Clarissa: Chapter Ten

When Lord Lipton and his party returned home, Roland asked Lord Lipton if he wanted to talk in his library now, and Lord Lipton agreed. Lord Lipton replied, surprising Roland by asking if he wanted Clarissa there or not, and Roland said he would prefer if it was just the two of them. Lord Lipton assented and walked to his library, showing Roland the way as the rest of the party made their way to various activities. They arrived at the library and Lord Lipton pointed to a chair and sat down at another one.

“Well, you wanted to talk to me. What did you want to talk about?”

“I had been told something about you and your efforts at self-education, and I wanted to make sure it was true.”

Lord Lipton looked at Roland thoughtfully, but Roland was busy looking at the books in the library, his face brightening when he saw a row of books containing the writings of Thomas Aquinas.

“So what I heard was true.”

“What did you hear?”

“I heard that you were deeply interested in self-education and were immensely interested in the writings of Thomas Aquinas.

“That was not something I think would be wisely known.”

“I am sure that at least some people are interested in your reading habits.”

“I suppose you are right about that, but how many people would know about them?”

“Are you bothered that such a thing would be told to me?”

“I have nothing to hide concerning my reading habits, and read nothing that would be objectionable, at least. It is just surprising that such a thing would be known widely.”

“I do not mean to say that it is known widely. I heard about it myself from your uncle.”

“I am glad you heard from such an unobjectionable source, namely someone who has been in this library many times talking to me face to face and has quite a solid knowledge of the books I enjoy buying and reading. Thank you for easing my mind.”

“Do you consider yourself a Thomist?”

“That is a hard question to ask.”

“On the continent, we have no difficulty in considering ourselves so. I was educated, for example, at a Thomist institution in the Nantes area.”

“I am somewhat envious of you, for I acquired a knowledge of his thinking via books that I have read on my own, struggling mostly with the Latin.”

“Do you read Latin?”

“I do, but not as naturally as others do. My education was slightly defective in that regard, which I have been but imperfectly able to correct on my own.”

“Why would it be hard for you to consider yourself a Thomist?”

“We do not have much of a Thomist tradition here in England, and there was even less of such a tradition where I grew up in the American colonies. It might seem natural for the well-educated Catholic to consider himself to be a follower of the great scholar, but for an English-speaking Christian, it is not natural to think of himself that way.”

“Do you respect his thinking then?”

“I would say that I do. This is not to say that I agree with his thoughts completely. For example, I think he gives too much credence to the speculations of Greek philosophers, to the extent that it leads him into false conclusions where he could have been more cautious and stuck more closely with the Bible and been on far more solid ground.”

“I do not think that people consider themselves followers of Aquinas because they agree with everything he said, but more so because they respect his approach to learning and knowledge.”

“I have a great deal of respect for the thinking of Thomas Aquinas. If one wants to combine the Jewish and Christian understanding of the scriptures with the insights and perspectives of Greek philosophy, one has to create something that strongly resembles Thomism in its amalgam. And even if I am critical of some of the conclusions that Thomas Aquinas himself came to, I do not think that I could criticize the way that he seeks to go about dealing with questions in his great commentaries as well as in his focus on dialogues and sound reasoning and honestly dealing with the arguments of one’s opponents.”

“That sort of approach appeals to you?”

“It does.” Lord Lipton paused for a bit. “Before I was elevated to the position of viscount, I frequently worked as an advocate in British courts in the American colonies, and Aquinas’ attention to the arguments of his opponents was a useful approach to me when I was constructing my own arguments. I found I was able to speak better in court on my feet, to say nothing of writing opening and closing statements, when I was able to think about the sorts of arguments my opponents would make. I have always regretted the contemporary tendency that people have to disregard that which they consider to be obsolete or hostile rather than to seriously address the reasoning behind it, and the often faulty assumptions and premises that lead people astray.”

“Do you consider yourself to be a philosopher then?”

“I suppose so, inasmuch as any person who thinks and reads seriously must be in some way a philosopher. Would you consider yourself a philosopher as well?”

“I suppose I have dabbled in philosophy and been interested in it, but I would never think of myself as a professional in the field.”

“Nor I. I am an unlettered noble of limited education, and certainly no professional scholar of any kind.”

“But you obviously enjoy learning and are passionate about intellectual improvement.”

“Very much so. One cannot neglect learning and education in times like these.”

“I wanted to speak to you in order to determine how you felt about my own background.”

“I know that you have some attachment with Clarissa, and she is certainly attached to you.”

“I figure that would be obvious.”

“It is obvious to anyone who has seen the two of you together, or seen the way she blushes when anyone talks about you.”

“You don’t mind that I am French?”

“Not at all. Even in, perhaps especially in, times like this, one should not be hostile to people simply because they come from another country.”

“But some people will be hostile to me simply because I am French. You have already seen that.”

“I have,” he said. “But I don’t think the opinion of small-minded people necessarily matters, so long as you avoid being at their mercy.”

“And how do you plan on me avoiding the mercy of others?”

“Well, you are aware that she has a dowry, right?”

“I figured that at least something like that was the case, but I am not out here trying to marry someone simply because of the money that they bring into it.”

“I have not assumed that to be the case.”

“Are there any concerns you have about us?”

“I do have one concern.”

“What is it?”

“What is your spiritual life like?”

Roland paused for a bit, taken aback.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you studied philosophy as a Thomist, but what sort of spiritual life do you have?”

“Are you asking if I go to church?”

“Not exactly. That is certainly part of it, but not the whole part.”

“What do you consider to be aspects of a spiritual life? Do you conceive a lot in it?”

“I do. Perhaps it is not something that people think about often in France, but in England it is something that people write books about. The main part of it is the way that one’s belief system pervades throughout someone’s entire life.”

“That is a hard question you ask.”

“I do not demand that you answer the question right now, but I would like an answer about it at some point.”

“That is a fair enough request.”

“I imagined that you thought seriously about religious matters.”

“I do indeed, but religion for a Frenchman is not a straightforward matter.”

“Why not?”

“Many French people, even nobles, have prided themselves on the independence of their behavior from religious standards.”

“That is a lamentable tendency among elites everywhere.”

“Yes, but with the French Revolution being so openly against Christianity in general it has put those of us who are exiles in a delicate position.”

“How so?”

“Well, most of us have lived our lives in such a fashion that would not be in accordance with the laws and ways of God as taught to us by our priestly educators and confessors, and yet we feel it necessary to stand up in favor of Christianity as a bulwark of our stability.”

“It is a bit late, I imagine, for that to be happening now.”

“But that is the way that the French emigre community behaves, at least. There are many who believe that if we turn to God that we may be able to restore our situation.”

“I will not pretend to enter into that sort of discussion. What God has planned or will allow is not something that I claim to be an expert on. As a practical concern, one would have thought that repentance and a devotion to God might have helped to alleviate some of the evil reputation that French nobles and royalty had in the eyes of their people and in other countries. Avoiding that evil reputation may have improved the willingness of the French people as a whole to endure their rule, with them setting a godly example.”

“It is indeed too late for that to be happening, unless all of this should be restored once again.”

“I pray, for the sake of you and your father, that such a restoration is possible and desirable.”

“I appreciate all the prayers that I can get.”

“I’m glad that you do. I would as well in your position and I do in mine as well.”

“Do you think Clarissa is a religious young woman?”

“She has never wanted to be a nun, but she does take the Bible and good living seriously.”

“That is a wonderful quality.”

“I believe such a quality is important in a wife, but I do not think it should be taken advantage of by a husband either.”

Roland fell into a thoughtful silence at this.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in NaNoWriMo and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s