Chapter the first the dream chapter the second the wear and tear of episcopacy chapter the third insomnia



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THE SOUL OF A BISHOP

BY

H. G. WELLS



CONTENTS

CHAPTER THE FIRST - THE DREAM

CHAPTER THE SECOND - THE WEAR AND TEAR OF EPISCOPACY

CHAPTER THE THIRD - INSOMNIA

CHAPTER THE FOURTH - THE SYMPATHY OF LADY SUNDERBUND

CHAPTER THE FIFTH - THE FIRST VISION

CHAPTER THE SIXTH - EXEGETICAL

CHAPTER THE SEVENTH - THE SECOND VISION

CHAPTER THE EIGHTH - THE NEW WORLD

CHAPTER THE NINTH - THE THIRD VISION

"Man's true Environment is God"

J. H. OLDHAM in "The Christian Gospel"

(Tract of the N. M. R. and H.)

THE SOUL OF A BISHOP

CHAPTER THE FIRST - THE DREAM
(1)

IT was a scene of bitter disputation. A hawk-nosed young man

with a pointing finger was prominent. His face worked violently,

his lips moved very rapidly, but what he said was inaudible.


Behind him the little rufous man with the big eyes twitched at

his robe and offered suggestions.


And behind these two clustered a great multitude of heated,

excited, swarthy faces....


The emperor sat on his golden throne in the midst of the

gathering, commanding silence by gestures, speaking inaudibly to

them in a tongue the majority did not use, and then prevailing.

They ceased their interruptions, and the old man, Arius, took up

the debate. For a time all those impassioned faces were intent

upon him; they listened as though they sought occasion, and

suddenly as if by a preconcerted arrangement they were all

thrusting their fingers into their ears and knitting their brows

in assumed horror; some were crying aloud and making as if to

fly. Some indeed tucked up their garments and fled. They spread

out into a pattern. They were like the little monks who run from

St. Jerome's lion in the picture by Carpaccio. Then one zealot

rushed forward and smote the old man heavily upon the mouth....
The hall seemed to grow vaster and vaster, the disputing,

infuriated figures multiplied to an innumerable assembly, they

drove about like snowflakes in a gale, they whirled in

argumentative couples, they spun in eddies of contradiction, they

made extraordinary patterns, and then amidst the cloudy darkness

of the unfathomable dome above them there appeared and increased

a radiant triangle in which shone an eye. The eye and the

triangle filled the heavens, sent out flickering rays, glowed to

a blinding incandescence, seemed to be speaking words of thunder

that were nevertheless inaudible. It was as if that thunder

filled the heavens, it was as if it were nothing but the beating

artery in the sleeper's ear. The attention strained to hear and

comprehend, and on the very verge of comprehension snapped like a

fiddle-string.


"Nicoea!"
The word remained like a little ash after a flare.
The sleeper had awakened and lay very still, oppressed by a

sense of intellectual effort that had survived the dream in which

it had arisen. Was it so that things had happened? The slumber-

shadowed mind, moving obscurely, could not determine whether it

was so or not. Had they indeed behaved in this manner when the

great mystery was established? Who said they stopped their ears

with their fingers and fled, shouting with horror? Shouting? Was

it Eusebius or Athanasius? Or Sozomen.... Some letter or apology

by Athanasius?... And surely it was impossible that the Trinity

could have appeared visibly as a triangle and an eye. Above such

an assembly.
That was mere dreaming, of course. Was it dreaming after

Raphael? After Raphael? The drowsy mind wandered into a side

issue. Was the picture that had suggested this dream the one in

the Vatican where all the Fathers of the Church are shown

disputing together? But there surely God and the Son themselves

were painted with a symbol--some symbol--also? But was that

disputation about the Trinity at all? Wasn't it rather about a

chalice and a dove? Of course it was a chalice and a dove! Then

where did one see the triangle and the eye? And men disputing?

Some such picture there was....


What a lot of disputing there had been! What endless disputing!

Which had gone on. Until last night. When this very disagreeable

young man with the hawk nose and the pointing finger had tackled

one when one was sorely fagged, and disputed; disputed. Rebuked

and disputed. "Answer me this," he had said.... And still one's

poor brains disputed and would not rest.... About the Trinity....


The brain upon the pillow was now wearily awake. It was at once

hopelessly awake and active and hopelessly unprogressive. It was

like some floating stick that had got caught in an eddy in a

river, going round and round and round. And round. Eternally--

eternally--eternally begotten.
"But what possible meaning do you attach then to such a phrase

as eternally begotten?"


