Infomotions, Inc.The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft / Gissing, George, 1857-1903



Author: Gissing, George, 1857-1903
Title: The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft
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Title: The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft


Author: George Gissing

Release Date: March 27, 2005  [eBook #1463]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE PRIVATE PAPERS OF HENRY
RYECROFT***





Transcribed from the 1903 Archibald Constable & Co. edition by David
Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk





THE PRIVATE PAPERS OF HENRY RYECROFT


PREFACE


The name of Henry Ryecroft never became familiar to what is called the
reading public.  A year ago obituary paragraphs in the literary papers
gave such account of him as was thought needful: the date and place of
his birth, the names of certain books he had written, an allusion to his
work in the periodicals, the manner of his death.  At the time it
sufficed.  Even those few who knew the man, and in a measure understood
him, must have felt that his name called for no further celebration; like
other mortals, he had lived and laboured; like other mortals, he had
entered into his rest.  To me, however, fell the duty of examining
Ryecroft's papers; and having, in the exercise of my discretion, decided
to print this little volume, I feel that it requires a word or two of
biographical complement, just so much personal detail as may point the
significance of the self-revelation here made.

When first I knew him, Ryecroft had reached his fortieth year; for twenty
years he had lived by the pen.  He was a struggling man, beset by poverty
and other circumstances very unpropitious to mental work.  Many forms of
literature had he tried; in none had he been conspicuously successful;
yet now and then he had managed to earn a little more money than his
actual needs demanded, and thus was enabled to see something of foreign
countries.  Naturally a man of independent and rather scornful outlook,
he had suffered much from defeated ambition, from disillusions of many
kinds, from subjection to grim necessity; the result of it, at the time
of which I am speaking, was, certainly not a broken spirit, but a mind
and temper so sternly disciplined, that, in ordinary intercourse with
him, one did not know but that he led a calm, contented life.  Only after
several years of friendship was I able to form a just idea of what the
man had gone through, or of his actual existence.  Little by little
Ryecroft had subdued himself to a modestly industrious routine.  He did a
great deal of mere hack-work; he reviewed, he translated, he wrote
articles; at long intervals a volume appeared under his name.  There were
times, I have no doubt, when bitterness took hold upon him; not seldom he
suffered in health, and probably as much from moral as from physical over-
strain; but, on the whole, he earned his living very much as other men
do, taking the day's toil as a matter of course, and rarely grumbling
over it.

Time went on; things happened; but Ryecroft was still laborious and poor.
In moments of depression he spoke of his declining energies, and
evidently suffered under a haunting fear of the future.  The thought of
dependence had always been intolerable to him; perhaps the only boast I
at any time heard from his lips was that he had never incurred debt.  It
was a bitter thought that, after so long and hard a struggle with
unkindly circumstance, he might end his life as one of the defeated.

A happier lot was in store for him.  At the age of fifty, just when his
health had begun to fail and his energies to show abatement, Ryecroft had
the rare good fortune to find himself suddenly released from toil, and to
enter upon a period of such tranquillity of mind and condition as he had
never dared to hope.  On the death of an acquaintance, more his friend
than he imagined, the wayworn man of letters learnt with astonishment
that there was bequeathed to him a life annuity of three hundred pounds.
Having only himself to support (he had been a widower for several years,
and his daughter, an only child, was married), Ryecroft saw in this
income something more than a competency.  In a few weeks he quitted the
London suburb where of late he had been living, and, turning to the part
of England which he loved best, he presently established himself in a
cottage near Exeter, where, with a rustic housekeeper to look after him,
he was soon thoroughly at home.  Now and then some friend went down into
Devon to see him; those who had that pleasure will not forget the plain
little house amid its half-wild garden, the cosy book-room with its fine
view across the valley of the Exe to Haldon, the host's cordial, gleeful
hospitality, rambles with him in lanes and meadows, long talks amid the
stillness of the rural night.  We hoped it would all last for many a
year; it seemed, indeed, as though Ryecroft had only need of rest and
calm to become a hale man.  But already, though he did not know it, he
was suffering from a disease of the heart, which cut short his life after
little more than a lustrum of quiet contentment.  It had always been his
wish to die suddenly; he dreaded the thought of illness, chiefly because
of the trouble it gave to others.  On a summer evening, after a long walk
in very hot weather, he lay down upon the sofa in his study, and there--as
his calm face declared--passed from slumber into the great silence.

When he left London, Ryecroft bade farewell to authorship.  He told me
that he hoped never to write another line for publication.  But, among
the papers which I looked through after his death, I came upon three
manuscript books which at first glance seemed to be a diary; a date on
the opening page of one of them showed that it had been begun not very
long after the writer's settling in Devon.  When I had read a little in
these pages, I saw that they were no mere record of day-to-day life;
evidently finding himself unable to forego altogether the use of the pen,
the veteran had set down, as humour bade him, a thought, a reminiscence,
a bit of reverie, a description of his state of mind, and so on, dating
such passage merely with the month in which it was written.  Sitting in
the room where I had often been his companion, I turned page after page,
and at moments it was as though my friend's voice sounded to me once
more.  I saw his worn visage, grave or smiling; recalled his familiar
pose or gesture.  But in this written gossip he revealed himself more
intimately than in our conversation of the days gone by.  Ryecroft had
never erred by lack of reticence; as was natural in a sensitive man who
had suffered much, he inclined to gentle acquiescence, shrank from
argument, from self-assertion.  Here he spoke to me without restraint,
and, when I had read it all through, I knew the man better than before.

Assuredly, this writing was not intended for the public, and yet, in many
a passage, I seemed to perceive the literary purpose--something more than
the turn of phrase, and so on, which results from long habit of
composition.  Certain of his reminiscences, in particular, Ryecroft could
hardly have troubled to write down had he not, however vaguely,
entertained the thought of putting them to some use.  I suspect that, in
his happy leisure, there grew upon him a desire to write one more book, a
book which should be written merely for his own satisfaction.  Plainly,
it would have been the best he had it in him to do.  But he seems never
to have attempted the arrangement of these fragmentary pieces, and
probably because he could not decide upon the form they should take.  I
imagine him shrinking from the thought of a first-person volume; he would
feel it too pretentious; he would bid himself wait for the day of riper
wisdom.  And so the pen fell from his hand.

Conjecturing thus, I wondered whether the irregular diary might not have
wider interest than at first appeared.  To me, its personal appeal was
very strong; might it not be possible to cull from it the substance of a
small volume which, at least for its sincerity's sake, would not be
without value for those who read, not with the eye alone, but with the
mind?  I turned the pages again.  Here was a man who, having his desire,
and that a very modest one, not only felt satisfied, but enjoyed great
happiness.  He talked of many different things, saying exactly what he
thought; he spoke of himself, and told the truth as far as mortal can
tell it.  It seemed to me that the thing had human interest.  I decided
to print.

The question of arrangement had to be considered; I did not like to offer
a mere incondite miscellany.  To supply each of the disconnected passages
with a title, or even to group them under subject headings, would have
interfered with the spontaneity which, above all, I wished to preserve.
In reading through the matter I had selected, it struck me how often the
aspects of nature were referred to, and how suitable many of the
reflections were to the month with which they were dated.  Ryecroft, I
knew, had ever been much influenced by the mood of the sky, and by the
procession of the year.  So I hit upon the thought of dividing the little
book into four chapters, named after the seasons.  Like all
classifications, it is imperfect, but 'twill serve.

G. G.




SPRING


I.


For more than a week my pen has lain untouched.  I have written nothing
for seven whole days, not even a letter.  Except during one or two bouts
of illness, such a thing never happened in my life before.  In my life;
the life, that is, which had to be supported by anxious toil; the life
which was not lived for living's sake, as all life should be, but under
the goad of fear.  The earning of money should be a means to an end; for
more than thirty years--I began to support myself at sixteen--I had to
regard it as the end itself.

I could imagine that my old penholder feels reproachfully towards me.  Has
it not served me well?  Why do I, in my happiness, let it lie there
neglected, gathering dust?  The same penholder that has lain against my
forefinger day after day, for--how many years?  Twenty, at least; I
remember buying it at a shop in Tottenham Court Road.  By the same token
I bought that day a paper-weight, which cost me a whole shilling--an
extravagance which made me tremble.  The penholder shone with its new
varnish, now it is plain brown wood from end to end.  On my forefinger it
has made a callosity.

Old companion, yet old enemy!  How many a time have I taken it up,
loathing the necessity, heavy in head and heart, my hand shaking, my eyes
sick-dazzled!  How I dreaded the white page I had to foul with ink!  Above
all, on days such as this, when the blue eyes of Spring laughed from
between rosy clouds, when the sunlight shimmered upon my table and made
me long, long all but to madness, for the scent of the flowering earth,
for the green of hillside larches, for the singing of the skylark above
the downs.  There was a time--it seems further away than childhood--when
I took up my pen with eagerness; if my hand trembled it was with hope.
But a hope that fooled me, for never a page of my writing deserved to
live.  I can say that now without bitterness.  It was youthful error, and
only the force of circumstance prolonged it.  The world has done me no
injustice; thank Heaven I have grown wise enough not to rail at it for
this!  And why should any man who writes, even if he write things
immortal, nurse anger at the world's neglect?  Who asked him to publish?
Who promised him a hearing?  Who has broken faith with him?  If my
shoemaker turn me out an excellent pair of boots, and I, in some mood of
cantankerous unreason, throw them back upon his hands, the man has just
cause of complaint.  But your poem, your novel, who bargained with you
for it?  If it is honest journeywork, yet lacks purchasers, at most you
may call yourself a hapless tradesman.  If it come from on high, with
what decency do you fret and fume because it is not paid for in heavy
cash?  For the work of man's mind there is one test, and one alone, the
judgment of generations yet unborn.  If you have written a great book,
the world to come will know of it.  But you don't care for posthumous
glory.  You want to enjoy fame in a comfortable armchair.  Ah, that is
quite another thing.  Have the courage of your desire.  Admit yourself a
merchant, and protest to gods and men that the merchandise you offer is
of better quality than much which sells for a high price.  You may be
right, and indeed it is hard upon you that Fashion does not turn to your
stall.



II.


The exquisite quiet of this room!  I have been sitting in utter idleness,
watching the sky, viewing the shape of golden sunlight upon the carpet,
which changes as the minutes pass, letting my eye wander from one framed
print to another, and along the ranks of my beloved books.  Within the
house nothing stirs.  In the garden I can hear singing of birds, I can
hear the rustle of their wings.  And thus, if it please me, I may sit all
day long, and into the profounder quiet of the night.

My house is perfect.  By great good fortune I have found a housekeeper no
less to my mind, a low-voiced, light-footed woman of discreet age, strong
and deft enough to render me all the service I require, and not afraid of
solitude.  She rises very early.  By my breakfast-time there remains
little to be done under the roof save dressing of meals.  Very rarely do
I hear even a clink of crockery; never the closing of a door or window.
Oh, blessed silence!

There is not the remotest possibility of any one's calling upon me, and
that I should call upon any one else is a thing undreamt of.  I owe a
letter to a friend; perhaps I shall write it before bedtime; perhaps I
shall leave it till to-morrow morning.  A letter of friendship should
never be written save when the spirit prompts.  I have not yet looked at
the newspaper.  Generally I leave it till I come back tired from my walk;
it amuses me then to see what the noisy world is doing, what new self-
torments men have discovered, what new forms of vain toil, what new
occasions of peril and of strife.  I grudge to give the first freshness
of the morning mind to things so sad and foolish.

My house is perfect.  Just large enough to allow the grace of order in
domestic circumstance; just that superfluity of intramural space, to lack
which is to be less than at one's ease.  The fabric is sound; the work in
wood and plaster tells of a more leisurely and a more honest age than
ours.  The stairs do not creak under my step; I am waylaid by no unkindly
draught; I can open or close a window without muscle-ache.  As to such
trifles as the tint and device of wall-paper, I confess my indifference;
be the walls only unobtrusive, and I am satisfied.  The first thing in
one's home is comfort; let beauty of detail be added if one has the
means, the patience, the eye.

To me, this little book-room is beautiful, and chiefly because it is
home.  Through the greater part of life I was homeless.  Many places have
I inhabited, some which my soul loathed, and some which pleased me well;
but never till now with that sense of security which makes a home.  At
any moment I might have been driven forth by evil hap, by nagging
necessity.  For all that time did I say within myself: Some day,
perchance, I shall have a home; yet the "perchance" had more and more of
emphasis as life went on, and at the moment when fate was secretly
smiling on me, I had all but abandoned hope.  I have my home at last.
When I place a new volume on my shelves, I say: Stand there whilst I have
eyes to see you; and a joyous tremor thrills me.  This house is mine on a
lease of a score of years.  So long I certainly shall not live; but, if I
did, even so long should I have the wherewithal to pay my rent and buy my
food.

I think with compassion of the unhappy mortals for whom no such sun will
ever rise.  I should like to add to the Litany a new petition: "For all
inhabitants of great towns, and especially for all such as dwell in
lodgings, boarding-houses, flats, or any other sordid substitute for Home
which need or foolishness may have contrived."

In vain I have pondered the Stoic virtues.  I know that it is folly to
fret about the spot of one's abode on this little earth.

   All places that the eye of heaven visits
   Are to the wise man ports and happy havens.

But I have always worshipped wisdom afar off.  In the sonorous period of
the philosopher, in the golden measure of the poet, I find it of all
things lovely.  To its possession I shall never attain.  What will it
serve me to pretend a virtue of which I am incapable?  To me the place
and manner of my abode is of supreme import; let it be confessed, and
there an end of it.  I am no cosmopolite.  Were I to think that I should
die away from England, the thought would be dreadful to me.  And in
England, this is the dwelling of my choice; this is my home.



III.


I am no botanist, but I have long found pleasure in herb-gathering.  I
love to come upon a plant which is unknown to me, to identify it with the
help of my book, to greet it by name when next it shines beside my path.
If the plant be rare, its discovery gives me joy.  Nature, the great
Artist, makes her common flowers in the common view; no word in human
language can express the marvel and the loveliness even of what we call
the vulgarest weed, but these are fashioned under the gaze of every
passer-by.  The rare flower is shaped apart, in places secret, in the
Artist's subtler mood; to find it is to enjoy the sense of admission to a
holier precinct.  Even in my gladness I am awed.

To-day I have walked far, and at the end of my walk I found the little
white-flowered wood-ruff.  It grew in a copse of young ash.  When I had
looked long at the flower, I delighted myself with the grace of the slim
trees about it--their shining smoothness, their olive hue.  Hard by stood
a bush of wych elm; its tettered bark, overlined as if with the character
of some unknown tongue, made the young ashes yet more beautiful.

It matters not how long I wander.  There is no task to bring me back; no
one will be vexed or uneasy, linger I ever so late.  Spring is shining
upon these lanes and meadows; I feel as if I must follow every winding
track that opens by my way.  Spring has restored to me something of the
long-forgotten vigour of youth; I walk without weariness; I sing to
myself like a boy, and the song is one I knew in boyhood.

That reminds me of an incident.  Near a hamlet, in a lonely spot by a
woodside, I came upon a little lad of perhaps ten years old, who, his
head hidden in his arms against a tree trunk, was crying bitterly.  I
asked him what was the matter, and, after a little trouble--he was better
than a mere bumpkin--I learnt that, having been sent with sixpence to pay
a debt, he had lost the money.  The poor little fellow was in a state of
mind which in a grave man would be called the anguish of despair; he must
have been crying for a long time; every muscle in his face quivered as if
under torture, his limbs shook; his eyes, his voice, uttered such misery
as only the vilest criminal should be made to suffer.  And it was because
he had lost sixpence!

I could have shed tears with him--tears of pity and of rage at all this
spectacle implied.  On a day of indescribable glory, when earth and
heaven shed benedictions upon the soul of man, a child, whose nature
would have bidden him rejoice as only childhood may, wept his heart out
because his hand had dropped a sixpenny piece!  The loss was a very
serious one, and he knew it; he was less afraid to face his parents, than
overcome by misery at the thought of the harm he had done them.  Sixpence
dropped by the wayside, and a whole family made wretched!  What are the
due descriptive terms for a state of "civilization" in which such a thing
as this is possible?

I put my hand into my pocket, and wrought sixpennyworth of miracle.

It took me half an hour to recover my quiet mind.  After all, it is as
idle to rage against man's fatuity as to hope that he will ever be less a
fool.  For me, the great thing was my sixpenny miracle.  Why, I have
known the day when it would have been beyond my power altogether, or else
would have cost me a meal.  Wherefore, let me again be glad and thankful.



IV.


There was a time in my life when, if I had suddenly been set in the
position I now enjoy, conscience would have lain in ambush for me.  What!
An income sufficient to support three or four working-class families--a
house all to myself--things beautiful wherever I turn--and absolutely
nothing to do for it all!  I should have been hard put to it to defend
myself.  In those days I was feelingly reminded, hour by hour, with what
a struggle the obscure multitudes manage to keep alive.  Nobody knows
better than I do _quam parvo liceat producere vitam_.  I have hungered in
the streets; I have laid my head in the poorest shelter; I know what it
is to feel the heart burn with wrath and envy of "the privileged
classes."  Yes, but all that time I was one of "the privileged" myself,
and now I can accept a recognized standing among them without shadow of
self-reproach.

It does not mean that my larger sympathies are blunted.  By going to
certain places, looking upon certain scenes, I could most effectually
destroy all the calm that life has brought me.  If I hold apart and
purposely refuse to look that way, it is because I believe that the world
is better, not worse, for having one more inhabitant who lives as becomes
a civilized being.  Let him whose soul prompts him to assail the iniquity
of things, cry and spare not; let him who has the vocation go forth and
combat.  In me it would be to err from Nature's guidance.  I know, if I
know anything, that I am made for the life of tranquillity and
meditation.  I know that only thus can such virtue as I possess find
scope.  More than half a century of existence has taught me that most of
the wrong and folly which darken earth is due to those who cannot possess
their souls in quiet; that most of the good which saves mankind from
destruction comes of life that is led in thoughtful stillness.  Every day
the world grows noisier; I, for one, will have no part in that increasing
clamour, and, were it only by my silence, I confer a boon on all.

How well would the revenues of a country be expended, if, by mere
pensioning, one-fifth of its population could be induced to live as I do!



V.


"Sir," said Johnson, "all the arguments which are brought to represent
poverty as no evil, show it to be evidently a great evil.  You never find
people labouring to convince you that you may live very happily upon a
plentiful fortune."

He knew what he was talking of, that rugged old master of common sense.
Poverty is of course a relative thing; the term has reference, above all,
to one's standing as an intellectual being.  If I am to believe the
newspapers, there are title-bearing men and women in England who, had
they an assured income of five-and-twenty, shillings per week, would have
no right to call themselves poor, for their intellectual needs are those
of a stable-boy or scullery wench.  Give me the same income and I can
live, but I am poor indeed.

You tell me that money cannot buy the things most precious.  Your
commonplace proves that you have never known the lack of it.  When I
think of all the sorrow and the barrenness that has been wrought in my
life by want of a few more pounds per annum than I was able to earn, I
stand aghast at money's significance.  What kindly joys have I lost,
those simple forms of happiness to which every heart has claim, because
of poverty!  Meetings with those I loved made impossible year after year;
sadness, misunderstanding, nay, cruel alienation, arising from inability
to do the things I wished, and which I might have done had a little money
helped me; endless instances of homely pleasure and contentment curtailed
or forbidden by narrow means.  I have lost friends merely through the
constraints of my position; friends I might have made have remained
strangers to me; solitude of the bitter kind, the solitude which is
enforced at times when mind or heart longs for companionship, often
cursed my life solely because I was poor.  I think it would scarce be an
exaggeration to say that there is no moral good which has not to be paid
for in coin of the realm.

"Poverty," said Johnson again, "is so great an evil, and pregnant with so
much temptation, so much misery, that I cannot but earnestly enjoin you
to avoid it."

For my own part, I needed no injunction to that effort of avoidance.  Many
a London garret knows how I struggled with the unwelcome chamber-fellow.
I marvel she did not abide with me to the end; it is a sort of
inconsequence in Nature, and sometimes makes me vaguely uneasy through
nights of broken sleep.



VI.


How many more springs can I hope to see?  A sanguine temper would say ten
or twelve; let me dare to hope humbly for five or six.  That is a great
many.  Five or six spring-times, welcomed joyously, lovingly watched from
the first celandine to the budding of the rose; who shall dare to call it
a stinted boon?  Five or six times the miracle of earth reclad, the
vision of splendour and loveliness which tongue has never yet described,
set before my gazing.  To think of it is to fear that I ask too much.



VII.


"Homo animal querulum cupide suis incumbens miseriis."  I wonder where
that comes from.  I found it once in Charron, quoted without reference,
and it has often been in my mind--a dreary truth, well worded.  At least,
it was a truth for me during many a long year.  Life, I fancy, would very
often be insupportable, but for the luxury of self-compassion; in cases
numberless, this it must be that saves from suicide.  For some there is
great relief in talking about their miseries, but such gossips lack the
profound solace of misery nursed in silent brooding.  Happily, the trick
with me has never been retrospective; indeed, it was never, even with
regard to instant suffering, a habit so deeply rooted as to become a
mastering vice.  I knew my own weakness when I yielded to it; I despised
myself when it brought me comfort; I could laugh scornfully, even "cupide
meis incumbens miseriis."  And now, thanks be to the unknown power which
rules us, my past has buried its dead.  More than that; I can accept with
sober cheerfulness the necessity of all I lived through.  So it was to
be; so it was.  For this did Nature shape me; with what purpose, I shall
never know; but, in the sequence of things eternal, this was my place.

Could I have achieved so much philosophy if, as I ever feared, the
closing years of my life had passed in helpless indigence?  Should I not
have sunk into lowest depths of querulous self-pity, grovelling there
with eyes obstinately averted from the light above?



VIII.


The early coming of spring in this happy Devon gladdens my heart.  I
think with chill discomfort of those parts of England where the primrose
shivers beneath a sky of threat rather than of solace.  Honest winter,
snow-clad and with the frosted beard, I can welcome not uncordially; but
that long deferment of the calendar's promise, that weeping gloom of
March and April, that bitter blast outraging the honour of May--how often
has it robbed me of heart and hope.  Here, scarce have I assured myself
that the last leaf has fallen, scarce have I watched the glistening of
hoar-frost upon the evergreens, when a breath from the west thrills me
with anticipation of bud and bloom.  Even under this grey-billowing sky,
which tells that February is still in rule:--

   Mild winds shake the elder brake,
   And the wandering herdsmen know
   That the whitethorn soon will blow.

I have been thinking of those early years of mine in London, when the
seasons passed over me unobserved, when I seldom turned a glance towards
the heavens, and felt no hardship in the imprisonment of boundless
streets.  It is strange now to remember that for some six or seven years
I never looked upon a meadow, never travelled even so far as to the tree-
bordered suburbs.  I was battling for dear life; on most days I could not
feel certain that in a week's time I should have food and shelter.  It
would happen, to be sure, that in hot noons of August my thoughts
wandered to the sea; but so impossible was the gratification of such
desire that it never greatly troubled me.  At times, indeed, I seem all
but to have forgotten that people went away for holiday.  In those poor
parts of the town where I dwelt, season made no perceptible difference;
there were no luggage-laden cabs to remind me of joyous journeys; the
folk about me went daily to their toil as usual, and so did I.  I
remember afternoons of languor, when books were a weariness, and no
thought could be squeezed out of the drowsy brain; then would I betake
myself to one of the parks, and find refreshment without any enjoyable
sense of change.  Heavens, how I laboured in those days!  And how far I
was from thinking of myself as a subject for compassion!  That came
later, when my health had begun to suffer from excess of toil, from bad
air, bad food and many miseries; then awoke the maddening desire for
countryside and sea-beach--and for other things yet more remote.  But in
the years when I toiled hardest and underwent what now appear to me
hideous privations, of a truth I could not be said to suffer at all.  I
did not suffer, for I had no sense of weakness.  My health was proof
against everything, and my energies defied all malice of circumstance.
With however little encouragement, I had infinite hope.  Sound sleep
(often in places I now dread to think of) sent me fresh to the battle
each morning, my breakfast, sometimes, no more than a slice of bread and
a cup of water.  As human happiness goes, I am not sure that I was not
then happy.

Most men who go through a hard time in their youth are supported by
companionship.  London has no _pays latin_, but hungry beginners in
literature have generally their suitable comrades, garreteers in the
Tottenham Court Road district, or in unredeemed Chelsea; they make their
little _vie de Boheme_, and are consciously proud of it.  Of my position,
the peculiarity was that I never belonged to any cluster; I shrank from
casual acquaintance, and, through the grim years, had but one friend with
whom I held converse.  It was never my instinct to look for help, to seek
favour for advancement; whatever step I gained was gained by my own
strength.  Even as I disregarded favour so did I scorn advice; no counsel
would I ever take but that of my own brain and heart.  More than once I
was driven by necessity to beg from strangers the means of earning bread,
and this of all my experiences was the bitterest; yet I think I should
have found it worse still to incur a debt to some friend or comrade.  The
truth is that I have never learnt to regard myself as a "member of
society."  For me, there have always been two entities--myself and the
world, and the normal relation between these two has been hostile.  Am I
not still a lonely man, as far as ever from forming part of the social
order?

This, of which I once was scornfully proud, seems to me now, if not a
calamity, something I would not choose if life were to live again.



IX.


For more than six years I trod the pavement, never stepping once upon
mother earth--for the parks are but pavement disguised with a growth of
grass.  Then the worst was over.  Say I the worst?  No, no; things far
worse were to come; the struggle against starvation has its cheery side
when one is young and vigorous.  But at all events I had begun to earn a
living; I held assurance of food and clothing for half a year at a time;
granted health, I might hope to draw my not insufficient wages for many a
twelvemonth.  And they were the wages of work done independently, when
and where I would.  I thought with horror of lives spent in an office,
with an employer to obey.  The glory of the career of letters was its
freedom, its dignity!

The fact of the matter was, of course, that I served, not one master, but
a whole crowd of them.  Independence, forsooth!  If my writing failed to
please editor, publisher, public, where was my daily bread?  The greater
my success, the more numerous my employers.  I was the slave of a
multitude.  By heaven's grace I had succeeded in pleasing (that is to
say, in making myself a source of profit to) certain persons who
represented this vague throng; for the time, they were gracious to me;
but what justified me in the faith that I should hold the ground I had
gained?  Could the position of any toiling man be more precarious than
mine?  I tremble now as I think of it, tremble as I should in watching
some one who walked carelessly on the edge of an abyss.  I marvel at the
recollection that for a good score of years this pen and a scrap of paper
clothed and fed me and my household, kept me in physical comfort, held at
bay all those hostile forces of the world ranged against one who has no
resource save in his own right hand.

But I was thinking of the year which saw my first exodus from London.  On
an irresistible impulse, I suddenly made up my mind to go into Devon, a
part of England I had never seen.  At the end of March I escaped from my
grim lodgings, and, before I had time to reflect on the details of my
undertaking, I found myself sitting in sunshine at a spot very near to
where I now dwell--before me the green valley of the broadening Exe and
the pine-clad ridge of Haldon.  That was one of the moments of my life
when I have tasted exquisite joy.  My state of mind was very strange.
Though as boy and youth I had been familiar with the country, had seen
much of England's beauties, it was as though I found myself for the first
time before a natural landscape.  Those years of London had obscured all
my earlier life; I was like a man town-born and bred, who scarce knows
anything but street vistas.  The light, the air, had for me something of
the supernatural--affected me, indeed, only less than at a later time did
the atmosphere of Italy.  It was glorious spring weather; a few white
clouds floated amid the blue, and the earth had an intoxicating
fragrance.  Then first did I know myself for a sun-worshipper.  How had I
lived so long without asking whether there was a sun in the heavens or
not?  Under that radiant firmament, I could have thrown myself upon my
knees in adoration.  As I walked, I found myself avoiding every strip of
shadow; were it but that of a birch trunk, I felt as if it robbed me of
the day's delight.  I went bare-headed, that the golden beams might shed
upon me their unstinted blessing.  That day I must have walked some
thirty miles, yet I knew not fatigue.  Could I but have once more the
strength which then supported me!

I had stepped into a new life.  Between the man I had been and that which
I now became there was a very notable difference.  In a single day I had
matured astonishingly; which means, no doubt, that I suddenly entered
into conscious enjoyment of powers and sensibilities which had been
developing unknown to me.  To instance only one point: till then I had
cared very little about plants and flowers, but now I found myself
eagerly interested in every blossom, in every growth of the wayside.  As
I walked I gathered a quantity of plants, promising myself to buy a book
on the morrow and identify them all.  Nor was it a passing humour; never
since have I lost my pleasure in the flowers of the field, and my desire
to know them all.  My ignorance at the time of which I speak seems to me
now very shameful; but I was merely in the case of ordinary people,
whether living in town or country.  How many could give the familiar name
of half a dozen plants plucked at random from beneath the hedge in
springtime?  To me the flowers became symbolical of a great release, of a
wonderful awakening.  My eyes had all at once been opened; till then I
had walked in darkness, yet knew it not.

Well do I remember the rambles of that springtide.  I had a lodging in
one of those outer streets of Exeter which savour more of country than of
town, and every morning I set forth to make discoveries.  The weather
could not have been more kindly; I felt the influences of a climate I had
never known; there was a balm in the air which soothed no less than it
exhilarated me.  Now inland, now seaward, I followed the windings of the
Exe.  One day I wandered in rich, warm valleys, by orchards bursting into
bloom, from farmhouse to farmhouse, each more beautiful than the other,
and from hamlet to hamlet bowered amid dark evergreens; the next, I was
on pine-clad heights, gazing over moorland brown with last year's
heather, feeling upon my face a wind from the white-flecked Channel.  So
intense was my delight in the beautiful world about me that I forgot even
myself; I enjoyed without retrospect or forecast; I, the egoist in grain,
forgot to scrutinize my own emotions, or to trouble my happiness by
comparison with others' happier fortune.  It was a healthful time; it
gave me a new lease of life, and taught me--in so far as I was
teachable--how to make use of it.



X.


Mentally and physically, I must be much older than my years.  At three-
and-fifty a man ought not to be brooding constantly on his vanished
youth.  These days of spring which I should be enjoying for their own
sake, do but turn me to reminiscence, and my memories are of the springs
that were lost.

Some day I will go to London and revisit all the places where I housed in
the time of my greatest poverty.  I have not seen them for a quarter of a
century or so.  Not long ago, had any one asked me how I felt about these
memories, I should have said that there were certain street names,
certain mental images of obscure London, which made me wretched as often
as they came before me; but, in truth, it is a very long time since I was
moved to any sort of bitterness by that retrospect of things hard and
squalid.  Now, owning all the misery of it in comparison with what should
have been, I find that part of life interesting and pleasant to look back
upon--greatly more so than many subsequent times, when I lived amid
decencies and had enough to eat.  Some day I will go to London, and spend
a day or two amid the dear old horrors.  Some of the places, I know, have
disappeared.  I see the winding way by which I went from Oxford Street,
at the foot of Tottenham Court Road, to Leicester Square, and, somewhere
in the labyrinth (I think of it as always foggy and gas-lit) was a shop
which had pies and puddings in the window, puddings and pies kept hot by
steam rising through perforated metal.  How many a time have I stood
there, raging with hunger, unable to purchase even one pennyworth of
food!  The shop and the street have long since vanished; does any man
remember them so feelingly as I?  But I think most of my haunts are still
in existence: to tread again those pavements, to look at those grimy
doorways and purblind windows, would affect me strangely.

I see that alley hidden on the west side of Tottenham Court Road, where,
after living in a back bedroom on the top floor, I had to exchange for
the front cellar; there was a difference, if I remember rightly, of
sixpence a week, and sixpence, in those days, was a very great
consideration--why, it meant a couple of meals.  (I once _found_ sixpence
in the street, and had an exultation which is vivid in me at this
moment.)  The front cellar was stone-floored; its furniture was a table,
a chair, a wash-stand, and a bed; the window, which of course had never
been cleaned since it was put in, received light through a flat grating
in the alley above.  Here I lived; here _I wrote_.  Yes, "literary work"
was done at that filthy deal table, on which, by the bye, lay my Homer,
my Shakespeare, and the few other books I then possessed.  At night, as I
lay in bed, I used to hear the tramp, tramp of a _posse_ of policemen who
passed along the alley on their way to relieve guard; their heavy feet
sometimes sounded on the grating above my window.

I recall a tragi-comical incident of life at the British Museum.  Once,
on going down into the lavatory to wash my hands, I became aware of a
notice newly set up above the row of basins.  It ran somehow thus:
"Readers are requested to bear in mind that these basins are to be used
only for casual ablutions."  Oh, the significance of that inscription!
Had I not myself, more than once, been glad to use this soap and water
more largely than the sense of the authorities contemplated?  And there
were poor fellows working under the great dome whose need, in this
respect, was greater than mine.  I laughed heartily at the notice, but it
meant so much.

Some of my abodes I have utterly forgotten; for one reason or another, I
was always moving--an easy matter when all my possessions lay in one
small trunk.  Sometimes the people of the house were intolerable.  In
those days I was not fastidious, and I seldom had any but the slightest
intercourse with those who dwelt under the same roof, yet it happened now
and then that I was driven away by human proximity which passed my
endurance.  In other cases I had to flee from pestilential conditions.
How I escaped mortal illness in some of those places (miserably fed as I
always was, and always over-working myself) is a great mystery.  The
worst that befell me was a slight attack of diphtheria--traceable, I
imagine, to the existence of a dust-bin _under the staircase_.  When I
spoke of the matter to my landlady, she was at first astonished, then
wrathful, and my departure was expedited with many insults.

On the whole, however, I had nothing much to complain of except my
poverty.  You cannot expect great comfort in London for four-and-sixpence
a week--the most I ever could pay for a "furnished room with attendance"
in those days of pretty stern apprenticeship.  And I was easily
satisfied; I wanted only a little walled space in which I could seclude
myself, free from external annoyance.  Certain comforts of civilized life
I ceased even to regret; a stair-carpet I regarded as rather extravagant,
and a carpet on the floor of my room was luxury undreamt of.  My sleep
was sound; I have passed nights of dreamless repose on beds which it
would now make my bones ache only to look at.  A door that locked, a fire
in winter, a pipe of tobacco--these were things essential; and, granted
these, I have been often richly contented in the squalidest garret.  One
such lodging is often in my memory; it was at Islington, not far from the
City Road; my window looked upon the Regent's Canal.  As often as I think
of it, I recall what was perhaps the worst London fog I ever knew; for
three successive days, at least, my lamp had to be kept burning; when I
looked through the window, I saw, at moments, a few blurred lights in the
street beyond the Canal, but for the most part nothing but a yellowish
darkness, which caused the glass to reflect the firelight and my own
face.  Did I feel miserable?  Not a bit of it.  The enveloping gloom
seemed to make my chimney-corner only the more cosy.  I had coals, oil,
tobacco in sufficient quantity; I had a book to read; I had work which
interested me; so I went forth only to get my meals at a City Road coffee-
shop, and hastened back to the fireside.  Oh, my ambitions, my hopes!  How
surprised and indignant I should have felt had I known of any one who
pitied me!

