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The Life and Letters of Stopford Brooke. By Lawrence Pearsall Jacks. Two vols. John Murray, 1917.

STOPFORD BROOKE died in 1916 at the age of eighty-four. His remarkable faculties were alert, serenely untouched by age, to the end; less than a week before his death he wrote a letter to Mr Rothenstein, summarising a philosophy of life, giving brave encouragement to the painter in his work, rejoicing in the white frost that for three weeks had etched his Surrey landscape, and speaking with critical distinction of the poetry of Thomas Hardy— 'one of the few men who cut into the quick of humanity.' In spite of a good deal of ill-health, few men have spent as many days as he of vigorous life, or touched experience so widely or so robustly. In the sense of being responsive to every manifestation of the earth and humanity, it would be difficult to find anywhere a richer nature than that recorded in this book. Mr Jacks has done his work with almost flawless tact. It is, perhaps, to be wished that a biographer who knew Brooke so intimately and with such sympathy had given his own impressions a little wider scope; but, since it has clearly been his wish to allow his subject to speak for himself with as little commentary as possible, it would be ungracious to complain of a method that can point to the highest examples. The material for the writing of a life so long and active as Brooke's must have been very voluminous; it is here selected and arranged with a skill and discretion that leave before us a personality complete in every feature.

The first reflexion that comes to the mind of the reader, on reaching the end of these two substantial volumes, is that it is not a little strange that a career which, in spite of its many remarkable aspects, was not quite of the rarest distinction in its relation to its own time, and finally left little in the way of durable and tangible addition to the sum of human achievement, should justify so exhaustive an analysis. For that this biography is justified, not only for its own shapely composition, but by the quality of its subject, there can be no doubt. It may be interesting to enquire why this is

so, since by usual standards it might be in question. It is possible for a poor subject to inspire a brilliant biography, but Mr Jacks in his grave simplicity of manner makes no claim to brilliance; also it is possible for a poorly executed record to acquire some permanent interest through the importance of its subject, but in this case there is never for a moment the feeling that the writer is supporting rather than being directed by his theme. As a biography the book is, in the generous use of the word, adequate; it scores no points outside Brooke's personality, it never falls below that personality's demands. And yet, while the book does this, we are left with a strange feeling of difficulty when we seek exactly to define the qualities in Brooke that called for this elaborate treatment.

In his Irish blood Stopford Brooke carried a strain of English, Scottish and Welsh descent. Childhood spent in a devoted family, with enough substance to make for the liberal decencies but without the excess that saps independent effort, was followed by a life that in its external movement was one of almost unbroken success. At twenty-five he was freely accepted if not already courted by intellectual and fashionable London, and working at the same time with tireless energy as a parish priest in a slum neighbourhood. Already the Broad Church party considered him to be a suitable person to entrust with the writing of F. W. Robertson's Life, a task that they looked upon as of critical importance to their position in the ecclesiastical controversies of the time. He had all the natural gifts that make at once for popularity and respect. A splendid appearance

My word! you are a strapper!' said a poor woman of his congregation on his arrival in London-a fine voice, a ready turn of speech, a very courteous wit, a love of gallant manners and a fearless regard for the truth springing from a passionate realisation of the dignity of life, made him one of the most notable and welcome figures in the more thoughtful social world of his long day. A pleasant instance of the humorous good sense that gave him so just a popularity in a large circle of friends may be gathered from an entry in his diary made when he was an old man :

'Morris I first knew in 1867, forty years ago. I met him first at a dinner given by Colvin. He didn't care for parsons, and he glared at me when I said something about good manners. Leaning over the table, with his eyes set, and his fist clenched, he shouted at me, "I am a boor, and a son of a boor." As he meant to be rude I was excessively polished. "I couldn't have believed it," I said. Afterwards he was always harmonious. There never lived a truer man.'

Finding that his inclination as a clergyman lay rather towards preaching than towards parish-work, he was directly able to gratify his instinct. He rapidly became famous as a preacher. a preacher. His congregation, including many distinguished men and women, quickened to his own intellectual and spiritual vigour. For the rest of his life the announcement that he was to be in the pulpit was enough to pack any church in the country to the doors; and his later preaching tours were almost like the triumphal progresses of a successful and popular Cabinet Minister. Your house is one where I am always happy,' wrote Burne-Jones to him, and where I never know a dull moment'; and among his closer acquaintances were many writers and artists, in whose company he was always most at home. He had the means charmingly to indulge his generosity as a host, and to fill the house to which his friends were so often bidden with the treasures of art and craftsmanship that it delighted him to possess. His family life preserved for all its members both affectionate intimacy and individual freedom with rare balance; and his days were singularly free of the accidental troubles that fall to so many men to double the inevitable burden of natural griefs.

