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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsHugh: Memoirs Of A Brother - Chapter 7. Llandaff
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Hugh: Memoirs Of A Brother - Chapter 7. Llandaff Post by :dan7530 Category :Nonfictions Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :3807

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Hugh: Memoirs Of A Brother - Chapter 7. Llandaff


In 1892 Hugh went to read for Orders, with Dean Vaughan, who held the Deanery of Llandaff together with the Mastership of the Temple. The Dean had been a successful Headmaster of Harrow, and for a time Vicar of Doncaster. He was an Evangelical by training and temperament. My father had a high admiration for him as a great headmaster, a profound and accomplished scholar, and most of all as a man of deep and fervent piety. I remember Vaughan's visits to Lambeth. He had the air, I used to think, rather of an old-fashioned and highly-bred country clergyman than of a headmaster and a Church dignitary. With his rather long hair, brushed back, his large, pale face, with its meek and smiling air, and his thin, clear, and deliberate voice, he gave the impression of a much-disciplined, self-restrained, and chastened man. He had none of the brisk effectiveness or mundane radiance of a successful man of affairs. But this was a superficial view, because, if he became moved or interested, he revealed a critical incisiveness of speech and judgment, as well as a profound and delicate humour.

He had collected about himself an informal band of young men who read theology under his direction. He used to give a daily lecture, but there was no college or regular discipline. The men lived in lodgings, attended the cathedral service, arranged their own amusements and occupations. But Vaughan had a stimulating and magnetic effect over his pupils, many of whom have risen to high eminence in the Church.

They were constantly invited to meals at the deanery, where Mrs. Vaughan, a sister of Dean Stanley, and as brilliant, vivacious, and witty a talker as her brother, kept the circle entranced and delighted by her suggestive and humorous talk. My brother tells the story of how, in one of the Dean's long and serious illnesses, from which he eventually recovered, Mrs. Vaughan absented herself one day on a mysterious errand, and the Dean subsequently discovered, with intense amusement and pleasure, that she had gone to inspect a house in which she intended to spend her widowhood. The Dean told the whole story in her presence to some of the young men who were dining there, and sympathised with her on the suspension of her plans. I remember, too, that my brother described to me how, in the course of the same illness, Mrs. Vaughan, who was greatly interested in some question of the Higher Criticism, had gone to the Dean's room to read to him, and had suggested that they should consider and discuss some disputed passage of the Old Testament. The Dean gently but firmly declined. Mrs. Vaughan coming downstairs, Bible in hand, found a caller in the drawing-room who inquired after the Dean. "I have just come from him," said Mrs. Vaughan, "and it is naturally a melancholy thought, but he seems to have entirely lost his faith. He would not let me read the Bible with him; he practically said that he had no further interest in the Bible!"

Hugh was very happy at Llandaff. He says that he began to read John Inglesant again, and explored the surrounding country to see if he could find a suitable place to set up a small community house, on the lines of Nicholas Ferrar's Little Gidding. This idea was thenceforth much in his mind. At this time his day-dream was that it should be not an ascetic order, but rather devotional and mystical. It was, I expect, mainly an aesthetic idea at present. The setting, the ceremonial, the order of the whole was prominent, with the contemplation of spiritual beauty as the central principle. The various strains which went to suggest such a scheme are easy to unravel. Hugh says frankly that marriage and domesticity always appeared to him inconceivable, but at the same time he was sociable, and had the strong creative desire to forth and express a definite conception of life. He had always the artistic impulse to translate an idea into visible and tangible shape. He had, I think, little real pastoral impulse at this, if indeed at any time, and his view was individualistic. The community, in his mind, was to exist not, I believe, for discipline or extension of thought, or even for solidarity of action; it was rather to be a fortress of quiet for the encouragement of similar individual impulses. He used to talk a good deal about his plans for the community in these days--and it is interesting to compare with this the fact that I had already written a book, never published, about a literary community on the same sort of lines, while to go a little further back, it may be remembered that at one time my father and Westcott used to entertain themselves with schemes for what they called a _Coenobium_, which was to be an institution in which married priests with their families were to lead a common life with common devotions.

But I used to be reminded, in hearing Hugh detail his plans, of the case of a friend of ours, whom I will call Lestrange, who had at one time entered a Benedictine monastery as a novice. Lestrange used to talk about himself in an engaging way in the third person, and I remember him saying that the reason why he left the monastery was "because Lestrange found that he could only be an inmate of a monastery in which Lestrange was also Abbot!" I did not feel that in Hugh's community there would be much chance of the independent expression of the individualities of his associates!

He was ordained deacon in 1894 at Addington, or rather in Croydon parish church, by my father, whose joy in admitting his beloved son to the Anglican ministry was very great indeed.

Before the ordination Hugh decided to go into solitary retreat. He took two rooms in the lodge-cottage of Burton Park, two or three miles out of Lincoln. I suppose he selected Lincoln as a scene endeared to him by childish memories.

He divided the day up for prayer, meditation, and solitary walks, and often went in to service in the cathedral. He says that he was in a state of tense excitement, and the solitude and introspection had an alarmingly depressing effect upon him. He says that the result of this was an appalling mental agony: "It seemed to me after a day or two that there was no truth in religion, that Jesus Christ was not God, that the whole of life was an empty sham, and that I was, if not the chiefest of sinners, at any rate the most monumental of fools." He went to the Advent services feeling, he says, like a soul in hell. But matters mended after that, and the ordination itself seemed to him a true consecration. He read the Gospel, and he remembered gratefully the sermon of Canon Mason, my father's beloved friend and chaplain.

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