Dean Aldrich: A Commemoration Speech

Dean Aldrich:


A Commemoration Speech,


BY


HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, B.A.


STUDENT OF CH. CH.


READ IN THE HALL. JUNE 13, 1872.


OXFORD:

By T. Combe, M.A., E. B. Gardner, and E. Pickard Hall,

PRINTERS TO THE UNIVERSITY.


Dean Aldrich.


We met together here in our Hall last year to do honour, on this our high Feast-day, to one whose lot it was to stand up before all time in the vigour and vividness of an historic personality; one endowed with an energy to mould the policy of a State, a boldness to encounter Emperors, an ambition that sought its home in the spiritual throne of Catholic Christendom: one who gathered up into himself, for the last time in England's history, the gorgeous pomp and power and splendour, which was possible only when one man could wield at once the sword of the State and the thunders of the Church, could robe the bare human mechanism of his authority from the king with the ghostly grandeur of an embassy from the Emerald-bound Throne set on the Crystal Sea. To-night I have to bring before the memory of the House a character of a far different type; the character of a quiet, humble, home-like scholar, of a gentle, modest musician; of a man, born indeed into stormy times, but round whose peaceful life and temper storms and tempests broke in vain; of one who seems ever to shrink from such publicity as his high qualities compel him to assume; who, whether Monmouth was fighting, or James was flying, or William was delivering, lived on his round of College duty, content if he could put in a good word when Papist grew rampant or Dissenter threatened, but never so happy as when dignity and glory could be tossed aside, and he could sit and study Italian scores, or edit a Classic for his scholars, or sing a catch with a friend, or smoke his everlasting pipe. It is a curious contrast: the one battered with hatred, worn with struggle, seared with strife; now 'floating in a sea of glory,' now 'left weary and old to the mercy of a rude stream that must for ever hide him:' the other, moving in peaceful settled ease along the even tenor of his way, enjoying the calm pleasure of graceful culture, the smooth placid flow of genial friendship and of unbroken affection, here among the dreaming spires and quiet meadows, admired, esteemed, beloved unto the end. If the former be the type of the strong rough energy by which institutions are created and founded, the latter is the type of that unceasing, steady growth, that tranquil, silent, hidden working which they foster and by which they live.

Henry Aldrich was born in Westminster in the year 1647, a year in which Westminster rang to the shouts of tumultuous apprentices, and St. James's Fields were noisy with drums, busy with enlistment, for Presbyterianism had sworn to die in harness against the Levellers of Fairfax and Cromwell. Strange weird noises to be sounding in a baby's ears! and it is this characteristic contrast of his birth, that gives a tone to his whole life, a life of unruffled innocent peace in the very heart of broil and turmoil. To illustrate this, I will go through the chief epochs of his life, just recalling at each its historical setting: for we must remember the forces that were in activity about and around him in order to appreciate the quiet that reigns in him.

In his early boyhood, at Westminster School, he must have heard that howling wind that roared round the Protector's deathbed at Whitehall in 1658. In 1660 he must have seen from the old Dormitory windows the Abbey reddened with the fires that blazed night after night for the return of the Free Parliament, and heard the shouts of the multitudes in Palace Yard who were welcoming back the old members of the famous House that had rebelled against the father and now met to restore the son. In 1662, when Vane, on the scaffold at Tower Hill, was setting the last seal of blood to the grim enthusiasm of the old Puritan faith, Aldrich, at the age of fifteen, left Westminster for Oxford.

The last year of his undergraduate life was startled by the sudden inroad of the Parliament at Oxford, fled from the plague; and we can picture the fearful news it must have told him of the city he knew so well, of the doors staring ghastly and ominous with the red cross of Death on the panels, of the naked wilderness of streets, of the deadly silence, broken only by the howls of the prophets of woe, or the dreary bell of the pest-cart. Well would he believe the tale that a flaming sword glared along the heavens from his own Westminster to the Tower.

That Oxford Parliament passed the Five Mile Act; and Aldrich would thus have witnessed the most stringent triumph of the Church.

In 1666, while Monk and Rupert rode triumphant between Urie and Schilling, and De Witt, amidst the conflagration of Brandaris, swore never to sheathe his sword till he had his revenge—an oath blown across the Channel by the very winds that hurled the Great Fire through London—Aldrich took his Bachelor's Degree; and in 1669, while Charles was meditating Rome, and Lauderdale strangling the Covenant, he became a Master.