In his chosen calling any preferment seemed open to him, unless it should be closed by the liberal doctrinal views that finally led to a denial of dogma and caused his secession from the Church of England at the age of forty-eight. This secession was the only incalculable event of his life that had in it the elements of suffering; and even here he was spared the more distressing consequences of his action. To come to a spiritual decision must be in itself, in spite even of the most tormenting period of doubt that may precede it, an exhilarating thing. But it is often accompanied by the very real pain of broken personal friendships. In Brooke's case the

step was taken at last with no misgiving; and, although his parents and brothers and sisters disapproved of his decision-in his father's case, desperately so-there was no loosening of family ties, while from many of his most cherished friends he met with nothing but approval for what they looked upon as an act of self-deliverance.

His secession was a brave thing spiritually, and by it he sacrificed a good deal of orthodox credit and profit. He was Queen's Chaplain, and, had he served expediency, might have attained high place. But it was not an act of lonely defiance, not a going-out into the wilderness. In the Church history of the time it was a fine individual gesture, and a by no means insignificant if not widely-followed example. Nevertheless, it was no landmark in the progress of religious thought, since it meant no more than that Brooke, whose nature was really unfitted from the first for the formal subscriptions of any church, threw aside the shackles of dogmatic control a little later in life than might have been expected, and moved, without any radical change, into the free spiritual state which had always been his true vocation. The incident, in fact, though it necessarily assumes an important place in Brooke's biography, and although it created something of a sensation at the time, is of accidental significance only in his career. In all essential respects Brooke was the same spiritual entity after his secession as he had been before; and the man of eighty had grown without a moment of convulsive change from the man of twenty-five.

Here, then, was a career extraordinarily harmonious in its development-complete, prosperous, and happy. And yet there is, up to this point of our contact with it, nothing to set it above many that adorn each generation without making good their claim to commemoration on anything like the scale of these volumes. Nor are we much nearer a solution of the problem even when we consider Brooke's pioneer quality, when we remember that such a thought as that social evil and misery are not the judgments of God on the sins of the sufferers, who are undeserving of such chastisement; they are due to the neglect, ignorance, selfishness and injustice of man,' though familiar enough now, needed a prophet's voice to enforce it in 1850, and that his blow for a more

humane and intelligible form of religion came with the greater force from being struck, in Mr Jacks' words, at a time of great religious excitement not only among the clergy, but among the public at large.' Nor, again, does so courageous a venture as the delivery of a course of lectures on the poets as sermons from the pulpit, which must have seriously astonished a congregation of 1870, mean more than the introduction of an intellectual quality, not necessarily rare in itself, into a place where it was not at all expected. All these things are evidence of fine gifts finely used, but, if we did not go beyond these, the rarer touch of distinction would escape us.

It will be noticed that nothing has yet been said of Brooke's work as poet and critic; and it may be suggested that in that work his real eminence is to be found. It was, as we shall see, very far from being unimportant; indeed, in some respects, it was of rare accomplishment. But Brooke himself always looked upon it as something not making the chief claim on his faculties; and these are terms upon which no writer, however richly endowed, can achieve work of the highest rank. The best writers, it is true, have sometimes been compelled by circumstance to devote precious energy to work other than their writing, but it has always been with resentment and the desire for escape to undivided service of their art. But Brooke looked upon writing as an incident in a life that was for the most part otherwise concerned. When he turned to it, he brought to the task all the fertility with which he lived, and he perceived literature in the same generous and tender and genial way that he perceived life. His verse is graceful and fervent, expressive of an abundant humanity and delight in the world, but it lacks the touch of imaginative concentration that transforms these into the durable stuff of poetry. He himself, with his deep intellectual integrity, was aware of this.

'If I were not to get rid of my thoughts and excitements sometimes on paper and to one who will sympathise with them,' he says, 'I should be overwhelmed with them. I used to practise them (sic), but I have given up poetry. I did not write well enough to please myself, nor anyone else, so I concluded one phase of my life.' And again, 'I don't think

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