Sinclair Carolin and James Martineau

To the Editor of The Spectator, 17 March 1900 -

Sir, — In an article on the late Dr. Martineau, you referred to his 'subtle mind'. The following letter by him may be interesting to your readers in this connection. It also illustrates his proverbial kindness in helping seekers after truth, who were personally unknown to him, to whom in the midst of all his other work he was most generous in giving assistance. At the time I was only a young student in Dublin University, and the case I sought an opinion on was, briefly stated, this:—A schoolfellow, to save his mother's life, and consequently to shield his young sisters and brothers from orphanhood, told her every day, until she recovered, a certain lie which injured no one. Did he sin? As a solution of my difficulty Dr. Martineau wrote me the following lucid letter :—

5 Gordon Street, London, W.C., February 6th, 1878.
DEAR SIR,—I would gladly disengage you, if I had time and skill, from the meshes of casuistry in which you find yourself and your friend entangled. But the only help I could hope to give involves a method so different from that in which you are working, that I should have to weary you with a disquisition before I could bring it to bear. In my opinion, Morality i.e. Moral Obligation, or Duty, that for which we are responsible) does not lie in Actions, but in the Springs of action. Our inward impulses, e.g., anger, compassion, appetite, wonder, reverence, solicit us, and often compete together for our will. These have among themselves a relative worth and claim upon us, which we intuitively know. This knowledge is Conscience; and in every problem our Duty is to give effect to the higher prompting, and reject the lower. This secured, the Moral conditions of our problem are fulfilled. But then the Spring of action selected may work itself out on any one of several different lines; e.g., Social benevolence may organise a communistic or nihilistic conspiracy; or may build an infirmary or found a University. In choosing among these possibilities, the Agent must be decided by the consequences foreseen; taking that which promises to give most effect to his principle of action. This calculation is Rational only, not Moral; if he goes wrong in it, he blunders, but does not sin; whereas, at the earlier stage, he could not take the wrong impulse without being guilty. It follows that Utilitarianism—the reckoning of the balance of good results from action—is outside morality altogether, and is nothing but the application of good sense to cases, in which the morality is already settled. It would be a long business to work out the Scale of Springs of action and justify the relative rank which I should assign to them. But, certainly, the Reverence for Veracity (which is a composite, not a simple, principle) would stand in it higher than the filial Affection which, in your friend's case, came into conflict with it: so that I cannot justify his lie; though the competition is sufficiently close to make one's judgment very lenient. In such cases, the most plausible computation of consequences is apt to be very misleading. Those which immediately impend loom large before the view; while remoter ones may be the more important. If deception was habitually practised upon sick people, the bitterness of sickness would be indefinitely increased. I believe it a true rule to say that we have nothing to do with consequences, till we have secured the right principle in its sway. Its inevitable operation does not lie at our door, but remains with the Providence of the World. But its contingent operation, according as it is wisely or foolishly directed, comes into our problem. Upon these principles, your friend's algebraic reasonings, and the axioms themselves on which they proceed, disappear. I hope you will excuse a too busy man for not spending the time necessary for analysing them, and showing where the confusion enters.
—In haste, yours truly, JAMES MARTINEAU.

Wyvenhoe Rectory, Colchester.

Sinclair Carolin at Wivenhoe
from Nicholas Butler The Story of Wivenhoe (Quentin Press 1989) pp141-144

the author's mother Joan Hickson - the definitive tv Miss Marple - lived close by the church. Despite mixed views about Sinclair Carolin's ministry there, a small area on the south side of the churchyard was named after him. We're grateful to the parish for this information.

In 1890 the Rev John Baillie died and was succeeded by a domineering, hot-tempered Irishman with a talent for self-advertisement, John Sinclair Carolin.
Whereas Baillie had set his face against Sunday trains and amateur theatricals, Carolin believed that Sunday, apart from church, should be a day of recreation. He favoured early evening services so that his flock could listen to the town band afterwards, and personally promoted and took part in theatricals, smoking concerts and other diversions.

Carolin described himself as a Christian Socialist. He chaired meetings of the Liberal party and preached Liberal sermons, in an accent that was not a full brogue, to a packed church. The day is long past, he once told his flock, when we used to say, 'God bless the squire and his relations, and keep in in our proper stations'... at which point, so the story goes, Charles Gooch rose and left the church, never to return. There is no evidence that Charles Gooch ever presumed on his position, but from the outset Carolin was nothing if not squirearchical, for he tried to run his church without consulting either his churchwardens or parish council.

