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Friday, June 17, 2016

Henry Kingsley on the Seeds of War

Cricket St Thomas,
a manor house in Somerset, England

In Henry Kingsley's novel Ravenshoe, Densil Ravenshoe, the heir to his family's land and fortune, returns from a trip to Europe with a Protestant wife. With his little act of rebellion, Densil Ravenshoe inadvertently starts a war that will be waged for decades. Shortly after giving birth to a boy, his wife extracts a promise from him: that Densil will have the boy raised in the Protestant faith. This tears at the heart of Father Mackworth, the Catholic priest who presides over the church on the family's land. He had hoped to raise the boy as a Catholic. If the new heir of the Ravenshoe family is to be raised Protestant, all the land and fortune of the family be devoted to Protestant causes. As if this weren't enough, all the workers on the estate, and the people living in the local village, whose livelihoods are dependent upon the lord of the manor, will also fall under Protestant control.

As the boy grows up, young Charles Ravenshoe is taught why he should believe and affirm Protestant ways. He is never taught to respect Father Mackworth's beliefs or practices. While in many ways Charles is kind and loving, he cannot help but tease and make fun of Father Mackworth. The priest, who believes he represents something precious and important, views such acts as attacks on his authority, and the teachings and beliefs he holds dear. Thus, years of ceaseless warfare ensue, in which the combatants, Charles Ravenshoe and Father Mackworth, sling emotional darts at one another. 

We often convince ourselves we are right when we tease others, when we do little things to confound others, when we tell ourselves that it's just harmless fun, that the other person should take it. We tell ourselves that he or she needs to be a bigger person, that he or she needs to take things less seriously, and we're doing this for their own good. We insist that our way is the right way, and that they need to respect "our ways," instead of quietly doing things our way, and in a way that would not offend them. 

Hey, it's the other person's problem right? No lasting harm can come from it, right?

Dragon Dave

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