On Friday, the fifth of April, a noteworthy assemblage gathered round an open vault in a corner of Highgate Cemetery. Some hundreds of persons, closely packed up the steep banks among the trees and shrubs, had found in that grave a common bond of brotherhood. I say, in that grave. They were no sect, clique, or school of disciples, held together by community of opinions. They were simply men and women, held together, for the moment at least, by love of a man, and that man, as they had believed, a man of God. All shades of opinion, almost of creed, were represented there; though the majority were members of the Church of England–many probably reconciled to that Church by him who lay below. All sorts and conditions of men, and indeed of women, were there; for he had had a word for all sorts and conditions of men. Most of them had never seen each other before– would never see each other again. But each felt that the man, however unknown to him who stood next him, was indeed a brother in loyalty to that beautiful soul, beautiful face, beautiful smile, beautiful voice, from which, in public or in secret, each had received noble impulses, tender consolation, loving correction, and clearer and juster conceptions of God, of duty, of the meaning of themselves and of the universe. And when they turned and left his body there, the world–as one said who served him gallantly and long- -seemed darker now he had left it; but he had stayed here long enough to do the work for which he was fitted. He had wasted no time, but died, like a valiant man, at his work, and of his work.
He might have been buried in Westminster Abbey. There was no lack of men of mark who held that such a public recognition of his worth was due, not only to the man himself, but to the honour of the Church of England. His life had been one of rare sanctity; he was a philosopher of learning and acuteness, unsurpassed by any man of his generation; he had done more than any man of that generation to defend the Church’s doctrines; to recommend her to highly-cultivated men and women; to bring within her pale those who had been born outside it, or had wandered from it; to reconcile the revolutionary party among the workmen of the great cities with Christianity, order, law; to make all ranks understand that if Christianity meant anything, it meant that a man should not merely strive to save his own soul after death, but that he should live here the life of a true citizen, virtuous, earnest, helpful to his human brethren. He had been the originator of, or at least the chief mover in, working-men’s colleges, schemes for the higher education of women, for the protection of the weak and the oppressed. He had been the champion, the organiser, the helper with his own money and time, of that co- operative movement–the very germ of the economy of the future–which seems now destined to spread, and with right good results, to far other classes, and in far other forms, than those of which Mr. Maurice was thinking five-and-twenty years ago. His whole life had been one of unceasing labour for that which he believed to be truth and right, and for the practical amelioration of his fellow- creatures. He had not an enemy, unless it were here and there a bigot or a dishonest man–two classes who could not abide him, because they knew well that he could not abide them. But for the rest, those from whom he had differed most, with whom he had engaged, ere now, in the sharpest controversy, had learned to admire his sanctity, charity, courtesy–for he was the most perfect of gentlemen–as well as to respect his genius and learning. He had been welcomed to Cambridge, by all the finer spirits of the University, as Professor of Moral Philosophy; and as such, and as the parish priest of St. Edward’s, he had done his work–as far as failing health allowed–as none but he could do it. Nothing save his own too-scrupulous sense of honour had prevented him from accepting some higher ecclesiastical preferment–which he would have used, alas! not for literary leisure, nor for the physical rest which he absolutely required, but merely as an excuse for greater and more arduous toil. If such a man was not the man whom the Church of England would delight to honour, who was the man? But he was gone; and a grave among England’s worthies was all that could be offered him now; and it was offered. But those whose will on such a point was law, judged it to be more in keeping with the exquisite modesty and humility of Frederick Denison Maurice, that he should be laid out of sight, though not out of mind, by the side of his father and his mother. Well: be it so. At least that green nook at Highgate will be a sacred spot to hundreds–it may be to thousands–who owe him more than they will care to tell to any created being.