Nature took revenge now and then.  In winter time I had fierce sore
throats, sometimes accompanied by long and savage headaches.  Doctoring,
of course, never occurred to me; I just locked my door, and, if I felt
very bad indeed, went to bed--to lie there, without food or drink, till I
was able to look after myself again.  I could never ask from a landlady
anything which was not in our bond, and only once or twice did I receive
spontaneous offer of help.  Oh, it is wonderful to think of all that
youth can endure!  What a poor feeble wretch I now seem to myself, when I
remember thirty years ago!



XI.


Would I live it over again, that life of the garret and the cellar?  Not
with the assurance of fifty years' contentment such as I now enjoy to
follow upon it!  With man's infinitely pathetic power of resignation, one
sees the thing on its better side, forgets all the worst of it, makes out
a case for the resolute optimist.  Oh, but the waste of energy, of zeal,
of youth!  In another mood, I could shed tears over that spectacle of
rare vitality condemned to sordid strife.  The pity of it!  And--if our
conscience mean anything at all--the bitter wrong!

Without seeking for Utopia, think what a man's youth might be.  I suppose
not one in every thousand uses half the possibilities of natural joy and
delightful effort which lie in those years between seventeen and seven-
and-twenty.  All but all men have to look back upon beginnings of life
deformed and discoloured by necessity, accident, wantonness.  If a young
man avoid the grosser pitfalls, if he keep his eye fixed steadily on what
is called the main chance, if, without flagrant selfishness, he prudently
subdue every interest to his own (by "interest" understanding only
material good), he is putting his youth to profit, he is an exemplar and
a subject of pride.  I doubt whether, in our civilization, any other
ideal is easy of pursuit by the youngster face to face with life.  It is
the only course altogether safe.  Yet compare it with what might be, if
men respected manhood, if human reason were at the service of human
happiness.  Some few there are who can look back upon a boyhood of
natural delights, followed by a decade or so of fine energies honourably
put to use, blended therewith, perhaps, a memory of joy so exquisite that
it tunes all life unto the end; they are almost as rare as poets.  The
vast majority think not of their youth at all, or, glancing backward, are
unconscious of lost opportunity, unaware of degradation suffered.  Only
by contrast with this thick-witted multitude can I pride myself upon my
youth of endurance and of combat.  I had a goal before me, and not the
goal of the average man.  Even when pinched with hunger, I did not
abandon my purposes, which were of the mind.  But contrast that starved
lad in his slum lodging with any fair conception of intelligent and
zealous youth, and one feels that a dose of swift poison would have been
the right remedy for such squalid ills.



XII.


As often as I survey my bookshelves I am reminded of Lamb's "ragged
veterans."  Not that all my volumes came from the second-hand stall; many
of them were neat enough in new covers, some were even stately in
fragrant bindings, when they passed into my hands.  But so often have I
removed, so rough has been the treatment of my little library at each
change of place, and, to tell the truth, so little care have I given to
its well-being at normal times (for in all practical matters I am idle
and inept), that even the comeliest of my books show the results of
unfair usage.  More than one has been foully injured by a great nail
driven into a packing-case--this but the extreme instance of the wrongs
they have undergone.  Now that I have leisure and peace of mind, I find
myself growing more careful--an illustration of the great truth that
virtue is made easy by circumstance.  But I confess that, so long as a
volume hold together, I am not much troubled as to its outer appearance.

I know men who say they had as lief read any book in a library copy as in
one from their own shelf.  To me that is unintelligible.  For one thing,
I know every book of mine by its _scent_, and I have but to put my nose
between the pages to be reminded of all sorts of things.  My Gibbon, for
example, my well-bound eight-volume Milman edition, which I have read and
read and read again for more than thirty years--never do I open it but
the scent of the noble page restores to me all the exultant happiness of
that moment when I received it as a prize.  Or my Shakespeare, the great
Cambridge Shakespeare--it has an odour which carries me yet further back
in life; for these volumes belonged to my father, and before I was old
enough to read them with understanding, it was often permitted me, as a
treat, to take down one of them from the bookcase, and reverently to turn
the leaves.  The volumes smell exactly as they did in that old time, and
what a strange tenderness comes upon me when I hold one of them in hand.
For that reason I do not often read Shakespeare in this edition.  My eyes
being good as ever, I take the Globe volume, which I bought in days when
such a purchase was something more than an extravagance; wherefore I
regard the book with that peculiar affection which results from
sacrifice.

Sacrifice--in no drawing-room sense of the word.  Dozens of my books were
purchased with money which ought to have been spent upon what are called
the necessaries of life.  Many a time I have stood before a stall, or a
bookseller's window, torn by conflict of intellectual desire and bodily
need.  At the very hour of dinner, when my stomach clamoured for food, I
have been stopped by sight of a volume so long coveted, and marked at so
advantageous a price, that I _could_ not let it go; yet to buy it meant
pangs of famine.  My Heyne's _Tibullus_ was grasped at such a moment.  It
lay on the stall of the old book-shop in Goodge Street--a stall where now
and then one found an excellent thing among quantities of rubbish.
Sixpence was the price--sixpence!  At that time I used to eat my mid-day
meal (of course my dinner) at a coffee-shop in Oxford Street, one of the
real old coffee-shops, such as now, I suppose, can hardly be found.
Sixpence was all I had--yes, all I had in the world; it would purchase a
plate of meat and vegetables.  But I did not dare to hope that the
_Tibullus_ would wait until the morrow, when a certain small sum fell due
to me.  I paced the pavement, fingering the coppers in my pocket, eyeing
the stall, two appetites at combat within me.  The book was bought and I
went home with it, and as I made a dinner of bread and butter I gloated
over the pages.

In this _Tibullus_ I found pencilled on the last page: "Perlegi, Oct. 4,
1792."  Who was that possessor of the book, nearly a hundred years ago?
There was no other inscription.  I like to imagine some poor scholar,
poor and eager as I myself, who bought the volume with drops of his
blood, and enjoyed the reading of it even as I did.  How much _that_ was
I could not easily say.  Gentle-hearted Tibullus!--of whom there remains
to us a poet's portrait more delightful, I think, than anything of the
kind in Roman literature.

   An tacitum silvas inter reptare salubres,
   Curantem quidquid dignum sapiente bonoque est?

So with many another book on the thronged shelves.  To take them down is
to recall, how vividly, a struggle and a triumph.  In those days money
represented nothing to me, nothing I cared to think about, but the
acquisition of books.  There were books of which I had passionate need,
books more necessary to me than bodily nourishment.  I could see them, of
course, at the British Museum, but that was not at all the same thing as
having and holding them, my own property, on my own shelf.  Now and then
I have bought a volume of the raggedest and wretchedest aspect,
dishonoured with foolish scribbling, torn, blotted--no matter, I liked
better to read out of that than out of a copy that was not mine.  But I
was guilty at times of mere self-indulgence; a book tempted me, a book
which was not one of those for which I really craved, a luxury which
prudence might bid me forego.  As, for instance, my _Jung-Stilling_.  It
caught my eye in Holywell Street; the name was familiar to me in
_Wahrheit und Dichtung_, and curiosity grew as I glanced over the pages.
But that day I resisted; in truth, I could not afford the eighteen-pence,
which means that just then I was poor indeed.  Twice again did I pass,
each time assuring myself that _Jung-Stilling_ had found no purchaser.
There came a day when I was in funds.  I see myself hastening to Holywell
Street (in those days my habitual pace was five miles an hour), I see the
little grey old man with whom I transacted my business--what was his
name?--the bookseller who had been, I believe, a Catholic priest, and
still had a certain priestly dignity about him.  He took the volume,
opened it, mused for a moment, then, with a glance at me, said, as if
thinking aloud: "Yes, I wish I had time to read it."

Sometimes I added the labour of a porter to my fasting endured for the
sake of books.  At the little shop near Portland Road Station I came upon
a first edition of Gibbon, the price an absurdity--I think it was a
shilling a volume.  To possess those clean-paged quartos I would have
sold my coat.  As it happened, I had not money enough with me, but
sufficient at home.  I was living at Islington.  Having spoken with the
bookseller, I walked home, took the cash, walked back again, and--carried
the tomes from the west end of Euston Road to a street in Islington far
beyond the _Angel_.  I did it in two journeys--this being the only time
in my life when I thought of Gibbon in avoirdupois.  Twice--three times,
reckoning the walk for the money--did I descend Euston Road and climb
Pentonville on that occasion.  Of the season and the weather I have no
recollection; my joy in the purchase I had made drove out every other
thought.  Except, indeed, of the weight.  I had infinite energy, but not
much muscular strength, and the end of the last journey saw me upon a
chair, perspiring, flaccid, aching--exultant!

The well-to-do person would hear this story with astonishment.  Why did I
not get the bookseller to send me the volumes?  Or, if I could not wait,
was there no omnibus along that London highway?  How could I make the
well-to-do person understand that I did not feel able to afford, that
day, one penny more than I had spent on the book?  No, no, such labour-
saving expenditure did not come within my scope; whatever I enjoyed I
earned it, literally, by the sweat of my brow.  In those days I hardly
knew what it was to travel by omnibus.  I have walked London streets for
twelve and fifteen hours together without ever a thought of saving my
legs, or my time, by paying for waftage.  Being poor as poor can be,
there were certain things I had to renounce, and this was one of them.

Years after, I sold my first edition of Gibbon for even less than it cost
me; it went with a great many other fine books in folio and quarto, which
I could not drag about with me in my constant removals; the man who
bought them spoke of them as "tomb-stones."  Why has Gibbon no market
value?  Often has my heart ached with regret for those quartos.  The joy
of reading the Decline and Fall in that fine type!  The page was
appropriate to the dignity of the subject; the mere sight of it tuned
one's mind.  I suppose I could easily get another copy now; but it would
not be to me what that other was, with its memory of dust and toil.



XIII.


There must be several men of spirit and experiences akin to mine who
remember that little book-shop opposite Portland Road Station.  It had a
peculiar character; the books were of a solid kind--chiefly theology and
classics--and for the most part those old editions which are called
worthless, which have no bibliopolic value, and have been supplanted for
practical use by modern issues.  The bookseller was very much a
gentleman, and this singular fact, together with the extremely low prices
at which his volumes were marked, sometimes inclined me to think that he
kept the shop for mere love of letters.  Things in my eyes inestimable I
have purchased there for a few pence, and I don't think I ever gave more
than a shilling for any volume.  As I once had the opportunity of
perceiving, a young man fresh from class-rooms could only look with
wondering contempt on the antiquated stuff which it rejoiced me to gather
from that kindly stall, or from the richer shelves within.  My _Cicero's
Letters_ for instance: podgy volumes in parchment, with all the notes of
Graevius, Gronovius, and I know not how many other old scholars.  Pooh!
Hopelessly out of date.  But I could never feel that.  I have a deep
affection for Graevius and Gronovius and the rest, and if I knew as much
as they did, I should be well satisfied to rest under the young man's
disdain.  The zeal of learning is never out of date; the example--were
there no more--burns before one as a sacred fire, for ever unquenchable.
In what modern editor shall I find such love and enthusiasm as glows in
the annotations of old scholars?

Even the best editions of our day have so much of the mere school-book;
you feel so often that the man does not regard his author as literature,
but simply as text.  Pedant for pedant, the old is better than the new.



XIV.


To-day's newspaper contains a yard or so of reading about a spring horse-
race.  The sight of it fills me with loathing.  It brings to my mind that
placard I saw at a station in Surrey a year or two ago, advertising
certain races in the neighbourhood.  Here is the poster, as I copied it
into my note-book:

   "Engaged by the Executive to ensure order and comfort to the public
   attending this meeting:--

   14 detectives (racing),
   15 detectives (Scotland Yard),
   7 police inspectors,
   9 police sergeants,
   76 police, and a supernumerary contingent of specially selected men
   from the Army Reserve and the Corps of Commissionaires.

   The above force will be employed solely for the purpose of maintaining
   order and excluding bad characters, etc.  They will have the
   assistance also of a strong force of the Surrey Constabulary."

I remember, once, when I let fall a remark on the subject of horse-racing
among friends chatting together, I was voted "morose."  Is it really
morose to object to public gatherings which their own promoters declare
to be dangerous for all decent folk?  Every one knows that horse-racing
is carried on mainly for the delight and profit of fools, ruffians, and
thieves.  That intelligent men allow themselves to take part in the
affair, and defend their conduct by declaring that their presence
"maintains the character of a sport essentially noble," merely shows that
intelligence can easily enough divest itself of sense and decency.



XV.


Midway in my long walk yesterday, I lunched at a wayside inn.  On the
table lay a copy of a popular magazine.  Glancing over this miscellany, I
found an article, by a woman, on "Lion Hunting," and in this article I
came upon a passage which seemed worth copying.

"As I woke my husband, the lion--which was then about forty yards
off--charged straight towards us, and with my .303 I hit him full in the
chest, as we afterwards discovered, tearing his windpipe to pieces and
breaking his spine.  He charged a second time, and the next shot hit him
through the shoulder, tearing his heart to ribbons."

It would interest me to look upon this heroine of gun and pen.  She is
presumably quite a young woman; probably, when at home, a graceful figure
in drawing-rooms.  I should like to hear her talk, to exchange thoughts
with her.  She would give one a very good idea of the matron of old Rome
who had her seat in the amphitheatre.  Many of those ladies, in private
life, must have been bright and gracious, high-bred and full of agreeable
sentiment; they talked of art and of letters; they could drop a tear over
Lesbia's sparrow; at the same time, they were connoisseurs in torn
windpipes, shattered spines and viscera rent open.  It is not likely that
many of them would have cared to turn their own hands to butchery, and,
for the matter of that, I must suppose that our Lion Huntress of the
popular magazine is rather an exceptional dame; but no doubt she and the
Roman ladies would get on very well together, finding only a few
superficial differences.  The fact that her gory reminiscences are
welcomed by an editor with the popular taste in view is perhaps more
significant than appears either to editor or public.  Were this lady to
write a novel (the chances are she will) it would have the true note of
modern vigour.  Of course her style has been formed by her favourite
reading; more than probably, her ways of thinking and feeling owe much to
the same source.  If not so already, this will soon, I daresay, be the
typical Englishwoman.  Certainly, there is "no nonsense about her."  Such
women should breed a remarkable race.

I left the inn in rather a turbid humour.  Moving homeward by a new way,
I presently found myself on the side of a little valley, in which lay a
farm and an orchard.  The apple trees were in full bloom, and, as I stood
gazing, the sun, which had all that day been niggard of its beams, burst
forth gloriously.  For what I then saw, I have no words; I can but dream
of the still loveliness of that blossomed valley.  Near me, a bee was
humming; not far away, a cuckoo called; from the pasture of the farm
below came a bleating of lambs.



XVI.


I am no friend of the people.  As a force, by which the tenor of the time
is conditioned, they inspire me with distrust, with fear; as a visible
multitude, they make me shrink aloof, and often move me to abhorrence.
For the greater part of my life, the people signified to me the London
crowd, and no phrase of temperate meaning would utter my thoughts of them
under that aspect.  The people as country-folk are little known to me;
such glimpses as I have had of them do not invite to nearer acquaintance.
Every instinct of my being is anti-democratic, and I dread to think of
what our England may become when Demos rules irresistibly.

Right or wrong, this is my temper.  But he who should argue from it that
I am intolerant of all persons belonging to a lower social rank than my
own would go far astray.  Nothing is more rooted in my mind than the vast
distinction between the individual and the class.  Take a man by himself,
and there is generally some reason to be found in him, some disposition
for good; mass him with his fellows in the social organism, and ten to
one he becomes a blatant creature, without a thought of his own, ready
for any evil to which contagion prompts him.  It is because nations tend
to stupidity and baseness that mankind moves so slowly; it is because
individuals have a capacity for better things that it moves at all.

In my youth, looking at this man and that, I marvelled that humanity had
made so little progress.  Now, looking at men in the multitude, I marvel
that they have advanced so far.

Foolishly arrogant as I was, I used to judge the worth of a person by his
intellectual power and attainment.  I could see no good where there was
no logic, no charm where there was no learning.  Now I think that one has
to distinguish between two forms of intelligence, that of the brain, and
that of the heart, and I have come to regard the second as by far the
more important.  I guard myself against saying that intelligence does not
matter; the fool is ever as noxious as he is wearisome.  But assuredly
the best people I have known were saved from folly not by the intellect
but by the heart.  They come before me, and I see them greatly ignorant,
strongly prejudiced, capable of the absurdest mis-reasoning; yet their
faces shine with the supreme virtues, kindness, sweetness, modesty,
generosity.  Possessing these qualities, they at the same time understand
how to use them; they have the intelligence of the heart.

This poor woman who labours for me in my house is even such a one.  From
the first I thought her an unusually good servant; after three years of
acquaintance, I find her one of the few women I have known who merit the
term of excellent.  She can read and write--that is all.  More
instruction would, I am sure, have harmed her, for it would have confused
her natural motives, without supplying any clear ray of mental guidance.
She is fulfilling the offices for which she was born, and that with a
grace of contentment, a joy of conscientiousness, which puts her high
among civilized beings.  Her delight is in order and in peace; what
greater praise can be given to any of the children of men?

The other day she told me a story of the days gone by.  Her mother, at
the age of twelve, went into domestic service; but on what conditions,
think you?  The girl's father, an honest labouring man, _paid_ the person
whose house she entered one shilling a week for her instruction in the
duties she wished to undertake.  What a grinning stare would come to the
face of any labourer nowadays, who should be asked to do the like!  I no
longer wonder that my housekeeper so little resembles the average of her
kind.



XVII.


A day of almost continuous rain, yet for me a day of delight.  I had
breakfasted, and was poring over the map of Devon (how I love a good
map!) to trace an expedition that I have in view, when a knock came at my
door, and Mrs. M. bore in a great brown-paper parcel, which I saw at a
glance must contain books.  The order was sent to London a few days ago;
I had not expected to have my books so soon.  With throbbing heart I set
the parcel on a clear table; eyed it whilst I mended the fire; then took
my pen-knife, and gravely, deliberately, though with hand that trembled,
began to unpack.

It is a joy to go through booksellers' catalogues, ticking here and there
a possible purchase.  Formerly, when I could seldom spare money, I kept
catalogues as much as possible out of sight; now I savour them page by
page, and make a pleasant virtue of the discretion I must needs impose
upon myself.  But greater still is the happiness of unpacking volumes
which one has bought without seeing them.  I am no hunter of rarities; I
care nothing for first editions and for tall copies; what I buy is
literature, food for the soul of man.  The first glimpse of bindings when
the inmost protective wrapper has been folded back!  The first scent of
_books_!  The first gleam of a gilded title!  Here is a work the name of
which has been known to me for half a lifetime, but which I never yet
saw; I take it reverently in my hand, gently I open it; my eyes are dim
with excitement as I glance over chapter-headings, and anticipate the
treat which awaits me.  Who, more than I, has taken to heart that
sentence of the _Imitatio_--"In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam
inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"?

I had in me the making of a scholar.  With leisure and tranquillity of
mind, I should have amassed learning.  Within the walls of a college, I
should have lived so happily, so harmlessly, my imagination ever busy
with the old world.  In the introduction to his History of France,
Michelet says: "J'ai passe a cote du monde, et j'ai pris l'histoire pour
la vie."  That, as I can see now, was my true ideal; through all my
battlings and miseries I have always lived more in the past than in the
present.  At the time when I was literally starving in London, when it
seemed impossible that I should ever gain a living by my pen, how many
days have I spent at the British Museum, reading as disinterestedly as if
I had been without a care!  It astounds me to remember that, having
breakfasted on dry bread, and carrying in my pocket another piece of
bread to serve for dinner, I settled myself at a desk in the great
Reading-Room with books before me which by no possibility could be a
source of immediate profit.  At such a time, I worked through German
tomes on Ancient Philosophy.  At such a time, I read Appuleius and
Lucian, Petronius and the Greek Anthology, Diogenes Laertius and--heaven
knows what!  My hunger was forgotten; the garret to which I must return
to pass the night never perturbed my thoughts.  On the whole, it seems to
me something to be rather proud of; I smile approvingly at that thin,
white-faced youth.  Me?  My very self?  No, no!  He has been dead these
thirty years.

Scholarship in the high sense was denied me, and now it is too late.  Yet
here am I gloating over Pausanias, and promising myself to read every
word of him.  Who that has any tincture of old letters would not like to
read Pausanias, instead of mere quotations from him and references to
him?  Here are the volumes of Dahn's _Die Konige der Germanen_: who would
not like to know all he can about the Teutonic conquerors of Rome?  And
so on, and so on.  To the end I shall be reading--and forgetting.  Ah,
that's the worst of it!  Had I at command all the knowledge I have at any
time possessed, I might call myself a learned man.  Nothing surely is so
bad for the memory as long-enduring worry, agitation, fear.  I cannot
preserve more than a few fragments of what I read, yet read I shall,
persistently, rejoicingly.  Would I gather erudition for a future life?
Indeed, it no longer troubles me that I forget.  I have the happiness of
the passing moment, and what more can mortal ask?



XVIII.


Is it I, Henry Ryecroft, who, after a night of untroubled rest, rise
unhurriedly, dress with the deliberation of an oldish man, and go
downstairs happy in the thought that I can sit reading, quietly reading,
all day long?  Is it I, Henry Ryecroft, the harassed toiler of so many a
long year?

I dare not think of those I have left behind me, there in the ink-stained
world.  It would make me miserable, and to what purpose?  Yet, having
once looked that way, think of them I must.  Oh, you heavy-laden, who at
this hour sit down to the cursed travail of the pen; writing, not because
there is something in your mind, in your heart, which must needs be
uttered, but because the pen is the only tool you can handle, your only
means of earning bread!  Year after year the number of you is multiplied;
you crowd the doors of publishers and editors, hustling, grappling,
exchanging maledictions.  Oh, sorry spectacle, grotesque and
heart-breaking!

Innumerable are the men and women now writing for bread, who have not the
least chance of finding in such work a permanent livelihood.  They took
to writing because they knew not what else to do, or because the literary
calling tempted them by its independence and its dazzling prizes.  They
will hang on to the squalid profession, their earnings eked out by
begging and borrowing, until it is too late for them to do anything
else--and then?  With a lifetime of dread experience behind me, I say
that he who encourages any young man or woman to look for his living to
"literature," commits no less than a crime.  If my voice had any
authority, I would cry this truth aloud wherever men could hear.  Hateful
as is the struggle for life in every form, this rough-and-tumble of the
literary arena seems to me sordid and degrading beyond all others.  Oh,
your prices per thousand words!  Oh, your paragraphings and your
interviewings!  And oh, the black despair that awaits those down-trodden
in the fray.

Last midsummer I received a circular from a typewriting person,
soliciting my custom; some one who had somehow got hold of my name, and
fancied me to be still in purgatory.  This person wrote: "If you should
be in need of any extra assistance in the pressure of your Christmas
work, I hope," etc.

How otherwise could one write if addressing a shopkeeper?  "The pressure
of your Christmas work"!  Nay, I am too sick to laugh.



XIX.


Some one, I see, is lifting up his sweet voice in praise of Conscription.
It is only at long intervals that one reads this kind of thing in our
reviews or newspapers, and I am happy in believing that most English
people are affected by it even as I am, with the sickness of dread and of
disgust.  That the thing is impossible in England, who would venture to
say?  Every one who can think at all sees how slight are our safeguards
against that barbaric force in man which the privileged races have so
slowly and painfully brought into check.  Democracy is full of menace to
all the finer hopes of civilization, and the revival, in not unnatural
companionship with it, of monarchic power based on militarism, makes the
prospect dubious enough.  There has but to arise some Lord of Slaughter,
and the nations will be tearing at each other's throats.  Let England be
imperilled, and Englishmen will fight; in such extremity there is no
choice.  But what a dreary change must come upon our islanders if,
without instant danger, they bend beneath the curse of universal
soldiering!  I like to think that they will guard the liberty of their
manhood even beyond the point of prudence.

A lettered German, speaking to me once of his year of military service,
told me that, had it lasted but a month or two longer, he must have
sought release in suicide.  I know very well that my own courage would
not have borne me to the end of the twelvemonth; humiliation, resentment,
loathing, would have goaded me to madness.  At school we used to be
"drilled" in the playground once a week; I have but to think of it, even
after forty years, and there comes back upon me that tremor of passionate
misery which, at the time, often made me ill.  The senseless routine of
mechanic exercise was in itself all but unendurable to me; I hated the
standing in line, the thrusting-out of arms and legs at a signal, the
thud of feet stamping in constrained unison.  The loss of individuality
seemed to me sheer disgrace.  And when, as often happened, the
drill-sergeant rebuked me for some inefficiency as I stood in line, when
he addressed me as "Number Seven!"  I burned with shame and rage.  I was
no longer a human being; I had become part of a machine, and my name was
"Number Seven."  It used to astonish me when I had a neighbour who went
through the drill with amusement, with zealous energy; I would gaze at
the boy, and ask myself how it was possible that he and I should feel so
differently.  To be sure, nearly all my schoolfellows either enjoyed the
thing, or at all events went through it with indifference; they made
friends with the sergeant, and some were proud of walking with him "out
of bounds."  Left, right!  Left, right!  For my own part, I think I have
never hated man as I hated that broad-shouldered, hard-visaged, brassy-
voiced fellow.  Every word he spoke to me, I felt as an insult.  Seeing
him in the distance, I have turned and fled, to escape the necessity of
saluting, and, still more, a quiver of the nerves which affected me so
painfully.  If ever a man did me harm, it was he; harm physical and
moral.  In all seriousness I believe that something of the nervous
instability from which I have suffered since boyhood is traceable to
those accursed hours of drill, and I am very sure that I can date from
the same wretched moments a fierceness of personal pride which has been
one of my most troublesome characteristics.  The disposition, of course,
was there; it should have been modified, not exacerbated.

In younger manhood it would have flattered me to think that I alone on
the school drill-ground had sensibility enough to suffer acutely.  Now I
had much rather feel assured that many of my schoolfellows were in the
same mind of subdued revolt.  Even of those who, boylike, enjoyed their
drill, scarce one or two, I trust, would have welcomed in their prime of
life the imposition of military servitude upon them and their countrymen.
From a certain point of view, it would be better far that England should
bleed under conquest than that she should be saved by eager, or careless,
acceptance of Conscription.  That view will not be held by the English
people; but it would be a sorry thing for England if the day came when no
one of those who love her harboured such a thought.



XX.


It has occurred to me that one might define Art as: an expression,
satisfying and abiding, of the zest of life.  This is applicable to every
form of Art devised by man, for, in his creative moment, whether he
produce a great drama or carve a piece of foliage in wood, the artist is
moved and inspired by supreme enjoyment of some aspect of the world about
him; an enjoyment in itself keener than that experienced by another man,
and intensified, prolonged, by the power--which comes to him we know not
how--of recording in visible or audible form that emotion of rare
vitality.  Art, in some degree, is within the scope of every human being,
were he but the ploughman who utters a few would-be melodious notes, the
mere outcome of health and strength, in the field at sunrise; he sings,
or tries to, prompted by an unusual gusto in being, and the rude stave is
all his own.  Another was he, who also at the plough, sang of the daisy,
of the field-mouse, or shaped the rhythmic tale of Tam o' Shanter.  Not
only had life a zest for him incalculably stronger and subtler than that
which stirs the soul of Hodge, but he uttered it in word and music such
as go to the heart of mankind, and hold a magic power for ages.

For some years there has been a great deal of talk about Art in our
country.  It began, I suspect, when the veritable artistic impulse of the
Victorian time had flagged, when the energy of a great time was all but
exhausted.  Principles always become a matter of vehement discussion when
practice is at ebb.  Not by taking thought does one become an artist, or
grow even an inch in that direction--which is not at all the same as
saying that he who _is_ an artist cannot profit by conscious effort.
Goethe (the example so often urged by imitators unlike him in every
feature of humanity) took thought enough about his Faust; but what of
those youthtime lyrics, not the least precious of his achievements, which
were scribbled as fast as pen could go, thwartwise on the paper, because
he could not stop to set it straight?  Dare I pen, even for my own eyes,
the venerable truth that an artist is born and not made?  It seems not
superfluous, in times which have heard disdainful criticism of Scott, on
the ground that he had no artistic conscience, that he scribbled without
a thought of style, that he never elaborated his scheme before
beginning--as Flaubert, of course you know, invariably did.  Why, after
all, has one not heard that a certain William Shakespeare turned out his
so-called works of art with something like criminal carelessness?  Is it
not a fact that a bungler named Cervantes was so little in earnest about
his Art that, having in one chapter described the stealing of Sancho's
donkey, he presently, in mere forgetfulness, shows us Sancho riding on
Dapple, as if nothing had happened?  Does not one Thackeray shamelessly
avow on the last page of a grossly "subjective" novel that he had killed
Lord Farintosh's mother at one page and brought her to life again at
another?  These sinners against Art are none the less among the world's
supreme artists, for they _lived_, in a sense, in a degree,
unintelligible to these critics of theirs, and their work is an
expression, satisfying and abiding, of the zest of life.

Some one, no doubt, hit upon this definition of mine long ago.  It
doesn't matter; is it the less original with me?  Not long since I should
have fretted over the possibility, for my living depended on an avoidance
of even seeming plagiarism.  Now I am at one with Lord Foppington, and
much disposed to take pleasure in the natural sprouts of my own
wit--without troubling whether the same idea has occurred to others.
Suppose me, in total ignorance of Euclid, to have discovered even the
simplest of his geometrical demonstrations, shall I be crestfallen when
some one draws attention to the book?  These natural sprouts are, after
all, the best products of our life; it is a mere accident that they may
have no value in the world's market.  One of my conscious efforts, in
these days of freedom, is to live intellectually for myself.  Formerly,
when in reading I came upon anything that impressed or delighted me, down
it went in my note-book, for "use."  I could not read a striking verse,
or sentence of prose, without thinking of it as an apt quotation in
something I might write--one of the evil results of a literary life.  Now
that I strive to repel this habit of thought, I find myself asking: To
what end, then, do I read and remember?  Surely as foolish a question as
ever man put to himself.  You read for your own pleasure, for your solace
and strengthening.  Pleasure, then, purely selfish?  Solace which endures
for an hour, and strengthening for no combat?  Ay, but I know, I know.
With what heart should I live here in my cottage, waiting for life's end,
were it not for those hours of seeming idle reading?

I think sometimes, how good it were had I some one by me to listen when I
am tempted to read a passage aloud.  Yes, but is there any mortal in the
whole world upon whom I could invariably depend for sympathetic
understanding?--nay, who would even generally be at one with me in my
appreciation.  Such harmony of intelligences is the rarest thing.  All
through life we long for it: the desire drives us, like a demon, into
waste places; too often ends by plunging us into mud and morass.  And,
after all, we learn that the vision was illusory.  To every man is it
decreed: thou shalt live alone.  Happy they who imagine that they have
escaped the common lot; happy, whilst they imagine it.  Those to whom no
such happiness has ever been granted at least avoid the bitterest of
disillusions.  And is it not always good to face a truth, however
discomfortable?  The mind which renounces, once and for ever, a futile
hope, has its compensation in ever-growing calm.



XXI.


All about my garden to-day the birds are loud.  To say that the air is
filled with their song gives no idea of the ceaseless piping, whistling,
trilling, which at moments rings to heaven in a triumphant unison, a wild
accord.  Now and then I notice one of the smaller songsters who seems to
strain his throat in a madly joyous endeavour to out-carol all the rest.
It is a chorus of praise such as none other of earth's children have the
voice or the heart to utter.  As I listen, I am carried away by its
glorious rapture; my being melts in the tenderness of an impassioned joy;
my eyes are dim with I know not what profound humility.



XXII.


Were one to look at the literary journals only, and thereafter judge of
the time, it would be easy to persuade oneself that civilization had
indeed made great and solid progress, and that the world stood at a very
hopeful stage of enlightenment.  Week after week, I glance over these
pages of crowded advertisement; I see a great many publishing-houses
zealously active in putting forth every kind of book, new and old; I see
names innumerable of workers in every branch of literature.  Much that is
announced declares itself at once of merely ephemeral import, or even of
no import at all; but what masses of print which invite the attention of
thoughtful or studious folk!  To the multitude is offered a long
succession of classic authors, in beautiful form, at a minimum cost;
never were such treasures so cheaply and so gracefully set before all who
can prize them.  For the wealthy, there are volumes magnificent; lordly
editions; works of art whereon have been lavished care and skill and
expense incalculable.  Here is exhibited the learning of the whole world
and of all the ages; be a man's study what it will, in these columns, at
one time or another he shall find that which appeals to him.  Here are
labours of the erudite, exercised on every subject that falls within
learning's scope.  Science brings forth its newest discoveries in earth
and heaven; it speaks to the philosopher in his solitude, and to the
crowd in the market-place.  Curious pursuits of the mind at leisure are
represented in publications numberless; trifles and oddities of
intellectual savour; gatherings from every byway of human interest.  For
other moods there are the fabulists; to tell truth, they commonly hold
the place of honour in these varied lists.  Who shall count them?  Who
shall calculate their readers?  Builders of verse are many; yet the
observer will note that contemporary poets have but an inconspicuous
standing in this index of the public taste.  Travel, on the other hand,
is largely represented; the general appetite for information about lands
remote would appear to be only less keen than for the adventures of
romance.

With these pages before one's eyes, must one not needs believe that
things of the mind are a prime concern of our day?  Who are the
purchasers of these volumes ever pouring from the press?  How is it
possible for so great a commerce to flourish save as a consequence of
national eagerness in this intellectual domain?  Surely one must take for
granted that throughout the land, in town and country, private libraries
are growing apace; that by the people at large a great deal of time is
devoted to reading; that literary ambition is one of the commonest spurs
to effort?

It is the truth.  All this may be said of contemporary England.  But is
it enough to set one's mind at ease regarding the outlook of our
civilization?

Two things must be remembered.  However considerable this literary
traffic, regarded by itself, it is relatively of small extent.  And, in
the second place, literary activity is by no means an invariable proof of
that mental attitude which marks the truly civilized man.

Lay aside the "literary organ," which appears once a week, and take up
the newspaper, which comes forth every day, morning and evening.  Here
you get the true proportion of things.  Read your daily news-sheet--that
which costs threepence or that which costs a halfpenny--and muse upon the
impression it leaves.  It may be that a few books are "noticed"; granting
that the "notice" is in any way noticeable, compare the space it occupies
with that devoted to the material interests of life: you have a gauge of
the real importance of intellectual endeavour to the people at large.  No,
the public which reads, in any sense of the word worth considering, is
very, very small; the public which would feel no lack if all
book-printing ceased to-morrow, is enormous.  These announcements of
learned works which strike one as so encouraging, are addressed, as a
matter of fact, to a few thousand persons, scattered all over the English-
speaking world.  Many of the most valuable books slowly achieve the sale
of a few hundred copies.  Gather from all the ends of the British Empire
the men and women who purchase grave literature as a matter of course,
who habitually seek it in public libraries, in short who regard it as a
necessity of life, and I am much mistaken if they could not comfortably
assemble in the Albert Hall.

