"Clever To A Fault"
Context: Bishop Blougram and a literary acquaintance, Gigadibs, discuss religion over their wine, following Corpus Christi Day supper. Gigadibs, a thirty-year-old magazine writer, appears as a representative of mid-nineteenth century philosophical thought. The bishop, a person with "a soul and body that exact/ A comfortable care in many ways," dominates the discussion with his self-defense. The talk centers on whether it is better to live a life of faith diversified by doubt, as does the bishop, or of doubt diversified by faith, as does Gigadibs. In a skeptical age, the bishop finds his inner-core of faith confronted by his intellectual doubt. He attempts to rationalize his position of a doubting believer whose faith has been questioned by his contemporary intellectuals. His unique position, he claims, is a historical accident. Had he been born three hundred years earlier, no one would have questioned his faith; seventy years later, no one would question his doubt:
It's through my coming in the tail of time,Nicking the minute with a happy tact.Had I been born three hundred years agoThey'd say, "What's strange? Blougram of course believes";And, seventy years since, "disbelieves of course."But now, "He may believe; and yet, and yetHow can he?"–All eyes turn with interest.Whereas, step off the line on either side–You, for example, clever to a fault,The rough and ready man who writes apace,Read somewhat seldomer, think perhaps even less–You disbelieve! Who wonders and who cares?