere, exacting, even austere, in his estimates of either; and when he was satisfied he paid honour with sometimes unexpected frankness and warmth.  But from some unfortunate element in his temperament, or from the effect upon it of untoward and unkindly circumstances at those critical epochs of mental life, when character is taking its bent for good and all, he was a man in whose judgment severity—­and severity expressing itself in angry scorn—­was very apt to outrun justice.  Longing for sympathy and not ill-fitted for it, capable of rare exertions in helping those whom he could help, he passed through life with a reputation for cynicism which, while he certainly exhibited it, he no less certainly would, if he had known how, have escaped from.  People could easily tell what would incur his dislike and opposition, what would provoke his slow, bitter, merciless sarcasm; it was never easy to tell what would satisfy him, what would attract his approval, when he could be tempted to see the good side of a thing.  It must not be forgotten that he had gone through a trial to which few men are equal.  He had passed from the extreme ranks and the strong convictions of the Oxford movement—­convictions of which the translation of Aquinas’s Catena

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