Infomotions, Inc.In a Green Shade A Country Commentary / Hewlett, Maurice, 1861-1923



Author: Hewlett, Maurice, 1861-1923
Title: In a Green Shade A Country Commentary
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): lady bessborough; petite personne; miss betham
Contributor(s): Swanwick, Anna, 1813-1899 [Translator]
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Identifier: etext15495
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Title: In a Green Shade
       A Country Commentary

Author: Maurice Hewlett

Release Date: March 29, 2005 [EBook #15495]

Language: English

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    In a Green Shade.

  A Country Commentary.

   By Maurice Hewlett.


         London
    G. Bell and Sons
         1920



  G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.
  YORK HOUSE, PORTUGAL STREET, LONDON, W.C. 2.




NOTE


All of these Essays, with two exceptions, have been published
periodically. All, without exception, have been revised and corrected.
My thanks for hospitality afforded to them _en route_ are due to the
_Westminster Gazette_, _Daily News_, and _Daily Chronicle_; to the
_New Statesman_; to the _Cornhill Magazine_, _Fortnightly Review_,
_Anglo-French Review_, and _London Mercury_.

    BROADCHALKE, _22 Jan. 1920._




CONTENTS


                               PAGE
  NOTE                            v
  ROUND ABOUT A PREFACE          ix
  CHANGE AND THE PEASANTRY        1
  A HERMITAGE IN SIGHT            6
  DORIAN MODES                   11
  CHURCH AND THE MAN             16
  BESSY MOORE                    20
  THE MAIDS                      31
  POETRY AND THE MODE            35
  POLYOLBION                     45
  THE WELTER                     50
  CATNACHERY                     54
  LANDNAMA                       60
  "WORKS AND DAYS"               64
  THE ENGLISH HESIOD             72
  FLOWER OF THE FIELD            83
  UNDER THE HARVEST MOON         87
  _LA PETITE PERSONNE_           91
  A FOOL OF QUALITY              99
  SHERIDAN AS MANIAC            105
  A FOOTNOTE TO COLERIDGE       119
  THE CRYSTAL VASE              132
  _NOCTES AMBROSIANAE_           147
  SKELETONS AT A FEAST          151
  A COMMENTARY UPON BUTLER      156
  THE COMMEMORATION             164
  THE QUAKER EIRENICON          168




IN A GREEN SHADE

ROUND ABOUT A PREFACE


The title has become equivocal, since there are more green shades in
employment now than were dreamed of by Andrew Marvell. Science is a
great maker of homophones, without respect for the poets. There is,
for instance, the demilune of lined buckram borne by the weak-eyed on
their foreheads, the phylactery of the have-beens--I lay myself open
to be believed a cripple, or to look an old fool. A vivacious reviewer
in _Punch's_ "Booking Office," will have a vision of me as a babbling
elder peering at society from below a green pent. However--I must
risk it. It says exactly what I mean; and what I have written I have
written.

The point is that, having worked hard for a good many years, I can now
consider my latter end under conditions favourable to leisurely and
extended thought, sometimes in a garden made, if rightly made, in my
own image, sometimes in a house which was built aforetime, in a day
when men wrought for posterity as well as for themselves. In such
seed-plots it is impossible that one's thoughts should not take colour
as they rise. Whithersoever I look I see as much permanency as is good
for any sojourner upon earth; I see embodied tradition, respect for
Nature's laws, attention to beauty, subservience to use; all this
within doors. Outside, the trees, the flowers are my calendar;
the birds chime the hours; periodically the church-bell calls the
travellers home. Between all these friendly monitors it is hard if
one cannot keep the mean. If the passing-bell tempts me to moralise
overmuch I may turn to the creatures, and learn to live for the
moment. I should be slow to confess how much worldly wisdom I have
won from what we choose to call the lower orders of creation, because
nobody willingly betrays the whereabouts of his buried treasure, or
the amount of it. Mr. Pepys, I remember, forgot both on a certain
occasion, and had a devil of a time until he recovered his hoard. But
my wealth was not made with hands, or not with my hands.

My house is fortunately placed, too, in the village street, so that I
am in touch with my neighbours and their daily concerns, which I make
mine so far as they are pleased to allow it. I am aware of them all
day long by half a hundred signs; I know the trot of their horses, the
horns of their motor-cars--that shows that there are not too many of
them--the voices of their children, the death-shrieks of their pigs,
the barking of their dogs. Not a day passes but one or other is in,
to have some paper signed, to air a grievance, or to ask advice. The
vicar and the minister are my good friends, and, I am glad to say,
each other's. The farmers understand my ways (it is as much as I can
expect of them), and the labourers like them. All this keeps the
pores of the mind open; you cannot stagnate if you are useful to
other people. Nor--unless you are a fool--can you be strict with your
categories. The more you know of men and systems the more overlapping
you see. I could not now, for my life, pigeonhole my acquaintance
in this village of five hundred souls. "I have now been in Italy two
days," Goethe wrote, "and I think I know my Italians pretty well!"
When he had been there two years he knew better.

If ever there is a time for sententiousness it is when one is elderly,
leisured and comfortable; that is the time to set down one's thoughts
as they come, not inviting anybody to read them, but promising to
those who do, that they will find a commentary upon life as it passes,
either because it may be useful or because it may have been earned. I
hope I have neither prejudice nor afterthought; I know that I have,
as we say now, neither axe to grind nor log to roll. Politics! None.
I want people to be happy; and whether Mr. George make them so, or the
Trade Unions, whether Christ or Sir Conan Doyle, it's all one to me.
I have my pet nostrums, of course. I believe in Poverty, Love, and
England, and am convinced that only through the first will the other
two thrive. I want men to be gentlemen and women to be modest. I want
men to have work and women to have children. Any check on production,
Trade-Union, war, or something else, will get no good words from me.
As for war, after our late experience, I confess that I could be a Mr.
Dick with it, but we are not apt in the country to dwell overmuch on
war now it is over. We honour our beloved dead; those of us who have
returned unbattered go now about our work with cooler, more critical
eyes, but mostly with lips closed against our three or four years'
experience. Khaki has disappeared; the war is over; let us forget
it. If there is a people to be pitied, swarming and groping on this
tormented earth, we say, it is the German people; but that seems an
insufficient reason for hating them _in saecula saeculorum_. A German
is a human being, and very likely Mr. Bottomley is one too, and not a
big-head in a pantomime; such also may be Mrs. Partington's nephew and
the editor of the _Morning Post_. There does not seem much difference
between them, and we must be charitable.

The sojourner in the green shade will find himself, as I have found
myself, more interested in people (but not those people) than in
books. We have too many books, as I discovered when I left London for
good. I sold six tons, and again another six, when, after two years in
West Sussex, I came home. Now I have collected about me the things I
can't do without, the things of which I read at least portions every
year, as well as a few which it is good to have handy in case of
accidents. Book-collecting is a foppery, a pastime of youth, when
spending money is as necessary as taking exercise, and you are better
for an object in each case. But I find that I now read with motives
other than those of old. I am now more interested in the author than
in his book. That must mean that I am more interested in life than
in art. I am reading at this moment Professor Child's edition of the
Ballads, and though I am occasionally moved to tears by the beauty
and tragic insight of things like _The Wife of Usher's Well_;
_Clerk Saunders_, or _Lord Thomas and Fair Annie_, I am sure that
considerations altogether unliterary move me more--such, for instance,
as curiosity to know who composed, and for whom they composed, these
lovely tales. I don't suppose that we shall ever know the name, or
anything of the personality of any one poet of them. Those poets were
as anonymous as our church-builders, and if they were content to be so
we should be content to have it so. But one would be happy to know of
what kind they were, and perhaps even happier (certainly I should) to
realise their auditors. Did they write for men or women? That is one
of my consuming quests. The staves of the _Iliad_ were for men: that
seems certain. Those of the _Odyssey_ not so certainly. But take this
from _May Collin_, and consider it.

You know the story, how "She fell in love with a false priest, and
rued it ever mair"? The priest followed her "butt and ben," and gave
her no peace. They took horses and money and rode out together "Until
they came to a rank river, Was raging like the sea." There the priest
declared his purpose:

  "Light off, light off now, May Collin,
    It's here that you must dee;
  Here I have drown'd seven kings' daughters,
    The eighth now you must be."

So her torture begins. He bids her cast off "her gown that's of the
green," because it is too good to rot in the sea-stream; next her
"coat that's of the black "; next her "stays that are well-laced";
lastly her "sark that's of the holland"--all for the same reason. Then
the girl speaks:

  "Turn you about now, false Mess John,
    To the green leaf of the tree;
  It does not fit a mansworn man
    A naked woman to see."

The point is that he obeys her. She catches him round the body and
flings him into the tide. _Women were listening to that tale_.

If I am to deal with life it must be in my own way, for there's no
escape from one's character. I may be a good poet or a bad one--that's
not for me to say; but I am a poet of sorts. Now a poet does not
observe like a novelist. He does not indeed necessarily observe at
all until he feels the need of observation. Then he observes, and
intensely. He does not analyse, he does not amass his facts; he
concentrates. He wrings out quintessences; and when he has distilled
his drops of pure spirit he brews his potion. Something of the kind
happens to me now, whether verse or prose be the Muse of my devotion.
A stray thought, a chance vision, moves me; presently the flame is
hissing hot. Everything then at any time observed and stored in the
memory which has relation to the fact is fused and in a swimming flux.
Anon, as the Children of Israel said to Moses, "There came forth
this calf." One cannot get any nearer, I believe; and while I do not
pretend that I have said all there is to say about anything here, I
shall maintain that I have said all that need be said about the things
which I touch upon. In an essay, as in a poem, the half is greater
than the whole, if it is the right half. If it is the wrong half, why,
then the shorter it is the better.

As most of these commentaries were written during the year which is
mercifully over, it would not have been possible, even if it had been
sought, to avoid current topics. Why should a writer shrink from being
called a journalist? He need not cease to be writer. But if he wishes
to be true to his original calling, to make his hope and election
sure, he must always be careful to seek the universal in the
particular; and that is where your idealist has such a pull, for he
can see nothing else. And if he does that he need not be afraid that
the conventions of Time and Space will be a hindrance to his book's
path. He will be readable a century hence; he will be readable in the
Antipodes; and that is as near infinity as any of us, short of Chaucer
and Shakespeare, need trouble about. In the country one reads, not
skims, the daily paper; and if one's comments are leisurely, perhaps
they are all the better. At any rate one is not tempted to see the end
of the world in a strike, or a second Bonaparte in Signor d'Annunzio.
To me that poet seems rather a comic-opera brigand. I suspect him of
a green velvet jacket with a two-inch tail. But if you regard him
_sub specie eternitatis_, then I fear we must see in him all Italy
in epitome. That was how Italy went to war--but you must live in the
country to understand things like that, out of range of the tumult and
the shouting.

No more of Signor d'Annunzio here or elsewhere in these pages; but of
ourselves and our needs somewhat. Nobody could have lived through last
year without considering anxiously whither we are tending and with
what pretence. As the occasion moved me I have said my say about those
matters, and here the reader will have as much of it as I am ready
just now to give him. This is perhaps some sort of an apology for
what may be found hereafter of a hortatory kind. I may be charged with
wanting to do people "good." Well, if trying to make them happy is
trying to do them good, then I confess the charge. There is no doubt
whatever that they are not happy now. They hate too many people, they
pant and toil after the wrong things; they serve false gods and forget
the true ones. That is what we think about it in the country; and I am
of the country's opinion.

We need, it seems to me, many things--religion, love, work,
seriousness and so on; but what we need most of all, as I believe, is
to wash our hands. For five years they have been groping and wrenching
in the vitals of other people. They are foul and we are still drunk
with the reek. In God's name, let us wash and then we can begin to
build up the world again. We see the need of that out in the country,
but so far as I can judge by what I read or have seen of London,
there's no notion of it there.

But there's not much about London in this book.




CHANGE AND THE PEASANTRY


A book which I shall never willingly be without, one of my minor
classics, is _Idlehurst_. Published in 1898, its author John Halsham,
it has a touch upon country things, the penetrating, pitiful and _tant
soit peu_ condescending touch upon them of one who is both scholar and
recluse, fastidious but discerning. He reads our earth, cloudscape,
landscape, season, foison, man and beast of the field, with the same
wistfulness which women who have known sorrow exhibit for children
who have not. Reading him again, however, last night, after the long
interval of fever and unrest which the war has enforced, I found
his pessimism troublesome. Sussex, so far as I know it, is not so
degenerate as he seems to have found it; and surely since the war
began he must have changed his mind. It is hard to remember 1898, or
1913 for that matter, but I happen to know that Sussex emptied itself
of its young manhood, and voluntarily, because I went to live there
for a while in 1915 and found the village of my choice bare of youth.
But that was West Sussex, and John Halsham lives nearer London, in the
forest region, as I judge, which is a part of the country overflowed
and become suburban. I don't doubt but complete cockneyfication will
be the ultimate fate of that country of deep loam and handsome women
before many years are over. Going down to my village from London,
I could not feel that I was in the country until I had passed
Pulborough; and further east the same would hold good to Lewes.

But when Mr Halsham in his bitterness cries out that "the town has
overflowed the country," meaning the whole country, and that "we are
cockney from sea to sea," he is being tragic at the cost of truth.
Would he drag Wiltshire and all the pastoral West into his turmoil?
You may go about any of the villages here, watch the daily doings of
the inhabitants, and feel confident that, practically, there has been
no substantial change since the Norman Conquest. The "feeling" of the
scene is the same as it always was, the outlook of the people,
their habit of mind, is the same. The one apparent difference is in
religion, and that is not a difference of substance but of accident.
We have forgotten the Madonna and the Saints, who were taken away
from us by violence. We still go to church, but they are not there any
more. They were expelled with a fork: one Cromwell but completed
what another began. And now it is late in the day: they can never be
brought back. "Vestigia nulla" is true of religion as of every other
human affair. But it was not them we worshipped. Rather it was what
they stood for--which endures.

All this leads me away from John Halsham and _Idlehurst_. A good
antidote to his extreme depression is to be found in another beautiful
book which, if not a classic, will become one. I mean _A Shepherd's
Life_, wherein Mr. Hudson reveals the very heart of pastoral Wilts.
I went right through it only the other day, journeying from Sarum to
Trowbridge on county business--Wishford, Wylye, Codford, Heytesbury,
and so on to Melksham and Westbury--names which to us are symphonies.
No change from the sempiternal round of country labour in those quiet
hollows, though it is true that you saw soldiers in buff unloading
railway trucks, and that the valley was lined with their wooden
hutments. Soldiers, indeed, we have known ever since the Norman
Conquest; but the country is bigger than they are, and they fall
into its ways even as their huts fade into the shadows cast by its
everlasting hills. Mr. Hudson, by the way, does not seem to have
encountered a witch. We had one in this village a few years ago, and
she may be here still, though I haven't come across her. She laid a
malison on my chauffeur's potatoes--I had one once--and (as he told
me) blighted the year's crop. He was digging in his garden when she, a
dark-browed old woman with a beard, leaned over the gate and asked him
for some kindling wood. He, a Swiss, who may not have understood her,
waved her away, saying that he was busy. "You will get no good out of
those taters," said she, and slippered away. That was five years ago.

John Halsham is fond of describing himself as a Tory, and perhaps
really is one of those almost extinct mammalia. I had thought
Professor Saintsbury the only one left. He, I understand, thinks
that the Reform Act of 1832 was a great mistake, and dislikes Horace
Walpole's Letters because their writer was a Whig. Then there is Mrs.
Partington's nephew, who muses perhaps without method, but certainly
not without malice, in _Blackwood_ once a month. He is more Jingo than
Tory. He has to bite somebody. I was amused the other day to consider
his girding at Sir Alfred Mond, chiefly on the score that he had a
German grandfather. It did not seem to have occurred to the man that
the same terrific charge could be brought against a much more august
Personage, and with much the same futility. Surely it is more to the
purpose that he will have an English grandson, That is the worst of
musing when you neglect method and surrender to malice.

Toryism, which is a parasitic growth of mind, needs a relic to which
it can cling, not a person. In the country the Church will not provide
it, nor any longer the brewing interest. The air has been let into
the one, and the water which they call mineral into the other. There
remain the throne and the squirearchy, and of these the throne is
much the stouter. For the throne is remote enough to be an object of
veneration, separable from its occupant; but when the great house and
the old acres are held, and not filled, by a new man, the villager,
who sees more than he is supposed to see, is by no means concerned to
uphold them. Most of the villages have been Radical; now they are all
going "Labour." The elections, if there are to be some soon, will
be very interesting, and I think surprising to Mr. George and his
assortment of friends.

However--another strike or two like that recent abortion on the
railways will dish the Labour Party and Trade Unionism as well--at
least in the country. Down here we are new to the movement, but have
gone into it keenly, without losing our heads. Indeed, I think we are
finding more in our heads than we suspected. We keep to our code; and
when we find that other men don't, we begin to doubt of Unionism. One
of the very best of our men said in my hearing at the time that if the
railway strike were the kind of thing we were to expect, he, for one,
would have no more to do with the Labourers' Union. As I have said
once before, I think, responsibility (which the Union is giving us)
deepens our men and quickens them too. The time is at hand when they
will begin to feel their power. I have no fears. I have long known
them to be the salt of the earth. If the quotation would not be from
one of my own works, I would quote now.

It is an old discussion, but all my travels have convinced me that a
bad peasantry is the exception. Such exceptions there are, though I
don't mean to give them. If Zola had not made himself ridiculous in
the act, so ridiculous as to show himself negligible, he would stand
as the greatest traducer of his adopted country that France has
ever harboured. But he was a specialist in his particular line of
disgustfulness, and saw in rural France what he took there with him.
They say that the Bulgarian peasant is a savage brute, "they" being
the Greeks, of course. I would not mind betting a crown that he is
nothing of the sort.

In manners, to be sure, peasantries differ remarkably. Here in the
West, from Wilts to Cornwall, our rustics are sweet-mannered. They
are instinctively gentlemen, if gentlehood consist, as I believe, in
having regard for other people's feelings. But in the Danish parts
of England, to be plain, manners are to seek. That means from
Bedfordshire pretty well up to Carlisle. North-east of that again, in
Northumberland, you have delightful manners.

The Northumbrian peasant, like the Scottish, greets you as an equal,
the Wiltshire man as a superior, yet neither loses dignity thereby.
The Lancashire man treats you as his inferior, and is not himself
advantaged, whether it be so or not.




A HERMITAGE IN SIGHT


I hope that I have secured for myself a haven, a yet more impenetrable
shade than this, against the time when, having seen four generations
of men, two behind and two beyond, I may consider in silence what is
likely to be the end of it all. It is true that I am getting old, but
I am not yet prepared for a lodge in the wilderness. My present house
has a wall on the village street. The post-office is a matter of
crossing the road; the church is at the bottom of a meadow. I like all
that, because I like all my neighbours and the sound of their voices.
At eleven o'clock in the morning I can hear the children let out from
school, "as shrill as swifts in upper air." That, too, I like. But the
time will come when silence is best, and, as I say, I believe that I
have found the very place. I have had my eye upon it for years, and
seldom a month passes but I am there. A small black dog and I once saw
Oreads there, or said we did, and in print at that. This very year
the farm to which it belongs came into the market, and was sold; the
purchaser will treat with me. I have described it once, nay twice,
and won't do it again. Enough to say that it is the butt end of a deep
green combe in the Downs, that it is sheltered from every wind, faces
the south, and is below an ancient road, now a grass track, and the
remains of what is called a British village on the ordnance maps, a
great ramparted square with half a dozen gateways and two mist-pools
within its ambit. All about it lie the neolithic dead, of whose race,
as Glaucus told Diomede, "I boast myself to be."

We are all Iberians here, or so I love to believe, grounding
myself upon the learned Dr. Beddoes--a swarthy people, dark-haired,
grey-eyed, rather under than over the mean height. The aboriginal
strain has proved itself stronger than the Frisian, and the Danish
type does not appear at all. There are English names among us, of
course, such as Gurd, which is Gurth as pronounced by a Norman; but it
is understood that we are neolithic chiefly on the distaff side. The
theory that each successive wave of invasion demolished the existing
inhabitants is absurd. Not even the Germans do that; nor have the
Turks succeeded in obliterating the Armenian nation. No--in turn our
oncoming hordes, Celts, Romans, English, Danes, enslaved the men and
married, or at least mated with, the women. And so we are descended,
and (let me at this hour of victory be allowed to say) a marvellous
people we are. For tenacity, patience, and obedience to the law--not
of men, but of nature--I don't suppose there is another such people
in the world. Those characteristics, for which neither Celt nor Roman,
Teuton nor Dane, as we know them now, is remarkable, I set to the
score of the neolithic race, whose physical features are equally
enduring.

When you get what seems like a clear case in either sex, you have a
very handsome person.

The most beautiful woman I ever saw in my days was scrubbing a kitchen
floor on her knees, when I saw her first--not a hundred miles from
here. Pure Iberian, so far as one can judge--olive skin, black hair,
grey-green eyes. Otherwise--colouring apart--the Venus of Milo, no
less. I don't say that she was very intelligent. I wonder if the Venus
was. But she was obedient to the law of her being--that I do know; and
it is a matter of faith with me that Aphrodite can have been no less
so.

Neither a quick-witted nor an imaginative race are we; but we have
the roots of poetry in us, and the roots of other arts, for we have
reverence for what is above and beyond us. Custom, too, we worship,
and decency and order. We fight unwillingly, and are very slow to
anger; but we never let go. Witness the last four dreadful years;
witness Europe from Mons to Gallipoli. The British private, soldier
or sailor, has been the backbone of the fight for freedom. But I am a
long way from my valley in the Downs.

I shall first of all sink a well, for one must have water, even if one
is going to die. Then I shall make a mist-pool--that art is not lost
yet--because as well as water to drink I like water to look upon.
Lastly, I will build a hermitage of puddled chalk and straw, and
thatch it with reeds, if I can get them. It will consist of a single
room thirty feet long. It will have a gallery at each end, attained
by a ladder. In each gallery shall be a bed, and the appurtenance
thereof, one for use and one for a co-hermit or hermitess, if such
there be. I leave that open. There must be a stoop, of course. Nothing
enclosed. No flowers, by request. The sheep shall nibble to the very
threshold. I don't forget that there is a fox-earth in the spinney
attached. I saw a vixen and her cubs there one morning as clearly as
I see this paper. She barked at me once or twice, sitting high on her
haunches, but the children played on without a glance at me. They were
playing at catch-as-catch-can--with a full-grown hare. Sheer fun. No
after-thoughts. I watched them for twenty minutes.

If I grow anything there at all I shall confine my part of the
business to planting, and let Nature do the rest. It may be
absolutely necessary to keep the sheep off for a year or two, and the
rabbits--but that is all. And what I do plant shall be deciduous, so
that I may have the yearly miracle to expect. It is a mighty eater of
time--and there won't be much of that left probably; yet a joy which
no man who has ever begotten anything, baby or poem, can deny himself.

If anybody wants to see what Nature can do in the way of a season's
growth, I can tell him how to go to work. Let him plant on the bank
of a running water a root of _Gunnera manicata_. Let him then wait ten
years, observing these directions faithfully. Every fall, after the
first frost--that frost which blackens his dahlias--let him cover
the crown of his _Gunnera_ with one of its own leaves. Pile some
stable-stuff over that, and then heap upon all the leaf-sweepings of
that part of the garden. Growth starts in mid-April and proceeds by
feet a week. Mine, which is about ten years old now, is thirty-five
feet in circumference, nearly twelve feet high, has flowers
two-feet-six in length, and in a hot summer has grown leaves seven
feet across. You can go under one of them in a shower of rain and be
as dry as in church. And all that done in five months. The plant is
a rhubarb of sorts and comes from Chili. I should like to see it over
there on the marge of some monstrous great river. In another order,
the _Ipomoea_ (Morning Glory), which comes from East Africa, runs it
close. I had one seed in Sussex which completely overflowed a garden
wall, smothering everything upon it. A kind of Jack's beanstalk, and
every morning starred with turquoise blue trumpet mouths of ravishing
beauty, which were dead at noon. The poor thing was constrained to be
a hierodule, gave no seed. Nature is the prodigal's foster-mother.

I have a plant whose seed is much more beautiful than its flower.
By the way, I have two, for the Spindle Tree is in seed, which has
a quite insignificant blossom. But the plant I mean is a wild peony,
which I dug up in a brake on the slopes of Helikon. It is a single
white whose flower lasts, perhaps, three days. It makes a large
seed-pod, which burst a short time ago, and revealed blue-black seeds
sheathed in coralline forms of the most absolute vermilion. You could
see them fifty yards away. It seems to have no purpose in life but
to pack the seeds--or perhaps, they are beacons for the birds. I took
pains to be beforehand with the birds, having no desire to see Greek
peonies in my neighbours' gardens. The seeds are safely bestowed,
though their fate has not been Jonah's. There's a spinney of
elder-trees in the combe of my hermitage, which, I am told, was
planted entirely by magpies. And I suppose it was wood-pigeons who
planted two ilex trees on the top of the Guinigi tower in Lucca; and
some bird or other, once more, which is answerable for a fine
fig-tree growing in the parapet of the bridge at Cordova, in no soil
whatsoever. It was loaded with fruit when I saw it. But fig-trees are
like poets; if you want them to sing you must torture their roots. The
parallel wobbles, but will be understood.




DORIAN MODES


Being known in these parts for a friendly soul, and trusted, moreover,
I have fallen into the position among the peasantry which the parson
used to hold, and does still when he takes the trouble to qualify for
it. If I can't always tell them what to do I may be able to put them
in the way of the man who can. One learns how to make a dictionary of
life as one gets on in it. Another use which they can have of me: I
can tell them how to put their requests or demands. They have no sense
whatever of a written language.

I must not betray confidences, or I could relate some curious matters
on this head. I know, for instance, a farmer who is worth a couple of
hundred thousand at the least, and who can neither write nor read.
He has learned somehow a cross between a scratch and a blot which is
accepted as a signature to cheques--but no more than that. And there
is no harm in saying that I often need an interpreter. I had a
case the other night when a man I know brought in a friend for
consultation--a youth of the round-headed, flaxen, Teutonic type,
rather rare here, who came from a village still more remote from the
world than this one. Not one word of his fluent and frequent speeches
could I understand. It was largely a question of intonation I
believe--but there it was.

He had the wild, inspired look of a savage. He again could neither
read nor write, though he must have been at school within the last
ten or twelve years; but, as I think I have said elsewhere, it is not
uncommon for boys to go through the school course and fail to pass
the standards. There are here two families in particular, admirable
workmen, who for two generations have left school without having
acquired either writing or reading. One wonders deeply what kind of
processes go on in the minds of these fine young men, steady workmen,
as they are, good husbands, kind fathers, useful citizens oftener
than not. What is their conception of God, of human destiny? How does
Religion get at them? Or does it? Shall we ever know? Not if Mr. Hardy
cannot tell us. No other poet of peasant origin has done so--neither
Clare, nor Blomfield, nor even Burns. Mr. Hardy has told us something,
and might have told us a good deal more if by the time he had learned
his craft, he had not learned to be chiefly interested in himself.
That is the way of poets.

Then there's _The Shropshire Lad_, a fake perhaps, since its author
was not a peasant, but a divine little book. _The Shropshire Lad_ is
morbid, unless lads are so in Shropshire--in which case they, too, are
morbid; but it is a golden book of whose beauty and felicity I never
tire. Technically it is by far the most considerable thing since _In
Memoriam_: "Loveliest of trees, the Cherry," makes me cry for sheer
pleasure. But it is haunted by the fear of death and old age; it is
afraid of love; it is sometimes cynical--none of which things are true
of youth in Salop or Salonika. The young peasant is a fatalist to the
core; but fatalists are not afraid of death. Youth is ephemeral and so
is the young peasant. He is always happy when the sun is out.

As for love, it is truly the hot-and-cold disease with him. He is
himself his "own fever and pain," like the rest of us; but I think
love is a physical passion, until marriage. After marriage it may grow
into something very beautiful indeed, and the more beautiful for being
incapable of bodily utterance. I have a pair often under my eye down
here who are, I know, all in all to each other; yet their conversation
is that of two old gossips. But at fortunate moments I may induce one
of them to tell of the other, and then you find out. My _Village Wife_
was no imagination of mine. She lives and suffers not so many miles
from where I write. Indeed, you may say of our peasantry very much
what French people will tell you of their marriage custom, that love
at its best follows that ceremony. It is not bred by romance, but by
intimacy. The romantic attachment flames up, and satiety quenches it.
The other kind glows red-hot but rarely breaks into a flame. You may
have which you choose: you are lucky indeed if you get both.

To return, however, to dialect, intonation, as I say, has much to do
with it. It is attractive, and in poetry can be very touching. I have
had the advantage of hearing Barnes's poems read by a lady who has the
accent perfectly. One does not know Barnes or Wessex who does not
hear him read. That is true of all poetry, no doubt--but Barnes is
uncommonly dull to read. As for words, we have enough of our own to
support a small lexicon, which I used to possess, but have just been
hunting, in vain. Perhaps after the pattern of the arrow, I shall find
it again in the shelf of a friend. I remember that we call the roots
of a tree the _mores_; that a dipper is a _spudgell_; that we say
"_dout_ the candle" when we mean extinguish it. We say "to-year" as
you say "to-morrow," and call the month of March "Lide." February used
to be "Soul-grove," but I have never heard it called so. The pole of
a scythe is the _snead_; the two handles are the _nibs_. They are
fastened by rings called _quinnets_. Isaac Taylor says that the few
remaining Celtic words we have in use (other than hill or river
names) are words for obscure parts of tools. We have some queer
intensives--"terriblish" or "tarblish" is one, and "ghastly," meaning
ugly, is another. "A terrible ghastly sight" we say, meaning that a
thing looks rather ugly.