In 1681, there was another Parliament held at Oxford, a stormy Parliament, elected in the fierce inhuman frenzy of the Popish plot, under a wild burst of excitement such as England had never before known in electioneering annals: a Parliament whose Whig members arrived in Oxford surrounded by retainers armed with staves, with ribbons of 'No Popery, no Slavery' in their hats, all sworn to exclude the Duke of York from the throne: a Parliament dissolved in the midst of rage and tumult, and hurried to its end by almost a flight of the King. It was about such a time that old Canon Speed died, an old loyalist chaplain to the Duke of York, in one of whose naval battles with the Dutch he is said to have

'Prayed like a Christian and fought like a Turk:'

and into his stall Aldrich was appointed, more interested, we may suppose, in the Duke for whom his predecessor fought, than in the Whiggery which he saw so hot and furious in its onset on that Duke's succession.

In 1683 the tide had turned, and at the moment that the new ebb swept away Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney in its revenging flood, Aldrich's University passed, in answer to the dying rebels, its famous decree of passive obedience: 'That all Readers, Tutors, and Catechists should diligently instruct their pupils in this doctrine which is the badge of the Church of England, the doctrine of submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, and that this submission be clear, absolute, and without exception,'

What part Aldrich bore in this I know not; but I cannot doubt. It was a question to a great extent between loyal Church and unruly Nonconformity, and Aldrich, as Hearne says, was 'above all a sincere member of the Church of England.' His Dean was Dr. Fell, 'a worthy successor of the illustrious Dr. Laud' in Oxford, says Antony à Wood; and his colleague in the Chapter was Dr. South.

Anyhow, when the fiery trial came, Christ Church did not crack under the strain of its own enactment, a charge so often thrown in the face of the heroes of Magdalen. For, in 1686, the great Dean, Dr. Fell, died, 'a learned and pious divine,' says Antony à Wood, 'an excellent Grecian, a great assertor of the Church, a second founder of his College, a patron of the whole University, a husband to the widow, a father to the orphan:' and Aldrich and that eminent band of men then in the House must have waited, not without some flutter of expectation, nor yet without some qualms of fear, the issue of the royal appointment. It was just then that James had resolved to carry out a dangerous policy with a high hand, and for this he was ready to harry and corrupt the whole Bench at Westminster Hall. By a rigorous purgation, eleven Judges were secured who would give a voice to the king's infamy. Henceforth James was free to dispense with penal statutes on his own authority: and as he looked round for an opening, the Deanery of Christ Church fell vacant. He had already let the first flush of his power loose on Oxford by freeing Obadiah Walker, Master of University College, from the trammels in which his conversion had intricated him; yet this was only for the retaining of his old position, not for positive preferment to a new. But now, under the influence of this Walker, he chose for the highest ecclesiastical position in the University, for the Deanery of the Cathedral, for the Headship of this House, a renegade from the Church, a Papist, a Layman, of an alien College—Massey of Merton.

In the December of that year, Massey was met at the gate by the Chapter, with Aldrich, Subdean, at its head, and by him installed. It was not so long since Dean Reynolds had fought his way with hammer and blows into his College; not many years after, Aldrich himself walked as Vice-Chancellor in full procession to find Magdalen Hall gate barred against its new Head, and began 'chopping it in pieces:' but we hear of no murmuring of the Christ Church men. They had voted their principle, and they stuck to it: they at least would not decree passive obedience for others, and active resistance for themselves. Yet it was a bitter cup to swallow. Hear some words from King James's 'Licence, Dispensation, and Pardon to our trusty and well-beloved John Massey. We do give and grant him our royal licence to absent himself from Church or Chapel, to forbear giving his assent to the contents of the Book of Common Prayer; and do free him from doing, declaring or subscribing all and every such acts or things in conformity to the doctrine and Liturgy of the Church of England as he, by reason of his being Dean, by the laws and statutes of this our realm, or by any statute, constitution or custom of the University of Oxford, or of the College called Christ Church, is or shall be obliged to perform, make or subscribe; and we do hereby pardon, remit, exonerate and discharge the said John Massey from all pains, penalties, censures or disabilities by him incurred or to be incurred.'

