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I heard also that they never roast any meat; only boil and bake (but not in paste), that their servants may not be much hindered from their devotions; and that they have but one horse amongst them all. But of these I made no mention.
They are extraordinary well reported of by their neighbours, viz. that they are very liberal to the poor; at great cost in preparing physic and surgery, for the sick and sore (whom they also visit often), and that some sixty or eighty poor people they task with catechetical questions: which when they come and make answer to, they are rewarded with money and their dinner. By means of which reward of meat and money, the poor catechumens learn their lessons well; and so their bodies and souls too are well fed.
I find them full of humanity and humility. And others speak as much of their charity: which I also verily believe, and therefore am far from censuring them: of whom I think much better than of myself. My opposing of some of their opinions and practices, as you see in this my relation (wherein I may have varied in some circumstances, but nothing from the substance) was only by way of argument, and for my own better information. I shall be glad to observe how wiser men will judge of them, or imitate their course of life.
I intended not a third part of this when I began, as you may see by my first lines. But, one thing drawing on another, I have now left out little or nothing to my remembrance; saving what I thought fitting in good manners, upon my first affront, to make way for my welcome, and ad captandam benevolentiam ; which is not worth the repeating, if I could; and I am something better at acting such a part, than at relating it: though good at neither.
After this long and tedious relation, I must now make but short thanks to yourself and my lady for my long and kind welcome; wherein my wife joins with me; praying your remembering our loving respects to our kind nieces (hoping the good scholars at Westminster are well). And so I leave you to the grace of God; and am the same, your loving friend,
EDWARD LENTON.” “Crossing Huntingdonshire, on this occasion, in his way Northward, his Majesty had visited the Establishment of Nicholas Ferrar at Little Gidding on the western border of that county'. A surprising Establishment, now in full flower; wherein above fourscore persons, including domestics, with Ferrar and his Brother and aged Mother at the head of them, had devoted themselves to a kind of Protestant Monachism, and were getting much talked of in those times. They followed celibacy, and merely religious duties ; employed themselves in ‘binding of Prayer-books,' embroidering of hassocks, and what charitable work was possible in that desert region; above all, they kept up, night and day, a continual repetition of the English Liturgy; being divided into relays and watches, one watch relieving another, as on ship-board; and never allowing at any hour the sacred fire to go out. This also, as a feature of the times, the modern reader is to meditate. In Isaac Walton's Lives there is some drowsy notice of these people, not unknown to the modern reader. A far livelier notice; record of an actual visit to the place, by an Anonymous Person, seemingly a religious Lawyer, perhaps returning from Circuit in that direction, at all events a most sharp distinct man, through whose clear eyes we also can
still look ;—is preserved by Hearne in very unexpected neighbourhood'. The Anonymous Person, after some survey and communing, suggested to Nicholas Ferrar, 'Perhaps he had but assumed all this ritual mummery, in order to get a devout life led peaceably in these bad times?' Nicholas, a dark man, who had acquired something of the Jesuit in his Foreign travels, looked at him ambiguously, and said, “I perceive you are a person who know the world! They did not ask the Anonymous Person to stay dinner, which he considered would have been agreeable.”—Carlyle’s Cromwell, i. 106, 107.
In dealing with language so allusive, one cannot be sure of having seized the meaning intended to be conveyed. As I understand it, Ferrar is here depicted as a cowardly hypocrite, feigning a love of “ritual mummery” in order to live unmolested by bishops and chancellors. Let us compare the comment with the text. That Mr. Carlyle has mistaken Ferrar's complexion and confounded the two
1 «Thomæ Caii Vindiciæ Antiquitatis Academiæ Oxoniensis (Oxf. 1730), ü. 702–794. There are two Lives of Ferrar; considerable writings about him ; but, except this, nothing that much deserves to be read.”
2 “Nicholas, a dark man, who had acquired something of the Jesuit in his Foreign travels.” It is a great gift, no doubt, thus to dash off a character at a stroke, by a single graphic epithet ; who does not feel that a worse impression of Nicholas
brothers-, is literally as plain as it is that black is not white. That the “Anonymous Person,” respecting whose profession Mr. Carlyle hazards a conjecture, bears the less mysterious title Edward Lenton of Grey's Inn in the very book referred to by Mr. Carlyle”, is, though strange, not less true. That “above fourscore persons” of this “surprising Establishment” managed to pick up a living “in that desert region,” that veritable hermitage, is a conclusion of transcendental logic from the premisses
is left on the mind by this summary sentence than by a formal conviction on sufficient proof? But, if I may steal a trick from the Teufelsdröckh press : “What if your Graphic-Epithet be misapplied ?" Do you not risk the proverbial step to the ridiculous ?
1 John, whom Lenton calls “a short, black-complexioned man; whose apparel and hair made him shew priestlike ;" with Nicholas “a bachelor, of a plain presence, but of able speech and parts;” in childhood “fair and of bright hair like his mother,” in manhood, as his portraits shew, clear-complexioned.
In Hearne's Caius, 693 n., is some notice of Lenton's family. Gough, Peckard and others have cited these papers from Hearne ; so that for Mr. Carlyle alone, of those who have looked into the matter, can they have been “preserved in very unexpected neighbourhood.” The letters, it may be added, are printed with Lenton's name in one of the commonest of books, Wordsworth’s Eccl. Biogr.
3 So called after the analogy of lucus a non lucendo, because it lay hard by the great north road, with half a dozen villages within a distance of two miles. See below, p. 55, " the towns round about and men in the fields ;” also pp. 57 and 76.
(1. Ferrar's mother, a tall, straight, clear-complexioned, grave matron was of eighty years of age. 2. Some sixty or eighty poor people were tasked with catechetical questions, which when they came and made answer to, they were rewarded with money and their dinner), or from these, furnished by two' out of the three testimonies which Mr. Carlyle has glanced at, I will not desecrate the term by saying, has read: 1. He and his family were like a little college, about thirty in number. 2. The family consisted of N. F., his mother and brother, his sister and her husband, their fourteen or fifteen children, and two or three maidservants.
The uninitiated may imagine that the words binding of Prayer-books' are a quotation; for the benefit of the literary aspirant I will venture to divulge the mystery: lest your happy hits be lost upon the unconscious public, mark them out for approbation by inverted commas. But to the point : that the Ferrars did bind prayer-books, I make no question, but there is, I believe, no proof that they
1 Walton and Lenton.
Add the three schoolmasters; John Ferrar's family; “little Mall” Mapletoft, soon to be joined by her fatherless brother and sister, when they also (in 1635) were adopted by their aunt Mary Collett; Ralph Woodnoth, whose father's wealth could nowhere else procure him so sound a training ; the poor almswidows, for whom Charles emptied his purse, “willing them to pray for him," &c.