Our demonstrative pronoun is _thic_, or more properly _dhic_; "dhic
meaed" means "that meadow." _Suent_ means pleasant or proper--really
both. It always has a sense of right consequence, of one thing
following another as it ought. "Suently" would be "duly." But that
now is common to the West, and will be heard from Land's End to
Hengistbury Head, as well as in every one of Mr. Phillpotts' novels.

Doubtless it is too late to protest--since I am upon words--against a
current barbarism which is at least ten years old, and against which
I have publicly cried out at least twenty times. For the twenty-first
time, then, let me object to "wage" for "wages." _Is_ the wages of sin
death, or _are_ they? Do you give a man an alms, or an alm?

Shall we read--

  Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
  Nor the furious winter's _rage_,

and so on? Go to. But I shall not so easily convert Trade Union
orators, Members of Parliament, Mr. Sidney Webb, or the _Times_. To
them a wages is a wage, and an alms an alm, a man's riches his rich,
and his breeches his--at least I suppose so. I wish that we could call
a man's speeches his speech, and find it was perfectly true. It is a
terrible thought, "a terrible ghastly thought" indeed, that we have
not so long ago chosen over seven hundred persons of both sexes, each
of whom will conceive it his right to make a speech in Parliament
every day. Think of it. It is fair to suppose that every one of them
will make one speech every year, many of them, no doubt, one every
week, some certainly every day. I am thankful that I wasn't a
candidate, for I might have been successful. Then I should have been
compelled to listen, and perhaps tempted to reply, to some or all of
those speeches. "In the end thereof despondency and madness."




CHURCH AND THE MAN


At our Peace Celebration the other day that happened which in my
recollection never happened before. The entire village was in the
parish church, sang _Te Deum_, prayed prelatical prayers, and shared
_Hymns Ancient and Modern_. The Congregational Minister, in a black
gown, read the Lesson, the Vicar, in surplice and stole, preached. All
that in a village where more than half the people are Nonconformists,
and done upon the mere motion of that particular section of us.

No experience since the War has touched me more; and I believe it is
strongly symptomatic. Akin to it was the streaming of the people in
London to Buckingham Palace, just when war was declared, and again on
the day of the Armistice: both matters of pure instinct. For what do
these things show except that we are children who, when we are moved,
run to our mother to tell her all about it? What are we, when we are
stripped to the soul, but one great family? A man told me once that he
was present at a trial for murder where there were half a dozen in
the dock, men and women, principals and accessories. The verdict was
"Guilty," and the wretches stood up to receive the death-sentence.
As they did so, by one common instinct, they all joined hands, and
so remained until they were led away to the cells. A strangely moving
scene.

It is by no means a necessity of the simple alone to seek a common
expression of their hope and calling. A similar stream is carrying the
learned which at present runs parallel with our homelier brook, but
will sooner or later mingle waters. Then there will be a flood wherein
many tired swimmers will doubtless perish, but which may lead to the
sea those who keep their heads. Signs of that are on all sides of
us. "_What is the Kingdom of Heaven_?" asks Mr. Clutton-Brock, and
succeeds at his best in telling us what it is not. As for anything
more positive, he concludes very reasonably that it is a state of
mind, and leaves us to infer that the ruck of humanity need the
guidance of inspiration to induce it.

It is not at all difficult for him to show that the Church lacks
inspiration, or that there is something inherent in the essence of
a Church destructive of it. What should have been equally easy would
have been to point out that the Church's Founder as certainly had it.
Nobody ever guided men more unfalteringly than He, and we need not
doubt but that it was His instigation which turned the hearts of the
village people to find a common focus for their thanksgiving. Mr.
Clutton-Brock has felt the sting and owned to the need; he is in the
stream, but is not a bold swimmer. I hope he may reach the sea.

Why it is--assuming the inspiration of Christ--that men have
nevertheless ceased to be guided by it, and have consequently lost
touch with the Kingdom of Heaven, is explained by a more hardy plunger
in the stream, the Hibbert Lecturer upon "_Christ, Saint Francis,
and To-day_." With great learning, skill and courage he has used
the documents of the Franciscan revival to illustrate what must have
happened to the Christian well-spring. He shows that even in the
lifetime of its founder the Franciscan fraternity crystallised under
the insensible but enormous pressure of the world, the flesh and
(doubtless) the devil. Saint Francis of Assisi, for instance,
taught literal poverty--abstinence from money, goods and books. His
Franciscans wouldn't have it. They asked for money and took it. Not
always directly, but always somehow.

"By God we owen forty pound for rent!" said Chaucer's Franciscan when
pressed by the good wife to declare what ailed him; and he got his
forty pound. Saint Francis told them to build churches like barns;
they built them like cathedrals. He would have had men uninstructed
in all but love; and they became the greatest schoolmen in Europe. The
world, in fact, was too much with them. So also did Christ teach; and
as the Franciscans modified their master's precepts, so did Saint Paul
his.

Twice, then, the world has been demonstrably wrong. Is it a
possibility that Christ and St. Francis can be proved to have been
right? To those who say, as Mr. Clutton-Brock does, that Christianity
has failed, I should like to retort, "Let Christianity be tried."
Poverty is of the essence of it, and luckily for us poverty is coming
upon us, nation and individuals, whether we deserve it or not. When we
are all really poor together--in heart as well as purse--we shall have
the chance of a common religion, but not till then. Now, then, comes
the question: Can the high in heart become poor in heart, or the
high-minded humble themselves? If it is hard for the man rich in goods
to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, is it not still harder for the man
stored with knowledge? How are Mr. Clutton-Brock and the Hibbert
Lecturer to become as little children? How will Mr. Wells manage it?
He, too, is in the stream, splashing about and apparently enjoying
himself. But you may call an invisible God an invisible king, if you
please, and yet be no nearer the heart of the matter. A change of
definitions will not do it. And what of Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Conan
Doyle? Are their outpourings symptomatic? I don't myself think so.
They are concerned with a future life, whereas those who seek a common
religion will take no account of life at all, past, present or to
come, once they have found the Kingdom of Heaven. Those eloquent and
(I trust) sincere gospellers are agog to dispel that sense of loss
which besets us just now. It is not that we fear death so much, but
that we miss the dead--and no wonder. Hence these prophets crying Lo
here! and Lo there! That they have reassured many I know well, that
they have baffled others I know also, for they have baffled me. My
puzzle is that, with evidence of authenticity difficult to withstand,
the things they can find to report are so trivial. The test of a
revelation I take to be exactly the same as the test of a good poem.
It doesn't much matter whether the thing revealed is new or not. Is it
so revealed that we needs must believe it? Relevance is to the point,
compatibility is to the point. But when Sir Oliver Lodge's medium puts
whisky and cigars into the mouth of the dead, we don't laugh: it is
too serious for that. We change the conversation.

Steadfastness in mutability, that is the common need, a Rock of Ages.

  Then 'gin I thinke on that which Nature sayd,
  Of that same time when no more change shall be,
  But stedfast rest of all things, firmely stayd
  Upon the pillars of Eternity,
  That is contrayr to Mutabilitie;
  For all that moveth doth in change delight:
  But thenceforth all shall rest eternally
  With Him that is the God of Sabaoth hight:
  O! that great Sabaoth God, grant me that Sabaoth's sight.




BESSY MOORE


"My best wishes and respects to Mrs. Moore; she is beautiful. I may
say so even to you, for I was never more struck with a countenance."
That is Byron, writing to Tom Moore in 1812, when he had been married
little more than a year--and Byron's opinion of woman's beauty
is worth having. In the eight volumes of Tom's memoirs, worthily
collected by his friend Lord John Russell, and in all the crowded
stage of it, I see no figure shining in so sweet and clear a morning
light as that of his little home-keeping wife, with her "wild, poetic
face," her fancy which rings always truer than Tom's own, and her
mother-love, which sorrow has to sound so deeply before she can leave
the scene. Her appearances are fitful; she keeps to the hearth when
the grandees hold the floor. You see nothing of her at Holland House,
which Tom may use as his inn, or at Bowood, if she can help herself,
which in the country is his house of call. She is the Jenny Wren of
this little cock-robin; she wears drab, too often mourning; but you
find that she counts for very much with Tom. He loves to know her at
his back, loves to remind himself of it. He is always happy to be home
again in her faithful arms. Through all the sparkle and flash, under
all the talk, through all the tinklings of pianos and guitars which
declare Tom's whereabouts, if you listen you can hear the quiet burden
of her heart-beats. I don't know what he would have done without her,
nor what we should have to say to his literary remains if she were
not in them to make them smell of lavender. Few men of letters, and no
wits, can have left more behind, with less in them.

There is a great deal less of Bessy in the memoirs than, say, of Lady
Donegal, or of Rogers, or of Lord Lansdowne, but somehow or another
she makes herself felt; and though her appearances in them are of
Tom's contrivance, a personality is more surely expressed than in most
of his more elaborate portraits. One gets to know her as indeed the
"excellent and beautiful person" of Lord John's measured approval, not
so much by what she says or does as by her reactions on Tom himself.
A study of her has to be made out of a number of pencil-scratches--one
here, one there--put down by the diarist with unpremeditated art; for
it is certain that, though Moore intended his diaries to speak for him
after his death, what he had to say of his wife was the last thing
in them he would have relied upon to do it. I am sure that is so;
nevertheless, with the exception of Tom himself, who, of course, holds
the centre of the stage, she is more surely and sensibly there than
any of his thousand characters, from the Prince Regent to the poet
Bowles; more surely and fragrantly there. We are the better for her
presence; and so is her Tom's memory, infinitely the better.

It was a secret marriage and, except in the minds of a few good
judges, an improvident.

    "I breakfast with Lady Donegal on Monday," he writes to his
    mother in May, 1811, "and dine to meet her at Rogers' on
    Tuesday; and there is to be a person at both parties whom you
    little dream of."

This person was Bessy, to whom he had been married some two months
on the day of writing, and of whom, when his family was notified, he
found that it had nothing good to say. He complains of disappointment,
of a "degree of coldness" in his father's comments; and neither is
perhaps very wonderful. For Miss Bessy not only had nothing a year,
but in the reckoning of the day, and in comparison with the young
friend of Lord Moira and Lady Donegal, she herself was nothing.
She was indeed a professional actress--Miss E. Dyke in the
play-bills--whom Tom had first met in 1808 when the Kilkenny Theatre
began a meteor-course. He had lent himself as an amateur to the
enterprise, was David in _The Rivals_, Spado (with song) in _A Castle
of Andalusia_. In 1809, for three weeks on end, he had been Peeping
Tom of Coventry to the Lady Godiva of Miss E. Dyke. The rest is easy
guessing, and so it is that Tom's parents were dismayed, and that
there was a "degree of coldness." Lady Godiva, indeed!

But Bessy was not long in showing herself as good as gold, or
approving herself to some of Tom's best friends. Lady Donegal and her
sharp-tongued sister, Mary Godfrey, both took to her. "Give our
love, honest, downright love to Bessy," they write. Rogers called her
Psyche, had the pair to stay with him, stayed with them in his turn,
and gave Bessy handsome sums for the charities in which she abounded
all her life. Rogers knew simplicity when he saw it, and had no
vitriol on hand when she was in the way. I don't think Tom ever took
her to Ireland with him, or that, consequently, she ever met his
parents in the flesh; but no doubt that they accepted her, and
esteemed her.

Bit by bit she reveals herself in Tom's random diaries. As in the
printing of a photograph the lights and darks come sparsely out, and
unawares the delicate outline, so by a word here, a phrase elsewhere,
we realise the presence of a sweet-natured, sound-minded girl, and
more than that, of a girl with character. After a spell of Brompton
lodgings Tom took her to Kegworth in Leicestershire, where he was to
have the neighbourhood and countenance of his patron of the moment,
Moira, the Regent's jackal, a solemn, empty-headed lord. Donington
Hall and Bessy appear together in a letter to Mary Godfrey.

    "... I took Bessy yesterday to Lord Moira's, and she was not
    half so much struck with its grandeur as I expected. She said,
    in coming out, 'I like Mr. Rogers's house ten times better.'"

Tom feels it necessary to explain such remarkable taste. "She loves
everything by association, and she was very happy in Rogers's
house." I don't know whether Tom's simplicity or Bessy's is the more
remarkable in all this. Tom's, I think.

"Lady Loudoun and Lord Moira called upon us on their way to town and
brought pine apples, etc." One sees them at it; and the very next
letter he writes is dated "Donington Park." Tom fairly lets himself go
over it.

    "... I think it would have pleased you to see _my wife_ in one
    of Lord Moira's carriages, with his servant riding after her,
    and Lady Loudoun's crimson travelling-cloak round her to keep
    her comfortable. It is a glorious triumph of good conduct on
    both sides, and makes my heart happier and prouder than all
    the best worldly connections could possibly have done. The
    dear girl and I sometimes look at each other with astonishment
    in our splendid room here, and she says she is quite sure it
    must be all a dream."

Marble halls, in fact; but let us see how it acted upon Bessy. Shortly
after: "... I am just returned from a most delightful little tour with
Rogers, poor Bessy being too ill and too fatigued with the ceremonies
of the week to accompany us." That was to be the way of it for the
rest of their lives together. She would never go to the great houses
if she could by any means avoid it, but bore him no grudge for going
without her, and was always open-armed for his return.

Mayfield Cottage, Ashbourne, was their next harbourage; and here is a
Wheatley picture of them on their way to a dinner-party.

    "We dined out to-day at the Ackroyds', neighbours of ours ...
    we found, in the middle of our walk, that we were near half an
    hour too early, so we set to practising country-dances in the
    middle of a retired green lane till the time was expired."

Then he takes her to the Ashbourne ball, and for once leaves himself
out of the letter.

    "... You cannot imagine what a sensation Bessy excited at the
    Ball the other night. She was prettily dressed, and certainly
    looked very beautiful.... She was very much frightened, but
    she got through it very well. She wore a turban that night to
    please me, and she looks better in it than anything else; for
    it strikes everybody almost that sees her, how like the form
    and expression of her face are to Catalani's, and a turban is
    the thing for that kind of character."

Catalani, in Caverford's portrait, has the rapt eye of the Cumaean
sibyl. One of Moore's fine friends, an admirer of Bessy's, speaks to
him of her "wild, poetic face," and the Duchess of Sussex thought her
like "Lady Heathcote in the days of her beauty." That is putting her
very high, for, according to Cosway, Lady Heathcote was a lovely young
woman indeed; but the "wild, poetic face" gets us as near as need be.

In 1815 troubles began from which the poor girl was never to be free
again. She lost one of her three little girls, Olivia Byron, for whom
the poet had been sponsor. "... It was with difficulty I could get
her away from her little dead baby," Moore tells his mother, "and then
only under a promise that she should see it again last night...." In
1817, while Moore was in Paris, pursuing his pleasures, another child,
Barbara, had a fall, and he came home in August to find her "very ill
indeed." On September 10th she is still ill, but if she should get a
little better, "I mean to go for a day or two to Lord Lansdowne's
to look at a house.... He has been searching his neighbourhood for a
habitation for me, in a way very flattering indeed from such a man."
But he did not go. September 20th, "It's all over, my dearest Mother!"

"Poor Bessy," we read, "neither eats nor sleeps enough hardly to
sustain life": nevertheless in the first week of October he is at
Bowood. "I arrived here the day before yesterday, and found Rogers,
Lord and Lady Kerry, etc." He saw Sloperton Cottage and stayed out
his week. Bessy then had to see the cottage, and went--but not from
Bowood. "Bessy, who went off the night before last to look at the
cottage near Lord Lansdowne's, is returned this morning, after
travelling both nights. Power went with her." In a month's time they
were in possession, and Tom vastly set up by the near neighbourhood of
his exalted friend. Not so, however, his Jenny Wren.

    "... We are getting on here as quietly and comfortably as
    possible, and the only thing I regret is the want of some near
    and plain neighbours for Bessy to make an intimacy with, and
    enjoy a little tea-drinking now and then, as she used to do
    in Derbyshire. She contrives, however, to employ herself
    very well without them; and her favourite task of cutting out
    things for the poor people is here even in greater requisition
    than we bargained for, as there never was such wretchedness in
    any place where we have been; and the better class of people
    (with but one or two exceptions) seem to consider their
    contributions to the poor-rates as abundantly sufficient,
    without making any further exertion towards the relief of the
    poor wretches. It is a pity Bessy has not more means, for she
    takes the true method of charity--that of going herself into
    the cottages, and seeing what they are most in want of.

    "Lady Lansdowne has been very kind indeed, and has a good deal
    won me over (as you know, kindness _will_ do now and then).
    After many exertions to get Bessy to go and dine there, I have
    at last succeeded this week, in consequence of our being on
    a visit to Bowles's, and her having the shelter of the poet's
    old lady to protect her through the enterprise. She did not,
    however, at all like it, and I shall not often put her to the
    torture of it. In addition to her democratic pride--which I
    cannot blame her for--which makes her prefer the company
    of her equals to that of her superiors, she finds herself a
    perfect stranger in the midst of people who are all intimate;
    and this is a sort of dignified desolation which poor Bessy
    is not at all ambitious of. Vanity gets over all these
    difficulties; but pride is not so practicable."

Vanity indeed did, though Tom had a pride of his own too. But he was
soothed and not offended by pomp, whereas she was bored as well as
irritated. It is obvious that her wits were valid enough. She could be
happy with Rogers or the Bowleses, who could allow for simplicity, and
delight in it--a talent denied to the good Lansdownes. As for Bowles,
Tom is shrewd enough to remark upon "the mixture of talent and
simplicity in him."

    "His parsonage-house at Brenthill is beautifully situated;
    but he has a good deal frittered away its beauty in grottos,
    hermitages and Shenstonian inscriptions. When company is
    coming he cries, 'Here, John, run with the crucifix and missal
    to the hermitage, and set the fountain going.' His sheep-bells
    are tuned in thirds and fifths."

Such was Bowles, Bessy's best friend in Wilts.

Bowood to Tom was centre of his scheme of things; he was always there
on some pretext or other; or he would dine and sleep at Bowles's or at
Lacock Abbey, or spend days in Bath, or a week in London. It is true
that half his talent and more than half his fame were social: these
things were the bread as well as the butter of life to him. But here
is Bessy meantime:

    "... Came home and found my dearest Bessy very tired after her
    walk from church. She has been receiving the Sacrament,
    and never did a purer heart.... In the note she wrote me to
    Bowles's the day before, she said, 'I am sorry I am not to see
    you before I go to church.'"

Tom had sensibility, not a doubt of it; but it seems to me that she
had something better.

Here again, on the 16th October, "My dear Bessy planting some roots
Miss Hughes has brought her, looking for a place to put a root of pink
hepatica in, where (as she said) 'I might best see them in my walk.'"
Yes, he had sensibility; but she had imagination. A little Tom was
born a week after that. She took it badly, as she did most of her
labours, and was in bed a month. On the 18th November she went out for
the first time after the event--"the day delightful." She "went round
to all her flower-beds to examine their state, for she has every
little leaf in the garden by heart." Tom himself had been much moved
by the birth of his first boy. He was called up at 11.30, sent for
the midwife, was upset, walked about half the night, thanked God--"the
maid, by the way, very near catching me on my knees." She might have
caught Bessy on them every day, and no thought taken of so simple a
thing. But Tom had sensibility.

But a man who, eight years after marriage, can make his wife an April
fool, and record it, is no bad husband, and it would be a trespass on
his good fame to suggest it. He loved her dearly and could never have
been unkind to her. Far from that, happy domestic pictures abound in
his diaries. Here is one of a time when she had joined him in London,
on her way to stay with her sister in Edinburgh. They went together to
Hornsey, to see Barbara's grave. "At eight o'clock she and I sauntered
up and down the Burlington Arcade, then went and bought some prawns
and supped most snugly together." He takes the state-rooms costing L7
apiece, for "his own pretty girl." Meantime he is preparing to shelter
in France from civil process served upon him for the defalcations of
his deputy in Bermuda.

I need not follow the scenes through as they come. The essence of
Bessy Moore is expressed in what I have written of the first flush of
her married life. There was much more to come. Moore outlived all his
children, and she, poor soul, outlived her rattling, melodious Tom,
having known more sorrow than falls, luckily, to the lot of most
mothers. The death of her last girl, Anastasia, is beautifully told by
Tom; but a worse stroke than even that was the wild career of little
Tom, the son, his illness, disgrace, and death in the French Foreign
Legion. That indeed went near to breaking Bessy's heart. "Why do
people sigh for children? They know not what sorrow will come with
them." That is her own, and only recorded, outcry.

In _The Loves of the Angels_, an erotic and perfervid poem, which
fails, nevertheless, from want of concentration of the thought,
Zeraph, the third angel, is Tom himself, and the daughter of man,
Nama, with whom he consorts, is Bessy.

  Humility, that low, sweet root,
  From which all heavenly virtues shoot,
  Was in the hearts of both--but most
  In Nama's heart, by whom alone
  Those charms for which a heaven was lost
  Seemed all unvalued and unknown...

Certainly she had humility; but he gives her other Christian virtues--

  So true she felt it that to _hope_,
  To _trust_ is happier than to know.

But we may doubt if Tom knew what Bessy knew and excused. Sensibility
will not dig very deep.




THE MAIDS


They tell me that a respectable and ancient profession, and one always
honoured by literature, is dying out; and if that is true, then two
more clauses of the tenth Commandment will lose their meaning. For
a long time to come we shall go on grudging our neighbour his
house--there's no doubt about that; but even as his ox and ass have
ceased to enter into practical ethics because our average neighbour
doesn't possess either, so we hear it is to be with his servant and
his maid.

They have had their day. There are no domestic servants at the
registries; the cap and apron, than which no uniform ever more
enhanced a fair maid or extenuated a plain one, will be found only in
the war museum, as relics of ante-bellum practice; we shall sluice our
own doorsteps in the early morning hours, receive our own letters from
the postman, have our own conversations with the butcher's young man
at the area gate; and in time, perhaps, learn how it may be possible
to eat a dinner which we have ourselves cooked and served up. Better
for us, all that, it may well be; but will it be better for our girls?
I am sure it will not.

Domestic service, I have said, is an employment which literature has
always approved. From Gay to Hazlitt, from Swift to Dickens, there
have been few writers of light touch upon life who have not had a kind
eye for the housemaid. There's a passage somewhere in Stevenson for
which I have spent an hour's vain hunting, which exactly hits the
centre. The confidential relationship, the trim appearance, not
without its suggestion of comic opera and the soubrette of the
_Comedie Francaise_, the combined air of cheerfulness and respect
which is demanded, mind you, on either side the bargain--all this is
acutely and vivaciously observed in half a page by a writer who never
missed a romantic opening in his days. The profession, indeed, has
never lacked romance in real life. Strangeness has persistently
followed beauty in and out of the kitchen. The number of old
gentlemen who have married their cooks is really considerable.
Younger gentlemen, whose god has been otherwhere, have married
their housemaids. A Lord Viscount Townshend, who died in 1763 or
thereabouts, did so in the nick of time, and left her fifty thousand
pounds. Tom Coutts the banker, founder of the great house in the
Strand, married his brother's nursemaid, and loved her faithfully for
fifty years. She gave him three daughters who all married titles; but
she was their ladyships' "dear Mamma" throughout; and Coutts himself
saw to it that where he dined she dined also. There's nothing in caste
in our country, given the essential solvent.

A stranger story still is this one. Some fifteen years ago a barrister
in fair practice died, and made by will a handsome provision for his
"beloved wife." This wife, thereby first revealed to an interested
acquaintance, had acted as his parlourmaid for many years, standing
behind his chair at dinner, and bringing him his evening letters on a
tray; and she had been so engaged on the day of his death. Nobody of
his circle except, of course, her fellow-servants, knew that she stood
in any other relationship to her so-called master. I consider her
conduct admirable; nor do I think his necessarily blameworthy. Those
two, depend upon it, understood each other, and had worked out a
common line of least resistance. On the distaff side there is the
tale of the two maiden ladies so admirably served by their butler
that when, to their consternation, he gave warning, they held a
heart-to-heart talk together, as the result of which one of them
proposed in all the forms to the invaluable man, and was accepted. It
is deplorable that a pursuit which opens vistas so rose-coloured as
these should be allowed to lapse.

A lady whom I knew well, and whose recent death I deplore, was cured
of a bad attack of neuritis by being cut off all domestic assistance,
except her cook's, and set to do her own housework. Therefore it is
probable that we should all be the better for the same treatment;
but, as I asked just now, will the girls be the better for it? The
disengaged philosopher can only answer that question in one way. That
feverish community-work which they have been doing through a four
years' orgy of patriotism will have taught them very much of life and
manners. It will have taught them, among other more desirable things,
how to spend money, and how to keep a good many young men greatly
entertained; but it will not, I fear, have taught them how to save
money, how to make one man happy and comfortable, or how to bring up
children in the fear of God.

And if it has failed to teach those things it will have failed to fit
them for this world, to say the least. It will not only have failed
them, but it will have failed us with them. For the world needs at
this moment a thousand things before it can be made tolerable again;
and all of those can be summed up into one paramount need, which is
for men and women who will observe faithfully the laws of their being.
And what, pray, are the laws of their being? At the outside, three; in
reality, two: to work, to love and to have children.

At this hour neither men nor women will work. The strain is taken off,
the bow relaxed. At the same time they must have money, that they may
spend it; for as always happens in moments of reaction, the
simplest way of expressing high spirits and a sense of ease is
wild expenditure. So wages must be high, and because wages are high
everything is dear. There are no houses, and there will be none; there
can be no marriages, and there will be none; there will be no milk for
children, so there will be no children. How long are such things to
go on? Just so long as we disregard the laws of our being. We began to
neglect them long before the war, and they must be learned again. We
must learn first what they are, and next, how to keep them.

Now the education of men is another text; but for women there can be
little doubt but that the prime educationary in the laws of being is
domestic service. You can be ribald about it. That is easy. But where
else is a girl to learn how to keep house? And if she does not learn
how to be a mother, as indeed she may, poor dear, she gets to know
very much of what to do when she becomes one.

So I hope to see a soberer generation of girls return to a profession
which they have always adorned, for the schooling of which their
husbands and children shall rise up and call them blessed.




POETRY AND THE MODE


A good friend of mine, poet and scholar, was recently approached by
the President, or other kind of head of a Working Men's Association,
for a paper. A party of them was to visit Oxford, where, after an
inspection, there should be a feast, and after the feast, it was
hoped, a paper from my friend--upon Addison. The occasion was not to
be denied: I don't doubt that he was equal to it. I wish that I had
heard him; I wish also that I had seen him; for he had determined on
a happy way of illustrating and pointing his discourse. He had the
notion of providing himself with a full-bottomed wig, a Ramillies; at
the right moment he was to clothe the head of the President with
it; and--Bless thee, Bottom, how art thou translated! In that woolly
panoply, if one could not allow for _Cato_ and the balanced antitheses
of the grand manner, or condone rhetoric infinitely remote from life
past, present or to come--well, one would never understand Addison, or
forgive him. This, for instance:--

  CATO (_loq._): Thus am I doubly arm'd; my death and life,
  My bane and antidote are both before me:
  _This_ in a moment brings me to an end;
  But _this_ informs me I shall never die.
  The soul, secured in her existence, smiles
  At the drawn dagger....

Ten pages more sententious and leisurely comment; then:

  Oh! (_dies_).

There is much to be said for it, in a Ramillies wig. It is stately, it
is dignified, it is perhaps noble. If, as I say, it is not very much
like life, neither are you who enact it. But be sure that out of sight
or remembrance of the wig such a tragedy were not to be endured.

That is very well. The wig serves its turn, inspiring what without it
would be intolerable. I am sure my friend had no trouble in accounting
for Addison in full dress and his learned sock. Nor need he have had
with Addison the urbane, Addison of the _Spectator_ condescending to
Sir Roger de Coverley and Will Honeycomb. There is in that, the very
best gentlemanly humour our literature possesses, nothing inconsistent
with the full-bottomed wig and an elbow-chair. But when the right
honourable gentleman set himself to compose _Rosamond: an Opera_, and
disported himself thus:

  PAGE:
  Behold on yonder rising ground
  The bower, that wanders
  In meanders
  Ever bending,
  Never ending,
  Glades on glades,
  Shades in shades,
  Running an eternal round.

  QUEEN:
  In such an endless maze I rove,
  Lost in the labyrinths of love,
  My breast with hoarded vengeance burns,
  While fear and rage
  With hope engage,
  And rule my wav'ring soul by turns--

then I do not see how the wig can have been useful. I feel that
Addison must have left it on the bedpost and tied up his bald pate
in a tricky bandana after the fashion of Mr. Prior or Mr. Gay, one of
whom, if I remember rightly, did not disdain to sit for his picture in
that frolic guise. The wig, which adds age and ensures dignity, would
have been out of place there; nor is it possible that _The Beggar's
Opera_ owes anything to it. To explain the Addison of _Rosamond_
or _The Drummer_, my friend would have had to shave the head of his
victim and clap a nightcap upon it.

The device was ingenious and happy. You yoke one art to serve another.
It can be extended in either direction, working backwards from the
Ramillies, or forwards, as I propose to show. Skip for a moment
the Restoration and the perruque, skip the cropped polls of the
Roundheads; with this you are in full Charles I.

