Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Life! we've been long together
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
'Tis hard to part when friends are dear —
Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear;
Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time;
Say not Good-Night — but in some brighter clime
Bid me Good-Morning.

Anna Lætitia Barbauld (died March 9, 1825)

On Devotional Taste

It is observed by a late most amiable and elegant writer, that Religion may be considered in three different views. As a system of opinions, its sole object is truth, and the only faculty that has any thing to do with it is Reason, exerted in the freest and most dispassionate inquiry. As a principle regulating our conduct, Religion is a habit, and like all other habits, of slow growth, and gaining strength only by repeated exertions. But it may likewise be considered as a taste, an affair of sentiment and feeling, and in this sense it is properly called Devotion. Its seat is in the imagination and the passions, and it has its source in that relish for the sublime, the vast, and the beautiful, by which we taste the charms of poetry and other compositions that address our finer feelings; rendered more lively and interesting by a sense of gratitude for personal benefits. It is in a great degree constitutional, and is by no means found in exact proportion to the virtue of a character.

It is with relation to this last view of the subject that the observations in this essay are hazarded: for thought as a rule of life, the authority and salutary effects of religion are pretty universally acknowledged, and though its tenets have been defended with sufficient zeal; its affections languish, the spirit of Devotion is certainly at a very low ebb amongst us, and what is surprising, it has fallen, I know not how, into a certain contempt, and is treated with great indifference, amongst many of those who value themselves on the purity of their faith, and who are distinguished by the sweetness of their morals. As the religious affections in a great measure rise and fall with the pulse, and are affected by every thing which acts upon the imagination, they are apt to run into strange excesses, and if directed by a melancholy or enthusiastic faith, their workings are often too strong for a weak head, or a delicate frame; and for this reason they have been almost excluded from religious worship by many persons of real piety. It is the character of the present age to allow little to sentiment, and all the warm and generous emotions are treated as romantic by the supercilious brow of a cold-hearted philosophy.

Anna Lætitia Barbauld (died March 9, 1825)

A Liberal’s Contrary View of Unitarians

It is surprising how blind men are, when they have a mind to be blind; what despicable dolts they are, when they desire to be cheated. We, of the Church of England, must have a special deal of good sense and of modesty, to be sure, to rail against the Catholic Church on this account, when our Common Prayer Book, copied from an Act of Parliament, commands our Parsons to do just the same thing!

Ah! say the Dissenters, and particularly the Unitarians; that queer sect, who will have all the wisdom in the world to themselves; who will believe and won’t believe; who will be Christians and who won’t have a Christ; who will laugh at you, if you believe in the Trinity, and who would (if they could) boil you in oil if you do not believe in the Resurrection: “Oh!” say the Dissenters, “we know very well, that your Church Parsons are commanded to get, if they can, dying people to give their money and estates to the Church and the poor, as they call the concern, though the poor, we believe, come in for very little which is got in this way. But what is your Church? We are the real Christians; and we, upon our souls, never play such tricks; never, no never, terrify old women out of their stockings full of guineas.” “And, as to us,” say the Unitarians, “we, the most liberal creatures upon earth; we, whose virtue is indignant at the tricks by which the Monks and Nuns got legacies from dying people to the injury of heirs and other relations; we, who are the really enlightened, the truly consistent, the benevolent, the disinterested, the exclusive patentees of the salt of the earth, which is sold only at, or by express permission from our old and original warehouse and manufactory, Essex-street, in the Strand, first street on the left, going from Temple Bar towards Charing Cross; we defy you to show that Unitarian Parsons ...”

Stop your protestations and hear my Reigate anecdote, which, as I said above, brought the recollection of the Old Priory into my head.

William Cobbett (born March 9, 1763)

Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743-1825)

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