One of the most important characters in the first 18 chapters of the novel is the Rev. Samuel Raymond. In certain aspects he is a symbol of Q’s own beliefs and values, even though at the conclusion of the novel Taffy, the Q figure, rejects his father’s religious idealism for secular realism. Raymond certainly represented Q’s model cleric in being university educated, an upholder of established religion and theologically vague. Around him swirl the unstable forces haunting Q’s political imagination: a hedonistic and irresponsible governing class on one side, with on the other a leaderless working class, open to exploitation, fecklessness and sexual excess.
The novel illustrates Q’s radical philosophy, although revealing how distinct it was from the radicalism of the time. He saw the rottenness of the governing class, with their systems of power and privilege, but he desired no working class revolution, violent or peaceful. Order, education and Anglicanism, along with positive social reforms, provide the only practical way forward. While in Ia Q centred the reforms on sanitation and medicine, in The Ship of Stars it is the safety of working people, especially the deep-sea mariner. Without responsible government Q envisages the hideous spectacle of disorder and revolution, a ‘devil hunt’ without boundaries or inhibitions. Thus he vents his wrath upon the indifferent, from landowners to the directors of shipping companies. Samuel Raymond stands as a symbol of responsibility in matters of religion, just as Taffy is to do as regards the mariner. As a symbol Raymond is very effective, as a character less so. His personality is distant and lacking in genuine feeling, while his wife exhibits real unhappiness – it is difficult to count the number of times she weeps. There is too little vice in his virtue for the reader to empathise with, just as there is too little virtue in Moyle’s vice. How much easier we should feel if informed that while at Oxford Raymond had succumbed to the odd night on the tiles, but, alas, it was not so.
Samuel Raymond was born at Tewkesbury, attended Christ Church in Oxford, was married at 24 and served on the staff of Bodmin church. His services are secured in Chapter II of the novel by Squire Moyle, who holds the living of Nannizabuloe (Perranzabuloe) on the north coast. The Raymond family are conveyed from Bodmin to the Indian Queen inn, on the western edge of Goss Moor, aboard the Vital Spark, owned by J. Job. In a memoir of Hicks of Bodmin by W.F. Collier of Bodmin, a friend of Q mentioned in the dedicatory letter, the phrase ‘vital spark’ is used for the life force in man and no doubt Q heard it from his lips. It is also the name of a church anthem disapproved of by the Rev. Samuel Raymond. The Indian Queen is again referred to in the novel Castle Dor. Nannizabuloe is some miles distant from the inn. It adjoins St. Ann’s, as Joby informs them, which is a local pronunciation of St. Agnes. St. Agnes, the original home of Zephaniah Job, is the St. Ann’s of the Cap’n Jacka stories. On arrival at Nannizabuloe Raymond is confronted with a decayed church, an indifferent parish run to Nonconformity, and an increasingly obdurate squire. The reader is informed that the church is about 300 years old, the previous one having been overwhelmed by the towans sometime after ‘Arundel’s Rebellion’.
The rebellion of 1549 was occasioned by the Reformation in Cornwall. The reformers refused the Cornish language and its culture, imposing a radical anglicanisation. This is a delicate subject for Q, who wished to present Anglicanism as a traditional rather than imposed faith. If it had been imposed, then his argument against Nonconformity lost much of its force. The church lost in the sands was probably of Celtic foundation, known as St. Piran’s oratory. Q’s belief in a semi-independent Christian tradition in Cornwall dating from Celtic times finds support in the book Perranzabuloe; with an account of the past and present state of the Oratory of St. Piran in the Sands (1844) by the Rev. W. Haslam, B.A. Curiously, the Morrab Library copy contains the free-hand signature S.J. Trist, Sept. 18, 1845. The surname occurs in the short story ‘Joseph Laquedem’. In the R.I.C. Journals Vol. 20, 1915-1919, T.F. Dexter has two studies relating to the history and excavation of the St. Piran site.
The Raymonds arrive in Nannizabuloe to find the religious element of the population catered for by Methodism, either in its Wesleyan or its Bible Christian form.
The Wesleyans tended to be town based, while the Bible Christians proliferated in the country districts, especially along the Atlantic coast. It is, therefore, difficult to explain Moyle’s connection with the Bible Christians or ‘Bryanites’, as their following was drawn from the lower levels of the agricultural population, while the Wesleyans looked more to the urban middle class. As an aside, the Bible Christians were in some ways ahead of their time in supporting women preachers and relative democracy, two features Q avoids mentioning. Working class democracy and equality he might not have thought well of, fearing its potential for instability if unrelated to the rest of society.