  Go, lovely Rose!
    Tell her that wastes her time and me,
  That now she knows,
    When I resemble her to thee,
    How sweet and fair she seems to be.

What vision of what singer does that evoke? What other than that of
a young gallant in a lace collar, with lovelocks over his shoulders,
pointed Vandyke fingers, possibly a peaked chin-beard? There is
accomplishment enough, beauty enough, God knows; but there is
impertinence too; it is _de haut en bas_--

  Tell her that wastes her time and me!

Lovelocks and pointed fingers all over it. It is witty, but does not
bite. If you bite you are serious, if you bite you are in love; but
that is elegant make-believe. He will take himself off next minute,
and encountering a friend, hear himself rallied:

  Quit, quit, for shame I This will not move,
    This cannot take her;
  If of herself she will not love,
    Nothing can her make:
    The D----l take her!

Laughter and a shrug are the end of it. With the Carolines it was not
music that was the food of love, but love that was a staple food
of music. A man who lets his hair down over his shoulders may be as
sentimental as you please, or as impudent. He cannot nourish both a
passion and a head of hair. He won't have time.

There, then, again, is a clear congruity established between your
versifying and your clothes; they will both be in the mode, and the
mode the same. One feels about the Cavalier fashion that it was
not serious either one way or the other. It had not the Elizabethan
swagger; it had not the Restoration cynicism; it had not the Augustan
urbanity. Go back now to the Elizabethan, and avoiding Shakespeare as
a law unto himself, which is the right of genius--for the sonnets
have wit as well as passion (but a mordant wit), everything that real
love-poetry must have, and much that no poetry but Shakespeare's could
possibly survive--avoiding Shakespeare, I say, take two snatches in
order. Take first--

  Thou art not fair, for all thy red and white,
    For all those rosy ornaments in thee,--
  Thou art not sweet, though made of mere delight,
    Nor fair nor sweet--unless thou pity me!

That first; and then this:

  Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows
    And when we meet at any time again,
  Be it not seen in either of our brows
    That we one jot of former love retain--

and consider them for what they are: unapproachably beautiful,
passionate, serious, on the edge of cynicism, but never over it. There
you have the love of a young age of the world, when young men, hard
hit, could be sharp-tongued, bitter, and often (though not in those
two) too much in earnest not to be shameless. Agree with me, and see
the men who sang and the women they sang of in preposterous stuffed
and starched clothes which made them unapproachable except at the
finger-tips, and yet burning so for each other that by words alone and
the music in them they could rend all the buckram and whalebone and
make such armour vain! You may see in Elizabethan dress a return
to Art, as in Elizabethan poetry you see a return to Learning; but
neither was designed to prevent a return to Nature; rather indeed to
stimulate it. And so you come back to this:

  Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
  A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
  A rosy garland and a weary head ...

which is the perfectly-clothed utterance of an Elizabethan longing to
be rid of his clothes.

I don't propose to linger over the perruque. The Restoration was a
time of carnival when, if the men were overdressed, the ladies were
underdressed; and the perruque was a part of the masquerade. In such a
figurehead you could be as licentious as you chose--and you were; you
could only be serious in satire. The perruque accounts for Dryden and
his learned pomp, for Rochester and Sedley, and for Congreve, who told
Voltaire that he desired to be considered as a gentleman rather than
poet, and was with a shrug accepted on that valuation: it accounts for
Timotheus crying Revenge, and not meaning it, or anything else except
display; it accounts for Pepys thinking _King Lear_ ridiculous. Let me
go on rather to the day of the tie-wig, of Pope's Achilles and Diomede
in powder; of Gray awaking the purple year; of Kitty beautiful and
young, of Sir Plume and his clouded cane; of Mason and Horace Walpole.
When ladies were painted, and their lovers in powder, poetry would be
painted too. It would be either for the boudoir or the alcove. I don't
call to mind a single genuine love-song in all that century among
those who dressed _a la mode_. There were, however, some who did not
so dress.

Gray was not one. Whether in the country churchyard, or by the grave
of Horace Walpole's favourite cat, he never lost hold of himself,
never let heart take whip and reins, never drowned the scholar in the
poet, never, in fact, showed himself in his shirtsleeves. But before
he was dead the hearts of men began to cry again. Forty years before
Gray died Cowper was born; fourteen years before he died, Blake was
born; twelve years before he died, Burns. It is strange to contrast
the _Elegy_ with _The Poplar Field:_

  My fugitive years are all wasting away,
  And I must ere long be as lowly as they,
  With a turf on my breast and a stone at my head,
  Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.

Put beside that melodious jingle the ordered diction and ordered
sentiment of one of the best-known and most elegant poems in our
tongue. They were written within fifteen years of each other. Within
the same space of time, or near about it, there came this spontaneous
utterance of simplicity, tragedy and hopeless sorrow:

  Young Jamie lo'ed me weel, and sought me for his bride;
  But saving a croun he had naething else beside:
  To make the croun a pund young Jamie gaed to sea;
  And the croun and the pund they were baith for me.

The authoress of that was born twenty-one years before Gray died. I
speak, perhaps, only for myself when I say that reading that, or the
like of that in Burns or in Blake, my heart becomes as water, and
I feel that I would lose, if necessary, all of Milton, all of
Shakespeare but a song or two, much of Dante and some of Homer, to
be secured in them for ever. My friend (of the Ramillies) and I
were disputing about a phrase I had applied to lyric poetry as the
infallible test of its merit. I asked for "the lyric cry," and he
scorned me. I could find a better phrase with time; but the quatrain
just quoted makes it unmistakable, as I think. Anyhow, it will be
conceded that there was some putting off of the tie-wig, the hoop and
the red-heeled shoe about 1770.

In the time of Reform, say from 1795 to 1830, you could do much as
you pleased, and dress according to your fancy. You could smother your
neck in a stock, wear a high-waisted swallow-tail coat, kerseymere
continuations and silk stockings. So sat Southey for his portrait, and
so did Rogers continually. Or you could wear a curly _toupe_ with Tom
Moore and the Prince Regent, be as rough as a dalesman with Wordsworth
or as sleek as a dissenting minister with Coleridge, an open-throated
pirate with Byron, or a seraph with Shelley. If the rules lingered,
they were relaxed. I think there were none. Individuality was in the
air; schools were closing down. For the first time since the spacious
days men sang as they pleased, and some sang as they felt and were,
but with this difference added that you would no longer identify the
age with the utterance. There were many survivals: most of Coleridge,
all of Rogers, much of Byron, some of Wordsworth (_Laodamia_) is
eighteenth century; and then, for the first time, you could archaicize
or walk in Wardour Street--Macpherson had taught us that, and Bishop
Percy. But all of Shelley and Keats, the best of Coleridge and
Wordsworth belong to no age.

  The pale stars are gone!
  For the sun, their swift shepherd,
  To their folds them compelling,
  In the depths of the dawn,
  Hastes in meteor-eclipsing array and they flee
  Beyond his blue dwelling,
  As fawns flee the leopard.
  But where are ye?

That is like nothing on earth: music and diction are stark new. And
that was the way of it for a forty years of freedom.

Then came a reaction. With Queen Victoria we all went to church again
in our Sunday clothes. You cannot date Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth
by the fashions; but you can date Tennyson assuredly. He belongs
to the top-hat and the crinoline; to _Friends in Council_ and "nice
feelings." True, there was nothing dressy about Tennyson himself. I
doubt if he ever wore a top-hat. But is not _The Gardener's Daughter_
in ringlets? Did not Aunt Elizabeth and Sister Lilia wear crinolines?
And as for _Maud_--

  Look, a horse at the door,
    And little King Charley snarling:
  Go back, my lord, across the moor,
    You are not her darling.

That settles it. "Little King Charley's" name would have been Gyp.
I yield to no man in my admiration of _In Memoriam_; but when one
compares it with _Adonais_ it is impossible not to allocate the one
and salute the other as for all time and place:

  When in the down I sink my head
  Sleep, Death's twin-brother, times my breath;
  Sleep, Death's twin-brother, knows not Death,
  Nor can I dream of thee as dead.

And then:

  He lives, he wakes--'tis Death is dead, not he;
    Mourn not for Adonais. Thou young Dawn,
  Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
    The spirit thou lamentest is not gone.

No: _In Memoriam_ is a beautiful poem, and technically a much better
one than _Adonais_. But the spirit is different; narrower, more
circumscribed; in a word, it dates, like the top-hat and the
crinoline.

In our day, clothes have lost touch with mankind, they cover the body
but do not express the soul. With the vogue of the short coat, short
skirt, slouch hat, and brown boots, style has gone out and ease come
in; and with ease, it would seem, easy, not to say free-and-easy,
manners. I speak not of the "nineties" when a young degenerate could
lightly say,

  I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, in my fashion,

and be praised for it, but rather of the Georgians, of whom a golden
lad, who happily lived long enough to do better, wrote thus of a lady
of his love:

  And I shall find some girl, perhaps,
    And a better one than you,
  With eyes as wise, but kindlier,
    And lips as soft, but true.
    And I daresay she will do.

If that is not slouch-hat and brown boots, I don't know what to call
it. For that golden lad I think _The Shropshire Lad_ must answer, who
perhaps brought corduroys into the drawing-room. And if that is to be
the way of it, we should do well to go back to Lovelace or Waller, and
make believe with a difference. I shall find myself watching the sunny
side of Bond Street for a revival--because while one does not ask for
passion, or even object to the tart flavours of satiety, I feel that
there is a standard somewhere, and a line to be drawn. Taste draws it.
I trouble myself very little with the morals of the matter, yet must
think manners very nearly half of the conduct of life. And the manners
which are expressed in clothes are those which are instilled in art.
They are symptomatic alike and correlated. There is nothing surprising
about it, or even curious. It would be so, and it is so. If Milton
had not on a prim white collar and a doctor's gown I misread _Paradise
Lost_ and _Lycidas_ too.




POLYOLBION


How precisely does the Englishman love England? I remember saying some
years ago that he was not patriotic in the ordinary sense, because
though he loved the land, he had very little feeling for the political
entity called England--whereas both will be loved by the true patriot.
On recent consideration of the matter I am beginning to ask whether he
does, after all, love the land itself, as the Irishman loves his, the
Scot his, the Switzer his, and the Greek his. I must say that I doubt
it. There is this, I think, to be noted of fervent patriots, that the
object of their devotion will have had a distressful story. That is
the case with the four nations just remarked upon. It has been the
case with France ever since France was the passion of the French.

Every man loves his home, for reasons not necessarily connected with
the country which happens to hold it; every one of our soldiers of
late longed to get back, by no means necessarily because he wanted to
see England again. Did he really want to see it at all--I mean for its
own sake apart from what it held of his? I know that he would have cut
his tongue out sooner than have confessed it. That is his nature, and
I can't help liking him for it--because it is a part of himself, and I
like him better than any man in the world. But allowing for that queer
shyness, how are we to test his love of our country? Is there a sure
test? Well, I know of one, which to my mind is a certainty. Judged
by that I must own that Atkins does not stand as a lover should, or
would.

My test is this. The lover of his countryside knows its physical
features by heart, and to him they have personality. You will have
observed the tendency of Londoners to guide you by the names of
public-houses; you will have noticed their blank ignorance of points
of the compass. To a great extent these defects characterise the Home
Counties, and one might try to excuse them in various ways. In the
North of England, and in Scotland throughout, you will be told to
"go east," or "keep west" (as the Wordsworths were asked, were they
"stepping westward?"), with a conviction that the direction will be
sufficient for you as it plainly is for your guide. Now nobody can
be said to know his countryside who does not know the airts; and
the plain truth is that the Southern Englishman does not know his
countryside at all. How, then, can he love it? But there's a stronger
point than that.

Nothing is more surprising than the indifference of Southerners to
their rivers. Where, for instance, throughout its course do you ever
hear the Thames spoken of as "Thames"--as if it was a person, which no
doubt it is? In the North you talk of Lune and Leven, Esk and Eden:

  Tweed said to Till,
  What gars ye run so still?

Scotland shows the same respect. Do you remember when Bailie Nicol
Jarvie points out the Forth to Francis? "Yon's Forth," he said with
great solemnity. That was well observed by Scott. In Italy--notably in
Tuscany--a river is always spoken of without the definite article. It
may be the case in Devonshire too; but it is never done here in South
Wilts though we have five beautiful streams ministering to our county
town. Indeed Wiltshire people are nearly as bad as the Cockneys, who
always call their Thames "the river," which is as if a man might say
"the railway."

Beautiful how Burns personified his rivers! More, he individualised
them. The same verb won't do. You have:

  Where Cart rins rowin' to the sea,

but

  Where Doon rins wimplin' clear;

And Dante says, or makes Francesca say,

  Siede la terra dove nata fui
  Sulla marina dove Po discende
  Per aver pace co' seguaci sui.

_Per aver pace_: a lovely phrase. And that brings me to Michael
Drayton.

That was a poet--author also of one lovely lyric--who treated our
rivers after the fashion of his day, which ran to length and tedious
excess. Shakespeare's _Venus and Adonis_ is by pages too long; but
that is nothing to Drayton's masterpiece. With the best dispositions
in the world I have never been able to get right through the
_Polyolbion_. His anthropomorphism is surprising, and a little of it
only, amusing.

Here is an example, wherein he desires to express the fact that an
island called Portholme stands in the Ouse at Huntingdon.

  Held on with this discourse, she--[that is, Ouse]--not so far hath run,
  But that she is arrived at goodly Huntingdon
  Where she no sooner views her darling and delight,
  Proud Portholme, but becomes so ravished with the sight,
  That she her limber arms lascivious doth throw
  About the islet's waist, who being embraced so,
  Her flowing bosom shows to the enamour'd Brook;

and so on.

That will be enough to show that one really might have too much of the
kind of thing. In Drayton you very soon do; every page begins to
crawl with demonstrative monsters, and there is soon a good deal
more love-making than love. But you may read Drayton for all sorts of
reasons and find some much better than others. He describes Britain
league by league, and is said to have the accuracy of a roadbook. In
thirty books, then, of perhaps 500 lines apiece, he conducts you
from Land's End to Berwick-on-Tweed, naming every river and hill,
dramatising, as it were, every convolution, contact and contour; and
not forgetting history either. That means a mighty piece of work, of
such a scope and purport that we may well grudge him the doing of it
Charles Lamb, who loved a poet because he was bad, I believe, as a
mother will love a crippled child, is more generous to Drayton than I
can be. "That panegyrist of my native earth," he calls him, "who
has gone over her soil, in his _Polyolbion_, with the fidelity of a
herald, and the painful love of a son; who has not left a rivulet so
narrow that it may be stept over, without honourable mention; and has
animated hills and streams with life and passion beyond the dreams
of old mythology." No more delightful task could be the lifework of a
poet who loved his own land; but it could hardly be done again, nor, I
dare say, ever be done again so well.

To describe, however, the windings and circumfluences of rivers, the
embraces of mountain and rain-cloud in language on the other side
of amorousness may easily be inconvenient or ridiculous, and not
impossibly both; but I shouldn't at all mind upholding in public
disputation, say, at the Poetry Bookshop, that there was no other way
than Drayton's of doing the thing at all. It was the mythopoetic way.
For purposes of poetry, Britain is an unwieldy subject, and if you are
to allow to a river no other characters than those of mud and ooze,
swiftness or slowness, why, you will relate of it little but its rise,
length and fall. Drayton's weakness is that he can conceive of no
other relation than a sex-relation, and in so describing the relations
of every river in England, he very naturally becomes tedious. Satiety
is the bane of the amorist, and of worse than he. Casanova had that
in front of him when he set out to be immoral, _on ne peut plus_, in
seven volumes octavo. There simply were not enough vices to go round.
He ended, therefore, by being a dull as well as a dirty dog. "Take
back your bonny Mrs. Behn," said Walter Scott's great-aunt to him
after a short inspection, "and if you will take my advice, put her
in the fire, for I found it impossible to get through the very first
novel." The nemesis of the pornographer: he can't avoid boring you to
tears.




THE WELTER


Soused still to the ears in the lees of war, I win a rueful reminder
from a stray volume of _Hours in a Library_. Was the world regenerated
between 1848 and 1855? Were English labourers all properly fed, housed
and taught? Had the sanctity of domestic life acquired a new charm in
the interval, and was the old quarrel between rich and poor definitely
settled? Charles Kingsley (of whom the moralist was writing) seems
really to have believed it, and attributed the exulting affirmative
to--the Crimean War! The Crimean War, after our five years of colossal
nightmare, looks to us like a bicker of gnats in a beam; yet perhaps
any war will do for a text, since any war will produce some moral
upheaval in the generations concerned. Let us suppose, then, that the
British were seriously turned to domestic politics in 1855; let us
admit that they are so turned to-day, and ask ourselves fairly whether
we are now in a better way of reasonable living than history shows
those poor devils to have been.

If we are, it will not be the fault of the old agencies, in which
Kingsley always believed. Church and State are adrift; organised
Christianity has abdicated; the aristocracy no longer governs
even itself; Parliament has died of a surfeit of its own rules.
If fundamental reform is to come, it will be forced upon us by the
working class, and (at the pinch) opposed tooth and nail by the
privileged. But is it to come? Is the working class deploying for
action? In all the miscellaneous scrapping which we watch to-day is
there one strong man with a sense of direction? It doesn't look like
it.

Men, having learned to get what they lust after by strife, do not
easily forget the lesson. Sporadic war, like a heath fire, breaks out
daily in some part of the world; and society is as easily kindled,
and as irrationally as nations. A Jew is put out of Hungary and an
Archduke takes his place. The working men of Britain, having chosen a
Parliament which they don't believe in, and didn't want, set to work,
not to get rid of it, but to make any future Parliament impossible.
The police do their best for the shoplifters; the engine-drivers,
to help the police, prevent them from going home to bed. Sir Edward
Carson, a staunch Unionist, makes union out of the question. The
bakers, to improve the prospects of their trade, teach people to make
their own bread. The colliers--well, the colliers do not yet seem to
have found out that unless they provide people with coal, people won't
provide them with many things they are in need of.

This doesn't look much like solidarity, it must be owned; and yet I
make bold to say that the one abiding good we have got out of the war
is the discovery of the solidarity of man. Nationality (mother of war)
has been killed since we have learned from the Germans how much
alike we are at our worst, and best. Caste is mortally wounded. The
land-girl and her ladyship admit their sisterhood; the staff officer
and the batman understand each other in the light of common needs and
their satisfaction. There's the seed; water it with the dew of common
poverty and you may have one Britain instead of a round dozen, and a
League of Men to succeed a stillborn League of Nations. Courage, then;
_Eppur si muove!_

Poverty is certainly coming, for Europe is on the edge of bankruptcy.
With poverty will come freedom, and it can come in no other way.
Nobody is free while he is serf to his own necessities, and the
necessities of such a man as I am (to take the first instance that
comes to hand) have grown to such a pitch that I am as rogue and
peasant slave to them as ever Hamlet was to his. Gentleman born,
quotha! Caste and self-indulgence go hand in hand. I must be a great
man in the village, therefore live in the great house. Men must touch
their hat-brims to me, therefore my hat (not I) must be worth their
respect. A village girl must wait upon me, therefore (for my life)
I must not wait upon her. That is where I have been ever since I was
born, but now I am going to be poor and free. The time is at hand when
I must give up my roomy old house in its seven-acre garden and live in
the five-roomed cottage now occupied by my gardener. My hat must be
as it may, since I shan't buy a new one. If a maid comes to work in my
house she can only come in one capacity, which will equally involve
my working in hers. She in the kitchen, I in the coalhole or potato
patch, 'twill be all one. If she works it will be in our common
interest; and for that I too shall work.

If I, still harping on myself, go that way to freedom, shredding off
what is tiresome, cumbrous and a hindrance, one is tempted to think we
shall all--so life is in a concatenation--lose what is really vicious
in our social coil; and if in our social then in our political coil.
For if the essence of a sound private life is that a man should be
himself, so a public life for its smooth working depends upon the same
sincerity. Read my parable of the particular into society at large.
If I am to live so, and gain, are not nations? Are we to hire a great
navy, a great army, to secure us in things which we have seen to be
tiresome, cumbrous and a hindrance? Are we to exact flag-dippings
from nations to our flag? Are we to make washpots of the Maltese,
Cypriotes, Hindoos, Egyptians, Hottentots, and who not? If we go
bankrupt we shall not be able to do it, and if we are not able to do
it we shall stand among people as Britons, not as a British Empire,
over against French, Germans, Maltese, Cypriotes, standing as their
needs involve, and for what worth their virtue can ensure. So men,
being men, nations of men will become families of men:

_Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo._

Two things therefore are clear: men are a family, and the family is to
be poor. Almost as clear to me is the coming of the day when we shall
slough the ragged skin of empire and become again a small, hardy,
fishing and pastoral people. The profiteers will leave us, like
rats and their parasites. We shall be able to feed ourselves by our
industry. We shall be contented, and as happy as men with inordinate
desires and subordinate capacities can ever hope to be. There is no
reason to suppose that we need cease to be a nursery of heroes,
that our old men will not see visions or our young men dream dreams.
Neither vision nor dream will be the worse for having its bottom in
truth.




CATNACHERY


Catnach was a dealer in ballads. His stock line was the murderer's
confession, and his standard price half a crown. I don't know that
there is a Catnach now, or a market for Catnachery, but people collect
the old ones. You find them in county anthologies, with one of which
"_The Kentish Garland_, Vol. II., edited by Julia H.L. de Voynes,
Hertford: Stephen Austin and Sons, 1882," I lately spent a pleasant
morning in a friend's house. I should have liked Volume I., though it
could not by any possibility have contained worse matter. That is my
only consolation for missing it, because there are bad things and bad
things, and if a thing of literature is bad enough, it may well be as
entertaining as the best. I have long felt that there was a future for
_Half-hours with the Worst Authors_. It might prove a goldmine to a
resolute editor, and I hope I am not betraying a friend when I say
that one of mine has laid the footings of such a collection as may
some day add lustre to his name.[A] If I don't mistake, I can put him
on to a thing or two now which he will be glad of.

[Footnote A: He is here following Edward FitzGerald.]

Every bad ballad has its archetype in a good one, and all ballads
of whatsoever quality, can be pigeonholed under subjects, whether
of content or of treatment. My first specimen from Kent could be
classified as the Ballad Encomiastic, or, at will, as the Ballad of
Plain Statement, in which latter case it would be considered as a
ballad proper and derive itself _passim_ from Professor Child's
book. In the former case you would have to go back to Homer for its
original. It calls itself "An Epitaphe"--which it could not be--"uppon
the death of the noble and famous Sir Thomas Scott of Scottshall, who
dyed the 30 Dec. 1594," and begins thus:

  Here lyes Sir Thomas Scott by name--
  O happie Kempe that bore him!

Kempe is his mother.

  Sir Reynold with four knights of fame
  Lyv'd lynealy before him.

The poet chooses to treat of ladies by their surnames, for we go on:

  His wieves were Baker, Heyman, Beere,
  His love to them unfayned;
  He lived nyne and fiftie yeare.
  And seventeen soules he gayned.

Seventeen children, in fact--but

  His first wief bore them every one,
  The world might not have myst her--

A very obscure line, at first blush rather hard on Baker, and flatly
contradicted by what follows:

  She was a very paragone,
  The Lady Buckhurst's syster.

Nothing could be more succinct. Now for Beere:

  His widow lives in sober sort,
    No matron more discreeter;
  She still reteines a good report,
    And is a great housekeeper.

Apart from his valiancy as a consort Sir Thomas seems to have done
little in the world but be rich in it. The best that can be said of
him by the epigraphist is contained in what follows:

  He made his porter shut his gate
    To sycophants and briebors,
  And ope it wide to great estates,
    And also to his neighbours.

That does not recommend Sir Thomas to me. I suspect himself of
sycophancy, if not of briebory, and it may well be that he shut out
others of his kidney in order that he might have free play with the
great estates. But that is not the poet's fault, who had to say what
he could.

My next example should be styled the Ballad of Extravagant Grief, and
will be found at its highest in the Poetical Works of John Donne. I
can find nothing greater than his--

  Death can find nothing after her, to kill
  Except the world itself, so great as she,

in "A funerall elegie upon the death of George Sonds Esquire who was
killed by his brother Mr. Freeman Sonds the 7 of August 1658." Freeman
Sonds, a younger son, hit his brother George on the head with a
cleaver as he lay in his bed, and thereafter dispatched him with a
three-sided dagger. He then went in to his father and confessed his
fault. "Then you had best kill me too," said the father; to whom the
son, "Sir, I have done enough." He was hanged at Maidstone, full
of penitence and edifying discourse. The elegy begins in Donne's
circumstantial manner:

  Reach me a handkerchief, another yet,
  And yet another, for the last is wet.

Nothing could be better; but he must needs outdo his usual outdoings,
call for a bottle to hold his tears, finally require that--

  The Muses should be summoned in by force
  And spend their all upon the wounded corse--

which presents a rather comic picture to the imaginative reader.

The elegist, reserving blasphemy for his conclusion, now becomes
foolish:

  In thy expyring it was made appear
  In bloody wounds the Trinity was here.

_Where_ was the Trinity, you ask? In the wounds, naturally, which,
made with a three-edged dagger, showed red triangles. But there were
twelve wounds: therefore--

  The gates thro' which thy fertil soul did mount
  To blessed Aboad came to the full account
  Of Twelve, or four times three; and three
  Hath ever in it some great Mysterie.

Obviously. Here is his peroration:

  Great God, what can, what shall, man's frailtie thinke
  When thy great goodness at this act did winke?
  But thou art just, perhaps thou thoughtest it fit;
  And Lord, unto thy judgment I submit.

Any comment must fail upon the sublimity of that great "perhaps."

Elkanah Settle might have written that, as he did undoubtedly another,
"On the untimely death of Mrs. Annie Gray, who dyed of small pox":

  Scarce have I dry'd my cheeks but griefs invite
  Again my eyes to weep, my hand to write,
  Which still return with greater force, being more
  In weight and number than they were before.

A touch of Crabbe there--but enough of innocent death, which was not
in Catnach's line of business. He dealt in murder, from the convicted
murderer's standpoint. For us the _locus classicus_ is the Thavies Inn
Affair; but from the _Kentish Garland_ I gather "The Dying Soldier in
Maidstone Gaol," a later flower, written and published no longer ago
than 1857.

The dying soldier was Dedea Redanies, so called, though probably his
name should be spelt as it is rhymed, Redany. He was a Servian (not a
Serbian) from Belgrade, engaged in the Second British-Swiss Legion, an
armament of which I never heard before. Quartered at Shorncliffe, and
goaded by jealousy, he stabbed his young woman, and her sister, on the
cliffs above Dover, gave himself up, was tried and duly hanged. I
hope that is a plain statement, but none which I could make could be
plainer than Dedea's rhapsodist's:

  Oh, list my friends to a foreign soldier
    Whose name is Dedea Redanies--
  My friends and kindred had no idea
    That I should die on a foreign tree.
  I loved a maiden, a pretty maiden,
    In the town of Dover did she reside--
  I sweetly kissed her and with her sister
    I after killed and laid side by side.

That is admirably said, but not at all advantaged by subsequent
re-statement in something like fifteen verses. The colossal egotism
of the notorious criminal, however, provides him with a conclusion
oleaginous enough for a scaremonger of our own day, with a confusion
of _summject_ and _ommject_ very much after his heart. "O God," he
whines--

  O God receive me, from pain relieve me,
    Since I on earth can no comfort find--
  To stand before thee, let me, in glory,
    With poor Maria and sweet Caroline.

I should like Sir Conan Doyle to treat of this modest proposal in a
present lecture.




LANDNAMA


I have been reading in _Landnama Book_ the records of the settlement
of Iceland and can now realise how lately in our history it is that
the world has become small. At the beginning of the last century
it was roughly of the size which it had been at the end of the last
millennium. It then took seven days to sail from Norway to Iceland,
and if it was foggy, or blew hard, you were likely not to hit it off
at all, but to fetch up at Cape Wharf in Greenland. It was some
such accident, in fact, which discovered Iceland to the Norwegians.
Gardhere was on a voyage to the Isle of Man "to get in the inheritance
of his wife's father," by methods no doubt as summary as efficacious.
But "as he was sailing through Pentland frith a gale broke his
moorings and he was driven west into the sea." He made land in
Iceland, and presently went home with a good report of it. He may
have been the actual first discoverer, but he had rival claimants, as
Columbus did after him. There was Naddodh the Viking, driven ashore
from the Faroes. He called the island Snowland because he saw little
else. Nevertheless, says his historian, "he praised the land much."
Such was the beginning of colonisation in Thule. It was accidental,
and took place in A.D. 871.

But those who intended to settle there had to devise a better way of
reaching it than that of aiming at somewhere else and being caught in
a storm. What should you do when you had no compass? One way, perhaps
as good as any, was Floki Wilgerdsson's. "He made ready a great
sacrifice and hallowed three ravens who were to tell him the way." It
was a near thing though. The first raven flew back into the bows; the
second went up into the air, but then came aboard again. "The third
flew forth from the bows to the quarter where they found the land."
It was then very cold. They saw a frith full of sea-ice--enough for
Floki. He called the country Iceland, and the name has stuck. They
stayed out the spring and summer, then sailed back to Norway, of
divided minds concerning the adventure. "Floki spoke evil of the
country; but Herolf told the best and the worst of it; and Thorolf
said that butter dripped out of every blade of grass there." He was
a poet and his figure clove to him. "Therefore he was called Butter
Thorolf."

