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STUDIES IN MODERNISM
The life of Father Tyrrell is at once a study of temperament and a chapter of contemporary Church history. From the first point of view its psychological interest is great; from the second it is a document of exceptional importance. Its candour is entire; and the detachment of the biographer makes the irritating process of reading between the lines unnecessary. Miss Petre has said out all that there was to say with a frankness as honourable to herself as it is just to the distinguished man who, knowing where confidence was well bestowed, left his memory in her keeping. The trust has been discharged in the face of obstacles which might have daunted a less fine spirit; the terrors of the next world were called in to supplement the weapons of this. Both were invoked in vain. Seldom has so worthy a monument been raised by a friend to a friend.
It is probable that the first feature, both of the Autobiography and of the Life, to strike the reader will be the complete absence of the usual characteristics of a religious memoir. The mannerism and pose of the professional pietist are wanting ; and this is the man to the life, Had you looked for these things in him, you would have been disappointed; they were not there. He was very human, and was frankly not ashamed of being so. He
| The Times, November 2, 1910; Histoire du Modernisme Catholique, by A. Houtin, p. 326.
knew, having seen it at close quarters, that the attempt to rise above nature, ends, with few exceptions, in falling below it; he had had experience of the so-called 'supernatural,' and found it ugly and mean. “I hope I am not humble, from what I have seen of humble men,' he used to say. The common life, the common lot sufficed him. I would rather risk hell on my own lines than secure heaven on those ; I would rather share in the palpitating life of the sinful majority than enjoy the peace of the saintly few. This is tantamount to a confession of worldliness, which I will not defend by a perverse application of the text, ‘God so loved the world.' Yet I have always been disposed to blame the Good Shepherd for having lost His sheep, and to suspect the prodigal's father of having made home intolerable to his son; and, similarly, I cannot help laying half the sins and errors of the world on ecclesiastical shoulders, and siding with the accused against their judges.1
The Autobiography (1861-84) describes the writer's early life; the various influences under which he fell ; his entrance into and first years in the Jesuit Order. The impression left is one of profound melancholy. He had taken the wrong turning; and each successive step found him farther from his destination. The years that the locust had eaten did but bring him back, worn and broken, to his starting-point; he ended where he had begun. Yet all, perhaps, was not lost. It is a good life's work to have arrived by personal experience and reflection at the solution of so plausible and complicated a fallacy as that of Jesuitism. Even though I end weary and exhausted, at certain commonplace principles which are the public heritage of my age and country, made current coin long since by the labours of others, yet it seems to me that I possess them and feel them in a way that they never can who have had them for nothing, who have not worked their way through to them. ..I look back with a sort of terror to the black wood in which for so many years I was lost, and from which God in His mercy has brought me forth to the light of liberty.?
| Petre, Autobiography and Life of George Tyrrell, i. 263. 2 Ibid., ii. 498-9.
His self-revelation differs from Newman's in being rather a confession than an apology ; as Newman was the most self-centred, Tyrrell was the most selfless of men. Не looks at himself from without, as a spectator ; he might be a naturalist examining some strange form of life under the microscope, so destitute does he seem of personal interest in the result. Both were introspective; but, while Newman's temperament was essentially Puritanfrom the age of fifteen he held with a full belief and assent the doctrine of eternal punishment'-Tyrrell's was that of the curious Greek, interested for their own sake in life and mind. The Chthonian deities were not his.
I cannot remember any time of my childhood, or afterwards, when the fear of hell or desire of heaven had the slightest practical effect on my conduct, one way or the other. Even now (1901) it never enters into my calculations as an effectual motive; nor have I, as a Catholic, ever cared or tried to gain an 'indulgence.'1
His sensibility was extreme : he could not take the life even of an insect. When I lift a worm from my path, I say, “So may God deal with me.'
“Your heavenly Father careth for them,” gives me warrant for my folly on this point; and I do not care to amend.' His nature
was strong; and he received impressions on the side of art more readily than on that of science. The sea, restless, loud voiced, and almost human in its changing moods, meant more to him than the remote and silent stars. Like all sensitive children, he led a secret life, the key to which only he who lives it possesses. Language is the setting of common and organised experience; what is personal is inarticulate, and falls still-born, unless a certain Socratic midwifery is at hand. It is for the teacher to supply this; in Tyrrell's case no teacher with the requisite gift presented himself at the critical time. He outgrew the picture-religion of childhood, and found nothing to replace it. The invisible world offered no reality to his awakening reason. · Petre, Autobiography and Life of George Tyrrell, i. 22.