It can hardly have been a merry installation for our poor Subdean under a title such as this; and we have some inkling of his private feelings at the time, for within a year he wrote his 'Reply to two Discourses on the Adoration of our Lord in the Eucharist,' Discourses written by Woodhead under the arch-enemy Walker's direction, and printed at the Press which another royal Dispensation had allowed 'our trusty and wellbeloved Obadiah Walker' to erect in his house for the printing of Popish books. One wonders whether Canon Aldrich felt overjoyed with loyalty when he stood under the Great Gate in 1687 to meet and escort the king to his lodgings at the Deanery; or when he went in the royal train to Massey's Popish Chapel in the old Refectory of Canterbury Hall, to hear a sermon preached before all the great doctors and proctors, by one William Hall, a secular priest, son of a cook in Ivy Lane, St. Paul's Churchyard; or when he heard of the Magdalen Fellows summoned before the king at the Deanery, and roundly threatened in rough language, that if they did not elect Parker as President before the morning, it would be the worse for them.

However, he had not to bear it long. That very year came out the Declaration of Indulgence for Scotland, of Toleration for England. Dissent was egged on by the Court to revile the Church. Next year James heard ring in his ears the shouts of his packed soldiery at the deliverance of the Bishops; Massey fled over the sea to find a less troublesome task than the discipline of unruly Undergraduates, in the direction of the Convent of Blue Nuns at Paris; and peacefully, quietly, gently, out of all this scurry and whirl, Aldrich attains his highest post, and on June 17th, 1689, as if to assert the re-appearance of calm after the storm, he is vested with the dignity of Dean. From far away, James nominated a Pretender to the throne of Christ Church—Woodroffe, once Canon; but the Anti-pope felt his weakness, and retired to the deserted quads of Gloucester Hall.

Keeping to Aldrich's public life, the very year of his appointment the king issued a Commission, 'out of his pious and princely care for the good order, edification, and unity of the Church of England, and for the reconciling of all differences among our subjects,' to revise the Liturgy and Canons. To the Bishops on the Commission were joined twenty Priests of note—Tillotson, Stillingfleet, Patrick, and others; and 'with such men as these were mingled,' says Lord Macaulay, 'some divines of the High Church party, conspicuous among them two of the rulers of Oxford—Jane and Aldrich.' They met in the Jerusalem Chamber, and at the first meeting a dispute ended in the withdrawal of the Oxford party, Sprat, Aldrich, and Jane. The question was, the authority of William to issue the Commission; but the whole retirement bears the colouring of an unwillingness to fall in with the prime objects of the Commission, which tallies with the position taken up by Aldrich in the Convocation which trod on the heels of this Commission. There we have few records of his words; but the temper of opposition to the designs of Tillotson evidently found a consistent representative in Aldrich. For instance, he is chosen with Dean Kidder to represent to the Lords the objections of the Lower House to classing the Church with other Protestant bodies in an address to the king. He is on a Committee which forces the Bishops to dissolve this close union, and which refuses to consent to any the slightest equivocation that might seem to slur the difference or bridge the breach. Aldrich thus put himself in the front of that strong feeling which, throughout this Convocation, preserved the intensity of the Church at the price of its extension.

In 1692, while England was exultant over the glory of La Hogue, and Scotland shuddering over the shame of Glencoe, Aldrich became Vice-Chancellor, the last Vice-Chancellor from this House till the honour was again renewed for us in the person of a Dean who has seen, during his Vice-Chancellorship, France suffer a greater rebuff even than La Hogue, on the fields of Worth, Sedan, and Gravelotte. He held the office throughout 1693, in the December of which year he set his name to the banishment of Antony à Wood, in the Proctors' Black Book; and at the renewal of the office for 1694, while William was struggling against France in the Netherlands, Aldrich spoke a speech against 'hatts turned up on one side.'