The first real settlers were two sworn brethren, Ingolf and Leif. They
went because they had made their own country too hot to hold them,
having in fact slain men in heaps. This had been on a lady's account,
Helga daughter of Erne. They had gone a-warring with Earl Atle's three
sons, and been very friendly until they made a feast afterwards for
the young men. At that feast one of the Earl's sons "made a vow to get
Helga, Erne's daughter, to wife, and to own no other woman." The vow
was not liked by anybody; and it was not, perhaps, the most delicate
way of putting it. Leif in particular "turned red," having a mind
to her himself. These things led to battle, and the Earl's son was
killed. Then the sworn brethren thought they had best go to Iceland,
and they did; but Leif took Helga with him. They left their country
for their country's good, and for their own good, too.

Having found your asylum, how did you choose the exact quarter
in which to settle? The popular way was that adopted by the sworn
brethren. "As soon as Ingolf saw land, he pitched his porch-pillars
overboard to get an omen, saying as he did so, that he would settle
where the pillars should come ashore." That was his plan. If it wasn't
porch-pillars it was the pillars of your high seat. Either might be
the nucleus of your house; both sets were sacred things, heirlooms,
symbols of your worth. You never left them behind when you flitted.
Another plan, and a good one, was to leave the site to Heaven.
Thorolf, son of Ernolf Whaledriver, did that. He was a great
sacrificer, and put his trust in Thor. He had Thor carven on his
porch-pillars, and cast them overboard off Broadfrith, saying as
he did so, "that Thor should go ashore where he wished Thorolf to
settle." He vowed also to hallow the whole intake to Thor and call it
after him. The porch-pillars went ashore upon a ness which is called
Thorsness to this day, as the site of the shrine Thorolf built is
still called Templestead. Thorolf was a very pious colonist. "He had
so great faith in the mountain that stood upon the ness that he
called it Holyfell;" and he gave out that no man should look upon it
unwashed. It should be sanctuary also for man and beast, a hill of
refuge. "It was the faith of Thorolf and all his kin that they should
all die into this hill." I hope that they did so, but _Landnama Book_
doesn't say.

There were few, if any, Christians among these fine people. King Olaf
and his masterful ways with the heathen were yet to come. And those
who took on the new religion took it lightly. They cast it, like an
outer garment, over shoulders still snug in the livery of Frey and
Thor. It was not allowed to interfere with their customs, which were
free, or their manners, which were hearty. Glum, son of Thorkel, son
of Kettle Black, "took Christendom when he was old. He was wont thus
to pray before the Cross, 'Good for ever to the old! Good for ever
to the young.'" That seems to have been all his prayer, which was
comprehensive enough. But there are older and more obstinate garments
than religions. Illugi the Red and Holm-Starri "exchanged lands and
wives with all their stock." But the plan miscarried, for Sigrid, who
was Illugi's wife, "hanged herself in the Temple because she would not
change husbands." The compliment was greater than Illugi deserved.

With the world as large as it was in those spacious days there was
room for strange things to happen. Here is the experience of Grim,
son of Ingiald. "He used to row out to fish in the winter with his
thralls, and his son used to be with him. When the boy began to grow
cold they wrapt him in a sealskin bag and pulled it up to his neck.
Grim pulled up a merman. And when he came up Grim said, 'Do thou tell
us our life and how long we shall live, or else thou shalt never
see thy home again.' 'It is of little worth to you to know this,' he
answered,' though it is to the boy in the sealskin bag, for thou shalt
be dead ere the spring come, but thy son shall take up his abode and
take land in settlement where thy mare Skalm shall lie down under the
pack.' They got no more words out of him. But later in the winter Grim
died, and he is buried there." So much for Grim. His widow took her
son forth to Broadfrith, and all that summer Skalm never lay down.
Next year they were on Borgfrith, "and Skalm went on till they came
off the heath south to Borgfrith, where two red sand-dunes were, and
there she lay down under the pack below the outermost sand-well."
There the son of Grim set up his rest. There will nevermore be room in
the world for things like that, but it is pleasant to know of them,




"WORKS AND DAYS"


Some time or another, Apollo my helper, I would choose to write a new
_Works and Days_ wherein the land-lore of our own Boeotia should be
recorded and enshrined for a season. There should be less practice
than Tusser gives you, less art than the _Georgics_, but rather more
of each than Hesiod finds occasion for. Though it is long since I read
the _Georgics_, I seem to remember that the poem was overloaded
with spicy merchandise. You might die of it in aromatic pain. As for
Tusser, certainly he is the complete Elizabethan farmer; sooner than
leave anything out he will say it twice; sooner than say it twice, he
will say it three times. Nevertheless he was a good farmer; as poet,
his itch to be quaint and anxiety to find a rhyme combine to make him
difficult. He writes like Old Moore:

  Strong yoke for a hog, with a twitcher and rings,
  With tar in a tarpot, for dangerous things;
  A sheep-mark, a tar-kettle, little or mitch,
  Two pottles of tar to a pottle of pitch.

"Mitch" is a desperate rhyme, but nothing to Tusser. He gives you a
league or more of that; all the same, I don't doubt he was a better
farmer than Virgil. More of him anon.

Hesiod also was a better farmer than Virgil, and a poet into the
bargain, though the Mantuan had him there. He prefers terseness to
eloquence, is on the dry side, and avoids ornament as if he was a
Quaker. Such adjectives as he allows himself are Homer's, well-worn
and familiar. The sea is _atrugetos_, Zeus _hypsibremetes_, the earth
_polyboteire_, the hawk _tanysipteros_, and so on. They have no more
effect upon you than the egg-and-dart mouldings on your cornices. His
own tropes are more curious than beautiful, but I cannot deny
their charm. The spring, with him, is always _gray_--[Greek: polion
ear]--which is exact for the moment when the breaking leaf-buds are no
more than a mist over the woodlands. You shall begin your harvesting--

  When the House-carrier shuns the Pleiades,
  And climbs the stalks to get a little ease.

The House-carrier is the snail, of course; and he shuns the heat of
the ground, not the Pleiades. Here again is a maxim deeply involved in
language:

  When 'tis a god's high feast let not your knife
  Cut off the withered from the quick with life,
  Upon the five-brancht stock--

or, in other words, never cut your finger-nails on a holy day.

Hesiod, by birth an AEolian, was by settlement a Boeotian. He lived and
farmed his own land on the slopes of Helikon, under the governance of
the lords of Thespiae, whoever they were. I have been to Thespiae, and
certify that there are no lords there now. I saw little but fleas and
dogs of incredible savagery, where once were the precinct and shrine
of Eros with a famous statue of the god by Praxiteles. It is not far
from the Valley of the Muses, where or whereabouts those fair ladies
met with Hesiod, and, as we are told in the Theogony, plucked him a
rod of olive, a thing of wonder,

  And breath'd in me a voice divine and clear
  To sing the things that shall be, are, and were.

Also they told him to sing of the blessed gods,

  But ever of themselves both first and last,

and he obeyed them. When he won a tripod at Chalkis, in a singing
contest, he dedicated it to his patronesses,

  There where they first instilled clear song in me.

So he was a grateful poet, which is very unusual.

In _Works and Days_ he sang of what he knew best, the country round,
and sang it as a poet should who was also a shrewd farmer and thrifty
husbandman. It is full of the love of earth and of the ways of them
who lie closest in her bosom; but it is full of the wisdom, too,
which such men win from their mother, and are not at all unwilling to
impart. There is a good deal of Polonius in Hesiod, who addresses his
_Works and Days_ to his brother Perses, a bad lot. Perses in fact had
diddled him out of his patrimony, or part of it, by bribing the
judges at Thespiae; and the poet, who doesn't mince matters, loses
no opportunity of telling him what he thinks of him. Indeed, one of
Hesiod's reasons for instructing him in good farming was that thereby
he might perhaps prevent him from spunging on his relations. So
the injured bard got a sad, exalted pleasure out of his griefs, and
something back, too, in his quiet way.

After a glance at the golden and other past ages he gets to work with
a charming passage:

  Whenas the Pleiads, Atlas' daughters, rise
  Begin your harvest; when they hide their eyes,
  Then plow. For forty nights and forty days
  They are shrouded; then, as the year rounds, they raise
  Their shining heads what time unto the stone
  You lay your sickle's edge--

and that is your time for harvesting. But you must work hard; for the
law of the plains, of the seaboard, and of the upland dales is the
same:

  You who Demeter's gifts will win good cheap
  Strip you to plow and sow, and strip to reap--

and if you in particular, Perses, will do that, perhaps you won't need
to go begging at other men's houses as you have begged at Hesiod's.
But he gives you warning that you will get no more out of him--than
advice.

The Pleiades, however, don't set till November, and before that there
is October to be considered, the season of the rains. Get you into
the woods in October and cut for your needs. And what might these
be? Well, a mortar to pound your grain in, and a pestle to pound it
withal; an axle for your wain, a beetle to break the clods. Then, for
your plows, look out for a plow-tree of holm-oak: that is the best
wood for them. Make two plows in case of accident, one all of a piece
([Greek: autogyon]), one jointed and dowelled. The pole should be
of laurel or elm; the share must be oak. The [Greek: gues] is the
plow-tree, and it is not always easy to find one ready-made--but get
one if you can.

  Two oxen then, each one a nine year bull,
  Whose strength is not yet spent, the best to pull,
  Which will not fight i' the furrow, break the plow
  And leave your work undone. To drive them now
  Get a smart man of forty, fed to rights
  With a four-quartered loaf of eight full bites:
  That's one to work, and drive the furrow plim,
  Too old to gape at mates, or mates at him.

That precise loaf, with just that much bitage, is the staple in
Boeotia to-day; but the [Greek: aizeos] of forty will not so readily
be found. Elsewhere in his poem Hesiod recommends something more in
accord with modern practice:

  Your house, your ox, your woman you must have;
  For she must drive the plow--not wife but slave.

The terms are synonymous in Greece to-day.

Plowing time is when you hear the crane in the clouds overhead. Be
beforehand with your cattle.

  When year by year high in the clouds the crane
  Calls in the plow-time and the month of rain,
  Take care to feed your oxen in the byre;
  For easy 'tis to beg, but hard to hire.

That is in Tusser's vein, and no doubt comes naturally to rustic
aphorists. A man may plow in the spring, too; and if Zeus should
happen to send rain on the third day, after the cuckoo's first call,
"As much as hides an ox-hoof, and no more," he may do as well as the
autumn-tiller. In any case don't forget your prayers when you begin
plowing:

  You who in hand first the plow-handles feel,
  Or on the ox's flank lay the first weal,
  Pray Chthonian Zeus and chaste Demeter bless
  The grain you sow with heart and heaviness.

Now for your vines. First, for the pruning, note this:

  When, from the solstice sixty days being fled,
  Arcturus leaves the holy Ocean's bed
  And, shining, burns the twilight; when that shrill
  Child of Pandion opens first her bill--
  Before she twitters, prune your vines! 'Tis best.

No reasons at all: simply "[Greek: os gar ameinon]." That is like
Homer. The stars continue their signals. Vintage time is when Orion
and Sirius are come to mid-heaven, and rosy-fingered Dawn sees
Arcturus. Then--

  Cut your grape clusters off and bring to hive;
  Show ten days to the sun, ten nights; for five
  Cover them up; the sixth day draw all off--

That is the way of it, Perses, and much profit to you in my learning,
you scamp.

Scattered up and down these frosty but kindly old pages are scraps of
wisdom on all kinds of subjects--for life is Hesiod's theme as well
as agriculture. He will tell you under what star to go to sea, if
sail you must; but better not seafare at all. However, if you will go,
choose fifty days after the summer solstice. That is the right time,
the only pretty swim-time. If you must venture out in the spring, let
it be when you see leaves on the fig-tree top as large as the print of
a crow's foot--but even so the thing is desperate.

  For me, I praise it not, nor like at all--
  'Tis a snatcht thing--mischief is bound to fall.

Then there's marriage, certainly the greatest venture of all. Don't
think of it until you are rising thirty, anyhow. And as for _her_:

  Let her be four years woman, and no more;
  In her fifth year take her, and shut the door
  Till she is yours, enured to your good laws.
  Take her from near at hand and give no cause
  That neighbours find your wedding stuff for mirth:
  Than a good wife no better thing on earth;
  Than a bad one, what worse? Pot of desire,
  That roasts her husband up without a fire!

That would make her sixteen or thereabouts. Poor child! But neither
Homer, nor Hesiod, nor any Greek I ever read had any mercy on women.
Hesiod in more than one page lets you know what he thinks about them.
It comes hardly from one who in the _Eoioe_(if those apostrophes are
his) was to hymn the great women of history and myth; but there, I
think, spoke the courtier Hesiod, and not the husbandman.

Lastly come a mort of things which you must not do. Here are some--for
some must be omitted from the decorous page:

  Let not your twelve-year-old presume to sit
  On things not to be moved. That's bad. His wit
  Will never harden; nor let a twelve-month child.
  Let no man wash in water that's defiled
  By women washing in it. Bitter price
  You pay for that in time. Burnt sacrifice
  Mock not, lest Heaven be angry ... So do you
  That men talk not against you. Talk's a brew
  Mischievous, heady, easy raised, whose sting
  Is ill to bear, and not by physicking
  Voided. Talk never dies once set a-working--
  Indeed, in talk a kind of god is lurking.

I regret to record the manner of death of the mainly pleasant old
country poet, still more the supposed cause of it--but it may not
be true. The Oracle at Delphi, which it seems he consulted after his
triumph at Chalkis, warned him that he would come by his end in the
grove of Nemean Zeus. He took pains, therefore, to avoid Nemea in his
travels, and chose to stay for a while at OEnoe in Lokris, "where,"
says Mr. Evelyn-White, his editor in the _Loeb Library_, "he was
entertained by Amphiphanes and Ganyktor, sons of Phegeus." But you
never knew when the Oracle would have you, or where. OEnoe was also
sacred to Nemean Zeus, "and the poet, suspected by his hosts of having
seduced their sister, was murdered there. His body, cast into the sea,
was brought to shore by dolphins, and buried at OEnoe; at a later
date his bones were removed to Orchomenos." An unhappy ending for
the instructor of Perses! But it may not be true. To be sure, these
poets--I can only say that to me it sounds improbable, and so, I take
it, it sounded to Alkaeus of Messene, who wrote this epigram upon his
dust:

  When, in the Lokrian grove dead Hesiod lay,
  The Nymphs with water washt the stains away.
  From their own well they fetcht it, and heapt high
  The Mound. Then certain goatherds, being by,
  Poured milk and yellow honey on the grave,
  Minding the Muses' honey which he gave
  Living, that old man stored with poesy.

That, surely, bespeaks a happier end to Hesiod. It is an epitaph that
any poet might desire.




THE ENGLISH HESIOD


Now for Tusser, whom I feel that I belittled in the last Essay in
order to make a point for the Boeotian.

"Five Hundreth Points of Good Husbandry United to as Many of Good
Huswifery" was the sixth edition in twenty years of a book which that
fact alone proves to have been a power in its day. It was indeed more
lasting than that, for it had twenty editions between 1557, when
it began with a modest "Hundreth Pointes," and 1692, when the
black-letter quartos ended. Thomas Tusser, the author of it, was
a gentleman-farmer and had the education of one. He began as a
singing-boy at Wallingford, went next to St. Paul's, then to Eton,
where Nicholas Udall gave him once fifty-three strokes, "for fault but
small or none at all"; presently to Cambridge, where Trinity Hall had
him at nurse. All that done, he settled as a farmer under the Lord
Paget in Suffolk; and there it was that in 1557 he published his
notable book. Taking the months _seriatim_, beginning, as he should,
in September, he runs through the whole round of work with an
exhaustiveness and accuracy which could hardly be bettered to-day.
Given a holding of the sort he had, a man might do much worse than
obey old Tusser from point to point.

He wrote in verse, a verse which is not often much better than those
rustic runes which still survive, wherein weather-lore and suchlike
sometimes prompt and sometimes are prompted by a rhyme. The best of
these semi-proverbial maxims are recalled by the best of Tusser. Take
this of the autumn winds as an example:

  The West, as a father, all goodness doth bring,
  The East, a forbearer, no manner of thing;
  The South, as unkind, draweth sickness too near,
  The North, as a friend, maketh all again clear.

But he can be more pointed than that and no less just--as when he is
telling the maids how to wash linen:

  "Go wash well," saith Summer, "with sun I shall dry."
  "Go wring well," saith Winter, "with wind so shall I."

He is never dull if he is never eloquent; he is always wise if he is
seldom witty. Among the Elizabethan poets there will have been many of
a lowlier quality, many who could not have reached the piety and sweet
humour of "My friend if cause doth wrest thee," which, with its happy
close of "And sit down, Robin, and rest thee," is the best known of
all his rhymes. As a verbal acrobat I don't suppose any of them
could approach him. His greatest feat in that kind was his "Brief
Conclusion" in twelve lines, every word in every line of which began
with T. Thus:

  The thrifty that teacheth the thriving to thrive,
  Teach timely to traverse the thing that thou 'trive,

and so on. If _Peter Piper_ dates so early, Tusser beats it
handsomely.

For the rest, he writes doggerel, and has no other pretensions that I
can see. All the Elizabethans did, Shakespeare among the best of
them. And I don't know that Shakespeare's doggerel is much better
than Tusser's doggerel. It is something that, swimming in such a brave
company, he should keep his head above water; and something more that
in one other point Tusser can vie with the foremost. His knack of
christening his personages with _ad hoc_ names recalls Shakespeare's,
which, with its Dick the Carter and Marian's nose, was of the same
kind and degree. Here is an example, where he wishes to instil the
value of hedge-mending. If you let your fences down, he says:

  At noon, if it bloweth, at night if it shine,
  Out trudgeth Hew Makeshift with hook and with line;
  While Gillet his blowse is a milking thy cow,
  Sir Hew is a rigging thy gate, or thy plow.

Autolycus sang like that. Now take an allusive couplet addressed to
the house-mistress, that she by all means see the lights out:

  Fear candle in hay-loft, in barn, and in shed,
  Fear Flea-smock and Mend-breech for burning their bed.

Right Shakespearian direction: few words and to the mark. But Tusser
is seldom up to that level, and never on it long.

We may as well be clear about the kind of farmer Tusser was before we
go any further. A farmer, indeed, he happens to have been; but he was
also a husbandman. A farmer in his day was a man who paid a yearly
rent for something, by no means necessarily land. To farm a thing was
to pay a rent for it. You could farm the tithe, or the King's taxes;
you could farm a landlord's rent-roll, a corporation's market-dues,
the profits of a bridge or of a highway. The first farmers of land
were the men who took over all the estates of a monastery, paying the
holy men a sufficiency, and making what they could over and above.
In Elizabeth's time the great landlords had taken a leaf out of the
monks' book, and the farmer of land was becoming more common. There
were yet, however, many husbandmen who were not farmers at all: yeomen
of soccage tenure, and tenants by copy of court-roll. That class was
probably the most numerous of all, and Tusser, though he objected to
its common fields, or "champion land," as he calls it, had plenty to
tell them. He must, I think, himself have been a copyholder in
his day, so feelingly does he deal with the detriments of a
champion-holding. The need, for example, of watching the beasts
straying at will over the open fields!

  Where champion wanteth a swineherd for hog
  There many complaineth of naughty man's dog.
  Where each his own keeper appoints without care,
  There corn is destroyed ere men be aware

And again more bitterly:

  Some pester the commons with jades and with geese,
  With hog without ring, and with sheep without fleece.
  Some lose a day's labour with seeking their own,
  Some meet with a booty they would not have known.
  Great troubles and losses the champion sees,
  And even in brawling, as wasps among bees:
  As charity that way appeareth but small;
  So less be their winnings, or nothing at all.

The probabilities are that he was quite right; but so long as copyhold
endured so long lasted the open fields.

Tusser's holding, and that of every husbandman in England in his time,
was self-sufficient. Not only did you eat your own mutton, make your
own souse, your own beer, cheese, butter, wine, cordials, and physic;
you built your own house, made your own roads, fenced your own lands,
contrived your own plows, wains, wagons, wheelbarrows, and all manner
of tools. But much more than that. You grew your own hemp, had your
own ropewalk, twisted your own twine; you grew your flax and wove your
linen; you tanned and dressed your own leather, cut and spun your own
wool, made, no doubt, your own clothes. Indeed, you stood four-square
to fate in Tusser's time; and in that particular, as well as in
another which I must speak of next, you were much nearer to Hesiod's
farmer than to ours. This precept of his upon the uses of your
woodland recalls Hesiod directly:

  Save elm, ash and crabtree for cart and for plow;
  Save step for a stile of the crotch of the bough;
  Save hazel for forks, save sallow for rake;
  Save hulver and thorn, whereof flail to make.

Hulver is holly. In the same section (April) he has a verse about
stone-picking which will show his encyclopaedic grip of his matter:

  Where stones be too many, annoying thy land,
  Make servant come home with a stone in his hand:
  By daily so doing, have plenty ye shall,
  Both handsome for paving and good for a wall.

He bought little or nothing, trafficked very much by barter, and had
scarcely any need for money. His men and maids lived in the house, and
if they were paid anything, he does not say so. I suppose they were
paid something, those of them who were not apprentices, bound for a
seven years' term. They stood to his wife and himself as children, had
their keep, learned their business, married each other by and by,
and probably set up for themselves with a pig and a cock and hen on
a pightle of land of the master's. It was a family relationship well
into the eighteenth century. Horace Walpole used to call his servants
his family. With the privilege of parenthood went the power of the
rod. There's no doubt about that: maid and man had it if it was
earned. In his dairy instruction Tusser gives us a list of "ten
topping guests unsent for," whose presence in the cheese will cause
Cicely to rue it. There are:

  Gehazi, Lot's wife, and Argus his eyes,
  Tom Piper, poor Cobler, and Lazarus's thighs:
  Rough Esau, with Maudlin, and gentles that scrawl,
  With Bishop that burneth--ye thus know them all.

Gehazi the leper is in cheese when it is white and dry; Lot's wife
when it is too salt; Argus's eyes are obvious:

  Tom Piper hath hoven and puffed up cheeks;

poor Cobler is there when it is leathery; Esau betrays himself by
hairs, Maudlin by weeping; and as for the "Bishop that burneth" the
explanation is complicated. It seems that Cicely would run after the
bishop for his blessing, and leave the milk on the fire to burn.[A]
For all these ill-timed guests you are to baste Cicely, or "tug her
a crash," or "make her seek creeks"; you "call her a slut," or "dress
her down." But you encourage her at the end with this quatrain:

  "If thou, so oft beaten,
    Amendest by this,
  I will no more threaten,
    I promise thee, Cis."

[Footnote A: A correspondent from Yorkshire gives me a better
explanation. In that county burnt milk is still said to be "bishoped."
The bishop's power of the keys is thought to be hinted.]

Fizgig, too, which is his lively name for the kitchen knave, gets the
holly-wand across his quarters when he deserves it; but Tusser seems
to feel that discipline may be overdone. It may be waste of good stick
and good pains, for:

  As rod little mendeth where manners be spilt,
  So naught will be naught, say and do what thou wilt;

and he is careful to remind you in concluding his chapter of Huswifely
Admonitions that you had always better smile than scold:

  Much brawling with servant, what man can abide?
  Pay home when thou fightest, but love not to chide.

The whole matter of servants is amusing or rueful study nowadays,
accordingly as one looks at servants. Their treatment under Tusser's
handling brings the husbandman poet very near to Hesiod, in whose time
servitude was not called by any other name. Tusser's huswife, warned
by the matin cock, called up her maids and men at four in the summer,
at five in the winter. She packed them off to bed at ten or nine at
night, according to the season, and, it would appear, to bed in the
dark. She made her own candles, and feared also a fire, which will
account for that. There was no early tea for Mistress Tusser's maids,
let me tell you:

  Some slovens from sleeping no sooner get up
  But hand is in aumbry and nose is in cup.

Nothing of the kind with Mrs. Tusser. On the other hand, hard work all
round: "Sluts' corner" to be ridded; sweeping, dusting, mop-twirling,

  Let some to peel hemp, or else rushes to twine,
  To spin or to card, to seething of brine;

and as for the men:

  Let some about cattle, some pastures to view,
  Some malt to be grinding against ye do brew.

And so to breakfast. The morning star was the signal for it; and a
hasty meal was expected of you:

  Call servants to breakfast, by day-star appear,
  A snatch, and to work--fellows tarry not here.

You had porridge and a scrap of meat, and if you laid hands on
something sweeter, look out for Mrs. Tusser:

  "What tack in a pudding?" saith greedy gut-wringer:
  Give such ye wot what, ere a pudding he finger.

And, summarily, of breakfast there is this to be understood, that it
is a thing of grace, not of custom:

  No breakfast of custom provide for to save,
  But only for such as deserveth to have.

Very near Hesiod indeed!

For your dinner at noon you were more hospitably served. First of all,
it was ready for you:

  By noon see your dinner be ready and neat:
  Let meat tarry servant not servant his meat.

And you were to have enough--plain fare, but enough.

  Give servants no dainties, but give them enow;
  Too many chaps wagging do beggar the plow;

but even here you would get according to your deserts. If you were
lazy at your threshing, you would be given a "flap and a trap,"
whatever those may be. And you were expected to eat the trencher bare:

  Some gnaweth and leaveth, some crusts and some crumbs:
  Eat such their own leavings, or gnaw their own thumbs.

In the hot weather you had time for sleep allowed you:

  From May to mid-August an hour or two
  Let Patch sleep a snatch, howsoever ye do.
  Though sleeping one hour refresheth his song
  Yet trust not Hob Grouthead for sleeping too long.

Then came afternoon work, and at last supper. Here the mistress might
unbend somewhat; for, as Tusser puts it:

  Whatever God sendeth, be merry withal.

She had still, however, an eye for the servants:

  No servant at table use sauc'ly to talk,
  Lest tongue set at large out of measure do walk;
  No lurching, no snatching, no striving at all,
  Lest one go without, and another have all.

And then a final word:

  Declare after supper--take heed thereunto--
  What work in the morning each servant shall do.

And then--bed!

There were feast days, of course: Christmas to Epiphany was one long
feast; then Plow Monday, Shrovetide, Sheep-shearing, Wake-Day, Harvest
Home, Seed-Cake--these as the times came round. But there was a weekly
regale too, which was known as Twice-a-Week-Roast. On Sundays and
Thursdays a hot joint was the custom at supper. Tusser is clear about
the value and sanction at once:

  Thus doing and keeping such custom and guise,
  They call thee good huswife--they love thee likewise.

Those days are past and done, with much to regret and much to be
thankful for. You trained good servants that way--but did you make
good men and women? Some think so, and I among them; but such training
is two-edged, and while I feel sure that the girls and lads were
the better for the discipline, I cannot believe that the masters and
mistresses were. They nursed arrogance; out of them came the tyrants
and gang-drivers of the eighteenth century, Act of Settlement, the
Enclosure Acts, Speenhamland, rick-burning, machine-breaking, and the
Bloody Assize of 1831. Well, now the reckoning has come, and Hodge
will have Farmer Blackacre at his discretion.

One or two variations from modern practice may be noted. The
Elizabethan husbandman grew, I have said, his own flax and hemp; he
grew his vines too, and Tusser bids him prune them in February. I, who
grow mine, call that full early. He does not tell us when he gathered
his grapes or (what I very much want to know) how he made his
wine--whether with pure fermented grape-juice, which is the French
way, or by adding water and sugar to the must, which is our present
English fashion. Again, he used sheep's milk both for draught and for
butter-making. I wish we had sheep's milk butter. No one who has had
it in Greece would be without it at home if he could help it. You
weaned the lambs at Philip and Jacob, he says, if you wanted any milk
from the ewe. Lastly, he grew saffron, which he pared between the two
St. Mary's days. To pare is to strip the soil with a breast-plow.
The two St. Mary's days were July 22 and August 15, which would be a
pretty good time to plant saffron.

We also, in my country, date our operations by holy days, long after
the holy men have ceased to be commemorated. Who knows St. Gregory's
Day? It is March 12. Marrowfat peas go into the drill:

  Sow runcivals timely, and all that is grey;
  But sow not the white till St. Gregory's Day.

I will undertake that half a dozen old hands round about my house
follow out this rule in its entirety.




FLOWER OF THE FIELD


A county inquiry took me, one day last summer, deeply into the Plain,
up and over a rutty track which my driver will have cause to remember.
An uncommonly large hawk soaring over his prey, and so near the ground
that I could see the light through his ragged plumes, a hare limping
through the bents, further off a crawling flock bustling after
shepherd and dog, were all the living things I saw. The ground was
iron, the colour of what had once been herbage a glaring brown. Of the
flowers none but the hardiest had outlived the visitation of the sun.
I saw rest-harrow which has a root like whipcord, and the flat thistle
which thrives in dust. The harebells floated no more, the discs of the
scabious were shrivelled husks; ladies' bedstraw was straw indeed, but
not for ladies' uses. Three miles away from anywhere we came upon a
clump of dusty sycamores whose leaves were spotted and beginning to
fall; beyond them was a squat row of flint and brick bungalows, the
goal of our quest. There were three tenements, of which two were
empty. In the third lives the shepherd who had called me up to
consider his circumstances.