But even granting this, is it not an obvious fact that our age tends to
the civilized habit of mind, as displayed in a love for intellectual
things?  Was there ever a time which saw the literature of knowledge and
of the emotions so widely distributed?  Does not the minority of the
truly intelligent exercise a vast and profound influence?  Does it not in
truth lead the way, however slowly and irregularly the multitude may
follow?

I should like to believe it.  When gloomy evidence is thrust upon me, I
often say to myself: Think of the frequency of the reasonable man; think
of him everywhere labouring to spread the light; how is it possible that
such efforts should be overborne by forces of blind brutality, now that
the human race has got so far?--Yes, yes; but this mortal whom I caress
as reasonable, as enlightened and enlightening, this author,
investigator, lecturer, or studious gentleman, to whose coat-tails I
cling, does he always represent justice and peace, sweetness of manners,
purity of life--all the things which makes for true civilization?  Here
is a fallacy of bookish thought.  Experience offers proof on every hand
that vigorous mental life may be but one side of a personality, of which
the other is moral barbarism.  A man may be a fine archaeologist, and yet
have no sympathy with human ideals.  The historian, the biographer, even
the poet, may be a money-market gambler, a social toady, a clamorous
Chauvinist, or an unscrupulous wire-puller.  As for "leaders of science,"
what optimist will dare to proclaim them on the side of the gentle
virtues?  And if one must needs think in this way of those who stand
forth, professed instructors and inspirers, what of those who merely
listen?  The reading-public--oh, the reading-public!  Hardly will a
prudent statistician venture to declare that one in every score of those
who actually read sterling books do so with comprehension of their
author.  These dainty series of noble and delightful works, which have so
seemingly wide an acceptance, think you they vouch for true appreciation
in all who buy them?  Remember those who purchase to follow the fashion,
to impose upon their neighbour, or even to flatter themselves; think of
those who wish to make cheap presents, and those who are merely pleased
by the outer aspect of the volume.  Above all, bear in mind that busy
throng whose zeal is according neither to knowledge nor to conviction,
the host of the half-educated, characteristic and peril of our time.
They, indeed, purchase and purchase largely.  Heaven forbid that I should
not recognize the few among them whose bent of brain and of conscience
justifies their fervour; to such--the ten in ten thousand--be all aid and
brotherly solace!  But the glib many, the perky mispronouncers of titles
and of authors' names, the twanging murderers of rhythm, the maulers of
the uncut edge at sixpence extra, the ready-reckoners of bibliopolic
discount--am I to see in these a witness of my hope for the century to
come?

I am told that their semi-education will be integrated.  We are in a
transition stage, between the bad old time when only a few had academic
privileges, and that happy future which will see all men liberally
instructed.  Unfortunately for this argument, education is a thing of
which only the few are capable; teach as you will, only a small
percentage will profit by your most zealous energy.  On an ungenerous
soil it is vain to look for rich crops.  Your average mortal will be your
average mortal still: and if he grow conscious of power, if he becomes
vocal and self-assertive, if he get into his hands all the material
resources of the country, why, you have a state of things such as at
present looms menacingly before every Englishman blessed--or cursed--with
an unpopular spirit.



XXIII.


Every morning when I awake, I thank heaven for silence.  This is my
orison.  I remember the London days when sleep was broken by clash and
clang, by roar and shriek, and when my first sense on returning to
consciousness was hatred of the life about me.  Noises of wood and metal,
clattering of wheels, banging of implements, jangling of bells--all such
things are bad enough, but worse still is the clamorous human voice.
Nothing on earth is more irritating to me than a bellow or scream of
idiot mirth, nothing more hateful than a shout or yell of brutal anger.
Were it possible, I would never again hear the utterance of a human
tongue, save from those few who are dear to me.

Here, wake at what hour I may, early or late, I lie amid gracious
stillness.  Perchance a horse's hoof rings rhythmically upon the road;
perhaps a dog barks from a neighbour farm; it may be that there comes the
far, soft murmur of a train from the other side of Exe; but these are
almost the only sounds that could force themselves upon my ear.  A voice,
at any time of the day, is the rarest thing.

But there is the rustle of branches in the morning breeze; there is the
music of a sunny shower against the window; there is the matin song of
birds.  Several times lately I have lain wakeful when there sounded the
first note of the earliest lark; it makes me almost glad of my restless
nights.  The only trouble that touches me in these moments is the thought
of my long life wasted amid the senseless noises of man's world.  Year
after year this spot has known the same tranquillity; with ever so little
of good fortune, with ever so little wisdom, beyond what was granted me,
I might have blessed my manhood with calm, might have made for myself in
later life a long retrospect of bowered peace.  As it is, I enjoy with
something of sadness, remembering that this melodious silence is but the
prelude of that deeper stillness which waits to enfold us all.



XXIV.


Morning after morning, of late, I have taken my walk in the same
direction, my purpose being to look at a plantation of young larches.
There is no lovelier colour on earth than that in which they are now
clad; it seems to refresh as well as gladden my eyes, and its influence
sinks deep into my heart.  Too soon it will change; already I think the
first radiant verdure has begun to pass into summer's soberness.  The
larch has its moment of unmatched beauty--and well for him whose chance
permits him to enjoy it, spring after spring.

Could anything be more wonderful than the fact that here am I, day by
day, not only at leisure to walk forth and gaze at the larches, but
blessed with the tranquillity of mind needful for such enjoyment?  On any
morning of spring sunshine, how many mortals find themselves so much at
peace that they are able to give themselves wholly to delight in the
glory of heaven and of earth?  Is it the case with one man in every fifty
thousand?  Consider what extraordinary kindness of fate must tend upon
one, that not a care, not a preoccupation, should interfere with his
contemplative thought for five or six days successively!  So rooted in
the human mind (and so reasonably rooted) is the belief in an Envious
Power, that I ask myself whether I shall not have to pay, by some
disaster, for this period of sacred calm.  For a week or so I have been
one of a small number, chosen out of the whole human race by fate's
supreme benediction.  It may be that this comes to every one in turn; to
most, it can only be once in a lifetime, and so briefly.  That my own lot
seems so much better than that of ordinary men, sometimes makes me
fearful.



XXV.


Walking in a favourite lane to-day, I found it covered with shed blossoms
of the hawthorn.  Creamy white, fragrant even in ruin, lay scattered the
glory of the May.  It told me that spring is over.

Have I enjoyed it as I should?  Since the day that brought me freedom,
four times have I seen the year's new birth, and always, as the violet
yielded to the rose, I have known a fear that I had not sufficiently
prized this boon of heaven whilst it was with me.  Many hours I have
spent shut up among my books, when I might have been in the meadows.  Was
the gain equivalent?  Doubtfully, diffidently, I hearken what the mind
can plead.

I recall my moments of delight, the recognition of each flower that
unfolded, the surprise of budding branches clothed in a night with green.
The first snowy gleam upon the blackthorn did not escape me.  By its
familiar bank, I watched for the earliest primrose, and in its copse I
found the anemone.  Meadows shining with buttercups, hollows sunned with
the marsh marigold held me long at gaze.  I saw the sallow glistening
with its cones of silvery fur, and splendid with dust of gold.  These
common things touch me with more of admiration and of wonder each time I
behold them.  They are once more gone.  As I turn to summer, a misgiving
mingles with my joy.




SUMMER


I.


To-day, as I was reading in the garden, a waft of summer perfume--some
hidden link of association in what I read--I know not what it may have
been--took me back to school-boy holidays; I recovered with strange
intensity that lightsome mood of long release from tasks, of going away
to the seaside, which is one of childhood's blessings.  I was in the
train; no rushing express, such as bears you great distances; the sober
train which goes to no place of importance, which lets you see the white
steam of the engine float and fall upon a meadow ere you pass.  Thanks to
a good and wise father, we youngsters saw nothing of seaside places where
crowds assemble; I am speaking, too, of a time more than forty years ago,
when it was still possible to find on the coasts of northern England,
east or west, spots known only to those who loved the shore for its
beauty and its solitude.  At every station the train stopped; little
stations, decked with beds of flowers, smelling warm in the sunshine
where country-folk got in with baskets, and talked in an unfamiliar
dialect, an English which to us sounded almost like a foreign tongue.
Then the first glimpse of the sea; the excitement of noting whether tide
was high or low--stretches of sand and weedy pools, or halcyon wavelets
frothing at their furthest reach, under the sea-banks starred with
convolvulus.  Of a sudden, _our_ station!

Ah, that taste of the brine on a child's lips!  Nowadays, I can take
holiday when I will, and go whithersoever it pleases me; but that salt
kiss of the sea air I shall never know again.  My senses are dulled; I
cannot get so near to Nature; I have a sorry dread of her clouds, her
winds, and must walk with tedious circumspection where once I ran and
leapt exultingly.  Were it possible, but for one half-hour, to plunge and
bask in the sunny surf, to roll on the silvery sand-hills, to leap from
rock to rock on shining sea-ferns, laughing if I slipped into the
shallows among starfish and anemones!  I am much older in body than in
mind; I can but look at what I once enjoyed.



II.


I have been spending a week in Somerset.  The right June weather put me
in the mind for rambling, and my thoughts turned to the Severn Sea.  I
went to Glastonbury and Wells, and on to Cheddar, and so to the shore of
the Channel at Clevedon, remembering my holiday of fifteen years ago, and
too often losing myself in a contrast of the man I was then and what I am
now.  Beautiful beyond all words of description that nook of oldest
England; but that I feared the moist and misty winter climate, I should
have chosen some spot below the Mendips for my home and resting-place.
Unspeakable the charm to my ear of those old names; exquisite the quiet
of those little towns, lost amid tilth and pasture, untouched as yet by
the fury of modern life, their ancient sanctuaries guarded, as it were,
by noble trees and hedges overrun with flowers.  In all England there is
no sweeter and more varied prospect than that from the hill of the Holy
Thorn at Glastonbury; in all England there is no lovelier musing place
than the leafy walk beside the Palace Moat at Wells.  As I think of the
golden hours I spent there, a passion to which I can give no name takes
hold upon me; my heart trembles with an indefinable ecstasy.

There was a time of my life when I was consumed with a desire for foreign
travel; an impatience of everything familiar fretted me through all the
changing year.  If I had not at length found the opportunity to escape,
if I had not seen the landscapes for which my soul longed, I think I must
have moped to death.  Few men, assuredly, have enjoyed such wanderings
more than I, and few men revive them in memory with a richer delight or
deeper longing.  But--whatever temptation comes to me in mellow autumn,
when I think of the grape and of the olive--I do not believe I shall ever
again cross the sea.  What remains to me of life and of energy is far too
little for the enjoyment of all I know, and all I wish to know, of this
dear island.

As a child I used to sleep in a room hung round with prints after English
landscape painters--those steel engravings so common half a century ago,
which bore the legend, "From the picture in the Vernon Gallery."  Far
more than I knew at the time, these pictures impressed me; I gazed and
gazed at them, with that fixed attention of a child which is half
curiosity, half reverie, till every line of them was fixed in my mind; at
this moment I see the black-and-white landscapes as if they were hanging
on the wall before me, and I have often thought that this early training
of the imagination--for such it was--has much to do with the passionate
love of rural scenery which lurked within me even when I did not
recognize it, and which now for many a year has been one of the emotions
directing my life.  Perhaps, too, that early memory explains why I love a
good black-and-white print even more than a good painting.  And--to draw
yet another inference--here may be a reason for the fact that, through my
youth and early manhood, I found more pleasure in Nature as represented
by art than in Nature herself.  Even during that strange time when
hardships and passions held me captive far from any glimpse of the
flowering earth, I could be moved, and moved deeply, by a picture of the
simplest rustic scene.  At rare moments, when a happy chance led me into
the National Gallery, I used to stand long before such pictures as "The
Valley Farm," "The Cornfield," "Mousehold Heath."  In the murk confusion
of my heart these visions of the world of peace and beauty from which I
was excluded--to which, indeed, I hardly ever gave a thought--touched me
to deep emotion.  But it did not need--nor does it now--the magic of a
master to awake that mood in me.  Let me but come upon the poorest little
woodcut, the cheapest "process" illustration, representing a thatched
cottage, a lane, a field, and I hear that music begin to murmur.  It is a
passion--Heaven be thanked--that grows with my advancing years.  The last
thought of my brain as I lie dying will be that of sunshine upon an
English meadow.



III.


Sitting in my garden amid the evening scent of roses, I have read through
Walton's _Life of Hooker_; could any place and time have been more
appropriate?  Almost within sight is the tower of Heavitree
church--Heavitree, which was Hooker's birthplace.  In other parts of
England he must often have thought of these meadows falling to the green
valley of the Exe, and of the sun setting behind the pines of Haldon.
Hooker loved the country.  Delightful to me, and infinitely touching, is
that request of his to be transferred from London to a rural
living--"where I can see God's blessing spring out of the earth."  And
that glimpse of him where he was found tending sheep, with a Horace in
his hand.  It was in rural solitudes that he conceived the rhythm of
mighty prose.  What music of the spheres sang to that poor,
vixen-haunted, pimply-faced man!

The last few pages I read by the light of the full moon, that of
afterglow having till then sufficed me.  Oh, why has it not been granted
me in all my long years of pen-labour to write something small and
perfect, even as one of these lives of honest Izaak!  Here is literature,
look you--not "literary work."  Let me be thankful that I have the mind
to enjoy it; not only to understand, but to savour, its great goodness.



IV.


It is Sunday morning, and above earth's beauty shines the purest, softest
sky this summer has yet gladdened us withal.  My window is thrown open; I
see the sunny gleam upon garden leaves and flowers; I hear the birds
whose wont it is to sing to me; ever and anon the martins that have their
home beneath my eaves sweep past in silence.  Church bells have begun to
chime; I know the music of their voices, near and far.

There was a time when it delighted me to flash my satire on the English
Sunday; I could see nothing but antiquated foolishness and modern
hypocrisy in this weekly pause from labour and from bustle.  Now I prize
it as an inestimable boon, and dread every encroachment upon its restful
stillness.  Scoff as I might at "Sabbatarianism," was I not always glad
when Sunday came?  The bells of London churches and chapels are not
soothing to the ear, but when I remember their sound--even that of the
most aggressively pharisaic conventicle, with its one dire clapper--I
find it associated with a sense of repose, of liberty.  This day of the
seven I granted to my better genius; work was put aside, and, when Heaven
permitted, trouble forgotten.

When out of England I have always missed this Sunday quietude, this
difference from ordinary days which seems to affect the very atmosphere.
It is not enough that people should go to church, that shops should be
closed and workyards silent; these holiday notes do not make a Sunday.
Think as one may of its significance, our Day of Rest has a peculiar
sanctity, felt, I imagine, in a more or less vague way, even by those who
wish to see the village lads at cricket and theatres open in the town.
The idea is surely as good a one as ever came to heavy-laden mortals; let
one whole day in every week be removed from the common life of the world,
lifted above common pleasures as above common cares.  With all the abuses
of fanaticism, this thought remained rich in blessings; Sunday has always
brought large good to the generality, and to a chosen number has been the
very life of the soul, however heretically some of them understood the
words.  If its ancient use perish from among us, so much the worse for
our country.  And perish no doubt it will; only here in rustic solitude
can one forget the changes that have already made the day less sacred to
multitudes.  With it will vanish that habit of periodic calm, which, even
when it has become so largely void of conscious meaning, is, one may
safely say, the best spiritual boon ever bestowed upon a people.  The
most difficult of all things to attain, the most difficult of all to
preserve, the supreme benediction of the noblest mind, this calm was once
breathed over the whole land as often as sounded the last stroke of
weekly toil; on Saturday at even began the quiet and the solace.  With
the decline of old faith, Sunday cannot but lose its sanction, and no
loss among the innumerable that we are suffering will work so effectually
for popular vulgarization.  What hope is there of guarding the moral
beauty of the day when the authority which set it apart is no longer
recognized?--Imagine a bank-holiday once a week!



V.


On Sunday I come down later than usual; I make a change of dress, for it
is fitting that the day of spiritual rest should lay aside the livery of
the laborious week.  For me, indeed, there is no labour at any time, but
nevertheless does Sunday bring me repose.  I share in the common
tranquillity; my thought escapes the workaday world more completely than
on other days.

It is not easy to see how this house of mine can make to itself a Sunday
quiet, for at all times it is well-nigh soundless; yet I find a
difference.  My housekeeper comes into the room with her Sunday smile;
she is happier for the day, and the sight of her happiness gives me
pleasure.  She speaks, if possible, in a softer voice; she wears a
garment which reminds me that there is only the lightest and cleanest
housework to be done.  She will go to church, morning and evening, and I
know that she is better for it.  During her absence I sometimes look into
rooms which on other days I never enter; it is merely to gladden my eyes
with the shining cleanliness, the perfect order, I am sure to find in the
good woman's domain.  But for that spotless and sweet-smelling kitchen,
what would it avail me to range my books and hang my pictures?  All the
tranquillity of my life depends upon the honest care of this woman who
lives and works unseen.  And I am sure that the money I pay her is the
least part of her reward.  She is such an old-fashioned person that the
mere discharge of what she deems a duty is in itself an end to her, and
the work of her hands in itself a satisfaction, a pride.

When a child, I was permitted to handle on Sunday certain books which
could not be exposed to the more careless usage of common days; volumes
finely illustrated, or the more handsome editions of familiar authors, or
works which, merely by their bulk, demanded special care.  Happily, these
books were all of the higher rank in literature, and so there came to be
established in my mind an association between the day of rest and names
which are the greatest in verse and prose.  Through my life this habit
has remained with me; I have always wished to spend some part of the
Sunday quiet with books which, at most times, it is fatally easy to leave
aside, one's very knowledge and love of them serving as an excuse for
their neglect in favour of print which has the attraction of newness.
Homer and Virgil, Milton and Shakespeare; not many Sundays have gone by
without my opening one or other of these.  Not many Sundays?  Nay, that
is to exaggerate, as one has the habit of doing.  Let me say rather that,
on many a rest-day I have found mind and opportunity for such reading.
Nowadays mind and opportunity fail me never.  I may take down my Homer or
my Shakespeare when I choose, but it is still on Sunday that I feel it
most becoming to seek the privilege of their companionship.  For these
great ones, crowned with immortality, do not respond to him who
approaches them as though hurried by temporal care.  There befits the
garment of solemn leisure, the thought attuned to peace.  I open the
volume somewhat formally; is it not sacred, if the word have any meaning
at all?  And, as I read, no interruption can befall me.  The note of a
linnet, the humming of a bee, these are the sounds about my sanctuary.
The page scarce rustles as it turns.



VI.


Of how many dwellings can it be said that no word of anger is ever heard
beneath its roof, and that no unkindly feeling ever exists between the
inmates?  Most men's experience would seem to justify them in declaring
that, throughout the inhabited world, no such house exists.  I, knowing
at all events of one, admit the possibility that there may be more; yet I
feel that it is to hazard a conjecture; I cannot point with certainty to
any other instance, nor in all my secular life (I speak as one who has
quitted the world) could I have named a single example.

It is so difficult for human beings to live together; nay, it is so
difficult for them to associate, however transitorily, and even under the
most favourable conditions, without some shadow of mutual offence.
Consider the differences of task and of habit, the conflict of
prejudices, the divergence of opinions (though that is probably the same
thing), which quickly reveal themselves between any two persons brought
into more than casual contact, and think how much self-subdual is
implicit whenever, for more than an hour or two, they co-exist in seeming
harmony.  Man is not made for peaceful intercourse with his fellows; he
is by nature self-assertive, commonly aggressive, always critical in a
more or less hostile spirit of any characteristic which seems strange to
him.  That he is capable of profound affections merely modifies here and
there his natural contentiousness, and subdues its expression.  Even
love, in the largest and purest sense of the word, is no safeguard
against perilous irritation and sensibilities inborn.  And what were the
durability of love without the powerful alliance of habit?

Suppose yourself endowed with such power of hearing that all the talk
going on at any moment beneath the domestic roofs of any town became
clearly audible to you; the dominant note would be that of moods,
tempers, opinions at jar.  Who but the most amiable dreamer can doubt it?
This, mind you, is not the same thing as saying that angry emotion is the
ruling force in human life; the facts of our civilization prove the
contrary.  Just because, and only because, the natural spirit of conflict
finds such frequent scope, does human society hold together, and, on the
whole, present a pacific aspect.  In the course of ages (one would like
to know how many) man has attained a remarkable degree of self-control;
dire experience has forced upon him the necessity of compromise, and
habit has inclined him (the individual) to prefer a quiet, orderly life.
But by instinct he is still a quarrelsome creature, and he gives vent to
the impulse as far as it is compatible with his reasoned interests--often,
to be sure, without regard for that limit.  The average man or woman is
always at open discord with some one; the great majority could not live
without oft-recurrent squabble.  Speak in confidence with any one you
like, and get him to tell you how many cases of coldness, alienation, or
downright enmity, between friends and kinsfolk, his memory registers; the
number will be considerable, and what a vastly greater number of everyday
"misunderstandings" may be thence inferred!  Verbal contention is, of
course, commoner among the poor and the vulgar than in the class of well-
bred people living at their ease, but I doubt whether the lower ranks of
society find personal association much more difficult than the refined
minority above them.  High cultivation may help to self-command, but it
multiplies the chances of irritative contact.  In mansion, as in hovel,
the strain of life is perpetually felt--between the married, between
parents and children, between relatives of every degree, between
employers and employed.  They debate, they dispute, they wrangle, they
explode--then nerves are relieved, and they are ready to begin over
again.  Quit the home and quarrelling is less obvious, but it goes on all
about one.  What proportion of the letters delivered any morning would be
found to be written in displeasure, in petulance, in wrath?  The postbag
shrieks insults or bursts with suppressed malice.  Is it not
wonderful--nay, is it not the marvel of marvels--that human life has
reached such a high point of public and private organization?

And gentle idealists utter their indignant wonder at the continuance of
war!  Why, it passes the wit of man to explain how it is that nations are
ever at peace!  For, if only by the rarest good fortune do individuals
associate harmoniously, there would seem to be much less likelihood of
mutual understanding and good-will between the peoples of alien lands.  As
a matter of fact, no two nations are ever friendly, in the sense of truly
liking each other; with the reciprocal criticism of countries there
always mingles a sentiment of animosity.  The original meaning of
_hostis_ is merely stranger, and a stranger who is likewise a foreigner
will only by curious exception fail to stir antipathy in the average
human being.  Add to this that a great number of persons in every country
find their delight and their business in exasperating international
disrelish, and with what vestige of common sense can one feel surprise
that war is ceaselessly talked of, often enough declared.  In days gone
by, distance and rarity of communication assured peace between many
realms.  Now that every country is in proximity to every other, what need
is there to elaborate explanations of the distrust, the fear, the hatred,
which are a perpetual theme of journalists and statesmen?  By
approximation, all countries have entered the sphere of natural quarrel.
That they find plenty of things to quarrel about is no cause for
astonishment.  A hundred years hence there will be some possibility of
perceiving whether international relations are likely to obey the law
which has acted with such beneficence in the life of each civilized
people; whether this country and that will be content to ease their
tempers with bloodless squabbling, subduing the more violent promptings
for the common good.  Yet I suspect that a century is a very short time
to allow for even justifiable surmise of such an outcome.  If by any
chance newspapers ceased to exist . . .

Talk of war, and one gets involved in such utopian musings!



VII.


I have been reading one of those prognostic articles on international
politics which every now and then appear in the reviews.  Why I should so
waste my time it would be hard to say; I suppose the fascination of
disgust and fear gets the better of me in a moment's idleness.  This
writer, who is horribly perspicacious and vigorous, demonstrates the
certainty of a great European war, and regards it with the peculiar
satisfaction excited by such things in a certain order of mind.  His
phrases about "dire calamity" and so on mean nothing; the whole tenor of
his writing proves that he represents, and consciously, one of the forces
which go to bring war about; his part in the business is a fluent
irresponsibility, which casts scorn on all who reluct at the
"inevitable."  Persistent prophecy is a familiar way of assuring the
event.

But I will read no more such writing.  This resolution I make and will
keep.  Why set my nerves quivering with rage, and spoil the calm of a
whole day, when no good of any sort can come of it?  What is it to me if
nations fall a-slaughtering each other?  Let the fools go to it!  Why
should they not please themselves?  Peace, after all, is the aspiration
of the few; so it always; was, and ever will be.  But have done with the
nauseous cant about "dire calamity."  The leaders and the multitude hold
no such view; either they see in war a direct and tangible profit, or
they are driven to it, with heads down, by the brute that is in them.  Let
them rend and be rent; let them paddle in blood and viscera till--if that
would ever happen--their stomachs turn.  Let them blast the cornfield and
the orchard, fire the home.  For all that, there will yet be found some
silent few, who go their way amid the still meadows, who bend to the
flower and watch the sunset; and these alone are worth a thought.



VIII.


In this hot weather I like to walk at times amid the full glow of the
sun.  Our island sun is never hot beyond endurance, and there is a
magnificence in the triumph of high summer which exalts one's mind.  Among
streets it is hard to bear, yet even there, for those who have eyes to
see it, the splendour of the sky lends beauty to things in themselves
mean or hideous.  I remember an August bank-holiday, when, having for
some reason to walk all across London, I unexpectedly found myself
enjoying the strange desertion of great streets, and from that passed to
surprise in the sense of something beautiful, a charm in the vulgar
vista, in the dull architecture, which I had never known.  Deep and clear-
marked shadows, such as one only sees on a few days of summer, are in
themselves very impressive, and become more so when they fall upon
highways devoid of folk.  I remember observing, as something new, the
shape of familiar edifices, of spires, monuments.  And when at length I
sat down, somewhere on the Embankment, it was rather to gaze at leisure
than to rest, for I felt no weariness, and the sun, still pouring upon me
its noontide radiance, seemed to fill my veins with life.

That sense I shall never know again.  For me Nature has comforts,
raptures, but no more invigoration.  The sun keeps me alive, but cannot,
as in the old days, renew my being.  I would fain learn to enjoy without
reflecting.

My walk in the golden hours leads me to a great horse-chestnut, whose
root offers a convenient seat in the shadow of its foliage.  At that
resting-place I have no wide view before me, but what I see is enough--a
corner of waste land, over-flowered with poppies and charlock, on the
edge of a field of corn.  The brilliant red and yellow harmonize with the
glory of the day.  Near by, too, is a hedge covered with great white
blooms of the bindweed.  My eyes do not soon grow weary.

A little plant of which I am very fond is the rest-harrow.  When the sun
is hot upon it, the flower gives forth a strangely aromatic scent, very
delightful to me.  I know the cause of this peculiar pleasure.  The rest-
harrow sometimes grows in sandy ground above the seashore.  In my
childhood I have many a time lain in such a spot under the glowing sky,
and, though I scarce thought of it, perceived the odour of the little
rose-pink flower when it touched my face.  Now I have but to smell it,
and those hours come back again.  I see the shore of Cumberland, running
north to St. Bee's Head; on the sea horizon a faint shape which is the
Isle of Man; inland, the mountains, which for me at that time guarded a
region of unknown wonder.  Ah, how long ago!



IX.


I read much less than I used to do; I think much more.  Yet what is the
use of thought which can no longer serve to direct life?  Better,
perhaps, to read and read incessantly, losing one's futile self in the
activity of other minds.

This summer I have taken up no new book, but have renewed my acquaintance
with several old ones which I had not opened for many a year.  One or two
have been books such as mature men rarely read at all--books which it is
one's habit to "take as read"; to presume sufficiently known to speak of,
but never to open.  Thus, one day my hand fell upon the _Anabasis_, the
little Oxford edition which I used at school, with its boyish sign-manual
on the fly-leaf, its blots and underlinings and marginal scrawls.  To my
shame I possess no other edition; yet this is a book one would like to
have in beautiful form.  I opened it, I began to read--a ghost of boyhood
stirring in my heart--and from chapter to chapter was led on, until after
a few days I had read the whole.

I am glad this happened in the summer-time, I like to link childhood with
these latter days, and no better way could I have found than this return
to a school-book, which, even as a school-book, was my great delight.

By some trick of memory I always associate school-boy work on the
classics with a sense of warm and sunny days; rain and gloom and a chilly
atmosphere must have been far the more frequent conditions, but these
things are forgotten.  My old Liddell and Scott still serves me, and if,
in opening it, I bend close enough to catch the _scent_ of the leaves, I
am back again at that day of boyhood (noted on the fly-leaf by the hand
of one long dead) when the book was new and I used it for the first time.
It was a day of summer, and perhaps there fell upon the unfamiliar page,
viewed with childish tremor, half apprehension and half delight, a mellow
sunshine, which was to linger for ever in my mind.

But I am thinking of the _Anabasis_.  Were this the sole book existing in
Greek, it would be abundantly worth while to learn the language in order
to read it.  The _Anabasis_ is an admirable work of art, unique in its
combination of concise and rapid narrative with colour and
picturesqueness.  Herodotus wrote a prose epic, in which the author's
personality is ever before us.  Xenophon, with curiosity and love of
adventure which mark him of the same race, but self-forgetful in the
pursuit of a new artistic virtue, created the historical romance.  What a
world of wonders in this little book, all aglow with ambitions and
conflicts, with marvels of strange lands; full of perils and rescues,
fresh with the air of mountain and of sea!  Think of it for a moment by
the side of Caesar's Commentaries; not to compare things incomparable,
but in order to appreciate the perfect art which shines through
Xenophon's mastery of language, his brevity achieving a result so
different from that of the like characteristic in the Roman writer.
Caesar's conciseness comes of strength and pride; Xenophon's, of a vivid
imagination.  Many a single line of the _Anabasis_ presents a picture
which deeply stirs the emotions.  A good instance occurs in the fourth
book, where a delightful passage of unsurpassable narrative tells how the
Greeks rewarded and dismissed a guide who had led them through dangerous
country.  The man himself was in peril of his life; laden with valuable
things which the soldiers had given him in their gratitude, he turned to
make his way through the hostile region.  [Greek text].  "When evening
came he took leave of us, and went his way by night."  To my mind, words
of wonderful suggestiveness.  You see the wild, eastern landscape, upon
which the sun has set.  There are the Hellenes, safe for the moment on
their long march, and there the mountain tribesman, the serviceable
barbarian, going away, alone, with his tempting guerdon, into the hazards
of the darkness.

Also in the fourth book, another picture moves one in another way.  Among
the Carduchian Hills two men were seized, and information was sought from
them about the track to be followed.  "One of them would say nothing, and
kept silence in spite of every threat; so, in the presence of his
companion, he was slain.  Thereupon that other made known the man's
reason for refusing to point out the way; in the direction the Greeks
must take there dwelt a daughter of his, who was married."

It would not be easy to express more pathos than is conveyed in these few
words.  Xenophon himself, one may be sure, did not feel it quite as we
do, but he preserved the incident for its own sake, and there, in a line
or two, shines something of human love and sacrifice, significant for all
time.



X.


I sometimes think I will go and spend the sunny half of a twelvemonth in
wandering about the British Isles.  There is so much of beauty and
interest that I have not seen, and I grudge to close my eyes on this
beloved home of ours, leaving any corner of it unvisited.  Often I wander
in fancy over all the parts I know, and grow restless with desire at
familiar names which bring no picture to memory.  My array of county
guide-books (they have always been irresistible to me on the stalls) sets
me roaming; the only dull pages in them are those that treat of
manufacturing towns.  Yet I shall never start on that pilgrimage.  I am
too old, too fixed in habits.  I dislike the railway; I dislike hotels.  I
should grow homesick for my library, my garden, the view from my windows.
And then--I have such a fear of dying anywhere but under my own roof.

As a rule, it is better to revisit only in imagination the places which
have greatly charmed us, or which, in the retrospect, seem to have done
so.  Seem to have charmed us, I say; for the memory we form, after a
certain lapse of time, of places where we lingered, often bears but a
faint resemblance to the impression received at the time; what in truth
may have been very moderate enjoyment, or enjoyment greatly disturbed by
inner or outer circumstances, shows in the distance as a keen delight, or
as deep, still happiness.  On the other hand, if memory creates no
illusion, and the name of a certain place is associated with one of the
golden moments of life, it were rash to hope that another visit would
repeat the experience of a bygone day.  For it was not merely the sights
that one beheld which were the cause of joy and peace; however lovely the
spot, however gracious the sky, these things external would not have
availed, but for contributory movements of mind and heart and blood, the
essentials of the man as then he was.

Whilst I was reading this afternoon my thoughts strayed, and I found
myself recalling a hillside in Suffolk, where, after a long walk I rested
drowsily one midsummer day twenty years ago.  A great longing seized me;
I was tempted to set off at once, and find again that spot under the high
elm trees, where, as I smoked a delicious pipe, I heard about me the
crack, crack, crack of broom-pods bursting in the glorious heat of the
noontide sun.  Had I acted upon the impulse, what chance was there of my
enjoying such another hour as that which my memory cherished?  No, no; it
is not the _place_ that I remember; it is the time of life, the
circumstances, the mood, which at that moment fell so happily together.
Can I dream that a pipe smoked on that same hillside, under the same
glowing sky, would taste as it then did, or bring me the same solace?
Would the turf be so soft beneath me?  Would the great elm-branches
temper so delightfully the noontide rays beating upon them?  And, when
the hour of rest was over, should I spring to my feet as then I did,
eager to put forth my strength again?  No, no; what I remember is just
one moment of my earlier life, linked by accident with that picture of
the Suffolk landscape.  The place no longer exists; it never existed save
for me.  For it is the mind which creates the world about us, and, even
though we stand side by side in the same meadow, my eyes will never see
what is beheld by yours, my heart will never stir to the emotions with
which yours is touched.



XI.


I awoke a little after four o'clock.  There was sunlight upon the blind,
that pure gold of the earliest beam which always makes me think of
Dante's angels.  I had slept unusually well, without a dream, and felt
the blessing of rest through all my frame; my head was clear, my pulse
beat temperately.  And, when I had lain thus for a few minutes, asking
myself what book I should reach from the shelf that hangs near my pillow,
there came upon me a desire to rise and go forth into the early morning.
On the moment I bestirred myself.  The drawing up of the blind, the
opening of the window, only increased my zeal, and I was soon in the
garden, then out in the road, walking light-heartedly I cared not
whither.