Q presents the Bible Christians and elements of the working population in a none too favourable light. There is an absence of the idealisation of working people, as found in the character of Stephen Blackpool in Hard Times by Charles Dickens. Yet Q is no more sympathetic to the Anglican hierarchy or the squirearchy. After the wedding of Honoria and George the Bishop spends a pleasant couple of days at Carwithiel in the company of the atheistical Sir Harry Vyell. During a short oration by the Bishop following the demise of Samuel Raymond, Taffy could not help reflecting on the absence of support by the Bishop during the years of conflict. At a time of religious doubt, the double standards of the Bishop had a decidedly negative effect upon the young man. It is clear that while Q supported the Established Church, he sometimes regarded the hierarchy as part of the self-serving power structure of the nation against which his instincts rebelled. Standing between the privileged and the powerless the parish priest holds the line between order and anarchy. The novel’s dedication names one such, the Rev. R.S. Hawker. It is possible that Raymond is modelled on Hawker.
When Robert Hawker came to the parish of Morwenstow, near the Devon border, in 1834, he found it as indifferent to Anglicanism as does Raymond in Nannizabuloe. Having been ignored by John Wesley it had subsequently been evangelised by the Bible Christians. Hawker was something of a medievalist, viewing the Church of England and the country gentlemen as a continuing entity of stability, order and religion in a society becoming increasing prey to industrialism, disorder and secularism. The Bryanites represented a rural form of religious anarchy fired by libertinism. He opposed them, endeavoured to win them back to the Established Church and in consequence incited considerable opposition, although never of a violent kind. The Bible Christians tended to pacifism. The parallel between Hawker and Raymond is clear. Furthermore, both Hawker and Raymond showed considerable concern for wrecked mariners, endeavouring to bury the dead with dignity, a service called upon all too frequently. The dignity of dead mariners is a theme running through many of Q’s narratives, stemming, no doubt, from the memory of drowned Quillers. Yet with the similarities there are also obvious differences. Raymond was not a medievalist, although in the first two chapters he is surrounded by a medieval atmosphere. Nor is he an Anglo-Catholic like Hawker. Raymond’s opposition came from the squirearchy and the common people, while with Hawker the common people alone were his concern. Both are faced with the curious feature of the ‘devil hunt’, although in Hawker’s case it appears to have been largely the product of his own creative imagination. We are forced to conclude, therefore, that Q only took from Hawker what suited his overall purpose. Q had as little sympathy with Anglo-Catholicism as with Nonconformity. The novel’s dedication espoused Hawker’s poetry and character, not his theology. In fact, Raymond would have been more dramatically effective if he had been presented as High, so as to act as a foil for the low Bible Christians, with their revivalistic theology.
Raymond’s confrontation with the Bible Christians in the person of Squire Moyle and the itinerant preacher Jacky Pascoe produces a number of set-piece scenes. Chapter X ‘Enter the King’s Postman’, describes the arrival of Pascoe at the parsonage following a wreck from which the itinerant was the sole survivor. The scene is possibly a satire based on a nineteenth century Bryanite preacher called Billy Bray from Twelveheads in the parish of Kea. A.L. Rowse, whose parents were reared as Bible Christians and whose forbears might have known Billy Bray personally, intimates as much (Rowse, 1988, p. 70). Less satirical is the later scene where Raymond confronts the torch-lit procession of Bryanite revellers, followed by the figure of Moyle who expires on the chancel steps. Following the death of Moyle and the departure of Pascoe, Raymond symbolically burns the book whose writing represented his life’s work. The burning of this almost certainly theological tome, a parallel to Taffy’s abandonment of the Imitation of Christ, acts as a premonition of his death, again a Quiller touch. There is then an affecting conversation with Taffy in which Samuel explains the nature of religious sacrifice, of choosing the lesser attainable objective at the cost of the unattainable – an idea which will be explored later in relation to Q’s political and educational activities. It is the one moment in the novel where Samuel Raymond becomes a real father. Yet it is but a flicker. Even Raymond’s death is off-stage and impersonal, its only dramatic importance being the disagreeable effect it has on the education of Taffy. Samuel Raymond exhibits English reserve to an unnatural degree, just as Moyle does with Celtic emotion.
The uneven characterisation of Samuel Raymond raises questions as to his significance. Was he simply acting as a backdrop to Taffy, or was he a symbol of traditional values in a disordered society? Was he an imaginative development of Hawker or a composite of more than one cleric imaginatively constructed? There is evidence that Raymond is a complex of symbol and character, and modelled upon at least two historical figures, the first of which is Hawker, the second being the writer of Perran-zabuloe, the Rev. William Haslam. Like Hawker, Haslam was a controversial figure in mid nineteenth century Cornwall, but for very different reasons and was eventually forced out by the ecclesiastical authorities. Haslam’s own account of his two troubled incumbancies, at Perranzabuloe and Baldhu, is to be found in From Death into Life (1976). While it is impossible to be certain, there is remarkable evidence that Q attempted a reconstruction of Haslam’s pastoral period, in the same manner as the lives of Old and Young Minards in I Saw Three Ships, and his own forbears in Dead Man’s Rock. Furthermore, Haslam knew Billy Bray, devoting a chapter of his autobiography to him, and later contributing to W.F. Bourne’s biography of the Bryanite revivalist.