But the most exciting time of Aldrich's life has yet to come, and here we find the old contrast between himself and his surroundings at its height. In the Convocation of 1700, a fierce and deadly feud had arisen between the Upper and Lower Houses. Its roots lay deep. 'The two parties,' says Cardwell, 'into which the kingdom was divided, were placed in more direct hostility and furnished with more deadly weapons when they met upon ecclesiastical grounds and in a Convocation. The House of Bishops was under the influence of the Court: the Lower House had contracted much of the spirit of the Non-Jurors.' The struggle blazed out on the question of prorogation. This the Archbishop claimed as against the Prolocutor. Round this latter office, therefore, the storm raged and thundered; and into this office, just when the tempest was at its worst, Aldrich was deputed; deputed, too, on the mere authority of the sick Prolocutor, in a wild peal of defiance against the Archbishop and the hated Burnet.

The Dean of Christ Church advanced to say prayers, and by importunity was prevailed upon to take the chair at once. His very popularity disarmed the opposition, who could offer, says White Kennet, 'no disrespect to the person thus thrust into the chair, especially as Dr. Aldrich behaved himself with decency and silence.' Again, when his Grace summoned them, 'we could not oppose,' Kennet owns, 'the Dean of Christ Church going at the head of us, with cap and verger, as formal Prolocutor.' This summoning ended in tumultuous rebellion, Aldrich was elected Prolocutor next session, the whole of which was spent in the prosecution of the fight. It was during this session that the Lower House balanced its revolt against the Upper by a Declaration of its belief in the Divine right of Episcopacy, not the last time that the High Church party has had to assert the apostolical authority of Bishops in the abstract by means of a war with Bishops in the concrete. 'The hostility of the two parties,' says Cardwell of this session, 'became fixed and embittered, and the whole kingdom partook in the strife.'

On February 23, 1703, in a lull of the firing, Mr. Prolocutor Aldrich attended Mr. Speaker to thank Queen Anne for her unexampled bounty to the Poor Clergy.

But by March he was presenting a strong representation to the Archbishop, and his Grace explains, 'Mr. Prolocutor, it hath pleased God to afflict me with a very severe fit of the gout, so that I am unable to attend to your humble representation.'

In 1704, Aldrich demands reparation for a 'grievous and groundless aspersion wherewith the Right Rev. Bishop of Old Sarum hath thought fit to treat us.' 'We have been taught,' reports the Dean to his Grace, 'from our very infancy to reverence your Order, and do reverence even the Lord Bishop of Sarum for its sake.'

In October, 1705, he presents the new Prolocutor to the Bishops in Henry the Seventh's Chapel, 'in a speech,' says White Kennet, 'full of angry reflections, but seeming to wish that the controversy might sleep.' Then it all ends with a vote of thanks to him, carried unanimously, only with a protest from the minority, that 'though they had very great esteem for that worthy person, this vote must not be taken to approve of all he did.'

Through all this Aldrich passes, the centre of the bitterest strife, the point at which all movements cross and crowd and jostle each other, yet himself calm, dignified, gentle, unruffled. Nothing angers; no one can fret him. Throughout he is self-possessed in the heart of turmoil, child-like in the midst of bewilderment. While Atterbury is raging up and down the ranks of the foe clamouring for a battle, Aldrich sits aloft in the quiet supremacy of silent influence, if less potent in the fray, yet unsullied by the heat of the mélée, uncorrupted by the fanaticism of conquest. This he can do without ceasing to be looked up to as a champion by his friends, and he can carry himself as a champion without being hated by his foes. In the pamphlets of the time, though temper ran high and words were hot, I have not found a word of malice or offence against our Dean.

The strength of his silence is astonishing. Except as chosen spokesman, hardly a word escapes him throughout all these turbulent debates, and, indeed, throughout his whole career. There is a marvellous absence of pushing and pressing, of hurry and bustle about him. History, listening in her blindness to the loud and blustering heroes who shout their glories to her out of the past, might never have caught the sound of Aldrich's name, if it were not for the consistency with which, in times of trial, all eyes turned to him, and bore witness, by the prominence into which he was thus drawn, to the power of his personal presence. It is when we light up this shy reserve of his, this retiring tranquillity, by the evident brilliancy of his effect upon his contemporaries, that we can appreciate all the truth of Hearne's record, 'He was humble and modest to a fault.'

