He is in truth, in the power, in the hands, of another, of another will . . . attracted, corrected, guided, rewarded, satiated, in a long discipline, that “ascent of the soul into the intelligible world."—Walter Pater.
No man occupies a more commanding position in the Churches of England than Dr. Gore. I am assured in more than one quarter that a vote on this subject would place him head and shoulders above all other religious teachers of our time. In the region of personal influence he appears to be without a rival.
Such is the quality of his spirit, that a person so different from him both in temperament and intellect as the Dean of St. Paul’s has confessed that he is “one of the most powerful spiritual forces in our generation.”
It is, I think, the grave sincerity of his soul which gives him this pre-eminence. He is not more eloquent than many others, he is not greatly distinguished by scholarship, he is only one in a numerous company of high-minded men who live devout and disinterested lives. But no man conveys, both in his writings and in personal touch, a more telling sense of ghostly earnestness, a feeling that his whole life is absorbed into a Power which overshadows his presence and even sounds in his voice, a conviction that he has in sober truth forsaken everything for the Kingdom of God.
One who knows him far better than I do said to me the other day, “Charles Gore has not aimed at harmonising his ideas with the Gospel, but of fusing his whole spirit into the Divine Wisdom.”
In one, and only one, respect, this salience of Dr. Gore may be likened to the political prominence of Mr. Lloyd George. It is a salience complete, dominating, unapproached, but one which must infallibly diminish with time. For it is, I am compelled to think, the salience of personality. History does not often endorse the more enthusiastic verdicts of journalism, and personal magnetism is a force which unhappily melts into air long before its tradition comes down to posterity.
[Footnote 3: The genius of the Prime Minister, which makes so astonishing an impression on the public, plainly lies in saving from irretrievable disaster at the eleventh hour the consequences of his own acts.]
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was once speaking to me of the personality of Gladstone. He related with unusual fervour that the effect of this personality was incomparable, a thing quite unique in his experience, something indeed incommunicable to those who had not met the man; yet, checking himself of a sudden, and as it were shaking himself free of a superstition, he added resolutely, “But I was reading some of his speeches in Hansard only the other day, and upon my word there’s nothing in them!”
One may well doubt the judgment of Mr. Chamberlain; but it remains very obviously true that the personal impression of Gladstone was infinitely greater than his ideas. The tradition of that almost marvellous impression still prevails, but solely among a few, and there it is fading. For the majority of men it is already as if Gladstone had never existed.