CHAPTER XI
Statesman of Ideas 1859-1865

'HENCEFORTH, I shall be only a conduit for ideas, he told Bain upon his return to England after Harriet's burial. He was now fifty-two, but felt an old man. Conscientiously he set about devot- ing himself to the causes with which Harriet had charged him: women, working men, slaves; above all, the clearing of 'cobwebs' from men's brains. Drowning his griefs in work he began one of his most active periods of publication.

During those years he reached the height of his fantastic influ- ence and renown. He was fully conscious of the responsibility this involved. He had acquired in his father's school a statesmanlike attitude towards the injection of ideas into the stream of thought of the time. He deliberately measured men's prejudices; than he administered at the right time as much of the truth as he thought beneficial. It took a great deal of courage and patience to strike the balance between what to say and what to omit. Thus, although he cut at the roots of theology in his writings, and his considered ar- guments against 'priestcraft' were fired by the most primitive ani- mosity, in his voluminous and largely polemical writings we find hardly a sentence to offend a devout believer. 'If it were possible,' he once exclaimed, 'to blot out entirely the whole of German metaphysics, of Christian theology, of the Roman and English systems of technical jurisprudence . . . there would be talent enough set at liberty to change the face of the world' (4, vol. II, p. 369). He did a good deal to draw men's energies away from

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