So much for the events of his life. I turn now to his intellectual position. And here I can only recall to you the main lines in which his thought ran—for Aldrich exhibits a variety and a range of genius so wide and so capable as not to be unworthy to be ranked with that Titanic breadth, grasp, and vigour which astound us in the Da Vincis and Buonarottis of the Italian Renaissance. Logician, Theologian, Musician, Scholar, Architect—he is one who had mastered the principles of Latin and the intricacies of Greek; who could wield the subtle weapons of theological warfare; who could turn from these to revel in the Entablatures of Vignola and the Orders of Palladio; who was familiar with Bass-Viols and Theorboes, and at his ease in Fugue and double Descant, in Counterpoint and Canon—one, above all to us in Oxford, who had trodden all the dark paths of Barbara and gazed unscathed into the deep secrets of Bocardo.

First, as to his scholarship and literary culture. He became Dean when this House was at its highest eminence. The first College to right itself thoroughly after the Rebellion, under the energetic government of Dr. Fell, supplied inexhaustibly with excellent material from under the birch of Dr. Busby, it absorbed all the interest and brilliancy of the University. Great names crowd it—Fell, Hammond, South, Jane, Atterbury, Alsop, Boyle, the great Dr. Smalridge, Robert Freind, John Freind, the noble first-fruit of science in Oxford; Wake, our great Archbishop; and conspicuous by his absence, one not indeed filled with the spirit that made Christ Church famous then, but yet one who will make it famous for all time, John Locke.

Aldrich is found a worthy head to all this talent. Every new year, he presents his scholars with a new edition of a Classic; he writes two copies of verses in Musae Anglicanae; he edits Clarendon with Sprat, the subject of attack from the only enemy he ever had, H. Smith, an old Student, expelled for scandalous conduct, known to the public as 'Captain Rag.' This Smith got Oldmixon, 'a mean and dishonest scribbler,' to charge the editors with corrupting the text—a charge refuted by the exiled Atterbury. The Dean also made a work on Heraldry, 'the best Mr. Thwaits ever saw,'—but it never saw the light. Aldrich had also once begun an edition of Caesar's Commentaries, 'with cutts of his own contriving.' So much for his leading. For his guidance, it was his custom to set promising young pupils to work at an edition—John Freind, e.g. at Demosthenes; young Ch. Aldrich, 'a most ingenious young man,' at the Odyssey; and Charles Boyle on the Letters of Phalaris. The memorable storm which raged round those unhappy letters Aldrich rode with his usual calmness: all the passion of the fight found its home in the war-god Atterbury—for him there is nothing more to be said than that he was trapped into a belief in the classical judgment of Sir W. Temple. It was an age at which Pope's Homer appeared, it must be remembered—an age, that is, popularly devoid of all historical feeling, incapable of critical appreciation of primitive or artificial simplicity: and perhaps a tinge of popularity did hang about the Christ Church scholarship.

I cannot close this better than with the words of the memoir of the great John Freind in the Biographia Britannica:—

'Mr. Freind enjoyed the signal advantage of being under the eye of Dr. Aldrich, who for his exemplary vigilance, true zeal for learning, and well-conducted generosity was universally admired and applauded, and whose praises ought always to accompany those of the great men formed under his care.'

I turn to his character as a divine. And here, little as there is of his theology, I cannot conceive a more interesting representative and standard of the old Anglican position than the Dean. He embodied, at the very moment that the counter-floods ran highest, that Via Media of the English Church, which alone of all Viae Mediae has had strength and sinew enough to form a principle, to arouse an enthusiasm, and to mould a character of its own. He reproduces, at a parallel crisis, the spirit of the Anglican Reformation—that Reformation which, whatever be its failings, had the courage and self-possession to set a limit to the wild rush of Revolution with a 'thus far shalt thou go and no further.' Aldrich came to the front just as that mighty Catholic reaction—which, springing out of the very heart of Rome, had seemed by the magnetic power of its passionate zeal to drain the Reformation of its old religious fervour and purity, and had driven it back, in the high fury of faith, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic—burst in upon and challenged the Protestantism of England. The old vigorous Puritanism had fallen back exhausted by the Rebellion, and was, in its weakness, intriguing for toleration with the Jesuit councillors of a Catholic king. The Church rose to the crisis. 'Many of the Clergy,' says even Burnet, 'now made good amends for past errors. They examined all the points of Popery with a solidity of judgment, a clearness of argument, a depth of learning, and a vivacity of writing far beyond anything which had before that time appeared in our language.' Among the chiefs of this movement, he classes the Christ Church men, Smalridge, Atterbury, Wake, and Aldrich. It was for this Aldrich wrote his 'Reply to two Discourses,' a work to be judged by its purpose; the purpose, that is, of overthrowing the popular rhetoric, the superficial cleverness of the Jesuistry of that day; and in view of such an end we can understand its brilliancy being more apparent than its depth. What strikes one in reading it is, I think, the consciousness of superiority over his opponents. He fights as one sure of his ground, as bold in the strength of certainty. There is no timidity, no caution; rather a sallying out to meet his adversary, to vaunt his triumph: and such a temper is justified by Burnet's account of the meagreness of the Roman defence, of the utter vanquishing which it then endured.