The brain upon the pillow stared hopelessly at this question,

without an answer, without an escape. The three repetitions spun

round and round, became a swiftly revolving triangle, like some

electric sign that had got beyond control, in the midst of which

stared an unwinking and resentful eye.
(2)

Every one knows that expedient of the sleepless, the counting

of sheep.
You lie quite still, you breathe regularly, you imagine sheep

jumping over a gate, one after another, you count them quietly

and slowly until you count yourself off through a fading string

of phantom numbers to number Nod....


But sheep, alas! suggest an episcopal crook.
And presently a black sheep had got into the succession and was

struggling violently with the crook about its leg, a hawk-nosed

black sheep full of reproof, with disordered hair and a pointing

finger. A young man with a most disagreeable voice.


At which the other sheep took heart and, deserting the numbered

succession, came and sat about the fire in a big drawing-room and

argued also. In particular there was Lady Sunderbund, a pretty

fragile tall woman in the corner, richly jewelled, who sat with

her pretty eyes watching and her lips compressed. What had she

thought of it? She had said very little.


It is an unusual thing for a mixed gathering of this sort to

argue about the Trinity. Simply because a tired bishop had fallen

into their party. It was not fair to him to pretend that the

atmosphere was a liberal and inquiring one, when the young man

who had sat still and dormant by the table was in reality a keen

and bitter Irish Roman Catholic. Then the question, a

question-begging question, was put quite suddenly, without

preparation or prelude, by surprise. "Why, Bishop, was the

Spermaticos Logos identified with the Second and not the Third

Person of the Trinity?"


It was indiscreet, it was silly, to turn upon the speaker and

affect an air of disengagement and modernity and to say: "Ah,

that indeed is the unfortunate aspect of the whole affair."
Whereupon the fierce young man had exploded with:

"To that, is it, that you Anglicans have come?"


The whole gathering had given itself up to the disputation,

Lady Sunderbund, an actress, a dancer--though she, it is true,

did not say very much--a novelist, a mechanical expert of some

sort, a railway peer, geniuses, hairy and Celtic, people of no

clearly definable position, but all quite unequal to the task of

maintaining that air of reverent vagueness, that tenderness of

touch, which is by all Anglican standards imperative in so deep,

so mysterious, and, nowadays, in mixed society at least, so

infrequent a discussion.
It was like animals breaking down a fence about some sacred

spot. Within a couple of minutes the affair had become highly

improper. They had raised their voices, they had spoken with the

utmost familiarity of almost unspeakable things. There had been

even attempts at epigram. Athanasian epigrams. Bent the novelist

had doubted if originally there had been a Third Person in the

Trinity at all. He suggested a reaction from a too-Manichaean

dualism at some date after the time of St. John's Gospel. He

maintained obstinately that that Gospel was dualistic.
The unpleasant quality of the talk was far more manifest in the

retrospect than it had been at the time. It had seemed then bold

and strange, but not impossible; now in the cold darkness it

seemed sacrilegious. And the bishop's share, which was indeed

only the weak yielding of a tired man to an atmosphere he had

misjudged, became a disgraceful display of levity and bad faith.

They had baited him. Some one had said that nowadays every one

was an Arian, knowingly or unknowingly. They had not concealed

their conviction that the bishop did not really believe in the

Creeds he uttered.


And that unfortunate first admission stuck terribly in his

throat.
Oh! Why had he made it?


(3)

Sleep had gone.


The awakened sleeper groaned, sat up in the darkness, and felt

gropingly in this unaccustomed bed and bedroom first for the edge

of the bed and then for the electric light that was possibly on

the little bedside table.


The searching hand touched something. A water-bottle. The hand

resumed its exploration. Here was something metallic and smooth,

a stem. Either above or below there must be a switch....
The switch was found, grasped, and turned.
The darkness fled.
In a mirror the sleeper saw the reflection of his face and a

corner of the bed in which he lay. The lamp had a tilted shade

that threw a slanting bar of shadow across the field of

reflection, lighting a right-angled triangle very brightly and

leaving the rest obscure. The bed was a very great one, a bed for

the Anakim. It had a canopy with yellow silk curtains, surmounted

by a gilded crown of carved wood. Between the curtains was a

man's face, clean-shaven, pale, with disordered brown hair and

weary, pale-blue eyes. He was clad in purple pyjamas, and the

hand that now ran its fingers through the brown hair was long and

lean and shapely.
Beside the bed was a convenient little table bearing the light,

a water-bottle and glass, a bunch of keys, a congested pocket-

book, a gold-banded fountain pen, and a gold watch that indicated

a quarter past three. On the lower edge of the picture in the

mirror appeared the back of a gilt chair, over which a garment of

peculiar construction had been carelessly thrown. It was in the

form of that sleeveless cassock of purple, opening at the side,

whose lower flap is called a bishop's apron; the corner of the

frogged coat showed behind the chair-back, and the sash lay

crumpled on the floor. Black doeskin breeches, still warmly lined

with their pants, lay where they had been thrust off at the

corner of the bed, partly covering black hose and silver-buckled

shoes.
For a moment the tired gaze of the man in the bed rested upon

these evidences of his episcopal dignity. Then he turned from

them to the watch at the bedside.
He groaned helplessly.
(4)

These country doctors were no good. There wasn't a physician in

the diocese. He must go to London.
He looked into the weary eyes of his reflection and said, as

one makes a reassuring promise, "London."