There was thunder about, though not visibly; a day both airless and
pitiless; one of those days when you feel that the unseen powers are
conspiring against your peace. A naked sun from a naked sky stared
down upon a naked earth. It seemed to me that the hawk had been a
figure of more than himself and his purpose; I saw him as Homer's
people saw their eagles. Just as he hung aloft so hung the sun, intent
upon the life of our cowering ball. Not elsewhere in England have I
seen so shadeless a place, or one so unfitted for human intercourse,
so lacking in the comfort, which human sensibilities need. We live in
nature as hunted things, beasts of chase. Every eye is upon us in fear
or dislike; but in our turn, cursed as well as blessed by imagination,
we people the wild with dreadful shapes of menace. The heat, the cold,
the wind and the rain work as much against us as for us. We endow them
with minds like our own, but magnified by our dismay to be the minds
of gods maleficent. Without shelter of our own provision we are
comfortless, and without comfort our souls perish, then our bodies.
Salisbury Plain, swooning in the heat, is a paradise for insects. In
those desolate dwellings both flies and (I am sure) fleas abounded,
dreadfully healthy and alive. I only guess at the fleas, but the flies
I can answer for. They swarmed on the baking walls and wove webs in
the air above us. The rooms were black with them, and their humming
filled them up with noise.

Here lived the shepherd, too heavily taxed as he thought for his
hermitage; here lived his family of half a dozen swarthy and beautiful
children; and here we discussed the state of affairs, since the
shepherd was abroad, with his daughter, a flower of the field. She
came out of this stivy tenement at the sound of our boiling radiator,
and stood framed in the doorway, shading her eyes against the sun, a
tall and graceful, very pretty girl, dressed in cool white which might
have been fresh from its cardboard box, as she herself might have
stepped from her typewriter and Government office at Whitehall.
Gentle-voiced, quiet and self-possessed, she showed us the conditions
of her lot. One living-room, two bedrooms, and a washhouse in a shed:
three miles over the grass to shop, church, post-office, and doctor;
half a mile to call up a neighbour in case of need. A rain-water tank,
less than a quarter full of last winter's rain, must keep clean her
house and her, and for drinking she was served by a galvanised tank in
full sun, which she was lucky to get filled once a week.

I tasted of it. The water was warm, flat, and not too clean. "Where
does this come from?" "It is fetched in a barrel from over the hill."
"Who brings it?" "The farmer--but he makes a fuss whenever we ask for
it." "He must water the stock, surely?" "Oh yes, and the sheep, too,
but--" A pregnant aposiopesis. I wondered if that tank could not be
put in the shade; but it seemed that it could not. The water had to be
drawn from the barrel, the barrel was on wheels; time was short, life
was tough; and so--you see! We did justice to the shepherd.

It is shocking that a man should live so, held of less account than
the sheep which he rears; but it is admirable that this man should
live as he does. The house, to call it so, was as clean as a dairy;
the children were neat, washed and brushed; the girl was one for
Herrick to have sung of. I wish that I could have seen the shepherd,
though it may well be that his wife, if she is alive, would reveal
more. Something told me that he was a widower, and that this fair
young woman mothered his brood for him. What she had of the nest-lore
can only have come from a shrewd mistress of it. I did not see a book
in the place, nor a newspaper.

Life out there, on such terms, is more solitary than in
Northumberland, where the farms are isolated and self-sufficient,
but all the hinds' dwellings are clustered, and society may be had.
I don't believe you can set up for a successful hermit without a
long education; and although a shepherd himself may be one by a stern
schooling in solitude, you should not expect it of his daughter. Here
was a girl made for social amenity, who would want to be danced
with, flirted with, courted with flowers, sweets and other delicate
observance. She deserved admiration both to receive and impart. It is
useless to talk about nature; the love of that is both sophisticated
and acquired. Nothing to her the great blue spaces of the Plain, the
brooded mystery of Stonehenge, the companionship of her long-dead
ancestry, dust in their barrows. No solace for her, after the burden
of the day, in the large solemnity of evening out there, which to
some of us would call a message almost vocal. To me, for instance, a
summer's dusk, a moonrise on the Plain, are poems without words. Heard
melodies are sweet, but those unheard--!

For whom, then, had she adorned herself in white raiment, for whom
dressed her dark hair? Not for us, that's certain. She had had no
notice of our coming. That she should do such things for their own
sake, _elegantia quadam prope divinum_, was original virtue in her.
Solomon in all his glory had been no goodlier sight; and if she toiled
or spun to achieve it, her state, I should say, is by so much the
more gracious. And what the devil does she do with herself in the long
winter nights, when you light the lamp at four and see nothing of the
sun till eight the next morning--and she arrayed like a lily of the
field? There's mending, but you have the afternoon for that; a letter
to a brother in Canada; let us hope there's one to a sweetheart not so
far away. And then--what? To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow.




UNDER THE HARVEST MOON


She is at her full, and even as I write rising red and heavy in the
south-west. All night long she will look down upon at least one corner
of the earth satiate with the good things of life. I don't remember
such a September as this has been for many years past. Misty,
gossamered mornings, a day all blue and pale gold, bees in the
ivy bloom, sprawling overblown flowers, red apples, purpling
vine-clusters, clear evenings: then this smouldering moon to go to
bed by! It is all like a great Veronese wall-picture, or the Masque
in _The Tempest_--"Rich scarf to my proud earth!"--and summons from
me more adjectives than I have needed this twelvemonth. It is indeed
adjectival weather; for Nature is still adding, not discarding stores.
The last act of the "maturing sun" is to ingerminate the flowers and
fruit which will bless or tantalise us next year.

Now is the time when maids get up at six and hunt for mushrooms in
the dew; now the good wives of the village make wine of all sorts of
unlikely fruits, blackberries, elderberries, peaches, pears, and, of
all things in the world, parsnips. I have lately been given of this
wine to taste. It is a cordial rather than a wine and on the good
rather than the bad side. The addition of spices is admitted;
nevertheless out of a particularly mawkish vegetable is made a
palatable drink. "Out of the strong come forth sweetness." After it I
shall be prepared to find a potable in the banana, which is favoured
by many people, of whom I am not one. But I don't find it nastier than
the parsnip, and it is evident that fermentation can work miracles.

In such a year as this I, too, shall have a vintage. For the first
time in my life I shall tread my own winepress, vat my own must,
and (I hope) need no sugar for it. I don't know why it is, but I can
conceive no more romantic rural adventure than that of growing and
drinking your own wine. But there are yet many things to happen. The
grapes must get ripe and the wasps be kept off; and then there are
problems connected with vinification which I have not yet solved. The
Marquis of Bute could tell me all about it, and I wish he would.
He has made wine at Castle Coch these many years, and of the most
excellent. Unfortunately I have not his acquaintance, so I invite
advice, and shall be grateful for it. The chief of my perplexities are
concerned with the beginning of fermentation and the end of it. For
the first, should I use yeast? My neighbours here say, yes; the French
tell me that I don't need it, the grapes having enough of their own.
Pass that and consider the second point. Having started your ferment,
how do you stop it?[A] Fermentation in Italy goes on in the barrel,
after the liquor has left the vat. That gives you a peculiar prickly
wine which the Italians call "Frizzante" and profess to like. Our word
for it is "beastly."

[Footnote A: Since that was written I have learned the answer. It
stops itself--why, I don't know, unless by the grace of God.]

My village gossips tell me that fermentation will stop of itself when
I draw the wine off the lye; but the French practice certainly seems
to be to burn sulphur matches in the vat and so kill the vinegar germs
there latent. And then _platrage_? You sprinkle the must with plaster
of Paris before fermentation begins. Is that done in England? It is
not done in this part of England at least. Nor do I know why it
is done in France. Probably before I have solved my problems by
stomach-ache and other experiences of a biliary kind, prohibition
will be in the air over here, wafted upon some newspaper breeze from
America. There will be no difficulty in starting a fermentation out of
that sweeping doctrine, that's for certain. I don't say that we need
take prohibition seriously; but we think about it, naturally, and talk
about it out here.

If it were put to the local vote in this village, it would be lost.
We have many total abstainers, yet one of them, I know, and several of
them, I believe, would vote against it. Says the one I am sure of:
"If I abstain from strong drink, as I do, it is my own doing; and if I
were tempted to a fall and withstood it, that is to my credit. But if
the law cuts me off it, and I am a criminal if I drink, it cuts me off
a good part of my credit too--and I am against that." My friend has
there put his finger upon a sharp little dilemma. If alcohol is a bad
thing, then prohibition is a good thing. But if temperance is a good
thing, then prohibition is a bad thing. You cannot be temperate in the
use of alcohol if you have none. Nor is sobriety a virtue in you if
you lock up the wine-cellar and throw the keys down the well. Very
well; then will you do without alcohol or without temperance? There is
the choice; and I have made mine.

Besides, we are all for liberty down here, individualists to a man.
Give us a loophole to avoid compulsion and we use it. One of the
most frequently exercised of my magisterial functions is to certify
conscientious objections to the Vaccination Act. I do it against the
grain. A doctor told me the other day that he believed smallpox had
reached the end of its tether, and was on the ebb. I am sure I hope
so, lest there should be one day a bad outbreak among these liberty
men. I must have signed away the chances of hundreds of children, who,
by the way, are not of an age to consent. I never fail to point out
the risk; but the Court awards it and the law allows it; so I sign.

There is much to be said for Anarchy in the abstract, nothing at all
in the concrete. Mr. Smillie, however, appears to favour it, raw,
rough and ready. In that he is precocious, and, like the rathe
primrose, will "forsaken die." He will rend the Labour party in twain
from the top to the bottom, and will see the agricultural vote drop
off his industrials just as it had begun to adhere to them. I know the
peasantry. They will never strike for political ends, for though they
are not quick to see the consequences of hypothetical actions, they
do see that if you make Parliamentary government impossible you make a
Labour majority not worth having.

And another thing: Mr. Smillie and his friends may want a revolution,
but Hodge and his most certainly do not. They want to earn their
livelihood, pay their way, and dig their plots of ground. No more
warfare for them. I dare say I shall be sorry for Mr. Smillie when
the time comes; but I may have to be still more sorry for my country
first. I can't help hoping, however, when it comes to the point that
his feet will be a little colder than his head seems to be just now.




_LA PETITE PERSONNE_


No letter-writer's stage can at any time be called empty, because upon
it you necessarily have at all times two persons at least: the mover
of the figures and the audience, the puppeteer and the puppetee, the
letter-writer and the letter-reader. The play presented is, therefore,
a play within a play: like the _Mousetrap_ in _Hamlet_, like _Pyramus
and Thisbe_ in _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, like the romantic drama
of _Gayferos and Melisandra_ which Don Quixote witnessed with a select
company of acquaintance at an inn. The temperament of this presented
spectator, himself or herself a person of the scene, is always
reflected in the entertainment when the letter-writer is a sensitive
artist. So Horace Walpole's comedy varies according as it goes before
Sir Horace Mann in Florence or Lady Upper-Ossory at Ampthill; so, more
delicately, does Madame de Sevigne's. There are blacker strokes in
the dialogue when Bussy is to see the play; there is always idolatry
implied, and sometimes anxiety, if the spoilt child of Provence is the
audience. It is this _chere bonne_, this Madame de Grignan, nine times
out of ten, who is queen of the entertainment. You have to reckon with
her upon her throne of degrees, set up there like Hippolita, Duchess
of Athens, to be propitiated and, if possible, diverted. For her sake,
not for ours, her incomparable mother beckons from the wings character
after character, and gives each his cue, having set the scene with
her exquisite art. In a few cases her anxiety to please spoils the
effects. As we should say, she "laboured" the Cardinal de Retz. The
sour-faced beauty would have none of him. But that is a rare case, one
in which predilection betrayed her. Madame de Sevigne had a weakness
for the Cardinal. It is very seldom that the lightest hand in the
world fails her at a portrait. Her great successes are her thumb-nail
sketches: she will be remembered by Picard in the hayfield so long
as the world knows how to laugh. One of her best, because one of her
tenderest, is the _petite personne_.

The name is Charles de Sevigne's, but his mother takes it up after
him, and makes better play with it. Charles writes from Les Rochers in
December, 1675--Madame being really ill for once in her life with "a
nice little rheumatism," and Charles her amanuensis--"in the room of
la Plessis," that striving lady, too, was ill, or thought she was--"we
have had lately a very pretty young party (_une petite personne fort
jolie_) whose good looks don't at all remind us of that divinity. At
her instigation we have started _Reversis_: now, instead of knaves,
we talk about jacks." He adds a stroke too good to be lost, though his
mother might have left it out. "To give you a notion of her age and
quality, she has just confided to us that the day after Easter Eve was
a Tuesday. She thought that over, then said, 'No--it was a Monday!'
Then, judging by the look of us that that wouldn't do either,
'Heavens, how stupid! Of course--it was a Friday!' That is the kind
of party we are. If you wouldn't mind sending us word what day of the
week you believe it to have been, you will save us a great deal of
discomfort." The stage is the brisker for the coming in of this pretty
_soubrette_.

Madame de Sevigne, meantime, is in a discomfort of her own. It takes
her some ten days to absorb the _petite personne_, but then she fixes
her for ever. Nobody can wish to know more about a young party than
this:

    "_Christmas Day_ (1675).... I still have that nice child here.
    She lives on the other side of the park; her mother is the
    good-wife Marcile's daughter--but you won't remember her. The
    mother lives at Rennes, but I shall keep her here. She plays
    _trictrac, reversis;_ she is quite pretty, quite innocent, and
    called Jeannette. She is no more trouble than Fidele."

Quite pretty, quite innocent and called Jeannette! _Quid Plura?_ Need
I say who Fidele was? Fidele is a shrewd touch of Madame's, put in,
as I guess, to placate the hungry-eyed Goddess of Grignan; but it
does clinch the portrait. All that one needs to know of the nature,
parentage, and upbringing of a _petite personne_ is in these two
letters.

Immediately upon her entry the comedy begins, with Mademoiselle du
Plessis in a leading part. "... La Plessis has a quartan fever. It is
pretty to see her jealous fury when she comes here and finds the
child with me. The fuss there is to have my stick or muff to hold! But
enough of these nothings...."

It was of nothings that the vexed days of Mlle. du Plessis must exist.
An elderly virgin, evidently; stiff, gauche, full of _guinderie_, says
Madame, "_et de l'esprit fichu_." Everybody made game of her at Les
Rochers. As we shall see, the servants knew that very well. Charles is
always witty at her expense. Madame de Grignan once slapped her.

Meanwhile, here's another vignette, a Chardin picture--you will find
nothing by Greuze of this _petite personne_. "... What do you think
of the handy little lady we were telling you of, who couldn't make out
what the day after Easter Eve was? She is a dear little rosebud of a
thing who delights us."

"'In six years to come she'll be twenty years old!' I wish you could
see her in the mornings, eating a hunk of bread-and-butter as long as
from here to Easter, or, after dinner, crunching up two green apples
with brown bread...."

But now the clowns come tumbling in, to turn over the poor du Plessis.
"... Mlle. du Plessis will die of the _petite personne_. Being more
than half dead of jealousy already, she is always at my people to find
out how I treat her. Not one of them but has a pin ready. One says
that I love her as much as I do you; another that I have her to sleep
with me--which would assuredly be a notable sign of affection! They
swear that I am taking her to Paris, that I kiss her, am mad about
her; that the Abbe is giving her 10,000 _livres_; that if she had but
20,000 _ecus_ I should marry her to my son. That is the sort of thing;
and they carry it so far that we can't help laughing at it. The poor
lady is ill with it all."

To the same letter Charles adds his scene in the farce: "La Plessis
said to Rahuel (he was the concierge) yesterday that she had been
gratified at dinner to find that Madame had turned the child out of
her seat and put herself in the place of honour. And Rahuel, in his
Breton way: 'Nay, Miss, there's no wonder. 'Tis an honour to your
years, naturally. Besides, the little girl is one of the house, as
you might say. Madame looks on her almost as she might be Madame de
Grignan's little sister.'"

La Plessis, in fact, agonised, and the way was made for the great
scene--so good a scene that I think it must have been bagged for
the theatre. Labiche must surely have lifted it. It is Charles de
Sevigne's masterpiece.

    "The young party here, when she saw how my mother's pains
    increased towards night, thought that the best thing she could
    do for her was to cry--which she did. She is that sort, and
    always the focus of jealousy for la Plessis, who tries to
    recommend herself to my mother by hating her like the devil.
    This is what happened yesterday. My mother was dozing quietly
    in bed; the child, the Abbe and I were by the fire. In came La
    Plessis. We warned her to come quietly, and she did, and was
    half across the room when my mother coughed, and then asked
    for her handkerchief to get rid of some phlegm. The child and
    I jumped up to get it, but La Plessis was too quick for us,
    rushed to the bed, and instead of putting the thing to my
    mother's lips, caught hold of her nose with it, and pinched
    it so hard that the poor dear cried out with the pain. She
    couldn't help being sniffy with the old fuss who had hurt
    her so--nor laughing at her afterwards. If you had seen this
    little comedy you would have laughed too."

I should like to know who wouldn't have laughed to tears, after it was
over. The scene is priceless.

But all the same, it is not Madame de Sevigne's _genre_. She is
mistress of the chuckle, not of the _fou rire_; and La Plessis is not
one of her best characters. The _petite personne_, however, is; and I
must give a very pretty scene, quite in her own manner, where she is
half laughing at the child and half in love with her too.

    "The _petite personne_ is still here, and always delightful.
    She has a sharp little wit of her own, too, as new as a young
    chick's. We enjoy telling her things, for she knows nothing
    at all, and it makes a kind of game to enlighten her on
    all sides--with a word or two about the Universe, or about
    Empires, or countries, or kings, or religions, or wars, or
    Fate, or the map. There's a pretty jumble of facts to put
    tidily away in a little head which has never seen a town, nor
    even a river, and has never really supposed that the world
    went any farther than the end of the park! But she is
    delicious. I was telling her to-day about the taking of
    Wismar; and she understands quite well that we are sorry about
    it because the King of Sweden is our ally. See how wildly we
    amuse ourselves."

The last sentence is for the _chere bonne's_ benefit, who was very
capable herself of being jealous of the _petite personne_. I fancy
the touch about Fidele was put in with the same object. She had to be
infinitely careful with the _chere bonne's_ black dogs.

In another month the _petite personne_ is so far advanced that she
can be secretary to her patroness, whose poor hand is too swollen to
write. Elaborate perambulations introduce her to the _chere bonne_.
"My son has gone to Vitre on some business or other. That is why I
give his functions of secretary over to the little lady of whom I
have often told you, and who begs you to be pleased to allow her, with
great respect, to kiss your hands." That, I should think, was courtesy
enough even for the pouting great lady of Provence. In a later letter
she kisses Madame de Grignan's _left_ hand; so it is written--by
herself, but to dictation. Thus the proper distances were kept by one
as humane as Madame de Sevigne when she was dealing with her daughter
on the other side of idolatry.

But she herself and the child are on better terms than such discipline
would imply. In February: "... My letters are so full of myself that
it bores me to have them read over. You have too much taste not to be
bored too. So I shall stop: even the child is laughing at me now." And
then in March: "... My son has left us--we are quite alone, the child
and I--reading, writing, and saying our prayers." A jolly little
picture of still and gentle life. No Greuze there.

The idyll ends in tears, but not just yet. Two days before she leaves
Brittany, having "neither rhyme nor reason in my hands," she makes use
of the _petite personne_ for the last time: "the most obliging child
in the world. I don't know what I should have done without her. She
reads me what I like--quite well; she writes as you see; she is fond
of me; she is willing; she can talk about Madame de Grignan. In fact,
you may love her on my assurance." And then the poor little dear puts
in her little word for herself to propitiate this formidable Countess
in Provence:

"That would make me very happy, Madame, and I am sure that you must
envy my joy to be with your mother. She has been pleased to make me
write all that praise of myself, though I was rather ashamed to do it.
But I am very unhappy that she is going away."

Madame resumes the pen: "... The child, desired to converse with you
..."--which one may or may not believe. If, as I feel sure, she was
bidden to the task, I don't see how she could possibly have brought it
off better than in those demure phrases. But is she not a dear little
creature?

Then came the dreadful day, the 24th of March, and Madame's coach and
six horses carry her to Laval on her way to Paris. She stays there
for the night and writes, of course, to her _chere bonne_: "... They
carried off the _petite personne_ early this morning to save me the
outcries of her grief. They were the sobs of a child, so natural that
they moved me. I dare say she is dancing about now, but for two days
she has been in floods, not having been able to learn restraint from
me!" Madame, as we know, had abundantly the gift of tears, and was
assuredly none the worse for it.

In Paris, Corbinelli was secretary for a time; but she regretted the
_petite personne_. "... I don't like a secretary who is cleverer than
I am.... The child suited me much better."

And there the happy little figurine, having danced her hour at Les
Rochers, leaves the stage. Other _petites personnes_ there are--one
the sister of _La Murinette Beaute_, who got on so well with M. de
Rohan, and was a lady of Madame de Chaulnes', and presently married
a respectable gentleman, a M. de le Bedoyere of Rennes. But these are
too high levels for the granddaughter of the good-wife Marcile. That
_petite personne_, moreover, was a rather sophisticated young lady.
One would never have seen her, in the mornings, munching a hunk of
bread-and-butter "as long as from here to Easter." No; Jeannette has
fulfilled her part, providing a whiff of marjoram and cottage flowers
for the castle chambers. She has read, written and said her prayers.
She has the firm outline, the rosy cheeks, the simplicity of a Watteau
peasant-girl--nothing of the Greuze languish, with its hint of a
_cruche cassee_. She is as fresh as a March wind. Let us believe that
she found a true man to relish her prettiness and sharp little wits.




A FOOL OF QUALITY


Tom Coryat, the "single-soled, single-souled and single-shirted
observer of Odcombe," having finally bored his neighbours in the
country past bearing, was volleyed off upon a tempest of their yawns
to London. Exactly when that was I can't find out, but I suppose it to
have been in the region of 1605.

In London he set up for a wit, was enrolled in "The Right Worshipful
Fraternity of Sireniacal Gentlemen," who met at "The Sign of the
Mere-maide in Bread Streete"; had John Donne and Ben Jonson among his
convives, and may well have seen Shakespeare and heard him talk, if
he did talk. How he appeared himself we can only guess, but I conceive
his position in the society to have been that of Polonius in the
convocation of politic worms, as one, namely, where he was eaten
rather than eating. That, if it was so, may have determined him to
make a name for himself by what was his strongest part, namely, his
feet.

In 1608 he, the "Odcombian leg-stretcher," did indeed travel "for five
months, mostly on foot, from his native place of Odcombe in Somerset,
through France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia, Helvetia, some parts of High
Germany, and the Netherlands, making in the whole 1975 miles." He
started on the 14th May and was in London again on the 3rd October,
and if indeed he did travel mostly on foot, I call it a very
creditable performance. The result was a book more talked of than
read. "Coryat's Crudities, hastily gobbled up in five months' travels
... newly digested in the hungry aire of Odcombe in his county of
Somerset, and now dispersed to the nourishment of the travelling
members of this Kingdom." So runs the text of a Palladian title-page,
surrounded by emblems of adventure which support a _vera effigies_ of
Tom himself. He shows there as a beady-eyed bonhomme of thirty-five
or so, with a Jacobean beard, and his hair brushed back and worn long,
like that of our present-day young men.

The book published, the Sireniacal Gentlemen took off their coats and
took up their battledores. Their gibes and quirks are all printed in
my edition, and are better reading than the book itself. Coryat was a
cockscomb and scorned a straight sentence. A rule of his was: "Never
use one adjective if three will do." So far as I know he was the first
Englishman who travelled for the fun or the glory of the thing, unless
Fynes Moryson anticipated him in those also, as he certainly did in
travelling and writing about it. But I think it more probable that
Moryson went abroad to improve his mind. I don't think Coryat had any
notion of that. Foppery may have moved him, vanity perhaps; in any
case there can be no comparison between them. Moryson is thorough,
Coryat is not. Moryson is often dull, Coryat seldom. Moryson was
a student, Coryat a cockscomb. Moryson was a plain man, Coryat a
euphuist of the first water. I haven't the least doubt but that
Shakespeare met him at the Mermaid--he called himself a friend of
Ben Jonson's--and took the best of him. You will find him in _Love's
Labour's Lost_ as well as in _All's Well_. For a foretaste of his
quality take a small portion of his first sentence, the whole of which
fills a page: "I was imbarked at Dover, about tenne of the clocke in
the morning, the fourteenth of May 1608, and arrived at Calais ...
about five of the clocke in the afternoone, after I had varnished the
exterior parts of the ship with the excrementall ebullitions of my
tumultuous stomach...." There is more about it, but that will do.
Shakespeare can never have missed such a man as that.

Coryat's abiding sensation throughout his travels was astonishment,
not at the things which he saw, but rather that he from Odcombe in
Somerset should be seeing them. He can never get over it. Here am I,
Odcombian Tom, face to face with Amiens Cathedral, with the tombs of
the kings at Saint Denis, at Fountaine Beleau cheek by jowl with Henri
IV., crossing in a litter the "stupendious" Mont Cenis, pacing the
Duomo of Milan, disputing with a Turk in Lyons, with a Jew in Padua,
to the detriment of their religions, "swimming" in a gondola on the
Grand Canal: here I am, and now what about it? There is always an
imported flavour of Odcombe about it. He brings it with him and
sprinkles it like scent. He is careful at every stage of his journey
to give you the mileage from his own door; his measure of a city's
quality is its worth to him as a gift were Odcombe the alternative.
Few cities indeed survive the test. Mantua stood a fair chance. "That
most sweet Paradise, that _domicilium Venerum et Charitum_," did
so ravish his senses and tickle his spirits, he says, that he would
desire to live there and spend the remainder of his days "in some
divine meditations among the sacred Muses," but for two things, "their
grosse idolatry and superstitious ceremonies, which I detest, and the
love of Odcombe in Somersetshire, which is so deare unto me that I
preferre the very smoak thereof before the fire of all other places
under the sunne." So much for Mantua; but Venice, before whose
"incomparable and most decantated majestie" his pen faints--Venice
beats Odcombe, or something very much like it. He decides that should
"foure of the richest mannors of Somersetshire" have been offered
him if he would have undertaken not to see Venice, he would have gone
without the manors. Odcombe, you see, is not put in question here. He
was afraid to risk it.

When he came home he hung up his pair of shoes in the chancel of
Odcombe Church, and they may be there to this day for all I know.

The Sireniacal Gentlemen made great sport of him.

  If any aske in verse what soar I at?
  My Muse replies The praise of Coryat----

so John Gyfford begins,

  A work that will eternise thee till God come
  And for thy sake the famous parish Odcombe----

so George Sydenham ends. Ben Jonson is not represented at the revels,
and Inigo Jones lets his high spirits run away with him beyond the
bounds of modern printing. Donne is not at his best:

  Lo, here's a man worthy indeed to travell
  Fat Libian plaines, strangest China's gravell;
  For Europe well hath seen him stirre his stumpes,
  Turning his double shoes to simple pumpes.

--the wit of which escapes me. Better is the conceit of

  What had he done, had he e'er hugged th' ocean
  With swimming Drake or famous Magelan,
  And kiss'd that unturn'd cheeke of our old mother,
  Since so our Europe's world he can discover?

The "unturn'd cheeke of our old mother!" The New World should be
pleased with that.

In 1615 he made a much further flight, and was to be heard of at "the
Court of the most Mighty Monarch, the Great Mogul," whence he wrote
to, among other people, the High Seneschal of the "Right Worshipful
Fraternity of Sireniacal Gentlemen that meet the first Friday of
every month at the Signe of the Mere-maide in Bread-Streete." In this
particular letter he greets by name Mr. John Donne, "the author of two
most elegant Latine Bookes," Master Benjamin Jonson, the poet, at his
chamber in the Blacke Friars, Mr. Samuel Purkas, and Mr. Inigo
Jones, and signs himself "the Hierosolymitan--Syrian--Mesopotamian
--Armenian--Median--Parthian--Persian--Indian--Leggestretcher
of Odcomb in Somerset." The news he gives of "the most famigerated
Region of all the East, the ample and large India," is various and
occasionally incredible, but none the worse perhaps for that. You
must allow the leg-stretcher to be something also of a leg-puller. The
Great Mogul had elephant-fights twice a week, we learn. He might well
do so if we could believe that he maintained three thousand of them
"at an unmeasurable charge." Proceeding, nevertheless, to measure it,
Coryat finds it works out at L10,000 a day, which is pretty good even
for the Mogul. He also had a thousand wives, "whereof the chiefest
(which is his Queene) is called Normal." I like her name. Coryat
rode on an elephant, "determining one day (by God's leave) to have my
picture expressed in my next book, sitting upon an elephant." But the
voyage to the East was one too many for "the ingenious perambulator,"
and he died of a flux at Surat in December, 1617. Certain English
merchants offered him refreshments. "Sack, sack, is there any such
thing as sack? I pray you give me some sack." They did; the dysentery
was upon him at the time. Even as Sir John might have done did he, and
was buried "under a little monument." _Sic exit Coryatus_, says his
biographer.

No sooner was he dead than his fellow Sireniacks fell upon his
reputation and tore it to shreds.

  He was the imp, whilst he on earth surviv'd,
  From whom this West-World's pastimes were deriv'd;
  He was in city, country, field and court
  The well of dry-trimm'd jests, the pump of sport.

So writes the Water Poet. Another wag trounces his Crudities:

  Tom Coriat, I have seen thy Crudities,
  And methinks very strangely brewed it is,
  With piece and patch together glued it is;
  And now (like thee) ill-favour'd hued it is.
  In many a line I see that lewd it is,
  And therefore fit to be subdued it is--

and much more to the same effect.

Coryat's "natalitial place," as it happens, is very near to mine, and
I find something to love in a man who can never forget it. He was
a cockscomb, he was an ass; but he preferred the West of England
to Italy. He called James I., our king, the "refulgent carbuncle of
Christendom," and Prince Charles "the most glittering chrysolite of
our English diademe" Both are hard sayings.




