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• The Higher Law. A Romance. Edward Maitland. Tinsley Brothers,
Information: This work was very difficult to find. Now we have its complete text added to the Anna Kingsford Site. Below you have the title page of the first edition, a photo of the title page of the second edition, the links to the chapters, with the complete Html text of the work, and the Preface to the Second Edition.
Observation: The revision of the digitization errors is not yet complete.
BY THE AUTHOR OF
‘THE PILGRIM AND THE SHRINE.’
__________ • __________
NEW EDITON. Revised.
‘I thought love had been a joyous thing,’ quoth my uncle Toby.
‘ ´Tis the most serious thing, an’ please your honour, (sometimes,) that is in the world.’
TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18,
[All Rights Reserved.]
John Childs and Son, Printers.
PARTS AND CHAPTERS
PART THE FIRST (01-200)
PART THE SECOND (201-399)
PART THE THIRD (400-462)
PART THE FORTH (463-506)
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
IN The Pilgrim and the Shrine was represented a youth escaping from the trammels of traditional belief, and laying himself wholly open to the influences of the living Universe, so as to allow his entire system of religious faith to evolve itself freely from the contact of external nature with his own soul.
In Higher Law a similar method is applied to Morals. In its common acceptation, especially on the western side of the Atlantic, the phrase denotes the recognition by two persons of opposite sex of a mutual ‘affinity,’ strong enough in their own view to justify them in breaking all existing ties whatsoever in order to effect their union with each other: – the appeal in such case being from the traditional to an intuitional morality. The main purpose of this tale is to show, not that the votaries of the ‘Higher Law’ (as thus defined) are at fault in respect of the basis on which they erect their moral system, but that they are liable to the charge of arresting the proper development of that system at a point where its operation becomes purely selfish, (in the lower sense of the term,) and therefore immoral.
Thus in the present story, had Margaret yielded to the attraction of her ‘affinity,’ (a term by no means to be confounded with ‘fancy,’) she would have fulfilled the ‘Higher Law’ in its special and restricted sense. Had she refused to yield to it out of deference to social convention, or fear of consequences to herself here
or hereafter, she would have fulfilled the requirements of the traditional morality; but by adhering to her husband solely through consideration for his happiness and welfare, and resolutely setting herself to endure to the end, however bitter it might be, sacrificing even the ingrained sincerity of her character out of tender regard to his inability to bear the knowledge of the truth respecting the state of her affections, she illustrates the sufficiency of the intuitions to constitute that Higher, or rather Highest, Law of Morality, of which self-sacrifice for the good of those with whom it is our lot to be allied, under the strongest of all inducements to the contrary, is the loftiest result imaginable or desirable.
The difference between the two Moralities is one, of limitation, the upholders
of Conventionalism claiming the sacrifice of the individual as a duty owed to
‘Society;’ and the advocates of the ‘Higher Law’ denying that ‘Society’ is
entitled to claim such sacrifice, and resting their denial on the ground, first,
that it is through the defective construction of Society that any really serious
sacrifice is required; and, secondly, that the general welfare is not really
promoted by the infliction of unhappiness upon the individual: rather is it,
they hold, for Society to reform its constitution by enlarging its basis so as
to render such sacrifices unnecessary. The question is, thus, a part of the
larger question of
Thoroughly to appreciate the dilemma upon which the instance here given turns, it must be borne in mind that the conflict is, for the subject of it, not one of love against duty, but of duty against duty; the duty believed to be imposed by a love that seems to be all heaven-born in its purity and intensity, against the duty imposed by a tie contracted in ignorance of its nature and of the characters of the parties to it; a duty founded in essentials, against a duty springing from accidents.
It must also be borne in mind that it is by no means the purpose of the tale to provide an inflexible rule of conduct for all cases of affinity or incongruity, or to assert that in no instance is a different course justifiable by the ‘Higher Law’ of unselfishness. Each case must be determined upon its own merits, and with reverence to the circumstances and characters involved. But, however flexible the rule of action, the rule of motives admits no variation. The most faithful followers of the ‘Higher Law’ are those who allow the largest play to that which is best in their own nature; and the test of their fidelity does not consist either in conformity to, or departure from, the conventional. Only, the greater the sacrifice, and the farther removed from self the motives which prompt to it, the ‘Higher’ the ‘Law’ which is being fulfilled.
Against that wanton asceticism which is apt to take the form of self-sacrifice for its own sake, and the indulgence in which is but a form of selfishness of the lower sort, inasmuch as nobody is the better for it but rather the worse, it is hoped the conclusion of the tale will be accepted as a sufficient protest.
Running parallel to, and closely connected with, the main purpose of the book is an attempt to exhibit the operation of what, to use a now familiar phrase, may be termed Darwinism in divinity, or the descent of existing religious types from their physical rudiments.
To a sketch of this – the ‘Higher Law’ of development in religious ideas – is added an illustration of the ‘Higher Law’ of
public polity. The book was written while Napoleon III was still in the plenitude of his power, and published shortly before the outbreak of the Franco-German War. The result of that war has pointed the moral which was here already suggested. Never, probably, in the history of the world did the practice of appealing to the lower motives of men, and ruling people through the worst side of its character, find more condign Nemesis.
The view here given of the career and character of the Mexican President is at
length becoming the view taken by the world at large. Even by those who regarded
the execution of Maximilian as an act of unnecessary severity, it is now
generally allowed that
Having in the two books already published exhibited the evolution of Religion and Morals out of the contact of the world with the human consciousness, the author cherishes the hope of being able some day to complete the series by a third. Of this, however, it will be time enough to speak when he shall have succeeded in fixing his idea upon paper.
It remains only to add that a few passages which in the former edition failed to convey satisfactorily the meaning intended, have been revised in the present edition.