LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoir of Francis Hodgson
John Herman Merivale to Francis Hodgson, [1837?]

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II. 1794-1807.
Chapter III. 1807-1808.
Chapter IV. 1808.
Chapter V. 1808-1809.
Chapter VI. 1810.
Chapter VII. 1811.
Chapter VIII. 1811.
Chapter IX. 1811.
Chapter X. 1811-12.
Chapter XI. 1812.
Chapter XII. 1812-13.
Chapter XIII. 1813-14.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chapter XIV. 1815-16.
Chapter XV. 1816-18.
Chapter XVI. 1815-22.
Chapter XVII. 1820.
Chapter XVIII. 1824-27.
Chapter XIX. 1827-1830
Chapter XX. 1830-36.
Chapter XXI. 1837-40.
Chapter XXII. 1840-47.
Chapter XXIII. 1840-52.
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I have Burnet, and will read him, in order that we
may compare notes; but I think it is since I wrote to you that I read (or finished reading)
Caleb Fleming, as also a MS. essay of my grandfather’s on the same subject, and a sermon of Balguy’s to which he refers; and the result of my meditations has been strongly to aid my inclinations in favour of the affirmative, though not altogether to remove my difficulties—the chief of which relates to the condition of ‘the wicked.’ Are they to be subject to a double sentence, without the intermediate means of obtaining remission? Or are we to infer Purgatory? If the latter be admitted, then does it not follow, as at least extremely probable, that the term αίώνιον, referred to punishment, means the age intervening between death and final judgment, and does not exclude final repentance and restoration?—a high and mysterious question, but one on which I think it quite allowable to speculate, provided it be done with humility and caution, as it is certainly not among those revealed doctrines which are so plain as to forbid dispute. Clarke does not at all satisfy me when he says (slurring over mine and my grandfather’s difficulty), ‘In that state (the intermediate) the righteous cannot but be very happy, through the certain expectation of the crown of righteousness which they know the Lord, the
Righteous Judge, shall give them at the last day; and the wicked, on the contrary, cannot but be made very miserable by a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, though the irreversible sentence shall not be actually executed upon them before the great day.’ This, I say, exceeds my comprehension, unless it be accompanied by the admission of a continued state of probation and the possibility of a future mitigation or reversal of the sentence which it supposes to have been pronounced. To sum up my present impressions on this point, they are these—many passages of Scripture seem to me wholly inconsistent with the sleep of the soul, especially the parable of Dives and Lazarus, the promise to the Penitent Thief, and the article of Christ’s three days’ sojourn in the region of Departed Spirits. But then comes the difficulty, already adverted to, of suffering a double sentence—the last, simply confirmatory of the first; and which (as it seems to me) can only be got over by the hypothesis of a locus penitentiæ being still reserved for the wicked, between death and the resurrection—in other words, a state of purgatory—which may be admitted without implying the corollary, viz. the danger of a falling off for the good, who may be believed to exist
(intermediately) in the certain expectation of ultimate blessedness, implying an exalted, although not perfect, state of present felicity; and this would seem a way of reconciling the expressions of ‘many called and few chosen,’ &c., without recourse either to a Calvinistic interpretation, or to any attempts at evading it—the few being mercy comparative, and applying to those only whose ultimate blessedness is fixed and determined from the hour of their death. Again, without some such qualification, what you say of the happiness Dr misery of the departed being liable to be largely affected by the hope or dread of their respective increase is hard to be understood—since, if their doom is fixed and irrevocable, there can be no room for either hope or dread remaining.

I add the following passage from that odd book, the ‘Doctor,’ which (I believe) nobody now doubts to be Southey’s, as connected (at least in my mind) with the same most interesting subject. ‘It may safely be affirmed that generous minds, when they have once known each other, can never be alienated, so long as both retain the characteristics which brought them into union. No distance of place, or lapse of time, can lessen the friendship of those who are thus thoroughly persuaded of
each other’s worth. There are even some broken attachments in friendship, as well as in love, which nothing can destroy; and it sometimes happens that we are not conscious of their strength till after the disruption.’ And again, ‘Who can bestow a thought upon the pantomime of politics, when his mind is fixed upon the tragedy of human life?’ I need hardly say to what objects1 my own mind is turned by reflecting on these passages, which are to me consolatory in the extreme.

I shall be most happy to receive your primary ‘charge,’ and depend on your promise of sending it me as soon as I reach London. I want also to know somewhat more particularly what you mean by your projected work on Prophecy, of which you have given me sundry obscure intimations. I cannot tell you how much it would rejoice me to possess a treatise on such a subject from one whom I consider, not only so fully competent but, so exactly adapted to the task as yourself. Do you coincide with Coleridge when he says that the old dragon who, with his tail, drew down the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth, is merely typical of the Neronian persecutions, and the apostacy through fear occasioned by them in a

1 Merivale had lost several children.

large number of converts? This is to strip it of the prophetic character altogether and make it a mere piece of enigmatical writing. From whom does he borrow this mode of explaining it? And query if it is much more apposite to
O’Connell and the Whig-Radical ministry? Coleridge, by the bye, is no believer in the personality of Satan. To disprove it he refers to Amos iii. 6, and Isaiah xlv. 7, that God is Himself the sole creator of evil. And adds, ‘This is the deep mystery of the abyss of God.’ And again, as to possessions, he says, ‘Who shall dare determine what spiritual influences may not arise out of the collective evil wills of wicked men? But this is altogether different from making spirits to be devils, and devils self-conscious individuals.’

I am much pleased with another remark of Coleridge’s, in a note on a passage in ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ who is made to say, ‘I must confess my religious thankfulness to God’s providence began to abate upon discovering that all this was nothing but common, though I ought to have been as thankful for so strange and unforeseen a Providence, as if it had been miraculous.’ On which C. observes, ‘To make men feel the truth of this is one characteristic object of the miracles worked by Moses. In them the Providence is miraculous,
the miracles Providential.’ A sufficient answer, I think, for
Milman to have made to the cavillers at his ‘Jewish History,’ who pretended that it convicted him of scepticism by the attempt to attribute them to natural causes.

Towards the end of the week I am in hopes of having the great enjoyment of welcoming Denman at Barton Place,1 where he once before visited me, thirty-four years ago. ‘Quantum mutatus!’ but in station only—not in mind, or heart, or even in fresh and youthful spirit—and, I think, in these respects, the same may in great measure be said of both of us. Oh, how I wish you could make a third at this our reunion!