How long is it since I went forth at the hour of summer sunrise?  It is
one of the greatest pleasures, physical and mental, that any man in
moderate health can grant himself; yet hardly once in a year do mood and
circumstance combine to put it within one's reach.  The habit of lying in
bed hours after broad daylight is strange enough, if one thinks of it; a
habit entirely evil; one of the most foolish changes made by modern
system in the healthier life of the old time.  But that my energies are
not equal to such great innovation, I would begin going to bed at sunset
and rising with the beam of day; ten to one, it would vastly improve my
health, and undoubtedly it would add to the pleasures of my existence.

When travelling, I have now and then watched the sunrise, and always with
an exultation unlike anything produced in me by other aspects of nature.
I remember daybreak on the Mediterranean; the shapes of islands growing
in hue after hue of tenderest light, until they floated amid a sea of
glory.  And among the mountains--that crowning height, one moment a cold
pallor, the next soft-glowing under the touch of the rosy-fingered
goddess.  These are the things I shall never see again; things, indeed,
so perfect in memory that I should dread to blur them by a newer
experience.  My senses are so much duller; they do not show me what once
they did.

How far away is that school-boy time, when I found a pleasure in getting
up and escaping from the dormitory whilst all the others were still
asleep.  My purpose was innocent enough; I got up early only to do my
lessons.  I can see the long school-room, lighted by the early sun; I can
smell the school-room odour--a blend of books and slates and wall-maps
and I know not what.  It was a mental peculiarity of mine that at five
o'clock in the morning I could apply myself with gusto to mathematics, a
subject loathsome to me at any other time of the day.  Opening the book
at some section which was wont to scare me, I used to say to myself:
"Come now, I'm going to tackle this this morning!  If other boys can
understand it, why shouldn't I?"  And in a measure I succeeded.  In a
measure only; there was always a limit at which my powers failed me,
strive as I would.

In my garret-days it was seldom that I rose early: with the exception of
one year--or the greater part of a twelvemonth--during which I was
regularly up at half-past five for a special reason.  I had undertaken to
"coach" a man for the London matriculation; he was in business, and the
only time he could conveniently give to his studies was before breakfast.
I, just then, had my lodgings near Hampstead Road; my pupil lived at
Knightsbridge; I engaged to be with him every morning at half-past six,
and the walk, at a brisk pace, took me just about an hour.  At that time
I saw no severity in the arrangement, and I was delighted to earn the
modest fee which enabled me to write all day long without fear of hunger;
but one inconvenience attached to it.  I had no watch, and my only means
of knowing the time was to hear the striking of a clock in the
neighbourhood.  As a rule, I awoke just when I should have done; the
clock struck five, and up I sprang.  But occasionally--and this when the
mornings had grown dark--my punctual habit failed me; I would hear the
clock chime some fraction of the hour, and could not know whether I had
awoke too soon or slept too long.  The horror of unpunctuality, which has
always been a craze with me, made it impossible to lie waiting; more than
once I dressed and went out into the street to discover as best I could
what time it was, and one such expedition, I well remember, took place
between two and three o'clock on a morning of foggy rain.

It happened now and then that, on reaching the house at Knightsbridge, I
was informed that Mr. --- felt too tired to rise.  This concerned me
little, for it meant no deduction of fee; I had the two hours' walk, and
was all the better for it.  Then the appetite with which I sat down to
breakfast, whether I had done my coaching or not!  Bread and butter and
coffee--such coffee!--made the meal, and I ate like a navvy.  I was in
magnificent spirits.  All the way home I had been thinking of my day's
work, and the morning brain, clarified and whipped to vigour by that
brisk exercise, by that wholesome hunger, wrought its best.  The last
mouthful swallowed, I was seated at my writing-table; aye, and there I
sat for seven or eight hours, with a short munching interval, working as
only few men worked in all London, with pleasure, zeal, hope. . . .

Yes, yes, those were the good days.  They did not last long; before and
after them were cares, miseries, endurance multiform.  I have always felt
grateful to Mr. --- of Knightsbridge; he gave me a year of health, and
almost of peace.



XII.


A whole day's walk yesterday with no plan; just a long ramble of hour
after hour, entirely enjoyable.  It ended at Topsham, where I sat on the
little churchyard terrace, and watched the evening tide come up the broad
estuary.  I have a great liking for Topsham, and that churchyard,
overlooking what is not quite sea, yet more than river, is one of the
most restful spots I know.  Of course the association with old Chaucer,
who speaks of Topsham sailors, helps my mood.  I came home very tired;
but I am not yet decrepit, and for that I must be thankful.

The unspeakable blessedness of having a _home_!  Much as my imagination
has dwelt upon it for thirty years, I never knew how deep and exquisite a
joy could lie in the assurance that one is _at home_ for ever.  Again and
again I come back upon this thought; nothing but Death can oust me from
my abiding place.  And Death I would fain learn to regard as a friend,
who will but intensify the peace I now relish.

When one is at home, how one's affections grow about everything in the
neighbourhood!  I always thought with fondness of this corner of Devon,
but what was that compared with the love which now strengthens in me day
by day!  Beginning with my house, every stick and stone of it is dear to
me as my heart's blood; I find myself laying an affectionate hand on the
door-post, giving a pat, as I go by, to the garden gate.  Every tree and
shrub in the garden is my beloved friend; I touch them, when need is,
very tenderly, as though carelessness might pain, or roughness injure
them.  If I pull up a weed in the walk, I look at it with a certain
sadness before throwing it away; it belongs to my home.

And all the country round about.  These villages, how delightful are
their names to my ear!  I find myself reading with interest all the local
news in the Exeter paper.  Not that I care about the people; with barely
one or two exceptions, the people are nothing to me, and the less I see
of them the better I am pleased.  But the _places_ grow ever more dear to
me.  I like to know of anything that has happened at Heavitree, or
Brampford Speke, or Newton St. Cyres.  I begin to pride myself on knowing
every road and lane, every bridle path and foot-way for miles about.  I
like to learn the names of farms and of fields.  And all this because
here is my abiding place, because I am home for ever.

It seems to me that the very clouds that pass above my house are more
interesting and beautiful than clouds elsewhere.

And to think that at one time I called myself a socialist, communist,
anything you like of the revolutionary kind!  Not for long, to be sure,
and I suspect that there was always something in me that scoffed when my
lips uttered such things.  Why, no man living has a more profound sense
of property than I; no man ever lived, who was, in every fibre, more
vehemently an individualist.



XIII.


In this high summertide, I remember with a strange feeling that there are
people who, of their free choice, spend day and night in cities, who
throng to the gabble of drawing-rooms, make festival in public eating-
houses, sweat in the glare of the theatre.  They call it life; they call
it enjoyment.  Why, so it is, for them; they are so made.  The folly is
mine, to wonder that they fulfil their destiny.

But with what deep and quiet thanksgiving do I remind myself that never
shall I mingle with that well-millinered and tailored herd!  Happily, I
never saw much of them.  Certain occasions I recall when a supposed
necessity took me into their dismal precincts; a sick buzzing in the
brain, a languor as of exhausted limbs, comes upon me with the memory.
The relief with which I stepped out into the street again, when all was
over!  Dear to me then was poverty, which for the moment seemed to make
me a free man.  Dear to me was the labour at my desk, which, by
comparison, enabled me to respect myself.

Never again shall I shake hands with man or woman who is not in truth my
friend.  Never again shall I go to see acquaintances with whom I have no
acquaintance.  All men my brothers?  Nay, thank Heaven, that they are
not!  I will do harm, if I can help it, to no one; I will wish good to
all; but I will make no pretence of personal kindliness where, in the
nature of things, it cannot be felt.  I have grimaced a smile and
pattered unmeaning words to many a person whom I despised or from whom in
heart I shrank; I did so because I had not courage to do otherwise.  For
a man conscious of such weakness, the best is to live apart from the
world.  Brave Samuel Johnson!  One such truth-teller is worth all the
moralists and preachers who ever laboured to humanise mankind.  Had _he_
withdrawn into solitude, it would have been a national loss.  Every one
of his blunt, fearless words had more value than a whole evangel on the
lips of a timidly good man.  It is thus that the commonalty, however well
clad, should be treated.  So seldom does the fool or the ruffian in
broadcloth hear his just designation; so seldom is the man found who has
a right to address him by it.  By the bandying of insults we profit
nothing; there can be no useful rebuke which is exposed to a _tu quoque_.
But, as the world is, an honest and wise man should have a rough tongue.
Let him speak and spare not!



XIV.


Vituperation of the English climate is foolish.  A better climate does
not exist--for healthy people; and it is always as regards the average
native in sound health that a climate must be judged.  Invalids have no
right whatever to talk petulantly of the natural changes of the sky;
Nature has not _them_ in view; let them (if they can) seek exceptional
conditions for their exceptional state, leaving behind them many a
million of sound, hearty men and women who take the seasons as they come,
and profit by each in turn.  In its freedom from extremes, in its common
clemency, even in its caprice, which at the worst time holds out hope,
our island weather compares well with that of other lands.  Who enjoys
the fine day of spring, summer, autumn, or winter so much as an
Englishman?  His perpetual talk of the weather is testimony to his keen
relish for most of what it offers him; in lands of blue monotony, even as
where climatic conditions are plainly evil, such talk does not go on.  So,
granting that we have bad days not a few, that the east wind takes us by
the throat, that the mists get at our joints, that the sun hides his
glory too often and too long, it is plain that the result of all comes to
good, that it engenders a mood of zest under the most various aspects of
heaven, keeps an edge on our appetite for open-air life.

I, of course, am one of the weaklings who, in grumbling at the weather,
merely invite compassion.  July, this year, is clouded and windy, very
cheerless even here in Devon; I fret and shiver and mutter to myself
something about southern skies.  Pshaw!  Were I the average man of my
years, I should be striding over Haldon, caring not a jot for the heavy
sky, finding a score of compensations for the lack of sun.  Can I not
have patience?  Do I not know that, some morning, the east will open like
a bursting bud into warmth and splendour, and the azure depths above will
have only the more solace for my starved anatomy because of this
protracted disappointment?



XV.


I have been at the seaside--enjoying it, yes, but in what a doddering,
senile sort of way!  Is it I who used to drink the strong wind like wine,
who ran exultingly along the wet sands and leapt from rock to rock,
barefoot, on the slippery seaweed, who breasted the swelling breaker, and
shouted with joy as it buried me in gleaming foam?  At the seaside I knew
no such thing as bad weather; there were but changes of eager mood and
full-blooded life.  Now, if the breeze blow too roughly, if there come a
pelting shower, I must look for shelter, and sit with my cloak about me.
It is but a new reminder that I do best to stay at home, travelling only
in reminiscence.

At Weymouth I enjoyed a hearty laugh, one of the good things not easy to
get after middle age.  There was a notice of steamboats which ply along
the coast, steamboats recommended to the public as being "_replete with
lavatories and a ladies' saloon_."  Think how many people read this
without a chuckle!



XVI.


In the last ten years I have seen a good deal of English inns in many
parts of the country, and it astonishes me to find how bad they are.  Only
once or twice have I chanced upon an inn (or, if you like, hotel) where I
enjoyed any sort of comfort.  More often than not, even the beds are
unsatisfactory--either pretentiously huge and choked with drapery, or
hard and thinly accoutred.  Furnishing is uniformly hideous, and there is
either no attempt at ornament (the safest thing) or a villainous taste
thrusts itself upon one at every turn.  The meals, in general, are coarse
and poor in quality, and served with gross slovenliness.

I have often heard it said that the touring cyclist has caused the
revival of wayside inns.  It may be so, but the touring cyclist seems to
be very easily satisfied.  Unless we are greatly deceived by the old
writers, an English inn used to be a delightful resort, abounding in
comfort, and supplied with the best of food; a place, too, where one was
sure of welcome at once hearty and courteous.  The inns of to-day, in
country towns and villages, are not in that good old sense inns at all;
they are merely public-houses.  The landlord's chief interest is the sale
of liquor.  Under his roof you may, if you choose, eat and sleep, but
what you are expected to do is to drink.  Yet, even for drinking, there
is no decent accommodation.  You will find what is called a bar-parlour,
a stuffy and dirty room, with crazy chairs, where only the sodden dram-
gulper could imagine himself at ease.  Should you wish to write a letter,
only the worst pen and the vilest ink is forthcoming; this, even in the
"commercial room" of many an inn which seems to depend upon the custom of
travelling tradesmen.  Indeed, this whole business of innkeeping is
incredibly mismanaged.  Most of all does the common ineptitude or
brutality enrage one when it has possession of an old and picturesque
house, such as reminds you of the best tradition, a house which might be
made as comfortable as house can be, a place of rest and mirth.

At a public-house you expect public-house manners, and nothing better
will meet you at most of the so-called inns or hotels.  It surprises me
to think in how few instances I have found even the pretence of civility.
As a rule, the landlord and landlady are either contemptuously superior
or boorishly familiar; the waiters and chambermaids do their work with an
indifference which only softens to a condescending interest at the moment
of your departure, when, if the tip be thought insufficient, a sneer or a
muttered insult speeds you on your way.  One inn I remember, where,
having to go in and out two or three times in a morning, I always found
the front door blocked by the portly forms of two women, the landlady and
the barmaid, who stood there chatting and surveying the street.  Coming
from within the house, I had to call out a request for passage; it was
granted with all deliberation, and with not a syllable of apology.  This
was the best "hotel" in a Sussex market town.

And the food.  Here, beyond doubt, there is grave degeneracy.  It is
impossible to suppose that the old travellers by coach were contented
with entertainment such as one gets nowadays at the table of a country
hotel.  The cooking is wont to be wretched; the quality of the meat and
vegetables worse than mediocre.  What!  Shall one ask in vain at an
English inn for an honest chop or steak?  Again and again has my appetite
been frustrated with an offer of mere sinew and scrag.  At a hotel where
the charge for lunch was five shillings, I have been sickened with pulpy
potatoes and stringy cabbage.  The very joint--ribs or sirloin, leg or
shoulder--is commonly a poor, underfed, sapless thing, scorched in an
oven; and as for the round of beef, it has as good as
disappeared--probably because it asks too much skill in the salting.  Then
again one's breakfast bacon; what intolerable stuff, smelling of
saltpetre, has been set before me when I paid the price of the best
smoked Wiltshire!  It would be mere indulgence of the spirit of grumbling
to talk about poisonous tea and washy coffee; every one knows that these
drinks cannot be had at public tables; but what if there be real reason
for discontent with one's pint of ale?  Often, still, that draught from
the local brewery is sound and invigorating, but there are grievous
exceptions, and no doubt the tendency is here, as in other things--a
falling off, a carelessness, if not a calculating dishonesty.  I foresee
the day when Englishmen will have forgotten how to brew beer; when one's
only safety will lie in the draught imported from Munich.



XVII.


I was taking a meal once at a London restaurant--not one of the great
eating-places to which men most resort, but a small establishment on the
same model in a quiet neighbourhood--when there entered, and sat down at
the next table, a young man of the working class, whose dress betokened
holiday.  A glance told me that he felt anything but at ease; his mind
misgave him as he looked about the long room and at the table before him;
and when a waiter came to offer him the card, he stared blankly in
sheepish confusion.  Some strange windfall, no doubt, had emboldened him
to enter for the first time such a place as this, and now that he was
here, he heartily wished himself out in the street again.  However, aided
by the waiter's suggestions, he gave an order for a beef-steak and
vegetables.  When the dish was served, the poor fellow simply could not
make a start upon it; he was embarrassed by the display of knives and
forks, by the arrangement of the dishes, by the sauce bottles and the
cruet-stand, above all, no doubt, by the assembly of people not of his
class, and the unwonted experience of being waited upon by a man with a
long shirt-front.  He grew red; he made the clumsiest and most futile
efforts to transport the meat to his plate; food was there before him,
but, like a very Tantalus, he was forbidden to enjoy it.  Observing with
all discretion, I at length saw him pull out his pocket handkerchief,
spread it on the table, and, with a sudden effort, fork the meat off the
dish into this receptacle.  The waiter, aware by this time of the
customer's difficulty, came up and spoke a word to him.  Abashed into
anger, the young man roughly asked what he had to pay.  It ended in the
waiter's bringing a newspaper, wherein he helped to wrap up meat and
vegetables.  Money was flung down, and the victim of a mistaken ambition
hurriedly departed, to satisfy his hunger amid less unfamiliar
surroundings.

It was a striking and unpleasant illustration of social differences.
Could such a thing happen in any country but England?  I doubt it.  The
sufferer was of decent appearance, and, with ordinary self-command, might
have taken his meal in the restaurant like any one else, quite unnoticed.
But he belonged to a class which, among all classes in the world, is
distinguished by native clownishness and by unpliability to novel
circumstance.  The English lower ranks had need be marked by certain
peculiar virtues to atone for their deficiencies in other respects.



XVIII.


It is easy to understand that common judgment of foreigners regarding the
English people.  Go about in England as a stranger, travel by rail, live
at hotels, see nothing but the broadly public aspect of things, and the
impression left upon you will be one of hard egoism, of gruffness and
sullenness; in a word, of everything that contrasts most strongly with
the ideal of social and civic life.  And yet, as a matter of fact, no
nation possesses in so high a degree the social and civic virtues.  The
unsociable Englishman, quotha?  Why, what country in the world can show
such multifarious, vigorous and cordial co-operation, in all ranks, but
especially, of course, among the intelligent, for ends which concern the
common good?  Unsociable!  Why, go where you will in England you can
hardly find a man--nowadays, indeed, scarce an educated woman--who does
not belong to some alliance, for study or sport, for municipal or
national benefit, and who will not be seen, in leisure time, doing his
best as a social being.  Take the so-called sleepy market-town; it is
bubbling with all manner of associated activities, and these of the quite
voluntary kind, forms of zealously united effort such as are never dreamt
of in the countries supposed to be eminently "social."  Sociability does
not consist in a readiness to talk at large with the first comer.  It is
not dependent upon natural grace and suavity; it is compatible, indeed,
with thoroughly awkward and all but brutal manners.  The English have
never (at all events, for some two centuries past) inclined to the purely
ceremonial or mirthful forms of sociability; but as regards every prime
interest of the community--health and comfort, well-being of body and of
soul--their social instinct is supreme.

Yet it is so difficult to reconcile this indisputable fact with that
other fact, no less obvious, that your common Englishman seems to have no
geniality.  From the one point of view, I admire and laud my fellow
countryman; from the other, I heartily dislike him and wish to see as
little of him as possible.  One is wont to think of the English as a
genial folk.  Have they lost in this respect?  Has the century of science
and money-making sensibly affected the national character?  I think
always of my experience at the English inn, where it is impossible not to
feel a brutal indifference to the humane features of life; where food is
bolted without attention, liquor swallowed out of mere habit, where even
good-natured accost is a thing so rare as to be remarkable.

Two things have to be borne in mind: the extraordinary difference of
demeanour which exists between the refined and the vulgar English, and
the natural difficulty of an Englishman in revealing his true self save
under the most favourable circumstances.

So striking is the difference of manner between class and class that the
hasty observer might well imagine a corresponding and radical difference
of mind and character.  In Russia, I suppose, the social extremities are
seen to be pretty far apart, but, with that possible exception, I should
think no European country can show such a gap as yawns to the eye between
the English gentleman and the English boor.  The boor, of course, is the
multitude; the boor impresses himself upon the traveller.  When relieved
from his presence, one can be just to him; one can remember that his
virtues--though elementary, and strictly in need of direction--are the
same, to a great extent, as those of the well-bred man.  He does not
represent--though seeming to do so--a nation apart.  To understand this
multitude, you must get below its insufferable manners, and learn that
very fine civic qualities can consist with a personal bearing almost
wholly repellent.

Then, as to the dogged reserve of the educated man, why, I have only to
look into myself.  I, it is true, am not quite a representative
Englishman; my self-consciousness, my meditative habit of mind, rather
dim my national and social characteristics; but set me among a few
specimens of the multitude, and am I not at once aware of that
instinctive antipathy, that shrinking into myself, that something like
unto scorn, of which the Englishman is accused by foreigners who casually
meet him?  Peculiar to me is the effort to overcome this first impulse--an
effort which often enough succeeds.  If I know myself at all, I am not an
ungenial man; and yet I am quite sure that many people who have known me
casually would say that my fault is a lack of geniality.  To show my true
self, I must be in the right mood and the right circumstances--which,
after all, is merely as much as saying that I am decidedly English.



XIX.


On my breakfast table there is a pot of honey.  Not the manufactured
stuff sold under that name in shops, but honey of the hive, brought to me
by a neighbouring cottager whose bees often hum in my garden.  It gives,
I confess, more pleasure to my eye than to my palate; but I like to taste
of it, because it is honey.

There is as much difference, said Johnson, between a lettered and an
unlettered man as between the living and the dead; and, in a way, it was
no extravagance.  Think merely how one's view of common things is
affected by literary association.  What were honey to me if I knew
nothing of Hymettus and Hybla?--if my mind had no stores of poetry, no
memories of romance?  Suppose me town-pent, the name might bring with it
some pleasantness of rustic odour; but of what poor significance even
that, if the country were to me mere grass and corn and vegetables, as to
the man who has never read nor wished to read.  For the Poet is indeed a
Maker: above the world of sense, trodden by hidebound humanity, he builds
that world of his own whereto is summoned the unfettered spirit.  Why
does it delight me to see the bat flitting at dusk before my window, or
to hear the hoot of the owl when all the ways are dark?  I might regard
the bat with disgust, and the owl either with vague superstition or not
heed it at all.  But these have their place in the poet's world, and
carry me above this idle present.

I once passed a night in a little market-town where I had arrived tired
and went to bed early.  I slept forthwith, but was presently awakened by
I knew not what; in the darkness there sounded a sort of music, and, as
my brain cleared, I was aware of the soft chiming of church bells.  Why,
what hour could it be?  I struck a light and looked at my watch.
Midnight.  Then a glow came over me.  "We have heard the chimes at
midnight, Master Shallow!"  Never till then had _I_ heard them.  And the
town in which I slept was Evesham, but a few miles from
Stratford-on-Avon.  What if those midnight bells had been to me but as
any other, and I had reviled them for breaking my sleep?--Johnson did not
much exaggerate.



XX.


It is the second Jubilee.  Bonfires blaze upon the hills, making one
think of the watchman on Agamemnon's citadel.  (It were more germane to
the matter to think of Queen Elizabeth and the Armada.)  Though wishing
the uproar happily over, I can see the good in it as well as another man.
English monarchy, as we know it, is a triumph of English common sense.
Grant that men cannot do without an overlord; how to make that
over-lordship consist with the largest practical measure of national and
individual liberty?  We, at all events, have for a time solved the
question.  For a time only, of course; but consider the history of
Europe, and our jubilation is perhaps justified.

For sixty years has the British Republic held on its way under one
President.  It is wide of the mark to object that other Republics, which
change their President more frequently, support the semblance of over-
lordship at considerably less cost to the people.  Britons are minded for
the present that the Head of their State shall be called King or Queen;
the name is pleasant to them; it corresponds to a popular sentiment,
vaguely understood, but still operative, which is called loyalty.  The
majority thinking thus, and the system being found to work more than
tolerably well, what purpose could be served by an attempt at _novas
res_?  The nation is content to pay the price; it is the nation's affair.
Moreover, who can feel the least assurance that a change to one of the
common forms of Republicanism would be for the general advantage?  Do we
find that countries which have made the experiment are so very much
better off than our own in point of stable, quiet government and of
national welfare?  The theorist scoffs at forms which have survived their
meaning, at privilege which will bear no examination, at compromises
which sound ludicrous, at submissions which seem contemptible; but let
him put forward his practical scheme for making all men rational,
consistent, just.  Englishmen, I imagine, are not endowed with these
qualities in any extraordinary degree.  Their strength, politically
speaking, lies in a recognition of expediency, complemented by respect
for the established fact.  One of the facts particularly clear to them is
the suitability to their minds, their tempers, their habits, of a system
of polity which has been established by the slow effort of generations
within this sea-girt realm.  They have nothing to do with ideals: they
never trouble themselves to think about the Rights of Man.  If you talk
to them (long enough) about the rights of the shopman, or the ploughman,
or the cat's-meat-man, they will lend ear, and, when the facts of any
such case have been examined, they will find a way of dealing with them.
This characteristic of theirs they call Common Sense.  To them, all
things considered, it has been of vast service; one may even say that the
rest of the world has profited by it not a little.  That Uncommon Sense
might now and then have stood them even in better stead is nothing to the
point.  The Englishman deals with things as they are, and first and
foremost accepts his own being.

This Jubilee declares a legitimate triumph of the average man.  Look back
for threescore years, and who shall affect to doubt that the time has
been marked by many improvements in the material life of the English
people?  Often have they been at loggerheads among themselves, but they
have never flown at each other's throats, and from every grave dispute
has resulted some substantial gain.  They are a cleaner people and a more
sober; in every class there is a diminution of brutality; education--stand
for what it may--has notably extended; certain forms of tyranny have been
abolished; certain forms of suffering, due to heedlessness or ignorance,
have been abated.  True, these are mere details; whether they indicate a
solid advance in civilization cannot yet be determined.  But assuredly
the average Briton has cause to jubilate; for the progressive features of
the epoch are such as he can understand and approve, whereas the doubt
which may be cast upon its ethical complexion is for him either
non-existent or unintelligible.  So let cressets flare into the night
from all the hills!  It is no purchased exultation, no servile flattery.
The People acclaims itself, yet not without genuine gratitude and
affection towards the Representative of its glory and its power.  The
Constitutional Compact has been well preserved.  Review the record of
kingdoms, and say how often it has come to pass that sovereign and people
rejoiced together over bloodless victories.



XXI.


At an inn in the north I once heard three men talking at their breakfast
on the question of diet.  They agreed that most people ate too much meat,
and one of them went so far as to declare that, for his part, he rather
preferred vegetables and fruit.  "Why," he said, "will you believe me
that I sometimes make a breakfast of apples?"  This announcement was
received in silence; evidently the two listeners didn't quite know what
to think of it.  Thereupon the speaker, in rather a blustering tone,
cried out, "Yes, I can make a very good breakfast on _two or three pounds
of apples_."

Wasn't it amusing?  And wasn't it characteristic?  This honest Briton had
gone too far in frankness.  'Tis all very well to like vegetables and
fruits up to a certain point; but to breakfast on apples!  His
companions' silence proved that they were just a little ashamed of him;
his confession savoured of poverty or meanness; to right himself in their
opinion, nothing better occurred to the man than to protest that he ate
apples, yes, but not merely one or two; he ate them largely, _by the
pound_!  I laughed at the fellow, but I thoroughly understood him; so
would every Englishman; for at the root of our being is a hatred of
parsimony.  This manifests itself in all sorts of ludicrous or
contemptible forms, but no less is it the source of our finest qualities.
An Englishman desires, above all, to live largely; on that account he not
only dreads, but hates and despises, poverty.  His virtues are those of
the free-handed and warm-hearted opulent man; his weaknesses come of the
sense of inferiority (intensely painful and humiliating) which attaches
in his mind to one who cannot spend and give; his vices, for the most
part, originate in loss of self-respect due to loss of secure position.



XXII.


For a nation of this temper, the movement towards democracy is fraught
with peculiar dangers.  Profoundly aristocratic in his sympathies, the
Englishman has always seen in the patrician class not merely a social,
but a moral, superiority; the man of blue blood was to him a living
representative of those potencies and virtues which made his ideal of the
worthy life.  Very significant is the cordial alliance from old time
between nobles and people; free, proud homage on one side answering to
gallant championship on the other; both classes working together in the
cause of liberty.  However great the sacrifices of the common folk for
the maintenance of aristocratic power and splendour, they were gladly
made; this was the Englishman's religion, his inborn _pietas_; in the
depths of the dullest soul moved a perception of the ethic meaning
attached to lordship.  Your Lord was the privileged being endowed by
descent with generous instincts, and possessed of means to show them
forth in act.  A poor noble was a contradiction in terms; if such a
person existed, he could only be spoken of with wondering sadness, as
though he were the victim of some freak of nature.  The Lord was
Honourable, Right Honourable; his acts, his words virtually constituted
the code of honour whereby the nation lived.

In a new world, beyond the ocean, there grew up a new race, a scion of
England, which shaped its life without regard to the principle of
hereditary lordship; and in course of time this triumphant Republic began
to shake the ideals of the Motherland.  Its civilization, spite of
superficial resemblances, is not English; let him who will think it
superior; all one cares to say is that it has already shown in a broad
picture the natural tendencies of English blood when emancipated from the
old cult.  Easy to understand that some there are who see nothing but
evil in the influence of that vast commonwealth.  If it has done us good,
assuredly the fact is not yet demonstrable.  In old England, democracy is
a thing so alien to our traditions and rooted sentiment that the line of
its progress seems hitherto a mere track of ruin.  In the very word is
something from which we shrink; it seems to signify nothing less than a
national apostasy, a denial of the faith in which we won our glory.  The
democratic Englishman is, by the laws of his own nature, in parlous case;
he has lost the ideal by which he guided his rude, prodigal, domineering
instincts; in place of the Right Honourable, born to noble things, he has
set up the mere Plebs, born, more likely than not, for all manner of
baseness.  And, amid all his show of loud self-confidence, the man is
haunted with misgiving.

The task before us is no light one.  Can we, whilst losing the class,
retain the idea it embodied?  Can we English, ever so subject to the
material, liberate ourselves from that old association, yet guard its
meaning in the sphere of spiritual life?  Can we, with eyes which have
ceased to look reverently on worn-out symbols, learn to select from among
the grey-coated multitude, and place in reverence even higher him who
"holds his patent of nobility straight from Almighty God"?  Upon that
depends the future of England.  In days gone by, our very Snob bore
testimony after his fashion to our scorn of meanness; he at all events
imagined himself to be imitating those who were incapable of a sordid
transaction, of a plebeian compliance.  But the Snob, one notes, is in
the way of degeneracy; he has new exemplars; he speaks a ruder language.
Him, be sure, in one form or another, we shall have always with us, and
to observe his habits is to note the tenor of the time.  If he have at
the back of his dim mind no living ideal which lends his foolishness a
generous significance, then indeed--_videant consules_.



XXIII.


A visit from N-.  He stayed with me two days, and I wish he could have
stayed a third.  (Beyond the third day, I am not sure that any man would
be wholly welcome.  My strength will bear but a certain amount of
conversation, even the pleasantest, and before long I desire solitude,
which is rest.)

The mere sight of N-, to say nothing of his talk, did me good.  If
appearances can ever be trusted, there are few men who get more enjoyment
out of life.  His hardships were never excessive; they did not affect his
health or touch his spirits; probably he is in every way a better man for
having--as he says--"gone through the mill."  His recollection of the
time when he had to work hard for a five-pound note, and was not always
sure of getting it, obviously lends gusto to his present state of ease.  I
persuaded him to talk about his successes, and to give me a glimpse of
their meaning in solid cash.  Last Midsummer day, his receipts for the
twelvemonth were more than two thousand pounds.  Nothing wonderful, of
course, bearing in mind what some men are making by their pen; but very
good for a writer who does not address the baser throng.  Two thousand
pounds in a year!  I gazed at him with wonder and admiration.

I have known very few prosperous men of letters; N--- represents for me
the best and brightest side of literary success.  Say what one will after
a lifetime of disillusion, the author who earns largely by honest and
capable work is among the few enviable mortals.  Think of N---'s
existence.  No other man could do what he is doing, and he does it with
ease.  Two, or at most three, hours' work a day--and that by no means
every day--suffices to him.  Like all who write, he has his unfruitful
times, his mental worries, his disappointments, but these bear no
proportion to the hours of happy and effective labour.  Every time I see
him he looks in better health, for of late years he has taken much more
exercise, and he is often travelling.  He is happy in his wife and
children; the thought of all the comforts and pleasures he is able to
give them must be a constant joy to him; were he to die, his family is
safe from want.  He has friends and acquaintances as many as he desires;
congenial folk gather at his table; he is welcome in pleasant houses near
and far; his praise is upon the lips of all whose praise is worth having.
With all this, he has the good sense to avoid manifest dangers; he has
not abandoned his privacy, and he seems to be in no danger of being
spoilt by good fortune.  His work is more to him than a means of earning
money; he talks about a book he has in hand almost as freshly and keenly
as in the old days, when his annual income was barely a couple of
hundred.  I note, too, that his leisure is not swamped with the
publications of the day; he reads as many old books as new, and keeps
many of his early enthusiasms.

He is one of the men I heartily like.  That he greatly cares for me I do
not suppose, but this has nothing to do with the matter; enough that he
likes my society well enough to make a special journey down into Devon.  I
represent to him, of course, the days gone by, and for their sake he will
always feel an interest in me.  Being ten years my junior, he must
naturally regard me as an old buffer; I notice, indeed, that he is just a
little too deferential at moments.  He feels a certain respect for some
of my work, but thinks, I am sure, that I ceased writing none too
soon--which is very true.  If I had not been such a lucky fellow--if at
this moment I were still toiling for bread--it is probable that he and I
would see each other very seldom; for N--- has delicacy, and would shrink
from bringing his high-spirited affluence face to face with Grub Street
squalor and gloom; whilst I, on the other hand, should hate to think that
he kept up my acquaintance from a sense of decency.  As it is we are very
good friends, quite unembarrassed, and--for a couple of days--really
enjoy the sight and hearing of each other.  That I am able to give him a
comfortable bedroom, and set before him an eatable dinner, flatters my
pride.  If I chose at any time to accept his hearty invitation, I can do
so without moral twinges.

Two thousand pounds!  If, at N---'s age, I had achieved that income, what
would have been the result upon me?  Nothing but good, I know; but what
form would the good have taken?  Should I have become a social man, a
giver of dinners, a member of clubs?  Or should I merely have begun, ten
years sooner, the life I am living now?  That is more likely.

In my twenties I used to say to myself: what a splendid thing it will be
_when_ I am the possessor of a thousand pounds!  Well, I have never
possessed that sum--never anything like it--and now never shall.  Yet it
was not an extravagant ambition, methinks, however primitive.

As we sat in the garden dusk, the scent of our pipes mingling with that
of roses, N--- said to me in a laughing tone: "Come now, tell me how you
felt when you first heard of your legacy?"  And I could not tell him; I
had nothing to say; no vivid recollection of the moment would come back
to me.  I am afraid N--- thought he had been indiscreet, for he passed
quickly to another subject.  Thinking it over now, I see, of course, that
it would be impossible to put into words the feeling of that supreme
moment of life.  It was not joy that possessed me; I did not exult; I did
not lose control of myself in any way.  But I remember drawing one or two
deep sighs, as if all at once relieved of some distressing burden or
constraint.  Only some hours after did I begin to feel any kind of
agitation.  That night I did not close my eyes; the night after I slept
longer and more soundly than I remember to have done for a score of
years.  Once or twice in the first week I had a hysterical feeling; I
scarce kept myself from shedding tears.  And the strange thing is that it
seems to have happened so long ago; I seem to have been a free man for
many a twelvemonth, instead of only for two.  Indeed, that is what I have
often thought about forms of true happiness; the brief are quite as
satisfying as those that last long.  I wanted, before my death, to enjoy
liberty from care, and repose in a place I love.  That was granted me;
and, had I known it only for one whole year, the sum of my enjoyment
would have been no whit less than if I live to savour it for a decade.