He was being worried. He was being intolerably worried, and he

was ill and unable to sustain his positions. This doubt, this

sudden discovery of controversial unsoundness, was only one

aspect of his general neurasthenia. It had been creeping into his

mind since the "Light Unden the Altar" controversy. Now suddenly

it had leapt upon him from his own unwary lips.


The immediate trouble arose from his loyalty. He had followed

the King's example; he had become a total abstainer and, in

addition, on his own account he had ceased to smoke. And his

digestion, which Princhester had first made sensitive, was

deranged. He was suffering chemically, suffering one of those

nameless sequences of maladjustments that still defy our ordinary

medical science. It was afflicting him with a general malaise, it

was affecting his energy, his temper, all the balance and comfort

of his nerves. All day he was weary; all night he was wakeful. He

was estranged from his body. He was distressed by a sense of

detachment from the things about him, by a curious intimation of

unreality in everything he experienced. And with that went this

levity of conscience, a heaviness of soul and a levity of

conscience, that could make him talk as though the Creeds did not

matter--as though nothing mattered....
If only he could smoke!
He was persuaded that a couple of Egyptian cigarettes, or three

at the outside, a day, would do wonders in restoring his nervous

calm. That, and just a weak whisky and soda at lunch and dinner.

Suppose now--!


His conscience, his sense of honour, deserted him. Latterly he

had had several of these conscience-blanks; it was only when they

were over that he realized that they had occurred.
One might smoke up the chimney, he reflected. But he had no

cigarettes! Perhaps if he were to slip downstairs....


Why had he given up smoking?
He groaned aloud. He and his reflection eyed one another in

mutual despair.


There came before his memory the image of a boy's face, a

swarthy little boy, grinning, grinning with a horrible

knowingness and pointing his finger--an accusing finger. It had

been the most exasperating, humiliating, and shameful incident in

the bishop's career. It was the afternoon for his fortnightly

address to the Shop-girls' Church Association, and he had been

seized with a panic fear, entirely irrational and unjustifiable,

that he would not be able to deliver the address. The fear had

arisen after lunch, had gripped his mind, and then as now had

come the thought, "If only I could smoke!" And he had smoked. It

seemed better to break a vow than fail the Association. He had

fallen to the temptation with a completeness that now filled him

with shame and horror. He had stalked Dunk, his valet-butler, out

of the dining-room, had affected to need a book from the

book-case

beyond the sideboard, had gone insincerely to the sideboard

humming "From Greenland's icy mountains," and then, glancing over

his shoulder, had stolen one of his own cigarettes, one of the

fatter sort. With this and his bedroom matches he had gone off to

the bottom of the garden among the laurels, looked everywhere

except above the wall to be sure that he was alone, and at last

lit up, only as he raised his eyes in gratitude for the first

blissful inhalation to discover that dreadful little boy peeping

at him from the crotch in the yew-tree in the next garden. As

though God had sent him to be a witness!
Their eyes had met. The bishop recalled with an agonized

distinctness every moment, every error, of that shameful

encounter. He had been too surprised to conceal the state of

affairs from the pitiless scrutiny of those youthful eyes. He had

instantly made as if to put the cigarette behind his back, and

then as frankly dropped it....


His soul would not be more naked at the resurrection. The

little boy had stared, realized the state of affairs slowly but

surely, pointed his finger....
Never had two human beings understood each other more

completely.


A dirty little boy! Capable no doubt of a thousand kindred

scoundrelisms.


It seemed ages before the conscience-stricken bishop could tear

himself from the spot and walk back, with such a pretence of

dignity as he could muster, to the house.
And instead of the discourse he had prepared for the

Shop-girls' Church Association, he had preached on temptation and

falling, and how he knew they had all fallen, and how he

understood and could sympathize with the bitterness of a secret

shame, a moving but unsuitable discourse that had already been

subjected to misconstruction and severe reproof in the local

press of Princhester.
But the haunting thing in the bishop's memory was the face and

gesture of the little boy. That grubby little finger stabbed him

to the heart.
"Oh, God!" he groaned. "The meanness of it! How did I bring

myself--?"


He turned out the light convulsively, and rolled over in the

bed, making a sort of cocoon of himself. He bored his head into

the pillow and groaned, and then struggled impatiently to throw

the bed-clothes off himself. Then he sat up and talked aloud.