Such was the determination of Aldrich's attitude toward Rome; but the thing to observe is, that though he could write thus against the Jesuit, yet when the reaction came and Protestant William had taken the place of Catholic James, he could act as we have seen him act, against the Puritan. This is what recalls in him the wisdom of the Elizabethan Church—that he could guard against the recoil—that he could let go this and yet hold fast to that—that he could stand four-square, not to one or two, but to all the winds that blow. Even in the crisis of James's accession he could preach against, on May 29, 1682, and 'resell very clearly,' as Antony à Wood heard him, the arguments of the Republican Parson Samuel Johnson in his famous 'Julian the Apostate,' in which the Papist king took the form of the Apostate emperor.

But, if we do not still study his theology, there is one book of Aldrich's in all our hands, if not in our heads—a book which made his name sound strangely familiar to us from our earliest infancy at Oxford, but which left him draped in all the mythical wonder and awe of a legendary hero. Few of us, as Freshmen, would not have felt a shock at identifying the creator of the Logic with any historic reality. Many of us would have felt no surprise or difficulty in conceiving him to be a later development of the Sun or the Dawn. Those curious Diagrams, that wild Poetry! how odd it all seemed, how mystic, how wonderful! so isolated, so unlike all else we had ever seen, it had the air and odour of some primæval fossil, a Rip van Winkle awakened out of the Past! Yet that work represents to us the sole thread by which Philosophy held its hold on Oxford; to it we owe it that the spirit of Speculative Thought has never wholly perished out of the educational course of this University. Logic is the shell of Thought—Logical formulae the Ritualism of Philosophy. By them, the Principle is asserted and made permanent; and thus, though the spirit of the Principle die away for a time, all is not wholly lost, for the records, the remembrances of the Past have been preserved; and so preserved that at any moment the revived spirit may recover at once, by means of the outward form, the old standing-ground to which that form was at once the witness and the guide. This is the history of Aldrich's Logic. At a time when the New Philosophy of Bacon was driving the withered relics of Scholasticism out of the field, and was prone, in the novel pride of its revolutionary Puritanism, to trample Idealism to death, Aldrich succeeded in so rescuing the naked symbols of a forgotten faith, that the sign of a higher presence could never be entirely withdrawn from Oxford. Baroko has been to us the flag of a cause otherwise lost and hopeless. He may not have altogether seen this—he had his own view of logic, and by that he judged both Bacon and Descartes. He tells us in the preface plainly that he found in Aristotle a perfection of logical thought, in the Scholastics a thoroughness of logical subtlety, for which he looked in vain elsewhere. Gassendi numbers among logicians, he says, 'Verulamium et Cartesium,' but the latter, observes Aldrich, labours at a philosophy which it would be an insult to call logical; the former has nothing in common with the Organon of Aristotle but the name. 'Mittamus igitur hos duos quibus nulla nobiscum res est.'

He holds in all this even his old character—in his gentleness meet and gather opposite forces without a shock. For in the very same decade in which he laid up in store the bones of the ancient philosophy, he was taking active part in the development of the new. In 1683 he is among the early founders of an Elaboratory Meeting with discourses on Chemistry—much noised abroad; over which presided Dr. Wilkins of Wadham, 'the greatest Curioso of his time,' says Antony à Wood. This was one of the seeds of the Royal Society.