SHERIDAN AS MANIAC


All allowances made for the near alliance of great wits--"the lunatic,
the lover, and the poet"--there comes a point where the vagaries of
temperament overlap and are confounded, and where the historian, at
least, must take a line. None of Sheridan's biographers, and he has
had, as I think, more than his share, refer to an eclipse of his
rational self which he undoubtedly suffered; probably because it
was not made public until the other day. Yet there have always been
indications of the truth, as when, on his death-bed, he told Lady
Bessborough that his eyes would be looking at her through the
coffin-lid. Being the woman she was, she probably believed him, or
thought that she did. It is from her published letters that we may now
understand what reason she had for believing him.

These letters are contained in the correspondence of Lord Granville
Leveson-Gower, who was our Ambassador in Paris on and off between 1824
and 1841, a correspondence published in 1916, in two hefty volumes.
The period covered is from 1781 to 1821, and the documents are mainly
the letters to him of Lady Bessborough, which reveal a relation
between the pair so curious that, to me, it is extraordinary that
nobody should have called attention to them before. I can only account
for that by considering that the letters, which are very long, and
the volumes, which are very heavy, do not readily yield what store of
sweetness they possess, and that those in particular of Lord Granville
Gower have no store of sweetness to yield. They are the wooden letters
of a wooden young man. He may have been a beautiful young man, and
an estimable young man; but he was insensitive, dull, and a prig.
The best things he ever did in his days were to be belettered by Lady
Bessborough and married, finally, to her witty and sensible niece.

Meantime, there is no need to disguise the fact, since we have it in
cold print, that the acquaintance of the couple, begun at Naples in
1794 as a flirtation, developed rapidly, on the lady's side, into a
love affair which was only ended by her death. In 1794, when it all
began, Lady Bessborough was thirty-two, had been married for fourteen
years, and had four children. Granville Gower was twenty, well born,
rich, exceedingly good-looking, and with no excuse for not knowing all
about it. In fact, he knew it perfectly, and was not afraid to allude
to himself as Antinous. We hear more than enough of his fine blue eyes
from Lady Bessborough--and perhaps he did too. She, in her turn, was
to hear, poor soul, more than her own heart could bear. All that need
be said about that is that, being the woman she was, it was to be
expected. And exactly what sort of woman she was she herself puts upon
record, in April, 1812, in the following words:--

    "_Pour la rarete du fait et la bizarrerie des hommes_, I must
    put down what I dare tell nobody--I should be so much ashamed
    of it were it not so ridiculous. At this present April, 1812,
    in my fifty-first year, I am courted, follow'd, flatter'd, and
    made love to _en toutes les formes_, by four men--two of them
    reckoned sensible, and one of the two whom I have known half
    my life--Lord Holland, Ward, young M----n, and little M----y.
    Sir J.C. wanted to marry me when I was fifteen; so from that
    time to this--36 years, a
    pretty long life--I have heard or spoke that language; and for
    17 years of it lov'd almost to Idolatry the only man from whom
    I could have wish'd to hear it, the man who has probably lov'd
    me least of all those who have profess'd to do so--tho' once I
    thought otherwise."

Arrant sentimentalist, born and trained flirt, as this confession
shows her to have been, it also shows that she lived to rue it. She
rued more than that, for she was the mother of Lady Caroline Lamb; and
if anything more need be said of her misfortunes, let it be added
that she was sister to Georgiana of Devonshire. Nevertheless, it is
impossible to read her letters with her wooden young lord without
seeing that she had a good heart, if a very weak head. She loved much;
and for those whom she loved--her sister, her children, Granville
Gower--she was ready to dare all things, and fail in most. Of her
husband there is nothing to tell, for she hardly names him, except to
say that he has the gout. Not much is known of him, and nothing but
good. Horace Walpole wrote of his marriage in 1780: "I know nothing to
the prejudice of the young lady; but I should not have selected for so
gentle and very amiable a man a sister of the empress of fashion, nor
a daughter of the Goddess of Wisdom." The goddess of wisdom was her
formidable and trenchant mother, Lady Spencer.

But I don't intend to follow the vain stages of her sentimental
pilgrimage in pursuit of Lord Granville Gower's heart, vain because
apparently the young man had not such an organ at her disposal. It was
not, perhaps, for nothing that they exchanged reflections upon _Les
Liaisons Dangereuses_. A new Choderlos de Laclos would get a new
sentimental novel out of the Granville Gower correspondence; or it
may be taken as it stands for a recovered Richardson, quite as long
as _Sir Charles Grandison_ and much more amusing--for the poor lady is
often witty. The affair dragged on, with much scandal, much whispering
about it and about, until 1809, when the hero of it married Lady
Harriet Cavendish, his mistress's niece. J.W. Ward, one of her lovers,
according to her, sharply sums it up in a letter to Mrs. Dugald
Stewart: "Lord Granville Leveson is going to marry Lady Harriet
Cavendish. Lady Bessborough resigns, I presume, in favour of her
niece. I have not heard what are supposed to be the secret articles of
the treaty, but it must be a curious document." It was in 1812, as I
have said, that she wrote out the pathetic confession of what we must
suppose to have been the truth.

But I intended to write about Sheridan. This correspondence reveals
him as the evil genius of Lady Bessborough's life; and perhaps, if all
the truth were known, she may have been the evil genius of his, or one
of them, anyhow. She had adventures with him behind her in 1794, when
she began adventures anew; for they became intimate at Devonshire
House, where, as the crony of Charles Fox, he was always at hand. The
Duchess herself was one of his familiars. His initials for her, in
letter-writing, were T.L., which a biographer pleasantly interprets as
"True Love." The sisters, Countess and Duchess, shared in all good and
evil things, and they seem to have shared Sheridan. His chosen initial
for Lady Bessborough's address was "F," her second name being Frances.
Mr. Sichel prints a letter from him to her, and guesses it to be
of 1788. Extracts will suffice for the judicious: "I must bid 'oo
good-night, for by the light passing to and fro near your room I
hope you are going to bed and to sleep happily with a hundred little
cherubs fanning their white wings over you in approbation of your
goodness. Yours is the sweet, untroubled sleep of purity." It is to be
feared that she could swallow this over-succulent stuff. A very little
more will do for us: "And yet, and yet--Beware! Milton will tell
you that even in Paradise serpents found their way to the ear of
slumbering innocence. Then, to be sure, poor Eve had no watchful
guardian to pace up and down beneath her windows.... And Adam, I
suppose--was at Brooks's ... I shall be gone before your hazel eyes
are open to-morrow...."

Lady Duncannon, as she was then, lived in Cavendish Square. Sheridan's
leaguer of the house is thus betrayed. He never again left either her
or it alone for long, but beset them until his death. Bitterly enough
she was to rue that dalliance with the vainest sentimentalist ever
begotten in Ireland or fostered in England. His wife, as lovely as
a Muse and with the voice of a seraph, was to die; he was to adore,
pursue, and capture another; but he never let Lady Bessborough go, and
the antics of his mortified vanity were to lead her as far into the
mire as any woman could go without suffocation. Such experiences may
be common enough; it is rare to have them so nakedly portrayed as they
are in this lady's letters, and not easy to avoid the conclusion
that she made use of them to pique her wooden Antinous into some more
active kind of pose than that of allowing himself to be adored.

Sheridan was forty-three and married to his second wife when Lady
Bessborough fell in with Antinous at Naples; but it was not until the
attachment of those two had become a notoriety that he began to make
scenes about it. In 1798, when Granville Gower was in Berlin,
Lady Bessborough writes to him that she had been at a concert at
Sheridan's. "It was as pleasant as anything of the sort can be to me,
as I sat by Fitzpatrick and Grey, who always amuse me. Sheridan
says, when he found I did not come to town, he imagined that you
had interdicted my coming till your return, and is always asking me
whether what I am doing is allowed." That was March 12th; between that
and the 17th she seems to have met Sheridan every day and nearly every
night. "I must tell you, by the by ... that I am in great request this
year.... I have had three _violent_ declarations of love--one from
an old man, another from a very young one, and the third between the
other two.... Pray come back. If you stay long in Prussia, Heaven
knows what may happen."

In August of the same year she writes again. "Sheridan call'd in the
morning and found out that I was alone, and told me he would dine with
me. I thought, of course, he was in joke, but, _point du tout_, he
arriv'd at dinner, dined, and stayed the whole evening. He was very
pleasant, but--it was not you, and the seeing anybody only increas'd
my regrets, which I suppose were pretty visible, for every five
minutes he kept saying: 'How I am wasting all my efforts to entertain
you, while you are grieving that you cannot change me into _Lord
Leveson_. You would not be so grim if he was beaming on you.' At
length, as I thought he was preparing to pass the night as well as the
evening with me, and as he began to make some fine speeches I did not
quite approve of, I order'd my Chair, to get rid of him. This did
not succeed, for as I had no place to go to, he follow'd me about to
Anne's and Lady D----'s, where I knew I should not be let in, and home
again. But, luckily, I got in time enough to order every one to be
denied, and ran upstairs, while I heard him expostulating with the
porter...." It does not appear, from this narrative, that the hunted
fair was seriously annoyed at being hunted, and the implication of
Lord Granville in the unpleasant business is patent. Next year she has
asked her persecutor to help Antinous at his election, for his reply,
beginning "Dear Traitress," is given here.

After that, peace or silence, until 1802, when Sheridan changed his
tactics.

    "The opera was beautiful.... The Prince paid us two visits,
    but our chief company were Hare, Grey, and Sheridan, the
    latter persecuting me in every pause of the music and
    telling me he knew such things of you, could give me such
    incontrovertible proofs of your falsehood, and not only
    falsehood but treachery to me, that if I had one grain of
    pride or spirit left I should fly you. And guess what I
    answered, you who call me jealous. I told him I had such
    entire reliance on your faith, such confidence in your truth,
    that I should doubt my own eyes if they witness'd against your
    word. He pitied me, and said: 'How are the mighty fallen,' and
    then went on telling me things without end to drive me mad."
    That was in March. In August she writes, actually under siege:
    "Here I am quite alone in C. Square ... no carriage to watch
    for, no rap at the door ... and alas! no chance of hearing
    your step upon the stair.... Whilst I was regretting all this,
    suddenly, the knock did come, to my utter astonishment. I ran
    to the stair, and in a moment heard Sheridan's voice. I do
    not know why, but I took a horror of seeing him, and hurried
    Sally down to say I was out. I heard him answer: 'Tell her I
    call'd twice this morning, and want particularly to see her,
    for I know she is at home.' Sally protested I was out, and S.
    answered: 'Then I shall walk up and down before the door till
    she comes in,' and there he is walking sure enough. It is
    partly all the nonsense he talk'd all this year, and the
    hating to see any one when I cannot see you, that makes me
    dislike letting him in so much."

He solemnly did sentry-go for nearly an hour, she goes on to say. In
that hour he was in his fifty-first year, she in her fortieth.

If she revealed these sorry doings to Antinous with the view of
fanning embers, she did not succeed in drawing more than a languid
protest from him. "As to Sheridan, in the morning I purposely staid
in my room till the time of our setting out, and only saw him as I was
getting into the carriage, so had nothing more to tell.... You say I
am not angry enough. I am provok'd, vex'd, and asham'd. To feel more
deeply I must care for the person who offends me...." I cannot myself
read either vexation or shame in her reports. Provocation I can and do
read--but it is not she who is provoked.

In 1804, Antinous in Petersburg, there are new antics to record. "You
will think I live at the play; I am just return'd from Drury Lane....
Sheridan persists in coming every night to us. He says one word to my
sister; then retires to the further corner of the box, where with
arms across, deep and audible sighs, and sometimes _tears_! he remains
without uttering and motionless, with his eyes fix'd on me in the most
marked and distressing manner, during the whole time we stay. To-night
he followed us in before the play begun, and remained as I tell you
thro' the play and farce. As we were going I dropped my shawl
and muff; he picked them up and with a look of ludicrous humility
presented them to Mr. Hill to give me." And this was the author of
_The School for Scandal_.

Next year, being that of Trafalgar, and Sheridan's fifty-fourth, he
began a course of persecution which definitely marks an access of
dementia. The affair took an acute turn suddenly, and I don't intend
to say more about it than that it took the form of anonymous and
obscene letters, some of them addressed to Lady Bessborough's
daughter, Caroline, then a child, some to herself, some to the
children of the Duchess of Devonshire. The letters, which continued
throughout the year, were signed with the names of friends--a Mr.
Hill, J.W. Ward, and others. Some were sent out signed with her name.
The editor of the correspondence says that "Lady Bessborough was
subsequently convinced by evidence which appeared to her conclusive
that Sheridan was the writer." There can be no doubt of that whatever,
and as all the detail is in the published correspondence, little
more need be said. The wooden Antinous, in Petersburg, for his sole
comment, writes as follows: "I learn with sorrow that you are still
subjected to vexations from anonymous letters, etc. I suppose that
Sheridan is the author, though one would have imagined that, however
depraved his morals, and however malignant might be his mind, he would
have had _good taste_ enough not to have resorted to such a species of
vengeance." And that was all the fire to be blown into Antinous. "Good
taste" in the circumstances is comic.

By the end of the season of the same year, however, Sheridan seems to
have found out what he had done, and Lady Bessborough also sufficient
self-respect to have helped him find it out. This is what happened on
July 12th, at a ball. "I sat between Prince Adolphus and Mr. Hill at
supper; Sheridan sat opposite, looking by turns so supplicating and
so fiercely at me that everybody round observ'd it and question'd me
about it. I could only say what was so, that he was very drunk. When
I got up, he seiz'd my arm as I pass'd him, begging me to shake hands
with him. I extricated myself from his grasp and pass'd on; he soon
after follow'd and began loudly reproaching me for my _cruelty_, and
asking why I would not shake hands. I was extremely distress'd, but at
last told him his own sagacity might explain to him why I never would,
and that his conduct to-night did not tend to alter my determination.
I then hurried out of the room, and by way of completely avoiding him,
cross'd a very formal circle of old ladies, and went and seated myself
between Lady Euston and Lady Beverly. He had the impudence to follow
me, and in face of the whole circle to enter into a loud explanation
of his conduct, begging my pardon for all the offences he had ever
committed against me, either on this night or in former times, and
assuring me that he had never ceased loving, _respecting_ and adoring
me, and that I was the only person he ever really loved...." "Think,"
she says, "of the dismay of all the formal ladies." But the formal
ladies, no doubt, had every reason to know their Devonshire House set;
and if society in 1805 would allow Sheridan to be drunk and stay at a
ball, it would prefer him maudlin drunk to drunk and disorderly. One
is bound to add, too, that Lady Bessborough was a fool, though
that, to be sure, is no excuse for Sheridan proving himself both old
blackguard and old fool in one.

Next year the Duchess died, and her sister's active persecution
appears to have ceased. But Sheridan by no means let her alone. On the
contrary, he had the assurance to send as intercessor no less a person
than the Prince Regent. "The Prince sent so repeatedly to me, and has
been throughout so kind and feeling that I thought it wrong to persist
in refusing to see him, so to-day he came soon after two and stayed
till six!... He gave me a very pretty emerald ring, which he begg'd me
to wear, _to bind still stronger the tie of Brotherhood which he has
always claim'd_. In the midst of all this he brought me a message from
Sheridan." This, which she describes as a "well-timed Petition for
Forgiveness," she had the prudence to wave aside. She said that she
had no wish to injure him, and only asked him to keep out of her way,
or, if they happened to meet, to cease to persecute her. And that was
very well, or would have been so, if she had had any character at
all, a quality which she unfortunately had not. In 1807, the following
year, she goes out to spend the evening with her daughter, Lady
Caroline, now married to William Lamb. "The entrance is, you know,
very dark; to my dismay, I saw a ruffian-like looking man following
me into the house. I hasten'd upstairs, but to my great dismay he also
ascended and enter'd the room immediately after me. It was so dark
I could not at first make out who he was. When I did, I was not the
better pleas'd with his establishing himself and passing the whole
evening with us; but much as I was displeased with him, I was still
more so with myself for being unable to resist laughing and appearing
entertained (he was so uncommonly clever), tho' I persevered in my
determination of not speaking to him. I do not like his having got
the entree there, and think him, even old as he is, a dangerous
acquaintance for Caroline. Of course you perceive it was Sheridan."
Considering that she suspected him of having written and sent grossly
indecent letters to that girl of hers, one would have said that he was
even more than a dangerous acquaintance. Light-mindedness here spills
over into something rather worse. However, there he was, established,
and it was no way to dispossess him to laugh at his jokes.

I must now invite the reader to a farce, and, if he can forget that
Sheridan was a grandfather and fifty-six, a very good farce it is. It
is 1807, the 28th July. Lady Bessborough is staying with her daughter
for her first confinement, and receives a message from Mrs. Sheridan,
a rather wild young woman in her way, known to all Devonshire House as
Hecca. She goes at midnight,

    "... and was carried up to her bedroom, where we had not sat
    long when a violent burst at the door announc'd the arrival
    of Sheridan, not perfectly sober. The most ridiculous scene
    ensued--that is, ridiculous it would have been if I had not
    felt myself too indignant and disgusted to be entertain'd. He
    began by asking my pardon, entreating my mercy and compassion,
    saying that he was a wretch, and was even at that moment more
    in love with _me_ than with any woman he had ever met with, on
    which Hecca exclaimed: 'Not excepting me? Why, you always tell
    me that I am the only woman you were ever in love with.'
    'So you are, to be sure, my dear Hecca; you know _that_, of
    course--you _know_ that I love you better than anything
    on earth.' '_Except_ her!' 'Pish, pish, child! Do not talk
    nonsense.' Then he began again at me, upbraiding me for my
    cruelty, both for quarrelling with him and setting Hecca
    against him. The first, I said, I did in my own defence, the
    other was false, Hecca every now and then coming in with:
    'Why, S----, I thought Lady B---- pursued you, and that you
    reviled all her violence like a second Joseph? So you us'd
    to tell me.' I cannot give you all the conversation, for it
    lasted till near three in the morning.... Getting away was the
    difficulty; he wanted to come down with me, and seiz'd my arm
    with such violence once before Hecca, that I was obliged to
    call her maid to help me, and at last only escaped by locking
    him in."

This sort of thing happened once more, in the same year, at Brocket.
On this occasion Sheridan pursued his victim into the nursery, and
threw himself on his knees. It gave Lady Bessborough an opportunity
which even she could not fail to perceive--and she used it. "I
interrupted the most animated professions by showing him the child and
asking him if his grandchildren were as pretty as mine. He jump'd up,
but with such fury in his looks that I was really frighten'd..." And
that may very well be the end: _solvuntur tabulae risu_. Lord Granville
Gower married in 1809, and the confidential correspondence died the
death; but Sheridan lingered until 1816, and actually carried on his
desperate pursuit within three days of the end. She visited him, and
described what took place to Lord Broughton. He assured her, she said,
that he should visit her after his death. She asked, "Why, having
persecuted her all her life, would he now carry it into death?'
'Because I am resolved you shall remember me.'"[A] The story of his
telling her that his eyes would see her through the coffin-lid is well
known, and may be apocryphal; but the melodrama is Sheridan all over.

[Footnote A: Mr. Sichel, in his monumental book on Sheridan, doubts
the lady's memory, one of his grounds of doubt being that Sheridan
"would not have been likely to have thus behaved before his wife." But
Mr. Sichel did not then know what Sheridan was capable of doing before
his wife.]

Curiosity rather than edification is served by the publication of such
frank revelations as Lady Bessborough's, but that is a matter for her
descendants, and was probably considered. What relates to Sheridan is
quite another thing. On his death Byron hailed him with eloquent if
extravagant praise; he was buried in Westminster Abbey; three long
biographies have been written round him, not one of which has failed
to do justice to his abilities, and not one pointed out the extent of
his moral aberration. Mr. Sichel, the latest of them, says that "he
had pursued his own path and spurned the little arts of those who
twitted him with roguery." But if the Granville Gower correspondence
is to be believed--and how can it not--he was either a very bad rogue
or a madman. Sheridan, after all's said, made a great figure in
his day, and must stand the racket of it, so to speak. Gossip about
Harriet may be left to the idle; but Sheridan belongs to History.




A FOOTNOTE TO COLERIDGE


Coleridge is one of our great men who require many footnotes, for
there are characteristics of his which need all the extenuation they
can get. How comes it, for instance, that he could write, and not only
write but publish, in the same decade, and sometimes in the same year,
poetry which is of our very best, and some which for frozen inanity it
would be hard to equal anywhere? How could a thinker of his power of
brain cover leagues of letter-paper with windy nonsense and mawkish
insincerity? And finally, of what quality was the talk of one whose
social life was entirely monologue? To the first of these questions
Wordsworth perhaps helps with an analogy, but not very far; for it is
certain that Wordsworth's opinion of the importance of his own
verses was inflexible, whereas Coleridge, having another medium of
expression, was by no means so insistent upon publishing. Upon the
second, it may be observed that when a philosopher is at the same time
a poet, and therefore his own rhapsodist, it is probable that he will
charm the understanding of many, but certain that he will bewitch
his own. The certainty is clinched when the rhapsodist is without the
humorous sense. It was the possession of that which enabled Charles
Lamb, who loved him, to see him "Archangel, a little damaged," and
even in one dreadful moment of his life to reprove him for a too
oleaginous sympathy. Lamb, in fact, was always able to view his friend
with clear eyes. In a letter to Manning, enclosing "all Coleridge's
letters" to himself, he says that in them Manning will find "a good
deal of amusement, to see genuine talent struggling against a pompous
display of it." No criticism could be sounder. But Coleridge never
wavered from the belief that he was in no phase of his being an
ordinary man. If his thoughts were not ordinary thoughts, his
imaginings not ordinary imaginings, then his stomach-aches were not
ordinary stomach-aches, but strokes of calamity so grievous as to
demand from him copious commentary and appeals for more sympathy than
is ordinarily given to ordinary men. And, strange to say, he received
it. There was that in the "noticeable man with large grey eyes" which
drew the love of his friends and the regard of acquaintance. His talk
had the quality of his Ancient Mariner's; one could not choose
but hear. The accounts which we have of that, however, are mainly
sympathetic; it is not so certain how it affected hearers who were not
predisposed.

Lately a book has been published, or rather republished, which
illustrates Coleridge's relations with a world outside his own. _A
House of Letters_ (Jarrolds--N.D.), containing a selection of the
memoirs and correspondence of Miss Mary Matilda Betham, includes a
good many letters from Coleridge, and some few from Charles Lamb which
have not so far been recorded elsewhere. Miss Betham, who was born
in 1776, was a miniature painter by profession, and so far as can be
judged by reproductions a good one. She was a poetess, too, and the
compiler of a Biographical Dictionary of Celebrated Women. In 1797 she
published a volume of _Elegies_, which in 1802 was sent to Coleridge
by his friend Lady Boughton, and of which a short piece, "On a Cloud,"
transported him. He addressed immediately a blank-verse exhortation
"To Matilda Betham, from a Stranger," dated it Keswick, September 9th,
1802, signed it "S.T.C.," and sent it off.

  Matilda! I have heard a sweet tune play'd
  On a sweet instrument--thy Poesie,

it began; and went on to hope--

  That our own Britain, our dear mother Isle,
  May boast one Maid, a poetess indeed,
  Great as th' impassioned Lesbian, in sweet song,
  And O! of holier mind, and happier fate.

That was what he called twining her vernal wreath around the brows of
patriot Hope. He concluded with some cautionary lines whose epithets
are irresistibly comic:

  Be bold, meek Woman! but be wisely bold!
  Fly, ostrich-like, firm land beneath thy feet.

And for her ultimate reward--

  What nobler meed, Matilda! canst thou win
  Than tears of gladness in a Boughton's eyes,
  And exultation even in strangers' hearts?

It is a wonderful thing indeed that, having composed _The Ancient
Mariner_ (1797), _Love_ (1799), _Christabel_ (1797-1800), and _Kubla
Khan_ (1798), he should slip back into this eighteenth-century
flatulence--but Coleridge could do such things and not turn a hair.

Nevertheless, to a young poetess, a bad poem is still a poem, and
means a reader. An acquaintance invited in such terms will thrive, and
that of Miss Betham and the Stranger ripened into a friendship. She
went to stay at Greta Hall, painted portraits of Mrs. Coleridge
and Sara, and of some of the Southeys too. Through them she became
acquainted with the Lambs, and if never one of their inner circle,
was a familiar correspondent, and had relations with George Dyer, the
Morgans, the Thelwalls, Montagues, Holcrofts and others. Altogether
Lady Boughton's bow at a venture brought down a goodly quarry for Miss
Betham, but many waters were to flow under the restless philosopher
before he could swim into her ken again.

It was in 1808, in fact, when he was living in London (at the
_Courier_ office, 348, Strand), and in the midst of his second course
of lectures, that the intercourse was renewed--or rather it is there
that _A House of Letters_ enables us to pick it up. We find him then
writing in this kind of strain to Matilda:--

    "What joy would it not be to you, or to me, Miss Betham, to
    meet a Milton in a future state, and with that reverence
    due to a superior, pour forth our deep thanks for the noble
    feelings he had aroused in us, for the impossibility of many
    mean and vulgar feelings and objects which his writings had
    secured us!"

The Americans call that sort of thing poppycock, which seems a useful
phrase. No doubt there was more of it, though it is precisely there,
without subscription or signature, that the Editor of _A House of
Letters_ thinks fit to conclude. He has much to learn of the duties of
editorship, among other things, as we shall have to note before long,
reasonable care in recording and printing his originals. Upon that
letter, at any rate, _post_ if not _propter_, Miss Betham proposed to
the philosopher that he should sit to her, and that, with some demur,
he promised to do. An appointment was made to that end, and punctually
broken. Then came this letter of excuse, which should have been
worth many a miniature, being indeed a full-length portrait done by a
master-hand:--

    "Dear Miss Betham,--Not my will, but accident and necessity
    made me a truant from my promise. I was to have left Merton,
    in Surrey, at half-past eight on Tuesday morning with a Mr.
    Hall, who would have driven me in his chaise to town by ten;
    but having walked an unusual distance on the Monday, and
    talked and exerted myself in spirits that have been long
    unknown to me, on my return to my friend's house, being
    thirsty, I drank at least a quart of lemonade; the consequence
    was that all Tuesday morning, till indeed two o'clock in the
    afternoon, I was in exceeding pain, and incapable of quitting
    my room, or dismissing the hot flannels applied to my
    body...."

This was no ordinary philosopher; but the chapter is not yet full.

He left Merton, he says, at five, walked stoutly on, was detained an
hour and a half on Clapham Common, "in an act of mere humanity," and
finally reached Vauxhall.

    "At Vauxhall I took a boat for Somerset House: two mere
    children were my Charons; however, though against tide, we
    sailed safely to the landing-place, when, as I was getting
    out, one of the little ones (God Bless him!) moved the boat.
    On turning halfway round to reprove him, he moved it again,
    and I fell back on the landing-place. By my exertions I should
    have saved myself but for a large stone which
    I struck against just under my crown and unfortunately in the
    very same place which had been contused at Melton (_sic_) when
    I fell backward after learning suddenly and most abruptly of
    Captain Wordsworth's fate in the _Abergavenny_, a most dear
    friend of mine. Since that time any great agitation has
    occasioned a feeling of, as it were, a _shuttle_ moving from
    that part of the back of my head horizontally to my forehead,
    with some pain but more confusion."

The unction of that blessing called down upon his persecutor is
truly Coleridgian. "Melton" is the Editor's rendering of Malta, where
Coleridge was when he heard of John Wordsworth's drowning in 1805. He
had then kept his bed for a fortnight, or so he told Mrs. Coleridge.

Apparently no meeting took place, as yet another letter, dated 7th
May, relates how instead of going to New Cavendish Street, where Miss
Betham lived, he went to Old Cavendish Street, where she did not. "I
knocked at every door in Old Cavendish Street, not unrecompensed for
the present pain by the remembrances of the different characters
of voice and countenance with which my question was answered in
all gradations, from gentle and hospitable kindness to downright
brutality." Further promises and assurances are given, and in July, as
we learn from a letter of Southey's, the good Matilda was still high
in hopes that her sitter would eventually sit. Her hopes could not
have come from Southey, who had none. "You would have found him the
most wonderful man living in conversation, but the most impracticable
one for a painter, and had you begun the picture it is ten thousand
to one that you must have finished it from memory." He was right. When
his lectures were over, in June, Coleridge went to Bury St. Edmunds,
and by the 9th September he was in Cumberland. "Coleridge has arrived
at last, about half as big as the house," Southey writes to his
brother on that day. There he cogitated and there began _The Friend_,
and there the separation from his wife was finally made.

After the separation, very characteristically, he was less separated
from Mrs. Coleridge than he had been for many years. In 1810 he was
still in the Lakes, in the summer of which year his wife gives news of
him to the poetess. "Coleridge has been with me for some time past,
in good health, spirits and humour, but the _Friend_ for some
unaccountable reason, or for no reason at all, is utterly silent.
This, you will easily believe, is matter of perpetual grief to me, but
I am obliged to be silent on the subject, although ever uppermost in
my thoughts, but I am obliged to bear about a cheerful countenance,
knowing as I do by sad experience that to expostulate, or even to
hazard one anxious look, would soon drive him hence." Then comes a
sidelight on the Wordsworths. "Coleridge sends you his best thanks for
the elegant little book; I shall not, however, let it be carried
over to Grasmere, for _there_ it would soon be _soiled_, for the
Wordsworths are woeful destroyers of good books, as our poor library
will witness."