XXIV.


The honest fellow who comes to dig in my garden is puzzled to account for
my peculiarities; I often catch a look of wondering speculation in his
eye when it turns upon me.  It is all because I will not let him lay out
flower-beds in the usual way, and make the bit of ground in front of the
house really neat and ornamental.  At first he put it down to meanness,
but he knows by now that that cannot be the explanation.  That I really
prefer a garden so poor and plain that every cottager would be ashamed of
it, he cannot bring himself to believe, and of course I have long since
given up trying to explain myself.  The good man probably concludes that
too many books and the habit of solitude have somewhat affected what he
would call my "reasons."

The only garden flowers I care for are the quite old-fashioned roses,
sunflowers, hollyhocks, lilies and so on, and these I like to see growing
as much as possible as if they were wild.  Trim and symmetrical beds are
my abhorrence, and most of the flowers which are put into them--hybrids
with some grotesque name--Jonesia, Snooksia--hurt my eyes.  On the other
hand, a garden is a garden, and I would not try to introduce into it the
flowers which are my solace in lanes and fields.  Foxgloves, for
instance--it would pain me to see them thus transplanted.

I think of foxgloves, for it is the moment of their glory.  Yesterday I
went to the lane which I visit every year at this time, the deep, rutty
cart-track, descending between banks covered with giant fronds of the
polypodium, and overhung with wych-elm and hazel, to that cool, grassy
nook where the noble flowers hang on stems all but of my own height.
Nowhere have I seen finer foxgloves.  I suppose they rejoice me so
because of early memories--to a child it is the most impressive of wild
flowers; I would walk miles any day to see a fine cluster, as I would to
see the shining of purple loosestrife by the water edge, or white lilies
floating upon the still depth.

But the gardener and I understand each other as soon as we go to the back
of the house, and get among the vegetables.  On that ground he finds me
perfectly sane.  And indeed I am not sure that the kitchen garden does
not give me more pleasure than the domain of flowers.  Every morning I
step round before breakfast to see how things are "coming on."  It is
happiness to note the swelling of pods, the healthy vigour of potato
plants, aye, even the shooting up of radishes and cress.  This year I
have a grove of Jerusalem artichokes; they are seven or eight feet high,
and I seem to get vigour as I look at the stems which are all but trunks,
at the great beautiful leaves.  Delightful, too, are the scarlet runners,
which have to be propped again and again, or they would break down under
the abundance of their yield.  It is a treat to me to go among them with
a basket, gathering; I feel as though Nature herself showed kindness to
me, in giving me such abundant food.  How fresh and wholesome are the
odours--especially if a shower has fallen not long ago!

I have some magnificent carrots this year--straight, clean, tapering, the
colour a joy to look upon.



XXV.


For two things do my thoughts turn now and then to London.  I should like
to hear the long note of a master's violin, or the faultless cadence of
an exquisite voice, and I should like to see pictures.  Music and
painting have always meant much to me; here I can enjoy them only in
memory.

Of course there is the discomfort of concert-hall and exhibition-rooms.
My pleasure in the finest music would be greatly spoilt by having to sit
amid a crowd, with some idiot audible on right hand or left, and the show
of pictures would give me a headache in the first quarter of an hour.
_Non sum qualis eram_ when I waited several hours at the gallery door to
hear Patti, and knew not a moment's fatigue to the end of the concert; or
when, at the Academy, I was astonished to find that it was four o'clock,
and I had forgotten food since breakfast.  The truth is, I do not much
enjoy anything nowadays which I cannot enjoy _alone_.  It sounds morose;
I imagine the comment of good people if they overheard such a confession.
Ought I, in truth, to be ashamed of it?

I always read the newspaper articles on exhibitions of pictures, and with
most pleasure when the pictures are landscapes.  The mere names of
paintings often gladden me for a whole day--those names which bring
before the mind a bit of seashore, a riverside, a glimpse of moorland or
of woods.  However feeble his criticism, the journalist generally writes
with appreciation of these subjects; his descriptions carry me away to
all sorts of places which I shall never see again with the bodily eye,
and I thank him for his unconscious magic.  Much better this, after all,
than really going to London and seeing the pictures themselves.  They
would not disappoint me; I love and honour even the least of English
landscape painters; but I should try to see too many at once, and fall
back into my old mood of tired grumbling at the conditions of modern
life.  For a year or two I have grumbled little--all the better for me.



XXVI.


Of late, I have been wishing for music.  An odd chance gratified my
desire.

I had to go into Exeter yesterday.  I got there about sunset, transacted
my business, and turned to walk home again through the warm twilight.  In
Southernhay, as I was passing a house of which the ground-floor windows
stood open, there sounded the notes of a piano--chords touched by a
skilful hand.  I checked my step, hoping, and in a minute or two the
musician began to play that nocturne of Chopin which I love best--I don't
know how to name it.  My heart leapt.  There I stood in the thickening
dusk, the glorious sounds floating about me; and I trembled with very
ecstasy of enjoyment.  When silence came, I waited in the hope of another
piece, but nothing followed, and so I went my way.

It is well for me that I cannot hear music when I will; assuredly I
should not have such intense pleasure as comes to me now and then by
haphazard.  As I walked on, forgetting all about the distance, and
reaching home before I knew I was half way there, I felt gratitude to my
unknown benefactor--a state of mind I have often experienced in the days
long gone by.  It happened at times--not in my barest days, but in those
of decent poverty--that some one in the house where I lodged played the
piano--and how it rejoiced me when this came to pass!  I say "played the
piano"--a phrase that covers much.  For my own part, I was very tolerant;
anything that could by the largest interpretation be called music, I
welcomed and was thankful; for even "five-finger exercises" I found, at
moments, better than nothing.  For it was when I was labouring at my desk
that the notes of the instrument were grateful and helpful to me.  Some
men, I believe, would have been driven frantic under the circumstances;
to me, anything like a musical sound always came as a godsend; it tuned
my thoughts; it made the words flow.  Even the street organs put me in a
happy mood; I owe many a page to them--written when I should else have
been sunk in bilious gloom.

More than once, too, when I was walking London streets by night,
penniless and miserable, music from an open window has stayed my step,
even as yesterday.  Very well can I remember such a moment in Eaton
Square, one night when I was going back to Chelsea, tired, hungry, racked
by frustrate passions.  I had tramped miles and miles, in the hope of
wearying myself so that I could sleep and forget.  Then came the piano
notes--I saw that there was festival in the house--and for an hour or so
I revelled as none of the bidden guests could possibly be doing.  And
when I reached my poor lodgings, I was no longer envious nor mad with
desires, but as I fell asleep I thanked the unknown mortal who had played
for me, and given me peace.



XXVII.


To-day I have read _The Tempest_.  It is perhaps the play that I love
best, and, because I seem to myself to know it so well, I commonly pass
it over in opening the book.  Yet, as always in regard to Shakespeare,
having read it once more, I find that my knowledge was less complete than
I supposed.  So it would be, live as long as one might; so it would ever
be, whilst one had strength to turn the pages and a mind left to read
them.

I like to believe that this was the poet's last work, that he wrote it in
his home at Stratford, walking day by day in the fields which had taught
his boyhood to love rural England.  It is ripe fruit of the supreme
imagination, perfect craft of the master hand.  For a man whose life's
business it has been to study the English tongue, what joy can equal that
of marking the happy ease wherewith Shakespeare surpasses, in mere
command of words, every achievement of those even who, apart from him,
are great?  I could fancy that, in _The Tempest_, he wrought with a
peculiar consciousness of this power, smiling as the word of inimitable
felicity, the phrase of incomparable cadence, was whispered to him by the
Ariel that was his genius.  He seems to sport with language, to amuse
himself with new discovery of its resources.  From king to beggar, men of
every rank and every order of mind have spoken with his lips; he has
uttered the lore of fairyland; now it pleases him to create a being
neither man nor fairy, a something between brute and human nature, and to
endow its purposes with words.  These words, how they smack of the moist
and spawning earth, of the life of creatures that cannot rise above the
soil!  We do not think of it enough; we stint our wonder because we fall
short in appreciation.  A miracle is worked before us, and we scarce give
heed; it has become familiar to our minds as any other of nature's
marvels, which we rarely pause to reflect upon.

_The Tempest_ contains the noblest meditative passage in all the plays;
that which embodies Shakespeare's final view of life, and is the
inevitable quotation of all who would sum the teachings of philosophy.  It
contains his most exquisite lyrics, his tenderest love passages, and one
glimpse of fairyland which--I cannot but think--outshines the utmost
beauty of _A Midsummer Night's Dream_: Prospero's farewell to the "elves
of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves."  Again a miracle; these
are things which cannot be staled by repetition.  Come to them often as
you will, they are ever fresh as though new minted from the brain of the
poet.  Being perfect, they can never droop under that satiety which
arises from the perception of fault; their virtue can never be so
entirely savoured as to leave no pungency of gusto for the next approach.

Among the many reasons which make me glad to have been born in England,
one of the first is that I read Shakespeare in my mother tongue.  If I
try to imagine myself as one who cannot know him face to face, who hears
him only speaking from afar, and that in accents which only through the
labouring intelligence can touch the living soul, there comes upon me a
sense of chill discouragement, of dreary deprivation.  I am wont to think
that I can read Homer, and, assuredly, if any man enjoys him, it is I;
but can I for a moment dream that Homer yields me all his music, that his
word is to me as to him who walked by the Hellenic shore when Hellas
lived?  I know that there reaches me across the vast of time no more than
a faint and broken echo; I know that it would be fainter still, but for
its blending with those memories of youth which are as a glimmer of the
world's primeval glory.  Let every land have joy of its poet; for the
poet is the land itself, all its greatness and its sweetness, all that
incommunicable heritage for which men live and die.  As I close the book,
love and reverence possess me.  Whether does my full heart turn to the
great Enchanter, or to the Island upon which he has laid his spell?  I
know not.  I cannot think of them apart.  In the love and reverence
awakened by that voice of voices, Shakespeare and England are but one.




AUTUMN


I.


This has been a year of long sunshine.  Month has followed upon month
with little unkindness of the sky; I scarcely marked when July passed
into August, August into September.  I should think it summer still, but
that I see the lanes yellow-purfled with flowers of autumn.

I am busy with the hawkweeds; that is to say, I am learning to
distinguish and to name as many as I can.  For scientific classification
I have little mind; it does not happen to fall in with my habits of
thought; but I like to be able to give its name (the "trivial" by choice)
to every flower I meet in my walks.  Why should I be content to say, "Oh,
it's a hawkweed"?  That is but one degree less ungracious than if I
dismissed all the yellow-rayed as "dandelions."  I feel as if the flower
were pleased by my recognition of its personality.  Seeing how much I owe
them, one and all, the least I can do is to greet them severally.  For
the same reason I had rather say "hawkweed" than "hieracium"; the
homelier word has more of kindly friendship.



II.


How the mood for a book sometimes rushes upon one, either one knows not
why, or in consequence, perhaps, of some most trifling suggestion.
Yesterday I was walking at dusk.  I came to an old farmhouse; at the
garden gate a vehicle stood waiting, and I saw it was our doctor's gig.
Having passed, I turned to look back.  There was a faint afterglow in the
sky beyond the chimneys; a light twinkled at one of the upper windows.  I
said to myself, "Tristram Shandy," and hurried home to plunge into a book
which I have not opened for I dare say twenty years.

Not long ago, I awoke one morning and suddenly thought of the
Correspondence between Goethe and Schiller; and so impatient did I become
to open the book that I got up an hour earlier than usual.  A book worth
rising for; much better worth than old Burton, who pulled Johnson out of
bed.  A book which helps one to forget the idle or venomous chatter going
on everywhere about us, and bids us cherish hope for a world "which has
such people in't."

These volumes I had at hand; I could reach them down from my shelves at
the moment when I hungered for them.  But it often happens that the book
which comes into my mind could only be procured with trouble and delay; I
breathe regretfully and put aside the thought.  Ah! the books that one
will never read again.  They gave delight, perchance something more; they
left a perfume in the memory; but life has passed them by for ever.  I
have but to muse, and one after another they rise before me.  Books
gentle and quieting; books noble and inspiring; books that well merit to
be pored over, not once but many a time.  Yet never again shall I hold
them in my hand; the years fly too quickly, and are too few.  Perhaps
when I lie waiting for the end, some of those lost books will come into
my wandering thoughts, and I shall remember them as friends to whom I
owed a kindness--friends passed upon the way.  What regret in that last
farewell!



III.


Every one, I suppose, is subject to a trick of mind which often puzzles
me.  I am reading or thinking, and at a moment, without any association
or suggestion that I can discover, there rises before me the vision of a
place I know.  Impossible to explain why that particular spot should show
itself to my mind's eye; the cerebral impulse is so subtle that no search
may trace its origin.  If I am reading, doubtless a thought, a phrase,
possibly a mere word, on the page before me serves to awaken memory.  If
I am otherwise occupied, it must be an object seen, an odour, a touch;
perhaps even a posture of the body suffices to recall something in the
past.  Sometimes the vision passes, and there an end; sometimes, however,
it has successors, the memory working quite independently of my will, and
no link appearing between one scene and the next.

Ten minutes ago I was talking with my gardener.  Our topic was the nature
of the soil, whether or not it would suit a certain kind of vegetable.  Of
a sudden I found myself gazing at--the Bay of Avlona.  Quite certainly my
thoughts had not strayed in that direction.  The picture that came before
me caused me a shock of surprise, and I am still vainly trying to
discover how I came to behold it.

A happy chance that I ever saw Avlona.  I was on my way from Corfu to
Brindisi.  The steamer sailed late in the afternoon; there was a little
wind, and as the December night became chilly, I soon turned in.  With
the first daylight I was on deck, expecting to find that we were near the
Italian port; to my surprise, I saw a mountainous shore, towards which
the ship was making at full speed.  On inquiry, I learnt that this was
the coast of Albania; our vessel not being very seaworthy, and the wind
still blowing a little (though not enough to make any passenger
uncomfortable), the captain had turned back when nearly half across the
Adriatic, and was seeking a haven in the shelter of the snow-topped
hills.  Presently we steamed into a great bay, in the narrow mouth of
which lay an island.  My map showed me where we were, and with no small
interest I discovered that the long line of heights guarding the bay on
its southern side formed the Acroceraunian Promontory.  A little town
visible high up on the inner shore was the ancient Aulon.

Here we anchored, and lay all day long.  Provisions running short, a boat
had to be sent to land, and the sailors purchased, among other things,
some peculiarly detestable bread--according to them, _cotto al sole_.
There was not a cloud in the sky; till evening, the wind whistled above
our heads, but the sea about us was blue and smooth.  I sat in hot
sunshine, feasting my eyes on the beautiful cliffs and valleys of the
thickly-wooded shore.  Then came a noble sunset; then night crept gently
into the hollows of the hills, which now were coloured the deepest,
richest green.  A little lighthouse began to shine.  In the perfect calm
that had fallen, I heard breakers murmuring softly upon the beach.

At sunrise we entered the port of Brindisi.



IV.


The characteristic motive of English poetry is love of nature, especially
of nature as seen in the English rural landscape.  From the "Cuckoo Song"
of our language in its beginnings to the perfect loveliness of Tennyson's
best verse, this note is ever sounding.  It is persistent even amid the
triumph of the drama.  Take away from Shakespeare all his bits of natural
description, all his casual allusions to the life and aspects of the
country, and what a loss were there!  The reign of the iambic couplet
confined, but could not suppress, this native music; Pope
notwithstanding, there came the "Ode to Evening" and that "Elegy" which,
unsurpassed for beauty of thought and nobility of utterance in all the
treasury of our lyrics, remains perhaps the most essentially English poem
ever written.

This attribute of our national mind availed even to give rise to an
English school of painting.  It came late; that it ever came at all is
remarkable enough.  A people apparently less apt for that kind of
achievement never existed.  So profound is the English joy in meadow and
stream and hill, that, unsatisfied at last with vocal expression, it took
up the brush, the pencil, the etching tool, and created a new form of
art.  The National Gallery represents only in a very imperfect way the
richness and variety of our landscape work.  Were it possible to collect,
and suitably to display, the very best of such work in every vehicle, I
know not which would be the stronger emotion in an English heart, pride
or rapture.

One obvious reason for the long neglect of Turner lies in the fact that
his genius does not seem to be truly English.  Turner's landscape, even
when it presents familiar scenes, does not show them in the familiar
light.  Neither the artist nor the intelligent layman is satisfied.  He
gives us glorious visions; we admit the glory--but we miss something
which we deem essential.  I doubt whether Turner tasted rural England; I
doubt whether the spirit of English poetry was in him; I doubt whether
the essential significance of the common things which we call beautiful
was revealed to his soul.  Such doubt does not affect his greatness as a
poet in colour and in form, but I suspect that it has always been the
cause why England could not love him.  If any man whom I knew to be a man
of brains confessed to me that he preferred Birket Foster, I should
smile--but I should understand.



V.


A long time since I wrote in this book.  In September I caught a cold,
which meant three weeks' illness.

I have not been suffering; merely feverish and weak and unable to use my
mind for anything but a daily hour or two of the lightest reading.  The
weather has not favoured my recovery, wet winds often blowing, and not
much sun.  Lying in bed, I have watched the sky, studied the clouds,
which--so long as they are clouds indeed, and not a mere waste of grey
vapour--always have their beauty.  Inability to read has always been my
horror; once, a trouble of the eyes all but drove me mad with fear of
blindness; but I find that in my present circumstances, in my own still
house, with no intrusion to be dreaded, with no task or care to worry me,
I can fleet the time not unpleasantly even without help of books.
Reverie, unknown to me in the days of bondage, has brought me solace; I
hope it has a little advanced me in wisdom.

For not, surely, by deliberate effort of thought does a man grow wise.
The truths of life are not discovered by us.  At moments unforeseen, some
gracious influence descends upon the soul, touching it to an emotion
which, we know not how, the mind transmutes into thought.  This can
happen only in a calm of the senses, a surrender of the whole being to
passionless contemplation.  I understand, now, the intellectual mood of
the quietist.

Of course my good housekeeper has tended me perfectly, with the minimum
of needless talk.  Wonderful woman!

If the evidence of a well-spent life is necessarily seen in "honour,
love, obedience, troops of friends," mine, it is clear, has fallen short
of a moderate ideal.  Friends I have had, and have; but very few.  Honour
and obedience--why, by a stretch, Mrs. M--- may perchance represent these
blessings.  As for love--?

Let me tell myself the truth.  Do I really believe that at any time of my
life I have been the kind of man who merits affection?  I think not.  I
have always been much too self-absorbed; too critical of all about me;
too unreasonably proud.  Such men as I live and die alone, however much
in appearance accompanied.  I do not repine at it; nay, lying day after
day in solitude and silence, I have felt glad that it was so.  At least I
give no one trouble, and that is much.  Most solemnly do I hope that in
the latter days no long illness awaits me.  May I pass quickly from this
life of quiet enjoyment to the final peace.  So shall no one think of me
with pained sympathy or with weariness.  One--two--even three may
possibly feel regret, come the end how it may, but I do not flatter
myself that to them I am more than an object of kindly thought at long
intervals.  It is enough; it signifies that I have not erred wholly.  And
when I think that my daily life testifies to an act of kindness such as I
could never have dreamt of meriting from the man who performed it, may I
not be much more than content?



VI.


How I envy those who become prudent without thwackings of experience!
Such men seem to be not uncommon.  I don't mean cold-blooded calculators
of profit and loss in life's possibilities; nor yet the plodding dull,
who never have imagination enough to quit the beaten track of security;
but bright-witted and large-hearted fellows who seem always to be led by
common sense, who go steadily from stage to stage of life, doing the
right, the prudent things, guilty of no vagaries, winning respect by
natural progress, seldom needing aid themselves, often helpful to others,
and, through all, good-tempered, deliberate, happy.  How I envy them!

For of myself it might be said that whatever folly is possible to a
moneyless man, that folly I have at one time or another committed.  Within
my nature there seemed to be no faculty of rational self-guidance.  Boy
and man, I blundered into every ditch and bog which lay within sight of
my way.  Never did silly mortal reap such harvest of experience; never
had any one so many bruises to show for it.  Thwack, thwack!  No sooner
had I recovered from one sound drubbing than I put myself in the way of
another.  "Unpractical" I was called by those who spoke mildly; "idiot"--I
am sure--by many a ruder tongue.  And idiot I see myself, whenever I
glance back over the long, devious road.  Something, obviously, I lacked
from the beginning, some balancing principle granted to most men in one
or another degree.  I had brains, but they were no help to me in the
common circumstances of life.  But for the good fortune which plucked me
out of my mazes and set me in paradise, I should no doubt have blundered
on to the end.  The last thwack of experience would have laid me low just
when I was becoming really a prudent man.



VII.


This morning's sunshine faded amid slow-gathering clouds, but something
of its light seems still to linger in the air, and to touch the rain
which is falling softly.  I hear a pattering upon the still leafage of
the garden; it is a sound which lulls, and tunes the mind to calm
thoughtfulness.

I have a letter to-day from my old friend in Germany, E. B.  For many and
many a year these letters have made a pleasant incident in my life; more
than that, they have often brought me help and comfort.  It must be a
rare thing for friendly correspondence to go on during the greater part
of a lifetime between men of different nationalities who see each other
not twice in two decades.  We were young men when we first met in London,
poor, struggling, full of hopes and ideals; now we look back upon those
far memories from the autumn of life.  B. writes to-day in a vein of
quiet contentment, which does me good.  He quotes Goethe: "_Was man in
der Jugend begehrt hat man im Alter die Fulle_."

These words of Goethe's were once a hope to me; later, they made me shake
my head incredulously; now I smile to think how true they have proved in
my own case.  But what, exactly, do they mean?  Are they merely an
expression of the optimistic spirit?  If so, optimism has to content
itself with rather doubtful generalities.  Can it truly be said that most
men find the wishes of their youth satisfied in later life?  Ten years
ago, I should have utterly denied it, and could have brought what seemed
to me abundant evidence in its disproof.  And as regards myself, is it
not by mere happy accident that I pass my latter years in such enjoyment
of all I most desired?  Accident--but there is no such thing.  I might
just as well have called it an accident had I succeeded in earning the
money on which now I live.

From the beginning of my manhood, it is true, I longed for bookish
leisure; that, assuredly, is seldom even one of the desires in a young
man's heart, but perhaps it is one of those which may most reasonably
look for gratification later on.  What, however, of the multitudes who
aim only at wealth, for the power and the pride and the material
pleasures which it represents?  We know very well that few indeed are
successful in that aim; and, missing it, do they not miss everything?  For
them, are not Goethe's words mere mockery?

Apply them to mankind at large, and perhaps, after all, they are true.
The fact of national prosperity and contentment implies, necessarily, the
prosperity and contentment of the greater number of the individuals of
which the nation consists.  In other words, the average man who is past
middle life has obtained what he strove for--success in his calling.  As
a young man, he would not, perhaps, have set forth his aspirations so
moderately, but do they not, as a fact, amount to this?  In defence of
the optimistic view, one may urge how rare it is to meet with an elderly
man who harbours a repining spirit.  True; but I have always regarded as
a fact of infinite pathos the ability men have to subdue themselves to
the conditions of life.  Contentment so often means resignation,
abandonment of the hope seen to be forbidden.

I cannot resolve this doubt.



VIII.


I have been reading Sainte-Beuve's _Port Royal_, a book I have often
thought of reading, but its length, and my slight interest in that
period, always held me aloof.  Happily, chance and mood came together,
and I am richer by a bit of knowledge well worth acquiring.  It is the
kind of book which, one may reasonably say, tends to edification.  One is
better for having lived a while with "Messieurs de Port-Royal"; the best
of them were, surely, not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Theirs is not, indeed, the Christianity of the first age; we are among
theologians, and the shadow of dogma has dimmed those divine hues of the
early morning, yet ever and anon there comes a cool, sweet air, which
seems not to have blown across man's common world, which bears no taint
of mortality.

A gallery of impressive and touching portraits.  The great-souled M. de
Saint-Cyran, with his vision of Christ restored; M. Le Maitre, who, at
the summit of a brilliant career, turned from the world to meditation and
penitence; Pascal, with his genius and his triumphs, his conflicts of
soul and fleshly martyrdom; Lancelot, the good Lancelot, ideal
schoolmaster, who wrote grammar and edited classical books; the vigorous
Arnauld, doctoral rather than saintly, but long-suffering for the faith
that was in him; and all the smaller names--Walon de Beaupuis, Nicole,
Hamon--spirits of exquisite humility and sweetness--a perfume rises from
the page as one reads about them.  But best of all I like M. de
Tillemont; I could have wished for myself even such a life as his;
wrapped in silence and calm, a life of gentle devotion and zealous study.
From the age of fourteen, he said, his intellect had occupied itself with
but one subject, that of ecclesiastical history.  Rising at four o'clock,
he read and wrote until half-past nine in the evening, interrupting his
work only to say the Offices of the Church, and for a couple of hours'
breathing at mid-day.  Few were his absences.  When he had to make a
journey, he set forth on foot, staff in hand, and lightened the way by
singing to himself a psalm or canticle.  This man of profound erudition
had as pure and simple a heart as ever dwelt in mortal.  He loved to stop
by the road and talk with children, and knew how to hold their attention
whilst teaching them a lesson.  Seeing boy or girl in charge of a cow, he
would ask: "How is it that you, a little child, are able to control that
animal, so much bigger and stronger?"  And he would show the reason,
speaking of the human soul.  All this about Tillemont is new to me; well
as I knew his name (from the pages of Gibbon), I thought of him merely as
the laborious and accurate compiler of historical materials.  Admirable
as was his work, the spirit in which he performed it is the thing to
dwell upon; he studied for study's sake, and with no aim but truth; to
him it was a matter of indifference whether his learning ever became
known among men, and at any moment he would have given the fruits of his
labour to any one capable of making use of them.

Think of the world in which the Jansenists were living; the world of the
Fronde, of Richelieu and Mazarin, of his refulgent Majesty Louis XIV.
Contrast Port-Royal with Versailles, and--whatever one's judgment of
their religious and ecclesiastical aims--one must needs say that these
men lived with dignity.  The Great Monarch is, in comparison, a poor,
sordid creature.  One thinks of Moliere refused burial--the king's
contemptuous indifference for one who could do no more to amuse him being
a true measure of the royal greatness.  Face to face with even the least
of these grave and pious men, how paltry and unclean are all those
courtly figures; not _there_ was dignity, in the palace chambers and the
stately gardens, but in the poor rooms where the solitaries of Port-Royal
prayed and studied and taught.  Whether or not the ideal for mankind,
their life was worthy of man.  And what is rarer than a life to which
that praise can be given?



IX.


It is amusing to note the superficial forms of reaction against
scientific positivism.  The triumph of Darwin was signalized by the
invention of that happy word Agnostic, which had great vogue.  But
agnosticism, as a fashion, was far too reasonable to endure.  There came
a rumour of Oriental magic, (how the world repeats itself!) and presently
every one who had nothing better to do gossipped about "esoteric
Buddhism"--the saving adjective sounded well in a drawing-room.  It did
not hold very long, even with the novelists; for the English taste this
esotericism was too exotic.  Somebody suggested that the old
table-turning and spirit-rapping, which had homely associations, might be
re-considered in a scientific light, and the idea was seized upon.
Superstition pranked in the professor's spectacles, it set up a
laboratory, and printed grave reports.  Day by day its sphere widened.
Hypnotism brought matter for the marvel-mongers, and there followed a
long procession of words in limping Greek--a little difficult till
practice had made perfect.  Another fortunate terminologist hit upon the
word "psychical"--the _p_ might be sounded or not, according to the taste
and fancy of the pronouncer--and the fashionable children of a scientific
age were thoroughly at ease.  "There _must_ be something, you know; one
always felt that there _must_ be something."  And now, if one may judge
from what one reads, psychical "science" is comfortably joining hands
with the sorcery of the Middle Ages.  It is said to be a lucrative moment
for wizards that peep and that mutter.  If the law against
fortune-telling were as strictly enforced in the polite world as it
occasionally is in slums and hamlets, we should have a merry time.  But
it is difficult to prosecute a Professor of Telepathy--and how he would
welcome the advertisement!

Of course I know very well that all that make use of these words are not
in one and the same category.  There is a study of the human mind, in
health and in disease, which calls for as much respect as any other study
conscientiously and capably pursued; that it lends occasion to fribbles
and knaves is no argument against any honest tendency of thought.  Men
whom one cannot but esteem are deeply engaged in psychical
investigations, and have convinced themselves that they are brought into
touch with phenomena inexplicable by the commonly accepted laws of life.
Be it so.  They may be on the point of making discoveries in the world
beyond sense.  For my own part, everything of this kind not only does not
interest me; I turn from it with the strongest distaste.  If every wonder-
story examined by the Psychical Society were set before me with
irresistible evidence of its truth, my feeling (call it my prejudice)
would undergo no change whatever.  No whit the less should I yawn over
the next batch, and lay the narratives aside with--yes, with a sort of
disgust.  "An ounce of civet, good apothecary!"  Why it should be so with
me I cannot say.  I am as indifferent to the facts or fancies of
spiritualism as I am, for instance, to the latest mechanical application
of electricity.  Edisons and Marconis may thrill the world with
astounding novelties; they astound me, as every one else, but straightway
I forget my astonishment, and am in every respect the man I was before.
The thing has simply no concern for me, and I care not a _volt_ if to-
morrow the proclaimed discovery be proved a journalist's mistake or
invention.

Am I, then, a hidebound materialist?  If I know myself, hardly that.
Once, in conversation with G. A., I referred to his position as that of
the agnostic.  He corrected me.  "The agnostic grants that there _may_ be
something beyond the sphere of man's knowledge; I can make no such
admission.  For me, what is called the unknowable is simply the
non-existent.  We see what is, and we see all."  Now this gave me a sort
of shock; it seemed incredible to me that a man of so much intelligence
could hold such a view.  So far am I from feeling satisfied with any
explanation, scientific or other, of myself and of the world about me,
that not a day goes by but I fall a-marvelling before the mystery of the
universe.  To trumpet the triumphs of human knowledge seems to me worse
than childishness; now, as of old, we know but one thing--that we know
nothing.  What!  Can I pluck the flower by the wayside, and, as I gaze at
it, feel that, if I knew all the teachings of histology, morphology, and
so on, with regard to it, I should have exhausted its meanings?  What is
all this but words, words, words?  Interesting, yes, as observation; but,
the more interesting, so much the more provocative of wonder and of
hopeless questioning.  One may gaze and think till the brain whirls--till
the little blossom in one's hand becomes as overwhelming a miracle as the
very sun in heaven.  Nothing to be known?  The flower simply a flower,
and there an end on't?  The man simply a product of evolutionary law, his
senses and his intellect merely availing him to take account of the
natural mechanism of which he forms a part?  I find it very hard to
believe that this is the conviction of any human mind.  Rather I would
think that despair at an insoluble problem, and perhaps impatience with
those who pretend to solve it, bring about a resolute disregard of
everything beyond the physical fact, and so at length a self-deception
which seems obtuseness.



X.


It may well be that what we call the unknowable will be for ever the
unknown.  In that thought is there not a pathos beyond words?  It may be
that the human race will live and pass away; all mankind, from him who in
the world's dawn first shaped to his fearful mind an image of the Lord of
Life, to him who, in the dusking twilight of the last age, shall crouch
before a deity of stone or wood; and never one of that long lineage have
learnt the wherefore of his being.  The prophets, the martyrs, their
noble anguish vain and meaningless; the wise whose thought strove to
eternity, and was but an idle dream; the pure in heart whose life was a
vision of the living God, the suffering and the mourners whose solace was
in a world to come, the victims of injustice who cried to the Judge
Supreme--all gone down into silence, and the globe that bare them
circling dead and cold through soundless space.  The most tragic aspect
of such a tragedy is that it is not unthinkable.  The soul revolts, but
dare not see in this revolt the assurance of its higher destiny.  Viewing
our life thus, is it not easier to believe that the tragedy is played
with no spectator?  And of a truth, of a truth, what spectator can there
be?  The day may come when, to all who live, the Name of Names will be
but an empty symbol, rejected by reason and by faith.  Yet the tragedy
will be played on.

It is not, I say, unthinkable; but that is not the same thing as to
declare that life has no meaning beyond the sense it bears to human
intelligence.  The intelligence itself rejects such a supposition; in my
case, with impatience and scorn.  No theory of the world which ever came
to my knowledge is to me for one moment acceptable; the possibility of an
explanation which would set my mind at rest is to me inconceivable; no
whit the less am I convinced that there is a Reason of the All; one which
transcends my understanding, one no glimmer of which will ever touch my
apprehension; a Reason which must imply a creative power, and therefore,
even whilst a necessity of my thought, is by the same criticized into
nothing.  A like antinomy with that which affects our conception of the
infinite in time and space.  Whether the rational processes have reached
their final development, who shall say?  Perhaps what seem to us the
impassable limits of thought are but the conditions of a yet early stage
in the history of man.  Those who make them a proof of a "future state"
must necessarily suppose gradations in that futurity; does the savage,
scarce risen above the brute, enter upon the same "new life" as the man
of highest civilization?  Such gropings of the mind certify our
ignorance; the strange thing is that they can be held by any one to
demonstrate that our ignorance is final knowledge.



XI.


Yet that, perhaps, will be the mind of coming man; if not the final
attainment of his intellectual progress, at all events a long period of
self-satisfaction, assumed as finality.  We talk of the "ever aspiring
soul"; we take for granted that if one religion passes away, another must
arise.  But what if man presently find himself without spiritual needs?
Such modification of his being cannot be deemed impossible; many signs of
our life to-day seem to point towards it.  If the habits of thought
favoured by physical science do but sink deep enough, and no vast
calamity come to check mankind in its advance to material contentment,
the age of true positivism may arise.  Then it will be the common
privilege, "rerum cognoscere causas"; the word supernatural will have no
sense; superstition will be a dimly understood trait of the early race;
and where now we perceive an appalling Mystery, everything will be lucid
and serene as a geometric demonstration.  Such an epoch of Reason might
be the happiest the world could know.  Indeed, it would either be that,
or it would never come about at all.  For suffering and sorrow are the
great Doctors of Metaphysic; and, remembering this, one cannot count very
surely upon the rationalist millennium.



XII.


The free man, says Spinoza, thinks of nothing less often than of death.
Free, in his sense of the word, I may not call myself.  I think of death
very often; the thought, indeed, is ever in the background of my mind;
yet free in another sense I assuredly am, for death inspires me with no
fear.  There was a time when I dreaded it; but that, merely because it
meant disaster to others who depended upon my labour; the cessation of
being has never in itself had power to afflict me.  Pain I cannot well
endure, and I do indeed think with apprehension of being subjected to the
trial of long deathbed torments.  It is a sorry thing that the man who
has fronted destiny with something of manly calm throughout a life of
stress and of striving, may, when he nears the end, be dishonoured by a
weakness which is mere disease.  But happily I am not often troubled by
that dark anticipation.