So much for the Logician—let us transform our learned Doctor into an Artist. He has left us an elaborate work on the Elements of Architecture, in the preface of which, by Philip Smith, of New College, we read that 'the warm suns of Italy, the domesticity with congenial spirits he contracted there, exalted his inbred taste, and rendered it excursive through the whole field of arts. There he became impassioned for Architecture and Music.' He had travelled then, and had seen the great works of the Renaissance under their own bright lights and broad shadows, and had thrown himself into the movement which sent Wren out of Oxford to build St. Paul's. Historical fitness, national development, the true critical instinct—these did not in that time mitigate the odiousness of comparison. 'This is more perfect in itself than that,' men said, 'therefore let us build like this:' though our hearts be gothic and our skies be dull. Hence you might read the Sketch of the History of Architecture in Aldrich's book without even guessing that a different style from the Roman ever existed. There is not a sign, not a hint of the architecture which had built the hall in which he ate, the home in which he lived, the cathedral in which he worshipped. The history passes in one step from Vitruvius, A.D. 31, to Brunelleschi, A.D. 1397, and this is how the interval is explained:—'Tired of the monotony of Perfection, restless Imagination indulged in all the extravagance of Lawless Caprice, and finally triumphed in Absurdity and Confusion.'

The book itself is a complete text-book, showing minute study and appreciation of the intense accuracy with which Palladio had drawn out the rules of the art. Even the practical precepts suffer logical division. Here is one:—'Build your house far from a tallow-chandler, a brewer, a soap-boiler, a butcher; at a distance from the noise of the hammer, the anvil, and the saw; and above all at a distance from bad neighbours.' I fear his great work, Peckwater, has hardly been preserved entirely free from all such noises or inconveniences. The ancient hostel at the south-west corner of the quad, given to St. Frideswide's Priory by Ralph de Pecwater in Henry III's reign, and Vine-hall added at the north-west corner to it in the reign of Henry VIII, had been reduced to a quadrangular pile by Brian Duppa and Samuel Fell. It was almost on the lines of those old buildings that Aldrich planned the present stately square, and on Jan. 26, 1705, the first stone was laid by James, Earl of Salisbury, 'sub auspiciis Decani eorumdem architecti, optime de se meriti.' It must have been a triumphant day for the Dean. Fell had done much, but Aldrich had done more, and done it with his own hand. The building is well worthy of him. Grim and ghastly as our grey weather renders it, there is a grandeur in the simplicity of the lines, a dignity in the elevation, a majesty in the ease with which the pilasters rise from the basal story, which no wind can beat out or rain wash wholly away.

And over his new quad, from his Deanery window, he could see the beautiful little temple which he has poised on high for the spire of All Saints'—a work almost unique, it seems to me, in its effort to give the effect of a Gothic spire out of pure Palladian material; an effort too marvellously successful when we think how naturally it groups with St. Mary's, and how much we shall miss it if, as it is now feared, it has to come down. Trinity chapel is attributed to the Dean, but doubtfully, and I hope we may give him the benefit of the doubt.

But if his walls should crumble and his towers fall, he has built himself a palace more endurable than all, a city of song. He was one of those who, by word and work, revived the music which our Church, in the bitterness of her exile in a strange land, had known not how to sing; and Aldrich gave it her back tuned to a nobler key. For he had heard the music of Italy, the deep melodies of Palestrina, Carissimi, and Victoria, and he surrendered himself to them with the devoted ardour of a student and a disciple. He made a noble collection for a history of music; he was industrious in putting into score the works of Italian masters; he adapted their motetts with great skill to English words; there are found in his handwriting four books of madrigals of the Prencipe di Venosa. To understand the merit of all this, we must turn to Purcell, who about this time was labouring at the same end. Purcell is said to have caught his enthusiasm from an Italian band of Mary of Modena's; but he had long studied the works of Carissimi, Colonna, and above all, Stradella; and under their influence he originated a reaction against the light and immoral French music of the Court of Charles II, and an introduction of what Hawkins calls a more elegant and pathetic melody than had before been known in England; or in Purcell's own words, 'To bring the seriousness and gravity of these masters into vogue among our countrymen, whose humour 'tis time should begin to loathe the levity and balladry of our neighbours.' Aldrich was well placed to carry out this change, for Oxford, let us ever remember, was the musical heart of England, the sole asylum to which music could fly from the wars and tumults of the Rebellion. Here sprang into life the weekly meetings at the house of Mr, Ellis, opposite the Theatre, the first voluntary concerts in England.

