. . . faint, pale, embarrassed, exquisite Pater! He reminds me, in the disturbed midnight of our actual literature, of one of those lucent match-boxes which you place, on going to bed, near the candle, to show you, in the darkness, where you can strike a light: he shines in the uneasy gloom—vaguely, and has a phosphorescence, not a flame. But I quite agree with you that he is not of the little day—but of the longer time.—HENRY JAMES.
The future of Bishop Temple is of more importance to the Church than to himself. He is one of those solid and outstanding men whose decisions affect a multitude, a man to whom many look with a confidence which he himself, perhaps, may never experience.
He cannot, I think, be wholly unaware of this consideration in forming his judgments, and I attribute, rather to a keen and weighty sense of great responsibility than to any lack of vital courage, his increasing tendency towards the Catholic position. One begins to think that he is likely to disappoint many of those who once regarded him as the future statesman of a Christianity somewhat less embarrassed by institutionalism.
It is probable, one fears, that he may conclude at Lambeth a career in theology comparable with that of Mr. Winston Churchill in politics. Born in the ecclesiastical purple he may return to it, bringing with him only the sheaves of an already mouldering orthodoxy.
On one ground, however, there is hope that he may yet shine in our uneasy gloom with something more effective than the glow of phosphorescence. He is devoted heart and soul to Labour. Events, then, may drive him out of his present course, and urge him towards a future of signal usefulness; for Labour is a force which waits upon contingency, and moves as the wind moves—now softly, then harshly, now gently, then with great violence. Those who go with Labour are not like travellers in the Tory coach or the Liberal tram; they are like passengers in a balloon.
I do not mean that Bishop Temple will ever be so far swept out of his course as to find himself among the revolutionaries; he carries too much weight for that, is, indeed, too solid a man altogether for any lunatic flights to the moon; I mean, rather, that where the more reasonable leaders of Labour are compelled to go by the force of political and industrial events, William Temple is likely to find that he himself is also expected, nay, but obliged to go, and very easily that may be a situation from which the Lollard Tower of Lambeth Palace will appear rather romantically if not altogether hopelessly remote.
His career, then, like Mr. Winston Churchill’s in politics, is still an open event and therefore a matter for interesting speculation. This fair-haired, fresh-faced, and boylike Bishop of Manchester, smiling at us behind his spectacles, the square head very upright, the broad shoulders well back, the whole short stocky figure like a rock, confronts us with something of the challenge of the Sphinx.