I always turn out of my way to walk through a country churchyard; these
rural resting-places are as attractive to me as a town cemetery is
repugnant.  I read the names upon the stones, and find a deep solace in
thinking that for all these the fret and the fear of life are over.  There
comes to me no touch of sadness; whether it be a little child or an aged
man, I have the same sense of happy accomplishment; the end having come,
and with it the eternal peace, what matter if it came late or soon?  There
is no such gratulation as _Hic jacet_.  There is no such dignity as that
of death.  In the path trodden by the noblest of mankind these have
followed; that which of all who live is the utmost thing demanded, these
have achieved.  I cannot sorrow for them, but the thought of their
vanished life moves me to a brotherly tenderness.  The dead, amid this
leafy silence, seem to whisper encouragement to him whose fate yet
lingers: As we are, so shalt thou be; and behold our quiet!



XIII.


Many a time, when life went hard with me, I have betaken myself to the
Stoics, and not all in vain.  Marcus Aurelius has often been one of my
bedside books; I have read him in the night watches, when I could not
sleep for misery, and when assuredly I could have read nothing else.  He
did not remove my burden; his proofs of the vanity of earthly troubles
availed me nothing; but there was a soothing harmony in his thought which
partly lulled my mind, and the mere wish that I could find strength to
emulate that high example (though I knew that I never should) was in
itself a safeguard against the baser impulses of wretchedness.  I read
him still, but with no turbid emotion, thinking rather of the man than of
the philosophy, and holding his image dear in my heart of hearts.

Of course the intellectual assumption which makes his system untenable by
the thinker of our time is: that we possess a knowledge of the absolute.
Noble is the belief that by exercise of his reason a man may enter into
communion with that Rational Essence which is the soul of the world; but
precisely because of our inability to find within ourselves any such sure
and certain guidance do we of to-day accept the barren doom of
scepticism.  Otherwise, the Stoic's sense of man's subordination in the
universal scheme, and of the all-ruling destiny, brings him into touch
with our own philosophical views, and his doctrine concerning the
"sociable" nature of man, of the reciprocal obligations which exist
between all who live, are entirely congenial to the better spirit of our
day.  His fatalism is not mere resignation; one has not only to accept
one's lot, whatever it is, as inevitable, but to accept it with joy, with
praises.  Why are we here?  For the same reason that has brought about
the existence of a horse, or of a vine, to play the part allotted to us
by Nature.  As it is within our power to understand the order of things,
so are we capable of guiding ourselves in accordance therewith; the will,
powerless over circumstance, is free to determine the habits of the soul.
The first duty is self-discipline; its correspondent first privilege is
an inborn knowledge of the law of life.

But we are fronted by that persistent questioner who will accept no _a
priori_ assumption, however noble in its character and beneficent in its
tendency.  How do we know that the reason of the Stoic is at harmony with
the world's law?  I, perhaps, may see life from a very different point of
view; to me reason may dictate, not self-subdual, but self-indulgence; I
may find in the free exercise of all my passions an existence far more
consonant with what seems to me the dictate of Nature.  I am proud;
Nature has made me so; let my pride assert itself to justification.  I am
strong; let me put forth my strength, it is the destiny of the feeble to
fall before me.  On the other hand, I am weak and I suffer; what avails a
mere assertion that fate is just, to bring about my calm and glad
acceptance of this down-trodden doom?  Nay, for there is that within my
soul which bids me revolt, and cry against the iniquity of some power I
know not.  Granting that I am compelled to acknowledge a scheme of things
which constrains me to this or that, whether I will or no, how can I be
sure that wisdom or moral duty lies in acquiescence?  Thus the unceasing
questioner; to whom, indeed, there is no reply.  For our philosophy sees
no longer a supreme sanction, and no longer hears a harmony of the
universe.

"He that is unjust is also impious.  For the Nature of the Universe,
having made all reasonable creatures one for another, to the end that
they should do one another good; more or less, according to the several
persons and occasions; but in no wise hurt one another; it is manifest
that he that doth transgress against this her will, is guilty of impiety
towards the most ancient and venerable of all the Deities."  How gladly
would I believe this!  That injustice is impiety, and indeed the supreme
impiety, I will hold with my last breath; but it were the merest
affectation of a noble sentiment if I supported my faith by such a
reasoning.  I see no single piece of strong testimony that justice is the
law of the universe; I see suggestions incalculable tending to prove that
it is not.  Rather must I apprehend that man, in some inconceivable way,
may at his best moments represent a Principle darkly at strife with that
which prevails throughout the world as known to us.  If the just man be
in truth a worshipper of the most ancient of Deities, he must needs
suppose, either that the object of his worship belongs to a fallen
dynasty, or--what from of old has been his refuge--that the sacred fire
which burns within him is an "evidence of things not seen."  What if I am
incapable of either supposition?  There remains the dignity of a hopeless
cause--"_sed victa Catoni_."  But how can there sound the hymn of praise?

"That is best for everyone, which the common Nature of all doth send unto
everyone, and then is it best, when she doth send it."  The optimism of
Necessity, and perhaps, the highest wisdom man can attain unto.  "Remember
that unto reasonable creatures only is it granted that they may willingly
and freely submit."  No one could be more sensible than I of the
persuasiveness of this high theme.  The words sing to me, and life is
illumined with soft glory, like that of the autumn sunset yonder.
"Consider how man's life is but for a very moment of time, and so depart
meek and contented: even as if a ripe olive falling should praise the
ground that bare her, and give thanks to the tree that begat her."  So
would I fain think, when the moment comes.  It is the mood of strenuous
endeavour, but also the mood of rest.  Better than the calm of achieved
indifference (if that, indeed, is possible to man); better than the
ecstasy which contemns the travail of earth in contemplation of bliss to
come.  But, by no effort attainable.  An influence of the unknown powers;
a peace that falleth upon the soul like dew at evening.



XIV.


I have had one of my savage headaches.  For a day and a night I was in
blind torment.  Have at it, now, with the stoic remedy.  Sickness of the
body is no evil.  With a little resolution and considering it as a
natural issue of certain natural processes, pain may well be borne.  One's
solace is, to remember that it cannot affect the soul, which partakes of
the eternal nature.  This body is but as "the clothing, or the cottage,
of the mind."  Let flesh be racked; I, the very I, will stand apart, lord
of myself.

Meanwhile, memory, reason, every faculty of my intellectual part, is
being whelmed in muddy oblivion.  Is the soul something other than the
mind?  If so, I have lost all consciousness of its existence.  For me,
mind and soul are one, and, as I am too feelingly reminded, that element
of my being is _here_, where the brain throbs and anguishes.  A little
more of such suffering, and I were myself no longer; the body
representing me would gesticulate and rave, but I should know nothing of
its motives, its fantasies.  The very I, it is too plain, consists but
with a certain balance of my physical elements, which we call health.
Even in the light beginnings of my headache, I was already not myself; my
thoughts followed no normal course, and I was aware of the abnormality.  A
few hours later, I was but a walking disease; my mind--if one could use
the word--had become a barrel-organ, grinding in endless repetition a bar
or two of idle music.

What trust shall I repose in the soul that serves me thus?  Just as much,
one would say, as in the senses, through which I know all that I can know
of the world in which I live, and which, for all I can tell, may deceive
me even more grossly in their common use than they do on certain
occasions where I have power to test them; just as much, and no more--if
I am right in concluding that mind and soul are merely subtle functions
of body.  If I chance to become deranged in certain parts of my physical
mechanism, I shall straightway be deranged in my wits; and behold that
Something in me which "partakes of the eternal" prompting me to pranks
which savour little of the infinite wisdom.  Even in its normal condition
(if I can determine what that is) my mind is obviously the slave of
trivial accidents; I eat something that disagrees with me, and of a
sudden the whole aspect of life is changed; this impulse has lost its
force, and another which before I should not for a moment have
entertained, is all-powerful over me.  In short, I know just as little
about myself as I do about the Eternal Essence, and I have a haunting
suspicion that I may be a mere automaton, my every thought and act due to
some power which uses and deceives me.

Why am I meditating thus, instead of enjoying the life of the natural
man, at peace with himself and the world, as I was a day or two ago?
Merely, it is evident, because my health has suffered a temporary
disorder.  It has passed; I have thought enough about the unthinkable; I
feel my quiet returning.  Is it any merit of mine that I begin to be in
health once more?  Could I, by any effort of the will, have shunned this
pitfall?



XV.


Blackberries hanging thick upon the hedge bring to my memory something of
long ago.  I had somehow escaped into the country, and on a long walk
began to feel mid-day hunger.  The wayside brambles were fruiting; I
picked and ate, and ate on, until I had come within sight of an inn where
I might have made a meal.  But my hunger was satisfied; I had no need of
anything more, and, as I thought of it, a strange feeling of surprise, a
sort of bewilderment, came upon me.  What!  Could it be that I had eaten,
and eaten sufficiently, _without paying_?  It struck me as an
extraordinary thing.  At that time, my ceaseless preoccupation was how to
obtain money to keep myself alive.  Many a day I had suffered hunger
because I durst not spend the few coins I possessed; the food I could buy
was in any case unsatisfactory, unvaried.  But here Nature had given me a
feast, which seemed delicious, and I had eaten all I wanted.  The wonder
held me for a long time, and to this day I can recall it, understand it.

I think there could be no better illustration of what it means to be very
poor in a great town.  And I am glad to have been through it.  To those
days of misery I owe much of the contentment which I now enjoy; not by
mere force of contrast, but because I have been better taught than most
men the facts which condition our day to day existence.  To the ordinary
educated person, freedom from anxiety as to how he shall merely be fed
and clothed is a matter of course; questioned, he would admit it to be an
agreeable state of things, but it is no more a source of conscious joy to
him than physical health to the thoroughly sound man.  For me, were I to
live another fifty years, this security would be a delightful surprise
renewed with every renewal of day.  I know, as only one with my
experience can, all that is involved in the possession of means to live.
The average educated man has never stood alone, utterly alone, just clad
and nothing more than that, with the problem before him of wresting his
next meal from a world that cares not whether he live or die.  There is
no such school of political economy.  Go through that course of lectures,
and you will never again become confused as to the meaning of elementary
terms in that sorry science.

I understand, far better than most men, what I owe to the labour of
others.  This money which I "draw" at the four quarters of the year, in a
sense falls to me from heaven; but I know very well that every drachm is
sweated from human pores.  Not, thank goodness, with the declared tyranny
of basest capitalism; I mean only that it is the product of human labour;
perhaps wholesome, but none the less compulsory.  Look far enough, and it
means muscular toil, that swinking of the ruder man which supports all
the complex structure of our life.  When I think of him thus, the man of
the people earns my gratitude.  That it is gratitude from afar, that I
never was, and never shall be, capable of democratic fervour, is a
characteristic of my mind which I long ago accepted as final.  I have
known revolt against the privilege of wealth (can I not remember spots in
London where I have stood, savage with misery, looking at the prosperous
folk who passed?), but I could never feel myself at one with the native
poor among whom I dwelt.  And for the simplest reason; I came to know
them too well.  He who cultivates his enthusiasm amid graces and comforts
may nourish an illusion with regard to the world below him all his life
long, and I do not deny that he may be the better for it; for me, no
illusion was possible.  I knew the poor, and I knew that their aims were
not mine.  I knew that the kind of life (such a modest life!) which I
should have accepted as little short of the ideal, would have been to
them--if they could have been made to understand it--a weariness and a
contempt.  To ally myself with them against the "upper world" would have
been mere dishonesty, or sheer despair.  What they at heart desired, was
to me barren; what I coveted, was to them for ever incomprehensible.

That my own aim indicated an ideal which is the best for all to pursue, I
am far from maintaining.  It may be so, or not; I have long known the
idleness of advocating reform on a basis of personal predilection.  Enough
to set my own thoughts in order, without seeking to devise a new economy
for the world.  But it is much to see clearly from one's point of view,
and therein the evil days I have treasured are of no little help to me.
If my knowledge be only subjective, why, it only concerns myself; I
preach to no one.  Upon another man, of origin and education like to
mine, a like experience of hardship might have a totally different
effect; he might identify himself with the poor, burn to the end of his
life with the noblest humanitarianism.  I should no further criticize him
than to say that he saw with other eyes than mine.  A vision, perhaps,
larger and more just.  But in one respect he resembles me.  If ever such
a man arises, let him be questioned; it will be found that he once made a
meal of blackberries--and mused upon it.



XVI.


I stood to-day watching harvesters at work, and a foolish envy took hold
upon me.  To be one of those brawny, brown-necked men, who can string
their muscles from dawn to sundown, and go home without an ache to the
sound slumber which will make them fresh again for to-morrow's toil!  I
am a man in the middle years, with limbs shaped as those of another, and
subject to no prostrating malady, yet I doubt whether I could endure the
lightest part of this field labour even for half an hour.  Is that indeed
to be a man?  Could I feel surprised if one of these stalwart fellows
turned upon me a look of good-natured contempt?  Yet he would never dream
that I envied him; he would think it as probable, no doubt, that I should
compare myself unfavourably with one of the farm horses.

There comes the old idle dream: balance of mind and body, perfect
physical health combined with the fulness of intellectual vigour.  Why
should I not be there in the harvest field, if so it pleased me, yet none
the less live for thought?  Many a theorist holds the thing possible, and
looks to its coming in a better time.  If so, two changes must needs come
before it; there will no longer exist a profession of literature, and all
but the whole of every library will be destroyed, leaving only the few
books which are universally recognized as national treasures.  Thus, and
thus only, can mental and physical equilibrium ever be brought about.

It is idle to talk to us of "the Greeks."  The people we mean when so
naming them were a few little communities, living under very peculiar
conditions, and endowed by Nature with most exceptional characteristics.
The sporadic civilization which we are too much in the habit of regarding
as if it had been no less stable than brilliant, was a succession of the
briefest splendours, gleaming here and there from the coasts of the
Aegean to those of the western Mediterranean.  Our heritage of Greek
literature and art is priceless; the example of Greek life possesses for
us not the slightest value.  The Greeks had nothing alien to study--not
even a foreign or a dead language.  They read hardly at all, preferring
to listen.  They were a slave-holding people, much given to social
amusement, and hardly knowing what we call industry.  Their ignorance was
vast, their wisdom a grace of the gods.  Together with their fair
intelligence, they had grave moral weaknesses.  If we could see and speak
with an average Athenian of the Periclean age, he would cause no little
disappointment--there would be so much more of the barbarian in him, and
at the same time of the decadent, than we had anticipated.  More than
possibly, even his physique would be a disillusion.  Leave him in that
old world, which is precious to the imagination of a few, but to the
business and bosoms of the modern multitude irrelevant as Memphis or
Babylon.

The man of thought, as we understand him, is all but necessarily the man
of impaired health.  The rare exception will be found to come of a stock
which may, indeed, have been distinguished by intelligence, but
represented in all its members the active rather than the studious or
contemplative life; whilst the children of such fortunate thinkers are
sure either to revert to the active type or to exhibit the familiar
sacrifice of body to mind.  I am not denying the possibility of _mens
sana in corpore sano_; that is another thing.  Nor do I speak of the
healthy people (happily still numerous) who are at the same time bright-
witted and fond of books.  The man I have in view is he who pursues the
things of the mind with passion, who turns impatiently from all common
interests or cares which encroach upon his sacred time, who is haunted by
a sense of the infinity of thought and learning, who, sadly aware of the
conditions on which he holds his mental vitality, cannot resist the
hourly temptation to ignore them.  Add to these native characteristics
the frequent fact that such a man must make merchandise of his
attainments, must toil under the perpetual menace of destitution; and
what hope remains that his blood will keep the true rhythm, that his
nerves will play as Nature bade them, that his sinews will bide the
strain of exceptional task?  Such a man may gaze with envy at those who
"sweat in the eye of Phoebus," but he knows that no choice was offered
him.  And if life has so far been benignant as to grant him frequent
tranquillity of studious hours, let him look from the reapers to the
golden harvest, and fare on in thankfulness.



XVII.


That a labourer in the fields should stand very much on the level of the
beast that toils with him, can be neither desirable nor necessary.  He
does so, as a matter of fact, and one hears that only the dullest-witted
peasant will nowadays consent to the peasant life; his children, taught
to read the newspaper, make what haste they can to the land of
promise--where newspapers are printed.  That here is something altogether
wrong it needs no evangelist to tell us; the remedy no prophet has as yet
even indicated.  Husbandry has in our time been glorified in eloquence
which for the most part is vain, endeavouring, as it does, to prove a
falsity--that the agricultural life is, in itself, favourable to gentle
emotions, to sweet thoughtfulness, and to all the human virtues.
Agriculture is one of the most exhausting forms of toil, and, in itself,
by no means conducive to spiritual development; that it played a
civilizing part in the history of the world is merely due to the fact
that, by creating wealth, it freed a portion of mankind from the labour
of the plough.  Enthusiasts have tried the experiment of turning
husbandman; one of them writes of his experience in notable phrase.

"Oh, labour is the curse of the world, and nobody can meddle with it
without becoming proportionately brutified.  Is it a praiseworthy matter
that I have spent five golden months in providing food for cows and
horses?  It is not so."

Thus Nathaniel Hawthorne, at Brook Farm.  In the bitterness of his
disillusion he went too far.  Labour may be, and very often is, an
accursed and a brutalizing thing, but assuredly, it is not the curse of
the world; nay, it is the world's supreme blessing.  Hawthorne had
committed a folly, and he paid for it in loss of mental balance.  For
him, plainly, it was no suitable task to feed cows and horses; yet many a
man would perceive the nobler side of such occupation, for it signifies,
of course, providing food for mankind.  The interest of this quotation
lies in the fact that, all unconsciously, so intelligent a man as
Hawthorne had been reduced to the mental state of our agricultural
labourers in revolt against the country life.  Not only is his intellect
in abeyance, but his emotions have ceased to be a true guide.  The worst
feature of the rustic mind in our day, is not its ignorance or grossness,
but its rebellious discontent.  Like all other evils, this is seen to be
an inevitable outcome of the condition of things; one understands it only
too well.  The bucolic wants to "better" himself.  He is sick of feeding
cows and horses; he imagines that, on the pavement of London, he would
walk with a manlier tread.

There is no help in visions of Arcadia; yet it is plain fact that in days
gone by the peasantry found life more than endurable, and yet were more
intelligent than our clod-hoppers who still hold by the plough.  They had
their folk-songs, now utterly forgotten.  They had romances and fairy
lore, which their descendants could no more appreciate than an idyll of
Theocritus.  Ah, but let it be remembered that they had also a _home_,
and this is the illumining word.  If your peasant love the fields which
give him bread, he will not think it hard to labour in them; his toil
will no longer be as that of the beast, but upward-looking and touched
with a light from other than the visible heavens.  No use to blink the
hard and dull features of rustic existence; let them rather be insisted
upon, that those who own and derive profit from the land may be constant
in human care for the lives which make it fruitful.  Such care may
perchance avail, in some degree, to counteract the restless tendency of
the time; the dweller in a pleasant cottage is not so likely to wish to
wander from it as he who shelters himself in a hovel.  Well-meaning folk
talk about reawakening love of the country by means of deliberate
instruction.  Lies any hope that way?  Does it seem to promise a return
of the time when the old English names of all our flowers were common on
rustic lips--by which, indeed, they were first uttered?  The fact that
flowers and birds are well-nigh forgotten, together with the songs and
the elves, shows how advanced is the process of rural degeneration.  Most
likely it is foolishness to hope for the revival of any bygone social
virtue.  The husbandman of the future will be, I daresay, a well-paid
mechanic, of the engine-driver species; as he goes about his work he will
sing the last refrain of the music-hall, and his oft-recurring holidays
will be spent in the nearest great town.  For him, I fancy, there will be
little attraction in ever such melodious talk about "common objects of
the country."  Flowers, perhaps, at all events those of tilth and
pasture, will have been all but improved away.  And, as likely as not,
the word Home will have only a special significance, indicating the
common abode of retired labourers who are drawing old-age pensions.



XVIII.


I cannot close my eyes upon this day without setting down some record of
it; yet the foolish insufficiency of words!  At sunrise I looked forth;
nowhere could I discern a cloud the size of a man's hand; the leaves
quivered gently, as if with joy in the divine morning which glistened
upon their dew.  At sunset I stood in the meadow above my house, and
watched the red orb sink into purple mist, whilst in the violet heaven
behind me rose the perfect moon.  All between, through the soft circling
of the dial's shadow, was loveliness and quiet unutterable.  Never, I
could fancy, did autumn clothe in such magnificence the elms and beeches;
never, I should think, did the leafage on my walls blaze in such royal
crimson.  It was no day for wandering; under a canopy of blue or gold,
where the eye could fall on nothing that was not beautiful, enough to be
at one with Nature in dreamy rest.  From stubble fields sounded the long
caw of rooks; a sleepy crowing ever and anon told of the neighbour farm;
my doves cooed above their cot.  Was it for five minutes, or was it for
an hour, that I watched the yellow butterfly wafted as by an insensible
tremor of the air amid the garden glintings?  In every autumn there comes
one such flawless day.  None that I have known brought me a mind so
touched to the fitting mood of welcome, and so fulfilled the promise of
its peace.



XIX.


I was at ramble in the lanes, when, from somewhere at a distance, there
sounded the voice of a countryman--strange to say--singing.  The notes
were indistinct, but they rose, to my ear, with a moment's musical
sadness, and of a sudden my heart was stricken with a memory so keen that
I knew not whether it was pain or delight.  For the sound seemed to me
that of a peasant's song which I once heard whilst sitting among the
ruins of Paestum.  The English landscape faded before my eyes.  I saw
great Doric columns of honey-golden travertine; between them, as I looked
one way, a deep strip of sea; when I turned, the purple gorges of the
Apennine; and all about the temple, where I sat in solitude, a wilderness
dead and still but for that long note of wailing melody.  I had not
thought it possible that here, in my beloved home, where regret and
desire are all but unknown to me, I could have been so deeply troubled by
a thought of things far off.  I returned with head bent, that voice
singing in my memory.  All the delight I have known in Italian travel
burned again within my heart.  The old spell has not lost its power.
Never, I know, will it again draw me away from England; but the Southern
sunlight cannot fade from my imagination, and to dream of its glow upon
the ruins of old time wakes in me the voiceless desire which once was
anguish.

In his _Italienische Reise_, Goethe tells that at one moment of his life
the desire for Italy became to him a scarce endurable suffering; at
length he could not bear to hear or to read of things Italian, even the
sight of a Latin book so tortured him that he turned away from it; and
the day arrived when, in spite of every obstacle, he yielded to the
sickness of longing, and in secret stole away southward.  When first I
read that passage, it represented exactly the state of my own mind; to
think of Italy was to feel myself goaded by a longing which, at times,
made me literally ill; I, too, had put aside my Latin books, simply
because I could not endure the torment of imagination they caused me.  And
I had so little hope (nay, for years no shadow of reasonable hope) that I
should ever be able to appease my desire.  I taught myself to read
Italian; that was something.  I worked (half-heartedly) at a colloquial
phrase-book.  But my sickness only grew towards despair.

Then came into my hands a sum of money (such a poor little sum) for a
book I had written.  It was early autumn.  I chanced to hear some one
speak of Naples--and only death would have held me back.



XX.


Truly, I grow aged.  I have no longer much delight in wine.

But then, no wine ever much rejoiced me save that of Italy.  Wine-drinking
in England is, after all, only make-believe, a mere playing with an
exotic inspiration.  Tennyson had his port, whereto clings a good old
tradition; sherris sack belongs to a nobler age; these drinks are not for
us.  Let him who will, toy with dubious Bordeaux or Burgundy; to get good
of them, soul's good, you must be on the green side of thirty.  Once or
twice they have plucked me from despair; I would not speak unkindly of
anything in cask or bottle which bears the great name of wine.  But for
me it is a thing of days gone by.  Never again shall I know the mellow
hour _cum regnat rosa, cum madent capilli_.  Yet how it lives in memory!

"What call you this wine?" I asked of the temple-guardian at Paestum,
when he ministered to my thirst.  "_Vino di Calabria_," he answered, and
what a glow in the name!  There I drank it, seated against the column of
Poseidon's temple.  There I drank it, my feet resting on acanthus, my
eyes wandering from sea to mountain, or peering at little shells niched
in the crumbling surface of the sacred stone.  The autumn day declined; a
breeze of evening whispered about the forsaken shore; on the far summit
lay a long, still cloud, and its hue was that of my Calabrian wine.

How many such moments come back to me as my thoughts wander!  Dim little
_trattorie_ in city byways, inns smelling of the sun in forgotten
valleys, on the mountain side, or by the tideless shore, where the grape
has given me of its blood, and made life a rapture.  Who but the veriest
fanatic of teetotalism would grudge me those hours so gloriously
redeemed?  No draught of wine amid the old tombs under the violet sky but
made me for the time a better man, larger of brain, more courageous, more
gentle.  'Twas a revelry whereon came no repentance.  Could I but live
for ever in thoughts and feelings such as those born to me in the shadow
of the Italian vine!  There I listened to the sacred poets; there I
walked with the wise of old; there did the gods reveal to me the secret
of their eternal calm.  I hear the red rillet as it flows into the rustic
glass; I see the purple light upon the hills.  Fill to me again, thou of
the Roman visage and all but Roman speech!  Is not yonder the long
gleaming of the Appian Way?  Chant in the old measure, the song
imperishable

   "dum Capitolium
   Scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex--"

aye, and for how many an age when Pontiff and Vestal sleep in the eternal
silence.  Let the slave of the iron gods chatter what he will; for him
flows no Falernian, for him the Muses have no smile, no melody.  Ere the
sun set, and the darkness fall about us, fill again!



XXI.


Is there, at this moment, any boy of twenty, fairly educated, but without
means, without help, with nothing but the glow in his brain and steadfast
courage in his heart, who sits in a London garret, and writes for dear
life?  There must be, I suppose; yet all that I have read and heard of
late years about young writers, shows them in a very different aspect.  No
garretteers, these novelists and journalists awaiting their promotion.
They eat--and entertain their critics--at fashionable restaurants; they
are seen in expensive seats at the theatre; they inhabit handsome
flats--photographed for an illustrated paper on the first excuse.  At the
worst, they belong to a reputable club, and have garments which permit
them to attend a garden party or an evening "at home" without attracting
unpleasant notice.  Many biographical sketches have I read, during the
last decade, making personal introduction of young Mr. This or young Miss
That, whose book was--as the sweet language of the day will have
it--"booming"; but never one in which there was a hint of stern struggle,
of the pinched stomach and frozen fingers.  I surmise that the path of
"literature" is being made too easy.  Doubtless it is a rare thing
nowadays for a lad whose education ranks him with the upper middle class
to find himself utterly without resources, should he wish to devote
himself to the profession of letters.  And there is the root of the
matter; writing has come to be recognized as a profession, almost as cut-
and-dried as church or law; a lad may go into it with full parental
approval, with ready avuncular support.  I heard not long ago of an
eminent lawyer, who had paid a couple of hundred per annum for his son's
instruction in the art of fiction--yea, the art of fiction--by a not very
brilliant professor of that art.  Really, when one comes to think of it,
an astonishing fact, a fact vastly significant.  Starvation, it is true,
does not necessarily produce fine literature; but one feels uneasy about
these carpet-authors.  To the two or three who have a measure of
conscience and vision, I could wish, as the best thing, some calamity
which would leave them friendless in the streets.  They would perish,
perhaps.  But set that possibility against the all but certainty of their
present prospect--fatty degeneration of the soul; and is it not
acceptable?

I thought of this as I stood yesterday watching a noble sunset, which
brought back to my memory the sunsets of a London autumn, thirty years
ago; more glorious, it seems to me, than any I have since beheld.  It
happened that, on one such evening, I was by the river at Chelsea, with
nothing to do except to feel that I was hungry, and to reflect that,
before morning, I should be hungrier still.  I loitered upon Battersea
Bridge--the old picturesque wooden bridge, and there the western sky took
hold upon me.  Half an hour later, I was speeding home.  I sat down, and
wrote a description of what I had seen, and straightway sent it to an
evening newspaper, which, to my astonishment, published the thing next
day--"On Battersea Bridge."  How proud I was of that little bit of
writing!  I should not much like to see it again, for I thought it then
so good that I am sure it would give me an unpleasant sensation now.
Still, I wrote it because I enjoyed doing so, quite as much as because I
was hungry; and the couple of guineas it brought me had as pleasant a
ring as any money I ever earned.



XXII.


I wonder whether it be really true, as I have more than once seen
suggested, that the publication of Anthony Trollope's autobiography in
some degree accounts for the neglect into which he and his works fell so
soon after his death.  I should like to believe it, for such a fact would
be, from one point of view, a credit to "the great big stupid public."
Only, of course, from one point of view; the notable merits of Trollope's
work are unaffected by one's knowledge of how that work was produced; at
his best he is an admirable writer of the pedestrian school, and this
disappearance of his name does not mean final oblivion.  Like every other
novelist of note, he had two classes of admirers--those who read him for
the sake of that excellence which here and there he achieved, and the
undistinguishing crowd which found in him a level entertainment.  But it
would be a satisfaction to think that "the great big stupid" was really,
somewhere in its secret economy, offended by that revelation of
mechanical methods which made the autobiography either a disgusting or an
amusing book to those who read it more intelligently.  A man with a watch
before his eyes, penning exactly so many words every quarter of an
hour--one imagines that this picture might haunt disagreeably the
thoughts even of Mudie's steadiest subscriber, that it might come between
him or her and any Trollopean work that lay upon the counter.

The surprise was so cynically sprung upon a yet innocent public.  At that
happy time (already it seems so long ago) the literary news set before
ordinary readers mostly had reference to literary work, in a reputable
sense of the term, and not, as now, to the processes of "literary"
manufacture and the ups and downs of the "literary" market.  Trollope
himself tells how he surprised the editor of a periodical, who wanted a
serial from him, by asking how many thousand words it should run to; an
anecdote savouring indeed of good old days.  Since then, readers have
grown accustomed to revelations of "literary" method, and nothing in that
kind can shock them.  There has come into existence a school of
journalism which would seem to have deliberately set itself the task of
degrading authorship and everything connected with it; and these
pernicious scribblers (or typists, to be more accurate) have found the
authors of a fretful age only too receptive of their mercantile
suggestions.  Yes, yes; I know as well as any man that reforms were
needed in the relations between author and publisher.  Who knows better
than I that your representative author face to face with your
representative publisher was, is, and ever will be, at a ludicrous
disadvantage?  And there is no reason in the nature and the decency of
things why this wrong should not by some contrivance be remedied.  A big,
blusterous, genial brute of a Trollope could very fairly hold his own,
and exact at all events an acceptable share in the profits of his work.  A
shrewd and vigorous man of business such as Dickens, aided by a lawyer
who was his devoted friend, could do even better, and, in reaping
sometimes more than his publisher, redress the ancient injustice.  But
pray, what of Charlotte Bronte?  Think of that grey, pinched life, the
latter years of which would have been so brightened had Charlotte Bronte
received but, let us say, one third of what, in the same space of time,
the publisher gained by her books.  I know all about this; alas! no man
better.  None the less do I loathe and sicken at the manifold baseness,
the vulgarity unutterable, which, as a result of the new order, is
blighting our literary life.  It is not easy to see how, in such an
atmosphere, great and noble books can ever again come into being.  May
it, perhaps, be hoped that once again the multitude will be somehow
touched with disgust?--that the market for "literary" news of this
costermonger sort will some day fail?

Dickens.  Why, there too was a disclosure of literary methods.  Did not
Forster make known to all and sundry exactly how Dickens' work was done,
and how the bargains for its production were made?  The multitudinous
public saw him at his desk, learnt how long he sat there, were told that
he could not get on without having certain little ornaments before his
eyes, and that blue ink and a quill pen were indispensable to his
writing; and did all this information ever chill the loyalty of a single
reader?  There was a difference, in truth, between the picture of Charles
Dickens sitting down to a chapter of his current novel, and that of the
broad-based Trollope doing his so many words to the fifteen minutes.
Trollope, we know, wronged himself by the tone and manner of his
reminiscences; but that tone and manner indicated an inferiority of mind,
of nature.  Dickens--though he died in the endeavour to increase (not for
himself) an already ample fortune, disastrous influence of his time and
class--wrought with an artistic ingenuousness and fervour such as
Trollope could not even conceive.  Methodical, of course, he was; no long
work of prose fiction was ever brought into existence save by methodical
labour; but we know that there was no measuring of so many words to the
hour.  The picture of him at work which is seen in his own letters is one
of the most bracing and inspiring in the history of literature.  It has
had, and will always have, a great part in maintaining Dickens' place in
the love and reverence of those who understand.



XXIII.


As I walked to-day in the golden sunlight--this warm, still day on the
far verge of autumn--there suddenly came to me a thought which checked my
step, and for the moment half bewildered me.  I said to myself: My life
is over.  Surely I ought to have been aware of that simple fact;
certainly it has made part of my meditation, has often coloured my mood;
but the thing had never definitely shaped itself, ready in words for the
tongue.  My life is over.  I uttered the sentence once or twice, that my
ear might test its truth.  Truth undeniable, however strange; undeniable
as the figure of my age last birthday.

My age?  At this time of life, many a man is bracing himself for new
efforts, is calculating on a decade or two of pursuit and attainment.  I,
too, may perhaps live for some years; but for me there is no more
activity, no ambition.  I have had my chance--and I see what I made of
it.

The thought was for an instant all but dreadful.  What!  I, who only
yesterday was a young man, planning, hoping, looking forward to life as
to a practically endless career, I, who was so vigorous and scornful,
have come to this day of definite retrospect?  How is it possible?  But,
I have done nothing; I have had no time; I have only been preparing
myself--a mere apprentice to life.  My brain is at some prank; I am
suffering a momentary delusion; I shall shake myself, and return to
common sense--to my schemes and activities and eager enjoyments.

Nevertheless, my life is over.

What a little thing!  I knew how the philosophers had spoken; I repeated
their musical phrases about the mortal span--yet never till now believed
them.  And this is all?  A man's life can be so brief and so vain?  Idly
would I persuade myself that life, in the true sense, is only now
beginning; that the time of sweat and fear was not life at all, and that
it now only depends upon my will to lead a worthy existence.  That may be
a sort of consolation, but it does not obscure the truth that I shall
never again see possibilities and promises opening before me.  I have
"retired," and for me as truly as for the retired tradesman, life is
over.  I can look back upon its completed course, and what a little
thing!  I am tempted to laugh; I hold myself within the limit of a smile.

