The Way of All Flesh HTML version

Chapter 26
The foregoing letter shows how much greater was Christina's anxiety for the eternal than
for the temporal welfare of her sons. One would have thought she had sowed enough of
such religious wild oats by this time, but she had plenty still to sow. To me it seems that
those who are happy in this world are better and more lovable people than those who are
not, and that thus in the event of a Resurrection and Day of Judgement, they will be the
most likely to be deemed worthy of a heavenly mansion. Perhaps a dim unconscious
perception of this was the reason why Christina was so anxious for Theobald's earthly
happiness, or was it merely due to a conviction that his eternal welfare was so much a
matter of course, that it only remained to secure his earthly happiness? He was to "find
his sons obedient, affectionate, attentive to his wishes, self-denying and diligent," a
goodly string forsooth of all the virtues most convenient to parents; he was never to have
to blush for the follies of those "who owed him such a debt of gratitude," and "whose first
duty it was to study his happiness." How like maternal solicitude is this! Solicitude for
the most part lest the offspring should come to have wishes and feelings of its own,
which may occasion many difficulties, fancied or real. It is this that is at the bottom of the
whole mischief; but whether this last proposition is granted or no, at any rate we observe
that Christina had a sufficiently keen appreciation of the duties of children towards their
parents, and felt the task of fulfilling them adequately to be so difficult that she was very
doubtful how far Ernest and Joey would succeed in mastering it. It is plain in fact that her
supposed parting glance upon them was one of suspicion. But there was no suspicion of
Theobald; that he should have devoted his life to his children--why this was such a mere
platitude, as almost to go without saying.
How, let me ask, was it possible that a child only a little past five years old, trained in
such an atmosphere of prayers and hymns and sums and happy Sunday evenings--to say
nothing of daily repeated beatings over the said prayers and hymns, etc., about which our
authoress is silent--how was it possible that a lad so trained should grow up in any
healthy or vigorous development, even though in her own way his mother was
undoubtedly very fond of him, and sometimes told him stories? Can the eye of any reader
fail to detect the coming wrath of God as about to descend upon the head of him who
should be nurtured under the shadow of such a letter as the foregoing?
I have often thought that the Church of Rome does wisely in not allowing her priests to
marry. Certainly it is a matter of common observation in England that the sons of
clergymen are frequently unsatisfactory. The explanation is very simple, but is so often
lost sight of that I may perhaps be pardoned for giving it here.
The clergyman is expected to be a kind of human Sunday. Things must not be done in
him which are venial in the week-day classes. He is paid for this business of leading a
stricter life than other people. It is his raison d'etre. If his parishioners feel that he does
this, they approve of him, for they look upon him as their own contribution towards what
they deem a holy life. This is why the clergyman is so often called a vicar--he being the
person whose vicarious goodness is to stand for that of those entrusted to his charge. But