His earliest recorded clash was with the Wivenhoe School Board, of which he was a member and irregular attender, in 1893. He had twice used the school for concerts and dances, but without asking permission, without paying the proper hiring charge and, on the second occasion, leaving it in a mess. Dick Ham, the auctioneer, was frank with Carolin: My experience since you have been in Wivenhoe, he said, is that you have always wanted your own way, and if you call that self-sacrifice, I say it is not. However, after Carolin had cut meetings for six months the board was able to dismiss him and he retaliated with a sarcastic letter. The chairman of the board, Dr Samuel Squire, refused to have any truck with Carolin and worshipped at Rowhedge; John Hawkins, who lived only up the road, went to Elmstead.

Carolin could never work within a team, but if he were captain then all was superficially well. He soon formed the Wivenhoe Lawn Tennis Club, with himself as presideent, which survived until he turned to cycling. In 1895 he founded the Friendly Society. This was what was known as an 'improvement' society. The members met to discuss new ideas, read papers, play music and even organise theatricals. A letter to the press suggested that instead of 'Friendly Society' it should be called 'Bullying Society', for when a lady had questioned the elction of the president she had been shouted down, and when a gentleman had risen to say that the minutes were inaccurate and should not be signed, the rector had signed them nonetheless.

There were some enterprising choir outings. In October 1912, for instance, the choir caught the 8.07 a.m. train to London, attended morning service at Westminster Abbey, visited the Hosues of Parliament, lunched at Lyon's Corner House in Piccadilly, secured front seats for a matinee of Drake at His Majesty's Theatre, had tea at Straker's in Piccadilly, saw Sarah Berhardt in Phèdre at the Coliseum and had a fish supper near Liverpool Street Station before catching the 12.05 a.m. train home. The day was a Saturday, so choir and rector had to be up betimes the next morning.

From sermons and a stream of letters to the local press, the public learnt that Carolin opposed vivisection and capital punishemnt, and of his views on such things as phrenology and the long hours served by a Clapton shopgirl. The local column often carried news of his relations. His wife, Elizabeth, a pacifist well before her time, also wrote to the press. When the Carolins first arrived she appeared in concerts; later, she was confined to a wheelchair.

The rector took trouble with the church music. His organist and choirmaster, Frederick J. Lax, was a professional musician who also accompanied at dances, concerts and public-house smokers. He conducted the Wivenhoe Town Band and formed a Wivenhoe Choral Society. So people were displeased when, in 1910, Carolin abruptly dismissed him. The churchwardens, who had not been consulted, rebelled and declined to pay the salary of the new organist, Miss Elizabeth Barker. The rector invited the flock to take the matter up with the bishop [right with choir after 1910].

There was a similar eruption in 1909. One of the wardens, William Wadley, was organist for six months and then discovered that the rector was trying to replace him behind his back. He flared up at a vestry meeting and during a heated discussion told the rectorYou can't help insulting everyone, that's your nature. You are often criticised, you and your sermons too, and the meeting ended with neither wardens or sidesmen being elected. So there was a second vestry meeting, at which the rector appointed Charles Gooch as his warden, even though Mr. Gooch had stopped coming to church. At yet another meeting the rector climbed down and begged Mr. Gooch to be warden again. Mr. Gooch drily consented, if the rector thought he was worthy to fill the office, but he would not promise to attend church.

Apart from his arrogance and bad temper, there was something crude, even for those days, in the way Carolin patronised his fellows. If somebody died there would be public commiseration from the pulpit. A couple who had lost their daughter were told that the Heavenly Gardener had only transplanted their beautiful flower from the fields of this world to the Garden of Paradise", which was further reported in the press.

The man who patronised his inferiors and quarrels with his equals is likely to venerate those above him. So it proved here. When Gladstone died, Carolin preached on the text There were giants in the earth in those days, and at Queen Victoria's death quoted extracts from her favourite poem, In Memoriam.

The man who practices an extreme independence is likely to appeal to the established order from which that independence is derived. So it proved here. Carolin might govern his church without churchwardens, but when  a motorcar skimmed past him at twenty miles an hour, as he was bicycling near Wivenhoe Park, he was incensed and, naturally, wrote to the press. However, he was not a reactionary. He eventually owned a motorcycle himself.

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