An Autobiography HTML version

better for me, for what would have been published for nothing in The Melbourne Review
brought me 8/15/0 from a good English magazine. I continued to write for this review,
until it ceased to exist, in 1885, literary and political articles. The former included a
second one on "George Eliot's Life and Work," and one on "Honore de Balzac," which
many of my friends thought my best literary effort.
It was through Miss Martha Turner that I was introduced to her brother and to The
Melbourne Review. She was at that time pastor of the Unitarian Church in Melbourne.
She had during the long illness of the Rev. Mr. Higginson helped her brother with the
services. At first she wrote sermons for him to deliver, but on some occasions when he
was indisposed she read her own compositions. Fine reader as Mr. H. G. Turner is he did
not come up to her, and especially he could not equal her in the presentment of her own
thoughts. The congregation on the death of Mr. Higginson asked Miss Turner to accept
the pastorate. She said she could conduct the services, but she absolutely declined to do
the pastoral duties--visiting especially. She was licensed to conduct marriage services and
baptized (or, as we call it, consecrated) children to the service of Almighty God and to
the service of man. During the absence of our pastor for a long holiday in England Mr. C.
L. Whitham afterwards an education inspector, took his place for two years, and he
arranged for an exchange of three weeks with Miss Turner. She is the first woman I ever
heard in the pulpit. I was thrilled by her exquisite voice, by her earnestness, and by her
reverence. I felt as I had never felt before that if women are excluded from the Christian
pulpit you shut out more than half of the devoutness that is in the world. Reading George
Eliot's description of Dinah Morris preaching Methodisim on the green at Hayslope had
prepared me in a measure, but when I heard a highly educated and exceptionally able
woman conducting the services all through, and especially reading the Scriptures of the
Old and New Testaments with so much intelligence that they seemed to take on new
meaning, I felt how much the world had been losing for so many centuries. She twice
exchanged with Adelaide--the second time when Mr. Woods had returned--and it was the
beginning to me of a close friendship.
Imitation, they say, is the sincerest flattery; and when a similar opportunity was offered to
me during an illness of Mr. Woods, when no layman was available, I was first asked to
read a sermon of Martineau's and then I suggested that I might give something of my
own. My first original sermon was on "Enoch and Columbus," and my second on
"Content, discontent, and uncontent." I suppose I have preached more than a hundred
times, in my life, mostly in the Wakefield Street pulpit; but in Melbourne and Sydney I
am always asked for help; and when I went to America in 1893-4 I was offered seven
pulpits--one in Toronto, Canada, and six in the United States. The preparation of my
sermons--for, after the first one I delivered, they were always original--has always been a
joy and delight to me, for I prefer that my subjects as well as their treatment shall be as
humanly helpful as it is possible to make them. In Sydney particularly I have preached to
fine audiences. On one occasion I remember preaching in a large hall, as the Unitarian
Church could not have held the congregation. It was during the campaign that Mrs.
Young and I conducted in Sydney--in 1900, and we had spent the day--a delightful one--
with the present Sir George and Lady Reid at their beautiful home at Strathfield, and
returned in time to take the evening service at Sydney. I spoke on the advantages of