But all this was too good to last, and as everybody knows, it did not.
In October Coleridge left the Lakes with the Montagues, and almost
immediately after that the rupture with the Wordsworths occurred,
which involved also the family at Keswick. Southey's letter to Miss
Betham giving her an account of the affair has been published by
Mr. Dykes Campbell, and is misplaced in _A House of Letters_. The
unfortunate philosopher set up his rest with the Morgans, friends of
the Lambs, at Hammersmith; and there he was in February, 1811, when
Miss Betham conceived her project of getting him as a lion at the
party of her friend Lady Jerningham.

Lady Jerningham, blue mother of a bluer daughter (Lady Bedingfield)
and sister-in-law of the "Charming Man" of Walpole's and the Misses
Berry's acquaintance, was a friend of Miss Betham's of old standing.
Several letters of hers are in _A House of Letters_, but many more
of her daughter's. Whether it was her ladyship's or Miss Betham's
proposal there's no telling now; but Miss Betham, at any rate, did
not feel equal to the job, and called in Charles and Mary Lamb to help
her. Mary, in the first instance, sounded the philosopher, and with
success. I quote from Mr. Lucas's edition of the Lamb letters, as
the editor of Miss Betham's misreads and misprints his original.
"Coleridge," she writes, "has given me a very cheerful promise that he
will wait on Lady Jerningham any day you will be pleased to appoint.
He offered to write to you, but I found it was to be done _to-morrow_,
and as I am pretty well acquainted with his to-morrows, I thought good
to let you know his determination to-day. He is in town to-day, but
as he is often going to Hammersmith for a night or two, you had better
perhaps send the invitation through me, and I will manage it for
you as well as I can. You had better let him have four or five days'
previous notice, and you had better send the invitation as soon as
you can; for he seems tolerably well just now. I mention all these
betters, because I wish to do the best I can for you, perceiving, as I
do, it is a thing you have set your heart on."

Charles was next brought in. Mr. Lucas gives his letter (I. 429) to
John Morgan, which says, "There--don't read any further, because the
letter is not intended for you, but for Coleridge, who might perhaps
not have opened it directed to him _suo nomine_. It is to invite C.,
to Lady Jerningham's on Sunday."

Finally, Coleridge went to the party, and apparently in company,
though it is not clear in whose company. This is what Lady Jerningham
thought about it:--

    "My dear Miss Betham,--I have been pleased with your friends,
    tho' (which is not singular) they sometimes fly higher than my
    imagination can follow. I think the author ought to mix
    more, I will not say with Fools, but with People of Common
    Comprehension. His own intellect would be as bright, and
    what emanated from it more clear. This is perhaps a very
    impertinent Remark for me to venture at making, but your
    indulgence invited sincerity."

That letter, I think, whose capitals are particularly graphic, throws
the whole party up in a dry light. One can see the rhapsodist talking
interminably, involving himself ever deeplier in a web of his own
spinning; the great lady gazing in wonder. It is one of the very few
impartial witnesses we have to his conversational feats. Nearly all
the evidence is tainted either by predisposition in his favour or the
reverse. Hazlitt, a mainly hostile witness, says that he talked well
on every subject; Godwin on none. One suspects antithesis there. He
reports Holcroft as saying that "he thought Mr. C. a very clever man,
with a great command of language, but that he feared he did not always
affix very precise ideas to the words he used!" Then we have
Byron, who wrote for effect, and whose aim was scorn. "Coleridge is
lecturing. 'Many an old fool,' said Hannibal to some such lecturer,
'but such as this, never.'" Tom Moore, who met Coleridge at
Monkhouse's famous poets' dinner-party, goes no further than to allow
that "Coleridge told some tolerable things:" but what Tom wanted was
anecdote. Directly Coleridge began upon theory Moore was bored. He
shuts him down with a "This is absurd." Rogers was present at that
party, but we don't know what he thought about it. He admits that
Coleridge was a marvellous talker, however. "One morning when Hookham
Frere also breakfasted with me, Coleridge talked for three hours
without intermission about poetry, and so admirably that I wish every
word he uttered had been written down." But it was not always so
well. He says elsewhere that he and Wordsworth once called upon him.
Coleridge "talked uninterruptedly for about two hours, during which
Wordsworth listened with profound attention, every now and then
nodding his head. On quitting the lodging, I said to Wordsworth,
'Well, for my own part, I could not make head or tail of Coleridge's
oration; pray, did you understand it?' 'Not one syllable of it,' was
Wordsworth's reply."

Keats' account is capital. He met the Sage between Highgate and
Hampstead, he says, and "walked with him, at his alderman-after-dinner
pace, for near two miles, I suppose. In those two miles he broached
a thousand things. Let me see if I can give you
a list--nightingales--poetry--on poetical
sensation--metaphysics--different genera and species of
dreams--nightmare--a dream accompanied with a sense of touch--single
and double touch--a dream related--first and second consciousness--the
difference explained between will and volition--so say
_metaphysicians_ from a _want of smoking the second
consciousness_--monsters--the Kraken--mermaids--Southey believes
in them--Southey's belief too much diluted--a ghost story--Good
morning--I heard his voice as he came towards me--I heard it as he
moved away--I had heard it all the interval--if it may be called so."

Charles Lamb's is even better. On his way to the city he met
Coleridge, and "in spite of my assuring him that time was precious, he
drew me within the door of an unoccupied garden by the roadside, and
there, sheltered from observation by a hedge of evergreens, he took me
by the button of my coat, and closing his eyes, commenced an eloquent
discourse, waving his right hand gently, as the musical words flowed
in an unbroken stream from his lips. I listened entranced; but the
striking of a church-clock recalled me to a sense of duty." Charles
cut himself free with a pen-knife, he says, and went off to his
office. "Five hours afterwards, in passing the garden on my way home,
I heard Coleridge's voice, and on looking in, there he was, with
closed eyes--the button in his fingers--his right hand gracefully
waving." A good story, at least. This was no company for Lady
Jerningham, who demanded clarity, and probably had a good deal to do.

Lastly, we have Coleridge's own confession to Miss Betham that
"Bacchus ever sleek and young," as at this time Lamb called him,
"pouring down," he went on to say, "goblet after goblet," must
have outdone his usual outdoings. Here is the best he can say for
himself:--

    "True history will be my sufficient apology. After my return
    from Lady J.'s on Monday night, or rather morning, I awoke
    from my short sleep unusually indisposed, and was at last
    forced to call up the good daughter of the house at an early
    hour to get me hot water and procure me medicine. I could not
    leave my bed till past six Monday evening, when I crawled
    out in order to see Charles Lamb, and to afford him such
    poor comfort as my society might perhaps do in the present
    dejection of his spirits and loneliness."

There is much more to the same effect; and surely it is not often that
a philosopher, or even a poet, will treat his post-prandial dumps (to
call them so) as a stroke of adverse fortune. Coleridge takes it as
an act of God. "This, my dear Miss Betham, waiving all connexion of
sentences, is the history of my breach of engagement, of its cause,
and of the occasion of that cause." There is much of Mr. Micawber
here.

And here, so far as _A House of Letters_ can help us, Coleridge's
correspondence with Matilda Betham ends. It may well have been the end
indeed. From that date onwards the wreck of the thinker and poet slid
swiftly down the slope appointed, until he came up, after many bumps,
in the hospitable Highgate backwater where he was to end his days.
It was a wonderful London which within the same twenty years could
harbour three men, like Blake, Coleridge and Shelley, in whom the
incondite spirit which we call genius dwelt so near the surface
of conscious being, and had such freedom to range. With Blake and
Shelley, however, once over the threshold, it was untrammelled--and
with Blake at least entirely innocuous to society, except to one
drunken soldier who richly deserved what he got. But with Coleridge,
throughout his career, one sees it struggling like a fly glued in
treacle, pausing often to cleanse its wings. The fly, you adjudge,
walked into the treacle. But Coleridge always thought that it was the
treacle which had walked over him.




THE CRYSTAL VASE


I have often wished that I could write a novel in which, as mostly
in life, thank goodness, nothing happens. Jane Austen, it has been
objected, forestalled me there, and it is true that she very nearly
did--but not quite. It was a point for her art to make that the
novel should have form. Form involved plot, plot a logic of events;
events--well, that means that there were collisions. They may have
been mild shocks, but persons did knock their heads together, and
there were stars to be seen by somebody. In life, in a majority of
cases, there are no stars, yet life does not on that account cease to
be interesting; and even if stars should happen to be struck out, it
is not the collision, nor the stars either, which interest us most.
No, it is our state of soul, our mental process under the stress which
we care about, and as mental process is always going on, and the state
of the soul is never the same for two moments together, there is ample
material for a novel of extreme interest, which need never finish,
which might indeed be as perennial as a daily newspaper or the _Annual
Register_. Why is it, do you suppose, that anybody, if he can, will
read anybody else's letter? It is because every man-Jack of us lives
in a cage, cut off from every other man-Jack; because we are incapable
of knowing what is going on in the mind of our nearest and dearest,
and because we burn for the assurance we may get by evidence of
homogeneity procurable from any human source. Man is a creature of
social instinct condemned by his nature to be solitary. Creatures in
all outward respects similar to himself are awhirl about him. They
cannot help him, nor he them; he cannot even be sure, for all he may
assume it, that they share his hope and calling.

    Ensphered in flesh we live and die,
      And see a myriad souls adrift,
    Our likes, and send our voiceless cry
      Shuddering across the void: "The truth!
    Succour! The truth!" None can reply.

That is the state of our case. We can cope with mere events, comedy,
tragedy, farce. The things that happen to us are not our life. They
are imposed upon life, they come and go. But life is a secret process.
We only see the accretions.

The novel which I dreamed of writing has recently been done, or rather
begun, by Miss Dorothy Richardson. She betters the example of Jane
Austen by telling us much more about what seems to be infinitely less,
but is not so in reality. She dips into the well whereof Miss Austen
skims the surface. She has essayed to report the mental process of a
young woman's lifetime from moment to moment. In the course of four,
if not five, volumes nothing has happened yet but the death of a
mother and the marriage of a sister or so. She may write forty, and I
shall be ready for the forty-first. Mental process, the states of
the soul, emotional reaction--these as they are moved in us by other
people are Miss Richardson's subject-matter, and according as these
are handled is the interest we can devote to her novels. These
fleeting things are Miss Richardson's game, and they are the things
which interest us most in ourselves, and the things which we desire to
know most about in our neighbours.

But, of course, it won't do. Miss Richardson does not, and cannot,
tell us all. A novel is a piece of art which does not so much report
life as transmute it. She takes up what she needs for her purpose, and
that may not be our purpose. And so it is with poetry--we don't go to
that for the facts, but for the essence of fact. The poet who told us
all about himself at some particular pass would write a bad poem, for
it is his affair to transfigure rather than transmute, to move us by
beauty at least as much as by truth. What we look for so wistfully
in each other is the raw material of poetry. We can make the finished
article for ourselves, given enough matter; and indeed the poetry
which is imagined in contemplation is apt to be much finer than that
which has passed through the claws of prosody and syntax. The fact,
to be short with it, is that literature has an eye upon the consumer.
Whether it is marketable or not, it is intended for the public. Now
no man will undress in public with design. It may be a pity, but so
it is. Undesignedly, I don't say. It would be possible, I think,
by analysis, to track the successive waves of mental process in _In
Memoriam_. Again, _The Angel in the House_ brought Patmore as near to
self-explication as a poet can go. Shakespeare's Sonnets offer a more
doubtful field of experiment.

What then? Shall we go to the letter-writers--to Madame de Sevigne, to
Gray, to Walpole and Cowper, Byron and Lamb? A letter-writer implies
a letter-reader, and just that inadequacy of spoken communication
will smother up our written words. Madame de Sevigne must placate her
high-sniffing daughter, Gray must please himself; Walpole must at any
cost be lively, Cowper must be urbane to Lady Hesketh or deprecate
the judgment of the Reverend Mr. Newton. Byron was always before the
looking-glass as he wrote; and as for Charles Lamb, do not suppose
that he did anything but hide in his clouds of ink. Sir Sidney Colvin
thinks that Keats revealed himself in his letters, but I cannot agree
with him. Keats is one of the best letter-writers we have; he can be
merry, fanciful, witty, thoughtful, even profound. He has a sardonic
turn of language hardly to be equalled outside Shakespeare. "Were it
in my device, I would reject a Petrarchal coronation--on account of my
dying day, and because women have cancers?" Where will you match that
but from Hamlet? But Keats knew himself. "It is a wretched thing to
confess, but it is a very fact, that not one word I can utter can be
taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical Nature."
So I find him in his letters, swayed rather by his fancies than his
states of soul, until indeed that soul of his was wrung by agony of
mind and disease of body. Revelation, then, like gouts of blood,
did issue, but of that I do not now write. No man is sane at such a
crisis.

_Parva componere magnis_, there is a letter contained in _The Early
Diary of Frances Burney_(ed. Mrs. A.R. Ellis, 1889), more completely
apocalyptic than anything else of the kind accessible to me. Its
writer was Maria Allen, daughter of Dr. Burney's second wife,
therefore half-sister to the charming Burney girls. She was a young
lady who could let herself go, in act as well as on paper, and withal,
as Fanny judged her, "flighty, ridiculous, uncommon, lively, comical,
entertaining, frank, and undisguised"--or because of it--she
did contrive to unfold her panting and abounding young self more
thoroughly than the many times more expert. You have her here in the
pangs of a love-affair, of how long standing I don't know, but now
evidently in a bad state of miss-fire. It was to end in elopement,
post-chaise, clandestine marriage, in right eighteenth-century. Here
it is in an earlier state, all mortification, pouting and hunching of
the shoulder. I reproduce it with Maria's punctuation, which shows it
to have proceeded, as no doubt she did herself, in gasps:

    "I was at the Assembly, forced to go entirely against my own
    Inclination. But I always have sacrificed my own Inclinations
    to the will of other people--could not resist the pressing
    Importunity of--Bet Dickens--to go--tho' it proved Horribly
    stupid. I drank tea at the--told old Turner--I was determined
    not to dance--he would not believe me--a wager ensued--half
    a crown provided I followed my own Inclinations--agreed--Mr.
    Audley asked me. I refused--sat still--yet followed my own
    Inclinations. But four couple began--Martin (c'etait Lui)
    was there--yet stupid--n'importe--quite Indifferent--on both
    sides--Who had I--to converse with the whole Evening--not
    a female friend--none there--not an acquaintance--All
    Dancing--who then--I've forgot--n'importe--I broke my
    earring--how--heaven knows--foolishly enough--one can't always
    keep on the Mask of Wisdom--well n'importe I danced a Minuet a
    quatre the latter end of the Eve--with a stupid Wretch--need
    I name him--They danced cotillions almost the whole Night--two
    sets--yet I did not join them--Miss Jenny Hawkins danced--with
    who--can't you guess--well--n'importe------"

There is more, but my pen is out of breath. Nobody but Mr. Jingle ever
wrote like that; and in so far as Maria Allen may be said to have had
a soul, there in its little spasms is the soul of Maria Allen, with
all the _malentendus_ of the ballroom and all the surgings of a
love-affair at cross-purposes thrown in.

As for Fanny Burney's early diary, its careful and admirable editor
claims that you have in it "the only published, perhaps the only
existing record of the life of an English girl, written of herself in
the eighteenth century." I believe that to be true. It is a record,
and a faithful and very charming record of the externals of such a
life. As such it is, to me, at least, a valuable thing. If it does
not unfold the amiable, brisk, and happy Fanny herself, there are two
simple reasons why it could not. First, she was writing her journal
for the entertainment of old Mr. Crisp of Chessington, the "Daddy
Crisp" of her best pages; secondly, it is not at all likely that she
knew of anything to unfold. Nor, for that matter, was Fanny herself of
the kind that can unfold to another person. Yet there is a charm all
over the book, which some may place here, some there, but which
all will confess. For me it is not so much that Fanny herself is a
charming girl, and a girl of shrewd observation, of a pointed pen, and
an admirable gift of mimicry. She has all that, and more--she has a
good heart. Her sister Susan is as good as she, and there are many of
Susan's letters. But the real charm of the book, I think, is in the
series of faithful pictures it contains of the everyday round of an
everyday family. Dutch pictures all--passers-by, a knock at the front
door, callers--Mr. Young, "in light blue embroidered with silver,
a bag and sword, and walking in the rain"; a jaunt to Greenwich, a
concert at home--the Agujari in one of her humours; a masquerade--a
very private one, at the house of Mr. Laluze.... Hetty had for three
months thought of nothing else ... she went as a Savoyard with a
hurdy-gurdy fastened round her waist. Nothing could look more simple,
innocent and pretty. "My dress was a close pink Persian vest
covered with a gauze in loose pleats...." What else? Oh, a visit to
Teignmouth--Maria Allen now Mrs. Ruston; another to Worcester; quiet
days at King's Lynn, where "I have just finished _Henry and Frances_
... the greatest part of the last volume is wrote by Henry, and on
the gravest of grave subjects, and that which is most dreadful to our
thoughts, Eternal Misery...." Terrific novel: but need I go on? There
may be some to whom a description of the nothings of our life will be
as flat as the nothings themselves--but I am not of that party. The
things themselves interest me, and I confess the charm. It is the
charm of innocence and freshness, a morning dew upon the words.

The Burneys, however, can do no more for us than shed that auroral
dew. They cannot reassure us of our normal humanity, since they needed
reassurance themselves.

Where, then, shall we turn? So far as I am aware, to two only, except
for two others whom I leave out of account. Rousseau is one, for it is
long since I read him, but my recollection is that the _Confessions_
is a kind of novel, pre-meditated, selective, done with great art.
Marie Bashkirtseff is another. I have not read her at all. Of the two
who remain I leave Pepys also out of account, because, though it may
be good for us to read Pepys, it is better to have read him and be
through with it. There, under the grace of God, go a many besides
Pepys, and among them every boy who has ever befouled a wall with a
stump of pencil. We are left then with one whom it is ill to name
in the same fill of the inkpot, "Wordsworth's exquisite sister," as
Keats, who saw her once, at once knew her to be.

In Dorothy Wordsworth's journals, you may have the delight of daily
_intercourse--famigliarmente discorrendo_--with one of the purest
and noblest souls ever housed in flesh; to that you may add the
reassurance to be got from word and implication beyond doubt. She
tells us much, but implies more. We may see deeply into ourselves, but
she sees deeply into a deeper self than most of us can discern. It is
not only that, knowing her, we are grounded in the rudiments of honour
and lovely living; it is to learn that human life can be so lived, and
to conclude that of that at least is the Kingdom of Heaven.

These journals are for fragments only of the years which they cover,
and as such exist for Jan.-May, 1798 (Alfoxden); May-Dec, 1800,
Oct.-Dec, 1801, Jan.-July, 1802: all these at Grasmere. They have been
printed by Professor Knight, and I have the assurance of Mr. Gordon
Wordsworth that what little has been omitted is unimportant. Nothing
is unimportant to me, and I wish the whole had been given us; but
what we have is enough whereby to trace the development of her
extraordinary mind and of her power of self-expression. The latter,
undoubtedly, grew out of emotion, which gradually culminated until the
day of William Wordsworth's marriage. There it broke, and with it, as
if by a determination of the will, there the revelation ceased. A new
life began with the coming of Mary Wordsworth to Dove Cottage, a life
of which Dorothy records the surface only.

The Alfoxden fragment (20 Jan.-22 May, 1798), written when she
was twenty-seven, is chiefly notable for its power of interpreting
landscape. That was a power which Wordsworth himself possessed in
a high degree. There can be no doubt, I think, that they egged each
other on, but I myself should find it hard to say which was egger-on
and which the egged. This is the first sentence of it:

    "20 Jan.--The green paths down the hillsides are channels for
    streams. The young wheat is streaked by silver lines of water
    running between the ridges, the sheep are gathered together
    on the slopes. After the wet dark days, the country seems more
    populous. It peoples itself in the sunbeams."

Here is one of a few days later:

    "23rd.--Bright sunshine; went out at 3 o'cl. The sea perfectly
    calm blue, streaked with deeper colour by the clouds, and
    tongues or points of sand; on our return of a gloomy red. The
    sun gone down. The crescent moon, Jupiter and Venus. The sound
    of the sea distinctly heard on the tops of the hills, which
    we could never hear in summer. We attribute this partly to
    the bareness of the trees, but chiefly to the absence of the
    singing birds, the hum of insects, that noiseless noise which
    lives in the summer air. The villages marked out by beautiful
    beds of smoke. The turf fading into the mountain road."

She handles words, phrases, like notes or chords of music, and never
gets her landscape by direct description. One more picture and I must
leave it:

    "26.-- ... Walked to the top of a high hill to see a
    fortification. Again sat down to feed upon the prospect; a
    magnificent scene, _curiously_ spread out for even minute
    inspection though so extensive that the mind is afraid to
    calculate its bounds...."

Coleridge was with them most days, or they with him. Here is a curious
point to note. Dorothy records:

    "March 7th.--William and I drank tea at Coleridge's. Observed
    nothing particularly interesting.... One only leaf upon the
    top of a tree--the sole remaining leaf--danced round and round
    like a rag blown by the wind."

And Coleridge has in _Christabel_:

  The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
  That dances as often as dance it can,
  Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
  On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.

William, Dorothy, and Coleridge went to Hamburg at the end of that
year, but in 1800 the brother and sister were in Grasmere; and the
journal which opens with May 14, at once betrays the great passion of
Dorothy's life:

    "William and John set off into Yorkshire after dinner at
    half-past two o'clock, cold pork in their pockets. I left them
    at the turning of the Low-Wood bay under the trees. My heart
    was so full I could hardly speak to W., when I gave him a
    farewell kiss. I sate a long time upon a stone at the margin
    of the lake, and after a flood of tears my heart was easier.
    The lake looked to me, I know not why, dull and melancholy,
    and the weltering on the shore seemed a heavy sound.... I
    resolved to write a journal of the time till W. and J. return,
    and I set about keeping my resolve, because I will not quarrel
    with myself, and because I shall give William pleasure by it
    when he comes again...."

"Because I will not quarrel with myself!" She is full of such
illuminations. Here is another:

    "Sunday, June 1st.--After tea went to Ambleside round the
    lakes. A very fine warm evening. Upon the side of Loughrigg
    _my heart dissolved in what I saw_."

Now here is her account of a country funeral which she reads into, or
out of, the countryside:

    "Wednesday, 3rd Sept.-- ... a funeral at John Dawson's.... I
    was affected to tears while we stood in the house, the coffin
    lying before me. There were no near kindred, no children.
    When we got out of the dark house the sun was shining, and
    the prospect looked as divinely beautiful as I ever saw it.
    It seemed more sacred than I had ever seen it, _and yet more
    allied to human life_. I thought she was going to a quiet
    spot, and I could not help weeping very much...."

The italics are mine. William was pleased to call her weeping "nervous
blubbering."

And then we come to 1802, the great last year of a twin life; the
last year of the five in which those two had lived as one soul and
one heart. They were at Dove Cottage, on something under L150 a year.
Poems were thronging thick about them; they were living intensely.
John was alive. Mary Hutchinson was at Sockburn. Coleridge was still
Coleridge, not the bemused and futile mystic he was to become. As for
Dorothy, she lives a thing enskied, floating from ecstasy to ecstasy.
It is the third of March, and William is to go to London. "Before we
had quite finished breakfast Calvert's man brought the horses for
Wm. We had a deal to do, pens to make, poems to be put in order for
writing, to settle for the press, pack up.... Since he left me at
half-past eleven (it is now two) I have been putting the drawers in
order, laid by his clothes, which he had thrown here and there and
everywhere, filed two months' newspapers, and got my dinner, two
boiled eggs and two apple tarts.... The robins are singing sweetly.
Now for my walk. I _will_ be busy. I _will_ look well, and be well
when he comes back to me. O the Darling! Here is one of his bitter
apples, I can hardly find it in my heart to throw it into the
fire.... I walked round the two lakes, crossed the stepping-stones at
Rydalefoot. Sate down where we always sit. I was full of thought of my
darling. Blessings on him." Where else in our literature will you find
mood so tender, so intimately, so delicately related?

A week later, and William returned. With him, it seems, her
descriptive powers. "Monday morning--a soft rain and mist. We walked
to Rydale for letters, The Vale looked very beautiful in excessive
simplicity, yet at the same time, uncommon obscurity. The church stood
alone, mountains behind. The meadows looked calm and rich, bordering
on the still lake. Nothing else to be seen but lake and island."
Exquisite landscape. For its like we must go to Japan. Here is
another. An interior. It is the 23rd of March, "about ten o'clock, a
quiet night. The fire flickers, and the watch ticks. I hear nothing
save the breathing of my beloved as he now and then pushes his book
forward, and turns over a leaf...." No more, but the peace of it is
profound, the art incomparable.

In April, between the 5th and 12th, William went into Yorkshire upon
an errand which she knew and dreaded. Her trouble makes the words
throb.

    "Monday, 12th.... The ground covered with snow. Walked to T.
    Wilkinson's and sent for letters. The woman brought me one
    from William and Mary. It was a sharp windy night. Thomas
    Wilkinson came with me to Barton and questioned me like a
    catechiser all the way. Every question was like the snapping
    of a little thread about my heart. I was so full of thought of
    my half-read letter and other things. I was glad when he left
    me. Then I had time to look at the moon while I was thinking
    of my own thoughts. The moon travelled through the clouds,
    tinging them yellow as she passed along, with two stars near
    her, one larger than the other.... At this time William, as
    I found the next day, was riding by himself between Middleham
    and Barnard Castle."

I don't know where else to find the vague torment of thought, its way
of enhancing colour and form in nature, more intensely observed. Next
day: "When I returned _William_ was come. _The surprise shot through
me._" This woman was not so much poet as crystal vase. You can see the
thought cloud and take shape.

The twin life was resumed for yet a little while. In the same month
came her descriptions of the daffodils in Gowbarrow Park, and of the
scene by Brothers Water, which prove to anybody in need of proof
that she was William's well-spring of poesy. Not that the journal is
necessarily involved. No need to suppose that he even read it. But
that she could make him see, and be moved by, what she had seen is
proved by this: "17th.-- ... I saw a robin chasing a scarlet butterfly
this morning"; and "Sunday, 18th.-- ... William wrote the poem on _The
Robin and the Butterfly_." No, beautiful beyond praise as the journals
are, it is certain that she was more beautiful than they. And what a
discerning, illuminative eye she had! "As I lay down on the grass, I
observed the glittering silver line on the ridge of the backs of the
sheep, owing to their situation respecting the sun, which made them
look beautiful, but with something of strangeness, like animals of
another kind, as if belonging to a more splendid world...." What a
woman to go a-gipsying through the world with!

Then comes the end.... "Thursday, 8th July.-- In the afternoon, after
we had talked a little, William fell asleep. I read _The Winter's
Tale_; then I went to bed but did not sleep. The swallows stole in and
out of their nest, and sat there, _whiles_ quite still; _whiles_ they
sung low for two minutes or more at a time, just like a muffled robin.
William was looking at _The Pedlar_ when I got up. He arranged it,
and after tea I wrote it out--280 lines.... The moon was behind....
We walked first to the top of the hill to see Rydale. It was dark and
dull, but our own vale was very solemn--the shape of Helm Crag was
quite distinct though black. We walked backwards and forwards on the
White Moss path; there was a sky like white brightness on the lake....
O beautiful place! Dear Mary, William. The hour is come.... I must
prepare to go. The swallows, I must leave them, the wall, the garden,
the roses, all. Dear creatures, they sang last night after I was in
bed; seemed to be singing to one another, just before they settled to
rest for the night. Well, I must go. Farewell."

Next day she set out with William to meet her secret dread, knowing
that life in Rydale could never be the same again. Wordsworth married
Mary Hutchinson on the 4th October, 1802. The secret is no secret now,
for Dorothy was a crystal vase.




_NOCTES AMBROSIANAE_

Weather has sent me indoors, chance to an old book. I have been
reading _Noctes Ambrosianae_ again. Bad buffoonery as much of it is and
full to the throttle of the warm-watery optimism induced by whisky,
yet as fighting literature it is incalculably better than its modern
substitute in _Blackwood_. The sniper who monthly tries to pinch out
his adversaries there--Mrs. Partington's nephew, in fact--wants the
one quality which will make that kind of thing intolerable--that is,
high spirits. The Black Hussars of Maga both had them, and drank
them, frequently neat. I judge that the Nephew has to be more careful.
Eupepsy is not revealed in his writing; but Christopher North and his
co-mates must have had the stomachs of ostriches. The guzzling and
swilling which were the staple of the _Noctes_ were remarked upon at
the time as incredible as well as disgusting; but it is to be presumed
that they wouldn't have been there if, to the majority at least, they
had not been a counsel of perfection. "I wasn't as drunk as I should
have liked to be, your Worship, but I was drunk."

As well as that, most people thought it exceedingly funny. Dickens
and his readers thought it funny too. Christmas would not have been
Christmas unless somebody got beastly drunk. We have moved on since
then, and carried the Nephew with us, _multum gementem_. One can see
him kicking violently under the arm of the _Zeitgeist_ as he is borne
down the ringing grooves of change. Now, therefore, he is tart in his
musings, chastises rather with fleas than with scorpions.