After university training Haslam was ordained in 1842 and accepted for the parish of Perranzabuloe. As with Hawker to the north, he adopted a High Church position, as outlined in the tracts of Newman and Pusey, the Tractarians. To his disappointment he found a decayed church and an indifferent parish given over to Nonconformity. He forms a church band, one of whose anthems is Vital Spark – the name of Job’s coach. As with Raymond, Haslam commences refurbishing the building, doing much of the work himself. During the following years Haslam becomes famous as an antiquarian and a restorer of churches, although there is no mention of him at Talland during its renovation around 1848. In preaching against schism, recognised by all as an attack on Methodism, he courted considerable animosity, even from his own congregation, many of whom had divided loyalties. It was anti-Methodist preaching in Talland church which forced Jonathan Couch to help form a Wesleyan Methodist Church in Polperro in 1814. Haslam is rounded on for not preaching ‘conversion’. This is exactly the case with Raymond, although Q employs the unfortunate term ‘instant conversion’.
At this point of his ministry Haslam leaves Perranzabuloe for Baldhu, where a new church is under construction. Interestingly, Baldhu parish is thought to lie in ‘la blanche lande’ of Beroul’s twelfth century Tristan and Yseut. A year later, in 1847, Haslam travels to Morwenstow to visit the Rev. Hawker, seeing him as a model Anglo-Catholic, with a special concern for wrecked mariners and schismatics. On returning to Baldhu, his new church is dedicated by Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter. This would have been the bishop presiding at the wedding of Honoria and George, and falling under the condemnation of Taffy for failing to support Samuel Raymond. In a typical piece of Q humour, a young Squire Philpotts, in hunting attire, is present at the ceremony. Haslam’s Tractarianism sees him continually worsted by the Nonconformists when attempting to gain a flock at Baldhu, in spite of the expensive building. Raymond, like Hawker, is more pastorally successful than Haslam, yet the parallels are remarkable. Raymond goes on to claim victory over the Nonconformists following the death of Moyle and the departure of Pascoe. The situation with Haslam is slightly different but appears to find accommodation in The Ship of Stars.
In the ‘Foreword’ to the 1976 edition of Haslam’s From Death into Life, the Rev. Michael Harper, an Anglican who in 1995 left to join the Antiochian Orthodox Church, argues how in the 1840’s Haslam represented the finest tradition of Tractarianism, but that in 1851 he found ‘God in a personal experience’. This event has gone down in the annals of Cornish Methodism as the ‘preacher who was converted by his own sermon’. It is recounted in Chapter VII of Haslam’s autobiography, in numerous Methodist folk-histories and in Bourne’s biography of Billy Bray. From this point in his ministry Haslam leaves High Churchmanship and adopts the revivalist position. He even forms a friendship with the Bryanite preacher and miner Billy Bray. Although Q had a modest sympathy for the Tractarians, even though he was proud of having occupied Newman’s rooms at Oxford, his antipathy to revivalism was paramount. Q therefore represents Raymond as resisting the influence of revivalism in Nannizabuloe, of worsting Jacky Pascoe, and of achieving a final triumph. Pascoe is sent disconsolate away, Moyle dies, the parish is cleansed of infection. This is satire of an intensity rarely equalled in the rest of Q’s fiction.
Although it is not possible to be certain, Rowse is possibly correct in identifying Bray as a model for Pascoe, with Bourne’s biography as the main source. By 1890 no less than twenty-seven reprints of the life had been sold. The preface of the 1890 edition specifically mentions the Rev. William Haslam as a contributor.
Billy Bray was born at Twelveheads, a village in the parish of Kea, on June 1, 1794, a year after the birth of Jonathan Couch. Apart from its scenery the parish has little to recommend it, except as the location for two Medieval Cornish language dramas, one the Life of St. Kea and the other Arthurian. Kea is on the Fal, with its strong Arthur and Tristan associations. Bray came from the last stratum of society to use the Cornish language, probably around 1700. Having been deprived of its language, culture and religion, the working population existed at a level of brutality and semi-starvation. The miners presented in Chapter X, ‘A Happy Day’, with their May-dancing and May-doll, little reflect the true situation, as the drunkenness, violence and coarse immorality of Bray’s early life demonstrates. Afflicted as was Moyle with the fear of damnation, Bray experienced a religious conversion in November 1823, joining the Bible Christians denomination immediately afterwards. As a fiery preacher with the common touch, he became a much loved figure. As an exponent of uninhibited worship, dancing and clapping as African Christians do today, he had few rivals. He feared and detested the formalism of Anglican ritual, using the phrase ‘a pusey’ after the Tractarian Edward Pusey, as a term of abuse. As with Jonathan Couch, who did not dance, he was devoid of Victorian prudery, although he exhibited a certain asceticism, which as a miner he could hardly have avoided. While Bray had his detractors, and was not without a degree of eccentricity, he was well regarded by discerning judges.