"I must go to Brighton-Pomfrey," he said. "And get a medical

dispensation. If I do not smoke--"


He paused for a long time.
Then his voice sounded again in the darkness, speaking quietly,

speaking with a note almost of satisfaction.


"I shall go mad. I must smoke or I shall go mad."
For a long time he sat up in the great bed with his arms about

his knees.


(5)

Fearful things came to him; things at once dreadfully

blasphemous and entirely weak-minded.
The triangle and the eye became almost visible upon the black

background of night. They were very angry. They were spinning

round and round faster and faster. Because he was a bishop and

because really he did not believe fully and completely in the

Trinity. At one and the same time he did not believe in the

Trinity and was terrified by the anger of the Trinity at his

unbelief.... He was afraid. He was aghast.... And oh! he was

weary....


He rubbed his eyes.
"If I could have a cup of tea!" he said.
Then he perceived with surprise that he had not thought of

praying. What should he say? To what could he pray?


He tried not to think of that whizzing Triangle, that seemed

now to be nailed like a Catherine wheel to the very centre of his

forehead, and yet at the same time to be at the apex of the

universe. Against that--for protection against that--he was

praying. It was by a great effort that at last he pronounced the

words:
"Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord ...."


Presently be had turned up his light, and was prowling about

the room. The clear inky dinginess that comes before the raw dawn

of a spring morning, found his white face at the window, looking

out upon the great terrace and the park.

CHAPTER THE SECOND - THE WEAR AND TEAR OF EPISCOPACY
(1)

IT was only in the last few years that the bishop had

experienced these nervous and mental crises. He was a belated

doubter. Whatever questionings had marked his intellectual

adolescence had either been very slight or had been too

adequately answered to leave any serious scars upon his

convictions.
And even now he felt that he was afflicted physically rather

than mentally, that some protective padding of nerve-sheath or

brain-case had worn thin and weak, and left him a prey to strange

disturbances, rather than that any new process of thought was

eating into his mind. These doubts in his mind were still not

really doubts; they were rather alien and, for the first time,

uncontrolled movements of his intelligence. He had had a

sheltered upbringing; he was the well-connected son of a

comfortable rectory, the only son and sole survivor of a family

of three; he had been carefully instructed and he had been a

willing learner; it had been easy and natural to take many things

for granted. It had been very easy and pleasant for him to take

the world as he found it and God as he found Him. Indeed for all

his years up to manhood he had been able to take life exactly as

in his infancy he took his carefully warmed and prepared bottle

--unquestioningly and beneficially.


And indeed that has been the way with most bishops since

bishops began.


It is a busy continuous process that turns boys into bishops,

and it will stand few jars or discords. The student of

ecclesiastical biography will find that an early vocation has in

every age been almost universal among them; few are there among

these lives that do not display the incipient bishop from the

tenderest years. Bishop How of Wakefield composed hymns before he

was eleven, and Archbishop Benson when scarcely older possessed a

little oratory in which he conducted services and--a pleasant

touch of the more secular boy--which he protected from a too

inquisitive sister by means of a booby trap. It is rare that

those marked for episcopal dignities go so far into the outer

world as Archbishop Lang of York, who began as a barrister. This

early predestination has always been the common episcopal

experience. Archbishop Benson's early attempts at religious

services remind one both of St. Thomas a Becket, the "boy

bishop," and those early ceremonies of St. Athanasius which were

observed and inquired upon by the good bishop Alexander. (For

though still a tender infant, St. Athanasius with perfect

correctness and validity was baptizing a number of his innocent

playmates, and the bishop who "had paused to contemplate the

sports of the child remained to confirm the zeal of the

missionary.") And as with the bishop of the past, so with the

bishop of the future; the Rev. H. J. Campbell, in his story of

his soul's pilgrimage, has given us a pleasant picture of himself

as a child stealing out into the woods to build himself a little

altar.
Such minds as these, settled as it were from the outset, are

either incapable of real scepticism or become sceptical only

after catastrophic changes. They understand the sceptical mind

with difficulty, and their beliefs are regarded by the sceptical

mind with incredulity. They have determined their forms of belief

before their years of discretion, and once those forms are

determined they are not very easily changed. Within the shell it

has adopted the intelligence may be active and lively enough, may

indeed be extraordinarily active and lively, but only within the

shell.
There is an entire difference in the mental quality of those

who are converts to a faith and those who are brought up in it.

The former know it from outside as well as from within. They know

not only that it is, but also that it is not. The latter have a

confidence in their creed that is one with their apprehension of

sky or air or gravitation. It is a primary mental structure, and

they not only do not doubt but they doubt the good faith of those

who do. They think that the Atheist and Agnostic really believe

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