Men I Have Painted/Edward Clifford


EDWARD CLIFFORD'S life presented one of those human problems for which there seems to be no solution: a paradox which, on analysis, might prove to be no paradox at all. He was born to be an evangelist, but an evangelist of an unusual type, and outside and apart from any Church or sect. Although he worked for years before his death as the secretary of the Church Army, an institution that had modelled itself partially on the pattern of the Salvation Army, he was, I believe, not otherwise allied to the Anglican Church, but esteemed himself as of Christ, and not of Paul, or of Apollos, or of Cephas.

Unlike his Divine Master, who sought His disciples among the lowly and the humble, the missionary efforts of Edward Clifford were directed to the regeneration of the wealthy and the noble. Bearing in mind the saying that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God, he opened his studio—for Clifford was an artist as well as an evangelist—to those members of the aristocracy who had been awakened to an interest in spiritual things by attending the Mildmay Conferences organized by Lord and Lady Mount Temple. Many Americans were attracted to these conferences, among them Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pearsall Smith. Hannah Smith was a "perfectionist" and an able expounder of the Prophets who had commenced her career in Philadelphia by giving drawing-room readings of the Scriptures.

When I was first taken by Walter Tyndale to one of these readings in Clifford's studio I was surprised to meet Hannah Smith, whom I had known in Germantown and Philadelphia as a reader at meetings in my aunt's house, where I sometimes made long visits when a boy. This unexpected meeting brought to mind an amusing incident at one of these readings, when Hannah ended a rather long prayer by asking the Lord to remind Mrs. Mercer of the shawl she had promised her, my aunt, at the moment of the petition, being on her knees not more than four feet away from the petitioner.

Clifford loved gardens and flowers passionately. He sought out the most beautiful old and historical gardens in the country and made drawings of them. He had a curious way of arranging flowers in his rooms. Instead of clustering them into bunches or bouquets, he would place fine specimens of roses, carnations, or dahlias singly in long-stemmed glasses in rows along the mantelpieces, or crowd a table with them.

The generation now passing away remembers him as the historian of Father Damien, the self-sacrificing and devoted priest, who immolated himself among the lepers in the hope of improving and brightening their hard lot and inspiring them with hope of a future and better existence.