The Rev. William Haslam’s first meeting with Billy Bray, ‘the King’s son’, is recorded in Chapter XII of the autobiography. It is dated to 1852, when Bray was 58, and a Bryanite for 29 years. A second account by Haslam appears in Chapter II of Bourne’s biography (1877). Jacky Pascoe, ‘the King’s postman’, is introduced in Chapter IX of The Ship of Stars, being presented as an old Bryanite preacher. All three accounts give him as small in stature. Q goes further, detailing a bald pate, with greying whisps drawn forward from the ears, with face shaven and puckered. This is similar to a photograph of Bray now found in Views and Likenesses. Photographers and Their Work in Cornwall and Scilly, 1839-1870, edited by Prof. Charles Thomas. Several studio portraits still exist from the 1860’s, with the one included by Thomas having been taken in St. Ives, probably by Edward Ashton. A painting based on a studio portrait hangs in Truro museum. The evidence points to Q having used a photograph as the basis for his description.
Pascoe appears to reflect in his speech the phrasing and intonation of Bray, as found in the works of Bourne and Haslam. Ejaculations such as ‘Glory be’, ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Amen’, along with expressions contrasting ‘doubter’ with ‘shouter’, are common to both. Significantly the ‘doubting – shouting’ refrain occurs in The Ship of Stars amidst the fire and smoke of the mid-summer bonfire, while in Bourne’s biography it comes in a section where fire and smoke are also alluded to. Similarly, Pascoe in ‘Enter the King’s Postman’ speaks to Raymond of dancing in the Harvest field, when in Bourne Bray’s meeting with Haslam is found in the chapter entitled ‘First-fruits of Harvest’. Q’s Bryanite chapel at the cross-roads appears to parallel Bray’s chapel at Cross Lanes, while the phrase ‘great deliverance’ echoes Bray’s ‘Great Deliverance’ chapel near Carharrack. Furthermore, The Ship of Stars gives to Pascoe the recitation of three verses – ‘I long to be there…’, ‘Not fearing nor doubting…’ and ‘Jacky Pascoe is my name…’ – the first two of which occur in Bourne, while the third is a well known Sunday school jingle. Lastly, Pascoe’s hysterical dancing can be seen as a debunking of Bray’s clapping and dancing during revivalist services.
One of the most complex pieces of writing in the novel is the meeting of Pascoe with the Raymond family in Chapter IX. It is possibly a satire on the meeting of Bray with Haslam in Chapter II of Bourne and Chapter XII of Haslam. The specific elements singled out are conversion, divine guidance and spiritual joy.
Apart from the fact that Jacky Pascoe has come from a wreck instead of St. Neot, the similarities between the biographical account of Haslam/Bourne and the fictional one by Q are striking. The difference is that while Bray is welcomed by the ‘converted’ Haslam, Pascoe is not by the traditional Anglican Raymond. Pascoe’s behaviour is made to appear inappropriate and callous. It appears that Q is rewriting the biographical account, imagining Haslam as resisting the revivalistic influence of Pascoe. The ‘prophecy’ of Bray is subverted in the failure of Pascoe, with the Established Church triumphing over schism, emotionalism and religious anarchy.
The following sections show Pascoe’s partial re-education, as much as his eccentricity allows. This follows a partial reconciliation between Raymond and Pascoe in Chapter XVII, after Pascoe has been made to recognise how far the destruction of the church by Moyle was the product of his own nefarious influence. The Bible Christian’s dénouement comes after the death of Moyle, when he realises that his guidance was the product of self-deception and egotism. A pitiful letter from Pascoe to Raymond is presented in Chapter XVIII, at which point he leaves the stage in possession of the priest. Tradition and authority have proved stronger than individualism and hysteria. Education has proved superior to ignorance. The tragedy is in Raymond’s being unable to enjoy the fruit of his victory, for with the demise of Moyle and Pascoe the vicar fails, his sensitive nature exhausted. Victory is swallowed up in death. Yet even the victory is hollow. Taffy loses his faith and abandons the church which his father has restored and served so faithfully.