And that is best, to smile, not in scorn, but in all forbearance, without
too much self-compassion.  After all, that dreadful aspect of the thing
never really took hold of me; I could put it by without much effort.  Life
is done--and what matter?  Whether it has been, in sum, painful or
enjoyable, even now I cannot say--a fact which in itself should prevent
me from taking the loss too seriously.  What does it matter?  Destiny
with the hidden face decreed that I should come into being, play my
little part, and pass again into silence; is it mine either to approve or
to rebel?  Let me be grateful that I have suffered no intolerable wrong,
no terrible woe of flesh or spirit, such as others--alas! alas!--have
found in their lot.  Is it not much to have accomplished so large a part
of the mortal journey with so much ease?  If I find myself astonished at
its brevity and small significance, why, that is my own fault; the voices
of those gone before had sufficiently warned me.  Better to see the truth
now, and accept it, than to fall into dread surprise on some day of
weakness, and foolishly to cry against fate.  I will be glad rather than
sorry, and think of the thing no more.



XXIV.


Waking at early dawn used to be one of the things I most dreaded.  The
night which made me capable of resuming labour had brought no such calm
as should follow upon repose; I woke to a vision of the darkest miseries
and lay through the hours of daybreak--too often--in very anguish.  But
that is past.  Sometimes, ere yet I know myself, the mind struggles as
with an evil spirit on the confines of sleep; then the light at my
window, the pictures on my walls, restore me to happy consciousness,
happier for the miserable dream.  Now, when I lie thinking, my worst
trouble is wonder at the common life of man.  I see it as a thing so
incredible that it oppresses the mind like a haunting illusion.  Is it
the truth that men are fretting, raving, killing each other, for matters
so trivial that I, even I, so far from saint or philosopher, must needs
fall into amazement when I consider them?  I could imagine a man who, by
living alone and at peace, came to regard the everyday world as not
really existent, but a creation of his own fancy in unsound moments.  What
lunatic ever dreamt of things less consonant with the calm reason than
those which are thought and done every minute in every community of men
called sane?  But I put aside this reflection as soon as may be; it
perturbs me fruitlessly.  Then I listen to the sounds about my cottage,
always soft, soothing, such as lead the mind to gentle thoughts.
Sometimes I can hear nothing; not the rustle of a leaf, not the buzz of a
fly, and then I think that utter silence is best of all.

This morning I was awakened by a continuous sound which presently shaped
itself to my ear as a multitudinous shrilling of bird voices.  I knew
what it meant.  For the last few days I have seen the swallows gathering,
now they were ranged upon my roof, perhaps in the last council before
their setting forth upon the great journey.  I know better than to talk
about animal instinct, and to wonder in a pitying way at its resemblance
to reason.  I know that these birds show to us a life far more
reasonable, and infinitely more beautiful, than that of the masses of
mankind.  They talk with each other, and in their talk is neither malice
nor folly.  Could one but interpret the converse in which they make their
plans for the long and perilous flight--and then compare it with that of
numberless respectable persons who even now are projecting their winter
in the South!



XXV.


Yesterday I passed by an elm avenue, leading to a beautiful old house.
The road between the trees was covered in all its length and breadth with
fallen leaves--a carpet of pale gold.  Further on, I came to a
plantation, mostly of larches; it shone in the richest aureate hue, with
here and there a splash of blood-red, which was a young beech in its
moment of autumnal glory.

I looked at an alder, laden with brown catkins, its blunt foliage stained
with innumerable shades of lovely colour.  Near it was a horse-chestnut,
with but a few leaves hanging on its branches, and those a deep orange.
The limes, I see, are already bare.

To-night the wind is loud, and rain dashes against my casement; to-morrow
I shall awake to a sky of winter.




WINTER


I.


Blasts from the Channel, with raining scud, and spume of mist breaking
upon the hills, have kept me indoors all day.  Yet not for a moment have
I been dull or idle, and now, by the latter end of a sea-coal fire, I
feel such enjoyment of my ease and tranquillity that I must needs word it
before going up to bed.

Of course one ought to be able to breast weather such as this of to-day,
and to find one's pleasure in the strife with it.  For the man sound in
body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every sky
has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more
vigorously.  I remember the time when I would have set out with gusto for
a tramp along the wind-swept and rain-beaten roads; nowadays, I should
perhaps pay for the experiment with my life.  All the more do I prize the
shelter of these good walls, the honest workmanship which makes my doors
and windows proof against the assailing blast.  In all England, the land
of comfort, there is no room more comfortable than this in which I sit.
Comfortable in the good old sense of the word, giving solace to the mind
no less than ease to the body.  And never does it look more homely, more
a refuge and a sanctuary, than on winter nights.

In my first winter here, I tried fires of wood, having had my hearth
arranged for the purpose; but that was a mistake.  One cannot burn logs
successfully in a small room; either the fire, being kept moderate, needs
constant attention, or its triumphant blaze makes the room too hot.  A
fire is a delightful thing, a companion and an inspiration.  If my room
were kept warm by some wretched modern contrivance of water-pipes or
heated air, would it be the same to me as that beautiful core of glowing
fuel, which, if I sit and gaze into it, becomes a world of wonders?  Let
science warm the heaven-forsaken inhabitants of flats and hotels as
effectually and economically as it may; if the choice were forced upon
me, I had rather sit, like an Italian, wrapped in my mantle, softly
stirring with a key the silver-grey surface of the brasier's charcoal.
They tell me we are burning all our coal, and with wicked wastefulness.  I
am sorry for it, but I cannot on that account make cheerless perhaps the
last winter of my life.  There may be waste on domestic hearths, but the
wickedness is elsewhere--too blatant to call for indication.  Use common
sense, by all means, in the construction of grates; that more than half
the heat of the kindly coal should be blown up the chimney is desired by
no one; but hold by the open fire as you hold by whatever else is best in
England.  Because, in the course of nature, it will be some day a thing
of the past (like most other things that are worth living for), is that a
reason why it should not be enjoyed as long as possible?  Human beings
may ere long take their nourishment in the form of pills; the prevision
of that happy economy causes me no reproach when I sit down to a joint of
meat.

See how friendly together are the fire and the shaded lamp; both have
their part alike in the illumining and warming of the room.  As the fire
purrs and softly crackles, so does my lamp at intervals utter a little
gurgling sound when the oil flows to the wick, and custom has made this a
pleasure to me.  Another sound, blending with both, is the gentle ticking
of the clock.  I could not endure one of those bustling little clocks
which tick like a fever pulse, and are only fit for a stockbroker's
office; mine hums very slowly, as though it savoured the minutes no less
than I do; and when it strikes, the little voice is silver-sweet, telling
me without sadness that another hour of life is reckoned, another of the
priceless hours--

   "Quae nobis pereunt et imputantur."

After extinguishing the lamp, and when I have reached the door, I always
turn to look back; my room is so cosily alluring in the light of the last
gleeds, that I do not easily move away.  The warm glow is reflected on
shining wood, on my chair, my writing-table, on the bookcases, and from
the gilt title of some stately volume; it illumes this picture, it half
disperses the gloom on that.  I could imagine that, as in a fairy tale,
the books do but await my departure to begin talking among themselves.  A
little tongue of flame shoots up from a dying ember; shadows shift upon
the ceiling and the walls.  With a sigh of utter contentment, I go forth,
and shut the door softly.



II.


I came home this afternoon just at twilight, and, feeling tired after my
walk, a little cold too, I first crouched before the fire, then let
myself drop lazily upon the hearthrug.  I had a book in my hand, and
began to read it by the firelight.  Rising in a few minutes, I found the
open page still legible by the pale glimmer of day.  This sudden change
of illumination had an odd effect upon me; it was so unexpected, for I
had forgotten that dark had not yet fallen.  And I saw in the queer
little experience an intellectual symbol.  The book was verse.  Might not
the warm rays from the fire exhibit the page as it appears to an
imaginative and kindred mind, whilst that cold, dull light from the
window showed it as it is beheld by eyes to which poetry has but a poor,
literal meaning, or none at all?



III.


It is a pleasant thing enough to be able to spend a little money without
fear when the desire for some indulgence is strong upon one; but how much
pleasanter the ability to give money away!  Greatly as I relish the
comforts of my wonderful new life, no joy it has brought me equals that
of coming in aid to another's necessity.  The man for ever pinched in
circumstances can live only for himself.  It is all very well to talk
about doing moral good; in practice, there is little scope or hope for
anything of that kind in a state of material hardship.  To-day I have
sent S--- a cheque for fifty pounds; it will come as a very boon of
heaven, and assuredly blesseth him that gives as much as him that takes.
A poor fifty pounds, which the wealthy fool throws away upon some idle or
base fantasy, and never thinks of it; yet to S--- it will mean life and
light.  And I, to whom this power of benefaction is such a new thing,
sign the cheque with a hand trembling, so glad and proud I am.  In the
days gone by, I have sometimes given money, but with trembling of another
kind; it was as likely as not that I myself, some black foggy morning,
might have to go begging for my own dire needs.  That is one of the
bitter curses of poverty; it leaves no right to be generous.  Of my
abundance--abundance to me, though starveling pittance in the view of
everyday prosperity--I can give with happiest freedom; I feel myself a
man, and no crouching slave with his back ever ready for the lash of
circumstance.  There are those, I know, who thank the gods amiss, and
most easily does this happen in the matter of wealth.  But oh, how good
it is to desire little, and to have a little more than enough!



IV.


After two or three days of unseasonable and depressing warmth, with
lowering but not rainy sky, I woke this morning to find the land covered
with a dense mist.  There was no daybreak, and, till long after the due
hour, no light save a pale, sad glimmer at the window; now, at mid-day, I
begin dimly to descry gaunt shapes of trees, whilst a haunting drip, drip
on the garden soil tells me that the vapour has begun to condense, and
will pass in rain.  But for my fire, I should be in indifferent spirits
on such a day as this; the flame sings and leaps, and its red beauty is
reflected in the window-glass.  I cannot give my thoughts to reading; if
I sat unoccupied, they would brood with melancholy fixedness on I know
not what.  Better to betake myself to the old mechanic exercise of the
pen, which cheats my sense of time wasted.

I think of fogs in London, fogs of murky yellow or of sheer black, such
as have often made all work impossible to me, and held me, a sort of
dyspeptic owl, in moping and blinking idleness.  On such a day, I
remember, I once found myself at an end both of coal and of lamp-oil,
with no money to purchase either; all I could do was to go to bed,
meaning to lie there till the sky once more became visible.  But a second
day found the fog dense as ever.  I rose in darkness; I stood at the
window of my garret, and saw that the street was illumined as at night,
lamps and shop-fronts perfectly visible, with folk going about their
business.  The fog, in fact, had risen, but still hung above the house-
tops, impermeable by any heavenly beam.  My solitude being no longer
endurable, I went out, and walked the town for hours.  When I returned,
it was with a few coins which permitted me to buy warmth and light.  I
had sold to a second-hand bookseller a volume which I prized, and was so
much the poorer for the money in my pocket.

Years after that, I recall another black morning.  As usual at such
times, I was suffering from a bad cold.  After a sleepless night, I fell
into a torpor, which held me unconscious for an hour or two.  Hideous
cries aroused me; sitting up in the dark, I heard men going along the
street, roaring news of a hanging that had just taken place.  "Execution
of Mrs."--I forget the name of the murderess.  "Scene on the scaffold!"
It was a little after nine o'clock; the enterprising paper had promptly
got out its gibbet edition.  A morning of midwinter, roofs and ways
covered with soot-grimed snow under the ghastly fog-pall; and, whilst I
lay there in my bed, that woman had been led out and hanged--hanged.  I
thought with horror of the possibility that I might sicken and die in
that wilderness of houses, nothing above me but "a foul and pestilent
congregation of vapours."  Overcome with dread, I rose and bestirred
myself.  Blinds drawn, lamp lit, and by a blazing fire, I tried to make
believe that it was kindly night.



V.


Walking along the road after nightfall, I thought all at once of London
streets, and, by a freak of mind, wished I were there.  I saw the shining
of shop-fronts, the yellow glistening of a wet pavement, the hurrying
people, the cabs, the omnibuses--and I wished I were amid it all.

What did it mean, but that I wished I were young again?  Not seldom I
have a sudden vision of a London street, perhaps the dreariest and
ugliest, which for a moment gives me a feeling of home-sickness.  Often
it is the High Street of Islington, which I have not seen for a quarter
of a century, at least; no thoroughfare in all London less attractive to
the imagination, one would say; but I see myself walking there--walking
with the quick, light step of youth, and there, of course, is the charm.
I see myself, after a long day of work and loneliness, setting forth from
my lodging.  For the weather I care nothing; rain, wind, fog--what does
it matter!  The fresh air fills my lungs; my blood circles rapidly; I
feel my muscles, and have a pleasure in the hardness of the stone I tread
upon.  Perhaps I have money in my pocket; I am going to the theatre, and,
afterwards, I shall treat myself to supper--sausage and mashed potatoes,
with a pint of foaming ale.  The gusto with which I look forward to each
and every enjoyment!  At the pit-door, I shall roll and hustle amid the
throng, and find it amusing.  Nothing tires me.  Late at night, I shall
walk all the way back to Islington, most likely singing as I go.  Not
because I am happy--nay, I am anything but that; but my age is something
and twenty; I am strong and well.

Put me in a London street this chill, damp night, and I should be lost in
barren discomfort.  But in those old days, if I am not mistaken, I rather
preferred the seasons of bad weather; I had, in fact, the true instinct
of townsfolk, which finds pleasure in the triumph of artificial
circumstance over natural conditions, delighting in a glare and tumult of
busy life under hostile heavens which, elsewhere, would mean shivering
ill-content.  The theatre, at such a time, is doubly warm and bright;
every shop is a happy harbour of refuge--there, behind the counter, stand
persons quite at their ease, ready to chat as they serve you; the supper
bars make tempting display under their many gas-jets; the public houses
are full of people who all have money to spend.  Then clangs out the
piano-organ--and what could be cheerier!

I have much ado to believe that I really felt so.  But then, if life had
not somehow made itself tolerable to me, how should I have lived through
those many years?  Human creatures have a marvellous power of adapting
themselves to necessity.  Were I, even now, thrown back into squalid
London, with no choice but to abide and work there--should I not abide
and work?  Notwithstanding thoughts of the chemist's shop, I suppose I
should.



VI.


One of the shining moments of my day is that when, having returned a
little weary from an afternoon walk, I exchange boots for slippers, out-
of-doors coat for easy, familiar, shabby jacket, and, in my deep, soft-
elbowed chair, await the tea-tray.  Perhaps it is while drinking tea that
I most of all enjoy the sense of leisure.  In days gone by, I could but
gulp down the refreshment, hurried, often harassed, by the thought of the
work I had before me; often I was quite insensible of the aroma, the
flavour, of what I drank.  Now, how delicious is the soft yet penetrating
odour which floats into my study, with the appearance of the teapot!  What
solace in the first cup, what deliberate sipping of that which follows!
What a glow does it bring after a walk in chilly rain!  The while, I look
around at my books and pictures, tasting the happiness of their tranquil
possession.  I cast an eye towards my pipe; perhaps I prepare it, with
seeming thoughtfulness, for the reception of tobacco.  And never, surely,
is tobacco more soothing, more suggestive of humane thoughts, than when
it comes just after tea--itself a bland inspirer.

In nothing is the English genius for domesticity more notably declared
than in the institution of this festival--almost one may call it so--of
afternoon tea.  Beneath simple roofs, the hour of tea has something in it
of sacred; for it marks the end of domestic work and worry, the beginning
of restful, sociable evening.  The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes
the mind to happy repose.  I care nothing for your five o'clock tea of
modish drawing-rooms, idle and wearisome like all else in which that
world has part; I speak of tea where one is at home in quite another than
the worldly sense.  To admit mere strangers to your tea-table is
profanation; on the other hand, English hospitality has here its
kindliest aspect; never is friend more welcome than when he drops in for
a cup of tea.  Where tea is really a meal, with nothing between it and
nine o'clock supper, it is--again in the true sense--the _homeliest_ meal
of the day.  Is it believable that the Chinese, in who knows how many
centuries, have derived from tea a millionth part of the pleasure or the
good which it has brought to England in the past one hundred years?

I like to look at my housekeeper when she carries in the tray.  Her mien
is festal, yet in her smile there is a certain gravity, as though she
performed an office which honoured her.  She has dressed for the evening;
that is to say, her clean and seemly attire of working hours is exchanged
for garments suitable to fireside leisure; her cheeks are warm, for she
has been making fragrant toast.  Quickly her eye glances about my room,
but only to have the pleasure of noting that all is in order;
inconceivable that anything serious should need doing at this hour of the
day.  She brings the little table within the glow of the hearth, so that
I can help myself without changing my easy position.  If she speaks, it
will only be a pleasant word or two; should she have anything important
to say, the moment will be _after_ tea, not before it; this she knows by
instinct.  Perchance she may just stoop to sweep back a cinder which has
fallen since, in my absence, she looked after the fire; it is done
quickly and silently.  Then, still smiling, she withdraws, and I know
that she is going to enjoy her own tea, her own toast, in the warm,
comfortable, sweet-smelling kitchen.



VII.


One has heard much condemnation of the English kitchen.  Our typical cook
is spoken of as a gross, unimaginative creature, capable only of roasting
or seething.  Our table is said to be such as would weary or revolt any
but gobbet-bolting carnivores.  We are told that our bread is the worst
in Europe, an indigestible paste; that our vegetables are diet rather for
the hungry animal than for discriminative man; that our warm beverages,
called coffee and tea, are so carelessly or ignorantly brewed that they
preserve no simple virtue of the drink as it is known in other lands.  To
be sure, there is no lack of evidence to explain such censure.  The class
which provides our servants is undeniably coarse and stupid, and its
handiwork of every kind too often bears the native stamp.  For all that,
English victuals are, in quality, the best in the world, and English
cookery is the wholesomest and the most appetizing known to any temperate
clime.

As in so many other of our good points, we have achieved this thing
unconsciously.  Your ordinary Englishwoman engaged in cooking probably
has no other thought than to make the food masticable; but reflect on the
results, when the thing is well done, and there appears a culinary
principle.  Nothing could be simpler, yet nothing more right and
reasonable.  The aim of English cooking is so to deal with the raw
material of man's nourishment as to bring out, for the healthy palate,
all its natural juices and savours.  And in this, when the cook has any
measure of natural or acquired skill, we most notably succeed.  Our beef
is veritably beef; at its best, such beef as can be eaten in no other
country under the sun; our mutton is mutton in its purest essence--think
of a shoulder of Southdown at the moment when the first jet of gravy
starts under the carving knife!  Each of our vegetables yields its
separate and characteristic sweetness.  It never occurs to us to disguise
the genuine flavour of food; if such a process be necessary, then
something is wrong with the food itself.  Some wiseacre scoffed at us as
the people with only one sauce.  The fact is, we have as many sauces as
we have kinds of meat; each, in the process of cookery, yields its native
sap, and this is the best of all sauces conceivable.  Only English folk
know what is meant by _gravy_; consequently, the English alone are
competent to speak on the question of sauce.

To be sure, this culinary principle presupposes food of the finest
quality.  If your beef and your mutton have flavours scarcely
distinguishable, whilst both this and that might conceivably be veal, you
will go to work in quite a different way; your object must then be to
disguise, to counterfeit, to add an alien relish--in short, to do
anything _except_ insist upon the natural quality of the viand.  Happily,
the English have never been driven to these expedients.  Be it flesh,
fowl, or fish, each comes to table so distinctly and eminently itself
that by no possibility could it be confused with anything else.  Give
your average cook a bit of cod, and tell her to dress it in her own way.
The good creature will carefully boil it, and there an end of the matter;
and by no exercise of art could she have so treated the fish as to make
more manifest and enjoyable that special savour which heaven has bestowed
upon cod.  Think of our array of joints; how royal is each in its own
way, and how utterly unlike any of the others.  Picture a boiled leg of
mutton.  It is mutton, yes, and mutton of the best; nature has bestowed
upon man no sweeter morsel; but the same joint roasted is mutton too, and
how divinely different!  The point is that these differences are natural;
that, in eliciting them, we obey the eternal law of things, and no human
caprice.  Your artificial relish is here not only needless, but
offensive.

In the case of veal, we demand "stuffing."  Yes, for veal is a somewhat
insipid meat, and by experience we have discovered the best method of
throwing into relief such inherent goodness as it has.  The stuffing does
not disguise, nor seek to disguise; it accentuates.  Good veal
stuffing--reflect!--is in itself a triumph of culinary instinct; so bland
it is, and yet so powerful upon the gastric juices.

Did I call veal insipid?  I must add that it is only so in comparison
with English beef and mutton.  When I think of the "brown" on the edge of
a really fine cut of veal--!



VIII.


As so often when my thought has gone forth in praise of things English, I
find myself tormented by an after-thought--the reflection that I have
praised a time gone by.  Now, in this matter of English meat.  A
newspaper tells me that English beef is non-existent; that the best meat
bearing that name has merely been fed up in England for a short time
before killing.  Well, well; we can only be thankful that the quality is
still so good.  Real English mutton still exists, I suppose.  It would
surprise me if any other country could produce the shoulder I had
yesterday.

Who knows?  Perhaps even our own cookery has seen its best days.  It is a
lamentable fact that the multitude of English people nowadays never taste
roasted meat; what they call by that name is baked in the oven--a totally
different thing, though it may, I admit, be inferior only to the right
roast.  Oh, the sirloin of old times, the sirloin which I can remember,
thirty or forty years ago!  That was English, and no mistake, and all the
history of civilization could show nothing on the table of mankind to
equal it.  To clap that joint into a steamy oven would have been a crime
unpardonable by gods and man.  Have I not with my own eyes seen it
turning, turning on the spit?  The scent it diffused was in itself a cure
for dyspepsia.

It is very long since I tasted a slice of boiled beef; I have a suspicion
that the thing is becoming rare.  In a household such as mine, the
"round" is impracticable; of necessity it must be large, altogether too
large for our requirements.  But what exquisite memories does my mind
preserve!  The very colouring of a round, how rich it is, yet how
delicate, and how subtly varied!  The odour is totally distinct from that
of roast beef, and yet it is beef incontestable.  Hot, of course with
carrots, it is a dish for a king; but cold it is nobler.  Oh, the thin
broad slice, with just its fringe of consistent fat!

We are sparing of condiments, but such as we use are the best that man
has invented.  And we know _how_ to use them.  I have heard an impatient
innovator scoff at the English law on the subject of mustard, and demand
why, in the nature of things, mustard should not be eaten with mutton.
The answer is very simple; this law has been made by the English
palate--which is impeccable.  I maintain it is impeccable!  Your educated
Englishman is an infallible guide in all that relates to the table.  "The
man of superior intellect," said Tennyson--justifying his love of boiled
beef and new potatoes--"knows what is good to eat"; and I would extend it
to all civilized natives of our country.  We are content with nothing but
the finest savours, the truest combinations; our wealth, and happy
natural circumstances, have allowed us an education of the palate of
which our natural aptitude was worthy.  Think, by the bye, of those new
potatoes, just mentioned.  Our cook, when dressing them, puts into the
saucepan a sprig of mint.  This is genius.  No otherwise could the
flavour of the vegetable be so perfectly, yet so delicately, emphasized.
The mint is there, and we know it; yet our palate knows only the young
potato.



IX.


There is to me an odd pathos in the literature of vegetarianism.  I
remember the day when I read these periodicals and pamphlets with all the
zest of hunger and poverty, vigorously seeking to persuade myself that
flesh was an altogether superfluous, and even a repulsive, food.  If ever
such things fall under my eyes nowadays, I am touched with a half
humorous compassion for the people whose necessity, not their will,
consents to this chemical view of diet.  There comes before me a vision
of certain vegetarian restaurants, where, at a minim outlay, I have often
enough made believe to satisfy my craving stomach; where I have swallowed
"savoury cutlet," "vegetable steak," and I know not what windy
insufficiencies tricked up under specious names.  One place do I recall
where you had a complete dinner for sixpence--I dare not try to remember
the items.  But well indeed do I see the faces of the guests--poor clerks
and shopboys, bloodless girls and women of many sorts--all endeavouring
to find a relish in lentil soup and haricot something-or-other.  It was a
grotesquely heart-breaking sight.

I hate with a bitter hatred the names of lentils and haricots--those
pretentious cheats of the appetite, those tabulated humbugs, those
certificated aridities calling themselves human food!  An ounce of
either, we are told, is equivalent to--how many pounds?--of the best rump-
steak.  There are not many ounces of common sense in the brain of him who
proves it, or of him who believes it.  In some countries, this stuff is
eaten by choice; in England only dire need can compel to its consumption.
Lentils and haricots are not merely insipid; frequent use of them causes
something like nausea.  Preach and tabulate as you will, the English
palate--which is the supreme judge--rejects this farinaceous makeshift.
Even as it rejects vegetables without the natural concomitant of meat; as
it rejects oatmeal-porridge and griddle-cakes for a mid-day meal; as it
rejects lemonade and ginger-ale offered as substitutes for honest beer.

What is the intellectual and moral state of that man who really believes
that chemical analysis can be an equivalent for natural gusto?--I will
get more nourishment out of an inch of right Cambridge sausage; aye, out
of a couple of ounces of honest tripe; than can be yielded me by half a
hundredweight of the best lentils ever grown.



X.


Talking of vegetables, can the inhabited globe offer anything to vie with
the English potato justly steamed?  I do not say that it is always--or
often--to be seen on our tables, for the steaming of a potato is one of
the great achievements of culinary art; but, when it _is_ set before you,
how flesh and spirit exult!  A modest palate will find more than simple
comfort in your boiled potato of every day, as served in the decent
household.  New or old, it is beyond challenge delectable.  Try to think
that civilized nations exist to whom this food is unknown--nay, who speak
of it, on hearsay, with contempt!  Such critics, little as they suspect
it, never ate a potato in their lives.  What they have swallowed under
that name was the vegetable with all its exquisite characteristics
vulgarized or destroyed.  Picture the "ball of flour" (as old-fashioned
housewives call it) lying in the dish, diffusing the softest, subtlest
aroma, ready to crumble, all but to melt, as soon as it is touched;
recall its gust and its after-gust, blending so consummately with that of
the joint, hot or cold.  Then think of the same potato cooked in any
other way, and what sadness will come upon you!



XI.


It angers me to pass a grocer's shop, and see in the window a display of
foreign butter.  This is the kind of thing that makes one gloom over the
prospects of England.  The deterioration of English butter is one of the
worst signs of the moral state of our people.  Naturally, this article of
food would at once betray a decline in the virtues of its maker; butter
must be a subject of the dairyman's honest pride, or there is no hope of
its goodness.  Begin to save your labour, to aim at dishonest profits, to
feel disgust or contempt for your work--and the churn declares every one
of these vices.  They must be very prevalent, for it is getting to be a
rare thing to eat English butter which is even tolerable.  What!  England
dependent for dairy-produce upon France, Denmark, America?  Had we but
one true statesman--but one genuine leader of the people--the ears of
English landowners and farmers would ring and tingle with this proof of
their imbecility.

Nobody cares.  Who cares for anything but the show and bluster which are
threatening our ruin?  English food, not long ago the best in the world,
is falling off in quality, and even our national genius for cooking shows
a decline; to anyone who knows England, these are facts significant
enough.  Foolish persons have prated about "our insular cuisine,"
demanding its reform on Continental models, and they have found too many
like unto themselves who were ready to listen; the result will be, before
long, that our excellence will be forgotten, and paltry methods be
universally introduced, together with the indifferent viands to which
they are suited.  Yet, if any generality at all be true, it is a plain
fact that English diet and English virtue--in the largest sense of the
word--are inseparably bound together.

Our supremacy in this matter of the table came with little taking of
thought; what we should now do is to reflect upon the things which used
to be instinctive, perceive the reasons of our excellence, and set to
work to re-establish it.  Of course the vilest cooking in the kingdom is
found in London; is it not with the exorbitant growth of London that many
an ill has spread over the land?  London is the antithesis of the
domestic ideal; a social reformer would not even glance in that
direction, but would turn all his zeal upon small towns and country
districts, where blight may perhaps be arrested, and whence, some day, a
reconstituted national life may act upon the great centre of corruption.
I had far rather see England covered with schools of cookery than with
schools of the ordinary kind; the issue would be infinitely more hopeful.
Little girls should be taught cooking and baking more assiduously than
they are taught to read.  But with ever in view the great English
principle--that food is only cooked aright when it yields the utmost of
its native and characteristic savour.  Let sauces be utterly
forbidden--save the natural sauce made of gravy.  In the same way with
sweets; keep in view the insurpassable English ideals of baked tarts (or
pies, if so you call them), and boiled puddings; as they are the
wholesomest, so are they the most delicious of sweet cakes yet invented;
it is merely a question of having them well made and cooked.  Bread,
again; we are getting used to bread of poor quality, and ill-made, but
the English loaf at its best--such as you were once sure of getting in
every village--is the faultless form of the staff of life.  Think of the
glorious revolution that could be wrought in our troubled England if it
could be ordained that no maid, of whatever rank, might become a wife
unless she had proved her ability to make and bake a perfect loaf of
bread.



XII.


The good S--- writes me a kindly letter.  He is troubled by the thought
of my loneliness.  That I should choose to live in such a place as this
through the summer, he can understand; but surely I should do better to
come to town for the winter?  How on earth do I spend the dark days and
the long evenings?

I chuckle over the good S---'s sympathy.  Dark days are few in happy
Devon, and such as befall have never brought me a moment's tedium.  The
long, wild winter of the north would try my spirits; but here, the season
that follows autumn is merely one of rest, Nature's annual slumber.  And
I share in the restful influence.  Often enough I pass an hour in mere
drowsing by the fireside; frequently I let my book drop, satisfied to
muse.  But more often than not the winter day is blest with sunshine--the
soft beam which is Nature's smile in dreaming.  I go forth, and wander
far.  It pleases me to note changes of landscape when the leaves have
fallen; I see streams and ponds which during summer were hidden; my
favourite lanes have an unfamiliar aspect, and I become better acquainted
with them.  Then, there is a rare beauty in the structure of trees
ungarmented; and if perchance snow or frost have silvered their tracery
against the sober sky, it becomes a marvel which never tires.

Day by day I look at the coral buds on the lime-tree.  Something of
regret will mingle with my joy when they begin to break.

In the middle years of my life--those years that were the worst of all--I
used to dread the sound of a winter storm which woke me in the night.
Wind and rain lashing the house filled me with miserable memories and
apprehensions; I lay thinking of the savage struggle of man with man, and
often saw before me no better fate than to be trampled down into the mud
of life.  The wind's wail seemed to me the voice of a world in anguish;
rain was the weeping of the feeble and the oppressed.  But nowadays I can
lie and listen to a night-storm with no intolerable thoughts; at worst, I
fall into a compassionate sadness as I remember those I loved and whom I
shall see no more.  For myself, there is even comfort in the roaring
dark; for I feel the strength of the good walls about me, and my safety
from squalid peril such as pursued me through all my labouring life.
"Blow, blow, thou winter wind!"  Thou canst not blow away the modest
wealth which makes my security.  Nor can any "rain upon the roof" put my
soul to question; for life has given me all I ever asked--infinitely more
than I ever hoped--and in no corner of my mind does there lurk a coward
fear of death.



XIII.


If some stranger from abroad asked me to point out to him the most
noteworthy things in England, I should first of all consider his
intellect.  Were he a man of everyday level, I might indicate for his
wonder and admiration Greater London, the Black Country, South
Lancashire, and other features of our civilization which, despite eager
rivalry, still maintain our modern pre-eminence in the creation of
ugliness.  If, on the other hand, he seemed a man of brains, it would be
my pleasure to take him to one of those old villages, in the midlands or
the west, which lie at some distance from a railway station, and in
aspect are still untouched by the baser tendencies of the time.  Here, I
would tell my traveller, he saw something which England alone can show.
The simple beauty of the architecture, its perfect adaptation to the
natural surroundings, the neatness of everything though without
formality, the general cleanness and good repair, the grace of cottage
gardens, that tranquillity and security which make a music in the mind of
him who gazes--these are what a man must see and feel if he would
appreciate the worth and the power of England.  The people which has made
for itself such homes as these is distinguished, above all things, by its
love of order; it has understood, as no other people, the truth that
"order is heaven's first law."  With order it is natural to find
stability, and the combination of these qualities, as seen in domestic
life, results in that peculiarly English product, our name for
which--though but a pale shadow of the thing itself--has been borrowed by
other countries: comfort.

Then Englishman's need of "comfort" is one of his best characteristics;
the possibility that he may change in this respect, and become
indifferent to his old ideal of physical and mental ease, is the gravest
danger manifest in our day.  For "comfort," mind you, does not concern
the body alone; the beauty and orderliness of an Englishman's home derive
their value, nay, their very existence, from the spirit which directs his
whole life.  Walk from the village to the noble's mansion.  It, too, is
perfect of its kind; it has the dignity of age, its walls are beautiful,
the gardens, the park about it are such as can be found only in England,
lovely beyond compare; and all this represents the same moral
characteristics as the English cottage, but with greater activities and
responsibilities.  If the noble grow tired of his mansion, and, letting
it to some crude owner of millions, go to live in hotels and hired
villas; if the cottager sicken of his village roof, and transport himself
to the sixth floor of a "block" in Shoreditch; one sees but too well that
the one and the other have lost the old English sense of comfort, and, in
losing it, have suffered degradation alike as men and as citizens.  It is
not a question of exchanging one form of comfort for another; the
instinct which made an Englishman has in these cases perished.  Perhaps
it is perishing from among us altogether, killed by new social and
political conditions; one who looks at villages of the new type, at the
working-class quarters of towns, at the rising of "flats" among the
dwellings of the wealthy, has little choice but to think so.  There may
soon come a day when, though the word "comfort" continues to be used in
many languages, the thing it signifies will be discoverable nowhere at
all.



XIV.


If the ingenious foreigner found himself in some village of manufacturing
Lancashire, he would be otherwise impressed.  Here something of the power
of England might be revealed to him, but of England's worth, little
enough.  Hard ugliness would everywhere assail his eyes; the visages and
voices of the people would seem to him thoroughly akin to their
surroundings.  Scarcely could one find, in any civilized nation, a more
notable contrast than that between these two English villages and their
inhabitants.