When the _Noctes_ can stand away from Politics and Literature--for the
two were always involved in those days, so that unless you approved a
man's party you couldn't allow that he wrote tolerable verse--they can
wile away a winter evening very pleasantly. Christopher North had an
eye for character, a sense of humour, and knew and loved the country.
He was country bred. He is at his best when he combines his loves,
as he does in the person of the Shepherd. Keep the Shepherd off (_a_)
girls, (_b_) nursing mothers, (_c_) the Sabbath, (_d_) eating, (_e_)
drinking, (_f_) his own poetry, and he is good reading. Knowing and
loving Ettrick Forest as I do, I need no better guide to it than
North's Shepherd. Having fished all its waters from Loch Skene
downwards, I should ask no better company, evenings, at Tibbie
Shields' or the Tushielaw Inn. Edward FitzGerald could have made a
good book out of the _Noctes_, cutting it down to one volume out of
four. As it is mainly, it will stand or fall by its high spirits. The
really funny character in it is Gurney, the shorthand writer, who is
kept in a cupboard, and at the end of the last uproarious chapter,
when the coast is cleared of the horseplaying protagonists, "comes out
like a mouse, and begins to nibble cheese." That is imagination.

The real Ettrick Shepherd was better than the _Noctes_ can make him.
Lockhart gives a delightful account of his first visit to Walter Scott
in Castle Street--his first visit, mind you. He is shown into the
drawing-room and finds Mrs. Scott, disposed, _a la_ Madame Recamier,
on a sofa. His acuteness comes to the aid of his bewilderment, and he
is quick to extend himself in similar fashion upon the opposite sofa.
In the dining-room he was much more at his ease. Before the end of the
meal he had his host as "Wattie" and his hostess as "Charlotte." Next
day he wrote to Scott to ask what he might have said, and to offer
apologies if needful.

A remark put into his mouth by North, that he could "ban" Burns for
having forestalled him with the line--

  The summer to Nature, my Willie to me!

set me wondering wherein consists the true lyrical magic. In that line
of Burns's, clearly, it lies in the harmony of lyric thought and lyric
lilt. In--

  Come away, come away, Death,

it is in the lilt alone. One thing only about it is sure, and that is
that the diction must be conversational. There will be tears in the
voice, but the voice must be that of the homely earth, never of the
stage, never of the pulpit If you agree with that, you will have to
cut out practically all the poets from Dryden to Cowper, Gray and
Collins among them; for Gray has a learned sock, and hardly allows
familiarity when he is elegising Horace Walpole's cat. But Shakespeare
proves it, Ben Jonson proves it, and all the good poets from
Wordsworth. Burns had the vernacular to help him, and for the most
part a model to steer by. All Lowland Scots, lads and lassies, wail,
and occasionally howl, in his songs. The first two lines of that one
envied by Hogg run:

  Here awa, there awa, wandering Willie,
  Here awa, there awa, haud awa hame!

and of these the second is traditional, altered only in one word.
Burns writes "haud awa hame" instead of repeating "here awa"--and
improves it. Shakespeare used the King's English, but never shirked a
racy idiom. Here is a good instance from the Sonnets, and from one of
the greatest of them, "Farewell, thou art too dear."

  Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter--
  In sleep a king; but waking _no such matter_.

You might call that a slang phrase and be right.

There are other cases, and many; some where he goes all lengths, and
one at least where he goes beyond them. But to leave Shakespeare, for
a perfect example of passion married to common speech, commend me to--

  Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
    Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
  But I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart
    That thus so clearly I myself can free.

Intense feeling, intense music, a lovely thing: a poem.




SKELETONS AT A FEAST


The other day the village was celebrating the birthday of its
Labourers' Union in a manner which used to be reserved for the coming
of age of the Squire's son, or for the Harvest Festival, in which the
farmer might give thanks for the harvest, and the peasant, perhaps,
for having been allowed to assist in winning it. I take a sort of
pride in recording a staidness in the observance which I believe to be
peculiar to the countryside in which I live. There was a service,
with a sermon, in church, all persuasions uniting; then a dinner with
speeches; then sports and dancing on the grass. Every stave of the
Pastoral was announced and punctuated by the village band. "God save
the King" closed all down at nine o'clock.

It was sober merry-making after our manner, yet one could feel the
undercurrent of a triumph not difficult to understand. Not a man there
but knew, or had heard his father tell, of how things used to be. Ten
years ago those men were earning sixteen shillings a week for twelve
hours a day; fifteen years ago they were earning twelve shillings;
thirty years ago they were earning nine shillings; a hundred years
ago they were on the rates, herded about in conscript gangs under the
hectorings of an overseer. Now--and it has seemed to come all in a
moment--the humblest of them earn their 36_s._ 6_d._; the head men
their 40_s._; their hours are down to fifty for the week, with a
half-holiday on Saturday; delegates of their kind sit at a board in
Trowbridge face to face and of equal worth with delegates of their
employers. All matters affecting their status, housing, terms of
employment can be brought before the board; and beside that, and
behind it, like a buttress, there is a Union, whose name recalls that
other grim fortress to which alone in times bygone they had to look
when old age was upon them. This new Union has been in existence here
little more than a twelvemonth, but they know now that it has spread
all over England.

They know more than that. They know that this plexus of organisations
is not only social, but political; they feel that the estate of the
realm which they stand for may soon become, and must before long
become, the predominant estate. They feel the rising tide already
lifting them off their feet. The elders are sobered by the flood; but
the young ones taste the salt water sprayed off the crest of the wave
and look at each other, laugh and cheer. If they rejoice they have
good reason, knowing what they know; and if I rejoice with them, I
think that I have good reason too. This time seven years ago I sang
at length of Hodge and his plow; and looking back and forth over his
blood-stained, sweat-stained and tear-stained history, I seemed to see
what was coming to him as the crown of his thousand years of toil.

  I look and see the end of it,
  How fair the well-lov'd land appears;
  I see September's misty heat
  Laid like a swooning on the corn;
  I see the reaping of the wheat,
  I hear afar the hunter's horn,
  I see the cattle at the ford,
  The panting sheep beneath the thorn!
  The burden of the years is scor'd,
  The reckoning made, Hodge walks alone,
  Content, contenting, his own lord,
  Master of what his pain has won.

And so indeed it is. The peasant now has his foot on the degrees of
the throne, and has only to step up, he and his mates of the mine, the
forge, the foundry and the railroad--to step up and lay hand to the
orb and sceptre.


If I had misgivings, and if those, when imparted to, were shared by an
old friend of mine who still gives me six hours a day of his strength
and skill when the weather and his rheumatics can hit it off together,
I may say at once that though they were renewed in me by the late
threat of the railwaymen arrogantly hurled at the only Government in
my recollection which has made arrogance in asking almost a necessary
stage in negotiation, they had been present for a long time--beyond
Mr. Smillie's wild proposals of direct action, beyond the Yorkshire
miners and the flooded coalfields; back to the day when electricians
refused to light the Albert Hall, and Merchant Seamen refused passage
to some politician or another because they didn't like his politics.
One and each of those direct and unsteady actions made me shiver for
the men with their feet on the throne's degrees. And now a Railway
Strike, which has injured every one and will throw back the railwaymen
and their Labour Party for many a year! If these things are done in
the green wood, I asked my friend, what will be done in the dry?

He couldn't answer me but by asking in his turn questions which
were but a variation of my own. He said: "Our people don't seem to
understand anything but 'each man for himself.' The miners hold up
the country for higher wages, and the country has to pay them; the
railwaymen do the same, and the country must find double fares and
high freight. They hit their own class hardest of all, because dear
coal and high tariffs touch everybody. And they don't even help
themselves, because directly wages are raised, up goes the price of
everything. Now what I want you to tell me is how are they going to
stop all that when they are the Government? For it will have to stop."

He is right: it will have to stop; but I don't see how the Labour
Party is going to stop it. So far as I can make out, the Labour Party,
as a responsible, political body, has no control whatsoever over the
trade unions; and the trade unions, as such, none over their members.
How, then, is one to look forward with comfort to the establishment
of a Labour Government? It will take a readier speech than even Mr.
Webb's, a more confident than even Mr. Smillie's to illuminate this
smoke-blurred scene whereon we make out every trade union preying upon
Mr. George's vitals (which are, unfortunately, for the moment our
own vitals), and with a success so disastrously easy as to make any
prospects of a return to sane, honest, dignified or just government
almost hopeless! Mr. George is destroying himself hand over fist, and
the sooner the better; but one does not want to see England go down
with him. I am all for anarchy myself when once it is thoroughly
grasped by everybody that anarchy means minding your own business.
But we are far from that as yet. Anarchy at present means minding, and
grudging, other people's business. Such anarchy is not government, but
plundering with both hands.

My point, however, is that, if we are to have a Labour Government,
it must be a Government of a nation, and not a class-affair. When the
Duke said that the King's Government must be carried on, he meant the
Government of King George or King William. Our present Prime Minister
means the Government of Mr. George, which is a very different affair.
In its way of simple egotism it is precisely the meaning of the trade
unions, and can be shortlier put as "After me the deluge." And that
won't do. We want neither autocracy nor anarchy; and just now the one
involves the other.




A COMMENTARY UPON BUTLER


Mr. Festing Jones has written a large book about his friend, and
written it very well.[A] It is candid, and it is sincere; the work
of a lover at once of Butler and of truth; it neither extenuates the
faults nor magnifies the virtues of its subject so far as the author
could perceive them; and it makes it possible to understand why Butler
was so underrated in his lifetime, though not at once why he was so
overrated after his death. That remains a problem which cannot be
resolved by saying that his friends trumpeted him into it, or that
posthumous readers enjoyed seeing him belabour his betters, which his
contemporaries had not. It is true that _The Way of All Flesh_ did not
appear until he was dead, and also true that _The Way of All Flesh_
is a witty and malicious novel, whose malice and wit Mr. Shaw had
prepared London to admire. Perhaps it is true, once more, that we are
more scornful of the old orthodoxy than our fathers were, and less
careful whose feelings are hurt. But I must confess that I should not
have expected any age to be so complacent about caricaturing one's
father and mother as our own was. However, for those who admire that
sort of thing--and there must be many--I doubt if they will find
it better done anywhere, with more gusto or more point. Dickens is
believed to have put his father into _David Copperfield_, not, I
think, his mother. But one can love Mr. Micawber, and Dickens would
not have so drawn him without love. We are led to Butler's favourite
distinction between _gnosis_ and _agape_. There's no doubt about the
_gnosis_ that went to the making of Theobald and Christina. But where
was _agape_?

[Footnote A: _Samuel Butler, Author of "Erewhon"_ (1835-1902): _a
Memoir_. By Henry Festing Jones. Two Vols. Macmillan, 1919.]

Butler was in many respects a fortunate man, and should have been
a happy one. He had a good education, good health, a sufficiency of
means. Even when his embarrassments were at their heaviest he could
always afford to do as he pleased. He could draw a little, play a
little, write more than a little; he loved travel, and covered all
Southern Europe in his time; he had good friends, a good mistress, a
faithful servant; he had a strong sense of humour, feared nobody, had
a hundred interests. Why, then, did he think himself a failure? Why
was the sense of it to cloud much of his writing, and much of Mr.
Jones's biography?

He had his drawbacks--who has not? He did not get on with his father,
criticised his mother; his sisters scraped the edges of his nerves; a
man to whom he was extremely generous betrayed him. The like of these
things must happen to mortal men. Butler knew that as well as any one.
But his books were not read; the great men whom he attacked ignored
him. He thought himself to be something, they treated him as nothing,
and the public followed them. He knew all about it, and Mr. Jones
knows all about it. He had unseated the secure with _Erewhon_,
outraged the orthodox with _Fairhaven_, flouted the biologists,
himself being no biologist, plunged into Homeric criticism without
archaeology, swum against the current in Shakespearianism, enjoyed
himself immensely, playing _l'enfant terrible_, and treading on
every corn he could find--and then he was angry because the sufferers
pretended that they had no corns. How could he expect it both ways?
If he was serious, why did he write as if he was not? And if he had
tender feelings himself--as he obviously had--why should he expect
all the people he attacked with his pinpricks to have none? It was not
reasonable.

The answer to these questions is to be found in some little weaknesses
of his which Mr. Jones's biography, all unconsciously, reveals.
Butler, it is clear, was morbidly vain. Many writers are so, but few
let their vanity take them so far. Learn from Mr. Jones. In 1879 he
and Butler met Edward Lear in an inn at Varese. He told them a little
tale about a tipsy man from Manchester--rather a good little tale. "I
do not remember that Edward Lear told us anything else particularly
amusing, but then neither did we tell him anything particularly
amusing. Butler was seldom at his best with a celebrated man. He
was not successful himself, and had a sub-aggressive feeling that
a celebrated man probably did not deserve his celebrity; if he did
deserve it, let him prove it." There is no getting away from that
symptom, which is as unreasonable as it is perverse. Celebrated men
are not usually so anxious to "prove" their celebrity as all that
comes to. It is bad enough to be "celebrated." It was hard lines on
old Lear to sulk with him because he would not show off. If he had
wanted to do that he would not have gone to Varese. But that is
mortified vanity. The same thing happened when he met Mr. Birrell at
dinner in 1900. Then it was the celebrity who took pains to save
his host and hostess from a frosty dinner party. The same thing is
recalled of meetings with Sir George Trevelyan and Lord Morley earlier
in the book. It is all pretty stupid; but when a man is ridden by a
vanity like that there can be no healthy pleasure to be got out of
writing for its own sake. You must have your public flat on its back
before your vanity will be soothed.

Another failing of Butler's, shared, I am sorry to say, by Mr. Jones,
was a love of little jokes and an inability to see when and where they
could be worked off, or perhaps I ought to say when they were worked
out. A great many of them were pinpricks rather than jokes; he only
made them "to annoy." Well, they did, and they do, annoy--not because
they were jokes, but because they were feeble jokes. "If it is thought
desirable to have an article on the _Odyssey_, I have abundant, most
aggravating and impudent matter about Penelope and King Menelaus"--so
he wrote to Mr. H. Quilter, who naturally jumped at it. Here is
another gem which Mr. Jones seems to admire: "There will be no
comfortable and safe development of our social arrangements--I mean
we shall not get infanticide, and the permission of suicide, nor cheap
and easy divorce--till Jesus Christ's ghost has been laid."

All that can be said for that is that it is vivacious, and that it has
helped Mr. Shaw, who has certainly bettered the instruction. There
are others which are a good deal more annoying than that. Jokes about
infanticide and Jesus Christ defeat themselves, and always will. They
are on a level with jokes about death or one's mother; they recoil
and smite the smiter on the nose. I confess that I find the joke
about Charles Lamb irritating. Butler said that he could not read
Lamb because Canon Ainger went to tea with his (Butler's) sisters. His
gibes at Dante are as bad--in fact they are worse, aggravated by the
fact that, having never read (he assures us) a word of him, he puts
him down as one of the seven humbugs of Christendom. He would not read
Dante because he had liked Virgil, nor Virgil because Tennyson liked
him. "We are not amused," as Queen Victoria said of another little
joke.

The correspondence with Miss Savage, again, does not reveal a pleasant
personality. Indeed, the discomfort one gets from it is at times
painful. Mr. Jones says that she bored Butler, and I don't wonder at
it. The wonder would rather be that she did not set his teeth on
edge if it were not that he was nearly as bad as she was. It is not
a matter of facetiousness--I dare say he never tired of that; and
perhaps the thinness of the jokes--little misreadings of hymns, things
about the Mammon of Righteousness, and so on--in a kind of way added
to the fun of them. It is their subject matter which offends. They
commonly turn upon the health of the respective parents and the
chances of an attack carrying them off. _Queste cose_, as the hero
said of the suicide, _non si fanno_. But I suppose that if you could
put your mother's death-bed into a novel, you could do almost anything
in that kind.

I am myself singularly moved, with Coventry Patmore, to love the
lovely who are not beloved--but not the unlovely. Those little jokes,
and many others, are by no means lovely, and if Butler repeated them
as often as Mr. Jones does, it is not surprising that he was avoided
by many who missed or dreaded the point. His lecture on the _Humour
of Homer_ made Mr. Garnett unhappy and Miss Jane Harrison cross, Mr.
Jones says. I don't doubt it. It is very cheap humour indeed, and no
more Homer's than mine is. It is entirely Butler's humour about
Homer, a very different thing. Its impudence did not mitigate
the aggravation, but made it more acute. If he had picked out a
fairy-tale, rather than two glorious poems--_Little Red Riding Hood_,
_The Three Bears_, _Rumpelstiltskin_, for example--he could have been
as facetious as he pleased. But that would not suit him. There would
have been no darts to fling. Butler was a _banderillero_. All right;
but then don't complain that the Miss Harrisons, Darwins, and others
shake off your darts and go about their business, which, oddly enough,
is not to gore and trample the _banderillero_; don't be huffed because
you are held for a _gamin_. Butler wanted it both ways.

The conclusion is irresistible that Butler's controversial books were
not primarily written to discover truth, but because he was vain
and wished at once to be sensational and annoying. He resented the
greatness of the great, or the celebrity of the celebrated; his vanity
was wounded. He sought, then, for "most aggravating and impudent
matter" to wound them in turn who had vicariously wounded him. He
"learned" them to be toads, or celebrities, or tried to. But his love
of little jokes betrayed him. He, a sort of minnow, thought to trouble
the pool where the great fish were oaring at ease by flirting the
surface with his tail. It seemed to him that he was throwing up a fine
volume of water; but the great fish held their way unconscious in the
deep. Chiefly, therefore, he failed with all his cleverness. Brain he
had, logic he had; the heart was a-wanting and the intention faltered.
_Gnosis_ again and _agape_!

Brain he had, logic he had; but brain must follow upon emotional
intention if it is to create; and logic must follow upon sound
premisses if it is to convince. Now if his prime intention was to
annoy, or, if you granted him his premisses, Butler would never miss
the mark. But is that intention worthy of more than it earned? I don't
think so. And can you grant him his premisses? I don't think that you
can. He argued _a priori_, apparently always. I am not a biologist,
nor was he, but if I know enough of scientific method to be sure that
biologists cannot argue that way, so undoubtedly did he. What should
Darwin, who had spent years in patient accumulation of fact, have
to say to him? In Homeric criticism--_a priori_ again. He had an
instinct--he owns it was no more--that the _Odyssey_ was written by a
woman. Then he studied the _Odyssey_ to prove that it was. Perhaps
a woman did write it, and perhaps it will one day be proved. The
_Odyssey_, as Butler used it, will never prove it. So also with the
Sicilian origin of the poem. He got his idea, and went to Trapani
to fit it in. It does not seem to have occurred to him that all the
things he found there are to be found also in the Ionian Islands and
might be found in half a hundred other places in a sea pullulating
with islands or a coast-line cut about like a jigsaw puzzle. But it
won't do, of course. No one knew that better than he.

Mr. Jones says that "Butler's judgments were arrived at by thinking
the matter out for himself." I don't know what judgments he means: in
the context he is talking about "other writers." Among such he would
not, perhaps, include Dante, Virgil or Charles Lamb. If he includes
Homer and Shakespeare there would be a good deal to say. I don't
believe he had thought about the authorship of the _Odyssey_ at all
until he had assumed what he afterwards spent his time and pains in
supporting. As to Shakespeare's age when he wrote his Sonnets, I don't
myself find that the Sonnets support him. Those which he quotes in
particular show that W.H. was a youth, but not that the author was.
But there, again, he was arguing _a priori_. He desired to prove what
he set out to prove, and the scholars disregarded him. Mr. Bridges, in
a letter which Mr. Jones has the candour to quote, puts the matter as
neatly as may be. "I am very sorry indeed that you have been so clever
as to make up so good (or bad) a story: but I willingly recognise that
no one has brought the matter into so clear a light as you have done.
You are always perspicuous, and nothing but good can come of such
conscientious work as yours. Still, you must remember that you proved
Darwin to be an arch-impostor; and there was no fault in your logic.
It is not the logic that fails in this book." No. It was not the
logic.




THE COMMEMORATION


Eleven o'clock in the morning found the village at its field and
household affairs, with birds abroad and dogs at home assisting
in various ways. The plovers wove black and white webs over the
water-meadows, gulls were like drifting snow behind the plow. In a
cottage garden the dog, high on his haunches at the length of his
chain, cocked his ears towards the huswife in the wash-house, hoping
against hope for a miracle. Luxuriously full, the cat slept on the
window-ledge. Meantime a roadman was cleaning a gutter, a thatcher
pegged down his yelm; a milkmaid, driving up the street in a float,
stopped, threw the reins over the pony's quarters, and jumped down,
very trim in her overall and breeches. The church clock struck eleven.

She turned, as if shot, and stood facing the church whose flag
streamed to the south. The roadman straightened himself and leaned
upon his mattock; the huswife shut the back door, and the dog crept
into his barrel. The schoolyard, accustomed at that hour to flood
suddenly with noise, remained empty. But the milkmaid's horse drew
to the hedge for a bite, the birds on the hillside settled about the
halted plow, and the cat slept on.

We are what we are, all of us. Beasts and birds are not sentimental.
Things to them stand for things, not for thoughts about things. I have
seen young rabbits play cross-touch about the stiffened form of
an unfortunate brother. I have seen a barnyard cock flap and crow,
standing upon the dead body of one of his wives. Directly a creature
is dead it ceases to be a creature at all to those which once hailed
it fellow. It becomes part of the landscape in which it lies; and
with certain beasts which we are accustomed to call obscene it becomes
something to eat. But dogs which have lived long with us are not like
that. I knew two dogs which lived in a house together and shared the
same loose-box at night. One night one of them in fidgeting, bit upon
an artery and bled to death. Never again would the survivor enter that
sleeping place. Dogs have learned from us that things may stand for
thoughts.

Anything that persuades the British people to spend two minutes a
year in thought is a good thing; for thinking is not congenial to us.
Feeling is; and feeling may perhaps be described as thinking about
thinking. We feel still, as we felt at the time, the wholesale,
hapless, heroic and entirely monstrous sacrifice of our young men; but
it is out of the question to suppose that we thought about them--or,
for that matter, that any nation in the world did; for if we had
thought as we felt the scythe would have stopt in mid-swathe and Death
been robbed of a crowning victory! But we did not think; and we
were not thinking just now when we stood still in the midst of our
interrupted affairs. The act sufficed us. It was a sacrament. An act,
that is, a thing, stood for a thought about a thing--namely heroic,
hapless death. Of such sacraments, maybe, is the kingdom of this
world, but not, I am persuaded, the Kingdom of Heaven; and assuredly
not of such, nor of any amount of it, will be a League of Nations
which is anything more than a name.

The thought, or the feeling, of those two minutes here in the village,
or in the city eight miles away, where in full market the same
opportunity was taken, was concerned in all human probability, with
the hapless dead rather than with means to preserve the living from
hapless and unnecessary death; and yet, so curiously are we wrought
out of emotion, sensibility and habit, some good besides piety may
come out of a memorial Eleventh of November. Pitying, recording,
respecting the dead or perhaps the bereaved, it may presently become
a fixed idea with us that avoidable death is taboo. It may be borne
in upon us on the next occasion when stung pride, outraged feeling or
panic fear is sweeping like a plague over our land, that nothing
but sorrow and loss was gained by the Four Years War. That is just
possible, but no more than that, we being what we are. Yet, unless we
learn to think rather of life than of death, there is no other way. As
in religion, faith comes before works, and you must fall in love with
God if you are to believe in Him, so it is in politics. Emotional
conviction must precede action. And the conviction to be established
is that war is a crime and in some nations, a vice.

In the Middle Ages a great and ever-present fear of death coincided
with an extraordinary neglect of life. Whole companies, whole classes
of men thought of little but death; yet they killed each other for a
look or a thought; in war whole cities were put to the sword and fire,
as the Black Prince put Limoges. _Timor mortis conturbat me!_ So men
shuddered and wailed, but took not the smallest trouble to keep
each other alive. The Black Death swept off at least a third of the
population of Europe; yet after it things went on exactly as before.
If nations had then possessed the technical skill which they have
to-day, it is quite on the cards that France in the Hundred Years or
Germany in the Thirty Years War, would have been emptied of its folk.
The will thereto was not wanting, that's certain.

Well, we are a little better than that. Sanitation has at last become
a fixed idea. And there is another thing. We no longer consider a man
as magnified by his office, but rather that the office is magnified in
that a man is serving it. In the old days the splendour of an army on
the march was reflected upon the men composing it, and glorified
every one of them. Now it is the other way. We are apt to see the
army glorious because it is composed of men. Lord Kitchener's host,
perhaps, has taught us that. We are getting on, then, if we are
beginning to take manhood seriously.

It is something at least, and so much to the good, that we have
imagined a new sacrament, and found it in the attitude, if not in the
act of thought. "Who rises from his prayer a better man, his prayer is
answered," said a wise man; and if that is true, the King may save
his people yet. But to enable him to do it we must pray for the living
rather than the dead, and pray for Good Will among them. For that is
what we want.




THE QUAKER EIRENICON


In our late scramble to spend our own, or secure some other body's,
money, a message of beauty, distinction and serene confidence in its
own truth, has been overlooked by this distracted world. There is
little wonder. As well might a blackbird flute on Margate Sands on a
Bank Holiday as this Quaker message, "To all men," breathe love and
goodwill among them just now. The effect has been much the same: to
those who heeded it matter for tears that such heavenly balm should be
within our hearing but out of our grasp; to the ravenous and the rabid
a mere foolishness.

To my mind nothing so admirable has been put forward by any Church
calling itself Christian throughout five years' horror and delirium.
I must not expect the _Morning Boast_ or _Long Bow_ to agree with it,
but I am inclined to ask my fellow citizens if they have not yet had
enough of these evangelists of war and ill-will towards men. If they
have, here is an alternative for them to try.

"We appeal to all men," say the Quakers to the world, "to recognise
the great spiritual force of love which is found in all, and which
makes us one common brotherhood." It is a hard saying, as things are
now; and yet, if it is true, that 'tis love that makes the world go
round, it is certain by this time that 'tis hate that makes it stop.
What stops trade? English hate Germans, Germans hate English; masters
grudge men, men masters. What holds up Ireland? Protestants hate
Catholics, Catholics Protestants; each hates England and England hates
both. The infernal brew of 1914 has poisoned the tissues of humanity;
proud flesh, sour blood, keep us all in a sick ferment. What will save
us? Who will show us any good?

One thing only, say the Quakers. Listen. "Through the dark cloud of
selfishness and materialism shines the eternal light of Christ in man.
It can never perish.... The profound need of our time is to realise
the everlasting truth of the common Fatherhood of God--the Spirit of
Love--and the oneness of the human race." I wondered on Christmas Day,
when children were carolling "Peace on earth and mercy mild," for how
many hundred years men had been hearing that, how many of them had
said that they believed it, and how many had acted as if they did
believe it. I wondered if the editors of _Long Bow_ and the _Morning
Boast_ had heard them, and what effect the words would have upon
their next articles about the deportation of aliens, or the value of
machine-guns as strike-breakers.

"We have used the words of Christ, but we have not acted upon them.
We have called ourselves by His name but we have not lived in His
spirit." Those words should form part of any General Confession to
be used in church, since the words used there now have lost their
meaning. They are entirely true; since Christ died we have never acted
upon His words, or attempted for six years at a time "to live in His
spirit." How does one do it? The Quakers go on to tell us. "The Divine
Seed is in all men. As men realise its presence, and follow the light
of Christ in their hearts, they enter upon the right way of life, and
receive power to overcome evil by good. Thus will be built the City of
God."

While it is plain, then, how the City of God will be rebuilt on earth,
it ought to be equally so how it will not be built. Lately another
Message has been advertised in the Press, which does not promise any
help. It has been proposed[A] to publish certain private letters of
the German ex-Emperor which, we learn, incriminate him still more
deeply in the original sin of the war. Here no doubt is "a scoop," as
they call it, for somebody; but with "scoops," I suppose, the City of
God has little to do.

[Footnote A: It was done too.]

And apart from the supposition that the man is about to be tried for
his offences against society at large--in which case it is a
flouting of justice to publish evidence against him in a newspaper
beforehand--apart from all that, how in God's name is His city to be
rebuilt by raking in waste-heaps for more hate-stuff? The wretched man
is beaten, abdicated, exiled, sick, probably out of his mind, if
he ever had one. Is it an English habit to revile the fallen and
impotent? It has not been so hitherto, and the newspaper which
proposes to enrich itself by making most of us ashamed of our
nationality is doing us a bad service and, I hope, itself a worse.

But while such things go on, far from the City of God being rebuilt,
the ruins of it will sink deeper into the morass, until we all go
down to the devil together. And if we are to be as the Evangelists
of Ill-Will desire us, the sooner that happens the better. As an
alternative to this disgusting but deserved consummation I call
attention to the Quaker Eirenicon.

I love and respect the Quakers as Christians after the doctrine of
Christ. I have known many, and never a bad one among them, never one
that was not sound at heart and sweet in nature. As well as their
social quality there is to be considered their political. I don't
hesitate to say that their Corporation holds in its grasp the
salvation of the world through their Master and mine. I go further,
and don't hesitate to say that had the Quaker religion been this
country's, not only should we not have made war, but Germany would not
have provoked it. Had Europe at large been Quaker, war would have been
eliminated long ago from the catalogue of national crimes; for to a
Quaker war is what cannibalism is to all men, and love, apparently
to some men, an unthinkable offence against the sanctity of the
body. That body, they say, is a possible tabernacle for the Spirit of
Christ. If you believe that, all the rest follows. If you do not, you
will continue to read the _Morning Boast_.



THE END

  PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY
  WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED
  LONDON AND BECCLES



Transcriber's Note.

The following words were originally printed with an oe ligature,
regrettably not provided in the ASCII character set:

Boeotia, Boeotian, Ipomoea, Eoioe, OEnoe, OEno.







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