Whenever I see Greyhounds in the snow, I think of the Middle Ages. It conjures up those sumptuous tapestries of hunting scenes, caparisoned men on horseback, archers on foot, damsels, Unicorns, etched against the white. This is Lulu in the part of Moratinos we call The Promised Land.
Because I really should blog something new, and don't seem to have anything much to say for myself as usual, I am turning the latest 'Struggle' over to a guest - Monsieur Arouet, a noted and notorious troublemaker. He is talking about England some 250 years ago, to be sure, but it's still happily familiar...
" This is the country of sects. An Englishman, as a free man, goes to Heaven by whatever road he pleases.
Yet, though everyone here may serve God in his own fashion, their genuine religion - the one in which people make their fortune - is the sect of Episcopalians, called the Church of England, or preeminently The Church.
No one can hold office in England or in Ireland unless he is a faithful Anglican. This argument, in itself, a convincing proof, has converted so many nonconformists that today not a twentieth of the population lives outside the lap of the established Church.
The Anglican clergy has retained many of the Catholic ceremonies, particularly that of gathering in tithes with the most scrupulous attention. They also have the pious ambition of being the Masters.
Moreover, they work up in their flocks as much hold zeal against nonconformists as possible. This zeal was lively enough under the government of the Tories in the last years of Queen Anne, but it went no further than sometimes breaking the windows of heretical chapels; for the fury of the sects was over, in England, with the civil wars, and under Queen Anne nothing was left but the restless noises of a sea still heaving a long time after the storm.
With regard to morals, the Anglican clergy are better ordered than those of France, and this is the reason: all clergymen are brought up in Oxford University, or in Cambridge far from the corruption of the capital. They are not called to high station in the Church until very late, and at an age when men have no other passion but avarice, if their ambition goes unfed.
Positions of rank are here the reward of long service in the Church just as in the army; one does not see young fellows made bishops or colonels on leaving school. Besides, the priests are almost all married; the awkwardness they pick up in the university, and the fact that, socially, Englishmen have little to do with women, result in a bishop's ordinarily being forced to content himself with his own wife.
Clergymen go to the tavern sometimes, for custom allows it; if they get drunk they do so in a serious-minded way and with perfect propriety.
That indefinable being which is neither ecclesiastical nor secular—in a word, that which is called an Abbé is a species unknown in England. Clergymen here are all reserved, by temperament, and almost all pedantic. When they learn that in France young men, who are known for their debauchery and who have been raised to the prelacy by the plots of women, make love in public, divert themselves with the composing of sentimental songs, entertain daily with long and exquisite supper parties, and go from there to beseech the light of the Holy Spirit, and boldly to call themselves the successors of the Apostles — then the English thank God they are Protestants.
But they are nasty heretics, fit to be burned to Hell and back, as Master François Rabelais says. That's why I keep out of it.
These English gentlemen have made grave airs and severe expressions all the fashion in this country. To them is owing the sanctification of Sunday in the three kingdoms. On that day it is forbidden to work and play, which is double the severity of the Catholic churches.
No opera, no plays, no concerts in London on Sunday; even cards are so expressly forbidden that only the aristocracy, and those we call well-bred people, play on that day.
The rest of the nation go to church, to the tavern, and to the brothel.
Although the Episcopalian and the Presbyterian are the two main sects in Great Britain, all others are welcome there and live pretty comfortably together, though most of their preachers detest one another almost as cordially as a Jansenist damns a Jesuit.
Go into the Exchange in London, that place more venerable than many a court, and you will see representatives of all the nations assembled there for the profit of mankind. There the Jew, the Moslem and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion, and reserve the name of infidel only for those who go bankrupt.
There the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist, and the Church of England man accepts the promise of the Quaker. On leaving these peaceable and free assemblies, some go to the synagogue, others in search of a drink; this man is on the way to be baptized in a great tub in the name of the Father, by the Son, to the Holy Ghost; that man is having the foreskin of his son cut off, and a Hebraic formula mumbled over the child that he himself can make nothing of; these others are going to their church to await the inspiration of God with their hats on; and all are satisfied.
If there were only one religion in England, there would be danger of tyranny; if there were two, they would cut each others throats; but there are thirty, and they live happily together in peace. "
Voltaire doesn't say it here, but he also suggested that the reason England was superior to France was that in France they have 30 kinds of cheese and only one religion, whereas in England they have 30 religions and only one kind of cheese. A perfect country would, of course, have both.