Yet Lancashire is English, and there among the mill chimneys, in the
hideous little street, folk are living whose domestic thoughts claim
undeniable kindred with those of the villagers of the kinder south.  But
to understand how "comfort," and the virtues it implies, can exist amid
such conditions, one must penetrate to the hearthside; the door must be
shut, the curtain drawn; here "home" does not extend beyond the
threshold.  After all, this grimy row of houses, ugliest that man ever
conceived, is more representative of England to-day than the lovely
village among the trees and meadows.  More than a hundred years ago,
power passed from the south of England to the north.  The vigorous race
on the other side of Trent only found its opportunity when the age of
machinery began; its civilization, long delayed, differs in obvious
respects from that of older England.  In Sussex or in Somerset, however
dull and clownish the typical inhabitant, he plainly belongs to an
ancient order of things, represents an immemorial subordination.  The
rude man of the north is--by comparison--but just emerged from barbarism,
and under any circumstances would show less smooth a front.  By great
misfortune, he has fallen under the harshest lordship the modern world
has known--that of scientific industrialism, and all his vigorous
qualities are subdued to a scheme of life based upon the harsh, the ugly,
the sordid.  His racial heritage, of course, marks him to the eye; even
as ploughman or shepherd, he differs notably from him of the same calling
in the weald or on the downs.  But the frank brutality of the man in all
externals has been encouraged, rather than mitigated, by the course his
civilization has taken, and hence it is that, unless one knows him well
enough to respect him, he seems even yet stamped with the half-savagery
of his folk as they were a century and a half ago.  His fierce shyness,
his arrogant self-regard, are notes of a primitive state.  Naturally, he
never learnt to house himself as did the Southerner, for climate, as well
as social circumstance, was unfavourable to all the graces of life.  And
now one can only watch the encroachment of his rule upon that old, that
true England whose strength and virtue were so differently manifested.
This fair broad land of the lovely villages signifies little save to the
antiquary, the poet, the painter.  Vainly, indeed, should I show its
beauty and its peace to the observant foreigner; he would but smile, and,
with a glance at the traction-engine just coming along the road, indicate
the direction of his thoughts.



XV.


Nothing in all Homer pleases me more than the bedstead of Odysseus.  I
have tried to turn the passage describing it into English verse, thus:--

   Here in my garth a goodly olive grew;
   Thick was the noble leafage of its prime,
   And like a carven column rose the trunk.
   This tree about I built my chamber walls,
   Laying great stone on stone, and roofed them well,
   And in the portal set a comely door,
   Stout-hinged and tightly closing.  Then with axe
   I lopped the leafy olive's branching head,
   And hewed the bole to four-square shapeliness,
   And smoothed it, craftsmanlike, and grooved and pierced,
   Making the rooted timber, where it grew,
   A corner of my couch.  Labouring on,
   I fashioned all the bed-frame; which complete,
   The wood I overlaid with shining gear
   Of gold, of silver, and of ivory.
   And last, between the endlong beams I stretched
   Stout thongs of ox-hide, dipped in purple dye.

   _Odyssey_, xxiii. 190-201.

Did anyone ever imitate the admirable precedent?  Were I a young man, and
an owner of land, assuredly I would do so.  Choose some goodly tree,
straight-soaring; cut away head and branches; leave just the clean trunk
and build your house about it in such manner that the top of the rooted
timber rises a couple of feet above your bedroom floor.  The trunk need
not be manifest in the lower part of the house, but I should prefer to
have it so; I am a tree-worshipper; it should be as the visible presence
of a household god.  And how could one more nobly symbolize the
sacredness of Home?  There can be no home without the sense of
permanence, and without home there is no civilization--as England will
discover when the greater part of her population have become
flat-inhabiting nomads.  In some ideal commonwealth, one can imagine the
Odyssean bed a normal institution, every head of a household, cottager or
lord (for the commonwealth must have its lords, go to!), lying down to
rest, as did his fathers, in the Chamber of the Tree.  This, one fancies,
were a somewhat more fitting nuptial chamber than the chance bedroom of a
hotel.  Odysseus building his home is man performing a supreme act of
piety; through all the ages that picture must retain its profound
significance.  Note the tree he chose, the olive, sacred to Athena,
emblem of peace.  When he and the wise goddess meet together to scheme
destruction of the princes, they sit [Greek text].  Their talk is of
bloodshed, true; but in punishment of those who have outraged the
sanctity of the hearth, and to re-establish, after purification, domestic
calm and security.  It is one of the dreary aspects of modern life that
natural symbolism has all but perished.  We have no consecrated tree.  The
oak once held a place in English hearts, but who now reveres it?--our
trust is in gods of iron.  Money is made at Christmas out of holly and
mistletoe, but who save the vendors would greatly care if no green branch
were procurable?  One symbol, indeed, has obscured all others--the minted
round of metal.  And one may safely say that, of all the ages since a
coin first became the symbol of power, ours is that in which it yields to
the majority of its possessors the poorest return in heart's contentment.



XVI.


I have been dull to-day, haunted by the thought of how much there is that
I would fain know, and how little I can hope to learn.  The scope of
knowledge has become so vast.  I put aside nearly all physical
investigation; to me it is naught, or only, at moments, a matter of idle
curiosity.  This would seem to be a considerable clearing of the field;
but it leaves what is practically the infinite.  To run over a list of
only my favourite subjects, those to which, all my life long, I have more
or less applied myself, studies which hold in my mind the place of
hobbies, is to open vistas of intellectual despair.  In an old note-book
I jotted down such a list--"things I hope to know, and to know well."  I
was then four and twenty.  Reading it with the eyes of fifty-four, I must
needs laugh.  There appear such modest items as "The history of the
Christian Church up to the Reformation"--"all Greek poetry"--"The field
of Mediaeval Romance"--"German literature from Lessing to Heine"--"Dante!"
Not one of these shall I ever "know, and know well"; not any one of them.
Yet here I am buying books which lead me into endless paths of new
temptation.  What have I to do with Egypt?  Yet I have been beguiled by
Flinders Petrie and by Maspero.  How can I pretend to meddle with the
ancient geography of Asia Minor?  Yet here have I bought Prof. Ramsay's
astonishing book, and have even read with a sort of troubled enjoyment a
good many pages of it; troubled, because I have but to reflect a moment,
and I see that all this kind of thing is mere futile effort of the
intellect when the time for serious intellectual effort is over.

It all means, of course, that, owing to defective opportunity, owing,
still more perhaps, to lack of method and persistence, a possibility that
was in me has been wasted, lost.  My life has been merely tentative, a
broken series of false starts and hopeless new beginnings.  If I allowed
myself to indulge that mood, I could revolt against the ordinance which
allows me no second chance.  _O mihi praeteritos referat si Jupiter
annos_!  If I could but start again, with only the experience there
gained!  I mean, make a new beginning of my intellectual life; nothing
else, O heaven! nothing else.  Even amid poverty, I could do so much
better; keeping before my eyes some definite, some not unattainable,
good; sternly dismissing the impracticable, the wasteful.

And, in doing so, become perhaps an owl-eyed pedant, to whom would be for
ever dead the possibility of such enjoyment as I know in these final
years.  Who can say?  Perhaps the sole condition of my progress to this
state of mind and heart which make my happiness was that very stumbling
and erring which I so regret.



XVII.


Why do I give so much of my time to the reading of history?  Is it in any
sense profitable to me?  What new light can I hope for on the nature of
man?  What new guidance for the direction of my own life through the few
years that may remain to me?  But it is with no such purpose that I read
these voluminous books; they gratify--or seem to gratify--a mere
curiosity; and scarcely have I closed a volume, when the greater part of
what I have read in it is forgotten.

Heaven forbid that I should remember all!  Many a time I have said to
myself that I would close the dreadful record of human life, lay it for
ever aside, and try to forget it.  Somebody declares that history is a
manifestation of the triumph of good over evil.  The good prevails now
and then, no doubt, but how local and transitory is such triumph.  If
historic tomes had a voice, it would sound as one long moan of anguish.
Think steadfastly of the past, and one sees that only by defect of
imaginative power can any man endure to dwell with it.  History is a
nightmare of horrors; we relish it, because we love pictures, and because
all that man has suffered is to man rich in interest.  But make real to
yourself the vision of every blood-stained page--stand in the presence of
the ravening conqueror, the savage tyrant--tread the stones of the
dungeon and of the torture-room--feel the fire of the stake--hear the
cries of that multitude which no man can number, the victims of calamity,
of oppression, of fierce injustice in its myriad forms, in every land, in
every age--and what joy have you of your historic reading?  One would
need to be a devil to understand it thus, and yet to delight in it.

Injustice--there is the loathed crime which curses the memory of the
world.  The slave doomed by his lord's caprice to perish under
tortures--one feels it a dreadful and intolerable thing; but it is merely
the crude presentment of what has been done and endured a million times
in every stage of civilization.  Oh, the last thoughts of those who have
agonized unto death amid wrongs to which no man would give ear!  That
appeal of innocence in anguish to the hard, mute heavens!  Were there
only one such instance in all the chronicles of time, it should doom the
past to abhorred oblivion.  Yet injustice, the basest, the most
ferocious, is inextricable from warp and woof in the tissue of things
gone by.  And if anyone soothes himself with the reflection that such
outrages can happen no more, that mankind has passed beyond such hideous
possibility, he is better acquainted with books than with human nature.

It were wiser to spend my hours with the books which bring no aftertaste
of bitterness--with the great poets whom I love, with the thinkers, with
the gentle writers of pages that soothe and tranquillize.  Many a volume
regards me from the shelf as though reproachfully; shall I never again
take it in my hands?  Yet the words are golden, and I would fain treasure
them all in my heart's memory.  Perhaps the last fault of which I shall
cure myself is that habit of mind which urges me to seek knowledge.  Was
I not yesterday on the point of ordering a huge work of erudition, which
I should certainly never have read through, and which would only have
served to waste precious days?  It is the Puritan in my blood, I suppose,
which forbids me to recognise frankly that all I have now to do is to
_enjoy_.  This is wisdom.  The time for acquisition has gone by.  I am
not foolish enough to set myself learning a new language; why should I
try to store my memory with useless knowledge of the past?

Come, once more before I die I will read _Don Quixote_.



XVIII.


Somebody has been making a speech, reported at a couple of columns'
length in the paper.  As I glance down the waste of print, one word
catches my eye again and again.  It's all about "science"--and therefore
doesn't concern me.

I wonder whether there are many men who have the same feeling with regard
to "science" as I have?  It is something more than a prejudice; often it
takes the form of a dread, almost a terror.  Even those branches of
science which are concerned with things that interest me--which deal with
plants and animals and the heaven of stars--even these I cannot
contemplate without uneasiness, a spiritual disaffection; new
discoveries, new theories, however they engage my intelligence, soon
weary me, and in some way depress.  When it comes to other kinds of
science--the sciences blatant and ubiquitous--the science by which men
become millionaires--I am possessed with an angry hostility, a resentful
apprehension.  This was born in me, no doubt; I cannot trace it to
circumstances of my life, or to any particular moment of my mental
growth.  My boyish delight in Carlyle doubtless nourished the temper, but
did not Carlyle so delight me because of what was already in my mind?  I
remember, as a lad, looking at complicated machinery with a shrinking
uneasiness which, of course, I did not understand; I remember the sort of
disturbed contemptuousness with which, in my time of "examinations," I
dismissed "science papers."  It is intelligible enough to me, now, that
unformed fear: the ground of my antipathy has grown clear enough.  I hate
and fear "science" because of my conviction that, for long to come if not
for ever, it will be the remorseless enemy of mankind.  I see it
destroying all simplicity and gentleness of life, all the beauty of the
world; I see it restoring barbarism under a mask of civilization; I see
it darkening men's minds and hardening their hearts; I see it bringing a
time of vast conflicts, which will pale into insignificance "the thousand
wars of old," and, as likely as not, will whelm all the laborious
advances of mankind in blood-drenched chaos.

Yet to rail against it is as idle as to quarrel with any other force of
nature.  For myself, I can hold apart, and see as little as possible of
the thing I deem accursed.  But I think of some who are dear to me, whose
life will be lived in the hard and fierce new age.  The roaring "Jubilee"
of last summer was for me an occasion of sadness; it meant that so much
was over and gone--so much of good and noble, the like of which the world
will not see again, and that a new time of which only the perils are
clearly visible, is rushing upon us.  Oh, the generous hopes and
aspirations of forty years ago!  Science, then, was seen as the
deliverer; only a few could prophesy its tyranny, could foresee that it
would revive old evils and trample on the promises of its beginning.  This
is the course of things; we must accept it.  But it is some comfort to me
that I--poor little mortal--have had no part in bringing the tyrant to
his throne.



XIX.


The Christmas bells drew me forth this morning.  With but half-formed
purpose, I walked through soft, hazy sunshine towards the city, and came
into the Cathedral Close, and, after lingering awhile, heard the first
notes of the organ, and so entered.  I believe it is more than thirty
years since I was in an English church on Christmas Day.  The old time
and the old faces lived again for me; I saw myself on the far side of the
abyss of years--that self which is not myself at all, though I mark
points of kindred between the beings of then and now.  He who in that
other world sat to hear the Christmas gospel, either heeded it not at
all--rapt in his own visions--or listened only as one in whose blood was
heresy.  He loved the notes of the organ, but, even in his childish mind,
distinguished clearly between the music and its local motive.  More than
that, he could separate the melody of word and of thought from their
dogmatic significance, enjoying the one whilst wholly rejecting the
other.  "On earth peace, good-will to men"--already that line was among
the treasures of his intellect, but only, no doubt, because of its
rhythm, its sonority.  Life, to him, was a half-conscious striving for
the harmonic in thought and speech--and through what a tumult of
unmelodious circumstance was he beginning to fight his way!

To-day, I listen with no heretical promptings.  The music, whether of
organ or of word, is more to me than ever; the literal meaning causes me
no restiveness.  I felt only glad that I had yielded to the summons of
the Christmas bells.  I sat among a congregation of shadows, not in the
great cathedral, but in a little parish church far from here.  When I
came forth, it astonished me to see the softly radiant sky, and to tread
on the moist earth; my dream expected a wind-swept canopy of cold grey,
and all beneath it the gleam of new-fallen snow.  It is a piety to turn
awhile and live with the dead, and who can so well indulge it as he whose
Christmas is passed in no unhappy solitude?  I would not now, if I might,
be one of a joyous company; it is better to hear the long-silent voices,
and to smile at happy things which I alone can remember.  When I was
scarce old enough to understand, I heard read by the fireside the
Christmas stanzas of "In Memoriam."  To-night I have taken down the
volume, and the voice of so long ago has read to me once again--read as
no other ever did, that voice which taught me to know poetry, the voice
which never spoke to me but of good and noble things.  Would I have those
accents overborne by a living tongue, however welcome its sound at
another time?  Jealously I guard my Christmas solitude.



XX.


Is it true that the English are deeply branded with the vice of
hypocrisy?  The accusation, of course, dates from the time of the Round-
heads; before that, nothing in the national character could have
suggested it.  The England of Chaucer, the England of Shakespeare,
assuredly was not hypocrite.  The change wrought by Puritanism introduced
into the life of the people that new element which ever since, more or
less notably, has suggested to the observer a habit of double-dealing in
morality and religion.  The scorn of the Cavalier is easily understood;
it created a traditional Cromwell, who, till Carlyle arose, figured
before the world as our arch-dissembler.  With the decline of genuine
Puritanism came that peculiarly English manifestation of piety and virtue
which is represented by Mr. Pecksniff--a being so utterly different from
Tartufe, and perhaps impossible to be understood save by Englishmen
themselves.  But it is in our own time that the familiar reproach has
been persistently levelled at us.  It often sounds upon the lips of our
emancipated youth; it is stereotyped for daily impression in the offices
of Continental newspapers.  And for the reason one has not far to look.
When Napoleon called us a "nation of shop-keepers," we were nothing of
the kind; since his day we have become so, in the strictest sense of the
word; and consider the spectacle of a flourishing tradesman, anything but
scrupulous in his methods of business, who loses no opportunity of
bidding all mankind to regard him as a religious and moral exemplar.  This
is the actual show of things with us; this is the England seen by our
bitterest censors.  There is an excuse for those who charge us with
"hypocrisy."

But the word is ill-chosen, and indicates a misconception.  The
characteristic of your true hypocrite is the assumption of a virtue which
not only he has not, but which he is incapable of possessing, and in
which he does not believe.  The hypocrite may have, most likely has, (for
he is a man of brains,) a conscious rule of life, but it is never that of
the person to whom his hypocrisy is directed.  Tartufe incarnates him
once for all.  Tartufe is by conviction an atheist and a sensualist; he
despises all who regard life from the contrasted point of view.  But
among Englishmen such an attitude of mind has always been extremely rare;
to presume it in our typical money-maker who has edifying sentiments on
his lips is to fall into a grotesque error of judgment.  No doubt that
error is committed by the ordinary foreign journalist, a man who knows
less than little of English civilization.  More enlightened critics, if
they use the word at all, do so carelessly; when speaking with more
precision, they call the English "pharisaic"--and come nearer the truth.

Our vice is self-righteousness.  We are essentially an Old Testament
people; Christianity has never entered into our soul we see ourselves as
the Chosen, and by no effort of spiritual aspiration can attain unto
humility.  In this there is nothing hypocritic.  The blatant upstart who
builds a church, lays out his money in that way not merely to win social
consideration; in his curious little soul he believes (so far as he can
believe anything) that what he has done is pleasing to God and beneficial
to mankind.  He may have lied and cheated for every sovereign he
possesses; he may have polluted his life with uncleanness; he may have
perpetrated many kinds of cruelty and baseness--but all these things has
he done against his conscience, and, as soon as the opportunity comes, he
will make atonement for them in the way suggested by such faith as he
has, the way approved by public opinion.  His religion, strictly defined,
is _an ineradicable belief in his own religiousness_.  As an Englishman,
he holds as birthright the true Piety, the true Morals.  That he has
"gone wrong" is, alas, undeniable, but never--even when leering most
satirically--did he deny his creed.  When, at public dinners and
elsewhere, he tuned his voice to the note of edification, this man did
not utter the lie of the hypocrite he _meant every word he said_.
Uttering high sentiments, he spoke, not as an individual, but as an
Englishman, and most thoroughly did he believe that all who heard him
owed in their hearts allegiance to the same faith.  He is, if you like, a
Pharisee--but do not misunderstand; his Pharisaism has nothing personal.
That would be quite another kind of man; existing, to be sure, in
England, but not as a national type.  No; he is a Pharisee in the minor
degree with regard to those of his countrymen who differ from him in
dogma; he is Pharisee absolute with regard to the foreigner.  And there
he stands, representing an Empire.

The word hypocrisy is perhaps most of all applied to our behaviour in
matters of sexual morality, and here with specially flagrant misuse.
Multitudes of Englishmen have thrown aside the national religious dogma,
but very few indeed have abandoned the conviction that the rules of
morality publicly upheld in England are the best known in the world.  Any
one interested in doing so can but too easily demonstrate that English
social life is no purer than that of most other countries.  Scandals of
peculiar grossness, at no long intervals, give rich opportunity to the
scoffer.  The streets of our great towns nightly present an exhibition
the like of which cannot be seen elsewhere in the world.  Despite all
this, your average Englishman takes for granted his country's moral
superiority, and loses no chance of proclaiming it at the expense of
other peoples.  To call him hypocrite, is simply not to know the man.  He
may, for his own part, be gross-minded and lax of life; that has nothing
to do with the matter; _he believes in virtue_.  Tell him that English
morality is mere lip-service, and he will blaze with as honest anger as
man ever felt.  He is a monument of self-righteousness, again not
personal but national.


XXI.


I make use of the present tense, but am I speaking truly of present
England?  Such powerful agencies of change have been at work during the
last thirty years; and it is difficult, nay impossible, to ascertain in
what degree they have affected the national character, thus far.  One
notes the obvious: decline of conventional religion, free discussion of
the old moral standards; therewith, a growth of materialism which favours
every anarchic tendency.  Is it to be feared that self-righteousness may
be degenerating into the darker vice of true hypocrisy?  For the English
to lose belief in themselves--not merely in their potential goodness, but
in their pre-eminence as examples and agents of good--would mean as
hopeless a national corruption as any recorded in history.  To doubt
their genuine worship, in the past, of a very high (though not, of
course, the highest) ethical ideal, is impossible for any one born and
bred in England; no less impossible to deny that those who are rightly
deemed "best" among us, the men and women of gentle or humble birth who
are not infected by the evils of the new spirit, still lead, in a very
true sense, "honest, sober, and godly" lives.  Such folk, one knows, were
never in a majority, but of old they had a power which made them
veritable representatives of the English _ethos_.  If they thought highly
of themselves, why, the fact justified them; if they spoke, at times, as
Pharisees, it was a fault of temper which carried with it no grave
condemnation.  Hypocrisy was, of all forms of baseness, that which they
most abhorred.  So is it still with their descendants.  Whether these
continue to speak among us with authority, no man can certainly say.  If
their power is lost, and those who talk of English hypocrisy no longer
use the word amiss, we shall soon know it.



XXII.


It is time that we gave a second thought to Puritanism.  In the heyday of
release from forms which had lost their meaning, it was natural to look
back on that period of our history with eyes that saw in it nothing but
fanatical excess; we approved the picturesque phrase which showed the
English mind going into prison and having the key turned upon it.  Now,
when the peril of emancipation becomes as manifest as was the hardship of
restraint, we shall do well to remember all the good that lay in that
stern Puritan discipline, how it renewed the spiritual vitality of our
race, and made for the civic freedom which is our highest national
privilege.  An age of intellectual glory is wont to be paid for in the
general decline of that which follows.  Imagine England under Stuart
rule, with no faith but the Protestantism of the Tudor.  Imagine (not to
think of worse) English literature represented by Cowley, and the name of
Milton unknown.  The Puritan came as the physician; he brought his tonic
at the moment when lassitude and supineness would naturally have followed
upon a supreme display of racial vitality.  Regret, if you will, that
England turned for her religion to the books of Israel; this suddenly
revealed sympathy of our race with a fierce Oriental theocracy is perhaps
not difficult to explain, but one cannot help wishing that its piety had
taken another form; later, there had to come the "exodus from
Houndsditch," with how much conflict and misery!  Such, however, was the
price of the soul's health; we must accept the fact, and be content to
see its better meaning.  Health, of course, in speaking of mankind, is
always a relative term.  From the point of view of a conceivable
civilization, Puritan England was lamentably ailing; but we must always
ask, not how much better off a people might be, but how much worse.  Of
all theological systems, the most convincing is Manicheism, which, of
course, under another name, was held by the Puritans themselves.  What we
call Restoration morality--the morality, that is to say, of a king and
court--might well have become that of the nation at large under a Stuart
dynasty safe from religious revolution.

The political services of Puritanism were inestimable; they will be more
feelingly remembered when England has once more to face the danger of
political tyranny.  I am thinking now of its effects upon social life.  To
it we owe the characteristic which, in some other countries, is expressed
by the term English prudery, the accusation implied being part of the
general charge of hypocrisy.  It is said by observers among ourselves
that the prudish habit of mind is dying out, and this is looked upon as a
satisfactory thing, as a sign of healthy emancipation.  If by prude be
meant a secretly vicious person who affects an excessive decorum, by all
means let the prude disappear, even at the cost of some shamelessness.
If, on the other hand, a prude is one who, living a decent life,
cultivates, either by bent or principle, a somewhat extreme delicacy of
thought and speech with regard to elementary facts of human nature, then
I say that this is most emphatically a fault in the right direction, and
I have no desire to see its prevalence diminish.  On the whole, it is the
latter meaning which certain foreigners have in mind when they speak of
English prudery--at all events, as exhibited by women; it being, not so
much an imputation on chastity, as a charge of conceited foolishness.  An
English woman who typifies the _begueule_ may be spotless as snow; but
she is presumed to have snow's other quality, and at the same time to be
a thoroughly absurd and intolerable creature.  Well, here is the point of
difference.  Fastidiousness of speech is not a direct outcome of
Puritanism, as our literature sufficiently proves; it is a refinement of
civilization following upon absorption into the national life of all the
best things which Puritanism had to teach.  We who know English women by
the experience of a lifetime are well aware that their careful choice of
language betokens, far more often than not, a corresponding delicacy of
mind.  Landor saw it as a ridiculous trait that English people were so
mealy-mouthed in speaking of their bodies; De Quincey, taking him to task
for this remark, declared it a proof of blunted sensibility due to long
residence in Italy; and, whether the particular explanation held good or
not, as regards the question at issue, De Quincey was perfectly right.  It
is very good to be mealy-mouthed with respect to everything that reminds
us of the animal in man.  Verbal delicacy in itself will not prove an
advanced civilization, but civilization, as it advances, assuredly tends
that way.



XXIII.


All through the morning, the air was held in an ominous stillness.
Sitting over my books, I seemed to feel the silence; when I turned my
look to the window, I saw nothing but the broad, grey sky, a featureless
expanse, cold, melancholy.  Later, just as I was bestirring myself to go
out for an afternoon walk, something white fell softly across my vision.
A few minutes more, and all was hidden with a descending veil of silent
snow.

It is a disappointment.  Yesterday I half believed that the winter drew
to its end; the breath of the hills was soft; spaces of limpid azure
shone amid slow-drifting clouds, and seemed the promise of spring.  Idle
by the fireside, in the gathering dusk, I began to long for the days of
light and warmth.  My fancy wandered, leading me far and wide in a dream
of summer England. . . .

This is the valley of the Blythe.  The stream ripples and glances over
its brown bed warmed with sunbeams; by its bank the green flags wave and
rustle, and, all about, the meadows shine in pure gold of buttercups.  The
hawthorn hedges are a mass of gleaming blossom, which scents the breeze.
There above rises the heath, yellow-mantled with gorse, and beyond, if I
walk for an hour or two, I shall come out upon the sandy cliffs of
Suffolk, and look over the northern sea. . . .

I am in Wensleydale, climbing from the rocky river that leaps amid broad
pastures up to the rolling moor.  Up and up, till my feet brush through
heather, and the grouse whirrs away before me.  Under a glowing sky of
summer, this air of the uplands has still a life which spurs to movement,
which makes the heart bound.  The dale is hidden; I see only the brown
and purple wilderness, cutting against the blue with great round
shoulders, and, far away to the west, an horizon of sombre heights. . . .

I ramble through a village in Gloucestershire, a village which seems
forsaken in this drowsy warmth of the afternoon.  The houses of grey
stone are old and beautiful, telling of a time when Englishmen knew how
to build whether for rich or poor; the gardens glow with flowers, and the
air is delicately sweet.  At the village end, I come into a lane, which
winds upwards between grassy slopes, to turf and bracken and woods of
noble beech.  Here I am upon a spur of the Cotswolds, and before me
spreads the wide vale of Evesham, with its ripening crops, its fruiting
orchards, watered by sacred Avon.  Beyond, softly blue, the hills of
Malvern.  On the branch hard by warbles a little bird, glad in his leafy
solitude.  A rabbit jumps through the fern.  There sounds the laugh of a
woodpecker from the copse in yonder hollow. . . .

In the falling of a summer night, I walk by Ullswater.  The sky is still
warm with the afterglow of sunset, a dusky crimson smouldering above the
dark mountain line.  Below me spreads a long reach of the lake, steel-
grey between its dim colourless shores.  In the profound stillness, the
trotting of a horse beyond the water sounds strangely near; it serves
only to make more sensible the repose of Nature in this her sanctuary.  I
feel a solitude unutterable, yet nothing akin to desolation; the heart of
the land I love seems to beat in the silent night gathering around me;
amid things eternal, I touch the familiar and the kindly earth.  Moving,
I step softly, as though my footfall were an irreverence.  A turn in the
road, and there is wafted to me a faint perfume, that of meadow-sweet.
Then I see a light glimmering in the farmhouse window--a little ray
against the blackness of the great hillside, below which the water
sleeps. . . .

A pathway leads me by the winding of the river Ouse.  Far on every side
stretches a homely landscape, tilth and pasture, hedgerow and clustered
trees, to where the sky rests upon the gentle hills.  Slow, silent, the
river lapses between its daisied banks, its grey-green osier beds.  Yonder
is the little town of St. Neots.  In all England no simpler bit of rural
scenery; in all the world nothing of its kind more beautiful.  Cattle are
lowing amid the rich meadows.  Here one may loiter and dream in utter
restfulness, whilst the great white clouds mirror themselves in the water
as they pass above. . . .

I am walking upon the South Downs.  In the valleys, the sun lies hot, but
here sings a breeze which freshens the forehead and fills the heart with
gladness.  My foot upon the short, soft turf has an unwearied lightness;
I feel capable of walking on and on, even to that farthest horizon where
the white cloud casts its floating shadow.  Below me, but far off, is the
summer sea, still, silent, its ever-changing blue and green dimmed at the
long limit with luminous noontide mist.  Inland spreads the undulant
vastness of the sheep-spotted downs, beyond them the tillage and the
woods of Sussex weald, coloured like to the pure sky above them, but in
deeper tint.  Near by, all but hidden among trees in yon lovely hollow,
lies an old, old hamlet, its brown roofs decked with golden lichen; I see
the low church-tower, and the little graveyard about it.  Meanwhile, high
in the heaven, a lark is singing.  It descends; it drops to its nest, and
I could dream that half the happiness of its exultant song was love of
England. . . .

It is all but dark.  For a quarter of an hour I must have been writing by
a glow of firelight reflected on to my desk; it seemed to me the sun of
summer.  Snow is still falling.  I see its ghostly glimmer against the
vanishing sky.  To-morrow it will be thick upon my garden, and perchance
for several days.  But when it melts, when it melts, it will leave the
snowdrop.  The crocus, too, is waiting, down there under the white mantle
which warms the earth.



XXIV.


Time is money--says the vulgarest saw known to any age or people.  Turn
it round about, and you get a precious truth--money is time.  I think of
it on these dark, mist-blinded mornings, as I come down to find a
glorious fire crackling and leaping in my study.  Suppose I were so poor
that I could not afford that heartsome blaze, how different the whole day
would be!  Have I not lost many and many a day of my life for lack of the
material comfort which was necessary to put my mind in tune?  Money is
time.  With money I buy for cheerful use the hours which otherwise would
not in any sense be mine; nay, which would make me their miserable
bondsman.  Money is time, and, heaven be thanked, there needs so little
of it for this sort of purchase.  He who has overmuch is wont to be as
badly off in regard to the true use of money, as he who has not enough.
What are we doing all our lives but purchasing, or trying to purchase,
time?  And most of us, having grasped it with one hand, throw it away
with the other.



XXV.


The dark days are drawing to an end.  Soon it will be spring once more; I
shall go out into the fields, and shake away these thoughts of
discouragement and fear which have lately too much haunted my fireside.
For me, it is a virtue to be self-centred; I am much better employed,
from every point of view, when I live solely for my own satisfaction,
than when I begin to worry about the world.  The world frightens me, and
a frightened man is no good for anything.  I know only one way in which I
could have played a meritorious part as an active citizen--by becoming a
schoolmaster in some little country town, and teaching half a dozen
teachable boys to love study for its own sake.  That I could have done, I
daresay.  Yet, no; for I must have had as a young man the same mind that
I have in age, devoid of idle ambitions, undisturbed by unattainable
ideals.  Living as I do now, I deserve better of my country than at any
time in my working life; better, I suspect, than most of those who are
praised for busy patriotism.

Not that I regard my life as an example for any one else; all I say is,
that it is good for me, and in so far an advantage to the world.  To live
in quiet content is surely a piece of good citizenship.  If you can do
more, do it, and God-speed!  I know myself for an exception.  And I ever
find it a good antidote to gloomy thoughts to bring before my imagination
the lives of men, utterly unlike me in their minds and circumstances, who
give themselves with glad and hopeful energy to the plain duties that lie
before them.  However one's heart may fail in thinking of the folly and
baseness which make so great a part of to-day's world, remember how many
bright souls are living courageously, seeing the good wherever it may be
discovered, undismayed by portents, doing what they have to do with all
their strength.  In every land there are such, no few of them, a great
brotherhood, without distinction of race or faith; for they, indeed,
constitute the race of man, rightly designated, and their faith is one,
the cult of reason and of justice.  Whether the future is to them or to
the talking anthropoid, no one can say.  But they live and labour,
guarding the fire of sacred hope.

In my own country, dare I think that they are fewer than of old?  Some I
have known; they give me assurance of the many, near and far.  Hearts of
noble strain, intrepid, generous; the clear head, the keen eye; a spirit
equal alike to good fortune and to ill.  I see the true-born son of
England, his vigour and his virtues yet unimpaired.  In his blood is the
instinct of honour, the scorn of meanness; he cannot suffer his word to
be doubted, and his hand will give away all he has rather than profit by
a plebeian parsimony.  He is frugal only of needless speech.  A friend
staunch to the death; tender with a grave sweetness to those who claim
his love; passionate, beneath stoic seeming, for the causes he holds
sacred.  A hater of confusion and of idle noise, his place is not where
the mob presses; he makes no vaunt of what he has done, no boastful
promise of what he will do; when the insensate cry is loud, the counsel
of wisdom overborne, he will hold apart, content with plain work that
lies nearest to his hand, building, strengthening, whilst others riot in
destruction.  He was ever hopeful, and deems it a crime to despair of his
country.  "Non, si male nunc, et olim sic erit."  Fallen on whatever evil
days and evil tongues, he remembers that Englishman of old, who, under
every menace, bore right onwards; and like him, if so it must be, can
make it his duty and his service to stand and wait.



XXVI.


Impatient for the light of spring, I have slept lately with my blind
drawn up, so that at waking, I have the sky in view.  This morning, I
awoke just before sunrise.  The air was still; a faint flush of rose to
westward told me that the east made fair promise.  I could see no cloud,
and there before me, dropping to the horizon, glistened the horned moon.

The promise held good.  After breakfast, I could not sit down by the
fireside; indeed, a fire was scarce necessary; the sun drew me forth, and
I walked all the morning about the moist lanes, delighting myself with
the scent of earth.

On my way home, I saw the first celandine.

So, once more, the year has come full circle.  And how quickly; alas, how
quickly!  Can it be a whole twelvemonth since the last spring?  Because I
am so content with life, must life slip away, as though it grudged me my
happiness?  Time was when a year drew its slow length of toil and anxiety
and ever frustrate waiting.  Further away, the year of childhood seemed
endless.  It is familiarity with life that makes time speed quickly.  When
every day is a step in the unknown, as for children, the days are long
with gathering of experience; the week gone by is already far in
retrospect of things learnt, and that to come, especially if it foretell
some joy, lingers in remoteness.  Past mid-life, one learns little and
expects little.  To-day is like unto yesterday, and to that which shall
be the morrow.  Only torment of mind or body serves to delay the
indistinguishable hours.  Enjoy the day, and, behold, it shrinks to a
moment.

I could wish for many another year; yet, if I knew that not one more
awaited me, I should not grumble.  When I was ill at ease in the world,
it would have been hard to die; I had lived to no purpose, that I could
discover; the end would have seemed abrupt and meaningless.  Now, my life
is rounded; it began with the natural irreflective happiness of
childhood, it will close in the reasoned tranquillity of the mature mind.
How many a time, after long labour on some piece of writing, brought at
length to its conclusion, have I laid down the pen with a sigh of
thankfulness; the work was full of faults, but I had wrought sincerely,
had done what time and circumstance and my own nature permitted.  Even so
may it be with me in my last hour.  May I look back on life as a long
task duly completed--a piece of biography; faulty enough, but good as I
could make it--and, with no thought but one of contentment, welcome the
repose to follow when I have breathed the word "Finis."



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