Aldrich's anthems are still sung, but perhaps better known are his catches. Two of these are in the Pleasant Musical Companion, 'Hark the bonny Christ Church bells!' and ' A Smoaking Catch.' Aldrich had taken part in the great festival on May 29, 1684, when Tom first rang out of his new tower, to which he had been brought from the steeple of the cathedral, and left behind him the six old bells from Osney—Douce, Hauteclere, Clement, Austyn, Gabriell, and Marie. These all figure in the catch, together with the little tinkler that always summoned to evening prayers, but always resigned his claims to mark the hour in favour of 'the mighty Tom.' These six bells, with four others added, have been silent lately, but are now hung once more in the new campanile. The 'Smoaking Catch' was 'diverting to sing or hear,' for Aldrich, as the 'History of Music' says, was full of mirth and pleasantry. To him Beloe ascribes the famous 'Causae Bibendi:'—

'Si bene quid memini causae sunt quinque bibendi:
Hospitis adventus, praesens sitis, atque futura,
Aut vini bonitas aut quælibet altera causa.'

I have come to the end of Aldrich's character and works. He died on Thursday, the 14th of December, 1710, about seven o'clock in the evening. On Friday, Dec. 22, his body was brought to Oxford at four o'clock in the afternoon; it rested for a quarter of an hour before the door of his lodgings, and was then carried to the Cathedral, escorted by the whole College. He was laid by his father, who had died while visiting his son in 1683, in a grave in the north wing of the choir.

Such was Aldrich—a man in whom all things meet and all are reconciled—to whom nothing was strange, nothing hostile. Wherever his thought travelled, there it found its home. To his winning grace and gentle air no shore of knowledge was inhospitable, no door was barred. Nor is he left to tread the quiet ways of the scholar; the fierce energy of political life and religious strife plucks him out of the cloister and clamours to him to act—to deal with the dangers of Rome and the difficulties of science, to succeed the expelled Massey and to banish Locke. He acts as determinedly as men can wish—but there is a something in his modesty, in his calm, in his soft kindliness, which disarms anger and shames malice. It is hard at this far-off day to understand all the fascination of his presence. We can agree with a speech spoken by Atterbury, his succeeding Dean, on Aldrich, within a few yards of this spot:—'Seu studia graviora persequeretur seu levibus se oblectaret, seu res humanas seu divinas susciperet tractandas,—an his an illis aptior esset, multum dubitares;' or with the warm words of good Thomas Hearne:—'Consider him as a Christian, a scholar, or a gentleman, he was one of the most eminent men in England: he constantly received the Sacrament every Sunday, and rose to five o'clock prayers in the morning, summer and winter; a severe student, yet always free, open, and facetious. He had so piercing an understanding, that he could tell the temper of any person at first sight. He was always for encouraging learning, industry, and integrity.' This we can picture. But we can only guess what Atterbury means by the words, 'Quae illi morum facilitas, quam simplex et aperta mens! quae in verbis fides! quae frontis modestia, quae oris dignitas!' Still less can we ever know what Philip Smith records:—'The suavity of his manners, the hilarity of his conversation, the variety of his talents conciliated all to such a degree, that his latest disciples are unable to speak of their intercourse with him without the tenderest indication of affection for his memory.'

Such a character has its virtues writ in water. Its influence is great in its day, but its influence is due, not to the strong marked lines of deed or word, but to the subtle pervading sense of personal charm, the magic of personal authority. All this goes down to the grave with its possessor; but it is such characters as this that repay historical research by the play, the fullness, the delicacy, the life, the beauty, with which they soften, refine, and colour the past. In them we see how the big principles of history are resolved down into, and reconciled with, the life that all men live; they are the media between abstract law and common things; they fill up the middle distance; they are the underground working by which the heart and the brain of humanity hold communion. The life of Dean Aldrich transforms hard history for us into something possible, conceivable, loveable: and men might well be content that their names should drop out of the roll of public glory, could they leave behind a memory as gentle, as pleasant, as beautiful as his.


This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.